Learning to Confront Benignly and Effectively

Years of experience have demonstrated to me how insightful Eric Fromm was in his observations about love and the “artful” way of loving we sometimes call “therapy.” Fromm’s landmark book, The Art of Loving, was required reading in my undergraduate introductory psychology class, and it would be a book I’d delve into again on multiple occasions throughout my graduate training.  Being young, naive, and inexperienced, however, I didn’t fully appreciate Fromm’s perspective or principal message at first. In fact, early on, I found a lot of what he was trying to say both trite and misguidedly idealistic.  But after years of specializing in the work of promoting character change and growth in both relatively healthy and unhealthy individuals, I came to more fully appreciate both the value and the power of his perspective.  And it would take me some time to fashion for myself a deft way to benignly but firmly confront the thinking errors and behaviors that got the people I was working with into trouble and encourage them to try out some new, more adaptive ways of coping.  In short, I would have to develop my own art of loving in therapeutic way.  In the process I also came to appreciate how important and empowering it is to know just when and how to confront others when the situation demands.  Proper confrontation is not just a practical and beneficial way of dealing with the character disturbances of others.  It’s also one of the better ways of demonstrating a healthy brand of care and concern for yourself. 

Whether you’re dealing with someone whose character is significantly impaired and needs some major “attitude corrections” or a person who is generally a decent sort but could stand to grow a bit in character, there’s an artful way to go about confronting the issues needing attention.  You have to focus like a laser beam on the particular aspects of person’s ways of thinking or behaving that need changing, accurately label them, and firmly urge their correction while maintaining a demeanor of civility and calm.  Emotion, especially anger and animosity, while understandable in many situations, can never be allowed to take center stage.  And for confrontation to be maximally effective, things can’t be allowed to get personal, either.  Principle must clearly rule the day.  It always has to be about behavior and behavior that’s constructive vs. destructive.  There are always better and worse ways to think about and do things. And when principle takes precedence, everything else eventually falls into place.  But you have to have both the honesty and the courage to call out the things that need to be corrected, and you have to be willing to do that in the very moment problem behaviors, thinking patterns, or attitudes are displayed.  Standing calmly but firmly on principle and setting healthy terms of engagement – that’s what the art of benign confrontation is all about.

In my book Character Disturbance I present some vignettes that depict how the art of therapeutic loving through benign confrontation works (I also provide a few examples in The Judas Syndrome).  And in the coming weeks I’ll be giving some examples of how much more powerful it is to benignly call out behaviors than it is to vent frustration on or disparage a disturbed character. Disturbed characters love to shift the focus, blame others, evade issues, offer justifications, etc. – anything to avoid addressing and correcting the behaviors of concern.  And they also like to get into a game of personal vindication, incessantly trying to make it look like you’re just trying to tear them down, and in turn trying to cut you down to size by outing your faults. Benignly and calmly making it only behavior, and more specifically the problematic behavior they’re displaying in the moment, changes the game.

For some other thoughts on this same topic, check out: Character Disturbance and the Art of Confrontation.  And you can find more information on how to set more effective “terms of engagement” in the chapter of In Sheep’s Clothing devoted to that topic.

This weekend I’ll be traveling and Character Matters will not be a live broadcast (although I’m not sure what program will be rebroadcast), so no calls can be taken.  But I’ll be back again live on May 17, so if you have a question you want to ask or an experience you want to share, I’ll be happy to have you join the discussion.

112 thoughts on “Learning to Confront Benignly and Effectively

  1. Dr. Simon, It would be so helpful to see you in action wrestling with one of these slippery characters. I don’t think on my feet in the moment well at all, if at all. I’m sure it has to be “easier” to keep emotion out of the picture in a therapeutic setting? When you have no emotional investment with a person and have not already been manipulated into a vulnerable position without your knowledge I’m thinking it would be much easier to keep your footing. It’s hard to call out a behavior in the moment when the behavior you’re seeing is only a smoke screen for someone’s real agenda. As so many of us here know now, knowing what the real issues and problems were is something we only know now in retrospect. At the time, I couldn’t even find the words to label what was happening but I have a whole new vocabulary now. I still don’t know that I could effectively think on my feet fast enough to call someone out in the moment.

    1. Me too me too! It’s so easy to get pulled into anger or hurt, esp. when you are still trusting this person.

      I can do it in writing, on the internet. But in person? I still take the bait way too often. 🙁

      1. Since we all have at least one lunatic for a “parent” we had to start early on to develop a pattern of survival which continued until we…….what? we were fortunate to have a relationship with a horrendous CD? Something clicked on the light bulb for us. Until we did what we knew.
        When I was 5, my mother said that she was going to paint something on my thumbnail so I would stop sucking my thumb. I was terrified. I thought it was poisonous and she was going to kill me. The person I am supposed to trust to take care of me….by 5 I knew at some level she was evil.

        1. Whoops, got so carried away reliving that moment that I forgot to say, Vera you are now aware. Huge step towards undoing years of ingrained response. You know it was bait, you know you don’t deserve it. Congratulate yourself on your progress and keep walking, step by step.

          1. Yeah, Lulu, you said it. In a few days, it will be three years that the scales fell from my eyes. I will celebrate, and savor all the learning since. Boy, was I ever clueless! A lifetime of suffering, first a narc father, then a borderline husband… gah. It’s good to be here in good company. 🙂

            I have two wishes on this anniversary. One, that more and more people come to be aware. And two, that we aware ones get really effective. One step at a time! 🙂

          2. Vera, Happy Anniversary! 🙂 I think it’s coming up on two years for me but more like two and a half if you count from the break up. Hard to say because we were always breaking up. But it is O V E R ! It’s so hard to even imagine I was so ensnared now.

      2. Vera, I think, even though someone may be living with a CD, they would almost have to ‘split up with them in their head’ before they could deal with them in a calm civil way? I know this kind of detached non-judgemental approach is beyond me with anybody who has hurt me badly, due to undeserved indifference, pit bull style insensitivity, or, in the P’s case, blatant sadism. Maybe I have a lot to learn or change in myself. I don’t know.

        1. LisaO, so true and if you had split up with them in your head you would already know what they were up to and why would you stay with someone you now know is not the same person you thought they were at that point?! Bubbye! Nope, I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to. I HAVE to respect a man to want to be with a man……….unless I’ve been manipulated into loving a man.

    2. Thanks so much for this suggestion. In the professional trainings I’m putting together, I’m planning to have some demonstrative video vignettes of me dealing with CD “actors” using scripts derived (and slightly altered) from actual cases. Perhaps one such vignette could be used as part of one of my lay persons workshops or webinars. I’ll work on it.

  2. Dr. Simon, In addition to Puddle’s question, I am curious about your use of the word, confrontation. Maybe it’s just me, but a confrontation goes more to an aggressive (although that is too harsh a word) stance, which could lead to an angry reaction, then I am more likely to get frustrated and go into emotional mode.
    If I am very firm, in body language and tone of voice, about the unacceptable behavior, I may get the same angry, or other crazy making response, but from personal experience, I know It is much easier for me to stay confident, calm and on the track that I intend.
    One of CD’s tricks was to talk over me so he could change the subject. It took me years to even be aware that it was happening before I could calmly say I wanted it to stop. He might let me get a couple of sentences in, then revert back, I would get frustrated, then sarcastic, not a good plan. Even though at the time, I didn’t see the whole picture, I could name a specifics behavior but did not yet have the appropriate tools to deal with it.
    Puddle, I strongly agree that when you are in the midst of this swirly, twirly, roller coaster riding insanity aka living with a CD, it is hard to impossible to put all the puzzle pieces together. And I know I could never have done it without your loving support and encouragement. Behaviors and experiences that were connected, many that I had never put together before…..oh, no I get that. It might be possible to call out some specifics but in my experience I had to get away before I could even begin to process it in a whole

    1. You know it Lulu…..there is SO much going on and it’s more than likely even more complex than we even realize. The level of exhaustion, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual is so insidious and chips away at the ground under your feet. As time goes on it takes less and less effort on their part to topple you.
      It’s like a blur to me now, a spinning and surreal blur, like when you know you had a dream and can almost remember it but not really? Of course I can remember more than I would like to but the feeling is like what I describe.
      And Lulu……don’t forget…..with some of these squirrels, nothing you can do is going to be the right thing. I was assertive, he played on that……I was soft, he played on that. Everything and I mean everything got turned upside down and backwards. Disgusting. When your heart is hooked that is such a powerful magnet and it takes something pretty drastic to break.
      You are awesome Lulu! You seem like a spirited intelligent person and you deserve better then one of these idiots, we all do!

