-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 multigenerational, 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?