Are you a self-described crazy woman magnet or crazy man magnet? Have you dated one emotionally unstable, emotionally unavailable and psychologically stunted person after the next? Are the majority of your exes a museum of various personality disorders — narcissists, borderlines, histrionics, dependents, paranoiacs and psychopaths, oh my?
While your former love interests may indeed have been as nutty as the Planter’s Peanut factory, lightning rarely strikes the same place more than once. Therefore, it’s time to look at your role in what attracts you to and attracts Crazy to you. In most cases, it’s a lack of boundaries, a lack of self-respect, faulty relationship beliefs, attitudes and behaviors learned in childhood and being easily manipulated by guilt, obligation, fear and pity.
Pining for a woman or man who mistreats and abuses you and calling it love is, obviously, a problem. For that matter, someone who regularly disrespects and devalues you, who lies to you and cheats on you, who financially exploits you, who undermines you and erodes your self-esteem, who makes you feel invisible — does not love you. None of these things add up to love, and if you believe they do or make excuses for being treated so shabbily you’ve got some work to do.
In other words, it’s time to do some Crazyproofing. It’s kind of like babyproofing, but instead of making a residence safer for a baby or toddler you’ll be making it safer for you to be in relationships. How? By being better able to spot emotional predators, making yourself less attractive to them and by ending your attraction to narcissists and their ilk for good.
1. Identify and understand what attracts you to Crazy types (e.g., narcissists, borderlines and psychopaths).
Mommy and daddy issues. Have the majority of your love interests and relationships been uncannily similar to one or both of your parents? If you grew up with stable, loving good enough parents, great! Odds are you’re able to forge healthy adult attachments. But since you’re reading this article you most likely had some kind of invalidating, self-absorbed, emotionally intrusive/withdrawn, abusive kind of mom or dad who parentified you (i.e., you were the emotional caretaker of one or both your parents).
We tend to be attracted to what’s familiar, even if what’s familiar is toxic and dysfunctional. Combine this with a dash or repetition compulsion (repeating childhood wounds by recreating them in adulthood) in an effort to achieve an emotionally corrective outcome (replaying the earlier hurts or traumata, but with a happier ending) and you have a recipe for repetitive relationship disaster. If the woman or man you’re trying to have a loving relationship with is every bit as screwed up and abusive as your mother or father, you’re just going to replay the old misery instead of achieving mastery over it.
Think about your past relationships or current relationship. What childhood or adolescent relationship dynamic are you recreating with Crazy? What old childhood wound, trauma or rejection are you attempting to heal? Understanding this is essential to breaking your attraction to unhealthy and abusive women and men.
You find Crazy “exciting” and healthy and normal “boring.” Some people get addicted to the drama of abusive relationships. The love bombing or idealization stage is so intoxicating and heady (as well as being pure fantasy and mutual projection), and the devaluation stage so jarring and painful that relationships with healthier, stable men and women will never feel as superficially and suddenly intense. Drinking an espresso just doesn’t compare to snorting a mountain of cocaine. Then again, a daily shot of espresso is unlikely to destroy your body, mind, soul and credit rating.
If this is true of you, you will need to do what I call resetting your emotional thermostat. Meaning, you need to reconsider what love is, your relationship role, relationship expectations, etc. For starters, stable, non-disordered men and women don’t love bomb. No, really, they don’t. During the honeymoon stage you’ll feel infatuation or maybe even some limerence, but it’s not the way over the top, too much too soon experience of love bombing. Intimacy, trust and love take time to grow. It takes time to get to truly know someone. You can’t shortcut it.
Many of the men and women I counsel are convinced that the steady as she or he goes good times they have with stable men and women just don’t compare to the good
times time they had with Crazy. This is bullshit. It’s my opinion that the good times with Crazy seem so much better because of the profound contrast of the extremes in these relationships. It’s not that the good times are so good, but rather that the bad times are so very bad that the good times seem exceptionally good in comparison. The absence of abuse shouldn’t equate to the most amazing time ever!
