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Meridian Wellbeing Hypnotherapy

... to achieve lasting change

In-Person Sessions in Stirling or Dunipace, for Central Scotland

Online Sessions UK Wide

**During Tier 4 Restrictions: All sessions help on Zoom only**

Recognising Toxic and Emotionally Abusive Behaviours

(**this page is still under construction**)

"I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers." - Khalil Gibran

The following is a list of toxic behaviours which it is helpful to recognise, and avoid using, to achieve and maintain healthy, productive, open and meaningful communication, connection, relationships, workplaces and communities.


Abandonment

Abuse

Abuse by proxy

ACoAs - Adult Children of Alcoholics/Addicts

ACoNs - Adult Children of Narcissists

Adaptations

Anti-social Personality Disorder

Baiting - behaviours or words used to deliberately provoke a negative response, such as anger, hurt or defensiveness, often used in front of others in an attempt to misrepresent the victim to others

Black Sheep (see Scapegoat)

Boundaries

Circular Arguments

Closure - at the end of an argument, situation or relationship, both parties seek feedback about what went wrong so that they can learn from this experience, and move on in a positive way, with a better sense of understanding and an ability to let the past go. Following a toxic relationship, where the relationship is ended by one party without providing any warning, answers, feedback, explanation or time to adjust, through a lack of compassion, empathy and a general disregard for the feelings or impact on the other person, this provides no natural closure, and so it can be difficult to detach naturally from the relationship and move on, often leaving the recipient distressed or traumatised with significant damage to self.

Conditional love

Countering

Cluster B Personality Disorders

Codependency ?

Cognitive Dissonance

Compassion

C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) a response to repeated and prolonged traumatising or distressing events, such as being in an abusive relationship, bullying workplace, war, or a child in a distressing childhood.

Coping Strategies

Cycle of Narcissistic Abuse - idealize, devalue, discard, and hoover

Defence mechanisms

Deflection

Denial

Devalue - the second stage in the Cycle of Narcissistic Abuse

Devalue

Discard

Discounting (invalidation)

Dissociation

Divide & Conquer

Drama Triangle

Duplicity

Emotional Abuse

Empath

Empathy

Enablers

Enabling

Entitlement

Enmeshment

Exploitativeness

False Flattery a manipulative form of praise or compliment, used to achieve an end or gain control of another person

False Self - to project a false, and more appealing image of oneself to others, particularly during the idolise stage, to hook, mislead or manipulate others.

False Vulnerability a way of creating a sense of intimacy with another person, which can manipulate them to divulge private or personal information that can later be used against them, making them vulnerable

Fauxpology (false guilt) an apology which is not genuine or meant, used to gain favour or control over a situation or person

Flying Monkeys - the name taken from The Wizard of Oz, represents those people recruited by the abuser to do, continue or replicate the abuse on the victim. These may be well-meaning but uninformed, or they may be narcissistic/abusers also.

Future-Faking a type of manipulative control involving making promises of a positive or bright future to keep a victim committed to a relationship, with no intention of fulfilling or achieving this.

Gaslighting - this term originates from the film of the same name where a husband tries to convince his wife and others that she is going insane. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that undermines a target's perceptions of reality and erodes their belief in their own judgement through lying, denial, distortion and invalidation, to the target and reinforced to others about the target.

Ghosting

Golden Child - in a dysfunctional family, the golden child is chosen as the favoured child, and given special status within the family unit. A narcissistic parent will project their beliefs about themselves onto this child, seeing them as an extension rather than separate from themselves. The golden child's identity is often engulfed into the parents, and they may support a narcissist in abusing members of the family in different roles (becoming a flying monkey).

Grandiosity

Grey Rock this is a method of maintaining civil contact with an abusive/narcissistic person, while detaching from them in a way that encourages them to lose interest in you as a source of supply. You basically become as boring and unresponsive to them as a grey rock.

Grooming - when a target is identified as a possible source of supply, they will be tested and prepared for this role by the abuser.

Hoovering - after the discard stage in abuse, an individual can be primed as a source of future supply, by temporarily pulling them back into the relationship, with false declarations of love, or regret. If a source of supply begins to recognise and distance themselves, the abuser will attempt to pull or suck them back into the relationship and under control with fauxologies, promises of false futures etc.

How things look vs how things feel. In narcissism, there is a tendency to be more concerned with how things look or appear to others rather than how things feel to the individual. In a toxic relationship, the focus may be on how the relationship looks on the outside, rather than how it feels on the inside. Others are expected to hide their displeasure or unhappiness to maintain a false positive external appearance to others.

