Sometimes Charm Should Sound An Alarm

The Nature of Charm and Charmers

Charm is an interesting personal characteristic. It’s an inherently attractive trait. But exactly what it represents is often hard to discern. That’s because charm can be the mere manifestation of amiable traits in a decent individual’s personality. However, it can also represent a disturbed character’s way of seducing, manipulating, and exploiting.

Unfortunately, these days, it’s harder than ever to differentiate a genuinely decent individual who happens possess charm and charisma from a charmer with a hidden, nefarious motive. So, it’s worth taking a closer look at the nature of charm and the different personalities who might display it.

All charming folks have certain personality characteristics. They tend to:

  • Seem genuinely glad to meet or reconnect with you. They make good eye contact. And their eyes light up when they encounter you. This can make you feel instantly valued.
  • Put you at ease. They’re generally easy-going folks. And they create the kind of atmosphere that naturally invites you to relax and open up.
  • Are affirming. They seem to “get you.” And they seem to like what they see. They make you feel good about yourself.
  • Display an ease of connection. They have great interpersonal connective skill.
  • Seem comfortable enough in their own skin to be kind and gentle toward others.
Benign Charmers Versus Charming Narcissists

Charming and charismatic folks can be of genuinely decent character. But some narcissistic and other nefarious characters are also capable of great charm. So, how do you know when someone’s charm should sound an alarm? That’s very hard to tell, especially these days. But there are some subtle signs to look out for:

  • Too much, too fast. In putting you at ease and allowing you to open up, you might find yourself disclosing too much, too quickly. And this could well be the result of a person with their own poor boundaries and limits getting you to surrender your necessary boundaries and limits.
  • Interest not match by regard. I’ve written about this several times before. Someone’s interest in you doesn’t mean they have true regard for you. The best indicator of a person’s capacity for genuine regard lies in their intimate relationship history. Narcissitic charmers often have had many relaitonships, few of which were characterized by depth and genuine commitment.
  • Affirmation of a particular kind. Charmers are notoriously affirming, which always feels good. But beware. If the qualities the charmer affirms in you are the same qualities they’re enamored of in themselves, you may well be dealing with a narcissist.
  • Selective gentleness and kindness. It’s easy to be gentle and kind when you can reasonably expect gentleness and kindness returned. And it’s easy to show acceptance when you’re confident of being accepted. What tells the whole story is what happens when a person is slighted, confronted, criticized, or called-out on something. That’s when narcissistic insult can turn into narcissistic rage.
  • Smugness (SEE BELOW!)
Charm and Smugness

As I’ve described many times before, narcissists come in two main varieties: vulnerable and grandiose. Relatively speaking, vulnerable, compensatory, “neurotic” types are more benign. Grandiose types, however, will almost always do you in. And these types often have a characteristic smugness that they cannot hide. (See also, Character Disturbance, pp 85-86).

Some narcissists are more than cocky. They’re more than confident, too. They exude a smug demeanor that lets you know that they’re acutely aware of how interpersonally skilled they are. Smugness is a reliable red flag for character disturbance of the worst kind. When you witness it, it should always sound an alarm.

Some charmers know how easily they endear others and cause them to swoon. And some can’t help brandishing pride in their skill. So, here’s the general rule: When you encounter someone who exudes both charm and smugness – run!

Character Matters

Follow this link to the latest Character Matters podcast. The program wraps up the discussion on mastering appetites and aversions.

20 thoughts on “Sometimes Charm Should Sound An Alarm

  1. Sometimes its hard to tell, if I have a red flag go up I proceed with caution and just watch. There’s nothing but destruction with narcs so I try to stay away as much as possible. If I had to work with one I think I would find another job.

    1. Kat,

      My former boss is a narcissist, who’s lack of people skills and sheer arrogance got him fired, basically for sexual harassment. I started looking for a new job when he called me in my off time twice to yell at me for the same thing. If he hadn’t been my boss, I’d have hung up on him, and as I told HR and my administrator, he’s not to be calling me on my day off, anything that needs to be said can be dealt with during my work day, and will be done with someone else in the room. I’ve since had 2 other offers that pay $10/hr more, and an interview at the University.

