How to Recognise Unsafe People


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Psychopath, sociopath

What are ‘unsafe’ people? They are people who repeatedly break hearts, ruin trust or undermine confidence and they usually arrive unsuspectingly. I use the term ‘unsafe’ rather than ‘sociopath’, ‘pathological liar’, ‘psychopath’ or any other name you might feel inclined to lay on the person who seems intelligent but acts in illogical and hurtful ways. It isn’t the label that counts, it is the effect that they have on you.

The interesting thing about writing this, is that I know most people will only read it in retrospect. However, just in case you are lucky enough to read this *before* you meet such a person, let’s also hope you are savvy enough to walk away and not make excuses for them.  That is the number one reason that these unbalanced people get away with their behaviour. Their charm can have a vulnerable and trusting person believing that they have met their fairy tale dream. You believe the excuses, or accept the blame for bad or hurtful behaviour because the good times out-weigh the bad. Don’t believe it. If you recognise the behaviours below, be very, very, careful! You are NOT crazy – but they might well be!

PLEASE don’t think that any one of these things on their own is a reason to run a mile – you will need to use your judgement. Nobody is perfect and a little ‘unsafe’ behaviour is common to most people.

I have interviewed several people who have been involved in relationships with ‘unsafe’ people who have broken their spirit and their hearts (for a while anyway!) and asked them what advice they would give others to watch out for. This is what they said, as well as a few I have added from experience in the counselling room.

If you still aren’t sure, ask friends whether you are being paranoid or whether they agree that you are on ‘unsafe’ ground. They are more likely to see the wood for the trees than you are.  On the other hand, if you recognise several of these traits – just run! Now! Don’t try to explain it, your words and actions will simply be twisted beyond recognition. Just get out!

Your partner confuses you –

The first sign of an ‘unsafe’ person is that they confuse you. They appear charming and attentive. They often seem to be the person of your dreams. And then things start to go wrong. You hang in there, thinking it must surely be your fault. After all, they say it is your fault and, you think, perhaps they are right! Months or years down the line you come to your senses and realise it wasn’t you after all.

The ‘facts’ don’t fit –

Suddenly you realise how many ‘facts’ don’t fit. Or you realise that they will always blame others and it will always be all about them. They are never going to love anybody – not really.

Or suddenly you have no money left, and off they go into the distance, driving the car you probably paid for.

Or perhaps you finally leave the Land of Denial and find out about their other partners, secret life, or that everything they ever said was a lie.

You never meet their friends or go to their home

Watch out for this one! They have great reasons why you can’t go to their house. (Usually the truth is a wife / husband / long term partner!)

‘I live with my mother and it’s embarrassing’

“I am staying in my office while we are separating”

“I’d rather come to yours, it’s much nicer…”

Hmmm…. check it out! You won’t be sorry!

Over-interested in your finances.

They ask about your pensions, your divorce settlement, your insurances. That is, beyond what you think is ‘normal’ interest. Do you get the feeling that they are looking out for what they can ‘gain’? Is it about them and not you?

Anger at others, road rage, aggressive behaviour.

They forget that the outside world can see them when they are in their cars, but they usually contain their anger when in normal social situations. When you are on your way home, or nobody else is around, you see the anger explode. Beware! They need anger management therapy at the very least, and more likely inner healing and to deal with deeper issues. Otherwise you will be their next target as soon as you are safely ‘their’ possession.

Constant need to attract attention   –

The unsafe person likes to be the centre of attention, which is quite normal for some people, but this is different. This person has to be either in control of the situation or not there at all. They may control by their mood (expect everybody else to notice and tip-toe around them), or by being a constant ‘victim’. If they are not in control, they would rather leave as they feel unnoticed. They cannot give attention or love, except for what they will get out of it i.e. to make you love them back, appreciate them and stroke their ego.

They make you feel insecure and vulnerable –

They get annoyed if you show your insecurity. How dare you not trust them? Yet, they don’t act as if you are the only object of their desire (e.g. looking over your shoulder at others in the room, saying how all women are so wonderful). Mostly this one applies to men, but can apply to women too. There is always a ‘good’ reason and you are always the one being unreasonable.

Everything is everybody else’s fault –

They constantly look for something to criticise. They need to put others down to make themselves seem better. They are unable to take the blame for anything. This is often due to extremely low self-esteem. If they take the blame it will take their view of themselves even lower so they just can’t do it!

Controlling Behaviour – 

Constantly questioning you – Where are you? Why didn’t you answer your phone? Who were you speaking to? When somebody needs to know everything about you, and needs to control your every move, know that it is about their insecurity. It may be that it is just a personality difference and they need to understand what is going on, or it may be that you are being spun into a web of control.

