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In the Abuser’s Controlling Mind

Abusers share a limited range of behaviors and thinking patterns. These methods that abusers, both male and female, use to manipulate their victims are a natural part of their personalities. This article describes how their dysfunctional minds work.

Gender Disclaimer: The pronouns “he” and “him” are used for the abuser and “she” and “her” for the victim. This is used here as a convenience as most physical abusers are male and their victims are female. Notwithstanding this, women can also be abusers, and in monosex relationships obviously both are the same gender.

Do you feel you cannot understand the logic of your partner and feel that you are going crazy (as in losing your sanity) in your own home? The abuser will swear that events never occurred and that certain things were never said. The victim knows better, but over time will begin to question her sanity.

Be alert to these tactics, which can break a person down until she thinks she is going insane. This is used to keep the victim under control.

Abusers use weird and warped logic to control. They seem to intuitively use methods of psychological and mind control that take years of training for normal people to master. These methods, of manipulating their victims’ minds and destroying their sense of identity, are their tools to control their partner.

These methods that abusers, both male and female, use to manipulate their victims are a natural part of their personalities.

All abusers are dysfunctional individuals, insecure and unable to have a relationship unless they are in complete control. A relationship with them will turn into a toxic relationship.

Abusers are seldom capable of a relationship that includes real intimacy. They feel vulnerable when they are open and truthful with others. The abuser’s idea of sex is confused with this idea of power and control, and not with love and tenderness.

Partners of abusers are essentially expected to be mind readers and know in advance the needs of the abusive spouse. When this doesn’t happen, the abuser feels insecure, unloved and rejected. This imagined rejection is then used to justify emotional, psychological and physical abuse.

Abusers use threats to cultivate fear, anxiety and despair in their victim. Often they threaten children, family members or friends with harm if the victim doesn’t comply with his demands.

Living with an abuser is a no win situation for the victim. You can’t change him.

The following are some of their characteristic behaviors and tactics, to confuse and control their victims, which give an insight into their minds.

Unpredictable Reactions

The abuser likes something she does today, but dislikes it tomorrow, or reacts to the extreme at an identical behavior by her at another time. These are unpredictable reactions.

This behavior damages the victim’s self esteem, self-confidence, emotional and psychological well-being. The victim is constantly on edge, wondering how her partner is going to respond to their every move.

Living with a person who has unpredictable reactions is difficult, stressful, nerve wracking and it causes extreme anxiety that can lead to serious health problems. The victim lives with fear and has no sense of balance in her life.

Abusers who drink excessively or are alcoholics or drug abusers often have unpredictable responses to trivial events.

Occasionally the abuser will fulfil the wishes of the victim to provide motivation for compliance with his every demand.

Unreasonable Expectations

This happens when the abuser makes unreasonable demands on his victim. He may expect his partner to reject everything in her life to tend to his needs. This can include frequent sex, forcing her to perform sexual acts that are against her will, demanding all of the her attention or demanding that she spend all free time with him.

No matter how hard she tries to please him, he will always demand more. She will be constantly criticized because she is unable to fulfil his demands. Abusers insist on trivial demands in order to create a habit of obedience in his victim.


Abusers combine manipulative tactics, such as upsetting people to watch their reaction, lying and provoking arguments and fights among family members and his peers.

He charms his victims and other people who he wishes to manipulate by professing that he cares and is interested or concerned for their well-being, to get on his or her goods side, when all he is doing is opening the door for a deeper level of abuse.


The abuser shifts responsibility for his actions away from himself and onto others, a shift that allows him to justify his abuse and anger because the other person supposedly “caused” his behavior. For example: “If you hadn’t screamed, I wouldn't have had to hit you.” Or he may say, “She pushes my buttons.” Statements like this blame the victim.

If he really had buttons she could push, she would push the one that says, “Wash the dishes,” instead of the one that says, “Hit me”.

He claims he became angry because someone else caused his inappropriate behavior, usually the victim.

