The defendant was tried at the 16 February 1987 Criminal Session of Superior Court for Rutherford County upon a proper indictment charging her with the first degree murder of her hus*254band. The jury found the defendant guilty of voluntary manslaughter. The defendant appealed from the trial court’s judgment sentencing her to six years imprisonment.
The Court of Appeals granted a new trial, citing as error the trial court’s refusal to submit a possible verdict of acquittal by reason of perfect self-defense. Notwithstanding the uncontroverted evidence that the defendant shot her husband three times in the back of the head as he lay sleeping in his bed, the Court of Appeals held that the defendant’s evidence that she exhibited what has come to be called “the battered wife syndrome” entitled her to have the jury consider whether the homicide was an act of perfect self-defense and, thus, not a legal wrong.
We conclude that the evidence introduced in this case would not support a finding that the defendant killed her husband due to a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm, as is required before a defendant is entitled to jury instructions concerning either perfect or imperfect self-defense. Therefore, the trial court properly declined to instruct the jury on the law relating to self-defense. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeals.
At trial, the State presented the testimony of Deputy Sheriff R. H. Epley of the Rutherford County Sheriffs Department, who was called to the Norman residence on the night of 12 June 1985. Inside the home, Epley found the defendant’s husband, John Thomas Norman, lying on a bed in a rear bedroom with his face toward the wall and his back toward the middle of the room. He was dead, but blood was still coming from wounds to the back of his head. A later autopsy revealed three gunshot wounds to the head, two of which caused fatal brain injury. The autopsy also revealed a .12 percent blood alcohol level in the victim’s body.
Later that night, the defendant related an account of the events leading to the killing, after Epley had advised her of her constitutional rights and she had waived her right to remain silent. The defendant told Epley that her husband had been beating her all day and had made her lie down on the floor while he slept on the bed. After her husband fell asleep, the defendant carried her grandchild to the defendant’s mother’s house. The defendant took a pistol from her mother’s purse and walked the short distance back to her home. She pointed the pistol at the *255back of her sleeping husband’s head, but it jammed the first time she tried to shoot him. She fixed the gun and then shot her husband in the back of the head as he lay sleeping. After one shot, she felt her husband’s chest and determined that he was still breathing and making sounds. She then shot him twice more in the back of the head. The defendant told Epley that she killed her husband because “she took all she was going to take from him so she shot him.”
The defendant presented evidence tending to show a long history of physical and mental abuse by her husband due to his alcoholism. At the time of the killing, the thirty-nine-year-old defendant and her husband had been married almost twenty-five years and had several children. The defendant testified that her husband had started drinking and abusing her about five years after they were married. His physical abuse of her consisted of frequent assaults that included slapping, punching and kicking her, striking her with various objects, and throwing glasses, beer bottles and other objects at her. The defendant described other specific incidents of abuse, such as her husband putting her cigarettes out on her, throwing hot coffee on her, breaking glass against her face and crushing food on her face. Although the defendant did not present evidence of ever having received medical treatment for any physical injuries inflicted by her husband, she displayed several scars about her face which she attributed to her husband’s assaults.
The defendant’s evidence also tended to show other indignities inflicted upon her by her husband. Her evidence tended to show that her husband did not work and forced her to make money by prostitution, and that he made humor of that fact to family and friends. He would beat her if she resisted going out to prostitute herself or if he was unsatisfied with the amounts of money she made. He routinely called the defendant “dog,” “bitch” and “whore,” and on a few occasions made her eat pet food out of the pets’ bowls and bark like a dog. He often made her sleep on the floor. At times, he deprived her of food and refused to let her get food for the family. During those years of abuse, the defendant’s husband threatened numerous times to kill her and to maim her in various ways.
*256The defendant said her husband’s abuse occurred only when he was intoxicated, but that he would not give up drinking. She said she and her husband “got along very well when he was sober,” and that he was “a good guy” when he was not drunk. She had accompanied her husband to the local mental health center for sporadic counseling sessions for his problem, but he continued to drink.
