Dealing with angry and controlling men can be a nightmare for several reasons. Behind closed doors they are cruel and nasty to you but when they are out in public they can be charming, friendly, helpful and pleasant. This means that while you can see the abusive side, others think he is wonderful and fantastic and probably wouldn't believe you if you spoke up about him. (or her! All the ideas here can equally be applied to angry and controlling women.)
Another aspect is that at the start of the relationship he may have been amazing, attentive, loving, caring and generous and that was the person you actually fell for. But now you realize that you are in a relationship with this creature who is cold hearted, calculating and critical and has little resemblance to that perfect partner that existed at the start of the relationship. The nice times have gotten less frequent and you spend much of the time upset and wary longing to have the nice times back again, but no matter how hard you try, or how much effort you put into trying to please him, it never seems to be enough.
If you are dealing with angry and controlling men who fit this description then there are some things that need to be considered in order, firstly, to make sense of the situation, and secondly, to know how best to deal with what is being done to you.
Two major considerations are the nature of the person you are dealing with and what happens when you are subjected to this type of abuse.
Many angry and controlling men fit the profile of people with personality disorders. This means that they are psychopaths or narcissists. Before I get to what a psychopath or a narcissist is, there are studies that show that about 80% of abusive men who were court ordered to have therapy turned out to have a personality disorder. Now, keep in mind that these cases were where the legal profession recognized that the abuser was actually abusive. In many, many cases the court does not recognize the abuser for what he (or she) is because the abuser is skilled in portraying themselves as the victim. (If you have been through a divorce with an angry and controlling man you'll know what I mean!).
So it's practically impossible to quantify how many angry and controlling men are psychopaths and narcissists, but it's significant. And being in a relationship with a psychopath is not the same as being in a relationship with a bully, or a jealous person or a loser. It's a whole different world. So let's look at what a personality disorder means...
A psychopath or sociopath is a person with an antisocial personality disorder. This is not considered a mental illness by the mental health professionals but rather as a disorder of the personality which causes problems relating to others.
The easiest way to think of a psychopath is someone who has no conscience and a huge ego. These 2 things give rise to a whole cluster of characteristics which are seen in angry and controlling men.
A psychopath does not experience empathy, guilt, remorse, regret, shame, embarrassment, love or fear. There is a disturbance in their ability to experience emotions and even if they do seem to express emotions there are very shallow and sort lived. In practical terms, what does this mean? It means that whatever they do, they never feel bad about it. There is no inner policeman that stops them from doing certain things.
They can be cruel, hurtful, callous, abusive and they can do any amount of damage to others and it does not bother them. This is very significant.
Do they know the difference between right and wrong? Yes, they do. They just don't care. This is why they are not considered to have a mental illness. They can make choices, they realize when they are doing things that are illegal or unethical, but they just don't care. In the legal system they are therefore considered to be responsible for their actions, unlike, for example, a schizophrenic who claims that he heard voices telling him to do certain things, in which case he is not considered responsible for his actions.
It may be very strange to think that there are people who don't have emotions, and those who do have emotions can't even imagine what that is like. But the fact is that there are people who don't experience these things and they have a huge advantage because of people's ignorance. They don't have to hide this fact. They just have to pretend to be caring and their victims never suspect what is going on.
The psychopaths themselves often recognize fairly early in their lives that they are not limited by these things called emotions that other people experience but they can become very good at manipulating the emotions of others. They consider that emotions are a weakness in others that can be exploited and they consider themselves superior because they do not have this weakness.
The psychopath believes that they are superior to others, that they are entitled to what they can get and that they are always right. They think that others should treat them as special, give them preferential treatment, gifts, respect and so on. If things don’t go well it's never their fault and they will shift the blame onto someone else. They don't make mistakes, their decisions making is flawless (because it's free of emotions!) and people should follow their lead because they are such perfect specimens.
And if you were perfect, always right, superior to those around you, would you think that you needed to change? Of course not, and the psychopaths don't think they need to change themselves either. Once again, this is very important to keep in mind.