2. Identify and understand what makes you an easy target for Crazy.
Confusing being nice with being a doormat. Are you a nice guy or a nice gal? Are you conflict avoidant and eager to please? Were you raised to turn the other cheek even when someone is slapping you silly? Do you have a hard time saying no? Do you worry people won’t like you if you don’t let them take advantage of you? Do you believe it’s bad or selfish to put your needs first? If so, you’re walking around with a flashing neon target on your forehead.
You also probably have some misconceptions about what constitutes healthy adult relationships. Odds are you also had a mother or father who didn’t allow you to have or express your feelings and didn’t allow you to have age appropriate no’s (i.e., allowing you to develop a sense of autonomy or your own beliefs, opinions and preferences particularly ones that differed from those of your parents).
Emotionally mature adults can handle being told no or no thank you. Toddlers, narcissists, borderlines, histrionics, psychopaths and other bullies and emotional predators often tantrum and rage or withdraw their love and friendship when told no. In fact, telling a new love interest or friend no and observing how she or he reacts can provide some good insight about the kind of person she or he is. Nice people can and do say no. Nicely.
Lack of boundaries. The only thing tolerating bad or abusive behavior will get you is more of the same. A boundary is your line in the sand in terms of what you will and won’t accept from others, but that’s only half of the equation. Boundaries are meaningless unless you enforce them, in other words deliver a natural and appropriate consequence when someone violates your boundaries.
After exiting an abusive relationship, many of my clients are naturally hypervigilant about spotting red flags and wonder if they’re being paranoid or overly harsh in setting boundaries. Here’s a good rule of thumb: “Once is happenstance; twice is coincidence; the third time it’s enemy action,” (Ian Fleming, Goldfinger). Or, the first time is an accident; the second time is a coincidence; the third time is an established pattern of behavior and the other person is showing you exactly what you can continue to expect from them.
Why are boundaries so difficult to create? Most of the time it’s because we had parents who either didn’t teach us to have boundaries because they didn’t have any or our parents had boundaries, but didn’t allow us to have them (i.e., codependent or disordered parents). Healthy, loving parents help their children develop boundaries, even boundaries with the parents. For example, by a certain age most kids don’t want to kiss or hug mom or dad goodbye before getting on the school bus in front of their friends. Or they don’t want to undress or bathe in front of their parents anymore. Good enough parents respect this and allow it.
Easily manipulated through fear, obligation, guilt and pity. FOG is a well-known acronym to anyone who’s been studying narcissists, borderlines, psychopaths and other abusive personalities for any length of time. Fear, obligation and guilt are typically what keeps people stuck in relationships with Crazy. I’m adding pity to the mix. PFOG isn’t as catchy as far as acronyms go, but so very many of the men and women I’ve counseled stay in these relationships because they feel sorry for Crazy, or don’t think Crazy will be able to survive without him or her.
Spfffffft. In the absence of narcissistic supply it’ll make your head spin how fast Crazy will replace you with another
soul mate enabler. Save your pity and compassion for yourself. Both of these emotions are typically exploited by narcissists, borderlines and psychopaths. Yes, Crazy is pitiable, but only feel sorry for him or her once your are a safe physical and emotional distance away.
Common fears include the myth that Crazy is the only fish in the sea, that you won’t do any better, that all women, men and relationships are “like that,” that you’re unlovable, that you’ve done something to deserve the abuse or that if you set boundaries with or end the relationship with Crazy that he or she will do you real harm or physical violence. If these fears resonate with you, it’s time to do some serious reality testing as well as risk assessment. If you believe your Crazy poses real world threat in terms of physical violence, violence by proxy (using law enforcement by making false allegations) or damage to your career you’re right to feel afraid and should take all legal measures available to you to protect yourself. The MOSAIC Threat Assessment System is a good online tool to asses the level of risk your Crazy poses.
