Are you blind to abuse? Learning to recognize what it is can help you stop abusive patterns, heal from past abuse, refrain from abusing others, and keep you from passing abusive patterns on to the next generation.
There are abusers that are obvious (overt) and there are abusers that are hidden (covert). The more hidden, the more dangerous the abuse because it’s sometimes hard to tell you are being abused.
Misperception of Abuse:
- Abuse only happens to women and children
- Abuse is physical violence
- Men don’t get abused
- Women can’t be abusers
- Victims of abuse are stupid
- Abuse doesn’t happen here (This country, this culture, this family, this religion, this school, this neighborhood, etc.)
- Abusers are always overtly aggressive and violent ~Meredith Miller, The Inner Integration podcast
- Abuse only happens to the poor and/or uneducated.
Physical Abuse (overt):
- Inflicting pain, intrusion on the body, discomfort or injury in any way: pinch, slap, scratch, pull hair, punch, bite, kneeing, cut, body slam punch, kick, push or drag downstairs, hit, strike, spank, hit with belts, strapping, whipping, paddles or other objects, shake, push, pull, drag, kick, electric shock, burn, drown, suffocation, exploitation, rape, choke, strangle, murder
- Unreasonable restraint: locked in a closet, cage, tied, hand-cuffs and such
- Knock out teeth, breaking bones, internal injuries
- Intentional torture of all varieties
- Throwing/shooting projectile at a person
- Tied or forced in stress positions, any kind of restraining without consent or due cause
- Exposure to dangerous animals, toxic substances or infectious diseases
- Misuse of medicine/chemicals
- Locked out of own home
- Left in dangerous places
- Ripping clothes off
- Cause pain but leave no marks
- Having to go get the willow that you will be whipped with or other objects that will inflict pain
- Abuse in the womb: Abortion, mother using alcohol or smoking while pregnant, physical or mental abuse of the mother while pregnant, punching a pregnant mother in the stomach
- Use of weapons to hurt the body
- Being forced to ride in a car when abuser is driving recklessly, drunk, high, which may be endangering the lives of the passangers
- Blame the victim for having been sexually abused
- Call you a whore or slut
- withhold sexual affection
- Forced to strip in front of others
- Offender openly shows sexual interest in other women/men
- …and more
“When our body is violated, the core of the self is injured” ~Unknown
Physical abuse (Covert):
- Sleep deprivation
- Poor nutrition, lack of food, starvation
- Lack of hygiene or medical care
- Neglect of physical needs: lack of shelter, adequate sleeping arrangements
- Inadequate supervision
- Failure to provide safety
- Failure to teach life and survival skills
- Refuse to help when sick or injured
- Leaving a child alone who is too young
- Failure to protect a child from other’s abuse
- Tickling against ones will
- Overworking a person
- Failure to rest after work
- Allowing a minor to use drugs and alcohol
- Humiliation – making a person feel foolish about their body—make fun of private parts
- Threaten to inflict bodily harm
- Dominating stances
- Held down; kept from leaving or gitting up
Sexual Abuse: Some people think if there is no sexual intercourse, it is not sexual abuse. False. There are many ways to sexually abuse another person.
Sexual abuse (Overt):
- Any kind of unwanted sexual touch that is against the victims will
- Penetration of a child’s vagina or anus by a non-medical person that doesn’t have a medical purpose
- Child prostitution or human trafficking
- Forcing an unwilling adult or child to watch, film, or pose for pornography
- Sex with a minor
- Forcing pain, torture or sadistic acts during sex
- Forced sexual activity with animals or strangers
- Forcing children or adults to have sex with each other
- Forced sex during or after a beating
- Forced abortion
- Female circumcision (some believe circumcising baby boys is abusive, as well)
- Persecution of same-sex orientation
- Voyeurism or sexual exhibitionism
- Marital rape—sexual abuse within the marriage
- Demanding participation in sexual acts with which the partner is uncomfortable
- Forced or coerced sexual activity in the presence of others, including children
- Forced or coerced prostitution or non-consensual sex with people other than and/or in addition to one’s partner
Forced or coerced sex with animals
- Forced sex when you are sick or it is a danger to your health
- Forced sex after a battering
- Forced sex with the purpose of hurting you with objects or ewapons
- Committed sadistic sexual acts
- Forced to have sex with animals
- …and more
Sexual abuse (Covert):
- Sexualized looks, hugs, comments, gestures, kisses, innuendos, comments, jokes with a minor or unwilling participant
- Make pornography easily accessible to minors
- Exhibitionism and voyeurism inside or outside the home
- Parents use their children to get sexually stimulated
- Brushing by and/or touching sexual parts but act innocent
- Sexual punishments
- The victim is blamed for being sexually abused
- Demeaning remarks about a person’s body or sexual parts
- Tell spouse about affairs to humiliate
- Openly showing sexual interest with other’s when with the spouse
- Treat or talk about others as sex objects
- Knowing incests or sexual abuse is happening and doing nothing about it
- Calling others degrading sexual names like whore or cunt
- Failing to teach children age-appropriate, adequate sexual information
- Parents (or step-parents) talking about sex in front of the age-inappropriate children, making remarks about sexual parts of their bodies, each other’s bodies or children’s bodies
- No sexual boundaries: adults expose nudity to age-inappropriate children, let children walk in on sex acts, no locks on private areas such as bathrooms or dressing rooms
- Criticizing one’s sexuality
- Objectifying or treating the victim like a sexual object
- Withholding sex in a committed relationship (unless there is sexual abuse happening)
- Extramarital affairs
- Harrassed about extramarital affairs your partner only imagined you were having
- Demanding sex or forcing sex on a partner when s/he is not willing
- Coerced penile penetration of any kind (oral, vaginal, or anal)
- Coerced sexual acts of a physical nature such as inflicting pain or bodily harm during sex
- Inflicting drugs or alcohol on an unwilling partner to obtain sex against the partner’s will
- Physical attacks against the sexual parts of the partner’s body
- Interference with birth control
- Risky sex such as refusal to use a condom when a sexually transmitted disease is known or suspected
- Treating a person as a sex object
- Insisting you dress more sexual if and you are uncomfortable with it
- Demeaning remarks about your body and/or body parts
- …and more
Intellectual/Mental/Psychological Abuse: (Overt)
- Punishing a person for their ideas
- Failing the student if his/her ideologies do not match the teacher.
- Criticizing thoughts and actions with the intention of staying one-up or in control.
- Condescending: Point out the victim’s inability to understand simple things or too stupid to understand you
- Trivializing, mocking or criticizing one’s thinking
- Undermining or eroding confidence: Ex: “You’ll never do anything right.”
- Teaching children not to think for themselves: Ex: “Don’t think for yourself, let me (others) do your thinking for you.”
- Neglect of education
- Inducing dissociative states without permission (cults)
- Failure to provide psychological care when needed
- Cause a person to doubt their own thinking processes
- Alter a child’s reality “Dad’s not drunk, he’s just tired.”