Alienates you from your friends and family –

They create an ‘us and them’ situation – making enemies out of other people. This is another form of control. When they are your only friend, you have nowhere else to go.

Not around when you call them –

They have always got an excuse and don’t like you questioning them. They are in control, remember? You aren’t allowed to play their game, not even hint at it!

Doesn’t have any friends – 

Have you met their friends? Do they constantly tell you how everybody has let them down? (It’s always other people’s fault, remember?) Beware. There is no smoke without fire. Choose people who have lots of friends who love them – they have known them longer than you have!

All bad relationships from the past –

Same as above. Most people have had bad relationships, but ALL of them? Normal, nice, genuine people also have past relationships where they are still friends, where there are no hard feelings.

Says other people are controlling and manipulative (especially you!)

This is called projection. They project on to others what they are themselves. You are bound to feel terrible and try to change your behaviour. This accusation effectively stops you questioning them in any way. Very clever.

Paranoid behaviour – 

They may think they are being followed, watched, their phone is being tapped, others are talking about them, or ‘have it in for me’. This type of psychosis needs professional help.

Tries to take over as the expert –

Everybody else’s information is ‘rubbish’, he/she knows more and is more evolved. Other people are all fools. Except for you, of course, until you put a foot wrong!

Compulsive behaviour –

This could be Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and this is an entirely separate issue, but sometimes unsafe people show the same signs. Perhaps their compulsion arises from the stress of having to constantly play a part and never really be themselves? They want everything done their way and you never quite get it right. You don’t stack the dishwasher properly, you ‘never’ do this or you ‘always’ do that.

Cause conflicting emotions or a feeling of push / pull – 

They may make you feel good – actually really wonderful. Then bad –  actually really awful. It’s a classic control measure and keeps you wondering and on your toes. Eventually you wonder whether you are sane, or a nervous wreck and that makes you putty in their hands. They have you exactly where they want you. In their control.  If you feel great one minute and bad the next, is it really worth it?

They ‘punish’ you  for not doing things their way. –

You may only recognise the behaviour as ‘punishing’ long after the fact, as  at the time you are too busy feeling guilty!

Not prepared to spend money on you, or have no money – 

Back to the financial thing again. I haven’t come across this one very often. Mostly the one I hear about is:

They lavish money on you in the beginning – 

Then later you find out they don’t actually have any of their own. It is all borrowed or even stolen! They may even start borrowing money from you and after a while you find yourself paying for all the holidays, dinners, etc. and somehow never get paid back.

They pretend they are something they are not – 

How do you know that what they say is true? Well, have you met their workmates? Their friends? Their family? If all you get is constant excuses, be very, very, wary.

Too good to be true – 

They say everything you ever wanted to hear. ‘You are my world.’ ‘You are my soul mate.’  ‘I would die without you.’  Although in most new relationships you often think it is too good to be true, so if that’s your only problem you are just in love and there is nothing to worry about!  The thing to watch is, do you feel great all the time or almost all of the time? With the unsafe person, you often feel really bad, guilty or worthless but you soon forget that. The good times just seem so good that you deny the bad times.

How to avoid an unsafe person coming into your life:

This is a tough one, because they come in all shapes and sizes. They may be just after your money, a pathalogical liar, or a sociopath, or, god forbid, all of those. They may just be badly scarred in life and treat people as they were once treated. They may just have learned to be a ‘victim’ and expect you to constantly save them. There are many reasons why people are unsafe.

When I asked a survivor of an extremely manipulative relationship, she said “don’t be as open”. I think that is so sad because I pride myself on being open and we are always trying to help people to feel safe, show their feelings, be more vulnerable. The idea is not to become less trusting and more suspicious. It is just sad when that happens, but inevitable without the right help.

My advice would be to make sure that you are a secure within yourself as possible. When you are confident and secure, it is very hard for somebody to take advantage of you. People who are controlling and manipulative prey on targets where they can make you feel on top of the world (thus love and want them) and bring you down really easily (prey on your weakness and self-doubt).

Remember that some of these behaviours may be quite normal within the realms of human behaviour, love and the vulnerability we experience as we grow and learn. You will have to use your own judgement as to which are within the realms of  ‘normal’ (and what is that anyway?) and where you should really pack your bags and leave. Build up your own sense of self-worth and inner security.

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The mind is a wonderful slave, but a terrible master! In order to be the master of our lives and destinies, we must first become master of our own minds!

 

 


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