    2. Confrontation has indeed been saddled with a bad connotation. But I’m careful about the words I choose, and confrontation is the right one. No problem is ever addressed until it’s accurately and clearly called out. And that doesn’t have to be done in a hostile or combative way. But to shirk away from it is only to enable dysfunction. The word may have a bad rap (unfortunately), but it’s not only the right word, it’s the right course to take.

      1. Dr Simon, I do agree that it is the right thing to do, but in the situation I was in ( and many of us here) to confront was only giving him yet another venue to preform in. I see now how thoroughly scrambled I was and I couldn’t have confronted him on ANY thing successfully. He had a way around, under or over just about everything. If I would have been where I am now, then……maybe, but I wasnt.
        I don’t know how to retrieve the necessary responses in the moment.

        1. Corey, It depends on whst you are dealing with. If you are in an unsafe situation, confrontation is not a good idea. Safety first. If you are with someone who is physically abusive the situation is beyond redemption and requires immediate professional help, most importantly help for the victim.

  3. If reconciliation is the intended goal with someone who is ‘in your face awful’ then remaining calm but firm might help the situation. If the victim screams until she is blue in the face, it’s not going to get her anywhere and she might pop an artery…so not a great strategy.

    It would take the presence of mind and detachment of a zen master to handle a CD in a consistently firm but gentle way. And…although they may acquiesce to a male therapist, using these techniques, I can see them bulldozing their partner into the ground, if she tried same. And for stealthy types, their partner’s new calm gentle approach could just be a new type of playground for them, albeit with swings and monkey bars removed.

  4. Oh, yes, Puddle, less and less effort to topple me.
    CD could do the caring husband act for a while, but invariably the strong desire to do what HE wanted to do won out, and what I now know as the real person was back.
    He worked out of town, on his way back home on Fridays, he would stop by the very assertive, mince no words therapist for a sort of pep talk. Couldn’t even keep it together then. I was in therapy, learning that I did not deserve to be treated badly. The combo only made him drink more. Unless the CD buys into it, I don’t see how there can be any changes.
    I am still fighting for alimony which absolutely infuriates me. I am really questioning whether I should keep going or not. When I’m not dealing with anything related to him, I am so much happier and peaceful. I am barely scraping by.
    At the end of this month, it will be 4 years since we separated. He was so hateful from the start that it took me a while to even realize that I was in a spinning, surreal blur.
    Congratulations Vera and Puddle. It takes superhuman strength to get out of an emotionally abusive relationship. Even though your insides have been scraped raw, it doesn’t show, so the support available is minimal to condescending to irritation.

    1. Lulu, congratulations to YOU!! I hope you can find a solution to the alimony that brings you peace. I can imagine he would fight it tooth and nail, they don’t even like to pay child support if they can avoid it! They are like ferrel dogs. BLACH!

  5. They don’t understand reasoning, but they do understand consequences. The problem is, the only consequence you can impose is your perpetual absence. It has to be perpetual because if you take them back, you’ve only proven to them that they can get away with it.

    It’s a no-win situation for anyone involved with one of these characters. You can’t enforce boundaries on anyone who has no desire to respect them.

    1. Boundaries are just another thing to jump over or run around for them, just makes the game more challenging for them. The problem is you don’t always know they are doing it.

    2. With the worst of them, no contact is the only way. Which is difficult if it’s an aging relative.

      But with milder versions, the staircase approach works. You find firmer and firmer consequences, and some do turn around.

        1. The staircase approach means step by step escalation. At the lowest rungs, you may decide to stay with it and bear it for the time being, carving out some space for yourself on the side, as it were. (Picking your battles with care.)

          The next level is friendly negotiation. If that does not produce results, you begin to fight. Firmer and firmer consequences. And if that does not work, you insert greater and greater distance, until you may need to go no contact.

          This way, you give the person plenty of chances to turn around, if that is at all in the cards.

          1. Thank you Vera! That helps a lot. From what I know of my brother he won’t show any willingness to change; I’ll see how many chances I’m willing to give before calling it quits.

    3. Einstein: You said “The problem is, the only consequence you can impose is your perpetual absence. It has to be perpetual because if you take them back, you’ve only proven to them that they can get away with it. It’s a no-win situation for anyone involved with one of these characters. You can’t enforce boundaries on anyone who has no desire to respect them.”

      I fortunately do not live with a covert aggressive, but am dealing with how to handle my brother, who uses every tactic Dr. Simon details in his books (other than violence, so far.)
      This is now my dilemma if you will. Whether or not to see him when he is in town next week. A short background:

      his winter was the first time I tried to speak up for myself, rather ineffectually, but I at least tried. I told him I no longer wanted to be called by a childhood nickname; he agreed but of course with the caveat “I don’t want to offend you”.

      I replied to this that I was not offended, I was simply telling him I would no longer respond to that nickname, only my own name. He repeated “I don’t want to offend you”.

      He then asked why I had been so distant the past few times when he was in town. I spoke of this in a previous post. I brought up some of his behaviors, but since it was not right then and there that he was participating in them, I immediately got all the justifications, denials, etc. I gave him specific examples, to which he had no response, he just glared at me. At the end of the evening (we had been out for supper), he again said “I don’t want to offend you.”

      I perhaps should have repeated myself, but I thought I’d just be wasting my time.

      Now to what is happening: He was recently on a mini-sabbatical in England; I received an email saying “I have photos. I will send them to you if you like” Neither of us has ever done this, we just send off photos to friends and/or each other, very casually, no big deal. All of a sudden he wants my “permission”, otherwise he won’t send photos. Not sure if this is passive-aggressive, or what the appropriate label is. I know he sent photos to others, and I highly doubt he asked every single person’s permission!

      Before learning about CA behavior, I would have immediately responded to the photo request by saying “of course, send the photos”.

      Because of what I’ve learned from Dr. Simon’s writings and you guys here on the forum, I now see that even something as trivial as sending a few photos was another way to exert his “power”. I needed to say, in effect, “yes pretty please, do send me those photos.”

      Instead I wrote exactly what I thought: “what a strange thing to say, if you wish to send photos, then send them of course. If not, then don’t”

      I didn’t hear anything for almost 2 weeks. Then I receive an email from his partner, who had sent a “Reply to all” email about the great photos everyone had received from my brother. Of course, I had not received any. So, I realized that the two of them had figured out a way to let me know I was not in the loop any longer. His partner had appended my name to the global “Reply to All” email, subsequent to the others having received the emails with photo attachments (not sure if I’m being clear).

      I also saw some of their friends’ responses to the photos, joking about how my brother had not been invited to the Palace for tea with the Queen.

      I did not respond at all. I think they wanted me to reply that I hadn’t seen the photos, please send them!

      Then a week later his partner emails me separately to say that my brother had photos of the town in England with the same name as our home town. I still did not respond. What am I supposed to say? I can see that the two of them are trying to get me to do what my brother thinks I should do – acquiesce. And I’m thinking to myself, for the love of Pete, all of this over some photos!

      Another week and I finally receive a few photos of the town in question. And again, the “I have other photos. If you want to see them let me know.” My thought was: why not just send the d&mn photos? So all I responded was “nice photos”, then a few details about the photos themselves, and the weather in England. That was it.

      Then today I receive an email from my brother. All he wrote was “I’m in town May 15-19”.

      That’s all. So, he is obviously not going to commit to saying something like “I’d like to see you, how about supper?” Of course, he’s never actually said “I’d like to see you”
      I have now realized that I was just a placeholder at the restaurant table to serve as an audience for him.

      And from what I’ve been reading here, I think to myself: what’s the point of responding? Do I want to put myself through the back and forth emails of trying to elicit a definitive response from him? Just seeing his name gets me nervous. And yet a part of me wants to see him just so that I can get some “practice” in confronting his behavior. Yet to even get to the point of receiving a real answer from him along the lines of “yes, sure, let’s have supper” seems to be an exercise in futility.