      The problem is if you encounter another narcissist in your new job. I’m a nurse, so I’m good at documentation, key to covering your butt. Being a professional and having good boundaries is essential.

      You also have to be careful with self-disclosure in the workplace. Keeping work and personal lives separated. I’m also careful about socializing with people I work with. The gossip that inevitably happens increases your stress level. And I have no social media accounts. It keeps my personal life a closed book.

      A narcissist teaches about no boundaries. And will resent any you do set, and they’ll push them too.

      I also go to great length to avoid them at work when I run into one. Narcissists are very good at putting on a performance. You have to be good at spotting bad acting.

  2. Within our “family” dynamic there were two distinct narcs at the helm. The tentacles of an ex spouse narc and the puppet strings of a daughter in law narc, both of them covert were separately creating chaos and self doubt within my marriage.
    The two narcs didn’t have the same objective but in the end made a “family” of 8 dwindle to 3. We stood our ground and the peace from being estranged has been priceless.
    Those who stayed to be the narcs minions have most certainly moved on to other moving targets most probably turning on each other:)
    Never doubt the “gut feeling” when you know something isn’t right.

    1. D,
      Its just uncanny how they can destroy relationships. My daughter destroyed my relationship with her daughter, her daughter knew not to transgress outside of her mothers wishes. They would gang up on me and try to belittle. Meanwhile managing their image to others so they looked good. I just never understand the minions but there always seem to be more of them than the ones that can see through it. Its sad, but its not in my control, protecting myself is.

      1. Kat, tearing down relationships is their forte. To witness their “charm” being bestowed on the oblivious is a loathsome sight, I even have a visceral reaction hearing their names.

        I am so grateful there are healthy people in my immediate family circle, people who have no agenda, and friends who have experienced some of the things we have, friends who are flabbergasted by the estrangement because they know who we really are. This is what we turned to back in our darkest days, that we know we are decent people. Our days are brighter because we KNOW we won’t be included, its a big difference in wondering why we weren’t included. Here’s to no more silent treatments:)

  3. Something I’ve noticed with the‘narcissistic’ charm of the disturbed character is the lack of details in relating their own backgrounds and stories, basically, the lack of equal reciprocation. I also have noticed if one ‘pushes’ for details, they get angry, frustrated, dismissive and place a very solid boundary (whether verbal or non verbal.) against further inquiry.

    I also think this has an added benefit of testing the target to see if they are willing to accept the boundary and lack of reciprocity.

    While I actually consider myself to have good boundaries, figuring the person has a right to not share just as I have a right to share, and will ‘open up’ in time, I suspect that a person who has charmed and encouraged you to share or even over share but is not willing to do the same is character disturbed and one should walk away.

    1. Charlie,

      Well stated.

      I’ve noticed that too. They ask a lot of personal questions, but do not answer personal questions or share anything personal (no vulnerability). If they offer anything about their life, it’s about someone else in their life (child, spouse, etc…).

      God point about it likely being a test as well. They do like to test/push boundaries.

      I’ve learned if someone asks a lot of questions and seems interested in me but is not willing to respond to my inquiries (reciprocation), it’s my cue to pull back and/or shut down the conversation and get away.

      Also with the folks that hammer you with questions rapid fire and it’s more like an interrogation than a conversation. I run.

      Agreed!

      As an aside, I totally relate to your recent response to Dr. Simon. Being raised in that environment necessitates either over conscientiousness or going the opposite direction for pure survival. My eldest sibling decided to beat them at their own game. She was worse than both of them combined.

      1. Mindful,

        I’ve also noticed the tendency of ‘going the opposite direction for pure survival.’ I have coined it, ‘When in Rome, Do as the Romans.’ The behaviors associated with narcissism seem to become a power play. The most selfish, vengeful, rageful person holds the most power. I made a promise to myself before I was even a teenager to never become like that, so everything well thought out, over consciencious. Even as a child I could see how utterly miserable and unhappy they are, not that I feel bad for them and their poor choices.

