We understand physical and emotional abuse pretty well (not so much sexual abuse), but there is another kind of abuse out there, we seem to not have recognized as yet, and this is cognitive abuse.
If we stay within the more recent tradition of cognitive psychology or better say cognitive therapy, we can show that cognitive abuse takes place and that it is the worst kind of abuse.
The argument that cognitive abuse takes place is rather simple: We are more or less certain that cognitive therapy works like no other. If, however, cognitive therapy works, it can work both ways - positively and negatively. Negative cognitive therapy is what I call cognitive abuse. Unfortunately, the best psychologists are still the abusers. It is hard to catch up with them and we only can learn when we get close enough to them. However, getting close enough to an abuser is very dangerous, because the abuser will attempt to abuse you in the process. I speak here from my own personal experiences and they are not only to do with just one individual but a sound sample of them. I did the field research and it nearly killed me.
Nietzsche is not quite wrong when he says "what does not kill me makes me stronger", but in the end it killed him. It killed Socrates. It killed Beethoven and Mozart. It killed Bartok and Bachmann (by far one of the best writers in recent history). It also killed Kurt Cobain. It killed them because they did not get into the mind of the cognitive abuser, but remained in defense against him or her and kept questioning themselves.
Much of Alzheimer disease has to do with cognitive abuse.
How does it work?
The most important tool of cognitive abuse is to reflect a distorted image back to the victim. Often it goes in ways of exaggerating the qualities of the victim just in order to revoke such affirmations at another situation into the opposite. So the victim will one minute believe how fantastic (s)he is, even GD like (I had one abuser telling me that I was Jesus and another one calling me Adoni - and this after I protested because it is fundamentally against my Jewish faith!) and next minute the victim will be questioned in such a way, that the victim does not bring the two extremes together.
Just imagine how hard it is to have to make sense of this. One minute you are a soul mate, Jesus, Moses or whatever and next minute you are scum. It screws your head up.
In a sense, cognitive abuse has become part of a society we used to live in and this for a long time - something like 4000 years.
How can you heal such insanity? I am afraid I do not hold the answer to this question.
In this case I go with Rosenzweig and his idea of the Heilsgeschichte. It is going to take a long time and a lot of patience.
Dr Ludger Hofmann-Engl
Chameleon Group of Composers © 2005