Narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths, manipulators, predators, abuse apologists, and other people with dark personality traits have a warped sense of normalcy. They either think that abnormal and immoral behavior and thoughts are normal—or they think that it’s only okay when they act abhorrently to others, but, of course, not when others do it to them.
The former is explained by their lack of morality and abusive tendencies, while the latter is because they believe that they are exceptional, entitled, and justified, and can therefore do whatever they want, even if it hurts others.
Below is a list of things that are NOT normal, which I divided into two categories, although many are interrelated. Most of them apply to adult-adult relationships, but many apply to caregiver-child relationships, too.
While extremely damaging under any circumstance, these behaviors are particularly vile and damaging to a child because adults, even those who suffer from Stockholm syndrome or are dependent on their abuser, have much more power than a child. Even among adults there are differences based on societal norms, for example, sexual abuse among men is often downplayed or framed in such a way that makes it seem less damaging than it really was.
Physical and Sexual Violation
Physical attack. Includes striking, hitting, kicking, dragging, pulling hair, burning, scratching, and cutting another.
Restraining movement. That is holding another against their will, locking them up, physically not letting them move, blocking their way, hiding their keys, and so on.
Taking away property. Taking another person’s money or bank cards, draining their bank account, stealing their things, or withholding another’s property as leverage.
Controlling behavior. Telling others what to do, restricting them from associating with others, isolating them, or threatening them if they don’t comply.
Refusing medical care. Not taking their child to a doctor, not taking care of them when they are hurt, not giving them medication when they’re sick, etc.
Sexual violation. Involves molestation, rape, inappropriate remarks, showing the child age inappropriate sexual content, inappropriate touching, manipulation with the intent of sexually touching them, disrespecting another’s privacy when they are naked, exposing oneself inappropriately, and so on.
Psychological and Emotional Violation
Lying. Lying to you, lying to others about you, playing people against each other, not keeping their word, telling you what they think you want to hear, or playing the victim and twisting the story.
Ignoring. Includes not responding, not calling them by name, not protecting the child, not spending time with them, withdrawing attention and affection, or conditional “love.”
Verbal abuse. Humiliating, guilt-tripping, shaming, insulting, bullying, and terrorizing.
Having unreasonable expectations. Expecting for the person to be perfect, wanting for the child to do something without teaching them first, expecting for the child to be mature beyond their years, grooming the child to be the adult in the caregiver-child relationship, or you are always expected to take care of others first.
Forbiddance of authenticity. You are not allowed to express your true emotions, thoughts, preferences, or needs.
Spying, monitoring, and stalking. Checking another’s phone, email, and social media accounts, reading their private messages, or listening in on their private conversations.
Fighting and arguing unreasonably. Word salad, deflecting, projecting, arguing in bad faith, provoking, denying, gaslighting, and so on. You can read more in the article 6 Toxic Arguing Techniques Used by Narcissists and Manipulators.
Let’s Not Normalize Abuse
Some people accurately recognize these things as a violation of another person’s boundaries. Others may only identify a few of them as abusive, and other people only recognize them as violations against others, but not against themselves.
Sometimes, unfortunately, those who have been on the receiving end of abuse think that the horrific, vile, disgusting, and hurtful things that they have experienced are normal or “not that bad.” This is because we tend to normalize our painful experiences in order to make them emotionally more bearable.
But it is not normal. And trauma and being hurt is not a contest. If somebody violates your personal boundaries, especially if you’re a child who is dependent on the perpetrator, the consequences are often devastating and even lifelong.
The Importance of Self-Empathy
These things are not okay. It doesn’t matter if it happened “only” once, if the perpetrator was traumatized at some point in their life, if it was “for your own good,” if it happened a long time ago, if you think it didn’t affect you, if you think “you deserved it,” or if you think others had it “worse.”
By empathizing with yourself when you were hurt, you can access your feelings behind it. This lets you heal. By healing your pain, you will not only be able to live a better life, but you will feel empathy for others who suffer, especially those who are the most vulnerable among us.