Certain personality types are more prone than others to be abusive and exploitative. Chief among these are narcissists and the group I refer to in my books and other writings as the aggressive personalities (see: Character Disturbance pp. 96-128 and Aggressive Personalities: The Sub-Types). But inasmuch as the aggressive personalities are inherently first and foremost narcissists as well, it’s probably best to focus first on this non-aggressive variant of the most disturbed characters among us and the types of abuse they’re prone to perpetrate in their relationships.
Narcissists are by definition inordinately self-absorbed individuals. They’re so largely focused on their own desires and concerns that they pay little attention to the concerns of others. They’re capable of showing great interest (If they see someone or something or someone they fancy and want to possess they’ll often pull out all the stops to seduce or endear), and this can easily be mistaken for genuine concern or regard. They can even appear to dote upon or idolize a person or a thing but that doesn’t necessarily equate with having genuine regard. Most of the time, what’s really going on is that they see in someone else or something else an attractive reflection or extension of themselves (One very narcissistic individual I worked with spent several hours each week buffing every inch of his bright red sports car to the point he could literally see himself in the finish). So, despite giving the appearance they treasure the person or thing they desire, it’s still really all about them and possessing something they believe reflects positively on them.
For the most part, narcissists exhibit a passive disregard for (i.e. they simply don’t concern themselves with) the wants, needs, and desires of others, including those they purport to love. But the more malignant their narcissism is, the more active their disregard of others’ concerns can become, wantonly crossing boundaries and exceeding reasonable limits with a disturbing sense of entitlement. But whether their disregard for others is active or passive in character, it can engender substantial abuse and exploitation in their relationships.
The sense of entitlement many narcissists have coupled with their penchant for possessive thinking (see pp. 160-161 in Character Disturbance as well as the articles: The Possessive Thinking of the Disturbed Character and Are Possessive and Controlling Persons Necessarily “Insecure Underneath?”) can spell big trouble for any relationship. And the more malignant the narcissism is, the more deadly a form the narcissist’s possessiveness can potentially take. Narcissists tend to “objectify” those they find appealing in some way and to regard the objects of their desires as “possessions” over which they seek to claim exclusive ownership (Samenow calls this an “attitude of ownership). For the narcissist, “owning” a prized possession is a positive reflection on them. Narcissists often base their self-image on appearing to others as someone to be revered or honored primarily because of all they possess as opposed to being a person of such character that they’re truly worthy of genuine respect or admiration. The narcissist affords no real respect to the other person in the relationship or their legitimate wants or needs (especially emotional wants or needs). The person is merely an object they find desirable in some way (often, only for a limited period of time) and whom they feel they own (at least for the period of time they still find the person desirable). And in extreme cases such attitudes of ownership can take a most deadly form. All too many possessive relationships have ended in the horrific: “If I can’t have her (or him) then no one will!” scenario. But even short of that extreme there are many other abusive situations that can ensue, most of which are an outgrowth of the narcissist’s feelings of entitlement to do as he or she pleases with the object he or she believes is his or hers to possess.
Sometimes the abuse narcissists inflict on their relationship partners can be quite subtle, especially at first. For example, because in their own eyes they can do no wrong, when something bad happens, it’s always their partner’s fault. As a result, the partner can become the target not only the object of blame but also the target of the narcissist’s ridicule, disdain, maltreatment, gaslighting (for more on this see: Another Look at Manipulation Tactics and Manipulation Tactics : A Closer Look – Part 2), and even sadistic torment. Most folks who, for some reason, found themselves drawn to a narcissist early on begin really feeling regret at this point in the relationship. But this kind of abusive behavior often happens so subtly and incrementally that it takes a whole lot of being subjected to it before the victim finally sees the light.
In my books In Sheep’s Clothing and The Judas Syndrome, there are several vignettes depicting many other kinds of abuse narcissists can inflict in relationships. And in the coming weeks I’ll posting not only on some of these but also on the particular kinds of relational abuse to which the various aggressive personalities are particularly prone. Also, a few weeks from now, I’ll be featuring an interview I did with one of Australia’s leading advocates for abuse victims on my Character Matters program, Sundays at 7 pm Eastern Time on UCY.TV.