A narcissist is also a person with a personality disorder with many of the same characteristics as a psychopath with the addition that the narcissist wants praise, compliments and adoration from those around him or her. This is called their narcissistic supply. They may be obsessed with their own mental abilities or their body (somatic narcissists) or a combination of both.
There is all sorts of stuff written about the differences between psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. There are psychopaths who are narcissistic, there are narcissists with sociopathic traits and so on. I am not going to go into that here because it's not necessary to know what specific diagnosis the angry and controlling men have in order to understand what they are doing to you and how to deal with them.
In dealing with angry and controlling men who are psychopaths, sociopaths or narcissists there are some basic things that you have to keep in mind at all times:
If you are in a relationship with such a person, you will lose. You will lose time, money, effort, your creativity, your energy, your health (physical and mental) and some people even lose their lives.
You can read more details about what Robert Hare, an expert in psychopathy, says about the characteristics of a psychopath, how to spot in real life the antisocial personality disorder symptoms and what happens in a marriage to a sociopath.
I will talk here about angry and controlling men in intimate relationships but the same kind of thing applies in work and social situations and in groups of various sorts, including sports, therapy, political, personal development and so on. And angry and controlling women do the same things!!
From the very start, the relationship moves very quickly. You are made to feel special, understood, looked after and even loved. The man is attentive, caring, charming and seems to be just right for you. This is called love bombing and it makes you feel elated and even euphoric. This is the start of the emotional manipulation and it hides the true nature of the manipulator while creating a fantastic impression in your mind of this other person. Very significantly, the emotional highs means that you have no sense of problems or difficulties because you are not thinking straight with all those hormones and chemicals coursing through your system.
At this stage, the manipulator is managing your emotions and your impressions so that when you make decisions, you are deciding to do what he wants you to do. Spend time with him or with your friends and family? Who wouldn't want to spend more time with the man of their dreams? Buy him that expensive present? Why, of course! You want him to know that you really appreciate how nice he is to you and how wonderful you think he is. Lend him money to pay his car payment because he has had unexpected expenses this month? No problem, he is going to pay you back at the end of the month anyway and he is so warm and friendly and spending so much time with you that there is no question that you can trust him. So at this stage you believe, and it feels like, you are making all your own decisions.
At some point the angry and controlling men recognize that they have a certain level of control. It can be something they themselves monitor for or it can be an outward expression of your commitment to the relationship such as moving in together or getting engaged.
At this point the rules begin to change. Things that were acceptable to the manipulator earlier are no longer tolerated. And along with the rule changes come the excuses about why things have to be this new way. He claims that when you say 'this' it makes him feel bad because of a previous bad relationship, or when you do 'that' it upsets him because of a thing with his parents. Initially, not wanting to upset this wonderful man, you go along with it, beginning to watch what you say and what you do in order not to 'trigger' him.
Then things get more and more severe over time. But you know that you have had great times with him and you really want more good times so you make a greater effort to do nice things for him and avoid things that you know upset him. Every now and then something works and there is a period where things seem to be great between the pair of you and you are relieved and you relax and think that things are going well again.
Then, for some reason, he loses it again. That temper of his appears and it's devastating. You may not even be sure what the reason is, but all of a sudden you are on the receiving end of a torrent of abuse, with name calling, criticism, humiliation. and on top of that, it's all your fault. His anger can be very sudden and unpredictable. One day you mention something and there is little response. The next day you bring it up again and it feels like World War Three has just broken out.
This explosive, unpredictable anger, or narcissistic rage, is typical of the psychopath and narcissist. There may seem to be no rhyme or reason to it. If you check carefully though, it's often when the angry and controlling men 'perceive' a threat to their dominance that they get angry as a way to show you who’s in charge. In other words even the anger is a mechanism to control you. It is also used if you get angry at them. They seem to be able to 'turn it on' and will get many times more angry than you and the easiest thing for you is to just back down.
Even their displays of anger are not normal because their anger can disappear as quickly as it appeared. When you get angry it often takes some time to settle down but not so for the psychopaths. They can be raging one moment and then turn around and talk to another person and act as cool and calm as you like, as if nothing had been happening two seconds previously.
