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In a beautiful world full of wonderful people, there is also, unfortunately, a dark side, including some unsavory characters who take advantage of others for their own personal gains. Thankfully, the vast majority of people have an honest heart and personal integrity, but it is important to know how to defend ourselves against those who do not have benevolent intentions towards us.

Abusive and manipulative people often have a type of radar that can seemingly pinpoint those parts of our personality most likely to be susceptible to their advances. They may target people who are nurturing, compassionate, hard-working, and thoughtful, but they may also be able to identify areas of insecurity that can make someone emotionally vulnerable.

Sometimes, they work to bolster someone’s self-image, either in the way they look physically or offer gushing praise for their accomplishments or talents. Although their words and actions can build someone up emotionally, it is inevitable that this praise will be pulled out from under them like a Jenga block, leaving a teetering tower which might come crashing down.

The most powerful tool in protecting yourself from a powerful foe is to know how to effectively block their attacks. We are aware of some common methods of fighting off movie monsters, like wooden stakes, silver bullets, or garlic. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to develop a single technique that is effective in protecting ourselves from these people’s devious attacks on us, since they often have multiple ways of getting what they want. They attempt to gain control over others by any means necessary, like being charming; creating sob stories; using aggression; making false accusations; or through using guilt-trips, threats, or blaming.

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They may be charming or try to pull at your heartstrings, but rest assured, it is just further manipulation to gain what they want. Stop trying to help or support them. Put your energy into keeping yourself safe and healing the damage done during your relationship. Remind yourself these individuals are deeply flawed and are unlikely to change, regardless of what you do for them.

You don’t blame a duck for quacking. By the same token, this is just what these types of abusive people do. They play out the same dysfunctional patterns over time and will likely continue to do so until they run out of available victims, or develop such a poor reputation that they are pushed out of communities. Many times, it is safer to simply assume these people will remain inauthentic and continue to disappoint you if your goal is to have an honest, caring relationship with them.

Knowledge about someone’s abusive patterns is extremely important. No matter how nice or caring these people may appear, it is important to understand this facade is likely to fade if you challenge them, go contrary to what they want, or do not give into their desires or demands. Relationships with such emotionally unstable individuals are often one-sided. It is recommended that you strongly consider ending the relationship, since it is likely their behaviors will not change, and you will be wasting time and energy which could be spent on more fulfilling endeavors.

Many times, the victim may feel pushed to their emotional limits. The term “gaslighting” describes abusive patterns of brainwashing where abusers can use lies, denial, personal information, ego strokes, accusations, or dishonesty to wear someone down. They may make someone feel crazy, work to cut them off from friends, and convince them that no one else should be trusted except for them.

It is important to have a strong support network, since this level of manipulation may be really confusing and destructive. It is not unusual for victims to lose confidence in their ability to identify quality people or make healthy choices. They may even start to question their own reality or sanity when it comes to their emotions.

Many people struggle with learning how to trust their own instincts after having these types of intense experiences. This is why many find it beneficial to meet with a mental health professional to explore their own feelings of self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem. Developing confidence in your own judgment may take some time, but it is important to gain. Trust in what you are actually experiencing. Don’t focus on their potential to be a good person or what they tell you their intentions are. Believe in people’s actions, not their promises.

There are many times when our inner voice warns us something may not be what it appears and that red flags exist. We might choose to ignore those indications because we either want to give someone a chance, think they could change, or they may offer something we want. Someone attractive or successful on our arm could give a huge self-esteem boost, but be careful in figuring out the cost. Also, keep in mind: if something sounds too good to be true, it may actually be.

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Sometimes, relationships with an abuser parallels experiences with drug addiction. Initially it is fun, but as reliance on it and unpleasant side effects emerge, it can become miserable quickly. Without the relationship, it can feel like there is a missing piece from your life. Experiencing grief is also common from losing someone who was once extremely important and vital to one’s life.

Like any other abusive relationship, victims can be made to feel they are at least partially to blame for the problems they experience. It is also not usual for some victims to defend their attacker, even standing up for them in situations where they are rightfully being confronted for their actions. The concern of an aggressive backlash keeps many victims from confronting their abusers, fearing threats of destroying their social standing or other friendships.

Selecting quality people to be included in your life is crucial. There should not be a single person who is a foundational pillar for your stability but who doesn’t truly have your best interests in mind. Use your awesome support network to process your emotions or to blow off steam. It is important to have opportunities to talk about feeling hurt without fear of judgment or ridicule from friends, but don’t be surprised when people who care about you dish out a healthy helping of tough love in their attempts to support you.

It is frustrating and painful for them to see good people being hurt. Have conversations with people who will also be brutally honest with you and advocate for you when you are feeling weak or beaten down.

Although you can surround yourself with supportive people who have your best interests in mind, don’t count on others to be your protectors. It is important to act as your own advocate when it comes to guarding yourself. If you are not in an emotionally strong place to choose a healthy individual for a relationship, your energy may be better spent on working to heal those parts of your personality that make you more vulnerable to abusive individuals.

Empower yourself to gain confidence that you are a worthwhile person who deserves a healthy relationship full of love, compassion, understanding, and a high potential for success.

Be careful about waging a war against these vicious individuals, even if this is your first instinct. It is natural to feel like defending yourself by attacking them, but many times in these types of situations, it will simply add fuel to the fire and will likely not solve any of the hurt feelings that have developed through the course of the relationship. Knowing they are continuing to cause disruption in your life often brings them some twisted sense of power. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

Feel free to express your feelings relating to how they have hurt, disappointed, or enraged you, but realize your comments will likely fall on deaf ears if directed at them. These will likely have no impact on the way they see themselves and might be twisted around to be thrown back at you. Sometimes the most realistic and efficient way to deal with an abusive person is to simply remove them from your day-to-day existence. It may be helpful to remember that “The best revenge is living a good life.”

Set your boundaries about when and how you want to communicate, including if you even want to continue having these people in your life. Aggression from them may be done verbally, electronically through messages, or behind your back with other people. Feel free to block these individuals where possible. Be aware of feeling anxious about potentially running into them in public. Although it may feel uncomfortable to see them, focus on more positive interactions with healthier people.

Abusive people often gain strength by hurting others. Efforts need to be made to stop the feeding frenzy of these toxic individuals by cutting off their food supply. The more their manipulative patterns are known in communities, the less likely they will be able to take advantage of others. It is important for victims, survivors, and supportive allies to speak out and confront these people. It can be extremely helpful to network with other people who have fallen prey to these people’s abuse. Letting others know of their manipulative and self-serving patterns can also help to protect someone else from getting hurt.

It is important that members of our society become aware these types of dangerous personalities exist and share stories about their experiences including what has worked for them to better identify these abusers and fend off their attacks. Although some people have been hurt by these manipulators, be careful not to become jaded or distrustful of people in general. Thankfully, the vast majority of people are kind and trustworthy.