When it comes to healing from any kind of abuse, or mistreatment, The Toolbox recognizes the importance of identifying unhelpful thoughts and behaviors, and then replacing them with healthy ones. The writing here also stresses empowerment: by setting personal boundaries, finding our authentic selves, speaking our truths, nurturing our inner children, and by affirming and validating ourselves. Here, the connection is made clear between gaslighting, codependency, trauma bonds, C-PTSD, attachment styles, and our future health, well-being, and relationships.
Identifying those individuals who would interrupt, reverse, or stall our healing process is a necessary part of that ongoing recovery journey.
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Identifying toxic people is an essential step in healing from any kind of abuse or mistreatment
As you begin recovering from the effects of gaslighting, codependency, cognitive dissonance, trauma bonding, betrayal, or C-PTSD, your self-care organically becomes more important. As part of your everyday self-care, it’s crucial to know how to recognize toxic or dangerous individuals (and limit your exposure to them by using boundaries.) This is an ongoing way to take care of and protect yourself from further trauma or victimization.
The WEB Method is a “quick and easy way to identify potentially dangerous people.” WEB stands for words, emotions, and behavior. The method was developed by a licensed social worker, Bill Eddy. According to Eddy, there are three things to examine to find out if there’s a chance someone may be unsafe:
The WEB method requires you to pay attention to:
- the WORDS the individual uses
- YOUR emotions (How do you feel when around this person: On high alert? Unsafe? Unsure? Hesitant? Confused? Embarrassed? Afraid? Etc.)
- THEIR behavior (How do they act: Arrogant? Blaming? Shaming? Critical? Cruel? Lacking empathy? Unstable? Risk-taking? Etc.) (Eddy 2018).
“Paying attention to their words” means:
- Noticing if they use either extremely positive or extremely negative words to describe you or others. This indicates black and white thinking, a trait of narcissists, and those who have personality disorders, including psychopaths.
- Looking for words that indicate a lack of emotional empathy or lack of interest or disregard for others. Again, narcissistic traits, as well as those with borderline personality disorder, sociopaths, and psychopaths.
- Spotting words that indicate that they see themselves as a victim or that they think they’ve been duped, targeted, or wounded. These are traits of narcissists as well as individuals who blame, make excuses, shirk responsibility, harbor resentment, and use negative self-talk.
You’ve made a lot of progress and come too far to let yourself get involved with a shaming, blaming, “poor me.”
Notice if they virtue signal. Virtue signaling is the not-so-humble declaration of one’s morals and values. “I’m generous,” “I’m extremely open-minded,” “I’m a good person.” These could be examples of words not matching actions. When someone wants others to believe what they say about themselves, it’s a type of gaslighting. Most of us don’t need to talk about or convince others of our good qualities. When a person possesses admirable character and integrity, they don’t need to announce or advertise it. They simply live it, and people notice.
“Paying attention to your emotions” means checking in with your feelings:
- How do you feel when you’re around this person? Confused? Emotionally Drained? Hurt? Defeated? Exhausted? Misunderstood? Stupid? Inadequate? Bullied? Sick? Mocked? Belittled? Humiliated? Why do you think you feel this way? What is your body trying to tell you?
- Do they seem too good to be true? “Charm” is considered to be a warning sign. People who intensely or endlessly flatter, praise, or compliment are often manipulative. Pouring on the charm may indicate that they’re a deceptive or controlling person. Keep monitoring.
- Do you feel like you can’t catch your breath or you can’t think straight when you’re around them? Psychopaths, sociopaths, borderlines, and narcissists can overwhelm others with their posturing and self-directed focus. They dominate conversations, don’t allow differences of opinion, and keep the focus on themselves. Conversations often feel like debates, and it’s usually hard to change the subject, or disengage, because they simply won’t’ allow it. When you’re in a discussion with a narcissist, you’ll feel unheard, misunderstood, or dismissed, and you’ll likely be mocked, or ridiculed if you challenge or disagree with them.
“Paying attention to their behavior” means you need to:
- Focus on their actions. Dangerous, toxic, and mentally ill people including narcissists are often defensive and will verbally or even physically attack those who criticize or appear to challenge them. Notice how they treat others. Do they humiliate or shame others? Do they embarrass you or cause you to want to apologize for their behavior?