Obligation and guilt usually work in tandem. Obligation says, “You owe me. You promised.” Guilt says, “You’re bad and wrong not to want to be in a relationship with me anymore. It’s your fault I treat you the way I do.” Then Crazy replays the obligation and guilt messages on an endless loop. The only thing you owe to someone who abuses your love and trust is to show him or her the door. Furthermore it’s healthy and right to choose to end a relationship with someone who treats you like crap.
A lack of self-care. Love, wellness and wholeness begin with you. Another person can’t heal your wounds, especially not an abusive person. All they do is pile on. You have to identify your wounds from childhood and past relationships and then give yourself the love and compassion you didn’t receive from your parents and toxic relationship partners.
If you’re taking good emotional and physical care of yourself, if you’re respectful of your body, heart and mind you’re less likely to tolerate disrespect from others. Worried you’re being too sensitive, too controlling or too whatever Crazy says you are when having natural emotional responses of hurt or anger when being abused or mindfucked? Okay. Then ask yourself how Crazy would feel if you did or said the same thing to him or her? Would Crazy be cool with being lied to, cheated on, undermined or ridiculed? Would Crazy be okay with you breaking promises to him or her? Right. I didn’t think so.
Abusive people will often try to make their targets feel guilty or selfish for taking care of themselves. Someone who loves you and wants the best for you supports you in taking good care of yourself. They want you to be healthy and have a well-rounded life. They don’t pout because you go to the gym three times a week or pitch a fit because you play bridge once a month with your friends.
3. Learn to spot the red flags or telltale signs of Crazy.
Pay attention to his or her behavior. Don’t discount the obvious. Sometimes narcissists, borderlines and psychopaths will wave red flags that you can spot from outer space. Other times the danger signs will be more subtle. Nevertheless, most abusers will give you warning signs of their true nature very early on, but you need to be paying attention. Their actions are more important than their words. If a person’s words and deeds are contradictory, the truth lies in their actions — unless they’re on extra good behavior because they’re playing to an audience (i.e., engaging in image management).
When you notice these things don’t minimize, rationalize or justify the hurtful, irrational or just plain bizarre behavior. Having a bad childhood or trauma history doesn’t excuse abusing others as an adult. It might explain the behavior, but it doesn’t excuse it.
Pay attention to your feelings and your behavior. If you meet a man or woman and feel like you already know them or have always known them it’s most likely one of two things. There are some people with whom we share a natural affinity and that’s beautiful. Then there are people whom our unconscious minds immediately recognize as yet another opportunity to hop back onto the the Crazy-Go-Round. If you’ve done your own work, instead of running toward these individuals you’ll want to walk in the other direction.
Or, if you choose to begin a relationship or friendship and find yourself feeling on edge, afraid of upsetting him or her, feeling like you can’t live without him or her, feeling not good enough around them, waiting for the other shoe to drop or feel like nothing you do is good enough, ask yourself why. What is going on? These are all indicators you’re probably not in a healthy relationship. Then examine your behavior vs. his or her behavior. If your boyfriend or girlfriend treated you like you treat them how would you feel? How would you respond to them? If you treated your boyfriend or girlfriend like they treat you how would they likely respond? What would you tell your brother, sister, son, daughter or best friend if they had a boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse who was treating them like your partner treats you?
There are many other practices and strategies you can do to Crazyproof yourself, which we’ll explore in future articles. The ones above, in my opinion, are the most basic and important. If you want things to be different in your life, including better quality relationship with healthy people, you have to get healthier and begin making better choices. You can educate yourself to the point of becoming an expert in personality disorders and red flag detection, but unless you develop and enforce healthy boundaries and respect and love yourself, all of that information is for naught. Having healthy boundaries and self-respect is the best defense and very best Crazyproofing practice.
Original source article HERE.
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Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides individual services to help individuals work through their relationship issues via telephone or Skype, particularly men and women who trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Services page for professional inquiries.