- Discounting another’s perceptions and reality.
- No new information is allowed into the family or society
- Victim(s) are forbidden to talk about their abuse
- Parents/major caretakers demanding blind obedience
- Countering: Trying to get a person to doubt their own thinking
- Being told never to tell of the abuse
- Intense coercion
- Labeling: “You’re mentally ill.” “ You’re not very smart.”
- Preventing others from becoming educated
- Giving too much information – Ex: Telling another your whole life story on the first meeting.
- Mind reading: “You just want to show me up,” “You did that because you don’t like me.”
- …and more.
Mental/Intellectual/Psychological Abuse (Covert):
- Overprotecting, smothering
- Forgetting important commitments, agreements, appointments or incidents saying, “I don’t have to be accountable to you.”
- Devaluation—degrade a person’s worth
- Excusing or denying inappropriate behavior: “Just don’t think about the assault. Forget it ever happened.”
- Fostering low self-esteem “You shouldn’t think well of yourself.”
- Failure to nurture, meet emotional needs, care for or love
- Failure to provide structure or set limits
- Forgetfulness: “I was going to do that for you but I forgot.”
- Refuse to listen to or believe others: “I don’t want to hear about your pain.”
- Discount others pain or problem: “It’s not that big of a deal, get over it.”
- Mental domination over the victim
- Crazy making
- Expecting the child to provide emotional nurturing to the parents
- Not being emotionally present for spouse or children due to mental illness, depression, compulsivity, overworking, etc.
- Failing to meet one’s obligations in a partnership
- Leaving another lacking
- Withholding love and affection, finances, protection, praise, etc.
- Appearing to help/rescue a person when down, then taking advantage of their vulnerability
- Labeling: “You are the bad one.” “You are mentally ill.”
- Show a person you are mad or irritated at them but not let them know why
- Covert digs and snide remarks
- Comparing—”Why can’t you be more like your brother?”
- Procrastinating supportive behaviors
- Ambiguity—words don’t match actions
- Lack of empathy
- Lying with a little bit of truth included
- Violating secrets & personal information given in confidence
- Accusing & punishing a person of having done something very wrong but not telling them what it was
- Laughing at a person when nothing is funny; done to humiliate
- Threatening facial expressions, body stance, sudden or frightening movements
- Invading personal space
- Trying to make a person think they’re crazy
- Treats you well when others are observing, treats you terrible in private, then denies it.
- …and more.
- Ignore or belittle feelings
- Criticism: nothing is ever good enough, no matter what you do or how hard you try
- Refusal to socialize with another
- Destroy, sell or give away things that are important to another without their permission
- Ridicule other’s beliefs, sex, religion, race, heritage, ideas, class, etc.
- Failure to nurture, care for or love
- Reject, ignore, undependable, empty promises
- Constant disapproval
- Double messages: “I love you but…” “Do as I say, not as I do”
- Condescending, discounting
- Undermining—Eroding confidence and lessen determination of another
- Sarcasm, mocking, cut-down humor
- Judge, accuse
- Trivialize: Pretending another’s thought and actions are less than they are in order to stay in control
- Name-calling, crazy-making, threatening, ordering, demanding and dominance
- Deny abuse ever happened
- Scorn, mimicking, laughing at or smirking to humiliate, insulting
- Have to get in the last word
- Better than—moral high road
- Swearing, cursing, obscenities
- Scornful tone of voice or body stance
- Double binds, all choices given are negative ones
- Abuser denies or minimizes abuse
- Deny loved one affection or compliments but give them freely to others—neglect emotional needs
- Deny or discount a person their reality
- Project own self-hate onto others
- A person who hates women; sees women as inferior to men
- Stab other in back, gossip, defamation of character
- No feelings are permitted
- Berating, demeaning
- Consistently forgetting important commitments, agreements, appointments, promises, etc.
- Insisting that feelings should not be expressed openly
- Abuse pets, destroy property, or threaten to abuse loved ones to hurt others
- Abuse or harsh discipline is done in a public way
- Abusive Anger: Yelling, labeling, ridiculing, humiliating, comparing, contempt, intimidation
- Offender blames the victim for causing the abuse
- Threatening, harassment, scorn, disgraced, defamed, deflate, jeered, laughed at, mocked, ridiculed, ignored, belittled, overlooked, not taken seriously, roasted
- Extreme reaction to the smallest of offenses
- Dehumanize the victim “You’re a mouse!”
- Isolate victim from friends, family and any other kind of support system
- Inability to have empathy for others experiences & feelings
- Threatening homicide, suicide, or injury
- Threatened with the use of weapons
- Humiliation in public
- Offender ridicules or insults women/children/men as a group, calling them names, shouting; nothing is ever good enough no matter what you do or how hard you try.
- Offender insults your friends and family, driving them away
- Goes out with you but then totally ignores you the whole time
- Takes car keys or money away’
- Destroys, sells or gives away things that are of value to you
- Threatens to hurt you, others, pets
- Threatens to kidnap children if you ever leave
- Abuses pets to hurt you
- and more…
Physical abuse leaves wounds to verify the offender is at fault. Emotional abuse is just as damaging but does not leave obvious scars to prove it was inflicted by another. Often victims of emotional abuse are blamed for, or blame themselves for how they have been treated so badly….and they harbor illusions that if they were a better person, the abuse would stop. Abusers often get away with blaming the abused by saying things like. “It’s your fault I had to hurt you.”
Mind Games – Exploiting the weaker person:
- Manipulate with lies, contradictions, emotions, love or sex
- Threaten to kill self if others won’t comply with demands
- Emotional blackmail—using guilt or shame to get others to do what they don’t want to do
- Blame the victim: “You asked for it, you deserved it, you liked it.”
- Making a person doubt their judgment, or wonder if they are crazy
- Do as I say, not as I do
- Abuser makes the victim look like the offender
- Damned if you do, damned if you don’t—no matter what, the victim is wrong and blamed
- Exploit another person’s insecurities, plays on your weaknesses; takes advantage of your trust ~D.A. Wolf
- Using their charms or behaviors to control or manipulate others for their benefit ~Joe Navarro
- Close and loving with you in private, distant and cold in public
- Flirting or staring at other guys/gals in front of spouse
- Act uninterested
- Pull close then push away
- Blocking and diverting: Switching or changing the conversation at will in order to stay in control.