In the early morning hours on the day before his death, the defendant’s husband, who was intoxicated, went to a rest area off T85 near Kings Mountain where the defendant was engaging in prostitution and assaulted her. While driving home, he was stopped by a patrolman and jailed on a charge of driving while impaired. After the defendant’s mother got him out of jail at the defendant’s request later that morning, he resumed his drinking and abuse of the defendant.
The defendant’s evidence also tended to show that her husband seemed angrier than ever after he was released from jail and that his abuse of the defendant was more frequent. That evening, sheriffs deputies were called to the Norman residence, and the defendant complained that her husband had been beating her all day and she could not take it anymore. The defendant was advised to file a complaint, but she said she was afraid her husband would kill her if she had him arrested. The deputies told her they needed a warrant before they could arrest her husband, and they left the scene.
The deputies were called back less than an hour later after the defendant had taken a bottle of pills. The defendant’s husband cursed her and called her names as she was attended by paramedics, and he told them to let her die. A sheriffs deputy finally chased him back into his house as the defendant was put into an ambulance. The defendant’s stomach was pumped at the local hospital, and she was sent home with her mother.
While in the hospital, the defendant was visited by a therapist with whom she discussed filing charges against her husband and having him committed for treatment. Before the therapist left, the defendant agreed to go to the mental health center the next day to discuss those possibilities. The therapist testified at trial that the defendant seemed depressed in the hospital, and that she expressed considerable anger toward her husband. He *257testified that the defendant threatened a number of times that night to kill her husband and that she said she should kill him “because of the things he had done to her.”
The next day, the day she shot her husband, the defendant went to the mental health center to talk about charges and possible commitment, and she confronted her husband with that possibility. She testified that she told her husband later that day: “J. T., straighten up. Quit drinking. I’m going to have you committed to help you.” She said her husband then told her he would “see them coming” and would cut her throat before they got to him.
The defendant also went to the social services office that day to seek welfare benefits, but her husband followed her there, interrupted her interview and made her go home with him. He continued his abuse of her, threatening to kill and to maim her, slapping her, kicking her, and throwing objects at her. At one point, he took her cigarette and put it out on her, causing a small burn on her upper torso. He would not let her eat or bring food into the house for their children.
That evening, the defendant and her husband went into their bedroom to lie down, and he called her a “dog” and made her lie on the floor when he lay down on the bed. Their daughter brought in her baby to leave with the defendant, and the defendant’s husband agreed to let her baby-sit. After the defendant’s husband fell asleep, the baby started crying and the defendant took it to her mother’s house so it would not wake up her husband. She returned shortly with the pistol and killed her husband.
The defendant testified at trial that she was too afraid of her husband to press charges against him or to leave him. She said that she had temporarily left their home on several previous occasions, but he had always found her, brought her home and beaten her. Asked why she killed her husband, the defendant replied: “Because I was scared of him and I knowed when he woke up, it was going to be the same thing, and I was scared when he took me to the truck stop that night it was going to be worse than he had ever been. I just couldn’t take it no more. There ain’t no way, even if it means going to prison. It’s better than living in that. That’s worse hell than anything.”
*258The defendant and other witnesses testified that for years her husband had frequently threatened to kill her and to maim her. When asked if she believed those threats, the defendant replied: “Yes. I believed him; he would, he would kill me if he got a chance. If he thought he wouldn’t a had to went to jail, he would a done it.”
Two expert witnesses in forensic psychology and psychiatry who examined the defendant after the shooting, Dr. William Tyson and Dr. Robert Rollins, testified that the defendant fit the profile of battered wife syndrome. This condition, they testified, is characterized by such abuse and degradation that the battered wife comes to believe she is unable to help herself and cannot expect help from anyone else. She believes that she cannot escape the complete control of her husband and that he is invulnerable to law enforcement and other sources of help.
Dr. Tyson, a psychologist, was asked his opinion as to whether, on 12 June 1985, “it appeared reasonably necessary for Judy Norman to shoot J. T. Norman?” He replied: “I believe that . . . Mrs. Norman believed herself to be doomed ... to a life of the worst kind of torture and abuse, degradation that she had experienced over the years in a progressive way; that it would only get worse, and that death was inevitable . . . .” Dr. Tyson later added: “I think Judy Norman felt that she had no choice, both in the protection of herself and her family, but to engage, exhibit deadly force against Mr. Norman, and that in so doing, she was sacrificing herself, both for herself and for her family.”