Hypervigilence

Idealise - the first stage in the Cycle of Narcissistic Abuse

Idealisation In the beginning stages of an abusive relationship, the victim is often put on a pedestal, idealised and praised. This is partly because it serves to ensure the victim becomes hooked on seeking to return to this elusive phase again later on in the relationship and in the abuse cycle.

Intermittent Reinforcement Positive reinforcement is presented inconsistently, and sometimes behaviours which received positive reinforcement (praise, love, humour) on one occasion receive negative reinforcement (anger, disapproval, silent treatment) on another occasion. This is confusing and creates insecurity and a sense of uncertainty and a feeling that you are not good enough.

Invalidation

Isolation

Learned Helplessness

Lost Child

Love

Love-Bombing

Machiavellianism

Magical Thinking

Marginalisation

Mascot - the member of a family or group selected to distract from or make light of the dysfunction. This member can seek identity and solace from this role.

Mirroring

Mobbing

Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissistic Amnesia

Narcissistic FOG

Narcissistic Injury

Narcissistic Mirroring

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Rage

Narcissistic Supply - this is what is sought from others such as reinforcement, adulation, power or control. When someone no longer fulfils a source of narcissistic supply, they can be discarded, and a new source of supply sought.

No Contact - stopping all contact with an abusive/toxic/narcissistic person. This is different from the silent treatment because it is done not as a punishment, but as a means of setting up more appropriate boundaries for yourself.


Parentification - when a parent expects a child to take on the role of parenting the parent, their own needs, wants or desires being seen by the parent as more important than the needs of the child. The needs of the child are often left unmet, disregarded or downplayed by the parent.


Pity-plays - coercive behaviour designed to invoke pity, often used when toxic behaviours have been exposed, to take the focus off the pain suffered by the victim, and project it onto the abuser.


Projection - An example of this iswhen a partner having an affair accuses the cheated-on partner of being unfaithful, they are projecting their own behaviour onto their partner. This is not always done consciously, and is a way for the projecting individual to relieve themselves of uncomfortable feelings around their own behaviour.


Protection Guarantee - This is a method of control used by abusers, whereby the victim develops a belief that they cannot survive without the abuser. This can be used in the form of financial support for example.


PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) a response to a single traumatising event


Reacting vs Responding


Ruminating - this is a mental task undertaken to try to understand or make sense of something, such as an event, or interaction, that involved repeatedly going over it again and again. It can be a source of anxiety and distress.


Scapegoat - someone chosen to be blamed disproportionately, often for things they didn't do. A narcissistic parent will often choose one child to fulfil the role of scapegoat, while other children will fulfil other roles (e.g. the Golden Child, The Lost Child, The Mascot). Sometimes the roles will be interchangeable within a family. A scapegoat is often the one most likely to remind the narcissist of their own insecurities or flaws - a child who seeks truth, justice, or expresses higher levels of fairness, empathy, compassion or integrity, and therefore stands up to or voices their concern about the narcissistic behaviours of the parent, will often be scapegoated


Self Esteem (a judgement of own self worth)


Sense of Entitlement - a sense of feeling entitled to special or superior treatment or conditions


Shifting Goalposts A way of keeping a victim off-guard, so that they can never satisfy the abuser, and are always striving to achieve this acceptance and validation. The abuser ensures the victim's efforts are never good enough, as the requirements are changed whenever met. As in gaslighting, the victim is left questioning their own reality, understanding or competence.


Silent Treatment - a type of dysfunctional and controlling behaviour used to communicate displeasure with the victim, and to make them feel insignificant or invisible. This is said to create the same response emotionally as the physical pain of an injury.


Smear Campaigns


"Soul-Mate" Effect


Spite


Splitting


Stonewalling


Strings Attached - when a favour is done, a gift is given, a compliment is paid without sincerity, as a way of manipulating someone into doing or giving something in return, or to create a feeling of obligation


Triangulation


Trauma Bonding


Conditional Love A dysfunctional type of love which is only felt or given when certain conditions are met, such as behaviours match the expectations, needs or demands of the other person. Individual needs, identity or boundaries are disregarded in this type of "love".


Vindictiveness see Machiavellianism


What you do vs Who you are - In narcissism, there is a tendency to value others for what they do, or provide the narcissist, rather than to value others for who they are as an individual. Children brought up by narcissists will often feel that they are only valued for what they do, produce, or provide for others, rather than for who they are as a person, leading to a loss of self, difficulty in maintaining boundaries, and a tendency toward people pleasing and co-dependent behaviours.