- Denial that abuse is happening in an attempt to manipulate another person’s reality
- Someone asks for a suggestion but rejects every…option given them. the purpose is to feel superior to the one trying to give the advice.” ~Eric Berne
- Deception—promise to get counseling to appease the partner but not be sincere about doing self-examination and making changes
- Wear down the victim until the victim relents to participating in offensive things
- Bate and Switch: Present yourself one way before the marriage, then switch after
- Trying to convince the victim that the abuse they are receiving is in their best interest when it is only serving the needs of the abuser. (Example: The mother of Repunzel in Tangled, the movie)
- The abuser creates impossible situations where the abuser becomes indispensable to the victim
- Remind victim of good deeds done at the beginning of relationships in order to make them stay
- An addict threatening to relapse if a victim doesn’t comply
- Promises to change that are never met
- Threatening to harm self or others if the victim does not comply
- Triangulation: Bringing in a third person to fight the battles for you
- Manipulating by lies
- Future promising: Making promises that something will happen in the future that never happens.
- Pretends to be a friend to your face but says vicious gossip behind your back
- A person is verbally supportive, but fails to carry through— then is dismissive when confronted about their non-action
- Smooth talker—say what people want to hear but fail to carry through
- Look great on the surface but are very different inside
- Indirect and covert—abusing people when they don’t realize it
- Call the victim crazy, weak, stupid, accuse the victim of making it up
- Tells you about his/her affairs’accuses you about having affairs
- Manipulating you with emotions i.e. threatening to kill himself/herself if you leave and other forms of emotional blackmail.
- denies his/her behaviors are abusive. Minimizes his/her abusiveness – calling you crazy or weak, stupid = accusing you of making it up, not being able to handle it and so forth
- Faking an apology—when the offender is clearly at fault, says something to smooth things over but never actually apologizes and may actually place blame the victim for what happened.
- Gaslighting – (Wikipedia’s definition) Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance and other changes such as low self-esteem. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and misinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.
The term originated from the 1938 play Gas Light and its 1940 and 1944 film adaptations (both titled Gaslight). The term has been used in clinical psychological literature,:31–46 as well as in political commentary, philosophy, and popular culture.
Verbal Abuse (Overt):
- Excessive guilting, chastising, shaming, name-calling, put-downs,
- Ordering and demanding
- Teasing, making fun of, belittling, laughing at
- Nagging, haranguing, harassing
- Screaming, verbal assaults, insults, profanity
- Shaming or inappropriate sounds
- Blocking, diverting, switching or changing the conversation to stay in control
- Shamed or punished for expressing feelings, needs, wants, requests, the truth
- Outrageous remarks
- Shaming words
- Intimidation & threats
- Blame the victim
- Discount feelings
- Verbal harassment
- Words used to hurt & control the victim
- Threatening words or tone of voice
- Swearing or cursing
- Menacing tones
- Threaten to hit or maim, destroy, restrict, restrain, kill, shoot, cut, beat up, take away your children, hurt your family, etc.
- …and more
Verbal Abuse (Covert):
- Silent treatment – ignore
- Not believing what others say
- Hurting one’s self-esteem while appearing to be helping
- Cut-down humor
- Minimizing what others do “It wasn’t that good.”
- Seemingly kind words that hurt “You’re not very smart but I still love you.”
- Disparaging statements made in a concerned or charming way.
- Judgmental comments
- Telling embarrassing things about others
- Impatient and irritable
- Refusing to work out problems verbally
- Discounting other’s words or feelings. “You never did that.” “You’re making that up.” “It wasn’t that bad.”
- Put-down humor
- Forced silence
- Abuser denies saying hurtful things or blames the victim for taking hurtful words as damaging
- Abuser strikes out at the victim when light is shed on the truth about the abuser
- An argument ensues no matter how carefully or appropriately the victim tries to address the problem
- Verbal abuse only happens in private and is denied publicly
- Whispering or muttering threatening things
Attack or Discount a Person’s Existence:
- You should never have been born
- We would be better off without you
- We wanted a boy but we got a girl
- No one would want you
- I should have aborted you
- The world would be a better place without you in it
- No discipline—no one cares if you come or go, how late you stay out, what friends you hang with
- No rules, no consequences for bad behavior
- No one notices if you’re present
- …and more
- Ignorance or no discipline on the part of well-meaning parents
- Cultural traditions that are abusive but accepted by the culture
- Highly stressed single parents who have little time for the children
- Misperception of abuse where there is none intended. Example: The child thinks dad doesn’t love him because he doesn’t tell him, but dad really does love the child, expressing love in other ways.
- Chaos in the home
- Giving unsolicited advice
- Help when help is not wanted or requested
- Ineffective parenting tools
- Parents not capable of handling their number of children
- Texting or being otherwise distracted during an intimate moment
- One or more of the parents is chronically mentally or physically ill.
- And more….
- Failure to provide financially
- Withholding/hoarding money or finances
- Giving money but with strings attached
- Overindulging a child with money so they never learn to earn or manage it
- Stealing money or valuables
- Keep others from working
- One partner makes all the money decisions for the whole family
- Refuse to work or share money
- Preventing the victim from obtaining employment or education
- Prohibiting access to family income
- Lie about financial assets and debts
- Spend child support on self, not on the children
- Making spouse beg for money
- Forces partner to hand over his/her paycheck, totally controlling all the income—then returns meager allowance to spouse for household expenses
- Refusing to contribute to shared or household bills
- Neglect to pay child support
- Children have to go to work to support the parents
- One partner forges the other partner’s name
- Using financial power to force the victim into submission
- A nonworking spouse drains spouses resources by overspending
- An employee is forced to do unethical, immoral, self-degrading things or free overtime, to keep their job
- Your spouse kept you from working, controlled your money, made all the decisions, demanded you seek permission to do or have anything’
- Your spouse refused to work or share money.
- …and more
- Throwing objects, fist through walls, push furniture over
- Destroy or throw away precious personal items if the child does not adhere to strict obedience
- Use other’s property without permission
- Destroy other’s property and not replace or pay for it
- Ignore No Trespassing signs
- No boundaries in the family about what belongs to who. Everyone can use anything that belongs to another without permission.
- Abuse alcohol/drugs, steroids, poor nutrition, etc.
- Over-exercising, exertion, stressing, eating, committing, etc.
- Toxic worry
- Tolerating abuse from others
- Casual sex with multiple partners
- Trusting strangers too soon
- Neglect basic self-care needs
- Taking on too much
- Ignoring or neglecting physical or mental health concerns
- Self-critical, self-blame, constant negative self-talk
- Take responsibility for things others actions
- Try to control things you have no control over
- No rest, play or recreation
- All rest, play or recreation
- Ignore bills and obligations
- Cut skin, starve or hurt self, binge and purge, suicide, etc.
- Devaluing your body, intelligence, abilities, value, etc.
- …and more.
Harsh, Rigid, Inconsistent rules:
- It’s not okay to talk about problems.
- Feelings should not be expresses openly—only certain feelings are acceptable
- Communication is best if indirect, with one person acting as a messenger between two others (triangulation)
- Unrealistic expectations — be strong, good, right, perfect!! Make us proud!!