        Unfortunately, it never occurred to me that the familiar feeling I had when I met my ex-husband wasn’t because he was a soul mate but because on some unconscious level I picked up that he was like my family. Strangely, his family is the same just in a very different way. Covert to my family’s overt. Conforming to my family’s non conforming. It was a lot harder going from overt to covert aggression. I knew what overt looks like and when I would point out issues he would say I was getting him confused with ‘my family issues.’ They are very difficult people.

        I wasn’t thinking of those two types of charmers when I typed that but you are absolutely accurate and explains my neighbors behavior. (Some days I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of narcissism! Ha!)

        I was actually thinking of the person who doesn’t want to talk about their previously relationships or the other type with their ex or family is ‘crazy.’

        My ex-husband didn’t want to discuss his long term ex-girlfriend at all. Didn’t want to say anything negative about her. I thought that was a good trait but I now see it as a sign. Two sides of the same coin.

        When I ‘pushed’ I got the above response. I also have seen the same with the my-ex-is-crazy/awful type as well. If you ask questions to get a fuller perspective or context, it’s the above response as well. I have also noticed that if they actually answer the question, what they said or did was way worse than the crazy/awful response.

        An example is a guy who was moaning over the cruelty, unfair treatment he received with a restraining order from his wife barring him from her and their daughter. This high school teacher, highly respected in the community person had everyone’s sympathy and outrage until I ‘pushed’ (restraining orders aren’t just baseless accusations) and he reluctantly admitted he ‘got mad’ and threw his free weights and the lifting bench INTO her garaged car, totaling it, because she was late in coming home from a shopping trip with girlfriends.

        Interestingly, I noticed that everyone in the group got extremely uncomfortable and avoidant, then the subject changed and everyone just went right back to normal, treating him like they always did. When I mentioned the incident to one of the group the next day, she said either she didn’t hear it or didn’t remember it. So strange!

  4. Charlie,

    I think that is very common with abuse survivors/victims – we succumb to the familiar feeling we get from abusers and mistake it for something else.

    Looking back, I was young and desperate (left at 16 when my father hit me for sticking up for myself) and he seemed strong, capable and easy going. Well, that mask didn’t stay on long after he had me. He would laugh in my face when I got upset. I get angry just thinking about it.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m turning into someone who’s very uncomfortable talking about my past relationships. For one, risking it – are they going to use it against me? Second – how do you go about explaining it to someone who hasn’t experienced it? It would take a long time and lots of experiences with a person and a deep level of trust before I would be that vulnerable. I’ve been burned too many times. I’m deeply guarded at this point. I’m pretty vague – we wanted different things, we had different ideas about marriage, values, etc..

    It never ceases to amaze me how folks like the high school teacher whine (pretend to be the victim) about their having been consequences for their behavior. He clearly feels entitled to behave like that. Unfortunately, the fact that others go along with it, reinforces those behaviors and beliefs. It is strange. I think most people just aren’t willing to risk making a stand. It’s uncomfortable for a reason – it’s not healthy.

    I hear you about neighbors! I have a few and they are the aggressive sort. I give them no air time.

    I have met a new one and I’m trying to figure him out (he’s on my walking route). I can’t tell if he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing or just not well. He’s in his mid 60’s and does a lot of work for people in the neighborhood – mostly older folks. He watches out for his 87 year old neighbor. Brings him food and takes him for doctor appointments. But as I hear him talk, he tells me about how he gets things from them – like they sell him their car for cheap and he resells it. I wonder if the 87 year old neighbor (who is fairly well off) has family and if this guy is angling to inherit from him. Can’t tell if he’s generous with his time and energy and gets some privileges for it or if he’s strategic with it.

    He’s made a point of telling me he doesn’t value his life several times now. He’s devoted to his dog and said he wants to live for her, but after that, it doesn’t matter. How does one respond to that? I keep thinking ‘why is he saying that to me?’ It doesn’t strike me as a cry for help. It feels more manipulative. I feel angry instead of compelled to help him. Playing on my sympathies.

