In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the psychological reasons that people are attracted to or even fall in love with abusive or manipulative people.
First a quick update:
“Subconscious Personality Imagery Test”
Due to overwhelming requests, I have now created an audio version of my unique personality test. Before today, you had to book a personal session to have the personality test done. Now you can do it on your own in the comfort of your home with a new CD guided by me. The test reveals your subconscious thoughts, feelings and beliefs. https://www.patrick-wanis.com/product/subconscious-imagery-personality-test-audio-download/
Now let’s talk about the psychology of attraction to abusive, manipulative or unhealthy people.
Why do certain people attract us while others repel us? The answer to that question would be simple were the attraction to something always positive, but what about the people who are stuck like glue to partners, friends or family that are abusive?
I have explained in the past the way that our childhood relationships with our parents and siblings affects and determines our adult relationships; primarily via the conclusions we make regarding our self-worth, what we deserve, our definitions of love & the opposite sex, and the habits we create. For example, a person who was abused as a child will most likely end up in abusive relationships as an adult; research reveals that almost 90 percent of strippers were abused in one form or another as children. Another example, Sarah was never told by her father that she is beautiful so she chases men who are not attracted to her and she is not attracted to the men who tell her she is beautiful. Why? She doesn’t subconsciously believe she is beautiful and subconsciously continues to look for evidence to support that belief. She also keeps recreating the intense emotional experience with her dad via adult relationships with men.
Our beliefs are created one of two ways – via constant repetition or intense emotional experiences. And it is the latter, intense emotions that also lead to attraction and bonding.
For example, did you know that meeting a stranger when physiologically aroused increases the chance of having romantic feelings towards them? That is because of a strong connection between anxiety, arousal and attraction. Psychologists Arthur Aron and Don Dutton in the 1970s, conducted the ‘shaky bridge study’: men who met a woman on a high, rickety bridge found the encounter sexier and more romantic than those who met her on a low, stable bridge. The researchers also found that photos of members of the opposite sex were more attractive to people who had just got off a roller coaster, compared with those who were waiting to get on. And couples were more loved-up after watching a suspense-filled thriller than a calmer film. Intense emotional experiences (positive or negative) also explain holiday romances. For example, Rachel was on holiday in the Greek islands and went for a scooter ride with Jeff a guy she met in her hotel. As they came around a corner, a speeding car had just overturned, and Rachel and Jeff proceeded to assist the bleeding victims. Subsequently, the anxiety, trauma and physiological arousal led her to feel attracted to Jeff with whom she shared the experience; she slept with him later that night.
The sympathizing and/or romantic attraction to an abuser is known as the Stockholm syndrome.
In 1973, in Stockholm, Sweden, a bank was held siege and some of the employees were kidnapped. They were in danger and they knew it. Amazingly, at the end of six days of captivity, several of the kidnap victims resisted attempts to rescue them and later refused to testify against their former captors. They had somehow come to identify and sympathize with the source of the threat to their personal safety. The same occurred a year later with nineteen year old heiress Patty Hearst who was kidnapped from the apartment she shared with her fiancée in California by the self-styled Symbionese Liberation Army. Patty was blindfolded and kept in a tiny closet for two weeks – she was physically and sexually abused.
Despite undergoing that pain and trauma, two months later, everyone was shocked to see pictures of Patty wielding a gun and threatening staff and customers at a bank in San Francisco. Patty claimed her guerilla name was now ‘Tania’ (a nom de guerre after the comrade of Che Guevara) and she publicly said that she fully supported the terrorist organization and its aims.
It was the emotional intensity that led to the ‘brainwashing’ as exemplified by the case of Patty Hearst, the Stockholm victims or even the men on the shaky bridge. The anxiety, racing heart and dependence on the one person can lead to the transference of power and significance. The abused child is completely helpless, wanting to obey and please the abusive parent. The abused child’s entire focus is on the abuser and it also depends on him/her for survival and every form of love and attention. The abuser becomes the only source, the sole provider of physical and emotions needs – safety, attention, recognition, etc.
In other words, two things occur: first, the mind confuses the high physiological arousal (danger or anxiety) for attraction rather than fear (establishing a bond and connection with the instigator or person involved as being the primary focus and highly important) and second; the person experiencing the abuse develops a subconscious belief that he or she deserves this type of treatment. The result is a sense of helplessness to break from the bond and chains of the abuser or manipulator. This is often seen in battered spouses, abused children, prisoner of war and concentration camp survivors.
The point here is to become aware whether or not there is someone in your life that you feel has total control over whether your basic emotional and physical needs are met because you will, if not already, develop total dependence upon them. They become ‘parental’, however brutal they may be and you live in their control, grateful for any provision of needs, and led by feelings of guilt, helplessness & powerlessness. It’s equally significant to realize that your feelings for the abuser, manipulator or unhealthy person are in fact, not authentic feelings of love but rather twisted dependence and yes, you can live without him or her.
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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & Clinical Hypnotherapist