Dr. Rollins, who was the defendant’s attending physician at Dorothea Dix Hospital when she was sent there for evaluation, testified that in his opinion the defendant was a typical abused spouse and that “[s]he saw herself as powerless to deal with the situation, that there was no alternative, no way she could escape it.” Dr. Rollins was asked his opinion as to whether “on June 12th, 1985, it appeared reasonably necessary'that Judy Norman would take the life of J. T. Norman?” Dr. Rollins replied that in his opinion, “that course of action did appear necessary to Mrs. Norman.”
Based on the evidence that the defendant exhibited battered wife syndrome, that she believed she could not escape her husband nor expect help from others, that her husband had threat*259ened her, and that her .husband’s abuse of her had worsened in the two days preceding his death, the Court of Appeals concluded that a jury reasonably could have found that her killing of her husband was justified as an act of perfect self-defense. The Court of Appeals reasoned that the nature of battered wife syndrome is such that a jury could not be precluded from finding the defendant killed her husband lawfully in perfect self-defense, even though he was asleep when she killed him. We disagree.
The right to kill in self-defense is based on the necessity, real or reasonably apparent, of killing an unlawful aggressor to save oneself from imminent death or great bodily harm at his hands. State v. Gappins, 320 N.C. 64, 357 S.E. 2d 654 (1987). Our law has recognized that self-preservation under such circumstances springs from a primal impulse and is an inherent right of natural law. State v. Holland, 193 N.C. 713, 718, 138 S.E. 8, 10 (1927).
In North Carolina, a defendant is entitled to have the jury consider acquittal by reason of perfect self-defense when the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the defendant, tends to show that at the time of the killing it appeared to the defendant and she believed it to be necessary to kill the decedent to save herself from imminent death or great bodily harm. State v. Gappins, 320 N.C. at 71, 357 S.E. 2d at 659. That belief must be reasonable, however, in that the circumstances as they appeared to the defendant would create such a belief in the mind of a person of ordinary firmness. Id. Further, the defendant must not have been the initial aggressor provoking the fatal confrontation. Id. A killing in the proper exercise of the right of perfect self-defense is always completely justified in law and constitutes no legal wrong.
Our law also recognizes an imperfect right of self-defense in certain circumstances, including, for example, when the defendant is the initial aggressor, but without intent to kill or to seriously injure the decedent, and the decedent escalates the confrontation to a point where it reasonably appears to the defendant to be necessary to kill the decedent to save herself from imminent death or great bodily harm. State v. Mize, 316 N.C. 48, 340 S.E. 2d 439 (1986); State v. Wilson, 304 N.C. 689, 285 S.E. 2d 804 (1982). Although the culpability of a defendant who kills in the exercise of imperfect self-defense is reduced, such a defendant is not *260 justified, in the killing so as to be entitled to acquittal, but is guilty at least of voluntary manslaughter. State v. Mize, 316 N.C. at 52, 340 S.E. 2d at 441.
The defendant in the present case was not entitled to a jury instruction on either perfect or imperfect self-defense. The trial court was not required to instruct on either form of self-defense unless evidence was introduced tending to show that at the time of the killing the defendant reasonably believed herself to be confronted by circumstances which necessitated her killing her husband to save herself from imminent death or great bodily harm. Id. No such evidence was introduced in this case, and it would have been error for the trial court to instruct the jury on either perfect or imperfect self-defense. See State v. Gappins, 320 N.C. 64, 73, 357 S.E. 2d 654, 660 (1987); State v. Mize, 316 N.C. 48, 53, 340 S.E. 2d 439, 442 (1986); State v. Spaulding, 298 N.C. 149, 157, 257 S.E. 2d 391, 396 (1979); State v. Marshall, 208 N.C. 127, 129, 179 S.E. 427, 428 (1935); State v. Kidd, 60 N.C. App. 140, 142, 298 S.E. 2d 406, 408 (1982), disc. rev. denied, 307 N.C. 700, 301 S.E. 2d 393 (1983); State v. Dial, 38 N.C. App. 529, 531, 248 S.E. 2d 366, 367 (1978); 40 C.J.S. Homicide § 123(b) (1944).
