What is Coercive Control?

What is Coercive Control? | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

COERCIVE CONTROL is a term coined by Dr. Evan Stark of Rutgers University to describe the hidden, invisible psychological violence many survivors of domestic violence experience in toxic relationships. It is a component of narcissistic abuse.

Coercive control  is a kind of emotional terrorism that aims to subjugate a targeted person and give the abuser total control.

Dr. Stark’s groundbreaking work influenced the criminalization of this invisible form of violence  in England and Wales in Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015.  

Here is the British Government’s definition:

  • Coercive behavior is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.
  • Controlling behavior is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behavior.

Coercive Control was criminalized in Ireland and Scotland in 2019. Efforts are also being made in Australia and in the US an historic Coercive Control Bill is being sponsored by State Senator Kevin S. Parker in New York. 

Coercive control in the context of narcissistic abuse

Coercive Control is a narcissist’s weapon of choice. After half a century of research, efforts are being made to put a framework in place to protect survivors from this insidious kind of psycho-emotional abuse.

Some of the basis for Dr. Stark’s work can be found in Albert Biederman’s Chart of Coercion and Mary Romero’s comparative study of domestic abuse survivors and prisoners of war.   The findings in these two reports were based on numerous studies of how stress can be used to break down the will of human beings.

Albert Biedermann's Chart of Coercion

For example, Chinese Communists used this kind of coercion in many contexts at universities, prisons, businesses, with laborer and peasants alike. They called  it zu-hsiang kai-tsao or “thought reform”.

Signs of Coercive Control

Here are the indicators of coercive and controlling behavior:

  1. Isolation – The abuser will keep you away from family and friends. 
  2. Monitoring your time – They abuser will want to know where you are, where you are going and what you are doing at all times
  3. Deprivation of Basic Needs: The abuser will restrict your access to healthcare and/or food.
  4. Monitoring Communication: Your abuser may use spyware to track your online communication tools.
  5. Taking control of your daily life: They may  control where you can go, who you can see, what you wear and what you eat.
  6. Put-Downs: your abuser may repeatedly tell you that you’re worthless or useless. They may call you degrading names or make comments about your appearance, your body, your intelligence, etc.
  7. Rules and Regulations: the abuser will create a set of ever changing rules which they enforce by humiliating, degrading or dehumanizing you.
  8. Financial abuse: the abuser will control your finances, making sure you have little access to money and making you dependent on them.
  9. Threats: an abuser may threaten to to hurt or kill; to take away your child; to reveal publish private information such as intimate photos or revealations about your sexuality.
  10. Criminal damage: the abuser may destroy your personal property. For example, they may destroy your cell phone or an article of your clothing.
  11. Assault or rape: the abuser may physically abuse you or violate you sexually.
  12. Obstruction of Employment: the abuser may stop you from working and earning your own money.
Coercive Control Evan Stark

The impact of this sort of abuse is long lasting. Coercive and controlling abuse harms the survivor’s sense of identity, safety, autonomy and their attachments to other people. 

It’s so subtle that many times survivors don’t realize what’s happening to them. They often compare it to the fable of the Boiling Frog. In their isolation, it can be difficult for them to have any perspective.

Daniel Quinn, author of ‘The Story of B’ explains, “If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.”

It’s important to remember that narcissism is a trait that exists on a spectrum. It ranges from healthy narcissism to full on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). These are two very different things. The further along the spectrum of narcissism an individual is, the more like they are to use coercive and controlling behavior to dominate others.

Resources

4 Subtle Ways Narcissistic Parents Abuse Their Children

4 Subtle Ways Narcissists Abuse Their Children

A PATHOLOGICAL NARCISSIST HAS MASTERED the art of inflicting psychological devastation without ever raising a hand. Their skillful manipulation of people’s perceptions and emotions leaves a trail of bloodless crimes in their wake.

This kind of person regards the pain and suffering they cause as a testament to their omnipotence. In reality, it is a manifestation of their sadistic nature.

A narcissist weaves a web of lies to entrap their victims. They win their romantic partners through deception and maintain their relationships through coercive and controlling behavior.

Thus, children of narcissists are born into a gaslit reality and given to the care of a psychological predator.

Here are four subtle ways narcissistic parents abuse their children.

1. The false self becomes a false idol

As a parent, the narcissist’s false self becomes a false idol that demands to be worshipped by their family unit.

Narcissists create glaring power imbalances between themselves, their spouse and children.

Love is neglect, abandonment, tyranny, and subjugation.

Because the narcissist’s needs supersede the needs of everyone else, the group internalizes the message that their needs don’t matter unless the narcissist says they do.

If the spouse is empathic, the narcissist undermines their authority. The children learn that might is right. They must appease the narcissist if they want to have their needs met.

4 Subtle Ways Narcissistic Parents Abuse Their Children

2. The narcissist engineers dysfunction

Because a narcissistic family unit is an organism that operates in a gaslit pseudo-reality, it is less akin to a family and more like a cult or a dictatorship.

