Stress. It disrupts your brain. It’s the whole fight-or-flight thing, and it supersedes all other brain activity. This is a colossal pain in the neck and inconvenient, but it makes sense. Why waste precious energy worrying about matching socks or what to have for lunch when disaster could be imminent?
Stress. It doesn’t matter why, what, or how much. It means that sooner or later – probably sooner than you think – the part of the brain that handles intelligent decision making is going on vacation, probably to the Caribbean. Like the Tortuga Twins with a crazy audience and/or maybe a barrel of vodka, somebody is gonna make bad decisions. “Somebody” means you, Sunshine, and unlike a Tortuga adventure, there’s no funny story to laugh about later.
Under stress (or that barrel of vodka), you’re less likely to sense and respond to the subtle danger signs of an abusive personality. So whether it’s a coworker or a boss, a suddenly helpful college classmate, your neighbor or neighborhood stalker at the bar, you need to be prepared. With that in mind, here’s the next segment of our series.
Part Three: Perception and Personality. Here’s how you can tell whether your Person X is potentially dangerous, even in a less personal relationship, like when you first meet. This abuser may just be a backstabbing manipulator, or may snap and go postal. In today’s checklist, be advised that a couple red flags may only indicate immaturity. That doesn’t necessarily indicate mean or violent tendencies lurking, so take these behaviors in context, but keep track because more is not better.
- Does Person X refuse to take responsibility for actions, or are there always excuses? (“[insert excuse here], so how was I supposed to…?”) Does X lie about small or stupid things for no apparent reason?
- Does X overemphasize other people’s negative behavior? Often, these types are quick to judge and quick to minimize or rationalize their own negative behavior.
- Is X hypersensitive? Anyone could get their feelings hurt, but most of us have enough self esteem to keep us from over-reacting.
- Does it seem like all X wants to talk about are situations when X was in control?
- Is X’s vocabulary unnecessarily profane? Some of us have some colorful expressions but mostly we know when and how to use them and will leave them out of certain conversations as a sign of respect. X can’t seem to do that.
- Does X have a hard time with steady employment or financial responsibilities?
- Is X either cruel or exceptionally kind? Does X seem to have a dual personality? Do moods change in the blink of an eye? People like this have a hard time finding a stable, happy medium.
- Is X chronically impulsive with some other behavior – excessive or irresponsible spending, reckless driving, binge eating or drinking, unprotected or promiscuous sex?
- Was X especially charming when you first met? Huge red flag. Dangerous people are the very ones who go out of their way to “prove” they aren’t dangerous. The good ones don’t need to persuade you; they act appropriately from the beginning and for as long as you know them.
- Does X ever brag about pain tolerance or an inability to feel pain? This could be simple bragging, or a sign of an anti-social disorder.
- Does X seem to have little insight or ability to learn from past experience?
- Is X paranoid when stressed?
- Does X act like a know-it-all about topics he/she has minimal knowledge about?
- Does X like to provoke others or play “let’s you and him fight”?
- Does X frequently mention (or flat out brag about) education, talent, success, or ability, when it is obviously not impressive? (Something along the lines of “I went to the best private school on the East Coast,” from a person who doesn’t know raisins are just dried grapes. Don’t laugh, this was a real-life example.)
Person X is an asshat, plain and simple, and doesn’t require a romantic relationship to do harm. In fact, the only requirement is that you be under stress so X can slip into your life under your diminished radar. If you’re dealing with it, keep a low profile to avoid attracting X’s attention.
P.S. The Tortuga Twins are great (it’s that combination of smart and funny) and no, this is not a paid endorsement; I’m just a fan. If you haven’t met them yet, check their website (above) for where and when to find them next.