Abuse is systematic. It's not a rude episode, or being gauche or ignorantly doing something someone else doesn't appreciate, though abusers will claim that's all it is, and that it's just an isolated incident. It is repetitive and cyclical. So, look for recurrent themes or situations. Do you find yourself repeatedly involved in the same kinds of unpleasant situations with vulnerable others.
I believe abuse is an addiction. It's giving away a feeling you don't want to someone who is vulnerable by creating the feeling in them. Then, they feel worse, and you feel better.
Abuse tends to be multi-generational, passed down from parent to child by example and experience. If you've been abused, you've learned how to do it. You have a choice as to whether you will continue the passing down to the next generation of the abuse system.
Abusers avoid taking responsibility for their own behavior. They say they lost control, blew up, went off, didn't mean to, weren't thinking, don't know why they did it, or "it wasn't the real me," etc. All of these responses are denials of personal responsibility for one's own behavior.
Abuse is almost always contextual. Abusers behave badly in environments where there is secrecy and vulnerable victim availability. Abusers do not tend to try to abuse their boss, the policeman on the corner, or anyone they perceive as more powerful than they are.
Abusers have "selective amnesia" they "don't remember' doing a lot of the cruel and oppressive acts they've committed. They can express apparently genuine outrage at the abuse behaviors of others, while not recognizing the similarities to their own behaviors.
Abusers shed "crocodile tears." They are "sorry" briefly, and then quickly want their victims to feel sorry for them. They may lack real empathy for others, but pretend to experience it because they thing it's expected, or that it works for them to keep their victims available.
Abusers are self involved, and they want everyone else focusing on them. They think all issues are really about them, not about their victims.
Abusers are dishonest. They live a life of pretense.
1. Were you abused as a child/teen by a parent or other relative?
2. How do you deal with emotional discomfort? Do you use addictive behaviors to change your emotional/physical state? (gambling, shopping, food bingeing, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes.)
3. Do you come home to a happy family, and find that your children are crying within five minutes of your arrival, or someone is "in trouble" ?
4. Is your family dinner table a place where children are regularly punished or reprimanded, and you find it necessary to send them away, or make them unhappy during or after the meal? Are there other repeated events or activities where similar trouble happens: trips, outings, holidays, bedtime, shopping, etc.
5. Are your spouse or children afraid of you?
6. Do you force or coerce affection or companionship, or sex on any family member or love interest?
7. Have you ever raped anyone? Had rough sex without the other person's complete agreement or consent? Have you made your partner cry because of your physical treatment, or by denying them something or forcing or coercing them about something?
8. Is there a cycle of building tension, blow up on your part, denial of responsibility on your part, admission of guilt, repentance, and then a "honeymoon period" afterward, that repeats in your home or relationship?
9. Do you think you are responsible for making your significant other "shape up" behaviorally or otherwise? Are you jealous? Do you restrict the activities or range of movement of your significant other?
10. Do you have rules and regulations for your significant other or children that causes them to fear you or fear displeasing you? Do you withhold or deny them privileges or opportunities unnecessarily? Do you get satisfaction from doing so?
11. Has your significant other restricted her interaction with friends and family in order to avoid displeasing you or angering you?
12. Is your spouse or are your children depressed?
13. Is there one child of yours that gets more punishment from you and more criticism than the others?
14. Do you find that tension builds in your household, but is cleared when a big fight occurs, or when someone is punished?
15. Are you dishonest with yourself about your own motives in disciplining your children or trying to control your spouse?
17. Have you ever caused repeated physical injury to your significant other or child "by accident?"
18. Do you behave as courteously and respectfully toward your family members or significant other as you do to your boss at work?
19. Do you "give away" your feelings, when you don't like them?
20. Did you mistreat animals or pets when you were a child?
What to do with those crazymaking double messages:
1. Identify them for what they are. Whenever you have that gut feeling that what you've just heard doesn't stack up, stop and identify for yourself what is the mismatch, the contradictory information, the non-sense to it. The first requirement is that you are clear about what has just happened, that you don't internalize it as a valid message.
2. Decide what your best response is. You may choose to simply respond internally by saying to yourself, "That's a contradictory message." Or, "The words don't match the non-verbals or actions."
You may decide to respond to the one making the statement or exhibiting the behavior with, "That doesn't add up." Or, "That doesn't make sense to me," without asking or even desiring to discuss it further. This is best done in a level tone without any accusation or complaint, just simply stating that it isn't a sentence or claim that makes sense, or doesn't match up with what you are seeing.
3. Notice whether the double message is a warning of action that may come. With some abusers a crazymaking statement or double message is an indication that more abuse is to follow. That someone is vulnerable and they are going to strike further into the vulnerable territory. If that is the observed abuser's style, then get away from them, protect the vulnerable people. Avoid the abuser and get you and the children away into other activities where they are less vulnerable.
4. Strengthen your own personal boundaries and beef up your self-care. Double messages are intended to make people feel confused and vulnerable, insecure and doubtful. Use this opportunity to make yourself and those you love see things clearly, and be more fully protected. Use it as fuel for moving in the direction of enriching yourself and your children rather than retreating in vulnerable fear or sadness.
5. When you get double messages or crazymaking it may be an invitation from the abuser for you to engage in an argument or fight. Do something else instead. Create distance from them. Don't reward the double message with what they are going for, let them learn through experience that it doesn't work and gets them even less of what they want.
6. Remember that action works better to get what you want than talk does, especially with an abuser.