This can be very unnerving for the victim, who is left emotionally unbalanced often for hours or even days afterwards while the psychopath carries on as if nothing happened. While the victim is still reeling, the psychopath will often take the opportunity to criticize the victim for being overly sensitive, for being overly emotional, so it's a double whammy for the poor victim.
In the initial phases of the relationship the manipulator makes the victim feel good as a way to influence thinking and decision making and and the resultant behaviors. Later in the relationship the manipulator makes the victim feel bad to do that same thing. It works something like this. The manipulator gets angry when the victim says or does certain things. The victim learns that these things will cause the manipulator to be upset. The victim then makes decisions to avoid doing those things and chooses things that are likely to be pleasing to the manipulator. The victim continues to believe that they are making their own decisions and cannot see that their decisions have been very heavily influenced by the psychopath or narcissist.
While this is going on there is usually a lot of insults, criticism, belittling and humiliation as well. The repeated criticism of one's ideas, beliefs and opinions has the effect of making one feel bad about these things and it also makes one doubt themselves. The abuser will also attack the person's sense of themselves with a lot of criticism directly aimed at the individual. For example, rather than mock the behavior of the individual, the manipulator says things such as, "You are stupid for doing that," or, "You are a bad judge of character if you have friends like her."
"You are worthless," "you are nothing without me" and "you are the problem" are other common things said by the abuser to undermine the victim's sense of self. At the same time, the abuser is telling the victim what they should think and what beliefs they should have. The victim is made to feel that if only they were different in some way the relationship would be better.
So we have seen that people in relationships with angry and controlling men have their behavior modified, their thinking and decision making is manipulated, their emotions are controlled and their sense of identity is destroyed and replaced. The victims are basically changed at their very core and they develop a different perception of the world, a different belief system and a different set of psychological processes that give rise to new habits, traits and attitudes.
When friends and family say of the victim, "She has changed since she started going out with him, she has lost her motivation, she is withdrawn, she spends very little time with us now and even when she does, it's feels awkward," it is this change in personality they are referencing. They may not be thinking 'personality change' but rather they are simply describing the visible results of the change.
This new personality imposed by the abuser is called a pseudopersonality because it is a false personality. It is forced upon the victim without the victim's consent or even knowledge (the victim's typically do not realize how much they have changed).
This pseudopersonality is programmed by the abuser to be the kind of person they want to have around. It is programmed to believe the abuser (above even the victim's own family), to do as the abuser wants, to take care of the abuser, to put the wants and needs of the abuser ahead of it's own wants and needs.
It is also programmed to be dependent on the abuser. This can be quite severe where the victim not only checks with the abuser to know what it can or cannot do, but the victim may even depend on the abuser to know that they are ok or even to know who they are. This may sound extreme, but it is actually quite common. It explains, for example, why many battered women leave the angry and controlling men but end up going back to them again and even defending the abusers to police. The abused women are so dependent on the abuser that when they leave they actually feel so bad and they cannot imagine a future where they manage or survive without the abuser and the only way for them to relieve those awful feelings is to return to the abuser.
The same things that happen in abusive relationships happen in cults, too. The cult members have pseudopersonalities that are very dependent on the leaders and for this reason they may have severe difficulties leaving and staying away.
This idea of the pseudopersonality is a very useful way of thinking about what happens in abusive relationships and helps to explain many of the internal conflicts that victims experience.
Many people say that if they were ever in an abusive relationship they would know and just leave. But for those who are caught, the first thing is that it is not always easy to recognize. The pseudopersonality is programmed not to be able to see the abusive behavior as abusive. The psychopath or narcissist often redefines what things mean.
For example, a psychopath may claim to be more frugal and better with finances than the victim so they claim that they should take care of the money. The victim believes this and agrees to hand over control of the finances. They don’t actually realize that the psychopath may not actually be better but they may not have any reason to doubt it. The situation therefore makes sense to the victim based on this reasoning and they don’t recognize that this is a technique of control being used by the psychopath. Likewise a narcissist may say to his girlfriend that he wants to pick her up after a night out with her girlfriends because he is worried about her safety if she has to travel home alone late at night. She assumes that he loves her and wants to take care of her. Having this belief in place hides the fact from her that he is actually controlling her time and who she spends it with.
