Double Dragon

Written by on January 29, 2012 in Conversations on the Healing Journey with 2 Comments

As I write about covert abuse, it seems rather significant to me that this year is the Chinese Year of the Dragon.

St George slaying the Dragon

Woodcut frontispiece of Alexander Barclay, Lyfe of Seynt George (Westminster, 1515)

The double dragon graphic in the header of this blog was drawn for me by my oldest daughter, Dionna. In the West, the dragon is perceived as a destructive force, something to be feared and destroyed. Taking the form of the serpent, the dragon symbolizes stealth and deception.

In the East, however, the dragon is a symbol of power and strength. It represents, not destruction, but wisdom and good fortune. The emperors of China used the dragon as a symbol of their imperial power.

One of the dragons from The Nine Dragons

Photographic reproduction of one of the dragons from The Nine Dragons hand scroll; Song-Dynasty Chinese artist Chen Rong, 1244 CE.

I believe these two perceptions make the dragon an appropriate symbol for the topic of covert abuse, especially as Dionna has drawn it — two heads coming out of one body. For in truth, the dragons of opposite qualities exist one within the other, and both realities exist within each person.

Double Dragon graphic by Dionna

The Double Dragon created for me by my oldest daughter, Dionna

Covert abuse has almost become solely associated with narcissists, psychopaths and sociopaths. But while personality disordered people use covert abuse, so do others.

Covert abuse is a behavior. As such, anyone can engage in it. You don’t have to wear a black hat or have a diabolical laugh to choose to manipulate someone. Not everyone who has hidden a put down behind a compliment has a personality disorder.

What’s even harder than to spot covert abuse in others, is to see it in ourselves. But I believe this kind of self awareness is important. When we become aware of the less than above board way we may treat others, even inadvertently, when we become aware of how we handle our negative emotions — whether we express our anger and hurt in appropriate, honest ways or in punishing, covert ways — we can begin to change those behaviors. And when we change our part in the dance with the people in our lives, we change the dance.

As we read information in books and on the web, it’s so easy to recognize these characteristics in people we know. AND if we are involved with people who use covert abuse, then that reality is important to recognize!

But covert abuse and relational aggression isn’t just about how others relate to us or how we relate to others. It’s, also, about how we relate to ourselves, how truthful we are with who we are. And it’s this first relationship that ultimately affects how we treat others.

Some may be indignant I’d suggest such a thing that they could even be capable of engaging in anything like covert abuse or relational aggression, however, it’s true. Whether you’ve ever acted like an aggressor or think you ever could, it’s important to remember that the reality of an aggressor is a possibility and a choice away for each one of us.

People can switch roles as quickly or as slowly as they can change their minds. Agendas shift. Circumstances rise and fall. One moment a person is a target or bystander, the next, an aggressor or a collaborator egging someone on.

If, on this healing journey, accountability, understanding and compassion are to be expected or offered to anyone, it must be to our own selves, as well. For whether as targets or aggressors, we are in the same boat, directed only by the very small, but powerful rudder of choice.

This is not to diminish the destructiveness of the personality disordered or to rate that as the same as someone getting pissed off and giving someone the silent treatment for a while. There are certainly degrees of covert abuse, and for some, the personality disordered, covert abuse is not a bad choice they slip into, but a continuous pattern of choices that ultimately defines who they are and how they live.

But I do believe that nothing closes the door to receiving the full benefit of our experiences, and that of others, than not taking the time to ask one simple question, “How does this apply to me?”

Maybe it doesn’t, but if we don’t ask, we’ll never know, and we will have missed a tremendous opportunity to grow.

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About the Author

About the Author: Demian Yumei, author, singer/songwriter and artist activist, uses spoken, written word and original songs in her human rights activism. She's a long time traveler on the healing journey and has a lifelong love affair with the creative process. .


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  • The Path To Peace-Recovery From Psychopathic Manip says:

    CB, Wow. This is one of the best articles I’ve read in a really long time. Given that I’m in a phase of healing where roots are being pulled up and out and self analysis is in place, this gives me much to ponder. I great appreciate this very much. I especially like the end of the article that clearly separates the covert abuse of those who are not disordered versus those who are. Incredibly good and thanks for sharing it and I’ll share it on the page. Wonderful.

  • Covert Bullying (Abuse) says:

    Thank you so much for your supportive and encouraging words, Path to Peace. I can’t tell you how much it means to me.

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