How to determine if someone is 'an abuser' or 'just' not a very kind person?

barefoot

Sponsor
As a child, if someone (and not just someone, but a parent), manipulates to get their needs met, we learn that we are not important enough, that their needs overide ours, and that our role is to tend to their needs and ignore our own.

My T would say that is relational trauma.
Yeah....I guess I gave that example as a here and now example. My sister and I are both in our 40s. So the manipulation of telling us both different things so that he looks good/gets sympathy etc is something that happens now. I think, for him, it maintains the codependent relationship he has with my sister and is meant to elicit sympathy from me as I think I'm meant to say 'ah, poor you!'

I don't remember him doing this when I was a kid. But, I don't know that he didn't. Because, I probably wouldn't have realised anyway as I don't think it would have been obvious. It's only so obvious to me now as I recently basically caught him in a lie as something he said and something my sister said (separately) didn't align.

I think my therapist thinks that everything I witness with my family now, I experienced first hand when I was younger. I just don't know. And don't want to unfairly make anything up if that's not how it/he was.

just because he isn't currently mistreating you doesn't mean he hasn't mistreated you in the past.
That's true...I'm just not really clear....don't have a very clear recollection of what he was like back then...

some times people can behave abusively even if they aren't aware of it
Yes, true and a useful reminder

you could just tell him how he is behaving is unkind and harmful. i doubt he would take a serious inventery and change. he would blame you and refuse to apolegize.
You're right. I do sometimes push back and tell him that something he's said wasn't kind etc. He generally looks baffled and shrugs it off as though it's my problem that I interpret it that way, rather than something he could have done differently. Or, if I'm saying something about him not being kind to my sister/niece, he'll look annoyed and put the blame on them. He won't change. No matter how many times I flag these things. He things he's always in the right.
it sounds harmful to me. it's stressful.
Yes it is :-(

you mentioned that labeling as abuse would help you to soledify bounderies but is that really necessery to do this? these are bounderies that are necessery regardless.
Yes and I do set boundaries anyway. I thought that, if I accept the behaviour as abusive (rather than say, is it me being over-sensitive that I have these reactions) that might mean I wouldn't feel guilty about setting boundaries, which I sometimes do. That I'd be more able to put some responsibility on him, perhaps. That I wouldn't feel like a bad person who is punishing him, sometimes?

You can only be abused by someone you are dependent on in some way and the abuse is about your boundaries not being respected.

It would be very difficult for him to be really abusive right now as you are less dependent
Not sure I quite agree @DodoBird but I do think I understand the distinction you're making between the experience of someone's behaviour if you're dependent on them compared with if you're simply a colleague/neighbour etc.

Even though I live independently of him now, he could still engage in abusive behaviours towards me?
 

grief

Sponsor
That I'd be more able to put some responsibility on him, perhaps. That I wouldn't feel like a bad person who is punishing him, sometimes?
indeed. but you do not need to except poor treatment regardless of whether it fits your defenition of abuse. it does not make you bad and you are not puneshing him by establishing this bounderies.

i struggle with this kinds of things too. to say no and what not. i still feel guilty for going no contact with my mother and it's been almost 10 years. what if it's my fault, what if she's changed, she was a victim too, i'm being cruel by depriving her of her only family member left, i'm her son.

and on and on. my husband is like, are you actually insane? there's no way i would let you do that. it puts the reality check in that when we are abused like that that our under standing of what is healthy bounderies and what behavier is exceptable, that gets all messed up.

but you aren't a bad person. you don't need a justefication to explain how you wish to be treated and to disengage when that is not met. you can just do it because you want to feel good and not bad and stressed and messed up.
 
D

Deleted member 50877

Not sure I quite agree @DodoBird but I do think I understand the distinction you're making between the experience of someone's behaviour if you're dependent on them compared with if you're simply a colleague/neighbour etc.

Even though I live independently of him now, he could still engage in abusive behaviours towards me?