Do not accept that. You are not to blame for his shortcomings.

Redefining Situations

This is an effective variation on the tactic of blaming; the abuser redefines the situation so that the problem is not with him, but with others, or with the outside world in general.

Abusers will seldom admit that they are wrong. It is always someone else’s fault when they act inappropriately.

Making Excuses

Instead of accepting responsibility for his actions, the abuser tries to justify his behavior with excuses. For example: “My parents never understood me,” “My parents beat me,” “My parents never loved me,” or “I couldn't let her talk to me that way. There was nothing else I could do.”

The abuser’s mind tells him that he is never to blame for any negative behavior. Alcoholism or substance abuse can be used as excuses, but the suggestion to attend alcohol drug treatment is taken as an insult. However, it is usually the victim, or the victim’s family and friends who are the cause for the negative behaviour.

Never accept that.


The abuser manages situations by lying to control the information available. The abuser also may use lies to keep other people, including his victim, off-balance psychologically.

Most abusers are chronic liars. For example, he tries to appear truthful when he's lying, he tries to look deceitful even when he's telling the truth, and sometimes he reveals himself in an obvious lie.


The abuser manipulates his victim to become emotionally, psychologically and physically dependent upon him, which reduces the ability of the victim to resist his abuse and increases his control over her.

Isolation is a common method to achieve this. The abuser discourages her contacts and social interaction with family members and friends. He will make pseudo victim statements, like, “They don’t like me, don’t go and see them.”

Another tactic is to be a good friend with her friends, and spread rumours about her behind her back. She becomes confused when her friends avoid her. He then comforts her to gain more psychological control over her.

Success Fantasies

Abusers believe that they would be famous and rich if the victim and other people weren’t holding them back. He uses this belief to justify his abuse and he feels he is justified in retaliating in any way he can, including physical and emotional abuse.

He puts others down, including the victim. In his mind, “They are idiots.”


An abuser’s thought patterns lead them to often assume they know what others, including their victim, are thinking or feeling. Their assumption allows them to justify their behavior because they “know” what the other person would think or do in a given situation.

They then use this warped logic to blame these people for their behavior.


The abuser usually keeps his abusive behavior separate from the rest of his life.

The separation is physical; for example, he will beat up family members but not people outside his home.

The separation is psychological; for example, the abuser attends church on Sunday morning and play the role of a loving spouse and parent, but uses fear to control his wife or children on Sunday night.

He sees no inconsistency in his behavior and feels justified in it. Yet if they hear a report that someone else has abused their loved ones, they are the first to condemn them.


Abusers refuse to accept their mistakes and avoid responsibility for their actions by trying to minimize their importance. For example, “I didn't hit you that hard,” “I only slapped you; I didn’t hit you,” or “I only hit one of the kids. I should have hit them all.”


Abusers think and speak vaguely, which lets the abuser avoid responsibility.

For example, “I'm late because I had some things to do on the way home.” If their partner asks for more details the abuser becomes defensive and even aggressive to keep control.

The spouse is not allowed to be vague, and is often asked for details ad nauseum.


Abusive people are not really angrier than other people. However, they deliberately appear to be angry in order to control situations and people.

They can lose their anger instantly, when the situation requires it, as when the police knock on the door. His hysterical partner then looks out of control, while he is collected.

While normal people have been socialised to control their anger, the abuser feels justified in not controlling his anger. But is able to switch it off in a moment as in the example above.

Playing Victim

Occasionally the abuser will pretend to be helpless or will act persecuted in order to manipulate others into helping him.

Here, the abuser thinks that if he doesn't get what he wants, he is the victim; and he uses the disguise of victim to get back at or make fools of others.

Abusers will often claim to be the victim in order to avoid being held accountable by law enforcement. He may assert she was the one who was violent. He will display what are clearly defensive wounds, such as bite marks or scratch marks, and claim she “attacked” him. Or he will declare that the physical marks on her were caused when he was trying to keep her from hurting herself.

