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Torture is ultimate act of perverted intimacy. The torturer invades victim's body, pervades his psyche, and possesses his mind. Deprived of contact with others and starved for human interactions, prey bonds with predator. "Traumatic bonding", akin to Stockholm Syndrome, is about hope and search for meaning in brutal and indifferent and nightmarish universe of torture cell.
The abuser becomes black hole at center of victim's surrealistic galaxy, sucking in sufferer's universal need for solace. The victim tries to "control" his tormentor by becoming one with him (introjecting him) and by appealing to monster's presumably dormant humanity and empathy.
This bonding is especially strong when torturer and tortured form a dyad and "collaborate" in rituals and acts of torture (for instance, when victim is coerced into selecting torture implements and types of torment to be inflicted, or to choose between two evils).
The psychologist Shirley Spitz offers this powerful overview of contradictory nature of torture in a seminar titled "The Psychology of Torture" (1989):
"Torture is an obscenity in that it joins what is most private with what is most public. Torture entails all isolation and extreme solitude of privacy with none of usual security embodied therein... Torture entails at same time all self-exposure of utterly public with none of its possibilities for camaraderie or shared experience. (The presence of an all powerful other with whom to merge, without security of other's benign intentions.)
A further obscenity of torture is inversion it makes of intimate human relationships. The interrogation is a form of social encounter in which normal rules of communicating, of relating, of intimacy are manipulated. Dependency needs are elicited by interrogator, but not so they may be met as in close relationships, but to weaken and confuse. Independence that is offered in return for 'betrayal' is a lie. Silence is intentionally misinterpreted either as confirmation of information or as guilt for 'complicity'.
Torture combines complete humiliating exposure with utter devastating isolation. The final products and outcome of torture are a scarred and often shattered victim and an empty display of fiction of power."
Obsessed by endless ruminations, demented by pain and a continuum of sleeplessness – victim regresses, shedding all but most primitive defense mechanisms: splitting, narcissism, dissociation, Projective Identification, introjection, and cognitive dissonance. The victim constructs an alternative world, often suffering from depersonalization and derealization, hallucinations, ideas of reference, delusions, and psychotic episodes.
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory Bellaonline, and Suite101 .
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com