    He’s clearly not well. Talks a lot about himself. At this point, I only occasionally go past his home (which is a shame, I like Gino, the 87 year old! He’s adorable.).

  5. Mindful,

    I have the same concerns and conflict as you expressed regarding discussing my marriage. I know ‘my family problems’ made me an attractive target to my ex-husband. So discussing ‘my family problems’ and ‘my marriage problems’ would create the same vulnerability and perhaps more than before. And, yes, how do you explain to someone who has no experience with this. Through my experience, I’ve learned that there is a stigma attached to abuse. Interestingly, the stigma is attached to the abused (what did you do, what is wrong with you, why did you stay) and not the abuser. Again, so strange.

    I think, regarding your neighbor, you should trust your instinct. If what he’s saying isn’t illiciting a genuine emotional empathetic response from you, then I would pay attention to that presuming you have average or above average emotional empathy.

    One of the things I noticed in my marriage is that I would NOT have a genuine emotional empathetic response to my ex-husband’s ‘distress.’ He would cry and sob and say look at him–“I’m an army, airborne ranger and you broke me!” I would feel absolutely nothing, like a blank slate, then wonder what the hell was wrong with me that I could feel nothing at his distress, then work to kick in the cognitive empathy. I know now, I felt nothing because it was an act, he didn’t actually feel the emotions he was projecting so there was nothing for me to emotionally connect to empathetically. And as soon as I became at least cognitively empathetic, the ‘distress’ was gone in a finger snap and everything went back to normal. It was disorienting, confusing and a bit creepy the way a huge emotional moment just ended like turning off a light switch. I didn’t understand what that meant back then.

    I’m reserved and guarded as well. I’ve also become skeptical and rather cynical as well. I’ve also socially isolated myself. I know the psychologists would deem that as unhealthy but, honestly, it’s such a relief to not feel obligated to interact much with others. How does one connect with others even on a superficial social level when you’re analyzing a person like a bug under a microscope as a potential threat? Someone does something nice (like the neighbor you described) and I wonder what’s their angle, what are they getting out of this. Friendly and nice to me, total turnoff, I figure they’re luring me into their web.

    Honestly, I find it exhausting to have to constantly remind myself to be constantly on guard. It is not my natural personality so it’s alot of work and as I said exhausting. It takes the sparkle out of life, sucks the enjoyment out of everything when you just can’t relax and be yourself because yourself makes you vulnerable as a target. I’ll tell myself to stop guarding, stop analyzing just enjoy a little social encounter, then I bump into reality like the high school teacher story I discussed previously. And, unfortunately, the high school teacher isn’t who caused me the distress or the feeling of threat. The rest of the group in their lack of response is what causes me the issues, the lack of safety.

    I think, once you’ve really seen, really experienced the darkness of mankind, you can’t turn that knowledge off. You certainly can’t afford to look away because you know it will come for you again. Well, I’m starting to sound rather melodramatic and a bit paranoid. The sad part, as much as I’d like to dismiss what I’ve said, what I think as paranoid melodrama, I also know is true. I used to say to myself, when my ex-husbands behavior really creeped me out, “Girl, get a grip, you’re not living in a Lifetime movie.” But it would seem that I was and now I’m not sure how to, I don’t know, just be, if that makes sense.

    1. Charlie,

      I also believe their is a stigma for survivors. There’s also the concern that it gives people the idea that you are an easy target and that maybe they can push too and get away with it, when that never would have occurred to them before. I was warned about this by a therapist. She said it sometimes gives people who are not normally abusive ideas. Human nature I guess.

      Working off that and experiences of being repeatedly targeted, it makes one very reluctant to be vulnerable.

      Yes! They are projecting so it does not connect. Makes so much sense. It’s a big act to pull on your heart strings so they can get their way/play the victim. Assholes.

