By fostering a dependency that creates a power differential, the ambient abuser implies s/he possesses great insight, which will assist the targeted victim in her growth and well-being. The ambient abuser ostensibly only wants the best for the target. The ambient abuser behaves altruistically, concealing the underlying motive to get the upper hand. The ambient abusers’ appearance of benevolence, honesty and generosity is seductive and disorients the target and assists in ensuring the necessary leverage needed to ‘manage’ the target and diminish her self worth.
When conflict emerges it’s an opportunity for the ambient abuser to deny wrongdoing and assign responsibility for the alleged infraction to the target. The seemingly well-intentioned ambient abuser may ‘selflessly’ point out how the flaws and shortcomings in the target are responsible for instigating the dispute.
George K. Simon Jr., wrote (In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People), “Playing the victim role: Manipulator portrays him – or herself as a victim of circumstance or of someone else’s behavior in order to gain pity, sympathy or evoke compassion and thereby get something from another. Caring and conscientious people cannot stand to see anyone suffering and the manipulator often finds it easy to play on sympathy to get cooperation.” Hence, the target, naturally inclined to believe that the ambient abuser is fundamentally ethical and that cooperation and compassion are collective moral imperatives, yields to what s/he assumes will be a collaborative effort to work through difficulties. The ambient abuser capitalizes on this pre-disposition.
Should the target dare to question the stealth abuser’s intermittent barbs and disparagement, further distortion ensues. A disorienting narrative unfolds in which the target is held liable for questioning motives and doubting the sincerity of the abuser. This scenario involves the target being convinced that in fact it is s/he who is abusive and irrational. Alternatively the ambient abuser may initially pretend to concede and acknowledge ‘their part’ so as to strategically reassure the target. In due time the ambient abuser will reaffirm the target’s unreasonable ‘misconduct’ denying he ever conceded responsibility at all.
These myriad tactics deployed by the ambient abuser are known as gaslighting. False information is manufactured and deliberately presented to the victim, so as to make her doubt her memory and/or perceptions.
As this recurrent circuitous dynamic persists greater frequency and intensity of gaslighting occurs. Inevitably the target is pummeled into silence and cognitive dissonance. She succumbs to the coercion, believing it is her paranoia and/or unhealed afflictions and flaws, which cause her to behave so egregiously and are responsible for igniting relational difficulties. She begins to doubt her sanity.
Ultimately the corrosive impact of ambient abuse results in the target losing sight of who she is. She is bewildered as to what defines her reality, and comes to view herself as inherently defective. Her sense of personal agency has vanished. Bouts of emotional flooding vacillate with episodic dissociation. S/he is fearful, paranoid, and marginalized. At this point the bond between abuser and victim is characterized by Stockholm Syndrome; a pathological infantile attachment in which one’s tormenter is perceived as one’s redeemer.