In this dynamic, the group can’t be supportive, accepting, healthy, or just. Instead, family members behave and interact in unhealthy ways.

The children must learn to navigate the power imbalances and the inevitable abuses of power that ensue.

Thus, the default setting for existence in a narcissistic family is dysfunction.

3. Love is conditional

Children of narcissists learn that love is abuse. The narcissist shows them that if someone displeases you, it is okay to punish them and call it love.

For the child of a pathological narcissist, love is having your personality rejected and replaced with one the narcissist prefers. Love is neglect, abandonment, tyranny, and subjugation.

Narcissists see a child’s individuality as an act of insubordination.

Love is intermittent reinforcement with spouses and children alike.

The child is love-bombed when the narcissist feels the child reflects their false self. The moment the child fails to do so, the narcissistic parent blithely discards them.

Narcissistic family dynamics

4. Narcissists reject children who are not like them

Survival in a narcissistic family depends on each family member’s ability to take on and reinforce the assigned roles, toxic attitudes, and habits of the narcissist. No one is safe from a narcissist’s pernicious scrutiny, not even their children.

In the narcissist’s view, anyone who does not echo their image of themselves is rejecting them. Failure to reflect and affirm their false self is a threat. Thus, a child who does not accept the role assigned by the narcissistic parent triggers a narcissistic injury.

A lot of different personalities develop in the narcissist’s ecosystem.

The narcissist cannot process negative feedback, and by extension, nor can their family unit. They have zero tolerance for any person or thing they believe may endanger their fragile false self. When faced with such a threat, narcissists attack — even if the source of their ire is an infant.

Narcissists see a child’s individuality as an act of insubordination. Their response to this perceived narcissistic injury is contempt, oppression, and rejection of the offending child. As an act of expediency, the narcissist casts the child in the psychologically devastating role of the family scapegoat. The narcissist condemns the child to bear the blame for all of the family’s dysfunctional behavior and its outcomes.

Conclusion

To grow up in a narcissistic family is to grow up in an inverted reality, where right is wrong, and wrong is right. Anything goes as long as you tow the narcissist’s line.

There will be flagrant betrayals, hypocrisy, double standards, cruelty, and abuse. If one of the parents is empathic, the children will get a daily dose of how to manipulate, exploit, and subjugate another human being.

A lot of different personalities develop in the narcissist’s ecosystem. How the child turns out depends on how they navigate the harsh psychological terrain of the family.

This article is also published at Medium.com.

Resources

What is Acquired Situational Narcissism?

ACQUIRED SITUATIONAL NARCISSISM (ASN) is a construct developed by the late Robert B. Millman, a professor of psychiatry at Cornell Medical School, to describe the late-onset narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) he identified in some of his celebrity patients.

NPD usually develops in adolescence or early adulthood, whereas ASN can develop in the late teen years or deep into adulthood.

Dr. Millman noted those who develop ASN are driven by a preexisting high level of narcissism to pursue wealth and status.

In these cases, highly narcissistic individuals develop full-blown narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) once they reached their goal of obtaining fame and power.

The Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) does not include ASN.

Characteristics of Acquired Situational Narcissism (ASN) 

Some of the characteristics that distinguish ASN from NPD are:

  • Late-onset – ASN develops during late teens or adulthood.
  • Real power – Someone with ASN has acquired real and measurable power as opposed to grandiose fantasies.
  • Response to the environment – ASN develops in part as a response to the enabling behaviors of members of the individual’s support system, entourage, and society as a whole.

What are some of the risks of Acquired Situational Narcissism?

Like anyone else with NPD, someone with ASN becomes maladaptive. They may experience high levels of anxiety and depression. Their relationship with reality may become distorted.

Some of the ways this plays out are:

  • Poor decision making.
  • Inability to maintain stable relationships resulting in divorce.
  • Dysfunctional relationships with their children.
  • Substance dependency to self-medicate, and
  • Abuse of power in the form of criminal behavior to test the limits of their influence.

Prevention of Adult Situational Narcissism

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are some actionable steps you can take to prevent the development of ASN:

  • Work on your character – Develop personal and moral qualities to create an internal compass.
  • Adopt a value system – Clearly identify the values that reflect your moral qualities.
  • A strong support group – Your inner circle should include a small group of people who reflect your value system. These friends should not be impressed by wealth or status. They should not fear to call you out when your behavior is in conflict with your values. They should care about who you are not what you can do for them.
  • Develop a healthy attitude to power – Learn about how power can be used for its highest purpose so that you can create a positive and constructive relationship with it that’s in line with your character and values.

This article was originally published by Narcissistic Abuse Rehab on Quora. It is also published on Medium.

Photo by Ahmet Yalçınkaya.

Sources

15 Signs of a Fledgling Narcissist

15 Signs of a Fledgling Narcissist

NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER (NPD) usually begins to manifest during a child’s teenage years or early adulthood.

While many teenagers may be somewhat narcissistic, it is usually a normal stage of development and self-corrects over time. For this reason, clinicians are reluctant to diagnose NPD and other personality disorders in minors. However, when children present as callous and unemotional they may be tested by for conduct disorder.

