Covert abuse can be used infrequently or often. For some it’s a way of life.
Covert abuse is insidious and potentially devastating. It undermines the foundation of trust within yourself and those around you. It can destroy what may have taken a lifetime to build.
It’s important then to be able to recognize the signs of covert abuse – better to prevent or circumvent than to repair – without becoming suspicious, paranoid or cynical. Often, this ability to trust, to feel safe is the price you pay in your encounter with a covert abuser. To give up those things in an effort to prevent others from taking them defeats your own purpose.
In this exploration we will focus on behavior. Not labels or even diagnoses, like narcissism. Narcissists do an incredible amount of damage, and they are experts at covert abuse, but it’s too easy to pin a label on someone.
A girl snubs us? She’s one of those “mean girls”. A man or woman thoughtlessly tosses our heart on the wayside or habitually lies? They must have narcissistic personality disorder.
Well, that may be, but the value of the answer to the question as to whether one is a bona fide “mean girl” or is narcissistic personality disordered depends on the extent to which that knowledge widens our options or serves to empowers us.
We have to be careful a label doesn’t strait jacket any hope of possible resolution with the prejudices that come with that label. And we need to be mindful a label doesn’t become some kind of magical permission slip, without which we are unable to take action.
It’s not uncommon for victims of covert abuse to ask whether or not their abuser has a personality disorder or some other psychological diagnosable issue.
It’s understandable to attempt to make sense of senseless behavior and there is merit in the asking. Sometimes, we can’t see just how much danger we are in until we realize the seriousness of a person’s psychological frame of mind. In this case a label or diagnosis can finally give us a handle to what has been confusing, and confounding us for so long.
But if the reason we ask is to give ourselves permission to leave, then we don’t need it. And it may be dangerous or at least debilitating to wait for the answer.
Do we really need a label or diagnosis to tell us something is very seriously wrong if we are living in a constant or reoccurring state of pain? No, we don’t.
Do we need a label or diagnosis to leave a situation that is clearly hurting us or our children? No, we don’t.
And if we don’t have a label or diagnosis, does that make how we’ve been treated or the threat of danger we live under any less real or serious? No, it doesn’t.
How we and our loved ones are treated is more important than the pronouncement of a doctor or social worker. Whether or not our children are safe, the impact another person has on our safety and our well-being is what matters.
What anyone says, professional or the abuser, is not the bottom line. Your happiness, your safety and peace of mind and those of your children are.
Clinical diagnoses are beyond the scope of this book (blog). Ways you can recognize and protect yourself from abusive behavior, regardless the mental and emotional health of your abuser, is what you will find here.
Learn as much as you can, but do not place so much weight on labels or medical diagnostic assessments that you wait for them, before doing what is right for you or your children. People can be misdiagnosed or may refuse to be diagnosed, at all.
You may never get an accurate assessment except your life and the impact another person has on it.
And that, when all is said and done, is what counts.