How Abusers Get Away with Their Behavior
People with strong narcissistic, psychopathic, or sociopathic tendencies, abusers, manipulators, and otherwise harmful people tend to hurt others. Sometimes they do it overtly, even proudly, and in other cases it’s covert or maybe even unconscious. Sometimes it’s well planned and calculated, while other times it’s careless and reactionary.
Sometimes these people are identified and are forced to accept the consequences of their wrongdoings, while other times they get away with their behavior. And in certain social environments they, horrifyingly, are rewarded for their narcissistic and otherwise hurtful behavior.
It’s no surprise that people who like to abuse and manipulate others tend to look for positions of power. They seek careers as CEO’s, lawyers, politicians, police officers, celebrities, and so on. Some go into helping and teaching fields and work as doctors, therapists, priests, or teachers.
All of it serves two purposes. One, you (legally) have power over others. And two, you are perceived as respectable, educated, even caring, so you increase your chances of getting away with your bad behavior.
On top of that, people with malignant narcissistic tendencies can be really smart and cunning. They become experts at gaslighting, deception, and manipulation, so much so that they confuse others by their behavior but no one can quite put their finger on why. Many bystanders don’t even care about the truth. These kinds of people flourish in today’s outrage culture since many people are lightning quick to find a reason to feel angry and act out, and consequently they are easily controlled and manipulated by those seeking power over others.
As a result of all of those and other factors, hurtful people sometimes get away with their behavior with no negative consequences. Or do they?
What’s a Perpetrator’s Punishment?
While sometimes it is indeed true that there are no significant external consequences for a hurtful person’s actions, it’s not that simple either. There are always internal consequences for everything. And this is what matters the most.
Sadly, it’s true that sometimes our society tends to reward certain narcissistic behaviors and character traits: power, deception, aggressive behavior, possessions, and other status symbols. But if we understand that these things don’t bring us a true sense of happiness, then we don’t see them as huge rewards. In many cases, they can be seen as punishments more than rewards because the person valuing and receiving it is less likely to change and grow.
If status symbols were an accurate indicator of true happiness, then all these rich, famous, powerful people would be the happiest people in the world: CEOs, politicians, celebrities, famous Internet people, etc. But to anybody who understands anything about psychology it is quite clear that they are not happy people. Some of them even kill themselves because they would rather be dead than stay in their toxic social and internal environment, despite of all the money, power, fame, sex, and acclaim that they have accumulated.
Do you think people who beat, rape, shout at, con, and otherwise abuse others are happy people? Do you think you can abuse a child and still be a genuinely happy person? Do you think you can sexually and physically abuse someone and feel authentic happiness?
Do you think it really matters that some of them have money or a respectable job? Sure, money can provide a sense of safety, and having social power can indeed be useful. But ultimately, the price that they pay for it is an even bigger loss of self. This makes their feelings of misery and self-loathing even stronger. And it’s not like they wake up one day and change their mind and behavior. All the lies, deception, hiding, being abusive, creating stories and justifications, fighting with people—all of it continues to spread and pile up.
Eventually decent people don’t want to associate with them, but they are older and more miserable, so they start feeling more and more desperation. Some of them try to change their behavior out of fear of mortality or loneliness or need for narcissistic supply. Some try to guilt-trip or shame or bully others into giving them resources, but it becomes harder and harder.
You can’t concentrate on external things and status symbols and be happy. You can’t be happy and abusive at the same time. You can’t mistreat and manipulate others and be happy. That’s not what real happiness is about.
Real happiness comes from within, from a strong sense of self, from growing as a human being, from being a decent person. So if your core self is rotten, if you are severely disconnected, if you are not growing, and if you are a hurtful person, it’s impossible to be genuinely happy. The best you can do is desperately manage your shaky and skewed false self.
So what’s a malignant narcissist’s punishment? It’s their existence. It’s their inner prison. It’s waking up every day into their life that—despite possessions, power, and status symbols that they may have—they hate deep down. And then one day they die, and it’s all over. That’s the sad reality of a wasted and miserable life. And that’s their natural punishment.
Photo by: Thomas Hawk
For more on these and other topics, check out the author’s books: Human Development and Trauma: How Childhood Shapes Us into Who We Are as Adults and Self-Work Starter Kit.