      Now, do I really want to see him? No. Absolutely not. But again, how will I learn to confront him if I never have the chance? But on the other hand, is it just an exercise in futility?

      Is my head going to explode 🙂

      Any advice would be most welcome! (I also know that some of you are going through so much worse, living with a CA, especially with children involved. Just this is exhausting, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to live with one of these characters)

      1. Hi GG, I really don’t have any real advise but will tell you my opinion in this situation. In a case like this, adult siblings, it really comes down to what you are willing to accept about them and basing your interactions/ involvement with them accordingly. Kind of a live and let live thing. This doesn’t seem like something you need to confront him about, you don’t like it but it/ he is what it/he is. You can try telling him how you are experiencing being his sister and what you would like to be different but keep your expectations realistic.
        Good luck GG!

        1. Thanks Puddle (can always count on you!). My expectations are basically zero. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have no sibling – in the sense of the kind of the normal supportive relationship I see with other families. I’ll wait until tomorrow and see how I feel. The funny thing is, his partner called about an hour ago 🙂 He asked how I was, I was friendly – I wish he were my brother rather than the one I share DNA with – said I was fine, then cut the conversation short by saying I was going out (well, I did go out – to the garden!). What often happens is my brother doesn’t bother contacting me (that’s more of a family trait, we’re not into chitchat over the phone), but his partner will be the one to do so, then call my brother to the phone to talk to me. I was having none of that today. Not sure if his partner feels bad and is trying in his way to help, or if it’s part of their tag team effort at getting me to respond. I think it’s more of the latter.

          1. GG, I have almost zero relationship with my bro. He is so fried, I just can’t even go there. So much drama in the past with him…..done. I invest myself very little there and my expectations are extremely realistic. Sad. I do care about him and can easily get my self in tears when I think about what a mess the whole situation is. He’s my only sibling and I guess that is very hard to erase. I really think your answers are in your expectations.

          2. His partner could be doing his dirty work willingly, or may be in much the same boat as you. The only thing worse than having one as a sibling, is being locked in a cage with one day in and day out. I would expect that either his partner is equally as disordered or (more likely) is equally as victimized and does his dirty work because he/she doesn’t have a choice. Walking on eggshells…keeping the peace…..lovely, lovely existence.

      2. GG, very similar to what my father pulls. They never ask, that is to them giving their power away. But there is indirect pressure via friends… etc.

        I completely share your ambivalence. I stayed with him for several months last year, and boy did I learn a lot. But in the end, I was still a wreck, and I will never do that again. I also stayed with a “friend” whom I had identified as one, and again, I learned a lot, but still got baited, still got sucked into the vicious unpleasantness he thrives on some of the time.

        I would say, it is highly instructive to be with them in the full awareness of what is going on, and watch it happening. But it is still painful, and they still “get me” in the end. So if you do see him, don’t be hard on yourself. You can’t win. They always have yet another scheme up their sleeve… Use the learning for your own growth. And you’ll know when it’s time to put greater distance between you.

        Best of luck.

        1. Thank you Puddle and Vera. What I’m thinking to do now (may change by tomorrow), is to respond : “That was rather an abrupt email. Is there anything else you meant to add?”

          1. GG, it takes a lot of presence of mind but if you can keep the ball in their court and not let yourself get painted into a corner, keep them talking and answering YOUR questions…..I think you get a clearer picture. I can’t tell you how many times I wish I had done that in past encounters. Once you start answering their questions or debulking yourself in any way, you inadvertently dig yourself into a hole that keeps getting deeper the harder you try to get out of it. It’s so infuriating to picture myself flailing and knowing my intentions were pure. There was just no way out. Swimming in quicksand. They want you to think the problem is you not them.
            Good luck girl!

          2. GG, asking a question is almost always a good way to rebalance the power, and put the ball in the other person’s court. Let us know how it develops!

      3. It’s definitely an exercise in exhaustion. It’s quite obvious he’s playing mind-games with you, and while you find it upsetting, he finds it quite entertaining. People like your brother enjoy making people miserable…it’s what makes them so toxic.

        He’s not being passive-aggressive, he’s being covert aggressive. He’s goading you, and you know it, but it’s all cloaked in the cover of plausible deniability (he’s not being an ass — he’s respectfully asking your permission!).

        The more you really get who is he is the less his shenanigans will get under your skin, and you’ll find yourself being able to predict just how his disordered brain will operate in a given situation. They really are so predictable.

        For now, take a break from him. Life is too short to let people ruin your day – especially when they enjoy doing it.
        You can reengage with him when YOU feel like you can put up with his boring bullcrap.

        1. Really, these kind of games are a watered down version of a serial killer. All for power and control and their of twisted……..fill in the blank. Here we are spinning our wheels trying to come up with a plan, how the best way to do or say this or that….what if I X, Y or Z! But when it comes down to it………..they are never going to be any different than the way they are and why waste time and energy even having that kind of toxic person in your life?
          Good call Einstein!

        2. I tend to agree with you Einstein. GG, Take a break from him. Your silence will confuse him, and you have your control back. Too often I think they try to get you to debate with them and start another battle that never ends.

          1. Einstein, Corey, Puddle – thank you! “Your silence will confuse him.” Man, these characters really try all the tactics, don’t they? And here I am, almost taking the bait. I knew I had to come here on the forum and get your input!! I won’t respond at all to his email. And the plausible deniability of the photo silliness – again, you’re absolutely right.

            You guys rock!!

  6. Dr Simon, when dealing with a covert aggressive many people have taken the option of disengaging in the relationship or engaging only at a minimum level when no other option is possible. When the aggressor becomes frustrated by not having access to the target because the target withdraws, a common tactic is for the aggressive to accuse the target of using the silent treatment or being passive aggressive himself/herself. In short, projection is often used by the aggressor.

    Can you provide suggestions for how a target might talk with an aggressor when the aggressor accuses a target of the silent treatment when there is very good reason to maintain distance from the CA?

    The most denial oriented individuals will accuse a reasonable person of silent treatment or passive aggression after a benign confrontation, so it would be great to have suggestions for how to respond to the next accusation that is bound to follow. Thanks always for these articles.

    1. Hi RF, Perhaps this will be helpful.
      1) I suggest you read Dr. Simon’s books cover-cover!!
      2) Allow me to take a stab at your question~
      Definition:
      Projection :
      “Projection is a defense mechanism that involves taking our own unacceptable qualities or feelings and ascribing them to other people. For example, if you have a strong dislike for someone, you might instead believe that he or she does not like you. Projection works by allowing the expression of the desire or impulse, but in a way that the ego cannot recognize, therefore reducing anxiety.” (Definition)

      SO – In other words, a person feels so guilty about the behavior and so ashamed of himself, deep down, that he can’t even face it, and by assigning the behavior to someone else, he can once again live with himself.
      PROJECTION IS AN ANTIQUATED, OUTDATED CONCEPT! Does it actually happen? Maybe. Rarely. Does it happen in aggressive personalities? Probably not. Rather, Aggressive personalities don’t project, they simply lie. They have discovered how disconcerting it is to neurotics to be accused of such childish, unacceptable and immature behavior as giving someone “the silent treatment” that they use this tactic often… accuse us of misbehavior that they often own. Then, they can watch us squirm trying to disprove them. But then it’s too late, they’ve won simply because they have us focused on defending ourselves and not looking at the obvious: that they are little liars engaged in a sneaky, ugly, malicious game of accusing us of our worst nightmare of having bad behavior!!

      So how do you talk with the aggressor about this? I don’t think you talk with them. You talk TO them, mostly. Here are a few examples:
      1) Ignore them when they behave like this. This is basically saying “you must be kidding me- I’m not going to honor that ridiculousness with a response” But give them a smile to let them know you care. Say something like “I’m just busy right now. We’ll talk about this another time.”
      2) Address the situation head-on… “what are we going to do about this problem of yours where you make things up like this? Like saying I’m giving you “the silent treatment”? such nonsense. Now this is really a big problem, and I hope you’re doing something to work on this.” There is some risk in doing this, depending upon who you’re dealing with.
      3) laugh and say “oh my gosh that’s so ridiculous! C’mon, let’s go out for coffee.”
      4) Grey rock. If I were ever stuck with a truly dangerous person (like if my life were in danger) I wouldn’t hesitate. But with the fairly low-level CA’s I’ve dealt with, this is not the right approach.
      I don’t think it’s helpful to reason, or to discuss things as you would with most adults.
      Good luck!

