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The two faces of Violence:
Personality profiles of women abusers: The "Cobra" and the "Pitbull" type.
(A differential diagnosis)

Ines Graemiger

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 comment.

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 be left.
- 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 violence itself).
- 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 abandonment.
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 attitude.
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 the aggressor.

In this group the basic theme is Fear for abandonment, ("anxiety to be left") and concerns the problem of relationship.
  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.
(One can therefore postulate the following Szondi syndrome: >s+k+, with m-, p-) (k >
When a man of this group is left by his partner he, becomes temporarily dangerous and reacts with aggression (s+), rage (e-) and murder.
(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

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