Perhaps the most fascinating thing about us is how we protect ourselves. As we grow and develop so do our strategies to survive and win. When the chips are down in our lives, it’s easier to be cunning, self-centered, a liar and a cheater than noble and kind, especially since the people in our lives have been so unkind to us. Over time, we can lose sight of what we’re responsible for in damaging our own relationships, and instead of healing in healthy ways, we develop dark triad traits as a means to spare our self-esteem, to control others, and to manipulate them into loving us. Often we try to look for the bad qualities in those around us to guard ourselves, but fail to see our own behaviors and compulsions as just as much of a problem.

I remember being so angry and bitter after cancer. I didn’t realize my Complex PTSD flashbacks were making me so mean. I would blow up at people for no reason, I felt entitled, hated myself and was suicidal. Things had been so bad in my life for so long I never thought there could be a way through it, so I turned hope into rage. I triumphed through years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, worked so hard to get ahead, got myself into college, yet I lost it all. I thought ‘what’s the point of doing good things and good work then? Life is meaningless. Why not be selfish and mean? If no one is going to look out for me, why should I look out for anyone else?’ Obviously I didn’t want to be that way because I knew succumbing to my bad habits and poor behaviors would make me no better than my abusers and never allow me to get ahead. I’d be trapped and remain miserable for the rest of my life and that was no way to live.

Those who have experienced trauma didn’t have a chance to shine. We didn’t have a chance to develop our gifts, which affects every part of our lives. In our early stages of development is when abuse started for most of us, setting the stage of a lifetime of trying to prove ourselves. For anyone who has been held down, it’s easy to see how likely it would be for us to fine tune our dark triad traits and become monsters ourselves in an effort to scare away anyone who might hurt us again. We want to win and since those that seem to win are bad people, we ourselves can become bad people too. Abused children become abusive adults and the cycle repeats. Understanding how to break that chain is vital to all of us in having a shot at a better life.

Often I see abused people are egocentric and feel that’s how they grew up so that’s ‘normal’ to them. I grew up without self-discipline because I was neglected as a child and didn’t learn boundaries. I also stayed to myself and allowed my perceptions to run wild causing me more anger and pain. Thus, making me more desperate to win or hide. One day my perspective shifted and I decided that my life was my life. I had spent a long time focused on my pain not realizing it was holding me back from joy. For me, I wanted to be someone I had admired and respected since I didn’t have role models growing up. Beating the odds seemed far more respectable than being ‘owed.’ How I earned things also mattered. I didn’t want to steal them or cheat to get them. I wanted to earn things I was proud of. I had prevented myself from doing so many things out of fear of failure that I, in turn, became a failure; hating the world because of it. Still, trust was hard and I kept having toxic people in my life not realizing some of my own toxic traits and bad perspectives were trapping me, much like they may be trapping you. I wanted to examine some of those dark triad traits to see what ones I had and how I can stop and also how I can protect myself from others with them. I have researched the three dark triad types:

Type 1: The Deflector

Most people know of narcissism by now. It’s said by many psychologists that this develops in early childhood when children are not allowed to be themselves and develop healthy narcissism. As they grow older they look for more and more validation and also become more delusional. They seek out others who they can feel superior to, they give unsolicited advice, which unconsciously places them at a higher level than the receiver, and I think it’s predominate because these people suffer from such a low self-esteem that they and society tell us to convince ourselves we are the best and screw anyone who tells us differently. There is no winning with this group because they project their own self hatred onto others. When they put us down they are really trying to protect themselves but they are often a shell and see emotions as weakness instead of a basic human function that needs as much time and dedication as they put into the illusion of their lives. This group often feels empty and has a hard time attaching to people since they weren’t allowed to be themselves as kids. Children of Narcissistic parents and those of us with Narc partners tend to always feel inadequate, highly judgmental of others, and unloved. In turn, we can adopt some of these Narc traits ourselves as though we are the ‘best of the best and we don’t need anyone’ instead of adopting, ‘I’ve overcome xxx despite not growing up with a father or I’ve made a great career for myself despite growing up poor and neglected. I wonder what else I can achieve?’ To see if you or someone you know is a Narcissist take the test: https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/NPI/