Abusers are able to cry easier than most men when the victim role or manipulative tactics require it.

Drama and Excitement

Abusers, either male or female, can’t seem to develop close, satisfying relationships, or even bad relationships that last. They substitute drama and excitement for closeness. Their need of sex should not be confused with a desire for closeness.

Abusive people find it exciting to watch others get angry, get into fights, or be in a state of general uproar. Often, they'll use a combination of tactics described earlier to set up a dramatic and exciting situation.

An abuser will keep the household and his family’s emotions in a state of chaos by starting arguments and constantly being in conflict with other family members.

Closed Channel

The abusive person does not tell much about himself and his real feelings. He is not open to new information about himself, either, such as insights into how others see him.

He is secretive, close-minded, and self-righteous. He believes he is right in all situations.Yet he is inquisitive and can ask detailed, even intimate questions about others.

The abuser’s system of logic is closed. He doesn’t allow his partner to voice opinions or criticize him in any way. He lets her know, without a doubt, that his word is law.

Above the Rules

An abuser generally believes he is better than other people and so does not have to follow the rules of society that ordinary people do.

Abusers feel it is always their partners who need counselling and that they can take care of their life without help or support from others.

Power Plays

The abuser uses various tactics to power trip others. For instance, he walks out of the room when the victim is talking, or out-shouts the victim, or organizes other family members or associates to “gang up” on the victim in shunning or criticizing her.

By keeping the victim in a state of emotional chaos, the victim finds herself constantly “walking on eggshells.”

Abusers demean their victims to damage her self-esteem and make her think she is unable to face life on her own. Her self-esteem can be damaged beyond repair.


The abuser typically is very possessive. Moreover, he believes that anything he wants should be his, and he can do as he pleases with anything that is his. This attitude applies to people as well as to possessions.

This justifies his controlling behavior, physically hurting others, and taking things that belong to them.

Abusers are extremely possessive and believe that they should get everything they want. They also feel they can do whatever they wish with their possession and abusers see their partner or spouse as something they own.

They feel they are justified in hurting their victim by taking their possessions, attacking them emotionally, psychologically and physically and controlling all aspects of their life.

Emotional Dependency

Abusers are emotionally dependent on their victim. This causes an inner rage that encourages the abuser to lash out. Because he is so dependent, he takes control of his victim’s life. This is the way he denies his weaknesses and make himself feel powerful.

Symptoms of emotional dependency include, excessive jealousy, jealous rages and possessive actions that are usually sexual in nature. Abusers spend an excessive amount of time monitoring the action and movements of their victims.

Often, abusers have no support network and lack those supportive roles that others depend upon.

Another sign of emotional dependency is the extreme affect the abuser suffers if his victim leaves. He will go to any lengths to get the victim to return.


The abuser’s negative mind-set makes everybody else an idiot. The abuser also belittles, berates and puts other people down verbally, as a way of making himself look superior and to make himself feel more powerful.

When anyone says or does anything that doesn't fit his glorified self-image, the abuser takes it as an insult.

They exhibit a confusing mixture of superiority and inadequacy. They show macho confidence, except for circumstances where low self-esteem is required, i.e. they portray themselves as victims. Yet somewhere deep down they know their inadequacies. This is why they are so sensitive to criticism. Truth hurts.

Female abusers have a feminine macho attitude and look down at feminine qualities as vulnerabilities.


If your partner thinks along these patterns (not just vaguely in a few points), be careful. For your own safety, it’s best to end your relationship as soon as possible. It is better to be alone, and be in the position to meet a normal partner, than to be in an abusive relationship where you are constantly under emotional and psychological pressure. You need support and help now.

Abusive Relationships:

Men victims of domestic abuse

Abused Men

healing from domestic abuse

Domestic Abuse Healing from Within

 emotional abuse and verbal abuse

Emotional and Verbal Abuse

breaking the cycle of abuse

Domestic Abuse Dynamics:
Breaking the Cycle