“Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” by Lundy Bancroft is a comprehensive exploration of abusive behavior in men, primarily in the context of intimate relationships. Bancroft, who has worked for over two decades as a counselor for abusive men, provides a detailed look at the thinking patterns, beliefs, and actions of abusive men, as well as guidance for those affected by abuse.
Why Does He Do That Summary
The Nature of Abuse
Bancroft argues that abuse is primarily about power and control, not anger or psychological issues.
Types of abusive men are dissected, and Bancroft identifies ten types:
- The Demand Man
- Believes he has a right to be catered to.
- Expects his needs to be prioritized above others.
- Becomes angry or sulks if his demands are not met.
- Views his partner as existing to serve him.
- Mr. Right
- Sees himself as the ultimate authority on every subject.
- Believes his opinions are always right.
- Patronizes his partner and ridicules her beliefs.
- May use “logic” as a tool to prove he’s always correct.
- The Water Torturer
- Uses calm, but cruel and relentless criticism.
- Never raises his voice, giving an appearance of control.
- Makes his partner feel she’s the “crazy” one.
- Uses a combination of sarcasm, mocking, and cold eyes to disorient and control.
- The Drill Sergeant
- Controls every movement of his partner.
- Criticizes her relentlessly to make her feel stupid and incompetent.
- Wants to know where she is every minute.
- May isolate her from friends and family to maintain control.
- Mr. Sensitive
- Presents himself as the polar opposite of the stereotypical abusive man.
- Uses his “deep feelings” to manipulate.
- Is self-centered and demands attention for his emotional needs.
- May use his knowledge of women’s issues to manipulate and control.
- The Player
- Is often charming and draws many women into his web.
- Lies or hides the truth about his other relationships.
- Manipulates by making his partner feel special and then devalues her.
- Often sees women merely as conquests.
- Thinks of himself as aggressive and a “real man.”
- Can be overtly violent or intimidating.
- May have a fascination with weapons or talk a lot about violence.
- Is often controlling under the guise of protecting his partner.
- The Victim
- Consistently blames his behavior on external factors.
- Sees himself as the true victim in the relationship.
- Uses past experiences (like a difficult childhood) to justify abusive behavior.
- Evokes pity and uses it as a manipulation tactic.
- The Terrorist
- Uses extreme threats or acts of violence.
- Might threaten to hurt or kill his partner, children, or others.
- Uses fear as his main form of control.
- Can be unpredictably violent, keeping his partner in constant anxiety.
- The Mentally Ill or Addicted Abuser
- May have genuine mental health issues or addiction problems.
- Uses these issues as an excuse for his behavior.
Bancroft notes that while mental illness and addiction can amplify abusive behavior, they are not the root causes. Not all mentally ill or addicted individuals are abusive.
Each type uses distinct tactics to control and manipulate their partners. The book emphasizes that abuse is a deliberate choice, not an uncontrollable reaction.
Bancroft dives deep into the way abusive men think, revealing that they are acutely aware of their behavior and actions. Many abusers view their partners as possessions or as extensions of themselves, rather than autonomous individuals.
Abusers are skilled at manipulation, and they can distort reality for their victims, a tactic called “gaslighting.”
Bancroft highlights the myths surrounding abusive men, including the idea that they abuse because they were abused, or that substance abuse is the primary reason for their behavior.
The Tactics of Abuse
The book meticulously delineates the various tactics that abusers use to control their partners. These include verbal belittling, financial control, isolating the victim, using children as pawns, and physical violence.
Bancroft states that emotional and psychological abuse can be just as damaging as physical violence.
Abusers can switch between “Dr. Jekyll” and “Mr. Hyde” personalities, making it difficult for victims to reconcile the abuser’s “good” moments with their abusive episodes.
Bancroft sheds light on the myriad excuses that abusers and society at large make for abusive behavior. Examples include blaming the victim, asserting that the abuser was provoked, or attributing the abuse to external factors like stress or alcohol.
The book also challenges the idea that abusers can change with simple therapy or anger management classes. Bancroft argues that genuine change requires a deeper understanding and recognition of their abusive patterns, accountability for their actions, and long-term commitment.
Helping the Victim
Bancroft provides guidance for friends, family, and professionals on how to support victims of abuse. He highlights the importance of believing and validating the victim’s experiences.
He also stresses that leaving an abusive relationship can be extremely dangerous, and safety planning is vital.
Finally, Bancroft gives insights into the intricacies of the healing process and advises on creating an environment where the victim feels safe, heard, and empowered.
1. Understanding the Abusive Mindset
- Not about Loss of Control: One common misconception is that abusive men lash out because they can’t control their temper. However, Bancroft emphasizes that abuse is a deliberate choice made to gain and maintain power and control over a partner. Their violent or controlling behaviors are purposeful, directed, and often premeditated.
- Manipulation: Abusers often present themselves as victims, using tales of past hurts or injustices to justify their behavior. This manipulation aims to make the real victim – their partner – feel guilty or responsible for the abuser’s actions.
- Denial and Minimization: Many abusers deny their behavior or minimize its impact. They may blame their partner, alcohol, stress, or other external factors, rather than taking responsibility.
2. The Many Faces of Abuse
- Physical Abuse: This is what people often think of first, but it’s just one of many forms. It involves using physical force against a partner, such as hitting, choking, pushing, or using weapons.
- Emotional & Verbal Abuse: This can include name-calling, belittling, constant criticism, or trying to manipulate and control a partner’s feelings and reality. Emotional abuse can be as damaging, if not more so, than physical violence.
- Sexual Abuse: Any forced or coerced sexual activity falls into this category, as does using sex as a weapon to humiliate or control a partner.
- Financial Control: An abuser might limit a partner’s access to funds, control all financial decisions, or prevent the partner from working to make them financially dependent.
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3. The Cycle of Abuse and the Possibility (or Impossibility) of Change
- The Honeymoon Phase: After an abusive episode, an abuser may become very affectionate, apologetic, and promise change. This “honeymoon” phase can confuse the victim, making them believe the abuser genuinely wants to change.
- Why Change is Difficult: Bancroft underscores that genuine change is a long and arduous process. It’s not just about stopping violent behavior but also entails deep introspection and accountability. For an abuser to truly change, they must accept full responsibility for their actions, have a deep desire to change, and seek specialized, long-term counseling. Unfortunately, many abusers don’t follow through with these steps.
- Safety First: One of the book’s most important messages is the emphasis on safety. Leaving an abusive relationship can be a dangerous time for victims. Bancroft highlights the importance of developing a safety plan, seeking support from professionals or trusted individuals, and prioritizing personal well-being above all else.
“Why Does He Do That?” is a comprehensive exploration of abusive dynamics, underpinned by Bancroft’s extensive experience with abusive men. The book’s primary goal is to debunk myths about abuse, empower victims, and provide tools for intervention and support.
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