      “Honestly, I find it exhausting to have to constantly remind myself to be constantly on guard. It is not my natural personality so it’s alot of work and as I said exhausting. It takes the sparkle out of life, sucks the enjoyment out of everything when you just can’t relax and be yourself because yourself makes you vulnerable as a target.” Yep. I feel so much relief at home. It’s so exhausting dealing with most people. I have a couple of places I go regularly (library/health food store) that I know the folks there and feel relaxed, safe, and comfortable. It’s a nice social outlet.

      “I think, once you’ve really seen, really experienced the darkness of mankind, you can’t turn that knowledge off. You certainly can’t afford to look away because you know it will come for you again.” So true! I read somewhere that it changes people forever. That sense of safety in the world is stripped away. Dealing with narcs makes you paranoid and there are so many out in the world. But, it’s not paranoia when it’s really happening! I was pretty naive about human nature. It was a horrible wake up call. People can be truly awful. So ruthless.

      Not sure how to just be….makes perfect sense to me. I’m learning how to just be while also learning to be safe while doing so. I used to be very happy -go-lucky and sociable. Friendly. I’m still fairly friendly, but guarded. I had poor boundaries/limits before and they are much better now and that really helps.
      I don’t judge myself for my current choice to limit social interactions. It’s a perfectly healthy response to being repeatedly targeted by people who see my gentle nature and vulnerabilities as an invitation to abuse, the evil beings they are.

      1. Charlie, All

        Was doing some searching online and came across this post and part of it reflects what we were discussing about going one way or the other in response to our upbringing. I thought perhaps it would be interesting to you and others as well.

        How to Know if You’re the Parent of Adult Narcissistic Children

        Children learn how the world works through the almighty lenses of their caretakers, and research rooted in attachment theories shows that. When a caretaker attunes appropriately to the child’s feelings and needs, the child subsequently experiences safety and security.

        However, in narcissistic families, children experience repeated incidents of their parent misattuning, misaligning, or downright ignoring their feelings. The parent does not validate the child’s emotions; the parent validates whatever is in the parent’s best interest.

        The narcissistic parent may punish children for crying, shame them for experiencing fear, and even quell them when expressing ‘too much’ happiness. In other words? Children learn that their feelings are erratic and unsafe. They learn that they are a source of problems.

        For this reason, many children grow up believing that feelings must be suppressed. To achieve this suppression, we see many children of narcissists struggle with substance use, eating disorders, self-harm, and other impulsive or compulsive lifestyles.

        After all, if they’ve experienced compounded years of condemnation for having feelings, why should they feel safe within their own emotional selves? In many cases, this can cause a child to form the narcissism defense mechanism. (In other cases, children will form the codependent defense mechanism).

        There are a few signs of narcissistic behavior that parents should watch out for:

        Inflated ego: The narcissist has a huge ego. Narcissistic adult children demand that you do what they want, try to control you, and push every boundary. Every time you give them what they want, they demand something else. They say your job is to make them happy.

        Need for validation: A narcissist needs constant admiration. Often, they need praise for simple tasks, like making an appearance at your birthday party. You may find yourself giving your narcissistic adult child an inordinate amount of praise over something that’s a normal and expected part of family life.

        A sense of entitlement: The narcissist feels entitled to things they should have to work for. For example, they may demand ridiculous things like financial support well into adulthood. Or, tasks they should be doing themselves, but you find yourself performing…such as doing their laundry and folding their clothes, filling out their job applications, calling into work sick for them, or fixing their breakfast or lunch to take to work.

        Exploitation: A narcissist acts without conscience, thinking only of themselves. They lie, trick and steal to get what they want. This exploitation can be glaringly obvious or very subtle, so be on the lookout if you feel used. This may manifest as their throwing temper tantrums, blackmailing you by withholding their love or your grandchildren, trying to entice you with sweetness and affection when they want something, and blaming their behavior on you.

        Distorted thinking: A narcissist occupies a fantastical world where he or she is the greatest and most important person in the universe. In order to maintain the fantasy, narcissists lie. They often deny things that are obvious. They may make up fantastical tales to support the fantasy.

