Marie-France Hirigoyen

In this groundbreaking account -- already an international bestseller -- Dr. Marie-France Hirigoyen lays bare the destructive "hidden" phenomenon of emotional abuse. She argues that while emotional abuse is not as visible as physical abuse, it is equally violent -- and perhaps even more widespread. It is a crime whose aim is, she says, "a virtual murder of the soul."

Emotional abuse exists all around us -- in couples, in families, and in the workplace. But in an age where moral and behavioral standards are not absolute, society turns a blind eye to this insidious form of violence, tacitly condoning conduct that is both dangerous and perverse.

Illustrating her points with gripping case histories from her own therapeutic practice, plus popular examples ranging from the films of Hitchcock to the personal life of Einstein and the works of Ovid, Kafka, and Freud, Hirigoyen analyzes the psychology of abusers and their victims as well as the dynamic between them. She breaks down the stages of emotional abuse, a process that begins with seduction and brainwashing and culminates in an open violence that sweeps the victim into a vortex of destruction. Finally, she offers practical advice on how to break free of abuse's vicious hold.

Stalking the Soul is a call to recognize and understand emotional abuse and, most importantly, to overcome it. Sophisticated yet wholly accessible, this landmark account is vital reading for health professionals and victims of abuse, as well as for the concerned public. In 1995 Daniel Goleman showed the world that emotions shape our intelligence. Today Marie-France Hirigoyen shows that emotions shape our entire being -- indeed, our very soul.

[from the inside flaps]

Hirigoyen, Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity

About the Author

Marie-France Hirigoyen is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and family therapist based in Paris. Her studies on victimology in both France and the U.S. led her to further research in the area of stalking and emotional abuse.

[from the inside flap]

Table of Contents

Translator's Notes  xi
Introduction   3




Emotional Abuse in Private Life  13
Emotional Abuse in Couples  14
Emotional Abuse in Families


Emotional Abuse in the Workplace  51
What Is Abuse?  52
Who Is Targeted?  54
Who Attacks Whom?  56
How the Victim Becomes Disarmed  61
How Abuse Begins  67
The Organization That Permits Abuse  77
The Organization That Encourages Abusive Methods  82




Emotionally Abusive Seduction  89


Communication in an Emotionally
Abusive Relationship
Refusal of Direct Communication  95
Distortion of Language  97
Lies 100
The Use of Sarcasm, Ridicule, Contempt 102
The Use of Paradox 105
Invalidation 109
Divide and Conquer 110
The Imposition of Power 111


The Stages of Emotional Abuse 115
Hatred Becomes Overt 115
Abuse Comes into Play 117
The Victim Is Cornered 120


The Abuser 123
Abusive Narcissism 124
Narcissism 125
The Transition to Abusiveness 126
Megalomania 127
Vampirism 129
Denial of Responsibility 132
Paranoia 133


The Victim 136
The Victim as Object 136
The Victim as Masochist 138
The Victim's Scruples 141
The Victim's Strength 144
The Victim's Naiveté 145




Consequences of the "Seizure of Power" Phase 151
Withdrawal 151
Confusion 152
Doubt 153
Stress 155
Isolation 157


Long-Term Consequences 158
Shock 158
Decompensation 159
Separation 162
Evolution 163


Practical Advice for the Couple and the Family 167
Reorientation 167
Action 169
Psychological Resistance 169
Legal Intervention 170


Practical Advice for the Workplace 172
Reorientation 172
Finding Help Within the Organization 173
Psychological Resistance 174
Action 176
Legal Intervention 178
Organizing Prevention 181


Taking Charge Psychologically 183
The Healing Process 183
Psychotherapeutic Options 191


Afterword by Thomas Moore 201
Notes 205
Bibliography 209

[from the hardbound edition]


Marie-France Hirigoyen has written a book of extraordinary therapeutic value. Her analysis of the often undetected manipulative patterns in destructive relationships is both compassionate and profound, and makes for a fascinating, exciting, and eye-opening reading experience. I think that many readers will find in it, unexpectedly, not only a mirror reflecting their own life, but also -- and above all -- the assistance of a knowing witness. It is only in the presence of such a witness that we may find the courage and strength we need to confront our own painful truth so that understanding and, eventually, healing become possible.

--Alice Miller, author of
The Drama of the Gifted Child

[from the back cover]

Read more reviews of this book on the website:
Stalking the Soul:
Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity

Stalking the Soul on


"Refusing responsibility for marital failure is often the cause of setting abuse in motion. An individual with idealistic ideas about marriage carries on an apparently normal relationship with his partner until the day he has to choose between this relationship and a new one. Abuse will grow in proportion to yesterday's idealism. It is impossible to entirely accept responsibility for a failure of this kind. The partner is held responsible when love is withdrawn because she has committed an unnamed fault. The denial of love is acted upon although often verbally denied.

"Recognizing this manipulative behavior leaves the victim in a state of terrible anxiety she cannot get rid of alone. At this stage, victims experience shame as well as anger: shame at not being loved, shame at having accepted humiliation, and shame at what they have submitted to and undergone.

"In some cases, it is a question not of becoming abusive, but of manifesting a previously hidden emotionally abusive nature. This overt hate, now revealed, resembles a persecution complex. Role reversal takes place: the aggressor becomes the victimized one, although the real victim still feels the guilt. To make the situation credible, the other must be forced to behave unacceptably so that she can then be invalidated."

Stalking the Soul:
Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity

pages 21-22

"The only protective mechanism for child victims of emotional abuse is to cut themselves off from the situation; subsequently, their identity erodes, the deep core of their soul dies. Everything left over from childhood is perpetually reenacted as an adult.

"Even if all abused children don't become abusive parents, a destructive cycle has been created. Each one of us can act out our inner violence on someone else. Alice Miller shows us how over time, children or victims of control forget the violence they suffered -- the will to know must be erased -- but the syndrome either reoccurs in them or is taken out on others."

Stalking the Soul:
Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity

page 48

"While some employers treat their personnel like children, others treat them like things -- to be used at will....[W]here creativity is involved, the attack on the person is even more direct: any initiative or innovation on their part is destroyed. Employers try to prevent the departure of useful or indispensable employees; they mustn't be allowed to think the situation through or feel capable of working somewhere else. They must be led to believe they're only worth their present job. If they resist, they're isolated. They are denied any kind of contact: eye contact, greeting in the hall, or a deaf ear turned to their suggestions. Hurtful and unkind remarks come next, and if these prove insufficient, emotional violence appears.

"Outright hostility later replaces latent ill-will or malevolence if the victim reacts and tries to rebel. This is the phase of emotional abuse that has been called 'psychoterror.' At this stage, any means or methods will be used, sometimes including physical violence, to destroy the designated victim. This can lead to psychical annihilation or suicide. The attacker has now lost sight of any potential benefits to the company and focuses only on his victim's downfall."

Stalking the Soul:
Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity

pages 74-75

[from the hardbound edition]

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Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity

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Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity

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