- Notice their dismissal, disregard, or indifference of yourself or others. Do they interrupt you? Talk over you? Scorn, laugh at, or minimize your point of view? Is the message that what they say or do is more important than anybody else? These indicate an ego-centered worldview. Not good.
- Notice if they blame others for their own mistakes or poor choices. Narcissists and “poor-me’s” are famous for being big blamers. They shirk responsibility and don’t learn from their mistakes. Nothing is ever their fault. They don’t make mistakes!
- Notice if they encourage others to admire them. Do they seek attention, compliments, praise, or admiration? These are all forms of narcissistic supply, indicating that you may have a narcissist on your hands.
Could you be feeling the effects of Narcissism Awareness Grief? Download the free chapter to find out:
from Lemon Moms: A Guide to Understand and Survive Maternal Narcissism
Healing from abuse, betrayal or mistreatment is a complex, energy-consuming, and often painful undertaking. It requires commitment, patience, and time. It means doing the hard work and taking excellent self-care. Protecting ourselves from those who would hurt, take advantage, manipulate, or interrupt, (reverse, or stall) our progress, is part of that process.
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When someone’s vibe feels “icky,” or they have “unusual” personality quirks, would you know if they are genuine warning signs or if you could be in danger?
Coming Fall/Winter 2023
Icks, Personality Quirks, or Warning Signs? How to Know the Difference, by Diane Metcalf
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Discover the Secrets of Identifying Danger
Have you been caught off guard by toxic individuals?
Want to enhance your ability to spot warning signs and protect yourself from emotional mistreatment and abuse? Look no further!
This upcoming book delves deep into the complexities of human behavior, guiding you through the maze of narcissists, psychopaths, manipulators, liars, and self-absorbed individuals.
Learn the crucial skills to differentiate between harmless eccentricities and genuine red flags.
Feel empowered to rescue, protect and heal yourself from their mistreatment or abuse
I AM: A Guided Journey to Your Authentic Self, Workbook and Journal, by Diane Metcalf
Experience the power of self-affirmation: using positive statements to improve well-being and performance. Learn research-based steps to write the most effective affirmations to manifest love, positivity, peace, self-confidence, motivation, success, and other wonderful things.
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Lemon Moms: A Guide to Understand and Survive Maternal Narcissism, by Diane Metcalf
For as long as I can remember, there was something “different” about my mother. She wasn’t like other mothers.
My mom didn’t hug or kiss, smile at, spend time with, or play with me. She never seemed happy to see me. She didn’t ask about my school day and wasn’t interested in knowing my friends. She seemed to have no interest in me or anything that I did. My mom called me hurtful names and obscenities, and at times, she ignored me, not speaking to me for days, weeks, or even months. When she felt sad I was expected to emotionally care-take her. When she didn’t feel like parenting, I was responsible for my siblings. When she lost her temper she hit. When I was disobedient, there were bizarre punishments.
I was not allowed to express feelings, ask questions, or show initiative or curiosity. My feelings were discounted, minimized, or invalidated. She re-wrote my memories, and I was expected to believe her version. I was to obey, stay quiet, and not question.
If any of this sounds familiar, you are not alone. If there is manipulation, power struggles, or cruelty in your relationship, this book can help. If you second-guess your memory, doubt your judgment or sanity, or continually seek your mother’s withheld affection, attention, approval, or love, this book can explain why.
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About the Author
Drawing from her personal experiences of growing up in a dysfunctional household, Diane Metcalf has developed effective coping and healing strategies. With the assistance of professional therapists and mindful personal growth, she has honed her skills and now happily shares them with others who are interested in learning and growing.
As an experienced advocate, speaker, and writer, Diane is well-versed in topics such as narcissism, family dysfunction, abuse, and recognizing warning signs. Her extensive knowledge is drawn not only from her personal experiences, but also from her work in human service fields, including domestic violence, partner abuse, and court advocacy. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Science in Information Technology.
Diane’s transformational books on healing and personal growth, such as the highly acclaimed “Lemon Moms” series, offer emotional support and guidance in understanding narcissistic traits and healing past wounds. Her approach emphasizes self-awareness, intention, self-care, and establishing healthy boundaries as essential components in the healing process.
Learn more about the Lemon Moms series: Lemon Moms
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This website is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional therapy.