        Unpleasant personality: Contempt and belittlement are the narcissists’ tools of choice. When they feel threatened by success, they get mean. Watch out for those who are constantly putting down other peoples’ accomplishments. You may find your narcissistic adult child talking badly about their friends behind their backs, but pretending to care for them when these same friends come around.

        How Normal Toddlers Grow to Become Adult Narcissistic Children

        Narcissism is a condition that forms early on and manifests more clearly in adults. However, doctors are reluctant to diagnose and treat the disorder in people under 18. That’s because it can be tricky to discern whether the behaviors listed above are the result of narcissism or normal childhood selfishness.

        So how did this happen? There are a number of probable causes for narcissistic behavior:

        Genetics: Inherited genetics are believed in some cases to be the reason for the development of narcissism, which oftentimes forms in childhood. That’s why it’s so important not to have children with anybody who shows signs of narcissism in the first place. They could pass this disorder on to the kids.

        Neurobiology: There have been some studies on patients with diagnosed NPD which show that neurobiology may play a role in narcissism. A narcissist’s brain simply may not work the same way as yours. They process others’ feelings, yet feel no empathy.

        Environment: Certain familial environments seem to nurture this disorder. They include living with a narcissistic parent in an absence of love and affection, or in a highly competitive environment. Neglect, abuse and even excessive idolization of a child can contribute. Most children who grow up with a narcissistic parent in the household typically either become narcissists or codependents as adults.

        1. Thanks, Mindful,

          This is a great article and is very descriptive of how narcissism is experienced. One thing, though, it seems to contain a logical fallacy.

          The article seems to be supportive towards parents with narcissistic children but it also labels the narcissistic children as the children of narcissists. It discusses the lack of the caretakers (which would be the parents) as part of attachment theory and goes onto discuss genetics, neurobiology (which a case could be made is part of genetics) and environment (parents again.)

          I’m not sure if the parents of narcissist children would agree they’re at fault or are reaping what they’ve sewn. Maybe. I know there are quite a few commentor’s on the blog that are struggling with narcissistic children.

          The article definitely supports our discussion of the ‘When in Rome’ concept and become worse than their parents or narcissistic family members.

      2. Mindful,

        Sorry for the delay, I got very busy and I also needed a brief separation from the discussion. I’ve noticed when I discuss this subject for too long, it gets in my head and I re-experience the trauma with flashbacks, nightmares, and being easily startled. I needed to calm things down before re-engaging.

        I believe that part of the stigma that abuse survivors endure is regarding value or worth. When another person, even those who are not by nature ‘abusive,’ learn, see, hear another person being abused or mistreated, it lessens the abused person’s value or worth. When parents, friends, relatives, spouse treats or treated an individual poorly, it influences how others see this individual. Even when a relationship is formed before the knowledge of abuse, learning about the abuse changes the relationship. We are a society that believes in cause and effect, reward and punishment. While we talk about abuse in our society, we really haven’t properly defined it, explained it. We still see it as an anger management issue not the poor, destructive, malevolent behavior of someone of poor character.

        So if someone is acting ‘abusively,’ there is always the question of is it deserved, did you do something to ‘earn’ that treatment. (It takes two to tango as the saying goes.). And, you have caused them to become angry so you must have done something wrong. (Abusers rarely say, “Hey, I’m an abusive asshole and it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do, I’ll mistreat you when and how I see fit.”). And while society sees the ‘abuser’s’ response isn’t acceptable or appropriate, it’s not seen as it’s truly intended. So not only is it difficult for the person in the abusive relationship to fully recognize the deliberate, malicious intent of the mistreatment, outsiders cannot recognize it either. It’s why the abused holds onto hope for so long that the abuser will see the error of their ways and change.

        This is why Dr. Simon’s books and blog is so important. It’s about the character of the individual. Those that use and abuse in their relationships are the bottom of the barrel in character. They ruthlessly take advantage and harm people who love, trust, and respect them. I can think of no worse person in society and I say, “You show me a violent criminal and I’ll show you relational abuse.” I see abuse as a gateway to other violent acts. The abuse may always stay in the home but more likely it will destructively leak out onto other areas of life in its various ways.

