NOTE: This archive only contains Carolyn Hax columns through March 2011. Her more recent columns are located here.

Caroyln Hax: Profile of an abuser: An insecure control freak

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By Carolyn Hax
Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

From "Sweat Pants Girl," in yesterday's column:

"He'll throw out these scathing comments, and I feel . . . degraded sometimes. But then other times he's really complimentary and great."

S. Girl aptly describes an abuse cycle and probably doesn't even realize it. If abusers weren't also charming sometimes, then who'd stick around? Enter the cycle: Shower victim-candidate with charm and attention, trap victim, exert control incrementally, reintroduce charm when victim resists, repeat.

As always, the suggested reading is "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker. It's about violence, but its lessons apply broadly -- it's the 101 on spotting and shedding controllers.

Re: Abuse cycle:

Do these men realize they are doing this? Are they doing it on purpose?

Anonymous

It's not just men. One of the worst emotional abusers I know is female, pulling this crap on her husband. It's not uncommon.

And, "on purpose" makes it sound so premeditated, when I think it's more like an emotional reflex. The would-be abuser, "X," is insecure and needs to feel in control -- abusers' common denominator. It needn't be conscious.


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