The two faces of Violence:
Personality profiles of women abusers: The "Cobra" and the "Pitbull" type.
(A differential diagnosis)
With great astonishment I read the review of J. Paulus in the "Tages?Anzeiger" 00.
00 01.19 about Neil Jacobson/John Gottmans: "When men batter women", Simon
and Schuster, New York, 1998.
The researchers examined between 63 and 143 pairs and analyzed above all pairs
with violent relations, with a corresponding check of their development after two
years. They came to the conclusion that it is important to differentiate between two
types of abusers who, due to the differential- diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic
differences, need totally different methods of treatment.
The authors also did physiological investigations concerning the heart impact and
pulse frequency in both groups and got even here different results.
My astonishment as a Szondi (Fate-analytical) psychologist depended on the fact
that the personality profiles of these violent men correspond a hundred percent with
Szondi's differential diagnosis between the aggressive (s +) and the epileptic (e -)
personality type. Szondi's clear differential-diagnostical and need- psychological
distinction point out to the following:
In the first group, the "Cobras", the main drive energy has a chronic aggressive
(s+) quality, without any paroxysmal attack quality. In contra distinction in the
other group, the "Pitbulls", the main drive energy is characterized by having a
gradual accumulation (e-) quality with an operational sequence of 3 phases.
According to my knowledge such a sharp distinction, with all it's therapeutic and
counseling consequences, is only found in Szondi's theory and not mentioned in
any other psychological or analytic school.
It is my experience that this distinction is often taken up very critically by
psychology students and other psychologists because it emerges quite unexpected
and surprisingly and does not belong to the usual psychological knowledge or
ideas. Therefore, are we, as Szondi psychologists, glad to see that Szondi's
differential diagnosis is confirmed by the results of Simon and Schuster.
I will make a short summary of the article and afterwards add a fate-psychological
|Physical and emotional / verbal violence||
|- The heart beating and pulse slow down
before the act. It comes to a stabilization,
to a preparing rest, so that the blow can be
made like a stroke of lightning. This is the
attitude of the poison snake, the Cobra.
||- Heart beating and Pulse increase
before the act. This means that the
person comes gradually into a state of
clear affective excitation, starting with
an accumulation phase in which he
starts losing his nerves and feels
provoked. The aggression develops
slowly as in a Pitbull dog.
|-The attack is carried on in a calculated
brutal and cold way.
||- It concerns a hot, affective excitation-
potential, a fiery accumulation (in
contrast to the coolness and distance of
the other group).
|- Extreme brutal threats are expressed with
knives and fire weapons and are
afterwards realized to a high degree.
- Weapons are usually drawn, but only
used in very rare cases.
|- The men in this group are incapable of
having any deeper relationship. For them
women are rather instruments for a
purpose (sexuality, income). For example
they can take a woman only to win a bet.
||- These men cling very strongly to their
women, are often very devoted
(affectionate) and fear to be left by them.
|- Meaning of the violence:
To impose fear and to make the women
bend to their will. The men want to
dominate and to decide.
||- Meaning of the violence:
To prevent the women from running
away and leaving them. These men
become only violent when threatened to
|- They do not show regret, for them their
violence is not worth mentionin
||- Afterwards they show strong and
sincere regret. They see themselves,
rather in an inverted way, as victims
(who had to use such means because of
the running away of the woman).
|- They control their partners only when
these don't do what they want. They
exercise only a partial control and can
otherwise release their women.
||- They are inclined to keep a continuous
(chronic) control and constant
supervision (which the women usually
experience as a still larger suffering than
|- Usually they are also outside their
partnership violent and are incapable to
have positive relations
||The violence of the Pitbulls is mainly
limited to their partner. It is not spread
to other areas of relationship where
there is no fear for the loss of love and
Usually they do not come to a consultation
or a therapy session. If so, they
dissimulate the abuse during the treatment
and cheat the therapist. There is nearly no
chance that they can be treated and healed.
They remain dangerous.
Eventually they come to the counseling
and participate in short time therapy, but
only with the aim of getting back the women.
They have a somewhat larger
chance to be treated than the
"Cobras," but even they are in therapy
often quite resistant.
|Denying the abuse occurs within both types, as well as the tendency
to declare the women as being crazy.
|- They become dangerous when the
woman wants to separate and carry
through the impulse to kill, but only
during a limited time. In a longer
perspective they are less dangerous, since
they release very rapidly their object, and
concentrate instead in finding a new victim.
||- For a short time in the beginning they
are less dangerous since the tendency to
aggression and rage start only slowly to
increase. However, seen in a longtime
perspective, they can become extremely
dangerous since they pursue their victim
during a long period and realize first
later the aggression.
|Fate analytical comments, I. Graemiger
|Cobra = Szondi type: s + (Sadistic)
|Pitbull = Szondi type: e- (Epileptic)
|For this group Domination and Power is a
main theme. The motive is in the first
place the Identification with strength and
the aggressor, an extreme masculine
|This forced attitude of always having to
be superior and powerful is often found
in children, who have been very strongly
degraded and were put into a victim role.