        Well, I obviously cannot speak to your personal boundaries, but my belief is for psychologists to harp on boundaries, co dependency, addictions, people pleasing, etcetera ad nauseam, is akin to discussing with a rape victim their clothing choices, behavior, language, lack of self defense skills that may have ‘invited’ or failed to stop the rape. It really wasn’t long ago that people asked rape victims, ‘why didn’t you fight, why didn’t you run away?’ Or ‘what were you wearing, did you flirt?’ And thinking maybe that person wawanted to be raped. One day, I believe, psychologists will acknowledge the similarities, stop blaming the victims, and working to fix the victims.

        Abuse is about what the abuser is doing not what the abused does or does not do. It’s about power, control, entitlement and justification. I think sadism is in there as well–the abuser enjoys tormenting his or her target. And, psychologists inadvertently (hopefully) support and reinforce the abuser’s rhetoric of ‘What about what you do? If you didn’t do xyz then I wouldn’t do abc.’

        ‘If you didn’t have such weak boundaries, such poor self esteem, such poor self worth then this wouldn’t have happened to you.’ This is the message sent and received by therapists. Honestly, is it any wonder why so many stay with their abusers? It’s hard to tell where they’re mistreated worse. This has caused me more trauma than what I was already experiencing. It’s this that completely broke me for quite some time. I held onto life by my fingernails some day.

        I too had a ‘therapist’ try to work on my ‘soft boundaries.’ It ended poorly and was quite damaging. Long story short, she would instruct me on how to ‘have firm boundaries’ of which I was then expected put into practice despite stating my serious misgivings about challenging the status quo which I was already having difficulty coping.

        The realty is boundaries to abusive individuals is the equivalent of waving a red flag at a bull, charge and attack! It created a lot more stress, more of the volatility, more of the chaos. Since I was seeing her because I was having trouble coping with the behaviors of both my parents and my spouse, making my situation worse was certainly not therapeutic.

        In reality, my boundaries were under assault so they did have to soften/weaken in order to safely, calmly deal with the individuals in my life. Adding firm boundaries simply upped the intensity of the conflict since those who abuse want those boundaries down, gone. Boundaries are an affront to their senses! So my boundaries were fine everywhere else, truthfully, they were fine at home as well which is why I was dealing with so much conflict even I as softened them.

        My belief is the focus on boundaries should not be how to uphold them, but what it says about the character of the person or persons mowing them down. That should be the focus in boundary discussions the intent, knowledge of the individual not adhering to another individual’s boundaries. And, let’s face it, most boundaries are inherent in society. No neighbor needs a clearly stated, clearly defined discussion on the inherent wrongness of building their shed over their property line onto your property. Imagine if your new neighbor knocks on your door and clearly states their boundaries and the expectations they have for you. You would say They have Bad boundaries! I’m not sure if the therapists would agree though.

        So I think how psychology is teaching about boundaries is destructive. I believe the purpose of a boundary discussion is not to ‘set’ boundaries but to inform someone of boundaries being crossed to assess their response. If someone says, ‘OMG, sorry, I didn’t know/realize!’ then no problem, they know now. But, reality? Conflicts, fights, spite, vindictiveness, hurt feelings with a decided lack or concern or care over crossed boundaries. That really should tell you who that person is and what their character is about. And, reality check again, abusive people have the firmest boundaries. They do not allow what they do to others to be done to them.

        I digressed, back to my experience, I then had to defend my boundaries from the therapist. I am not going to poke the bear when I already am struggling to cope with the conflict and chaos. Of course her justification of ignoring my boundary was she was my therapist. My response was that’s the same justification my parents and my husband uses to run over my boundaries in the first place–they’re my parents, my husband. Everyone thinks they’re special, they’re entitled and we are never more vulnerable then when we’re going for therapy.

        So anyway, like you, my nature is friendly, positive, happy-go-lucky, upbeat. I still get a lot of comments and maybe even more now about how pleasant and happy my little store visits are, how much they look forward to my visits. (Like you I’m a regular in some places.). I look forward to those little positive social encounters but it’s not the same as having friends, family.