- Don’t ever think of yourself
- Do as I say, not as I do
- It’s not okay to play, have fun or do things for yourself – life must always be strict discipline & serious
- Don’t rock the boat – peace at all cost
- If you’re a member of this family you have to do what all other members of this family have always done
- Don’t be yourself, don’t think for yourself
- Taking care of yourself is selfish
- Do what I say, not as I do
- You have to be perfect to be of any value – only if you are perfect we will love and accept you
- You should be who I think you should be—shoulds and oughts
- Punished for rules you didn’t know about
- Unreasonable, punitive punishment for the slightest violation of rigid rules
- No sense of humor
- Watching helplessly as others are abused
- Long exposure to traumatic material: Example: Allowing children to watch violent, scary or demonic movies/videos
- Hearing other’s traumatic stories so often, a person almost feels like it happened to them.
- …and more.
- Self-righteous, judging others as unworthy—holding self up as the holy example
- Exhorting others with should’s and oughts
- Using God and religion to control, coerce, push and dominate others
- Kill or torture those who don’t comply to a certain religion/cult. Using God’s wrath to instill fear, control, manipulate or brow-beat others into submission: severe punishment for non-compliance
- Religious cults: brainwashing, mind control, mental manipulation in the name of god
- Forced adoption of a certain religious ideology
- Use coercive means to push religion on to others or punish those who don’t
- Condemning others as unacceptable before God because they don’t conform to your beliefs
- Condemning long hair, ear piercings or the like as bad or ungodlike
- Slapping a child because she won’t go to church
- Moralizing that it’s wrong to make a lot of money, think for yourself, or choose your own religion
- Neglecting vital needs of the family by being overly involved in religious activities.
- Pointing out other’s shortcomings in the name of God
- Using the moral high road to punish, control, blame or manipulate others
- Taught to only let religious leaders do the thinking for you
- Bullying, scolding, ganging up on, punishing, finger-pointing if others are not meeting up to religious expectations.
- Self-determined moral high road: “I am walking the moral high road and it is my responsibility to set you straight or punish you for noncompliance with my idea of righteousness.” ~unknown
- Parents shaming or disowning their child for taking a different religious/spiritual path than their own
- Take on God-like role to others
- …and more.
- Physical Abuse—inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior, e.g. slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical or chemical means.
- Neglect—the failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
- Exploitation—the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
- Emotional Abuse—inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.
- Abandonment—desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
- Self-neglect—characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety.
- Discarding elderly people
- Over controlling, perfectionistic, punitive parents with harsh, rigid and compulsive rules
- Assigned roles: “You are the smart one, the pretty one, the troublemaker, the scapegoat, etc”
- Adults treat children as if they have no rights
- Parents demand the suppression of feelings in children
- One or both parents are addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, love, drama, etc. Or, a parent who is sober but still a dry alcoholic, which means they are not acting out in the addiction but still have the characteristics of an addict, i.e. not in touch with feelings, abusive, highly critical, controlling, perfectionistic, etc.
- Entitlement: Giving in to or doing everything for children with no expectations or contributions from them. Blame others for a child’s bad behavior. Giving in to temper tantrums and manipulation of a child.
- Denial that abuse is happening: “Mother never slapped you. You’re remembering that wrong.”
- The child can do no wrong
- The child controls parents
- The child gets away with beating up siblings/children
- Serious and burdened atmosphere
- Make fun of family members or make them the butt of jokes
- Family members are given no privacy, rights or personal boundaries
- Parents who have volatile relationships with each other
- Physical, sexual or emotional, or any other kind of abuse to a child by adult(s)
- Parent asks the children not to tell the other parent about an affair
- Parents who demand loyalty to the dysfunctional family only
- No one was allowed to talk to outsiders about family problems
- No strong feelings or no feelings at all are permitted by family members
- Conflicts between family members are ignored or denied. It’s not okay to talk about problems. Don’t rock the boat.
- Taught to never take care of yourself—everything goes out to others
- Unrealistic expectations—be strong, good, right, perfect, make us proud
- Parents only support the child in doing things that benefit the parent
- Communication is best if indirect or not at all Example: Triangulation in communication—One person acting as a messenger between two others
- Parent’s body is there but not emotionally present
- Stifling the true self—It’s not okay to be you, you need to conform to the role the family gives you
- Children are raised by the television, video games, neighbors; no positive family interaction
- All decisions for the children are made by others—child has no say in anything about his/her life
- Children or spouse is treated as slaves or servants or the parents act like they are the slave to their children.
- Parents use child(ren) to meet their emotional, security and dependency and happiness needs—parents needs are met at the expense of the child’s needs
- Children are expected to know what they don’t know or have never been taught
- Discounting or criticizing a child’s feelings, thinking, needs, desires, goals, perceptions, etc.
- Denying a child’s reality. “I saw a bright light in the sky.” Parent: “That never happened!”
- Denying a child’s feelings. Child: “I hate my teacher.” Parent: “You do not! You’re never supposed to hate anyone!!”
- Shutting down a child’s dreams. Child: “I want to be an artist.” Parent: “No you don’t. There’s no value in art.” Or, “What makes you think you’re good enough to be an artist? No one’s going to want to buy your art.”
- Parents compare one child to another, “Why can’t you be more like your sister/friend?”
- Parents do not give their children enough of their time, attention and direction
- No new information can come into the family because of the rigidity of the system and the hierarchal control.” ~James Bradshaw
- No talk rule, family secrets – Example: Dad is an alcoholic but the family is not allowed to talk about it. The child is forbidden to talk because of the rules of obedience to the adults.
- Unrealistic expectations
- Abuse escalates if the family members express their hurt or anger
- Children are to be trained like animals—obedience at any price
- Parents can’t be without their children—children are required to fill the dependency needs of the parents
- Believing that the duty of a good parent is to break the will of the child.
- Attempting to keep a child from legitimate suffering that comes from poor choices
- Keep a child from being spontaneous and having fun
- “Needs are labeled as ‘selfish’” ~Bradshaw
- Parents expect children to be perfect
- Parents don’t allow children to have experiences outside of the family
- Parents make all decisions for their children—children never learn to think for themselves
- You are unacceptable unless you do exactly what the family tells you to do
- Parents fail to protect younger or weaker children from older or bigger bullies inside or outside of the family
- Friends don’t want to visit because of the bad behaviors of the parent(s)
- Parents dependent on their children’s success to give them purpose and worth
- Children are condemned or punished because they don’t meet the high expectations of their parents.
- After the abuse, things go back to normal as if nothing had ever happened. No one is allowed to talk about what happened; nothing is resolved. Everyone pretends as if nothing happened
- One parent speaking badly about the other parent to a child
- Inconsistent behavior toward a child
- The non-abusive parent fails to protect the children from the abusive parent
- Poor modeling of closeness
- Frequent moves preventing a child from developing close sustained friendships
- “…a parent has a relationship with the child that is more important than the relationship (s)he has with the spouse…” ~Pia Melody
- Parents not allowing children to become independent adults for fear the children will leave them.