Thanks for pointing this out. Yes, I see my point of view hit some disagreement here and right now I‘m wondering whether this may be linguistic (not a native speaker and the word „abusive“ as adjective doesn‘t exist in my mother tongue). To explain my point generally - without trying to disvalidate your personal experience with your dad or any other point of view here - I was wondering whether anyone could be abusive independently of the reaction of the person the abuse was directed towards. That is where I came to the opinion that that may be difficult - if someone displays abusive behavior and I walk away, ignore it, set a clear boundary or just think „what a jerk“, then it may not be abusive.
With that being said, the only real question is: were my ramblings any helpful? which can be answered with a clear no in this case and that‘s ok. You got a lot of useful input from others.
 

barefoot

Sponsor
Just to add that a sign of abuse is not being able to talk to someone about their behaviour.

Turning things back onto you is abusive.

This is about partners but mentiins undermining, and not being able to talk to someone about their behaviour.
Thanks. Had a quick skim and will revisit for a proper read tomorrow…some bits initially resonate others not really. But, yeah, the bits around not being able to talk about what is wrong…yeah…

Though a big issue in my family is that no one is able to have an honest conversation about how they feel…hence they are all stuck, going round and round in a codependent gloopy loop…
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
Thanks for pointing this out. Yes, I see my point of view hit some disagreement here and right now I‘m wondering whether this may be linguistic (not a native speaker and the word „abusive“ as adjective doesn‘t exist in my mother tongue). To explain my point generally - without trying to disvalidate your personal experience with your dad or any other point of view here - I was wondering whether anyone could be abusive independently of the reaction of the person the abuse was directed towards. That is where I came to the opinion that that may be difficult - if someone displays abusive behavior and I walk away, ignore it, set a clear boundary or just think „what a jerk“, then it may not be abusive.
With that being said, the only real question is: were my ramblings any helpful? which can be answered with a clear no in this case and that‘s ok. You got a lot of useful input from others.
My understanding of your thoughts were maybe you were speaking of "power" imbalance rather than dependency but I think you explained it better this time. Power differentials cause harm (abusive causes harm) and not so kind people hurt but may not harm and there is extremely huge difference fundamentally.

On the topic at hand, I rather not speculate too much on your father @barefoot, but perhaps today you may not describe him as abusive and maybe what your therapist is hearing is regressive descriptions from your childhood and if you were a child under him, his behaviour may have been considered abusive on a developing child/mind. Now perhaps you are too well equipped, detached, and not under his power; therefore, your adult parts recognizing this from the therapist is confused about the "abusive" comment.
The ultimate question about any parents that I can think of is do you trust him to bring up your own children today? and that may give you the insight you seek.

From my experience, abusive people or not so kind people are universal in their behaviours, they just do it differently depending on target.
 

Friday

Moderator
If I like someone, or I love someone, it’s important to me to be able to describe them accurately.

To use an example? I’ve known a helluva lot of dangerous motherf*ckers, that I would -without hesitation- ask to watch my child, or water my plants, or come squish a spider for me in the middle of the night. (IE the greatest to least level of responsibility/access into my life; my child, my home, my fears). I not only have nothing to fear from them -as long as I don’t go after them, or theirs- but have serious allies in them. What KIND of allies, depends on a lot more than simply how dangerous they are. Maybe 10% of these people? Qualify as “nice”. MOST of them? Are fully carded assholes, with good hearts, and great minds. I trust them. And that trust has never been broken. ((Or they’d find their asses dumped unceremoniously into a different list altogether. Which is still different from people who haven’t been put in a position to lose my trust, so I have no idea if I can trust them or not.))

I ALSO know people I wouldn’t trust with a PB&J or a goldfish, much less allow any greater access to my life… that I like immensely. Or love, deeply. I simply don’t trust the judgment or discretion.

People don’t have to be perfect, in order to care for them. Nor do we, in order to be cared for.

Maybe your dad is an asshole. Maybe he’s abusive. Maybe he’s a good man you simply do not like, or respect, or trust. Or who does not like, respect, or trust you. Maybe somewhere in between A to B to C.

I understand the need to define. To understand. But definitions? Only aid understanding. The do not condone, forgive, or cheer for. Family? Gets complicated. Even the best of families.
 

barefoot

Sponsor
@Friday yep, complicated is the word!

Had therapy today. I said I’d been mulling over this question and we talked about it for a bit. I’m still none the wiser!

I guess, however I choose to define my dad’s behaviours, I know that I find him (and his codependent dynamic with my sister) very stressful and distressing to be around. So, I think I need to work out what it is that it triggers in me. And then try to find ways to manage it better. I might need to start another thread on that…!
 
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