All abusive relationships have one thing in common – causing pain and breaking the heart of the person who loves the abuser the most.
Most narcissists are so centered on their own interests that they don’t pay much attention to the wants or needs of others.
But there’s a big difference between this relatively passive disregard and the very active disregard the more malignantly narcissistic and various aggressive characters display. Their disregard goes far beyond simply not caring very much to purposely wanting to hurt, exploit, manipulate, and most especially, to dominate those with whom they come into contact, and that makes this group capable of the most serious kinds of relational abuse.
I’ve written before about malignant narcissism and what differentiates it from the garden variety egotism of narcissists. All of the various “aggressive personalities” have this more malignant narcissism at the core of their personality (The most seriously disturbed aggressive personalities, such as the sadistic-aggressive and predatory-aggressive or psychopathic personalities have the most virulent form of this narcissism).
Aggressive characters not only see themselves as above others and therefore entitled to treat them as inferiors, but also are determined to dominate in all situations. It’s not just that they don’t respect any “higher power,” it’s that they always strive to be the highest power. They’re determined fighters who try to dominate in all situations, even when taking a more subordinate position would actually better serve their interest. And each of the various aggressive personality sub-types is prone to unique forms of abuse and exploitation in relationships.
I give the label “unbridled aggressive” to those disturbed characters who have often been called “antisocial personalities,” (and sometimes also called, although erroneously, “sociopaths”). These are individuals who have been openly “at war” with authority, the established rules, and even sometimes with God (if in fact, they profess a belief in God) for much of their lives. They know what most of the world expects from them but resist conforming. They can’t stand to accede to anyone else’s expectations or demands. Submission of any type is anathema to them, even if it would mean winning in the long run.
Related: Trauma Bonding: Why We Stay In Abusive Relationships
To them, any kind of capitulation is tantamount to personal annihilation. Such folks are very prone to all forms of abuse, including physical violence. They want their way and are determined to have it regardless of cost and no matter who might get hurt. For them, life is a contest and they must always emerge the victor. They always want to be on top, in control, and in charge. And while they submit to no one, they expect everyone else to be subject to them.
Many break the major rules of society and often spend a lot of time incarcerated as a result. But not all antisocial personalities are criminals. And while they’re prone to violating the major rules, not all get caught or sanctioned. Still, they go through life as undisciplined thugs. They’re also among those who, despite occasional sanction (e.g., police visits, arrests, restraining orders, confinement, probation, etc.) are generally undeterred in their aggressive, abusive ways.
Because their aggressive styles are so brazenly open and self-evident, and because mounds of trouble seem to follow them wherever they go, it’s always been baffling to me why and how anyone would even consider getting involved with unbridled aggressive personalities (many times, poor self-image or some degree of character deficiency is to blame).
And it usually takes no time at all before a person who’s become involved with such a character begins getting abused in some way. Unbridled aggressives are also like parasites in relationships, letting the more responsible party pay all the bills, carry all the burdens, etc. And when things don’t go to their satisfaction, they can never accept the idea it might be at least partly their fault, so they readily blame and take their frustration and hostility out on everyone else. While they’re a big societal problem to be sure, and while many of them even know this at some level, everyone else somehow pays the price.
It’s far more understandable to me how someone might fall prey to a slightly different variant of the “antisocial” type: the disturbed character and aggressive personality sub-type I call the “channeled aggressive” personality.
Not to be mistaken for assertive personalities, channeled aggressives run roughshod over others while generally keeping their aggression within legal limits and channeling it into socially acceptable endeavors. They modulate their overt aggression so as not to invite social or legal sanction but they are very different from healthy, assertive personalities in that they don’t really discipline themselves out of respect for the rights and needs of others (or as the result of a mature conscience). So they will cross boundaries, violate limits, and even transgress major norms if they feel confident they can get away with it.
Related: How Abusive Relationships Trap us Into Not Leaving
These individuals are often tyrants in their own homes, capable of immense cruelty whenever their dominance is challenged. Because on first impression they can appear as persons who are merely strong, determined, and geared for success, they can seem the ideal partner early on in a relationship. Only when it becomes clear that daily life with them is a “my way or the highway” proposition does their abusive nature become more evident.
While there’s usually little trouble when all the troops know their place and fall into line when someone fails to heed one of their dictates or worse, challenges their dominance, there will generally be some kind of hell to pay. While these folks know how to rule the roost without crossing the major lines that might invite social sanction, when they sense their grip slipping, or when they think they can successfully avoid adverse consequences, they can easily become more openly brutal.
Originally appeared on Manipulative People
Republished here with permission
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