        1. Charlie,

          I’m just seeing this now, sorry for the delay. I totally get the needing a break from the discussion.

          Currently a bit overwhelmed so I cannot pull it together to adequately respond, so I’ll sum it up with: Tremendous, well thought out and, in my opinion, accurate take these issues.

          1. Thank you! I’m glad you think that way. I’ve moved so far from the accepted psychology that I often wonder if I’m experiencing things differently than others. I wonder if I’m off kilter or my situation is unique.

            One of the great things about Dr. Simon and his work is the way he’s broken away from traditional psychology regarding motives and the character of disturbed people based on his experiences. I don’t know that he’s done the same with the victims or targets of these disturbed characters.

  6. All,

    Wondering if running into one these sorts triggers rage in you?

    Had one today trying to control me and I’m stunned by the rage I feel.

    Think my cancer is rearing it’s ugly head again, so that may be part of it too, but this guy and his entitled behavior just wants to make me scream.

    Anyone else have that reaction to someones controlling/entitled/rude, then seductive behavior?

  7. Mindful,

    In short, yes, absolutely, yes! I have been and still worry about being lured into another relationship with a similar character. But one thing that concerns but also reassures me is the instant, nearly overwhelming rage I feel that gets triggered by similar behaviors. I’ve noticed that I may not even be fully aware of what was done or said to trigger my reaction. Only later when I analyze the transaction can I pin point the why of my reaction. Basically, it’s subconscious, instinctive and immediate.

    While I’m not very happy to know I have that much surpressed rage compartmentalized, I am relieved to know I have a built in defense mechanism I lacked before.

    1. Thanks, Charlie.

      Me too. I do not want to be lured in again – by any of them.

      At this point I’m in touch with my feelings at most times, especially when someone is mistreating me. I usually feel it in the pit of my stomach. Like you, sometimes I may not be able to pin point the exact behavior until later (it’s improved greatly in the moment though – yay!) Often, when I feel angry about it, it’s annoyance (like for my creepy neighbors).

      This guy triggered something much deeper. Working through it by asking myself who he reminds me of (the behaviors remind me), that usually works wonders for me. Have a good idea who it is. Someone who wouldn’t allow me to express my feelings, especially anger, only he was allowed that. My job was to caretake for him. As$hole. Still pissed! 🙂

      Ha! True, about the suppressed rage. Hopefully by recognizing it, feeling and processing it, will make way for a happier, healthier even stronger set of self protection behaviors. I say – bring it!

      1. Mindful,

        I’m glad that you’re in touch with your feelings and it’s working for you. I also experienced that behavioral technique when I got ‘therapy-ed’. I never really got that method. Feelings, for me, are mercurial, often have more to do with my past experiences than the person I’m engaging with and not to be trusted. Some of the worst people in my life are very reactive to their feelings often misconstruing the intent of what’s been said. And, I got into my situation by trusting my feelings so I never understood how trusting my feelings could keep it from happening again.

        I’ve really studied body language, micro expressions. I look for body language conflicts, vocal intonation, actions versus words, character traits. I don’t discount how I feel; I just don’t put a lot of stock in it.

        Personally, I’ll take anger as a potential indicator of something wrong but I’ll be glad when the rage passes. I think that when one has been victimized, we go through a grief process. I think that’s one of the reasons we ‘stay for so long.’ The bargaining stage of the 5 stages of grief.

        I think when any relationship fails, the person(s) go through the grief process which most if not all psychologists agree. But when abuse and victimization is part of that failure, one goes through two types of grieving, the loss of the relationship and the loss of an innocence, of safety. It’s a hard concept to accept, that someone you love, that professed to love you, that you planned your future with wants to harm you.

        Unfortunately, grieving both at the same time is so chaotic and difficult, it’s hard to handle and often easier to renew one’s effort in ‘saving’ the relationship.

        I’m glad you got out of the caretaker role and found contentment in your life. While there’s still a struggle, still fear, we are both on our way to brighter futures. 🙂

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