The controlling personality type is programmed to control, as a way of easing feelings of being worthless, vulnerable and unlovable. The anger of the person with a propensity for violence is aroused and maintained by thinking distortions, such as making assumptions about a partner without any supporting evidence. These distortions lead the abuser to generalise, to have negative fantasies, and to pick out one aspect of a situation without looking at the whole context.
Lundy Bancroft in his blog, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men accepts that abusers have distorted thinking, but argues that they also plan in a very logical way, and conduct a well thought out campaign of torture. Paul Hegstrom’s, work, Angry Men and the Women who Love Them, points out that abusive people are selective in the targets for their anger. They choose not to control their anger in intimate relationships, but they can do so outside the home. Bancroft argues that beliefs, values and habits are the driving forces of abuse. These beliefs promote feelings of entitlement to special rights or privileges to control and punish. The abuser sees the victim as an unpaid servant, whose role is to nourish him physically, sexually, and emotionally, and to treat him with deference. Any failure in this arouses the abuser’s anger, and this anger boils, especially if it is the dormant anger arising from an abused childhood. I think I would combine Schore’s explanation with Bancroft’s to explain more fully the origin of abusive tendencies.
In an abusive household, there are only controllers and victims, and children may learn or internalise this relationship behaviour. As adults, they may prefer the role of abuser in the relationship dynamic, whereby they acquire a sense of control, and escape the pain of being a victim, and being at the mercy of another. The entitlement and sense of superiority that an abuser often harbours is a potent sign of disrespect of a partner, which is one of the keystones of the abusive mentality. Linda’s husband was enraged when his sense of entitlement was challenged by her father, when the latter heard that she was being abused for the previous year
My parents were mad at him. My father was mad that he used to leave me and Jack to fend for ourselves in a house miles away from anywhere for days at a time. They told him that they were not happy about this, and that they will be keeping a close eye on things from now on. Like any father, my dad wanted to make sure I was ok and was going to keep a check on that. That night Stephen called his mother, I was in bed but I heard the contents of the call. I heard him telling his mother “Who do they think they are to come to my house and tell me they are going to keep and eye on me and my family”. He then angrily said that if my father ever says anything like that to him again, he would box him.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press
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