I’ve spent several years studying psychology and its realities, especially the personality disorders which can be existent in men — sometimes women, but statistics fall on the side of males in overwhelming numbers — who are abusive by nature.
Most of my first efforts went into understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Here is Lundy Bancroft’s explanation of NPD, as found in Why Does He Do That?, which is a read I highly recommend. (You can learn more about his book and expertise on my If You’re Abused page, found on this website.)
Those who suffer from NPD have a highly distorted self-image. They are unable to accept that they might have faults and therefore are unable to imagine how other people perceive them. This condition is highly compatible with abusiveness, though it is present in only a small percentage of abusive men. Clues to the presence of this disorder include: (a) Your partner’s self-centeredness is severe, and it carries over into situations that don’t involve you [here Bancroft is speaking to victims and survivors of abuse]; (b) he seems to relate everything back to himself; and (c) he is outraged whenever anyone criticizes him and is incapable of considering that he could ever be anything other than kind and generous. This disorder is highly resistant to therapy and is not treatable with medication.
It fascinates and renders me indignant all at once. You?
What I didn’t learn until recently, while reading Bancroft’s book, is that some traits and behaviors I’ve long been attributing to NPD (along with what’s above) actually fall under the Antisocial Personality Disorder label.
If you’re like me, you hear the term “anti-social” and think of people who don’t like other people, maybe they’re not interested in being around others socially, or struggle in social situations.
The disorder goes much deeper, though. Here’s Bancroft’s explanation of APD:
APD is present in only a small percentage of abusers but can be important. Those who suffer from this condition lack a conscience and thus are repeatedly involved in behaviors that are harmful to others. Some signs of this condition include: (a) He started getting into illegal behavior when he was still a teenager; (b) his dishonest or aggressive behavior involves situations unrelated to his partner, rather than being restricted to her; (c) he periodically gets into trouble at workplaces or in other contexts for stealing, threatening, or refusing to follow instructions and is likely to have a considerable criminal record by about age thirty, though the offenses may be largely minor ones; (d) he is severely and chronically irresponsible in a way that disrupts the lives of others or creates danger; and (e) he tends to cheat on women a lot, turn them against each other, and maintain shallow relationships with them. [This] psychopath’s physical violence is not necessarily severe, contrary to the popular image, but he may be very dangerous nonetheless. APD is very difficult to change through therapy, and there is no effective medication for treating it. It is highly compatible with abusiveness toward women.
Ahh. The floodgates of understanding opened when I read that passage last weekend. So much becomes clears. One of these two personality disorders on its own is bad enough, but the rare man who exhibits them both is malignant and damaging. (He also deserves to be hung by his toes and flogged.)
Why is this important to me? Because it goes layers into explaining my personal history, which I’ve already got a good handle on, but for which I will always seek knowledge.
Understanding how people work is a hobby of mine, and I love psychology. My studies also inform my work at a local women’s shelter.
Too, while I don’t want to go into great detail and disrupt my early creative process, my current novel-in-progress largely involves manifestation of these personality disorders. My continued research isn’t just personal, it’s professional.
My hope is that through my writing — whether here on my blog and through social media or in my large projects — and the volunteer work I do in the name of advocacy will bring awareness and education. Nothing can change if we don’t know what’s wrong, or begin to hold abusers accountable, as well as shift what our society sweeps under the proverbial rug and accepts at its norms.