- It’s not okay to talk about problems
- Feelings should not be expressed openly.
- Communication is best if indirect, with one person acting as a messenger between two others (triangulation)
- Unrealistic expectations–be strong, go right, perfect, the best. Make us proud.
- Don’t ever think of yourself
- Do as I say, not as I do
- It’s not okay to play or be playful.
- Don’t rock the boat or peace at all cost.
Family Violence Network, Lake Elmo, MN. BREAKING FREE OF THE CO-DEPENDENCY TRAP, Barry K. Weinhold Ph.D. Janae B Weinhold Ph.D. Bradshaw on: The Family, John Bradshaw ©1988,1996
Good reading: For your own good: Hidden Cruelties in Child Rearing By Alice Miller
Strict, regimented or inflexible routines or schedules for daily activities such as meal times, bed/awakening times, bathing/washing, going to the toilet, etc.
- Ignored by a partner when in public
- In marriage one partner demands you seek permission to do or have anything
- In an equal-power relationship, one partner tries to have power over the other
- Don’t keep commitments to partner
- Lie to partner
- Affair behind partner’s back
- Yelling, insults, swearing at, name-calling, belittling, berating, putdowns towards partner
- Isolating spouse from friends or family
- Putting down those spouse love
- Accusing partner of having affairs or carrying on devious activities without proof
- Doing other things or acting distracted during serious conversations
- Spying on partner except on rare occasions
- Making family or money decisions without consulting the partner
- Withholding affection, sex, money, the truth, etc.
- Constant threats to leave the relationship
- Telling one’s partner his/her feelings are irrational or crazy
- Turning others against one’s partner, especially the children
- Blaming the partner for your wrongs
- Preventing the partner from going to school, work, visit with family or receiving medical care, etc.
- Throwing objects in front of or at the partner—slamming walls, doors, etc.
- Destroying or threatening to destroy property belonging to one’s partner
- Using or threatening to use physical or sexual aggression against one’s partner
- Driving dangerously while partner is in the car as a conscious intention to scare or intimidate
- Using the partner’s children to threaten them (e.g., threatening to kidnap)
- Threatening to punish or punishing partner’s children, family, friends or pets to get back at the partner
- Acting jealous and suspicious of the partner’s friends and social contacts;
- Putting down the partner’s friends and/or family
- Monitoring the partner’s time and whereabouts
- Restricting the partner’s usage of the telephone and/or car; not allowing the partner to leave the home alone
- Preventing the partner from working or attending school
- Any kind of physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, spiritual (etc.) abuse already mentioned as it would apply in a relationship
- Attempting to or actually using a weapon against a partner
- Forced or coerced participation in bondage or other sadomasochistic activities
- Triangulation: Example: Bringing another person into a relationship such as girlfriend—then girlfriend and wife fight with each other the two-timing man
- Compares spouse to another: “I just saw Jack’s wife and she looks amazing. I wish you could look more like her.” Or, “Dave just bought his wife a new car. I’m so embarrassed I have to drive this old car.”
- Spying on partner
- Threatening partner
- Posting your relationship problems on Facebook
- Isolating victim(s) from friends, family or any other possible support systems
- Rejection experiences that were very painful including deaths, the divorce of self or parents, rejections by friends or romantic partners, parents, etc.
- One partner tries to control or punish or control the other by taking away car keys, wallet, cell phone or money
1. Pushes for quick involvement. S/he comes on strong, claiming, “I’ve never felt loved like this before by anyone.” You get pressured for an exclusive commitment almost immediately
.2. Constant jealousy. Your partner is excessively possessive, calls constantly, or visits unexpectedly.
3. Controlling. S/he interrogates you intensely about who you talked to and where you were, checks mileage on the car, keeps all the money or asks for receipts, and insists you ask for permission to go anywhere or do anything.
4. Unrealistic expectations. S/he expects perfection from you and for you to meet their every need.
5. Isolation. S/he tries to cut you off from family and friends, deprives you of a phone or car, or tries to prevent you from holding a job.
6. Blames others for own mistakes. The boss, family, you — it’s always someone else’s fault if anything goes wrong.
7. Make everyone else responsible for their feelings. The abuser says, “You make me angry” instead of “I’m angry.” “I wouldn’t get so pissed off if you wouldn’t…
8. Hypersensitive. He’s easily insulted and will often rant and rave about injustices that are just part of life.
9. He’s cruel to animals and children. He kills or punishes animals brutally. He also may expect children to do things beyond their ability or tease them until they cry.
10. He uses “playful” force during sex. He enjoys throwing you down or holding you down against your will; he finds the idea of rape exciting. He intimidates, manipulates or forces you to engage in unwanted sex acts.
11. There’s verbal abuse. S/he constantly criticizes you or says cruel things. He degrades, curses and calls you ugly names. He will use vulnerable points about your past or current life against you.
12. There are rigid gender roles in the relationship. He expects you to serve, obey and remain at home.
13. S/he has sudden mood swings. He switches from loving to angry in a matter of minutes.
14. S/he has a past of battering. He admits to hitting women in the past, but states that they or the situation brought it on.
15. He threatens violence. He makes statements such as, “I’ll break your neck,” but then dismisses it with “I really didn’t mean it.”
Covert abuse: (Passive/aggressive)
- Digs or slams intended to hurt, covertly buried into a conversation but act innocent
- Gossip, procrastination, lying, cut-down humor
- Hide hostility towards another person by putting on a false front but fail to be honest
- Fail to do tasks for which s/he is responsible
- Say one thing and act another
- Make commitments or promises but fail to carry through
- Silent treatment
- Sabotage someone else’s success behind their back
- Refuse to give needed or expected support
- Failure to tell the total truth
- Manipulation and mind games because you can’t be open and upfront
- Agree to a plan of action, then do the opposite
- Leaving out important information
- Mislead or deceptive
- Neglect, depriving others of what they need
- Irresponsibility or intentional inefficiency
- Deny responsibility for the pain inflicted to others
- Deflect responsibility to others for their own passive/aggressive behaviors (It’s your fault I’m behaving this way)
- Smiling when the intention is to hurt
- Seek quiet, non-obvious revenge (keying a car)
- Denying spouse sex, affection, decision making in finances
- Won’t confront a person to his face about a specific problem but will complain about it behind his back
- Deny a problem exists when the evidence shows otherwise
- Forgets or never shows up to important events
- Withholding sex in a committed relationship or using sex as a tool to manipulate or control the partner
- Treat someone as an extension of one’s self
- Expect too much
- Deliberately waking someone up
“The passive-aggressive needs to have a relationship with someone who can be the object of his or her hostility. They need someone whose expectations and demands he/she can resist. A passive-aggressive is usually attracted to externally-centered people with low self-esteem and those who find it easy to make excuses for other’s bad behaviors.