      1. Sorry, in last sentence, there should be a break between “this is not the right approach” and the next sentence –
        the “I don’t think it’s helpful to reason, or to discuss things as you would with most adults” comment is separate from approach option #4. It was kind of my summary sentence 🙂
        Thanks!

      2. Linda, great observations and putting the blame where it belongs, on them. I’ve seen this tactic and fallen into its trap more times than I’d like to remember. That……….” But I didn’t SAY that! Or didn’t mean that! Or fill in the blank!” And know how forlorn I felt because I knew he was wrong and I felt like I was climbing a wall covered in grease, again swimming in quick sand.

      3. Linda, that’s a very helpful observation, about projecting being an antiquated idea. It’s hard for us neurotics not to take things personally, I always want to smooth things over, and I tend to explain myself too much, getting caught in the trap of responding to their accusations.

      4. Here’s another response possibility:
        “I don’t play the bl*me game. If you want me to hear your feedback, play nice.” Then go for a walk. 🙂

    2. RF, the common tactic you are alluding to really takes many forms, not just blaming, and the gist of it is this: you are under attack. Act accordingly.

      Arguing back, believing you can show them they are mistaken, is not an effective way to defend your boundary.

    3. Hello RF. I think I understand what you’re asking here, and while I don’t generally use this forum to give advice, I would suggest as others have already suggested that you first read the books, especially the part of In Sheep’s Clothing dedicated to personal empowerment, if only to get the “gist” of a different interaction style, and then use the contact feature on the blog to ask me any questions you still have. I might emphasize one general principle, however: because CA folks generally know what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how to make their “target” feel badly about disengaging, it’s important to remember how unnecessary it is to “talk” with them about your reasons for setting the limits. The burden for change always needs to rest with the aggressor, period. And if they want “engagement from you badly enough, they’ll soon figure out that they’d better observe some appropriate rules for doing so.

  7. Lulu, I just reread your response to Vera, and you mentioned “Huge step towards undoing years of ingrained response. You know it was bait, you know you don’t deserve it. Congratulate yourself on your progress and keep walking, step by step.” I think that is so important for us to remember – we have years of these ingrained behaviors as we tried to protect ourselves from all the attacks thrown at us, but without the proper tools to do so. Like eating soup with a fork. It is empowering to know that we are not at fault and we deserve respect and support, not manipulations and deceit.

  8. Interesting timing. Narbro wants to finally visit me in person because he found my last email, ‘troubling.’ I won’t go into details, but have to say that where most people would have been right on it, apologized–my bro will dig right down to the quantum level, pull out the luggage of logic confusion, appeal to emotion when dealing with the clearly factual, and become absolute and very fact based where emotions are required. He is the fabulous obfuscating verbal gerbil. Oh Boy… Very hard to ‘communicate’ to someone who has hurt you so badly partly by using these techniques. I will try to remain detached and keep him focused on principle. Not easy to have what us clearly going to be a battle if wits with someone who is regarded as a mental powerhouse. Wish me luck.

  9. Puddle,

    He told me on the phone that he wants to make sure that we talk one on one. He will definitely try to snow me. Easier to do this in isolation. I am going to get back to him and let him know that he is welcome to come by but that I have said and written all I intend to on any matter that might trigger anxiety.

    I think it is really unwise to afford this ‘ascended master’ the opportunity to manage my impression of him. And this is all it will be; one long, drawn out, confusing exercise, where his accepting responsibility for lousy behavior gets lost in spiritual verbal gymnastics. When we sat down together with the therapist of his choosing, a few years ago, she would literally raise her hand and stop him, every time he started to do this. Threw him a curve ball! He doesn’t want this to happen again.

  10. LisaO, does he live nearby? Are you doing this partly for yourself? As for me, I haven’t yet answered my brother’s email. I think I may see him this time when he’s in town, steeling myself for his verbal gymnastics, because I want to take another step forward for myself in learning to hold my ground. Could you meet narbro somewhere public? I don’t know your situation, just thinking that if he is at your place it may take awhile to get rid of him.

    1. GG,

      He lives a few hours away, so would be staying overnight. I’d like to see him but not if he is coming out to basically tell me off, in a confusing gibberishy way. So, we will be stuck together. As I don’t want to have a one on one exchange with him, if he comes out, I will make sure I have plenty of friends around. He’s not an ogre, he has just been thrown on the defensive because I have confronted him. So…I must be somehow ‘broken’ and he has to fix things. In some ways he is a good person but he is just so freaking self absorbed.

      I don’t think that narcissists enjoy messing with our heads and upsetting us. That isn’t the motivation for their behavior. Maybe some do, but I see it more like narcissists don’t quite acknowledge us as fellow sentient beings. We are invisible, in a way, if we aren’t providing something for them. And that something can be as simple as pulling back on the stimulating intellectual conversation because you are too sick to write much or talk.

      I get the sense that your brother is miffed with you for asserting yourself. You have upset, questioned what the feels is the natural hierarchy of things and he is having a mild hissy fit about it and it is manifesting in minor changes in his communication style.

      Has he done something to you that is abhorrent or is it mainly Chinese water torture, slow drips of self preoccupation, that is hard to take? With my bro a lot of it involves omission, the things he should be doing, but doesn’t.

      1. LisaO, can you take someone with you for support? I don’t really care what HE wants if you know what I mean? But, if it comes down to needing someone with you to visit with another person, sibling or otherwise…..that kind of paints a pretty clear picture.

        1. Puddle,

          When I emailed him last night, I specified that he is welcome to come and visit but that face to face encounters about sensitive subjects, one on one, are too difficult for me right now. I told him I would be happy to write back and forth about contentious issues. He responded that the main purpose of his trip was to have this deep conversation, in private.

          In other words, he plans to bulldoze me into the ground. It’s not going to happen. He is very hostile at the moment and I can tell by the image he is trying to project. The more hostile and wanting to control impressions he is, the smoother he becomes. He uses words like, “honest, constructive, blah blah”

          In other words he’s set to pitch a fit, preacher style, when he arrives. And, if I allow it, there won’t be anyone around who has my back. I spoke to my therapist yesterday, who told me exactly how the email exchanges would go and that he was loaded for bear. She was right.

          It is very difficult to close this chapter in my life. I have pretty much lost all of my family and husband in the last 5 years. Unbonding from all family closes a door on family history. It can be a rebirth or a devastation.

          When my husband realized just how isolated I had been for many years, he worked so hard to redress a lot of the problems we had together. So did I. He also helped me to deal with the sad reality of familial indifference. He really laid it on the line. Therapist met with brother and sister. Same. Said she had never seen a worse case of gas lighting and passed this on to me. Without her and my husband my brother might have convinced me up was down, black is white and that I am crazy. She told me he rattled her so much that she was shaking when he attacked HER. Of course that attack revolved around her not agreeing that I was crazy.

      2. Hi LisaO, my brother minimizes, justifies, accuses, sneers, insults, plays the victim,etc. etc. etc. He’ll use calculated fits of rage, anything to keep control of a conversation. Everything Dr. Simon writes about. It’s a game to him. And you are right, he is having a hissy fit now that I’ve started to assert myself. I mean, how dare I?? I’m the younger sister who has to acquiesce, right? But everything I’ve described is verbal abuse. We don’t have to take it (I know, easier said than done). And as Puddle says, if you feel the need to have others with you when he’s around, that’s very telling. Good luck in whatever you decide.

        1. GG,

          Yep…your bro is a prima Donna type. And yep, ignoring that type works. I am in the position of having to confront bro with the fact that his words and deeds show an alarming discrepancy. It is not okay to change plans, at the last minute, because something more fun comes up… for example. It is not okay to make bizarre bullshit statements like, “I would be happy to stay with you while you are in Hawaii but don’t want to visit you when you are at home. And Lisa, why would you question that or infer that I am more interested in a free place to stay, than visiting you? These are two completely different experiences. You, in your local environment should never be conflated with you outside of your environment. Lisa, any negative conclusions you are drawing here, make no sense.”