They were beaten and made an oath
never again to be put into the role of the
victim. However, this can also happen
automatically by an identification with
|In this group the basic theme is
Fear for abandonment, ("anxiety to be
left") and concerns the problem of
||The Pitbull personality corresponds to the paroxysmal violent type.
|The fact that the abuse is not characterized by a sudden and unexpected outburst
points out to the fact that it is a chronic, general tendency within all ranges of the
life and not only limited to an intimate partnership.
||- Violence is not chronically present in all ranges of life, but explodes only as
rage outbursts due to feelings of impotence, frustration and abandonment when being left.
|The absence of regret shows that there is no passing through the three paroxysmal
phases as seen in the Pitbull group.
||- The explosive " Pitbull" type shows clearly that he passes though the three
phases of paroxysmality 1) A long-term accumulation phase (e -), then a surprising attack (e0, after discharge)
and a phase of remorse (e +).
|The control (k+) serves only to keep the woman subordinated and to keep the man in the role of the dominator
||- The Ego control (k +) is focused on the prevention of becoming abandoned. (m+!!).
|(Cobra) = s+ type|
The ascertainable inability for a positive
relationship points out to a 'pervers-sadistic' personality type as described by
Szondi and is characterized by:
1)The absence of capacity for attachment (m- or m 0),
2) The inability to participate with the partner (p), instead everything is focused on control (k).
|There is no capacity for a healthy relation by way of emotional investment
(m+) and participation (p). Instead the partner is seized in a perverse sadistic
way (s+ with k+). It concerns a chronic defect in relation (due to a participation
disturbance, a disturbance in the early oral phase relative the Id and the Ego).
However, this relation defect must not automatically get the form of a sexual
perversion but can also be manifested on the relations level, as tendency to abuse
and to be violent.
When a man of this group is left by his partner he, becomes temporarily
dangerous and reacts with aggression (s+), rage (e-) and murder.
|(One can therefore postulate the following Szondi syndrome: >s+k+, with m-, p-) (k >
||(Pitbull)= e type|
All points out that the underlying causes of violence in these persons
have to do with a
1) Traumatic anxiety, about fear for abandonment. (m+! = tendency to acceptation neuroses)
2) Paroxysmal rage, as a secondary reaction (e-, s+) on feelings of impotence and frustration.
When he is not loved anymore or when he is afraid to be left he gives the way to an affective state of despair.
3) Violence is overcompensation for feelings of impotence. (Latent s-, p-, position)
|The problem is rooted in a conflict that has a traumatic, paroxysmal quality.
The following general syndrome can be postulated:|
- Increased emotional dependency (m+!!),
with an attempt to control by "introjection," (k+). The extreme solution of the feelings of impotence and
frustration through sudden outbursts of rage and violence (e-)
|(The Szondi syndrome: m+! k+ = control and defense against the loss > e- = Frustration and impotence reaction)
Although he in the beginning seems to become violent, he does not show yet murder impulses.
|On a long-term basis the Cobra emotionally disinvests the woman who left him and looks instead for
a new Victim. Szondi test reaction: (d+m-)
||On a longtime basis he starts pursuing the woman. He cannot release the lost object and prosecute her.
(the e- factor has an epileptic "glued to" quality). Together with the (p-). Reaction these two factors point out
a epileptiform-paranoid type as described by Szondi, in collaboration with Bleuler.
The " Pitbull " seems to be incapable to withdraw his strong emotional investment (cathexis) in the lost woman.
Nevertheless, when at last eventually killing her he seems to try to possess her (k+) anyhow.
This complex syndrome would in the Szondi test be described by the formula (s+, e- with p-, and C d!-m!)
These epileptoide characteristics would moreover be connected with the problem of a serious relation
disturbance in the form of a "neurosis of abandonment." This is due to the frustrations of the infantile wish for
contact and by the fear of being left alone. Since this reminds of the Oedipal- incestuous Szonditest contact profile
(d!- m+!!) one can expect to find a strong transference of the former parent and family relations.
|Both he Cobra as the Pitbull type have, in a general sense, problems to handle in an adequately way problems
of impotence (s-, eventually p-), and immediately react with aggression (s + reaction).
|The "Cobra" defends chronically his position of being on top (s+) and refuses
to get into position of being subordinated (s-).
||The " Pitbulls " do not always have to be exclusively on top (s +) in relation to their partner.
However, when in a situation of impotence they react with an over compensation, in a reactive aggressive (s+) way.
They cannot stand being passively be put in the position of being abandoned. They see no other way out.
(Test reaction: passivity s-, is overcompensated by s+, aggression).This form of overcompensation is generally
limited to the situation of being left and does not need to arise in other situations.
|Possible Basic Theme:Family Pattern of "Tormentor and Victim," linked by sadistic violence.
||Basic Theme:The trauma of abandonment (m-), overcompensated by rage (e-) and aggression (s+).
- Neil Jacobson/John Gottman, "When men batter woman," Simon and Shuster, New York, 1998.
- Jochen Paulus of " Men wie Kobras and Pitbulls ", "Tagesanzeiger", 19,1,2000, P. 42.
- Ines Gramiger, "Kompendium der Schicksalsanalyse," 111, Selbstverlag.
- Leopold Szondi, "Kain - Gestalten des Bosen", Huber, Berne, 1978.
Address of the author: Ines Gramiger , Rebbergstr. 53, 8049 Zurich