The biggest frustration in being with a passive-aggressive person is that they fail to follow through on agreements and promises. He/she will dodge responsibility for anything in the relationship while at the same time making it look as if he/she is pulling his/her own weight and is a very loving partner. The sad thing is, you can be made to believe that you are loved and adored by a person who is completely unable to form an emotional connection with anyone.
The passive-aggressive ignores problems in the relationship, sees things through their own skewed sense of reality and if forced to deal with the problems will completely withdraw from the relationship and you. They will deny evidence of wrongdoing, distort what you know to be real to fit their own agenda, minimize or lie so that their version of what is real seems more logical. This is why divorcing a passive-aggressive can and often does lead to a high conflict situation with long-term negative consequences for all involved.” ~http://divorcesupport.about.com/od/abusiverelationships/a/Pass_Agg.htm
Perceived as Abuse but it isn’t
- Example: Child perceives being abandoned when left with a babysitter, but is safe, has a good time and returns home safely
- Because additional sibling(s) is born, the child feels like the parents won’t continue loving him/her
- Fair, rational & logical consequences for misbehavior
- Child is required to help with work, do homework, be responsible, get along with siblings.
- Child required to be accountable after misbehavior
“Women are killed for being women.” ~Meredith Miller
“Physically violent women like to provoke men by physically attacking first and then pointing the finger at that man for reacting with physical violence. There are men who have had to learn to spread their arms like they’re being crucified while the women beats on them, to be clear to the aggressor, the cameras and bystanders that he is not the aggressor.” ~Meredith Miller
- Government uses its power to control or abuse its citizens
- Will not allow it’s citizens to protect themselves
- Threatens constitutional liberties
- Lies to citizens
- “…is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others.” ~Wikipedia
- Bullying can be done by one person to another or groups of people
- Imbalance of power
- spreading rumors
- Making threats
- Attacking someone physically or verbally
- Excluding someone from a group on purpose
- Clearly demeaning, belittling or condesending to another.
- …and more
- Sexual Harassment
- Mistreatment of sexual orientation or culture
Abuse and Control by Proxy:
- The abuser recruits friends, colleagues, mates, family members, the authorities, institutions, neighbors, the media, teachers… third parties to do his/her bidding.
- The abuser controls these unaware people s/he is using exactly how he plans to control his victim
- Use other’s to control, convince, harass, threaten, manipulate the target, tempt, convince, harass, to communicate with and manipulate his target.
- Intergenerational cohesions abusing victims into compliance
- Break the will so victims will carry out the will of the cult
- Make fun of, treat differently, limit opportunities or abuse people of a certain ethnicity
- Ethnic cleansing
- Abuse over the internet or related technology
- Predators who find their victims on chat rooms or other social media
Organizational or Institutional Abuse:
- Failure to respect or support a person or group’s right to independence, dignity or choice
- Lack of person-centered care planning or a ritualized care routine
- Inappropriate confinement, restraint or restriction
- Lack of personal clothing or possessions
- Stark living areas, deprived environment or lack of stimulation
- Lack of choice in decoration or other aspects of the environment
- Lack of choice in food or menus or menu planning
- Unnecessary involvement in personal finances by staff or management
- Inappropriate use of nursing or medical procedures, e.g. using un-prescribed medication enemas or catheterization
- Inappropriate use of power or control
- Treat adults like children
- Arbitrary decision making by staff group, service or organization
- Lack of choice or options with food and drink, dress, possessions, daily and social activities
- Lack of privacy, dignity, choice or respect for people as individuals
- unsafe or unhygienic environment
- Lack of provision for dress, diet or religious observance in accordance with an individual’s belief or cultural background
- Keeping people from other people, community or family contact
- The needs of people are sacrificed for the sake of a group, service or organization
- Improper use of authority
- Fake news
- Withholding truth
- Telling only one side of the story
- Hate speech
- Harassment of individuals or groups
- Manipulate viewpoints
- Take someone’s comments out of context
Visual Abuse: Abuse that can be seen or is delivered from the eyes
- Glaring—hateful looks
- Watching abuse happen, especially a child watching parents or adults being abusive to others
- Allowing children to watch violent, sexual or scary movies, videos
- Keeping a child from seeing
- …and more.
Characterized by a grandiose sense of self-importance, recurrent fantasies of unlimited power and success, and feelings of rage, humiliation and haughty indifference when defeated or criticized.
Narcissists, with total lack of empathy, have a tendency to exploit and use others. They are not only unable to recognize how others feel, but because of self-centeredness, are unable to even recognize that others have feelings.
Even though narcissists seem arrogant, they usually have low self-esteem and have nothing more than superficial relationships. ~Beverly Engel, author of Emotionally Abused Women
- Grandiose sense of self-importance
- Cravings for admiration and attention
- World reflected in their image
“…while some narcissists can be very unlikeable and obvious egotists, others can be very charming, intelligent and caring until you stop stroking their ego or disagree then at that point they can turn on you.” ~Monika Hoyt, Relationship Coach
In order to be diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder you have to have 5 or more of the following qualities:
- Reacting to criticism with anger, shame, humiliation or blame
- Taking advantage of others to reach own goals
- Exaggerating their own importance, achievements and talents
- Imagining unrealistic fantasies of success, beauty, power, intelligence or romance
- Requiring constant attention and positive reinforcement from others
- Becoming jealous easily
- Lacking empathy and disregarding the feelings of others
- Being obsessed with self
- Pursuing mainly selfish goals
- Trouble keeping healthy relationships
- Becoming easily hurt and rejected
- Setting goals that are unrealistic
- Wanting the best of everything
- Appearing unemotional
~Monika Hoyt, Relationship Coach
Styles of narcissism:
- Amorous (like a seductive Don Juan) – needs a lot of validation from the opposite sex
- Compensatory – offsetting feelings of inferiority
- Elitist – …thinks they are better than everyone
- Fanatic – …can be very religiously preoccupied or rigid in their thinking
~Monika Hoyt, Relationship Coach
Characteristics of a Narcissist:
- Expert liars and master manipulators
- Superficially Charming
- Inability to feel empathy, remorse, guilt or love
- They learn to mimic emotions at an early age, but in reality, feel nothing
- A grandiose sense of self-importance, recurrent fantasies of unlimited power and success
- Feeling of rage, humiliation and haughty indifference when defeated or criticized.
- Tend to use or exploit others
- Unable to recognize how they or others feel
- superficial relationships
~Demonic Psychology of Narcissism
National Domestic Violence hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Gaslighting Victim is considered mentally deranged…and unstable, while the abuser is universally regarded as the suffering soul.”