Type 2: The Schemer

I’ve recently come in contact with a Machiavellian personality type and wow, it’s far more destructive, in my opinion, than a Narcissist. At least with a Narc they are loud and obnoxious about it. This type is cunning, secretive, and doesn’t need to be the center of attention they just need to be seen as the ‘good one’ even though they are extremely toxic people. Some subtle clues you are one or know one are: they only ask about personal things and not how you are or what your goals are so they use them against you later, they prioritize money and power of any relationship, they exploit and manipulate others to get ahead, they are extremely flattering as a way of manipulation, they have no values or morals, they are capable of causing harm to achieve their goals, they are extremely patient and are methodical in nature, they rarely reveal their intentions, they are apathetic and have a hard time identifying their emotions but will act emotional to get ahead, they come off as very hard to get to know, etc. These people will easily turn others against you even with nothing at stake just so they can seem better, more together, more intelligent, etc. I had a co-worker lie in front of my face to take credit for my work who had this disorder so he could seem more intelligent than me, while turning co-workers and superiors against me because he felt threatened. To see how high you rank on the scale or someone you know, take the test: https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/MACH-IV/ you may have to copy and paste this into to your browser. If (1.php) populates at the end of the link delete it and the link should work. With the other links you can press the link directly and it will take you to the other quizzes. I’m unsure why this one is an issue. My apologies.

Type 3: The Uninhibited

If one were to blend Narcissism and Machiavellianism they would breed a Psychopath. Most equate this type with serial killers, which is true, but most aren’t. It’s said if someone questions if they are a Narcissist they generally aren’t, but that isn’t the case with a Psychopath, now called Anti-Social Personality Disorder. In fact, did you know there are two types of Psychopaths? Yes, there is a primary and secondary type. The primary type has the following characteristics: grandiose self importance, superficial charm, parasitic lifestyle, impulsive, apathetic, irresponsible, many short-term marriages, commits a diverse list of crimes, promiscuous, pathological lying, etc. The secondary type shows more anxiety and emotional instability. What’s most interesting is that men tend to meet the clinical bar for this disorder while women tend to be less physically violent than men, have more anxiety and a worse self-image. Only 1% of men are psychopaths and .7% of women so while this is an unlikely condition it doesn’t mean we don’t have some of the traits. Since this is a spectrum disorder psychologists use a Hare Checklist to determine the likelihood of the traits. For instance to determine if you’re a Psychopath the score is 30 or higher; Ted Bundy scored 39. To see how you rank or someone you know, take the test: https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/LSRP.php. All three tests are free.

Should you choose to take the exams and evaluate yourself, also evaluate how you take care of yourself. Are you prone to numb yourself with something when you get upset like cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping, etc? It’s amazing to me when I ask people if they burn themselves when they get upset and they laugh and say that’s crazy but ruining your body is ruining your body and you have to start looking at why choosing self harm is ‘comforting’ to you. Rethink how you’re treating yourself and others and see yourself and your relationships for what they really are.

As far as building self-discipline, our expectations must change along with our perceptions of situations. It’s about focusing on one single goal at a time and not hating yourself because you didn’t accomplish more, faster. Learning how to not lean on others so you can avoid temptation is another big step in self-discipline and planning ahead when things happen so you don’t break down. If you can commit to being miserable you can commit to being fulfilled and happy. Traumatic childhoods alone don’t generally create mental disorders but they do play a big factor, so assess your odds so you know what you’re up against, and the people you keep in your life. Determine if you’re shutting the door on the right toxic things and people and not on yourself. How we win and protect ourselves should always be examined. The relationships we have both make us and break us and we have to learn how to stand on our own in a healthy, constructive, moral way so we can finally have our time to shine.

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