The jury found the defendant guilty only of voluntary manslaughter in the present case. As we have indicated, an instruction on imperfect self-defense would have entitled the defendant to nothing more, since one who kills in the exercise of imperfect self-defense is guilty at least of voluntary manslaughter. Therefore, even if it is assumed arguendo that the defendant was entitled to an instruction on imperfect self-defense — a notion we have specifically rejected —the failure to give such an instruction was harmless in this case. Accordingly, although we recognize that the imminence requirement applies to both types of self-defense for almost identical reasons, we limit our consideration in the remainder of this opinion to the issue of whether the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury to consider acquittal on the ground that the killing was justified and, thus, lawful as an act of perfect self-defense.
The killing of another human being is the most extreme recourse to our inherent right of self-preservation and can be justified in law only by the utmost real or apparent necessity brought about by the decedent. For that reason, our law of self-defense *261has required that a defendant claiming that a homicide was justified and, as a result, inherently lawful by reason of perfect self-defense must establish that she reasonably believed at the time of the killing she otherwise would have immediately suffered death or great bodily harm. Only if defendants are required to show that they killed due to a reasonable belief that death or great bodily harm was imminent can the justification for homicide remain clearly and firmly rooted in necessity. The imminence requirement ensures that deadly force will be used only where it is necessary as a last resort in the exercise of the inherent right of self-preservation. It also ensures that before a homicide is justified and, as a result, not a legal wrong, it will be reliably determined that the defendant reasonably believed that absent the use of deadly force, not only would an unlawful attack have occurred, but also that the attack would have caused death or great bodily harm. The law does not sanction the use of deadly force to repel simple assaults. State v. Watkins, 283 N.C. 504, 196 S.E. 2d 750 (1973).
The term “imminent,” as used to describe such perceived threats of death or great bodily harm as will justify a homicide by reason of perfect self-defense, has been defined as “immediate danger, such as must be instantly met, such as cannot be guarded against by calling for the assistance of others or the protection of the law.” Black’s Law Dictionary 676 (5th ed. 1979). Our cases have sometimes used the phrase “about to suffer” interchangeably with “imminent” to describe the immediacy of threat that is required to justify killing in self-defense. State v. Holland, 193 N.C. 713, 718, 138 S.E. 8, 10 (1927).
The evidence in this case did not tend to show that the defendant reasonably believed that she was confronted by a threat of imminent death or great bodily harm. The evidence tended to show that no harm was “imminent” or about to happen to the defendant when she shot her husband. The uncontroverted evidence was that her husband had been asleep for some time when she walked to her mother’s house, returned with the pistol, fixed the pistol after it jammed and then shot her husband three times in the back of the head. The defendant was not faced with an instantaneous choice between killing her husband or being killed or seriously injured. Instead, all of the evidence tended to show that the defendant had ample time and opportunity to resort to other *262means of preventing further abuse by her husband. There was no action underway by the decedent from which the jury could have found that the defendant had reasonable grounds to believe either that a felonious assault was imminent or that it might result in her death or great bodily injury. Additionally, no such action by the decedent had been underway immediately prior to his falling asleepl
Faced with somewhat similar facts, we have previously held that a defendant who believed himself to be threatened by the decedent was not entitled to a jury instruction on either perfect or imperfect self-defense when it was the defendant who went to the decedent and initiated the final, fatal confrontation. State v. Mize, 316 N.C. 48, 340 S.E. 2d 439 (1986). In Mize, the decedent Joe McDonald was reported to be looking for the defendant George Mize to get revenge for Mize’s alleged rape of McDonald’s girl friend, which had exacerbated existing animosity between Mize and McDonald. After hiding from McDonald for most of the day, Mize finally went to McDonald’s residence, woke him up and then shot and killed him. Mize claimed that he feared McDonald was going to kill him and that his killing of McDonald was in self-defense. Rejecting Mize’s argument that his jury should have been instructed on self-defense, we stated:
Here, although the victim had pursued defendant during the day approximately eight hours before the killing, defendant Mize was in no imminent danger while McDonald was at home asleep. When Mize went to McDonald’s trailer with his shotgun, it was a new confrontation. Therefore, even if Mize believed it was necessary to kill McDonald to avoid his own imminent death, that belief was unreasonable.
