Suspicious Pattern


Mistrustful, hypervigilant

Acts very cautious about being vulnerable in any way

Searches out evidence of hidden hostility or negative intent in others; collects evidence of this

May even provoke others in order to bring this out in the open, though it often causes the hostility, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy

Doubts other people’s competence, ability to follow through, truthfulness, caring, positive feelings

Looks past people’s images or what they say to what is underneath

May stay withdrawn or isolated to avoid being hurt

Afraid of something being used against him later



Expects others to have hidden hostility, judgement, rejection, etc.

Need to protect oneself, especially by getting it out in the open


Core Issues/Origins

Betrayal: Parent was caring and loving at times, leading the child to be open and vulnerable, and then at other times the parent was just the opposite

The child shares sensitive information with the parent, and it is used against him later

May also come from abandonment

Deception: Child is told that the parent is feeling positively toward the child when there is underlying hostility

Parent erects a positive persona that fools the outside world, but is harmful to child inside the home.

Can be internalized from suspicious parents


Conscious Statement

You can’t trust anyone


Unconscious Thought

If I trust, I will be harmed



Self: Protective, careful, perceptive

Other: Deceiving, betraying, hidden hostility


Sees Others As

Hidden dangers


Healthy Capacities Blocked

Trust, vulnerability, responsiveness, caring, belonging, commitment


Gender and Culture

More common in men

More common in groups that have been discriminated against, especially in cover ways


Activating Conditions

People who are outwardly warm and friendly or who offer help

People who don’t show any anger directly or who otherwise clearly have a facade

People who have underlying anger



A suspicious person may be angry, but the angry pattern can derive from many other sources.

Isolated people also have difficulty trusting or allowing vulnerability, but they aren’t afraid of hidden motives, they are afraid of closeness.

Defiant people may also be cautious and guarded, but they react to direct exercise of power rather than a fear of hidden power

Perceptiveness is a healthy capacity that can help a person to see hidden hostility or negative intent. When this is seen accurately, this is not a suspicious pattern. When a person repeatedly sees it when it isn’t there or looks for it or over-reacts to it, this is evidence of a suspicious pattern.




The suspicious person is likely to have conflicts with people with charming, compliant, caring, and idealizing patterns.



Related Technical Concepts

Extreme is paranoid personality disorder, which usually also includes angry victim and prideful patterns



Client doesn’t trust therapist

Expects that you have underlying anger, etc.

Afraid that at some point in the future you will turn on him


Countertransference toward Suspicious Client

Defensiveness and irritation at accusations and suspicions

Becoming angry when client provokes you


Countertransference of Suspicious Therapist

Too much focus on looking for underlying manipulation or projection or hidden hostile intent in clients


Group Roles/Positions, Strengths of Some Suspicious Clients

Scapegoat because of provoking people

Group sleuth, searching out underlying issues




Forming the Alliance

If the client accuses you of hidden negative feelings, it is usually best to acknowledge whatever is there. This can permit enough trust for the client to engage in the therapy.

It is also important that you completely accept the client’s lack of trust, with no defensiveness.


Understanding of Pattern Needed by Client

That his suspicions are distorted. However, this cannot be achieved by anything direct from you. Don’t try to correct his distortions. This will just seem defensive and confirm his suspicions.


Accessing Core Issues and Origins

Betrayal, deception

Help the client to explore exactly how he doesn’t trust you, what he is afraid of. Lead this back to accessing origins in a way that doesn’t invalidate the client’s feelings about you.

Any access that involves vulnerability or shame is very delicate, because the client may expect this to be used against him later.


Experimenting with Healthy Behavior

Revealing sensitive issues


Healing Relationship 

No response in the moment can be healing because the client expects to be betrayed later. The client must see over the long haul that you can be trusted. This is fostered by your being as honest as possible and not harboring hidden hostility. If the client provokes this in you, it may be better to admit it openly. This should allow you to develop a relationship that is close with no betrayal or deceit