So it's not easy to recognize that you are in an abusive relationship, even when other people are pointing it out to you. You may recognize that some odd things are indeed happening but you believe that there is a good and valid reason for it. The pseudopersonality is programmed to defend itself and the manipulator and it can be difficult to see beyond the reasons that the abusive partner has given to you and to understand what is actually going on.
And even when you do realize, "just leaving" is not a simple option for those in abusive relationships. This can be explained by the inner battle between the real personality and the pseudopersonality, which many people describe as being at war with themselves. Remember that the pseudopersonality suppresses the real personality but never totally destroys it.
So when a person does begin to notice that things are not right, their real personality may want to leave, but the pseudopersonality is programmed to stay. While the pseudopersonality is dominant it wins out and the person ends up staying in the relationship even though they want out. Likewise, the real personality may detest the manipulator and his nasty ways but the pseudopersonality is programmed to love him. There may be hate and love going on at the same time, or anger and pity, or any combination of contradictory emotions. This can be very distressing because there is no way to make sense of this when one is in the middle of an abusive relationship and not even know it's abusive.
All these things were done behind your back, so to speak. They were done outside of your awareness. You were exposed to very strong influence techniques that you didn't understand. So that means that none of what happened was your fault. You are not to blame for it, you didn't allow it to happen to you, you did not permit yourself to be abused. It was all outside your control, no matter how much you think you could have changed things. It's not your fault.
Because these types don’t change (apart from getting more controlling and more cruel) you are better off getting out of the relationship. Give up any ideas of changing or helping the abuser in your life. This idea only serves to keep a victim in an abusive relationship longer.
Because the pseudopersonality is imposed with powerful influence techniques that are out of the conscious awareness of victims, the beliefs and ideas are often particularly strong. The fact that the victim believes that they were making their own decisions and was not aware of the external psychological forces only strengthens these beliefs. This means that the pseudopersonality does not disappear on it's own simply because a person leaves the mind control situation. Some minor things may clear themselves up but the pseudopersonality persists causing a myriad of problems over time.
A victim may think that once they are away from the angry and controlling men that they can just forget the experience and carry on. This means that when a problem arises months or years later they don’t associate it with the abusive relationship. They may seek help for this problem, such as poor self esteem, sleeping problems, assorted fears and so on, but the problem may be very difficult to treat in isolation because the underlying pseudopersonality is not being dealt with.
The pseudopersonality has many submissive and dependent behaviors built into it. If a person has a pseudopersonality, when they next meet another manipulator, this next one will instantly recognize that the person has been traumatized and abused already. It's often that obvious to manipulators that the victim may as well have it tattooed on their forehead that they were in an abusive relationship. The manipulator then targets this easy victim. This is why people often end up in multiple abusive relationships, not because they 'attract' narcissists.
Therefore, leaving the relationship is not enough, you really need to undo the pseudopersonality as well, both to take back control of your own life but also so as not to be targeted by the next psychopath or narcissist you meet.
A good recovery from an abusive relationship means undoing the pseudopersonality so that the patterns of thinking, decision making and behaving imposed by the manipulator are removed and replaced with ones that are healthy and beneficial for you. This involves a process of psychoeducation where you learn about mind control, psychopathy and narcissism to really understand what was done to you. You learn how this particular person influenced your decisions making, how they pressed your buttons, how they got you to do certain things and how they changed your ideas and beliefs. Only when you understand the subtleties of these things do the effects of them wear off and the pseudopersonality disappears. Then your own personality has to take control again and work out new strategies for friendships (the previous ones got you into trouble!) , learn about making decisions about both big and little things and figure out your own wants, likes and needs. This is a big task and it's not always easy, but it's always worth it!
This is best done under the guidance of an expert in this field. It is quite a specialized area and a therapist or health worker who does not understand the nature of psychological abuse can often do more harm than good.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
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