Understanding Abusive Men: Quotes From Lundy Bancroft

Before the brand new book called Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?: Encouragement for Women Involved with Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft, there was its logical predecessor, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men (2002), which addresses abusive patterns in both straight and gay relationships and which has been lauded by many for its non-victim-blaming. And readers have appreciated Bancroft’s ability to understand the men who’ve hurt them.

Lundy is the former Co-Director of Emerge, the first program in the U.S. for male batterers, and a leading consultant regarding domestic violence issues.

Although I haven’t seen Daily Wisdom, the following quotes from Why Does He Do That? (as found on Goodreads) are likely to be representative of Bancroft’s offerings of inspiration and guidance.

The scars from mental cruelty can be as deep and long-lasting as wounds from punches or slaps but are often not as obvious. In fact, even among women who have experienced violence from a partner, half or more report that the man’s emotional abuse is what is causing them the greatest harm.

One of the basic human rights he takes away from you is the right to be angry with him. No matter how badly he treats you, he believes that your voice shouldn’t rise and your blood shouldn’t boil. The privilege of rage is reserved for him alone. When your anger does jump out of you—as will happen to any abused woman from time to time—he is likely to try to jam it back down your throat as quickly as he can. Then he uses your anger against you to prove what an irrational person you are. Abuse can make you feel straitjacketed. You may develop physical or emotional reactions to swallowing your anger, such as depression, nightmares, emotional numbing, or eating and sleeping problems, which your partner may use as an excuse to belittle you further or make you feel crazy.

YOUR ABUSIVE PARTNER DOESN’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH HIS ANGER; HE HAS A PROBLEM WITH YOUR ANGER.

Abusive men come in every personality type, arise from good childhoods and bad ones, are macho men or gentle, ‘liberated’ men. No psychological test can distinguish an abusive man from a respectful one. Abusiveness is not a product of a man’s emotional injuries or of deficits in his skills. In reality, abuse springs from a man’s early cultural training, his key male role models, and his peer influences. In other words, abuse is a problem of values, not of psychology. When someone challenges an abuser’s attitudes and beliefs, he tends to reveal the contemptuous and insulting personality that normally stays hidden, reserved for private attacks on his partner. An abuser tries to keep everybody—his partner, his therapist, his friends and relatives—focused on how he feels, so that they won’t focus on how he thinks, perhaps because on some level he is aware that if you grasp the true nature of his problem, you will begin to escape his domination.

Abuse counselors say of the abusive client: “When he looks at himself in the morning and sees his dirty face, he sets about washing the mirror.”

The woman knows from living with the abusive man that there are no simple answers. Friends say: ‘He’s mean.’ But she knows many ways in which he has been good to her. Friends say: ‘He treats you that way because he can get away with it. I would never let someone treat me that way.’ But she knows that the times when she puts her foot down the most firmly, he responds by becoming his angriest and most intimidating. When she stands up to him, he makes her pay for it—sooner or later. Friends say: ‘Leave him.’ But she knows it won’t be that easy. He will promise to change. He’ll get friends and relatives to feel sorry for him and pressure her to give him another chance. He’ll get severely depressed, causing her to worry whether he’ll be all right. And, depending on what style of abuser he is, she may know that he will become dangerous when she tries to leave him. She may even be concerned that he will try to take her children away from her, as some abusers do.

Alcohol does not a change a person’s fundamental value system. People’s personalities when intoxicated, even though somewhat altered, still bear some relationship to who they are when sober…ABUSERS MAKE CONSCIOUS CHOICES EVEN WHILE INTOXICATED.

An abusive man who is adept in the language of feelings can make his partner feel crazy by turning each argument into a therapy session in which he puts her reactions under a microscope and assigns himself the role of ‘helping’ her. He may, for example, ‘explain’ to her the emotional issues she needs to work through, or analyze her reasons for ‘mistakenly’ believing that he is mistreating her.

The abuser’s mood changes are especially perplexing. He can be a different person from day to day, or even from hour to hour…As so many partners of my clients have said to me, “I just can’t seem to do anything right.”

When a man starts my program, he often says, ‘I am here because I lose control of myself sometimes. I need to get a better grip.’ I always correct him: ‘Your problem is not that you lose control of yourself, it’s that you take control of your partner. In order to change, you don’t need to gain control over yourself, you need to let go of control of her.’

One thought on “Understanding Abusive Men: Quotes From Lundy Bancroft

  1. Very well said. After an “incident”, I remember him being apologetic and regretful, loving and contrite but I learned this phase would not lead to any change in future behavior.

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