Word Salad see circular arguments


What's the harm? The impact on others


Those on the receiving end of these behaviours can experience significant distress, damage to sense of self, anxiety or trauma, and when close to or subjected to these behaviours and thinking maladaptations for significant lengths of time, can display signs of C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and may learn similar adaptations as a coping or survival strategy.

If left unrecognised, these behaviours may then be utilised or even passed on to others, for example when they themselves become parents, perpetuating a dysfunctional cycle . (The subconscious mind will continue to use a learned adaptation that has achieved some success in the past, even a dysfunctional one, until a new or better one is learned).


Some victims of emotional, psychological and narcissistic abuse may begin to display protective behaviours when experiencing Complex-PTSD. These can sometimes be mis-diagnosed as a personality disorder by those unfamiliar with the impact of these types of abuse, the resulting protective responses developed and the trauma experienced. This in itself can be retraumatising for the victim, triggering a familiar pattern of invalidation or questioning of their experience (gaslighting) or misrepresentation of their integrity or sense of self.

In recovery, it is possible to begin to recognise, self manage and replace any unhelpful, protective or adaptive behaviours that are potentially damaging to the individual themselves, or to others, particularly to children.

  • The child won’t feel heard or seen.
  • The child’s feelings and reality will not be acknowledged.
  • The child will be treated like an accessory to the parent, rather than a person.
  • The child will be more valued for what they do (usually for the parent) than for who they are as a person.
  • The child will not learn to identify or trust their own feelings and will grow up with crippling self-doubt.
  • The child will be taught that how they look is more important than how they feel.
  • The child will be fearful of being real, and will instead be taught that image is more important than authenticity.
  • The child will be taught to keep secrets to protect the parent and the family.
  • The child will not be encouraged to develop their own sense of self.
  • The child will feel emotionally empty and not nurtured.
  • The child will learn not to trust others.
  • The child will feel used and manipulated.
  • The child will be there for the parent, rather than the other way around, as it should be.
  • The child’s emotional development will be stunted.
  • The child will feel criticized and judged, rather than accepted and loved.
  • The child will grow frustrated trying to seek love, approval, and attention to no avail.
  • The child will grow up feeling “not good enough.”
  • The child will not have a role model for healthy emotional connections.
  • The child will not learn appropriate boundaries for relationships.
  • The child will not learn healthy self-care, but instead will be at risk of becoming co-dependent (taking care of others to the exclusion of taking care of self).
  • The child will have difficulty with the necessary individuation from the parent as he or she grows older.
  • The child will be taught to seek external validation versus internal validation.
  • The child will get a mixed and crazy-making message of “do well to make me proud as an extension of the parent, but don’t do too well and outshine me.”
  • The child, if outshining the parent, may experience jealousy from the parent.
  • The child is not taught to give credit to self when deserved.
  • The child will ultimately suffer from some level of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and/or anxiety in adulthood.
  • The child will grow up believing he or she is unworthy and unlovable, because if my parent can’t love me, who will?
  • The child is often shamed and humiliated by a narcissistic parent and will grow up with poor self-esteem.
  • The child often will become either a high achiever or a self-saboteur, or both.
  • The child will need trauma recovery and will have to re-parent themselves in adulthood.

Why use toxic, abusive, manipulative and/or controlling behaviours?


The purpose of the subconscious mind is to make things easier for us and to keep us safe. This helps us to understand that everything we do, even the things that we do that we don't like that we do (like overeating, biting our nails or getting impatient with our children), on some level are trying to fulfil a positive purpose - to make things easier for us, to help us to cope better, or to keep us or others safe.


We can understand this to be the case for others too. Others also do things with the positive intention of making things easier for them or keeping them safe, even though the outcomes of their actions may not always achieve this. They may hurt or offend others without that being the intention or focus of their behaviours or words.


Most people have sufficient levels of empathy and compassion to be motivated to learn from the experience, make amends, or find a better, safer, healthier, kinder or fairer way the next time.


However not everyone has this motivation or even capacity. There are individuals who, because of their thinking styles and personality characteristics, may be unconcerned if or when they hurt others while trying to achieve their goals, who feel no remorse for damage they inflict in their pursuits, or who will intentionally hurt others to achieve their goals, seeing others as there primarily to see serve their needs. Others more sadistically gain pleasure or "supply" from the feeling of power or control derived from these behaviours. They actually enjoy seeing others hurting.