Good enough parents seek to cultivate empathy and mental wellness in their children. Parents who have experienced narcissistic abuse, either in their personal or professional life, are often keen to prevent these dysfunctional behaviors in their children.

So, how do you spot a fledgling narcissist?

What is a fledgling narcissist?

A fledgling narcissist is an adolescent or teenage child who mirrors the behaviors and attitudes of a narcissistic caregiver or role model.

It’s distinguishing features are:

  1. A sense of entitlement
  2. Inability to accept responsibility
  3. A lack of gratitude
  4. An air of superiority
  5. Low empathy
  6. Opportunism
  7. A belief that they are special
  8. Attention seeking
  9. Envious
  10. Exaggerations or compulsive lying
  11. Unreasonable expectations
  12. Exploitativeness
  13. Arrogance
  14. Contempt for peers
  15. Schadenfreude

In other words, they act out the narcissism present in their ecosystem in the form of role models and the culture at large.

Within the family system, a highly narcissist child is often cast in the role of The Manipulator, also known as The Mastermind.

Experiments of dominance

A fledgling narcissist usually experiments with these behaviors in the home, targeting an individual they feel confident will endure their aggression and insolence.

If the child’s expressions of superiority and dominance go unchecked, there is an increased probability that the child may become a full-blown narcissist.

Sometimes high levels of narcissism are encouraged in children. This can happen if one or both of the parents are highly narcissistic. In those instances, narcissistic behavior may be reinforced in the child(ren).

Who does the fledgling narcissist target?

They practices their behavior on a family member. Usually, this will be a sibling or anyone they perceive as vulnerable.

The targeted brother or sister will be subjected to sibling abuse which can take the form of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, 

If one of the parents is the target of an ongoing campaign of coercive control by a pathological narcissistic spouse, a budding abuser may target the vulnerable parent with their aggression.

After they’ve enjoyed successful experiments at home, the fledgling narcissist will graduate to targeting someone outside the home. 

These early experiments are forays into discovering how far the fledgling narcissist can go.

What you can do as a parent

Abuse should never be tolerated, especially not from your own child. Here are some actionable steps you can take with a fledgling narcissist child:

  • Consider family therapy with a licensed professional.
  • Make it clear that there is zero tolerance for abuse.
  • Set hard boundaries.
  • Be explicit with the child about what behavior is acceptable.
  • Inform the child about your “deal breakers” i.e. behavior that is unacceptable.
  • Write down the terms of engagement and seal the deal with a handshake.
  • If the child breaks the deal, call out the behavior.
  • Consistently enforce the boundaries.

Have Your Say

Have you experienced a fledgling narcissist in your life? Do you recognize some of the characteristic mentioned in this post? Please share your story in the comments below.

Feedspot’s Top 50 Narcissism Blogs

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab | Feedspot Top 50 Narcissism Blogs

NARCISSISTIC ABUSE REHAB HAS BEEN SELECTED as one of Feedspot’s Top 50 Narcissist Blogs and Websites.

Feedspot is a social feed reader that collects news feeds from online sources for users to curate and share on their social media platforms.

We would like to extend our gratitude to Feedspot founder Anuj Agarwal kindly for supporting our effort to spread awareness about narcissistic abuse.

Please visit their website and discover their collection of useful resources for survivors of narcissistic abuse.

Special thanks to Anuj Agarwal of Feedspot.

Honoring Men’s Mental Health

Men's Mental Health | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

Our theme for the month of November is Men’s Mental Health and Suicide Awareness. Narcissistic Abuse Rehab will be using our platform to raise awareness on these critical issues.

Men often neglect their mental health

Social pressure on men and boys to conform to traditional gender roles can place a heavy burden on men’s mental health. Physical strength, stoicism, dominance and controlling behaviors are rewarded. However, they can also have serious consequences for the wellbeing of men and boys. 

Time and time again men and boys are often punished for showing emotion which can cause some to emotionally shut down. Because of this, it can be difficult for men and boys to recognize when they are in emotional distress. Ultimately, many men and boys don’t seek support until their problems have become a crisis. Many men and boys neglect their mental health.

Recognizing male survivors of domestic abuse

In cases of domestic abuse, men and boys are often unable to conceive of themselves as victims due to stereotypes of abusers being male and victims being female. The reality is that current research shows that 1 in 7 survivors of domestic abuse is male

Men and boys are less likely to seek support when they are experiencing domestic abuse, including narcissistic abuse by a family member, peer or employer.

4 of 5 suicides are men and boys

A staggering 4 out of 5 suicides are men and boys who take their lives, mainly due to relationship problems. According to the Office for National Statistics suicide is the biggest killer of men and boys under 45 years old in the U.K. For men over 45, suicide is second only to drug overdoses as the top killer.

Men and boys are facing a mental health crisis. This is why it’s critical to spread awareness about men’s mental health issues and options.

Our goal this month is to highlight some of the issues that are causing mental distress in men and boys and where they can turn for support in order to restore their sense of wellbeing.