Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address questions from Crosswalk readers in his weekly column. Submit your question to him at: TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
CrazyMakers are able to come at you from all angles, and even though you know they’re doing something to you before you know what it is, you’re hooked. This week’s column will help you identify the common “hooks” CrazyMakers use to hook you. Knowing some of their CrazyMaking strategies helps you anticipate their wily ways, assisting you in planning how to respond. Remember, responding, rather than reacting, is a powerful beginning step.
As we consider these patterns of stinkin’ thinking,’ be aware that it won’t always be easy to anticipate or change, how you respond. It takes a lot of effort to respond to CrazyMakers in new ways, but will be well worth your efforts.
Overgeneralized Thinking: Overgeneralized statements are exaggerations. You’ve heard them many times:
• “You never listen to me.”
• “You always want your own way.”
• “Everybody expects too much from me.”
What to do? Statements like these have incredibly powerful hooks attached to them. They are barbed and dangerous. Step back from them and see they are exaggerations. Be very careful about reacting and trying to convince the CrazyMaker that they are wrong.
Making Assumptions: Assumptions are another type of foul-smelling bait that often make us cringe with frustration. When people assume, they presume something is going to happen even before it does. They assume your guilty of something before finding out whether you are the responsible party. They presume you will do something for them before even asking you to do it.
What to do? Insist gently that assumers make their needs and expectations known. Repeat as often as necessary, “I can’t read your mind. You’ll have to tell me what you expect. Please don’t assume something without checking it out with me.”
Mind Reading: “I know why you do what you do,” is a common refrain for mind-readers. They think they know your motives for everything and aren’t afraid to tell you. Of course, this is an infuriating violation of boundaries, as only you know why you do what you do.
What to do? Tell the mind-reader you prefer they not tell you why you do what you do, as only you know that. They can offer opinions and feelings about your actions, but steer clear of attributing motives to your behavior.
Black and White Thinking: Either he is for you, or against you. Either she agrees with you or she doesn’t. There is no middle ground for the black and white thinker, and this is cause for crazymaking. This kind of thinking pins you into a corner, causing you to feel confused and crazy.
What to do? Don’t get painted into the corner. Gently assert yourself, letting them know you don’t see it as a black or white issue. Hold firm to your ideas.
Minimization: Egotists, and every other CrazyMaker, often use minimization to reduce problems they have or their culpability. They love to make molehills out of mountains, and when the mountain of problems are present, this can drive a mate crazy.
What to do? Don’t allow yourself to settle for the molehills, insisting that you see the problem for what it is, a mountain. And if they don’t agree? Stick to your guns. State your preferences, what you need and what you’d like them to do.
Blaming and Fault-Finding: CrazyMakers love to criticize, attack and find fault. This, of course, is a no-win situation. Blame only leads to counter-attacks, bickering and defensiveness.
What to do? Don’t defend or debate. Don’t enter into the fray. If you have done something wrong, quickly admit it and let them know what you will do to rectify the situation. Don’t counter-attack or find fault in return. Work at keeping conversations positive and solution-oriented.
Denial: Denial is not a river in Egypt, as they say. It’s a pattern of failing to own up to the severity of the problem. It’s people lying to themselves so much, so often, that they believe what they are saying.
What to do? There is little we can do for someone caught in the web of denial. We can speak the truth in love and camp there. No browbeating, no yelling or screaming. No name-calling—just the truth.
Playing the Victim: CrazyMakers love to pity themselves, feeling like they are always getting the short end of the stick. They feel mistreated, misunderstood, and maligned. They always have an excuse for why they behave the way they do, and if you don’t buy it, you’re accused of being mean or controlling.
What to do? Don’t get pulled into seeing them as the poor victim. Likewise, don’t try to convince them they are not the victim. They are in control of how they choose to see a situation.
These are just a few of the more common tactics used by CrazyMakers. Don’t be surprised if you find you’ve slipped into using a few of them yourself. Knowing these dysfunctional patterns of interacting, which always lead to chaos, can help us choose a healthier way of relating.
Please give your feedback. Which one of these tactics have you noticed in your marriage or family? Which ones have you used? We’d love to hear some success stories.
David Hawkins, Ph.D., is the founder of the Marriage Recovery Center. He has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, Saying It So He'll Listen, and When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest books are titled The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Healing a Hurting Relationship and The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Living Beyond Guilt. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.
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