Ambient abuse is the stealth, subtle, underground currents of maltreatment
that sometimes go unnoticed even by the victims themselves, until it is too late. Ambient abuse penetrates and permeates everything
– but is difficult to pinpoint and identify. It is ambiguous, atmospheric, diffuse. Hence its
insidious and pernicious effects. It is by far the most dangerous kind of abuse there is.
It is the outcome of fear – fear
of violence, fear of the unknown, fear of the unpredictable, the capricious, and the arbitrary. It is perpetrated by dropping
subtle hints, by disorienting, by constant – and unnecessary –
lying, by persistent doubting and demeaning, and by inspiring an air of unmitigated gloom and doom ("gaslighting").
Ambient abuse, therefore, is the fostering, propagation, and enhancement
of an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability, unpredictability and irritation. There are no acts of traceable explicit
abuse, nor any manipulative settings of control. Yet, the irksome feeling remains, a disagreeable foreboding, a premonition,
a bad omen.
In the long term, such an environment erodes the victim's sense
of self-worth and self-esteem. Self-confidence is shaken badly. Often, the victim adopts a paranoid or schizoid stance and
thus renders himself or herself exposed even more to criticism and judgment. The roles are thus reversed: the victim is considered mentally
deranged and the abuser – the suffering soul.
There are five categories of ambient abuse and they are often combined
in the conduct of a single abuser:
I. Inducing Disorientation
The abuser causes the victim to lose faith in her ability to manage
and to cope with the world and its demands. She no longer trusts her senses, her skills, her strengths, her friends, her family,
and the predictability and benevolence of her environment.
The abuser subverts the target's focus by disagreeing with her
way of perceiving the world, her judgment, the facts of her existence, by criticizing her incessantly –
and by offering plausible but specious alternatives. By constantly lying, he blurs the line between reality and nightmare.
By recurrently disapproving of her choices and actions –
the abuser shreds the victim's self-confidence and shatters her self-esteem. By reacting disproportionately to the slightest
"mistake" – he intimidates her to the point of paralysis.
The abuser gradually and surreptitiously takes over functions and
chores previously adequately and skilfully performed by the victim. The prey finds itself isolated from the outer world, a
hostage to the goodwill – or, more often, ill-will – of her captor.
She is crippled by his encroachment and by the inexorable dissolution of her boundaries and ends up totally dependent on her
tormentor's whims and desires, plans and stratagems.
Moreover, the abuser engineers impossible, dangerous, unpredictable,
unprecedented, or highly specific situations in which he is sorely needed. The abuser makes sure that his knowledge, his skills,
his connections, or his traits are the only ones applicable and the most useful in the situations that he, himself,
wrought. The abuser generates his own indispensability.
III. Shared Psychosis (Follies-a-Deux)
The abuser creates a fantasy world, inhabited by the victim and
himself, and besieged by imaginary enemies. He allocates to the abused the role of defending this invented and unreal Universe.
She must swear to secrecy, stand by her abuser no matter what, lie, fight, pretend, obfuscate and do whatever else it takes
to preserve this oasis of inanity.
Her membership in the abuser's "kingdom" is cast as a privilege
and a prize. But it is not to be taken for granted. She has to work hard to earn her continued affiliation. She is constantly
being tested and evaluated. Inevitably, this interminable stress reduces the victim's resistance and her ability to "see straight".
IV. Abuse of Information
From the first moments of an encounter with another person, the abuser
is on the prowl. He collects information. The more he knows about his potential victim – the
better able he is to coerce, manipulate, charm, extort or convert it "to the cause". The abuser does not hesitate to
misuse the information he gleans, regardless of its intimate nature or the circumstances in which he obtained it. This is
a powerful tool in his armory.
V. Control by Proxy
If all else fails, the abuser recruits friends, colleagues, mates,
family members, the authorities, institutions, neighbours, the media, teachers – in short,
third parties – to do his bidding. He uses them to cajole, coerce, threaten, stalk, offer, retreat,
tempt, convince, harass, communicate and otherwise manipulate his target. He controls these unaware instruments exactly as
he plans to control his ultimate prey. He employs the same mechanisms and devices. And he dumps his props unceremoniously
when the job is done.
Another form of control by proxy is to engineer situations in which
abuse is inflicted upon another person. Such carefully crafted scenarios of embarrassment and humiliation provoke social
sanctions (condemnation, opprobrium, or even physical punishment) against the victim. Society, or a social group become the
instruments of the abuser.
Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West
Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Global Politician,
Central Europe Review, PopMatters, Bellaonline, and eBookWeb, a
United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and
the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in
The Open Directory and Suite101.
Until recently, he served as the Economic Advisor to the Government