Additionally, the lack of any belief by the defendant — reasonable or otherwise — that she faced a threat of imminent death or great bodily harm from the drunk and sleeping victim in the present case was illustrated by the defendant and her own expert witnesses when testifying about her subjective assessment of her situation at the time of the killing. The psychologist and psychiatrist replied affirmatively when asked their opinions of whether killing her husband “appeared reasonably necessary” to the de*263fendant at the time of the homicide. That testimony spoke of no imminent threat nor of any fear by the defendant of death or great bodily harm, imminent or otherwise. Testimony in the form of a conclusion that a killing “appeared reasonably necessary” to a defendant does not tend to show all that must be shown to establish self-defense. More specifically, for a killing to be in self-defense, the perceived necessity must arise from a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm.
Dr. Tyson additionally testified that the defendant “believed herself to be doomed ... to a life of the worst kind of torture and abuse, degradation that she had experienced over the years in a progressive way; that it would only get worse, and that death was inevitable.” Such evidence of the defendant’s speculative beliefs concerning her remote and indefinite future, while indicating she had felt generally threatened, did not tend to show that she killed in the belief — reasonable or otherwise — that her husband presented a threat of imminent death or great bodily harm. Under our law of self-defense, a defendant’s subjective belief of what might be “inevitable” at some indefinite point in the future does not equate to what she believes to be “imminent.” Dr. Tyson’s opinion that the defendant believed it was necessary to kill her husband for “the protection of herself and her family” was similarly indefinite and devoid of time frame and did not tend to show a threat or fear of imminent harm.
The defendant testified that, “I knowed when he woke up, it was going to be the same thing, and I was scared when he took me to the truck stop that night it was going to be worse than he had ever been.” She also testified, when asked if she believed her husband’s threats: “Yes. . . . [H]e would kill me if he got a chance. If he thought he wouldn’t a had to went to jail, he would a done it.” Testimony about such indefinite fears concerning what her sleeping husband might do at some time in the future did not tend to establish a fear — reasonable or otherwise —of imminent death or great bodily harm at the time of the killing.
We are not persuaded by the reasoning of our Court of Appeals in this case that when there is evidence of battered wife syndrome, neither an actual attack nor threat of attack by the husband at the moment the wife uses deadly force is required to justify the wife’s killing of him in perfect self-defense. The Court *264of Appeals concluded that to impose such requirements would ignore the “learned helplessness,” meekness and other realities of battered wife syndrome and would effectively preclude such women from exercising their right of self-defense. 89 N.C. App. 384, 392-393, 366 S.E. 2d 586, 591-592 (1988). See Mather, The Skeleton in the Closet: The Battered Woman Syndrome, Self-Defense, and Expert Testimony, 39 Mercer L. Rev. 545 (1988); Eber, The Battered Wife’s Dilemma: To Kill Or To Be Killed, 32 Hastings L.J. 895 (1981). Other jurisdictions which have addressed this question under similar facts are divided in their views, and we can discern no clear majority position on facts closely similar to those of this case. Compare, e.g., Commonwealth v. Grove, 363 Pa. Super. 328, 526 A. 2d 369, appeal denied, 517 Pa. 630, 539 A. 2d 810 (1987) (abused wife who killed her sleeping husband not entitled to self-defense instruction as no immediate threat was posed by the decedent), with State v. Gallegos, 104 N.M. 247, 719 P. 2d 1268 (1986) (abused wife could claim self-defense where she walked into bedroom with gun and killed husband who was awake but lying on the bed).
