I've been online since the 90s, which is a great opportunity to observe human behavior a little from the outside.
One thing I noticed was the huge amount of energy a fairly large proportion of people put into being abusive. This is amazing, considering how little they get out of it according to more usual ideas of human motivations.
This led to thinking about in-person abusers, and what drives them. While I don't understand all the reasons for ongoing abuse, some of it is obviously status enforcement. I believe the reinforcement for in-person abuse is seeing the other person being stressed by it. The advice to not let them see they've hurt you is of moderate value-- it helps sometimes, but not everyone can conceal the signs of emotional hurt completely, and (as with trolls on the internet) I'm pretty sure that some abusers can keep themselves going by imagining they've hurt their target.
In any case, I'm pretty sure abuse isn't just intended to cause hurt, it's intended to prevent the target from feeling good. If the target feels good, they might leave or shove back effectively.
From which it follows that someone who's been a target of extended abuse has been trained into the pattern that feeling better leads to feeling worse.
Recovery involves developing a gut-level belief that it's safe to feel better.
This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/1024545.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comments so far on that entry.