Facing the truth about having an abusive personality is something most people don’t want to admit. Allowing this level of transparency would be too much for the abuser: too much shame, too much guilt, too much shattering of the ego, too much relinquishing of coercive power. Accepting responsibility for manipulative actions and attitudes would mean the perpetrator would have to get rid of all justifications, blame and excuses, and fully admit that they are completely responsible for their behaviours. They would have to be honestly open to the fact that they made certain choices to be abusive and controlling.
Obviously, that’s not something most people would want to do. Instead, excuses pave the way for further acts of emotional, physical, psychological, or verbal violence against their intimate partner (and sometimes even their children). For example, abusers tend to feel their behaviour isn’t “that bad” because they’re not physically violent. Or, if they do slap their partner around a bit, at least they don’t punch her. Or, if they do punch her, at least they’ve never sent her to the hospital …
Some abusers will acknowledge there’s a problem in their relationship, but will blame that problem on their partner or a so-called “mutual communication issue.” Still others may take the step of admitting that “sometimes” their behaviour gets out of control—but then they go on to justify their actions as a mere “anger issue” rather than what it truly is—an abuse issue.
“He has convinced himself of his own distortions.”
(Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men)
Dr. Chris Huffine, a psychologist who has worked with abusers for over thirty years, notes that “the problem with focusing on anger is that it completely ignores the real problem. Nineteen times out of twenty, if not more, the reason people think someone has an anger issue is because they have repeatedly acted in abusive ways. The point here is that the problem is not their ‘anger’ or ‘temper.’ It’s that they’ve been abusive!”
I'm Jenny duBay, a domestic abuse survivor and now advocate. My degree is in Christian theology with a concentration on spiritual direction, and my vocational emphasis is on helping those who have suffered from domestic abuse to heal and reclaim their true selves.