The reasoning of our Court of Appeals in this case proposes to change the established law of self-defense by giving the term “imminent” a meaning substantially more indefinite and all-encompassing than its present meaning. This would result in a substantial relaxation of the requirement of real or apparent necessity to justify homicide. Such reasoning proposes justifying the taking of human life not upon the reasonable belief it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm —which the imminence requirement ensures —but upon purely subjective speculation that the decedent probably would present a threat to life at a future time and that the defendant would not be able to avoid the predicted threat.
The Court of Appeals suggests that such speculation would have been particularly reliable in the present case because the jury, based on the evidence of the decedent’s intensified abuse during the thirty-six hours preceding his death, could have found that the decedent’s passive state at the time of his death was “but a momentary hiatus in a continuous reign of terror by the decedent [and] the defendant merely took advantage of her first opportunity to protect herself.” 89 N.C. App. at 394, 366 S.E. 2d at 592. Requiring jury instructions on perfect self-defense in such *265situations, however, would still tend to make opportune homicide lawful as a result of mere subjective predictions of indefinite future assaults and circumstances. Such predictions of future assaults to justify the defendant’s use of deadly force in this case would be entirely speculative, because there was no evidence that her husband had ever inflicted any harm upon her that approached life-threatening injury, even during the “reign of terror.” It is far from clear in the defendant’s poignant evidence that any abuse by the decedent had ever involved the degree of physical threat required to justify the defendant in using deadly force, even when those threats were imminent. The use of deadly force in self-defense to prevent harm other than death or great bodily harm is excessive as a matter of law. State v. Hunter, 315 N.C. 371, 338 S.E. 2d 99 (1986).
As we have stated, stretching the law of self-defense to fit the facts of this case would require changing the “imminent death or great bodily harm” requirement to something substantially more indefinite than previously required and would weaken our assurances that justification for the taking of human life remains firmly rooted in real or apparent necessity. That result in principle could not be limited to a few cases decided on evidence as poignant as this. The relaxed requirements for perfect self-defense proposed by our Court of Appeals would tend to categorically legalize the opportune killing of abusive husbands by their wives solely on the basis of the wives’ testimony concerning their subjective speculation as to the probability of future felonious assaults by their husbands. Homicidal self-help would then become a lawful solution, and perhaps the easiest and most effective solution, to this problem. See generally Rosen, The Excuse of Self-Defense: Correcting A Historical Accident on Behalf of Battered Women Who Kill, 36 Am. U.L. Rev. 11 (1986) (advocating changing the basis of self-defense acquittals to excuse rather than justification, so that excusing battered women’s killing of their husbands under circumstances not fitting within the traditional requirements of self-defense would not be seen as justifying and therefore encouraging such self-help killing); Mitchell, Does Wife Abuse Justify Homicide?, 24 Wayne L. Rev. 1705 (1978) (advocating institutional rather than self-help solutions to wife abuse and citing case studies at the trial level where traditional defenses to homicide appeared stretched to accommodate poignant *266facts, resulting in justifications of some killings which appeared to be motivated by revenge rather than protection from death or great bodily harm). It has even been suggested that the relaxed requirements of self-defense found in what is often called the “battered woman’s defense” could be extended in principle to any type of case in which a defendant testified that he or she subjectively believed that killing was necessary and proportionate to any perceived threat. Rosen, The Excuse of Self-Defense: Correcting A Historical Accident on Behalf of Battered Women Who Kill, 36 Am. U.L. Rev. 11, 44 (1986).
In conclusion, we decline to expand our law of self-defense beyond the limits of immediacy and necessity which have heretofore provided an appropriately narrow but firm basis upon which homicide may be justified and, thus, lawful by reason of perfect self-defense or upon which a defendant’s culpability may be reduced by reason of imperfect self-defense. As we have shown, the evidence in this case did not entitle the defendant to jury instructions on either perfect or imperfect self-defense.
For the foregoing reasons, we conclude that the defendant’s conviction for voluntary manslaughter and the trial court’s judgment sentencing her to a six-year term of imprisonment were without error. Therefore, we must reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals which awarded the defendant a new trial.