Written by Sam Vaknin
there anything you can do to avoid abusers and narcissists to start with? Are there any warning signs, any identifying marks,
rules of thumbs to shield you from the harrowing and traumatic experience of an abusive relationship?
Imagine a first or second date. You can already tell if he is a would-be
abuser. Here's how:
Perhaps the first telltale sign is the abuser's alloplastic defenses - his
tendency to blame every mistake of his, every failure, or mishap on others, or on the world at large. Be tuned: does he assume
personal responsibility? Does he admit his faults and miscalculations? Or does he keep blaming you, the cab driver, the waiter,
the weather, the government, or fortune for his predicament?
Is he hypersensitive, picks up fights, feels constantly slighted, injured,
and insulted? Does he rant incessantly? Does he treat animals and children impatiently or cruelly and does he express negative
and aggressive emotions towards the weak, the poor, the needy, the sentimental, and the disabled? Does he confess to having
a history of battering or violent offenses or behavior? Is his language vile and infused with expletives, threats, and hostility?
Next thing: is he too eager? Does he push you to marry him having dated
you only twice? Is he planning on having children on your first date? Does he immediately cast you in the role of the love
of his life?
Is he pressing you for exclusivity, instant intimacy, almost rapes you and
acts jealous when you as much as cast a glance at another male? Does he inform you that, once you get hitched, you should
abandon your studies or resign your job (forgo your personal autonomy)?
Does he respect your boundaries and privacy? Does he ignore your wishes
(for instance, by choosing from the menu or selecting a movie without as much as consulting you)? Does he disrespect your
boundaries and treats you as an object or an instrument of gratification (materializes on your doorstep unexpectedly or calls
you often prior to your date)? Does he go through your personal belongings while waiting for you to get ready?
Does he control the situation and you compulsively? Does he insist to ride
in his car, holds on to the car keys, the money, the theater tickets, and even your bag?
Does he disapprove if you are away for too long (for instance when you go
to the powder room)? Does he interrogate you when you return ("have you seen anyone interesting") - or make lewd "jokes" and
remarks? Does he hint that, in future, you would need his permission to do things - even as innocuous as meeting a friend
or visiting with your family?
Does he act in a patronizing and condescending manner and criticizes you
often? Does he emphasize your minutest faults (devalues you) even as he exaggerates your talents, traits, and skills (idealizes
Is he wildly unrealistic in his expectations from you, from himself, from
the budding relationship, and from life in general? Does he tell you constantly that you "make him feel" good? Don't be impressed. Next thing, he may tell you that
you "make" him feel bad, or that you make him feel violent, or that you "provoke" him. "Look what you made me do!" is an abuser's
Does he find sadistic sex exciting? Does he have fantasies of rape or pedophilia?
Is he too forceful with you in and out of the sexual intercourse? Does he like hurting you physically or finds it amusing?
Does he abuse you verbally - does he curse you, demeans you, calls you ugly
or inappropriately diminutive names, or persistently criticizes you? Does he then switch to being saccharine and "loving",
apologizes profusely and buys you gifts?
If you have answered "yes" to any of the above
- stay away! He is an abuser.
Then there is the abuser's body language. It comprises an unequivocal series
of subtle - but discernible - warning signs. Pay attention to the way your date comports himself - and save yourself a lot
language The narcissist adopts a physical posture which implies and exudes an air of superiority, seniority, hidden powers,
mysteriousness, amused indifference, etc. Though the narcissist usually maintains sustained and piercing eye contact, he often
refrains from physical proximity (he is "territorial").
The narcissist takes part in social interactions even mere banter condescendingly,
from a position of supremacy and faux "magnanimity and largesse". But he rarely mingles socially and prefers to remain the
"observer", or the "lone wolf".
The narcissist immediately asks for "special treatment" of some kind. Not to wait his turn, to have a longer or a shorter
therapeutic session, to talk directly to authority figures (and not to their assistants or secretaries), to be granted special
payment terms, to enjoy custom tailored arrangements.
The narcissist is the one who vocally and demonstratively demands the undivided
attention of the head waiter in a restaurant, or monopolizes the hostess, or latches on to celebrities in a party. The narcissist
reacts with rage and indignantly when denied his wishes and if treated equally with others whom he deems inferior.
posture The narcissist always tries to "belong". Yet, at the very same time, he maintains his stance as an outsider. The narcissist
seeks to be admired for his ability to integrate and ingratiate himself without investing the efforts commensurate with such
and false autobiography The narcissist brags incessantly. His speech is peppered with "I", "my", "myself", and "mine". He
describes himself as intelligent, or rich, or modest, or intuitive, or creative but always excessively, implausibly, and extraordinarily
and sense of intrusion and coercion The narcissist is dead serious about himself. He may possess a fabulous sense of humour,
scathing and cynical, but rarely is he self-deprecating. The narcissist regards himself as being on a constant mission, whose
importance is cosmic and whose consequences are global. If a scientist he is always in the throes of revolutionising science.
If a journalist he is in the middle of the greatest story ever.
These the lack of empathy, the aloofness, the disdain, the sense of entitlement,
the restricted application of humour, the unequal treatment and the paranoia render the abuser a social misfit. The abuser
is able to provoke in his milieu, in his casual acquaintances, even in his psychotherapist, the strongest, most avid and furious
hatred and revulsion. To his shock, indignation and consternation, he invariably induces in others unbridled aggression.
He is perceived to be asocial at best and, often, antisocial. This, perhaps,
is the strongest presenting symptom. One feels ill at ease in the presence of a narcissist for no apparent reason. No matter
how charming, intelligent, thought provoking, outgoing, easy going and social the narcissist is he fails to secure the sympathy
of his fellow humans, a sympathy he is never ready, willing, or able to grant them in the first place.
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor
of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory Bellaonline, and Suite101 .
Until recently, he served as the Economic Advisor to the Government of Macedonia.
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com