Crazy-makers come in all shapes and sizes. They can have good and bad intentions. Some know they are being manipulative and oppressive. Others have not got a clue. Some engage in their tactics consistently. Others provide intermittent surprise attacks. The challenge is to recognize the behavior, assess if it’s a healthy or unhealthy place, and then employ the proper strategies to stay sane and empower yourself.
What is Crazy-making? When a person sets you up to lose. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You are put in lose-lose situations. There is not rhyme, reason or emotional understanding with a crazy-maker. Worse, when the behavior is sneaky and confusing, it becomes easy to feel crazy yourself. It can feel like you are caught in a whirlwind of chaos, with the life force being sucked from you as you are manipulated with nonstop crazy-making tactics. (Kimberly Key, 2014)
THE TOP THREE CRAZY-MAKER TYPES
The grandaddy of all crazy-makers! Narcissists cannot empathize with anyone, meaning they cannot relate to your feelings. They are only capable of feeling their own wants and needs. They are emotionally stunted, like a perpetually demanding child. It is always about them. Narcissists can be extremely charming and charismatic, as they have learned how to be the greatest salespeople to get their needs met. They can charm and mimic compassion for brief moments in order to get their needs met. They have disdain for emotions in others and often think even less of people close to them. They try to control everyone around them and will use every available tactic to gain control.
Best known for being in constant crisis. They are like Chicken Little screaming “The sky is falling!” but they expect you to fix it…and fix it NOW and on their terms. Some people do experience an excess of rough times (a lot of crisis can happen in one burst), but the drama-cultivator has an overabundance of crisis because for them everything is a crisis. They cannot empathize with others because they are too wrapped up in their chaos. They need your energy and you and do not want you to leave them, so they go to great lengths to get and keep your attention. Much like a hurt child, they will swing from loving and supporting you in getting angry and detesting you. Their moods and responses are inconsistent and dealing with them feel like you are walking in a field of landmines.
These people look like roses compared to the narcissist and the drama-cultivator but beware of their sharp thorns. These highly dependent people try to please you, but the nice things they do have a cost. They are the martyr that keeps score. Like a stealth bomber, just when you think everything is okay, they get you. Their game plan is to sabotage you while they look innocent. For example, they will commit to doing something when they really do not want to do it and then consistently bail out at the last minute. Or they will conveniently forget. Perhaps they will run late and miss the deadline. Everyone has these experiences now and again but stealth-bombers do it all the time and they get you to feel guilty about it. They will make up excuses with the most ambiguous details, then sulk and act like a victim if you get upset. They will conveniently lose items, forget dates, ruin plans, and then become sad and withdrawn because they have tried so hard.
FOUR COMMON CRAZY-MAKER TACTICS
There is a tendency to be a little blind to the possibility that the person you are dealing with is a crazy-maker, especially if you care for them. We end up taking the crazy-makers behavior personally and believing that the crazy-maker in our life could change if they wanted to. We also expect the crazy-maker to play by the same communication etiquette as everyone else. But they simply are not capable of doing so. Crazy-makers do not play by the same rules as you. You will save yourself a lot of headaches and energy if you realize this now and stop trying to make them see the light, so to speak. Be aware of these tactics:
Double-binds are negative messages disguised in a positive message or gesture. The double-bind sets you up to lose. It can also be as subtle as a person giving a scolding look while saying, “I love you.” Crazy-makers employ this tactic most often.
Crazy-makers are superior at giving inconsistent praise. They are all adept at keeping you on your toes and getting you to beg for their praise. There is a scientific explanation for it: Inconsistent praise tends to elicit desired behavior the most. Numerous animal researchers have discovered that the best way to train an animal is with an inconsistent reward. This is why gambling can be so addictive. The crazy-makers have figured this out and provide the people around them with being loving, present and flattering…then it is gone. Some people get hooked and continue to put up with the crazy-making behavior because they are waiting for the payoff – the praise.
IMPOSSIBLE TO EMPATHIZE
Crazy-makers again are incapable of empathizing. They simply do not understand your feelings or the situation you are in. They might try to give you a sense that they understand, but they cannot sit with it very long and generally turn the conversation back to their feelings or their situation. This is an important point: Empathy is a developmental trait. A crazy-maker has not developed empathy, so they are more like a two-year-old emotionally. Knowing this is critical to protecting yourself in a power struggle.
We all have selective memories, but crazy-makers exceptionally so. They conveniently forget any problems you have had with them when they want something from you. Then they throw every wrong thing, they believe, you have ever done in your face when they are upset with you. Again, the key is that it is inconsistent. You never know where you stand with them because it depends on their mood. You know that the only thing you can depend on with a crazy-maker is that you cannot depend on their consistency. They will hold a grudge but expect you not to. They will manipulate you like crazy and use their selective memory as ammunition.
KEEPING STRONG BOUNDARIES IS THE KEY TO DEALING WITH A CRAZY-MAKER!