Destroyers seek to destroy others. Some are projecting their own self-hate on others. Others…may be envious or jealous. Still, others act out of anger or hurt from childhood. ~Beverly Engel, author of Emotionally Abused Women
Some deliberately seek out to destroy every person they become intimately involved with, such as by learning the person’s weaknesses and exploiting them or making the partner doubt her (his) desirability. ~Beverly Engel, author of Emotionally Abused Women
A person who feels he is “less than” others. He tears them down to make himself feel good. ~Beverly Engel, author of Emotionally Abused Women
Often men who are insecure will become involved with women they can ridicule. Some…are threatened by confident and competent people. ~Beverly Engel, author of Emotionally Abused Women
Blamers are never wrong…it is always someone else’s fault. If they were to admit to having done something wrong, they will always rationalize it by trying to convince the victim that the abusive behavior is a reaction to a deficiency or provocation on the victim’s part.” ~Beverly Engel, author of Emotionally Abused Women
“Reflecting or exhibiting hatred, dislike, mistrust, or mistreatment of women.” ~dictionary.com
A person who doesn’t have a conscience, who feels NO remorse when hurting others. ~WebMD
This person has a conscience but is weak and will not stop a behavior even is s/he knows it’s wrong.~WebMD
20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths use to Silence you. By Shahida Arabi
Toxic people such as malignant narcissists, psychopaths and those with antisocial traits engage in maladaptive behaviors in relationships that ultimately exploit, demean and hurt their intimate partners, family members and friends. They use a plethora of diversionary tactics that distort the reality of their victims and deflect responsibility. Although those who are not narcissistic can employ these tactics as well, abusive narcissists use these to an excessive extent in an effort to escape accountability for their actions.
Here are the 20 diversionary tactics toxic people use to silence and degrade you.
Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that can be described in different variations of three words: “That didn’t happen,” “You imagined it,” and “Are you crazy?” Gaslighting is perhaps one of the most insidious manipulative tactics out there because it works to distort and erode your sense of reality; it eats away at your ability to trust yourself and inevitably disables you from feeling justified in calling out abuse and mistreatment.
When a narcissist, sociopath or psychopath gaslights you, you may be prone to gaslighting yourself as a way to reconcile the cognitive dissonance that might arise. Two conflicting beliefs battle it out: is this person right or can I trust what I experienced? A manipulative person will convince you that the former is an inevitable truth while the latter is a sign of dysfunction on your end.
In order to resist gaslighting, it’s important to ground yourself in your own reality – sometimes writing things down as they happened, telling a friend or reiterating your experience to a support network can help to counteract the gaslighting effect. The power of having a validating community is that it can redirect you from the distorted reality of a malignant person and back to your own inner guidance.
One sure sign of toxicity is when a person is chronically unwilling to see his or her own shortcomings and uses everything in their power to avoid being held accountable for them. This is known as projection. Projection is a defense mechanism used to displace responsibility for one’s negative behavior and traits by attributing them to someone else. It ultimately acts as a digression that avoids ownership and accountability.
While we all engage in projection to some extent, according to Narcissistic Personality clinical expert Dr. Martinez-Lewi, the projections of a narcissist are often psychologically abusive. Rather than acknowledge their own flaws, imperfections and wrongdoings, malignant narcissists and sociopaths opt to dump their own traits on their unsuspecting suspects in a way that is painful and excessively cruel. Instead of admitting that self-improvement may be in order, they would prefer that their victims take responsibility for their behavior and feel ashamed of themselves. This is a way for a narcissist to project any toxic shame they have about themselves onto another.
For example, a person who engages in pathological lying may accuse their partner of fibbing; a needy spouse may call their husband “clingy” in an attempt to depict them as the one who is dependent; a rude employee may call their boss ineffective in an effort to escape the truth about their own productivity.
Narcissistic abusers love to play the “blameshifting game.” Objectives of the game: they win, you lose, and you or the world at large is blamed for everything that’s wrong with them. This way, you get to babysit their fragile ego while you’re thrust into a sea of self-doubt. Fun, right?
Solution? Don’t “project” your own sense of compassion or empathy onto a toxic person and don’t own any of the toxic person’s projections either. As manipulation expert and author Dr. George Simon (2010) notes in his book In Sheep’s Clothing, projecting our own conscience and value system onto others has the potential consequence of being met with further exploitation.
Narcissists on the extreme end of the spectrum usually have no interest in self-insight or change. It’s important to cut ties and end interactions with toxic people as soon as possible so you can get centered in your own reality and validate your own identity. You don’t have to live in someone else’s cesspool of dysfunction.
3. Nonsensical conversations from hell.
If you think you’re going to have a thoughtful discussion with someone who is toxic, be prepared for epic mindfuckery rather than conversational mindfulness.
Malignant narcissists and sociopaths use word salad, circular conversations, ad hominem arguments, projection and gaslighting to disorient you and get you off track should you ever disagree with them or challenge them in any way. They do this in order to discredit, confuse and frustrate you, distract you from the main problem and make you feel guilty for being a human being with actual thoughts and feelings that might differ from their own. In their eyes, you are the problem if you happen to exist.
Spend even ten minutes arguing with a toxic narcissist and you’ll find yourself wondering how the argument even began at all. You simply disagreed with them about their absurd claim that the sky is red and now your entire childhood, family, friends, career and lifestyle choices have come under attack. That is because your disagreement picked at their false belief that they are omnipotent and omniscient, resulting in a narcissistic injury.
Remember: toxic people don’t argue with you, they essentially argue with themselves and you become privy to their long, draining monologues. They thrive off the drama and they live for it. Each and every time you attempt to provide a point that counters their ridiculous assertions, you feed them supply. Don’t feed the narcissists supply – rather, supply yourself with the confirmation that their abusive behavior is the problem, not you. Cut the interaction short as soon as you anticipate it escalating and use your energy on some decadent self-care instead.
4. Blanket statements and generalizations.
Malignant narcissists aren’t always intellectual masterminds – many of them are intellectually lazy. Rather than taking the time to carefully consider a different perspective, they generalize anything and everything you say, making blanket statements that don’t acknowledge the nuances in your argument or take into account the multiple perspectives you’ve paid homage to. Better yet, why not put a label on you that dismisses your perspective altogether?
On a larger scale, generalizations and blanket statements invalidate experiences that don’t fit in the unsupported assumptions, schemas and stereotypes of society; they are also used to maintain the status quo. This form of digression exaggerates one perspective to the point where a social justice issue can become completely obscured. For example, rape accusations against well-liked figures are often met with the reminder that there are false reports of rape that occur. While those do occur, they are rare, and in this case, the actions of one become labeled the behavior of the majority while the specific report itself remains unaddressed.
These everyday microaggressions also happen in toxic relationships. If you bring up to a narcissistic abuser that their behavior is unacceptable for example, they will often make blanket generalizations about your hypersensitivity or make a generalization such as, “You are never satisfied,” or “You’re always too sensitive” rather than addressing the real issues at hand. It’s possible that you are oversensitive at times, but it is also possible that the abuser is also insensitive and cruel the majority of the time.
