Narcissistic abuse is in vogue right now. No longer can a person just be abusive, now they have to be a narcissist or a covert narcissist. Have abusive people manifested into narcissistic abusers? Maybe.
Or maybe, what was once considered normal parenting and treatment of spouses and subordinates by the Baby Boomers and older generations has been identified as coercively controlling, emotional and psychological abuse by Gen Xers and younger generations.
What do you believe and value?
The short answer is that your beliefs and values determine if you’re an abuser or not. Not your personality.
Are people who have a personality disorder more likely to abuse? Not according to Lundy Bancroft and Patricia Evans. What separates abusers from non-abusers is their ability to appreciate and accept that other people have different beliefs and values than themselves. This is the basis of diversity. We all have different perspectives because we all view the world differently. We view the world based on our social and cultural beliefs plus on how our previous experiences made us feel.
According to the DSM-V, “The essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of pathological personality traits.” Each personality disorder is then broken down into the essential features and pathological personality traits needed for a diagnosis.
Common elements of having a personality disorder are that your behaviors must be extreme and consistent over time.
You can be abusive without having a personality disorder. Just like you can think you’re amazing without having Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Or you can be an introvert without having an Antisocial Personality Disorder like a sociopath or psychopath. You can even be emotionally immature and not have Borderline Personality Disorder.
We’re all cut from the same cloth
Now, Carl Jung created the term Collective Unconscious to describe ”…a level of unconscious shared with other members of the human species comprising latent memories from our ancestral and evolutionary past. ‘The form of the world into which [a person] is born is already inborn in him, as a virtual image’ (Jung, 1953, p. 188)”.
As a human being, we all can feel or understand all emotions and personality traits. Emotions and personality traits occur on a spectrum. No one is exempt from having them. The intensity at which we feel or understand is as unique as our fingerprint. There are commonly held beliefs that help us gauge ourselves and understand others. Common beliefs are what help keep us grounded in reality and connected to others.
We may dream grandiose thoughts and have high goals with unwavering focus, but that doesn’t mean we’re disordered. It doesn’t even mean we’re abusive.
When what you believe and value doesn’t align with reality, you can either accept the difference as part of life and as a gift to help you grow. Or, you can coerce others to fulfill your beliefs and values, and become excessively angry when they don’t comply with what you believe.
How you handle individual differences depends on what you believe and value.
Your dark side or your shadow self is the part of yourself that you hide from the world, either because you’re afraid or ashamed of those parts of yourself.
Everyone has those same qualities and tendencies within themselves. You are not the only one! How you express your dark side has to do with your beliefs and values plus, the type of person you are and want to be. Because we’re individuals, we each express our dark emotions and personality traits differently which may or may not conform to an individual’s or collective belief.
You can identify what someone else is feeling because you also have that same emotion within yourself. You can identify a jerk because you can be a jerk. You can identify when someone is abusive because you are capable of being abusive.
Side note: It’s this duality that makes it difficult for people outside the relationship to know who is at fault in an abusive relationship because, by the end of the relationship, both people are abusive.
Does self-reflection absolve you from being a narcissist? No. Narcissists self-reflect because they’re human beings who want to be acknowledged, loved and valued.
Perhaps their self-reflection focuses on what the other person did, therefore, making the other person at fault for their problems. But that’s not exclusive to narcissists – people blame others for their problems all the time!
Or, self-reflection may be in the form of asking, “How can I get a someone to do what I want them to do”? If you ask Google that question, you’ll get a lot of tips and tricks on how to manipulate people. How you use the manipulative information Google gives you is based on what you believe and value.
Change your behavior or change your personality?
It’s not your personality that makes you abusive, it’s what you believe and value, because your beliefs and values are what turns an emotion into positive or negative which then fuels your behavior.
Your behavior will tell you if you’re abusive or not. The bright side is that you can quickly change your behavior by changing your perspective whereas changing your personality takes time and sometimes trauma to achieve.
Remember, you are the only person you have to live with for the rest of your life.
Keep learning who you are.
Click the hyperlink to download your Exercise Sheet to Identify Your Beliefs & Values.