Trauma can be a life changing experience that makes you more vulnerable to becoming involved with abusive people. These abusers can be lovers, spouses, friends, co-workers, bosses, family members, and even strangers. To protect yourself as you heal from trauma, you need to spot the warning signs of an abuser. Let’s take a look at a few signs of abusive behavior.
Lies and Deception
One of the earliest warning signs that someone is an abuser is that they create a false image of themselves that has no relation to reality. For example, they may say that they are a doctor, but they really work as a secretary at a medical clinic. Or, they may claim to have been born in a foreign country when in fact they grew up on a farm in Iowa. When you’re in the process of recovering from trauma, you may be attracted to this person’s charm because you’re looking for the support you need. But be careful and watch to see if reality matches what they say.
Confidence is a good thing, that’s why it attracts many people. But overconfidence or arrogance can be a sign that someone has an abusive personality, especially if their high self-esteem depends on keeping others down. As you build your life after trauma, be careful about embracing people whose self-esteem depends on looking down on others. If a new friend, acquaintance or co-worker is constantly bad-mouthing other people it may be best to steer clear.
Nothing is wrong with a little humorous fun, especially amongst friends. But when that humor is at the expense of someone else it can be abusive. If you have people in your support network who insist on using humor that hurts your feelings, it’s best to keep them at a distance. As a trauma survivor it is important that you set strong boundaries that forbid others from using abusive humor for comic relief.
As you nurture existing relationships and build new ones, it’s important that you stay in contact with your support network. Any new friend (or old one) who only wants to hang out alone and isolate you from other friends or family is showing signs that they’re an abuser. It’s important to see new friends in different social situations so that you can examine how they interact with others. Are they kind, friendly, and considerate? Or, do they show signs of an abuser?
One of the biggest signs that someone is an abuser is that they don’t respect your ‘no.’ As a trauma survivor, it’s important that you practice saying ‘no’ to others. And since you can’t be all things to all people, finding opportunities to say ‘no’ should be easy. The next time you need to say ‘no’ to someone in your life, watch their reaction. Do they sulk? Do they insist on a ‘yes’? Or, do they respect your decision? People who constantly refuse your ‘no’ are showing signs that they’re an abuser.
One of the best ways to stay safe as your recover from trauma and rebuild your social networks is to understand the warning signs of an abuser. Once you see the signs, you must enforce your boundaries and limit your contact with that person.