Some People Want to Abuse You… But There Others Who Don’t

Hello and good morning! I hope everyone had a great weekend. Mine was hectic and crazed but even fun at times. More on that some other time. Today I’m elaborating more on the next maladaptive schema type.

Typical Presentation of the Schema
People with the Mistrust/Abuse schema expect others to lie, manipulate, cheat, or in other ways to take advantage of them, and in the most extreme form of the schema, try to humiliate or abuse them.  These patients do not trust other people to be honest and straightforward, and to have their best interests at heart. Rather, they are guarded and suspicious. They sometimes believe that other people want to hurt them intentionally. At best, they feel that people care only for themselves and do not mind hurting others to get what they need; at worst, they are convinced that people are malevolent, sadistic, and get pleasure from hurting others. In the extreme form, patients with this schema may believe that other people want to torture and sexually abuse them.
Now. I think it’s important to note that these can be very real issues that are not unjustified. A lot of people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder have had major trauma and abuse growing up. I think this becomes a schema problem when you start seeing demons in EVERY shadow, not just the ones where it is justified. I’ve survived “friends” trying to manipulate me to suicide, people masquerading as friends to get me into bed, every kind of mental and emotional abuse, lying, manipulations, deceit, isolation, alienation you can imagine, attempted rape, rape, and my ex-boyfriend trying to kill me. Those are just some of the highlights. It doesn’t even touch on the extent of what I’ve been through in my life. I’ve actually suffered through a lot of abuse and my mistrust is justified. However. And this is an important However…. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there that do deserve to be trusted. The doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there don’t want to just take advantage of you or have ulterior motives. There are some pretty decent people. This becomes a schema problem when we impose the problems from the past onto people that don’t justifiably deserve the mistrust.
Goals of Treatment
The main goal of treatment is to help people with the Mistrust//Abuse schema to realize that, whereas some people are not trustworthy, many others ARE trustworthy. We teach them that the best way to live is to stay away from abusive people as much as possible, stand up for themselves when necessary, and focus on having trustworthy people in their personal life.
Patients who have healed a Mistrust/Abuse schema have learned to distinguish between people who are trustworthy and those who are not. They have learned that there is a spectrum of trustworthiness: People worthy of trust do not have to be perfect; they just ha ve to be “trustworthy enough.”
I have to say this is a problem I have. Cognitively, in my brain, I know that this is true, but I still fight with some black and white thinking here. Once my trust has been broken, or I’ve been sufficiently disappointed, it’s nearly impossible for me to regain my perspective and not consider someone untrustworthy. I’m trying though.
With trust worthy people, patients learn to behave in a differ way. They are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, they are less guarded and suspicious, they stop setting up tests, and they no longer cheat others because they expect to be cheated. With individuals who become their partners or close friends, patients become more authentic. They share many of their secrets and are willing to be vulnerable. They eventually find that, if they behave openly, trustworthy people will generally treat them well in return.
Strategies Emphasized  in Treatment
With patients who were abused as children, a therapist must work to establish emotional safety. The goal is to provide a safe place for patients to tell their story of abuse. Most abuse survivors are intensely ambivalent about telling their story. One part of the patient wants to discuss what happened, whereas another part wants to hide it. Many of these people alternate between the two – just as they alternate between feeling overwhelmed and feeling numb.
Cognitively, the therapist helps reduce a persons over vigilance to abuse. Patients learn to recognize a spectrum of trustworthiness. Patients also work to alter the extremely common  view of themselves as worthless and to blame for the abuse. They stop making excuses for the abuser and place blame where it belongs.
Venting anger is of primary importance in the experiential work. It is especially important for patients to vent anger at the people who abused them rather than continually directing anger at the people in their current lives, or at themselves.
Imagery and visualization to create a safe inner place away from abusers is helpful. Finally, patients visualize themselves being open and authentic with trustworthy significant others. The thrust of treatment is first to help patients make the sharp distinction between the people in the past who deserve the anger, and the people in the present who do not; then, to help patients express anger in therapy sessions toward the people in the past who deserve it, while treating well those people in their current lives who treat them well.