Hold onto your truth and resist generalizing statements by realizing that they are in fact forms of black and white illogical thinking. Toxic people wielding blanket statements do not represent the full richness of experience – they present the limited on of their singular experience and overinflated sense of self.
5. Deliberately misrepresenting your thoughts and feelings to the point of absurdity.
In the hands of a malignant narcissist or sociopath, your differing opinions, legitimate emotions and lived experiences get translated into character flaws and evidence of your irrationality.
Narcissists weave tall tales to reframe what you’re actually saying as a way to make your opinions look absurd or heinous. Let’s say you bring up the fact that you’re unhappy with the way a toxic friend is speaking to you. In response, he or she may put words in your mouth, saying, “Oh, so now you’re perfect?” or “So I am a bad person, huh?” when you’ve done nothing but express your feelings. This enables them to invalidate your right to have thoughts and emotions about their inappropriate behavior and instills in you a sense of guilt when you attempt to establish boundaries.
This is also a popular form of diversion and cognitive distortion that is known as “mind reading.” Toxic people often presume they know what you’re thinking and feeling. They chronically jump to conclusions based on their own triggers rather than stepping back to evaluate the situation mindfully. They act accordingly based on their own delusions and fallacies and make no apologies for the harm they cause as a result. Notorious for putting words in your mouth, they depict you as having an intention or outlandish viewpoint you didn’t possess. They accuse you of thinking of them as toxic – even before you’ve gotten the chance to call them out on their behavior – and this also serves as a form of preemptive defense.
Simply stating, “I never said that,” and walking away should the person continue to accuse you of doing or saying something you didn’t can help to set a firm boundary in this type of interaction. So long as the toxic person can blameshift and digress from their own behavior, they have succeeded in convincing you that you should be “shamed” for giving them any sort of realistic feedback.
6. Nitpicking and moving the goalposts.
The difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism is the presence of a personal attack and impossible standards. These so-called “critics” often don’t want to help you improve, they just want to nitpick, pull you down and scapegoat you in any way they can. Abusive narcissists and sociopaths employ a logical fallacy known as “moving the goalposts” in order to ensure that they have every reason to be perpetually dissatisfied with you. This is when, even after you’ve provided all the evidence in the world to validate your argument or taken an action to meet their request, they set up another expectation of you or demand more proof.
Do you have a successful career? The narcissist will then start to pick on why you aren’t a multi-millionaire yet. Did you already fulfill their need to be excessively catered to? Now it’s time to prove that you can also remain “independent.” The goalposts will perpetually change and may not even be related to each other; they don’t have any other point besides making you vie for the narcissist’s approval and validation.
By raising the expectations higher and higher each time or switching them completely, highly manipulative and toxic people are able to instill in you a pervasive sense of unworthiness and of never feeling quite “enough.” By pointing out one irrelevant fact or one thing you did wrong and developing a hyper-focus on it, narcissists get to divert from your strengths and pull you into obsessing over any flaws or weaknesses instead. They get you thinking about the next expectation of theirs you’re going to have to meet – until eventually, you’ve bent over backward trying to fulfill their every need – only to realize it didn’t change the horrific way they treated you.
Don’t get sucked into nitpicking and changing goal posts – if someone chooses to rehash an irrelevant point over and over again to the point where they aren’t acknowledging the work you’ve done to validate your point or satisfy them, their motive isn’t to better understand. It’s to further provoke you into feeling as if you have to constantly prove yourself. Validate and approve of yourself. Know that you are enough and you don’t have to be made to feel constantly deficient or unworthy in some way.
7. Changing the subject to evade accountability.
This type of tactic is what I like to call the “What about me?” syndrome. It is a literal digression from the actual topic that works to redirect attention to a different issue altogether. Narcissists don’t want you to be on the topic of holding them accountable for anything, so they will reroute discussions to benefit them. Complaining about their neglectful parenting? They’ll point out a mistake you committed seven years ago. This type of diversion has no limits in terms of time or subject content, and often begins with a sentence like “What about the time when…”
On a macro-level, these diversions work to derail discussions that challenge the status quo. A discussion about gay rights, for example, may be derailed quickly by someone who brings in another social justice issue just to distract people from the main argument.
As Tara Moss, author of Speaking Out: A 21st Century Handbook for Women and Girls, notes, specificity is needed in order to resolve and address issues appropriately – that doesn’t mean that the issues that are being brought up don’t matter, it just means that the specific time and place may not be the best context to discuss them.
Don’t be derailed – if someone pulls a switcheroo on you, you can exercise what I call the “broken record” method and continue stating the facts without giving in to their distractions. Redirect their redirection by saying, “That’s not what I am talking about. Let’s stay focused on the real issue.” If they’re not interested, disengage and spend your energy on something more constructive – like not having a debate with someone who has the mental age of a toddler.
8. Covert and overt threats.
Narcissistic abusers and otherwise toxic people feel very threatened when their excessive sense of entitlement, a false sense of superiority and grandiose sense of self are challenged in any way. They are prone to making unreasonable demands on others – while punishing you for not living up to their impossible to reach expectations.
Rather than tackle disagreements or compromises maturely, they set out to divert you from your right to have your own identity and perspective by attempting to instill fear in you about the consequences of disagreeing or complying with their demands. To them, any challenge results in an ultimatum and “do this or I’ll do that” becomes their daily mantra.
If someone’s reaction to you setting boundaries or having a differing opinion from your own is to threaten you into submission, whether it’s a thinly veiled threat or an overt admission of what they plan to do, this is a red flag of someone who has a high degree of entitlement and has no plans of compromising. Take threats seriously and show the narcissist you mean business; document threats and report them whenever possible and legally feasible.
Narcissists preemptively blow anything they perceive as a threat to their superiority out of proportion. In their world, only they can ever be right and anyone who dares to say otherwise creates a narcissistic injury that results in narcissistic rage. As Mark Goulston, M.D. asserts, narcissistic rage does not result from low self-esteem but rather a high sense of entitlement and a false sense of superiority.
The lowest of the low resort to narcissistic rage in the form of name-calling when they can’t think of a better way to manipulate your opinion or micromanage your emotions. Name-calling is a quick and easy way to put you down, degrade you and insult your intelligence, appearance or behavior while invalidating your right to be a separate person with a right to his or her perspective.
Name-calling can also be used to criticize your beliefs, opinions and insights. A well-researched perspective or informed opinion suddenly becomes “silly” or “idiotic” in the hands of a malignant narcissist or sociopath who feels threatened by it and cannot make a respectful, convincing rebuttal. Rather than target your argument, they target you as a person and seek to undermine your credibility and intelligence in any way they possibly can. It’s important to end any interaction that consists of name-calling and communicate that you won’t tolerate it. Don’t internalize it: realize that they are resorting to name-calling because they are deficient in higher-level methods.
Much of the information from this paper has been extracted from nameless papers with no one to give credit. Compiled by Helen Bair, MAPC