Abusers, narcissists, manipulators, and bullies find us. We do not find them. Why? Because they are powerless and weak and so they prey on people who are vulnerable to their covert aggressive tactics and who will give up their power to them.
Abusers and exploiters and bullies and especially narcissists are masters at pushing pain buttons, making people feel powerless, and getting people to let down their boundaries and getting them to give up their power to them. In fact, they enjoy doing it. They use charm and love as their camouflage. We become unknowingly complicit in our own abuse and exploitation. We innocently expose ourselves to some of the worst abuse and harm imaginable.
Part of healing for those who were victims and continue to be susceptible to their attacks, then, is learning effectively how not to be vulnerable to emotional predators.
Unfortunately, there is no electronic monitor like a home protection system you can purchase to warn you of impending “emotional” predators and attacks. However, you can strengthen your own internal monitors and learn new self-care and self-compassion skills including honing your narcissist radar otherwise known as “NADAR” and honoring and “feeling” for and caring for your own wants and needs with compassion and defending your personal rights and authorities. These include assertively expressing what your rights, authorities, needs, and feelings are and recognizing and regulating your own emotions especially your pain-based ones and learning when they are triggered and who routinely triggers them. Just as important, then, is knowing WHAT makes you happy.
These are normal adaptive habits supporting our emotional health and self-worth and self-assuredness we should have learned in our youth. However, we are not encouraged to and are even ignored and punished for merely taking care of our basic needs in abusive and exploitive childhoods, relationships, and environments. If this is true and continues in your life, then you are in one of the most toxic environments rather than a mutually healthy and respectful one that supports your emotional health. If this is the case, take protective actions immediately. The good news?
Healing and taking your power back will allow you to embrace the new authentic you with love, compassion, caring and a whole new set of “life” and “self-loving” skills. These include assertively expressing your wants, needs, disappointments, viewpoints, and simply saying no. Saying no is a complete sentence and requires no additional explanation. Remember, too, that boundaries control flow in both directions. So be careful not only to protect your boundaries from others but also maintain them steady and not readily share too much information with others that can leave you vulnerable to emotional attackers as well. Read more here.
When in doubt, simply trust your gut instinct, don’t second guess it, recognize your discomfort with the situation, recognize this person as a potential threat, and walk away. Say nothing or if you feel compelled, say something neutral like “I never heard that put that way before,” or “I will have to think about that,” and then remove yourself from the toxic situation as soon as you can.
Remember the TDS rule!
- Minimize your TIME with them;
- Maximize the DISTANCE between you and them; and
- Put SHIELDING or a barrier between you and them.
Assertively saying no and walking away to a safe place allow you to do all three, easily and effectively.
For more information on how to deal with toxic people read this article.
Another, very important and not so obvious lesson relates to the challenges of managing boundaries faced by those with codependent tendencies, heavily reliant on others for self-worth.
Case in point. An abuse survivor with admitted over dependence on others for validation, goes to her sister to let her know how her non-traditional therapy went and was bashed by her sister for the decision she made.
Case in point. An abuse survivor who is far into her healing journey is called daily by a life-long friend who is a serious codependent and people pleaser who uses her friend’s power to sustain herself but does not work on building her own self-assuredness to help her through her personal issues.
What can we learn from these interrelationships on managing personal boundaries?