Behaviorally, patients gradually learn to trust honest people. They increase their level of intimacy with appropriate significant others. When appropriate, they share their secrets and memories of abuse with their partner or close friends. They consider joining a support group for abuse survivors. They choose non-abusive partners. Patients stop mistreating others and set limits with abusive people. They are less punitive when other people make mistakes. Rather than avoiding relationships and remaining alone, or avoiding intimate encounters and staying emotionally distant from people, they allow people to get close and become intimate. They stop gathering evidence and keeping score about the things other people have done to hurt them. They stop constantly testing other people in relationships to see if they can be trusted. They stop taking advantage of other people, thus prompting others to respond in kind.
Abuse severs the bond between the individual and other human beings. The person is torn out of the world of ordinary human relationships and thrown into a nightmare. During abuse, the victim feels utterly alone, and, after it is over, feels detached and estranged from others. The real world of current relationships seems hazy and unreal, whereas the memories of the relationships with the perpetrator are sharp and clear. The therapist/patient relationship is very important. The therapist is an intermediary between the abuse survivor and the rest of humanity: he or she serves as a vessel through which the patient reconnects to the ordinary world. By connecting to the therapist, the patient reconnects symbolically to the rest of humanity.
Severed. I always feel cut off and separate, severed, but I don’t think I’ve ever thought of it in these terms or even because of the abuse I’ve suffered. Maybe I have and forgot, or just figured it was one more experience grouped with all my others. I sort of compartmentalize the trauma I’ve been through. I stick it in a box and try to bury it in my mental closets. Hide it away. But put in these terms it makes it so much clearer to me the impact that the abuse I’ve suffered has had on me. Abuse severs the bond between the individual and other human beings. I would add that abuse severs the bond between a person and themselves too.  I guess I always kind of think of the abused part as a separate part, and the rest as the protector part. I’ve split myself into pieces. I’m still working through just how big of a deal all of this stuff actually was on me. I haven’t faced it all yet, but I’m starting to recognize where a lot of my dissociation comes from. Why I dissociate the way I do.
Most survivors of abuse struggle with moral issues. They are haunted by feelings of shame and guilt about what they did and felt during the abuse. They want to understand their own responsibility for what happened to them, and to reach a fair, moral judgment of their own conduct.
I still struggle with this. For a very long time I considered myself at least partially responsible for the abuse I suffered. It was my fault for being there, it was my fault for putting myself in the situation (even though there was no way I could have known that it would happen), and therefore my fault for allowing it to happen. It was my fault for not being able to leave because I couldn’t control how I felt. I was in love with my abuser, on more than one occasion, and I couldn’t do what I knew was best for me because I was afraid of losing my heart. I couldn’t control my emotions so I blamed myself for the way {t}he{y} treated me, for what they did to me… but you know what? It wasn’t my fault. It was theirs. I may have been in love, but I didn’t ask to be treated that way, I didn’t want to be treated that way, I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. It wasn’t my fault they were monsters. They made the choices they did because they were bad people, and that wasn’t my fault.  I couldn’t predict what was going to happen, and at the time I wasn’t able to take the steps that have been healthiest and safest for me. I can’t change that. But what I can do is learn from it and not make those same mistakes again. I can make better choices in the future. I can allow better people into my future. I’m still working on it, but it is possible.

One comment on “Some People Want to Abuse You… But There Others Who Don’t

  1. This is definitely me in so many ways. I trust no one and if for some reason I do trust you, and you do something (even if it's only something I perceive as a breach of trust and not really a breach of trust) then you're on my shit list for ever. There is no coming off. I may even continue a friendship with you but I would no longer share things with you. I would be guarded. You would be like an enemy I was keeping close to keep an eye on. But you would be an enemy. I'm not quite sure if I'll ever get beyond this at times I feel too broken. RAtionally somewhere in my head I know not everyone is out to hurt me but because I'm unable to distinguish those who are from those who aren't then I must assume everyone is out to get me. It is a form of survival. If you don't know who trust, then trust no one. For me it's simply about surviving from one day to the next and doing what I have to do to get there.

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