          See what I mean about verbal gerbiling?

          1. LisaO, what your brother says (i.e. staying in Hawaii vs. at your place) is laughable – from a reader’s perspective. Anyone (other than your brother, of course) would see what he says as an attempt at freeloading. Unbelievable. Since visiting you is what he says takes precedence, why not just meet halfway somewhere, and visit that way? A mini-trip for both of you 🙂

        2. Hi GG,

          Hissy fits take many forms. My bro is presently just freaking furious but comes across differently because he is in covert mode. And he is super furious that I am calling him on lousy behaviour — asserting myself, in other words. So sad you have had such a confuserama for so long trying to figure out what the nature of your bro’s problem is. You deserve much better. We all do

          Thank you and everybody else for all the words of encouragement. It really helps. Lulu, so good to hear from you! Am so sorry that you are having such a terrible time with your ex-jerk and your weird sister. Once a CD doesn’t need you for anything anymore…they either drop you like a hot rock or feel no particular loyalty and feel free to run you down behind your back. You have had way too much to deal with. I hope so much you find the peace you richly deserve.

          Anna, I don’t know if you are seeking others advice but if you don’t mind I would like to,offer an opinion about your Mother. If she is super accomplished socially, has a great facade, people won’t necessarily believe you. They will believe the wisdom (or lack thereof) of their own eyes and experience. Our objective reality can’t trump that. Confronting her is different. I plan to confront my brother eventually and him alone. I will do it with a certain measure of compassion, as I think that some of this he can’t help. He’s not cruel. There is just something missing, where he must win, must exert control. And he doesn’t have the ability to empathize, which is likely a skill or talent that varies in the general population but is mostly absent in him. That has to be unpleasant, unsettling. I know he has never been very happy.

          But your Mother seems to not have been a mother at all and was intentionally cruel, so I would let her know how you feel. You will feel much better.

      3. LisaO said: “I don’t think that narcissists enjoy messing with our heads and upsetting us. That isn’t the motivation for their behavior. Maybe some do, but I see it more like narcissists don’t quite acknowledge us as fellow sentient beings.”

        Oh yes they do! At least mine does… he is positively addicted to it. You can feel the glee in him. In fact, it is his only hobby now that he’s old. So… I would say it’s both.

        But my impression is that when he is condescending or plays all the various games of “now I will yank my attention away and leave you hanging” it’s not so much that he believes I am not a sentient being (etc.) but that he wants to do everything to demean me and take my power away. He lies so much it is impossible to know what he really believes. I used to try to have discussions with him, but then I discovered it’s all fake, his opinions and his views. Just props for his power games. Shame, really, since he’s got a good mind.

        1. Hi Vera,

          Uggghhh. Are you referring to your father? I had problems with my father when I was young but they were of quite a different nature. Yours sounds like he is bitter and maybe even jerking you around because he’s bored? He should really take up lawn bowling and play bingo, or something like that! Of course extreme sports like sky diving (without a parachute) might work too! Lol

          My bro is different. He is indifferent, lacking in empathy for others. It’s all about him and his ‘big ideas.’ As most people are very charmed by his sense of humor and mental agility, they don’t experience this until they spend time with him. Then his complete lack of acknowledgement of the specifics of their lives, comes shining through.

          He would never lower himself to hurt anybody for fun though. He is the preacher type, who feels he is the ultimate authority on everything. I have seen him counsel someone with a large (and growing mass) to seek a second opinion before being biopsied. He and his wife are anti-vaccine, pro-all- things natural. While they are out rescuing animals, they both have family members in dire need of attention, who are overlooked.

          They’re nuts

          1. Yes, LisaO, my father, alas. With my x, it’s been no contact for 9 years, thank goodness. But a close blood relative? It’s hard. We were no contact for a number of years but when his wife died, friends of the family came down hard on me to reconnect. A big mistake.

            I don’t think he’s bitter at all… he just lives to yank people’s chain. He always did, you know, but way back when, he had more things in his life, and more people to yank, so it got diluted, as it were… though my mom bore the brunt of it.

            Ah. So at least your bro has some decent limits on what he will or will not do. Saving animals? Better than not doing anything good, nah? My father is always right, too, but for him, the mischief aspect predominates. He absolutely loves it when he can pull the wool over another person’s eyes. His main strategy? Keep trying one lie after another until the other person bites. Ugh is right.

            I wish someone had told me about “charm.” Everybody seemed to think it was something to be admired. Now, I am retraining myself. I still feel the pull when I meet a charmer, but I am getting better at reminding myself to go into alert instead of hypnosis! Heh.

  11. Hello Dr. Simon,

    I found your site after googling “manipulation tactics” because I realize that I need to learn how to identify manipulative people and learn how to protect myself after being abused by my parents. Thank you for all of the excellent advice that you have posted.

    It sounds like you are talking about how to lovingly and/or rationally confront someone with who you want to maintain a relationship. But what about confronting a covertly aggressive person for their past actions—but without any desire to maintain or repair the relationship? My mother has spent my entire life manipulating me, playing the victim, putting on a false front in front of others, and conducting vicious smear campaigns against me, in addition to other abusive behavior. I have cut contact with her, and many people have advised me to just put her out of my mind and focus on my life. I am focusing on my life, but I also feel that since she’s spent decades lying about me and harming me, the truth should come out. I don’t expect anything from her, acknowledgement or an apology or anything—but I want to speak my truth. I feel like it’s akin to a rape victim wanting to call the rapist out and say “You did this to me!” What do you think? Have you known anyone who has had success with this? By success I am looking for a release–I feel that if I do this, I will feel like I have finally stood up for myself and that I will feel a cathartic relief for finally speaking my truth.

    1. Hi Anna, I told everybody in the family and circle of friends. Most don’t believe me. A few have become real allies. And he revenged himself on me for telling.

      1. Hi Vera,

        Thanks so much for the reply. I’ve been considering the same–telling a small group of family and friends along with my mother–and I expect to get a similar reaction (most won’t believe me). Did you feel better? Are you glad that you did it? I feel like it would be such a relief!

        1. Anna, I am really glad I told. In many ways it’s been a huge relief, and you learn a lot about other people too, and whether they have the strength of character to support you. (Most go on making excuses for the CD.) Besides, it was good to break that rule of dysfunctional families that “we don’t talk about that.”

          Confronting him does not make any sense at this point because he is completely unreachable, and teflon. And, as other people here have said, he would just be glad for getting to me.

          When you say to normal people, “when you did x I felt upset” (or whatever), they pay attention. The CDs actually often enjoy hearing or seeing that such and such behavior got to you, and they will do it more often, and harder. In other words, their logic is inverted. They go, “she is upset/hurt, success, yeah”! So why give them such a gift?

          1. Hi Vera,
            I’m so glad to hear that you’ve experienced some relief. You’re so right about the “rule”–my siblings and I were trained from a young age to keep the family secrets and contribute to the front that my parents wanted the world to believe.

            It’s so true that telling that sort of person that they’ve hurt you does nothing but please them. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply and tell me more about your experience. I’m so glad to not be alone in this!

    2. I was hoodwinked by my brother for many years – always blaming his partner for everything and anything. I’ve only just recently had my eyes slowly opened, that it was all my brother, not his partner. But I think you are running a big risk in being re-victimized rather than find relief. Or do you want to have your say with just your mother? In writing? I know I’ve thought so often about how unfair it is, that we are abused by these manipulators, and wished some sort of revenge on them; but I know that when trying to explain myself to my brother (in the past) and how I felt about his actions, he had no reaction at all, and inside he was probably gloating. I fear your mother will be the same – she won’t care, or even be happy that she “succeeded” in her power trips. And I don’t know what kind of catharsis this will be for you. However, I’ve just a baby when it comes to dealing with this stuff, and others here will probably have more insights.

      1. GG, Thank you for your reply. I agree that it is a big risk–and I might regret it. And you’re absolutely right–she will probably only gloat as she has in the past. I want to avoid putting too much info about how much she hurt me, and stick to the facts of what she did. Did you feel better after you talked to your brother, even though he reacted that way?

