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Steps to protect yourself from abusive people

In Community and Relationship, Friends and Community by Narelle StegehuisLeave a Comment

Learning to protect yourself from abusive people is one of the most powerful and important lessons in life. The impact ‘abusers’ have upon your life, and the lives of those around you, largely depends upon how you decide to stop the cycle of destruction.

The first step to protection is learning to identify those with destructive personality characteristics – or more comically known as ‘bad eggs’.

Recognising bad eggs can be difficult. They may appear to be charming, loving, and fun. They may praise you and your beliefs. At times, they may say that you are the best thing that has ever happened to them. You may encounter them singly or you may be mixed up with a carton of them – a workplace scramble. Either way they are damaging to your self-esteem, health and wellbeing.

It is important to keep an open mind before you write someone off as a ‘bad egg’. For example you may find their comments hurtful – but more because they ‘touch a personal nerve’ in you. Try to gauge if others also find their behaviour unacceptable. In this instance, there would be benefit in discussing things with them – they may not be aware of their behaviour or its affect upon you. Counselling or mediation sessions can provide a controlled forum for ‘working things through’.

What do ‘bad eggs’ look like?

Abusive people appear arrogant and overly self-confident and feel they are better than you.

They may verbally put you down, leaving no evidence of bruises or physical injury. The abuse is harming to the soul – the victim becomes emotionally crippled and his/her spirit is shattered. Hearing the words ‘you are no good’, ‘you are stupid’ or‘you are a loser’ can tear out our hearts. This kind of abuse never hits the headlines or the news.

The abuser doesn’t serve jail time and s/he simply gets away with it if the victim doesn’t stand up and do something about it.

They act as if nothing happened, in order to excuse their behaviour, and always manage to justify their actions. For example, “I don’t know what you’re talking about … if you had done what you were meant to, it wouldn’t have happened”.

They are jealous and possessive. They often become hostile at the thought of losing their ‘property’.

Domination and emotional attachment: An abuser expects complete attention and support from their partner/parents/friends and demands complete control and submittance on the part of their victim.

They are unable to understand or recognise their problem: the abusers are often the last person to admit that they have a problem.

Manipulation: They know how and when to make someone feel guilty. By causing guilt, the victims more likely to stay and not deal with the abuse.

They stalk you. As an undercover method of maintaining control, an abuser will stalk or follow their partner from afar.

So how can ‘bad eggs’ affect your health?

Being around someone with destructive behavioural traits can eventually destroy your health. They diminish your spirit and you are left feeling depleted. You may experience symptoms of:

Low self-esteem
Chronic illness
Weight changes
Emotional problems

Regaining your health, power and spirit can be achieved. To start, allow yourself to feel however you need to feel, whether it is angry, sad, or regretful. These feelings are all perfectly normal. You can use Bach Flower Remedies such as Wild Rose, Olive, Willow and Rock Rose to provide support.

Give yourself time for healing both physically and emotionally. See it as the opportunity to implement healthy eating habits, increase your exercise and get on top of your health. It is not uncommon after a stressful time in your life to find that your body just doesn’t feel the same. This is because stress has an enormous impact upon your entire endocrine system. It literally plays havoc with your hormones.

If you are feeling depleted then ‘Mother Nature’ can lend a helping hand. Talk to your naturopath about herbs such as withania, rehmania and licorice to support your adrenals. Other herbs such as hops, lavender and hawthorn can help to support an over-active nervous system and aid with sleep disturbances. Hypericum can help to take the edge off things emotionally.

Part of your healing is to try to understand and express your feelings: Your mind, body, and soul are all going to have certain ways of coping. Taking a moment every now and then to acknowledge these feelings and behaviours is a good idea for coping. Taking up activities such as hiking can be a great way to gain space and reconnect with your inner self. If you feel your spirit has been quashed – try a new activity that allows you to take risks – rock climbing can help to re-establish new limits.

Listen to your body: If your body needs a break, make sure to take one. The human body is a strong and resilient machine, but in order for it to be at its absolute best, it needs to be taken care of. Taking a few minutes in your day to do something you enjoy, or just taking a minute to relax, can make a world of difference in your recovery process.

Express feelings through writing or art: Capturing your feelings at a particular moment can make it easier to get the most out of counselling. Writing these feelings down, or expressing them through artwork can really help you heal. Likewise doing something new and creative can help you to learn to laugh again – belly dancing anyone?

Seeing things from a more humorous perspective can disengage the motivation for the abusive people in your life to continue ‘investing’ their emotional resources in you. For example have you ever seen a child annoy a dog, i.e., tickle its ears or pull its tail, to get a reaction? If the dog does little more than raise an eyebrow and go back to sleep, the child finds something else to amuse itself. Destructive people feed off your emotional reaction. By developing strategies to offset their behaviour, i.e., laugh at them and show no fear, they are less inclined to pursue you.

Why do you keep attracting them?

If you are the type of person who goes from one abusive, controlling relationship to another, find out why. Analyse why you are initially attracted to abusive people (or perhaps you are attracting them) and stop going out with them. Refuse to stay in a mentally or physically abusive relationship, even if you have fears.
Fear can have a very powerful effect on people. While fear may help people do amazing things or overcome large obstacles it can also be debilitating.

Far too many relationships are anchored in fear instead of love. Abusers know the power that fear can have on others and will often use fear to keep someone from leaving them.
It is impossible for your relationship to be blissful (or even marginally happy) if you stay in it out of fear. Don’t believe the lies that ‘no one else will love you like I love you’ or ‘you’ll be sorry if you leave me’. Anyone who uses power and fear to keep a relationship together has very little love within them.

There are a lot of support groups (locally and online) who can help give you the courage to break away from relationships that are based on fear. You are a very special person and you deserve to live life surrounded by people who bring enjoyment into your life.

Finally, identify your support network and try to be aware of positive people in your life. Turn towards them for guidance and let them help you to achieve freedom.

Remember you have the right not to be a ‘victim’ for the rest of your life. You were a victim, but now you are a survivor – so move forward and start living!


Narelle Stegehuis, CEO of MassAttack, is a practising naturopath specialising in the research and development of natural treatment programs for women with hormonal imbalances, which have contributed to such symptoms as weight gain, cravings, anxiety & mood swings. Reviewed by the Australian Naturopathic Practioners Association, Narelle was the recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award. If you, a friend or family member are struggling with weight or health generally please call her clinic on ph 1300 133 536 or visit

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