If you have had experience of someone displaying these behaviours, it can often take some time to recognise and begin to understand their motivations and limitations, particularly as they are counterintuitive to most people, and he altruism most of us live within. Awareness is essential to begin to protect yourself from, or limit the damage these toxic behaviours and disordered thinking styles can inflict. The likelihood is that you will have leave the interaction, situation or relationship with some degree of cognitive confusion, emotional distress, or trauma.


Identifying "Crazy Making" behavioural adaptations


Three types of personality characteristics have been identified that have the potential to cause significant damage towards others. A person with a personality disorder, as defined in the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual, the DSM-5, thinks, feels, behaves or relates to others very differently from the average person. Many people with these thinking styles will go without diagnosis and broadly without challenge, mainly because they themselves don't recognise their disordered thinking styles as problematic: they often fully believe their behaviours are reasonable and justifiable, and because they may lack remorse, empathy or compassion for those they affect, avoiding self-reflection, they fail to recognise any problem, despite the negative impact on their lives as well as those of others. It is those who come into contact with them that will tend to seek support in order to make sense of and recover from their experiences with them. Indeed, there is some debate as to the appropriateness of the DSM-5 approach, as outlined by the NHS on its introduction in 2013. In this analysis The British Psychological Society criticised the concept of the DSM stating: “We believe that any classification system should begin from the bottom up – starting with specific experiences, problems, symptoms or complaints." The UK mental health charity Mind took a different approach with the charity’s chief executive stating: “Mind knows that for many people affected by a mental health problem, receiving a diagnosis enabled by diagnostic documents like the DSM-5 can be extremely helpful. A diagnosis can provide people with appropriate treatments, and it could give the person access to other support and services, including benefits.”


Machiavellianism (a dysfunctional personality trait)

Narcissism (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)

Psychopathy/Sociopathy (Anti-Social Personality Disorder)


We can all recognise certain negative traits in our own behaviours at times, particularly when we are stressed or under pressure. Personality traits can be seen on a continuum, where in appropriate amounts they may have some positive and practical survival function, but at the extreme, when applied disproportionately they can become negative, damaging, toxic and abusive.


A lack of empathy and compassion are often characteristic of people displaying behaviours at the extreme end of the continuum, where these behaviours are recognised within the framework of a personality disorder. In recovery, it can be helpful to recognise these dysfunctional behaviours or potentially harmful adaptations in thinking style as representing parts of the individual rather than the whole.


What causes some people to behave and think like this?

It is still unclear what causes some people to behave in these disordered and dysfunctional ways towards others, but it is generally agreed that there is a contribution from both nature (they were just born like that) and nurture (they have learned to be like that).


Nature Some people will be born with these personality traits, and it might be that they have inherited the traits. Research continues on possible structural differences in the brain.


Nurture/Learned Sometimes the behaviours are learned, as protective strategies, such as from caregivers who have similar traits, or as coping or survival techniques for distressing or traumatising experiences. Often, those experiencing alcohol or substance abuse will display more and more of these narcissistic type qualities as their condition progresses. Again, there is evidence that some of this may be inherited (nature).


The impact on others

Those close to them can experience significant distress, damage to sense of self, anxiety or trauma, and when close to or subjected to these behaviours and thinking mal-adaptations for significant lengths of time, can display signs of C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and those close to them may learn these adaptations as a coping or survival strategy. If unrecognised, these behaviours may then be used or even passed on when they themselves become parents, continuing a cycle . The subconscious mind will continue to use a learned adaptation that has achieved some success in the past, even a dysfunctional one, until a new or better one is learned.


Some victims of emotional, psychological and narcissistic abuse may begin to display protective behaviours when experiencing Complex-PTSD. These can sometimes be mis-diagnosed as a personality disorder by those unfamiliar with the impact of these types of abuse, the resulting protective responses developed and the trauma experienced. This in itself can be retraumatising for the victim, triggering a familiar pattern of invalidation or questioning of their experience (gaslighting) or misrepresentation of their integrity or sense of self.

In recovery, it is possible to begin to recognise, self manage and replace any unhelpful, protective or adaptive behaviours that are potentially damaging to the individual themselves, or to others, particularly to children.


Coping with Toxic Behaviours


Setting Boundaries


Useful Resources


www.narcissisticandemotionalabuse.co.uk


Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride PhD


Will I Ever Be Free of You? How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist, and Heal Your Family by Karyl McBride PhD