Laura Russell, Ph.D., Archive  

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The "Why" Question

Q. I have tried to explain his psychological problems behind the reasons for his extremely abusive behavior. Would you or a colleague please try to find the time to give me an overview of what you think about his behavior?

 A. Everyone who has been severely abused by another person eventually asks this question. And I wish there was an easy answer to it! 

I have researched this question extensively trying to find some kind of intellectual understanding of abusive behavior. The problem is that in our psychology minded society we assume that there are understandable psychological reasons for bad behavior. We want to put some horrible into manageable portions. If there was an understandable reason, then we can change their behavior. Maybe even prevent future abuse. 

But we cannot. 

The closest to understanding I have come is that there are some people who do very bad things. These people are different somehow from you and I. I do not believe that there is, yet, any effective treatment for truly abusive people. They leave ‘treatment’ or jail and return to their abusive behavior. 

Abusive people see others as objects for their satisfaction. They usually lack empathy and see no value in the needs, feelings, wants or desires of others. 

I like to compare this to addiction. Instead of chemicals, an abusive person has your fear, powerlessness or pain as their drug of choice. In other words, they hurt you so that they can feel better. 

This is a very ugly picture. Yet, I believe it is a real one. Understanding this can help victims understand there was absolutely nothing in them that caused their abuse. Abusers abuse because that is what they do. Not because the victim had any special characteristics or weaknesses. 











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