        1. Hi Anna, no I actually felt like I had given him more ammunition to use against me. But my feelings have gone through a major shift in the past year since I first read Dr. Simon’s books, and I no longer consider our shared DNA as imposing any sort of obligation that “blood is thicker than water”. I went through a kind of grieving process of not having a more normal and supportive family, and realized that the brother I thought had was a figment of my imagination – always pretending that things were fine, and so on. Maybe like Stockholm Syndrome – you identify too much with the abuser ’cause they’ve taken over your life. Your mother has taken over your inner life, it’s like a living ghost following you around. Us neurotics have to remember that these manipulators don’t think and feel as we do. She probably won’t regret anything. Is there someone neutral – a friend or therapist or doctor or someone – to whom you could vent? Just having your feelings validated with a real live person is a great release of tension. And this forum is a wonderful place of comfort.

          1. Beautifully worded GG! “Your mother has taken over your inner life, it’s like a living ghost following you around.” This is mind-jacking and why the words ‘soul retrieval’ come up so often where these types are concerned.

          2. Hi GG, Wow, you’re so right–she is following me around like a ghost. I have spoken to a therapist, which is what started the whole healing process for me. I keep getting hung up on the “but it’s not fair that she’s not getting called out for her abuse!” but you’re absolutely right-she would probably just use it as more ammunition. Thank you so much for your thoughtful response and making me look at it in a different way. The neurotic part of me is hung up on the “right” thing and justice and all of that.

        2. Anna, I’m so happy if I can help in any way at all; don’t you wish you could just speed up the clock and sort of get ahead of yourself and to the place where you look back and think: “wow, I used to think just like that before I started “rewiring” my brain and accepting that their reality is so different from my own”.
          But it’s like a deep gash, even if you know a scab and then a scar will form and it won’t hurt anymore, you still have to WAIT through the process, then you’ll look at the scar, remember how it happened and be reminded of the trauma, but hopefully the pain will have dissipated.

          I can’t believe how much I’ve learned here during the past 11 months, but each one of us has to get through our own grieving/anger process. And you’re so right, it is absolutely and totally unfair, and we all have the right and need to express anger, outrage, fear and betrayal over it all, ’cause none of us deserved it.

          1. GG, Absolutely!! I would love to speed up time and I can’t wait to reach the day when I no longer dwell so much on the past and keep allowing terrible memories to interrupt my day. Thank you for your compassionate words and for sharing about your own recovery. Hearing about your own progress is so encouraging. Your strength is admirable!

          2. GG, that is a great analogy! I could not have even begun to imagine that I would ever get to where I am now when I first started in this healing and discovery process. I think back on those days and cry for myself because I was so absolutely wrecked, confused and lost. I have so much compassion and understanding for people at the very raw begining of that process.

    3. Hello Anna D, and welcome to the forum. I hope you find all the articles here helpful and also my books, two of which (In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance) address the very issues to which you speak here. Perhaps after digesting some of the material, especially the material on personal empowerment you could contact me through the back channel via the “Contact Dr. Simon” feature and I can answer any questions you still have.

      Again, welcome!

      1. Hello Dr. Simon,

        Thank you for your reply! I plan to read both of your books-they sound like exactly what I need right now.

        Thank you again for creating this space for all of us.

  12. Getting on here is like watching reruns. So much is so familiar. The taking of what you say, twisting your words, then it becomes an argument about I did not say that, yes you did. What you had wanted to say gets lost in all that. I don’t think I’ve thought much about CD’s motivation, maybe power, definitely did not want want to be bothered with me, I was to be there to care for him. Definitely did not really care about my feelings, nor apparently about his children’s. Always all about him.
    Fabulous obfuscating verbal gerbil. Perfect! Love that!
    Living from birth with variations of disordered types, I had no idea what normal was. This is bait? I know now but, while I didn’t like it, it didn’t see it anything out of the ordinary. And, oh, how I wanted to help him.
    The sibling thing. So so tough for me, too. I will be so anxious to hear how it goes for you. Remember: you are not the one with a problem, don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. Maybe you could write some of the great ideas from above on your arm, wear long sleeves, check arm as necessary.
    Towards the end, I would say, kindly, to CD, I’m not clear about how that answers my question. Could you help me understand?
    My sister is personality disordered. When she no longer needed me and wanted to control the family, she started saying all kind of crazy things about me. What is so very sad is that my sibs let her get away with it. If there is a family event, I cannot come because she would be upset. Everyone thinks that’s okay, do they not think I have feelings? What always gets me is that they would never do that to anyone else. I don’t especially miss them, but I do miss the idea of having family. It seems especially lonely.
    So, LisaO and GG, know that you have people here who really get what you are feeling. And will support you every step of the way. Whatever you do or say is okay. YOU are brave and wonderful.

    1. “I don’t especially miss them, but I do miss the idea of having family. It seems especially lonely.

      So, LisaO and GG, know that you have people here who really get what you are feeling. And will support you every step of the way. Whatever you do or say is okay. YOU are brave and wonderful.”

      Thanks so much Lulu. And I do miss what “could have been”, the loneliness of not having family (I only have a cousin I interact with regularly, other cousins live scattered around the globe). It is amazing how identical their behaviors are. They’ve all read the same script in the same dysfunctional play.

      1. Hello Lulu,
        I just saw your post–it is good to hear that we’re not alone, but also terrible to think of so many people suffering from the actions of manipulative people.
        I’m so sorry to hear about your exclusion from family events due to their supposed concern about your sister’s feelings but not yours. That is inexcusably mean! I’ve experienced the same thing many times. I really do think some of them receive a thrill from hurting the nice person in the family.
        I’m not lonely without my family, since being with them always made me feel lonelier than being alone, because they have no idea how to actually care for someone. But I can relate to the feeling of wanting a family-a good family.
        YOU are brave and wonderful.

  13. GG, good idea but I can’t drive. . When we lived closer, many years ago, I would ‘solve’ this problem by taking 2 hours and 3 or 4 buses to visit him, in town. This kind of output of energy was very difficult but I never questioned why I, no car, poor health, was doing this when my bro was healthy and had a car. Bizarre.

    1. Goodness me I so get that LisaO! I cared for my mother for a year before she died – worked full time, arranged the home visits with various care givers, time off for neurologist and cardiologists’ visits, cooked, etc. etc. My brother was in town here on a sabbatical for a year – supposedly doing research on something or other, and did nothing, other than the obligatory Sunday afternoon visit for a couple of hours – as long as I was there also. He did have time to visit the gym, take a gourmet cooking class, etc. I knew something wasn’t right, but was so tired all the time from everything nothing specific really clicked.

      Do you think you might derive any benefit or insights from having your brother over?

        1. Thanks so much Puddle. You and the others here have helped me so much I feel like crying (but I’m at work – not a great idea!!)

          I feel like all the angst and tension and stress are worth something if I can also be of support or comfort to someone else.

          1. So many helpful people here! Thank you GG for saying things in a way that few people can. I understand the loss of family and what it takes to get through that, alone. Your helping your Mom, like you did was just huge–so giving and caring. And yes, after going through something like that, you gain perspective. As in…hey wait a minute, Bro. Where were you? Oh, and by the way, I don’t like the way you treat me either! Stay strong!

  14. My bro is going to come over and stay over in about a month. I have zero expectations. That’s my starting point. As he isn’t a mean monster, just a very dominating human being with HUGE anger issues…as in he doesn’t get hurt…ever..he becomes furious instead. Anger is reworked in his psyche in a weird way.

    I accept that and realize there is nothing I can do about it. At the same time, if we can talk about any role I have played in this cluster duck, I want to know. I have a pretty good handle on the situation, know he has massive problems, so will be able to be pretty detached. If it’s possible, at all, I want to retain some compassion for him. If he was born without the empathy gene, well, maybe he is functioning at a high level, all things considered. I know we will never be close again, that he was born with a huge sense of entitlement. When he was a little boy, it came across as pretty hilarious, at times. But I hold out the possibility that he may be trying to change something that is hard wired. If he is doing the best he can, I,hate to use the phrase, “it is what it is.” But that fits the situation. I will just remain distant but not antagonistic.

