If you compare and contrast the profile of the average individual who is likely to commit terrorist acts, you will unfortunately find some very distinct similarities between mental/emotional abusers and terrorists.
Most of the information about abuse out there is about those who are physically abusive. Now, there are some similarities between the physical abuser and the mental/emotional abuse, but there are just enough differences that mental/emotional abuse flies under the radar – just like your average terrorist.
The thing is, marking those similarities scares many people – because if those similarities are considered signs of mental illness, then perhaps terrorists will gain sympathy. Psychologists have been studying the different psychology of assorted terrorists (both assumed terrorists and actual terrorists) for decades, and have yet to agree on any particular type of profile.
Part of the problem is that a terrorist works on group dynamics, while an emotional/mental abuser works on interpersonal dynamics.
Psychologists have defined the typical profile of a terrorist leader, but still struggle with the profile of the followers. What they don’t understand is that the leader (as described in a number of psychological articles) is just a zealot with all of the same tendencies of your average mental/emotional abuser, while his/her followers show a mixture of healthy psychology, victim/survivor psychology, and deviant psychology. It is that mixture that confuses the psychologist, because it changes based on the innate psychology of each follower.
Your typical terrorist leader is charming, well able to show a face of moderation and even conservative behavior in public (defined as either the mass population, OR when he/she is in the company of his/her followers). They, like serial killers, will be described as quiet, unassuming personalities – like they embody the spirit of the perfect human being. But, it’s all an act. They have no empathy or compassion, seeing their “enemies” or “victims” as simple objects to be used to further their chosen agenda.
These leaders, on some level, still feel powerless to make the societal changes that are their primary reason for living. They feel disenfranchised by those they see as their “enemies.” They view themselves as the victims of the piece, and as the “chosen hero” to save their particular group of people (or the greater whole – as many megalomaniacs fall under this type of group…..”If everyone just listened to me, life on Earth would be Paradise!”)
They isolate their followers from the rest of humanity. They twist the thinking of their followers to trust only them – for even their fellow terrorist followers could be “spies from the enemy.” Their standards of expectation lead only to requiring further proof of a follower’s commitment to the “cause.” Every action that is not considered part of the organization’s aim is considered an attack on the “cause.” All aspects of a follower’s life are considered to be part of the “cause” which means that the leader ends up controlling the follower’s financial future (or making the follower think the leader controls it). Blame, shame, denial, verbal and emotional intensity, threats and intimidation are all tools in the leader’s hands to make people do what he/she wants them to.
Similarly, the mentally/emotionally abusive person typifies many of these same issues. The average abuser feels powerless in their life, so they must develop control of everything they possibly can – including those individuals who have relationships with them such as a spouse or children. Often, the abuser’s upbringing encourages them to believe that they have a “Divine Right” to control others (I’m not just talking about the “man as head of household” of Christianity or Islam, but even other religions that may or may not place either the woman or the man as the “head of household” and cultures that encourage control of the family regardless of the gender put into control). Their way is always right, and is always the “best way” to do something. They are somehow superior to their victims, and are therefore entitled to their demands.
These abusers tend to believe that they, somehow, are the only real people in the world, so that means that they always know what the people around them are thinking or are motivated by – whether or not that assumption is true. They are, like the terrorist leaders, very adept at charming the public. Even if they allow their charming mask to slip, they often have multiple reasons to excuse the abusive behavior to the average public.
The abusers isolate their victims from the rest of the world, making themselves the only authority to turn to. The victim must constantly prove their love and trust in the abuser. Like the terrorist leader, anything that contradicts the abuser is an attack on them, and must be demolished.
The only main difference I can see between the terrorist leader and the abuser? While most terrorist leaders consider themselves to be “special” and “called by God” to “this work,” the abuser often believe themselves to be the dregs of society, and must somehow “prove to the world” that they are worthy.
Sadly, if the abuser develops a sense of purpose, they have all of the skills necessary to become a terrorist leader.