    1. I really hope it all goes well – I mean, as well as can be expected, but what you wrote here: “As he isn’t a mean monster, just a very dominating human being with HUGE anger issues…” has me a bit worried (now isn’t that a true neurotic reaction!).

      Whenever I meet my brother it is at a restaurant, a public setting and since he’s in town on business, stays at a rather chic B&B. (I used to be rather miffed that he gavem me the impression my house wasn’t good enough for his saintly presence – how HAPPY I am now!!! ) So having someone with huge anger issues at my place would be extremely hard on me. And I really don’t understand why you think you could be responsible for any of the cluster *uck he creates/has created. Their behavior is all on their shoulders, though I know I’m not aware of the whole story.

      Keep us posted, and when the time comes, we’ll want a detailed account. 🙂

      Maybe interact with him as if you were an investigative reporter, not emotionally involved (yeah, right!) but focused enough to remember the details so that you can write up your report later.

      As long as you get out of it what you want, then perhaps it’s a way to close the door on that part of your life.

      Thinking of you!!

  15. My experiences with speaking my truth to the Disordered and their enablers got me an in my face reality check. With the usual blame, denial, gaslighting and their assorted other tricks. Growing up my mother always said to me “why can’t you be more like your brother?” When I was in my early 20s I told her how hurtful that was to me. Her response was how did I know she wasn’t asking him why he wasn’t more like me? Gee, thanks for caring. Two days later she said it as she looked right at me. Had not said it for years, but knew how powerful it was, and was delighted to see my reaction when she knew how much it would hurt me. Grab some popcorn, let’s watch the show! Really? To your own child?
    She was forever telling the sibs her twisted version of me and getting them to ridicule me. Now my sister has taken mom’s place, and maybe I’m giving the sibs too much credit, but when they fall in line like she says, I blame it on the image of me my mother created. But I guess the really are old enough to make up their own minds.
    My mom died 27 years ago, that’s when I found peace from her abuse. Not something nice girls say but her death has been such a relief for me.
    Now my sister is carrying on and my sibs let her get away with it. They never call her on anything, they go along with anything she says about me.
    That is the part I struggle so much with, why can’t any of my gene pool ever see me for me? Going through this 4 year, and counting, insanity with CD has been so much more difficult because of the gut wrenching loneliness. The concept of family to me means that someone is always there for you. Concept and reality are not matching up here. I just need to stop spinning and move on. Maybe NC with them is what I need to do.
    This recent invite me to a baby shower, but don’t let me come, has been crushing. I sent my sister-in-law an email asking her why. If I am not the one who will make it extremely uncomfortable for everyone, why am I expected to stay home? There is one person with a problem, why am I always the sacrificial lamb?
    I will either get no answer (quite likely) or there is so much stress in her life (which there is) that she can’t go over this again (except the questions don’t get answered, just blame-y shame-y at me).
    I wish all of you the best. I hope with all of my heart that you get even a bit of what you are looking for and need. And deserve.

    1. Oh dear Lulu! What a horrid experience for you. Isn’t it sad that we need to become our own mothers, in a way.

      A technique I’ve used is writing a letter to yourself, to your little child self. Literally. Maybe you’ve already heard of this: You’d write “Dear Little Lulu: You were never allowed to have your own voice. I am here for you now. Is there anything you want to say?” or something along those lines.

      Then you answer as Little Lulu, but you use your non-dominant hand. So for me, I wrote to little GG with my right hand, then when I answered I used my left hand. And man! It was hard to write with my left hand, but I guess maybe because of that, and that the writing looks like a child’s printing, you kind of channel the dormant memories and they start coming up. The first time I tried it I felt the little 5-year old GG suddenly woke up and I heard her for the first time. We bury ourselves so deep when we’re little and no one is there for us, but layer by layer we can uncover the hurt and let ourselves speak for the first time.

      Maybe it won’t work for you, but this past year I’m trying all kinds of techniques to try and wake up who I really am deep inside. And I see the difference in myself and also what memories bubble to the surface, and then I can work my way through them.

      What horrible scars are inflicted on innocents such as yourself. I am so deeply sorry for what you went through. I hope you can feel the hug through cyberspace.

      1. GG, Lulu, another beautiful exchange. It breaks my heart to see and hear how hurt we have been at the hands of our own families. I just keep thinking, why? Why does it have to be this way??
        Warmest hugs to both of you.

    2. Lulu, it does sound like you had the family scapegoat roll in your family. I don’t know how these things fall into place do predictably but them sure seem to. The sad thing is that even though you can see it now somewhat objectively, when you were a child you didn’t have that perspective and it was so hurtful and harmful. And it goes on for years and years, over and over. It is so damaging.

  16. Yes, beautiful exchange GG and Lulu and thank you all for being so kind to me and offering so much advice. It has helped me so much! I am too tired to write much more but will try tomorrow. Everyone have sweet dreams!

  17. GG, as I was reading your letter writing suggestion, tears were rolling down my cheeks. For that hurt little girl. I got to do so many things with and for my boys that brought brought comfort to Little Lulu. My poor sons were absolutely mauled with all the hugs I did not get.
    Meanwhile, there must have been some kind of massive cosmic shift. S-in-L wrote back that it was not a fake invitation. She expects both sis and me to be pleasant to one another. That should be interesting. In my hurt and anger, I hit reply all to the invitation, when I said I assume this is fake and I am supposed to take the high road. She told me she was annoyed that it went to her sis, and nieces.
    My first line was an apology for my knee jerk reaction, it was wrong to include all of them. I also said I was glad she said that to me.
    Then she went on to say she wished I could find joy. And to stop re-hashing the past, life is too short. As in, get over all the crappy things we did to you for the past several years.
    In the apology email I said I don’t need to go back over every single thing and have 1000 mea culpas. I’m looking for some sort of acknowledgment and, mostly reassurance. I asked: can you not get that?
    She is quite stubborn so this may feel to her like I am asking her to say just flat out that she was wrong.
    Hopefully the realignment of the planets will bring some unexpected, good, news to each of you.
    Where, oh, where would I be without all of you? I am so grateful.

    1. Lulu, LisaO, Puddle and everyone else – Thank you all for being here! We’ll get through our collective hurts one step at a time.

      And Lulu, I hope all goes well for you, but isn’t it typical that those who hurt us tell us to “get over it”, when they themselves are the first to react viciously to any perceived slights?

      1. Right……..the vague, unaccountable, free to interpret there way, undefined, ever shifting, hard to pin down, you’re over reacting, it wasn’t that bad, suck it up, “IT” or “THIS” or “THAT”. Spathtard used the “royal this” when he called a while back, “THIS is rediculous”. What is rediculous Spathtard? That you are afraid to encounter me in public for fear I might make another scene calling a spade a spade again when you address me as if you did nothing wrong? Don’t hold your breath on that one.

      2. GG, Puddle, LuLu and all,

        If THEY were the wounded party, they’d cry the blues and obsess for years over any given problem. But because it is something YOU are going through, it’s boring to them, like real b-o-r-i-n-g. After I was targeted by a P, I was extremely messed up, felt like I had been mentally tortured for fun, or discarded like trash because I was not an easy money mark.

        Either way, I was very confused and preoccupied. Narbro, who shared his every sorrow, down to his latest hang nail with me, appeared to be mystified as to why I wasn’t getting on with my life. “Lisa, it’s been SIX weeks!” I told him that I had been traumatized and it felt like mental torture. He responded that he, too, had been mentally tortured. “I have a client who is very very difficult. He has interrupted me at social functions several times and sometimes isn’t entirely honest with me.”

        It is so laughably deranged!

          1. Theme? 🙂 SIX WEEKS! I don’t know LisaO, your brother just does not get it. So, is his behavior only what it is recently or are you just seeing it recently? Like when you think back, before the bubble burst, do you see signs of him being this way before you realized he was this way? My guess is that he has always been this way to some degree. Except for some nonsensical text exchanges I don’t have much contact with my bro and when I do, I am quickly reminded of why I dont.

  18. Some of you could be talking about my family. It’s amazing how similar manipulative people can be!

    Lulu:
    “Now my sister has taken mom’s place, and maybe I’m giving the sibs too much credit, but when they fall in line like she says, I blame it on the image of me my mother created. But I guess the really are old enough to make up their own minds.”

    I can relate to that so much!! It took me years to finally admit that one of my siblings had gone over to the dark side. I kept blaming her behavior on my mother’s smear campaign and on another sibling, telling myself that she was just being influenced, that she was just passive, etc. But that can only go too far, and at a certain point every adult is responsible for their own actions.

    “That is the part I struggle so much with, why can’t any of my gene pool ever see me for me?
    Then she went on to say she wished I could find joy. And to stop re-hashing the past, life is too short.”

    Lulu, I think we have the same sister! If I try to talk to her about the issues in the family, she responds with a heavy sigh or impatience or some version of “just get over it” as if I’M the one who is doing something wrong. It is beyond frustrating! Rather than getting any form of compassion or acknowledgement, I end up feeling guilty or shamed for being “angry” or “complaining too much”.

    GG
    “isn’t it typical that those who hurt us tell us to “get over it”, when they themselves are the first to react viciously to any perceived slights?”

    That is so true! My mother and sister are hypersensitive to tone of voice, facial expressions, and will imagine insults and injury where there are none. Yet on the rare occasions that I have tried to point out that they did something blatantly hurtful to me, they accuse me of being petty or over-sensitive.

    The more I read all of your posts, the more I think that the only possible course of action is to cut all ties and never look back. They’re all living in some crazy alternate universe!

  19. Anna D., you wrote: “Rather than getting any form of compassion or acknowledgement, I end up feeling guilty or shamed for being “angry” or “complaining too much”. I know! I think we’ve all been there and suffered the same way. And as Einstein wrote, their behaviours are so predictable once you understand what’s going on, it’s unbelievable, yet also almost laughable. They’re like clones of each other, each one deluding themselves that they are somehow “special”, yet they’re all cut from the same cloth.
    Cutting ties is probably the best way to keep your sanity, for now at least.

    And Dr. Simon’s books are a real eye-opener and help pinpoint these behaviors for what they.

    You nailed it Puddle when you wrote: “is his behavior only what it is recently or are you just seeing it recently? Like when you think back, before the bubble burst, do you see signs of him being this way before you realized he was this way?”
    When I look back now on my bro’s behavior, it’s all so clear! So many things fall into place which just baffled me before. His words were so incongruent with his actions, but I’d just believe him – I mean, why would you blatantly lie about almost everything?? Now I get it! To manipulate! And each of us can probably attest to the same thing.

  20. My 22 year old son got a girl pregnant.I have been told by him he is going along with it cause he doesnt want drama but he also says he does not love her or want baby and that she lied and manipulated him.Since the announcement I asked her if she could handle on her own and she since has called me names,disowned me and has said she will not speak to me again? How do I handle this and my son jhas gone into hiding and wont answer calls now which is not like him..
    Thank you very very much for your input..

    Broken and Blamed
    Mom
    Tammy

  21. My 22 year old son got a girl pregnant.I have been told by him he is going along with it cause he doesnt want drama but he also says he does not love her or want baby and that she lied and manipulated him.Since the announcement I asked her if she could handle on her own and she since has called me names,disowned me and has said she will not speak to me again? How do I handle this and my son has gone into hiding and wont answer calls now which is not like him..
    Thank you very very much for your input..

    Broken and Blamed
    Mom
    Tammy

  22. Does anyone else have trouble naming the tactic? I have trouble especially in the moment. I have read Dr. Simon’s books and even had the honor of seeing him speak and talking to him. I believe he is a gift from God above. So, it isn’t as if I have the resources at hand. I do. And I have read and reread them a lot. While I am getting better at standing up for myself and my children. I still have trouble in the moment of putting my finger on what tactic is being used and then thwarting or squelching it. Also, many of the tactics are so convoluted and intertwined that I often struggle identifying it. Does this make sense? Does anyone else have a strategy for this?

    Grateful

    1. Does anyone else have trouble naming the tactic? I especially have trouble in the moment of manipulation. I have read Dr. Simon’s books and even had the honor of seeing him speak and talking to him. I believe he is a gift from God above. So, I have and use the resources at hand. I do. I have read and reread them a lot.

      While I am getting better at standing up for myself and my children. I still have trouble in the moment of putting my finger on what tactic is being used and then thwarting or squelching it. Also, many of the tactics are so convoluted and intertwined that I often struggle identifying them. Does this make sense? Does anyone else have a strategy for this?

      Grateful

      1. Hi Bee.
        Maybe make a list of tactics and their precise definition. Go over them periodically. There was a recent blog on “worksheet for victim” within last 3 months. Just check that once. Your flash cards could be similar.

      2. Does anyone else have trouble naming the tactic?

        Oh yes. I have problem even when communication is over phone or email.
        It is hard to get rid of decades of niceness. 🙂

  23. Oh, I am going to write this. I don’t care how many times you control my computer and make it disappear. I will write it. Just a shortened form of it.

    I’m evil. I’m a manipulator. I lie for lying’s sake. I hurt people, just for the pleasure it gives me by hurting them. I plot. I’m conniving. I’m scum of the earth. I’m dangerous. I’m unpredictably violent. I’m a thief. I’m a pedophile. I’m a pervert. I’m the most vile, despicable, pathetic piece of garbage on the face of the earth.

    I’m whatever you all want me to be. I don’t care anymore. Do you all honestly believe that I am in all this pain, confusion, purgatory and hell because I’m evil? That I brought this much agony atop my own head? If so, then so be it. I’m done caring. I’m done feeling like crap for what I’ve done in my past. I’m done trying to explain what kind of hell I am enduring from all kinds of people I don’t even know. If my aim was to manipulate everyone I come into contact with, then break off all contact with me. Stop with the blogs, stop with laptop and phone monitoring. Stop saying my name. Stop trying to “benignly confront”. Just stop. I don’t want interaction with any of you on any level. What I did to Mary Anne was wrong, no matter how I try to justify “why” I did it. I wrote her and told her that it was wrong. I told her how “evil” I was, I told her how I’ve treated people in my past. I told her the truth about everything. I didn’t tell her 99% of the truth while leaving out the “crucial” 1% that changes the whole outcome of the story. I told her the truth: That I am a horrible human being and that I am not to be trusted. I told her she shouldn’t have contact with me, that all I would do to her is try to drag her down with me. I was very clear and concise with that point. My only motivation for contacting her back was to clear my conscience of the wrong I did to her. I had her send me money I did not need and cut off contact with her as soon as she sent the money. I did this because I knew it make her stop emailing and calling me, it didn’t she continued, and I continued to ignore her. After a couple months, I had received weird texts from my brother (who I rarely have contact with, my fault, different long story). I thought that somehow she had contacted him and used his phone number to forward strange texts about bluegrass music and funerals. I took this as a sign that my brother knew what I did to her and he was now part this whole “benign confrontational movement” against me as well. That stung me, especially because he was the “rational” sibling that I could always depend on for the truth of any situation I ever found myself in. I looked up to him for how he succeeded in life without the emotional need of “parental or family validation” like I needed it. I emotionally depended on him to help me through tough times, whether I created them for myself, or tough times put on me by someone else. That is the reason I contacted Mary Anne back to pay her back the money I stole. I did it because the only positive role model I’ve ever had, had also given up on me. I couldn’t/can’t bear with that. Do I feel personal remorse about what I did to her? Yes, I do. But, I feel more remorse for disappointing the only positive role model I’ve ever had in my life. That’s not to say that I don’t hold resentments against my brother for things he’s done to me, and way’s he’s treated me, especially growing up. There are still many things that I’m angry about but those are my demons.

    So again. I’m evil. I’m manipulative. I get off on destroying people. I am whatever you all want me to be, which is all the more reason for you all to cut off contact completely. I will never respond positively to all of your “benign confrontation love therapy” so you should all just stop trying. It’s not going to work and it’s only going to make me more insane. So whether I’m just a “bad seed” bent on destroying people’s happiness, or a “sociopath” with no regard for other people’s feelings resulting from a chemical imbalance in my brain, I am damaged goods either way. So leave me alone and stay away from me. I’m done.

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