Difficult People :: Saving Yourself From Crazy Makers

Have you reached the end of your rope with the crazy makers in your life? I have them in my life as well, and even with psychological training, they frequently throw me off-course. Sometimes you can't escape them. They are your ex, colleagues, friends, lovers or family members--sometimes you have to co-parent with them. Perhaps your life demands regular contact with them, leaving you with feelings of dread and terror, and even physical symptoms! Crazy makers drain your energy and consistently engage in controlling, destructive, manipulative and reckless behaviors. They leave a path of destruction in their wake.

They set traps for you--it can be a no-win game. They create drama, and when you wonder why they don't tire, even more drama. Their behaviors show up as excessive negativity, anger, aggression, addictions, recklessness, splitting (extremes of good/bad), pathological envy and jealousy, grandiosity, trap-setting, gaslighting and sabotage. They may already have an actual psychiatric diagnosis such as Histrionic, Borderline, Narcissistic or Antisocial Personality Disorder, and behaviors related to trauma, abuse and substance abuse. 

You experience fatigue and overwhelm from being in their negative vibration and the practical aspects of cleaning up their messes. They don't care who they hurt with their aggression and their destructive nature, even their children. You may even wonder if you are the crazy one as they engage in projection, shaming and blaming behaviors. Essentially, they play the victim, turning things around in a nanosecond. What follows are some important things to remember:

  • If you're co-parenting, seek professional counseling to support you and your children.
  • Trauma bond can be at play so develop healthy boundaries. Crazy makers will continually pull you back in to their web--they charm and manipulate. Learn to notice when you are being played. The trauma bond is powerful and pulls at you again and again. 
  • Difficult people are often leaders, so you are likely to run into them frequently and you will need skills to protect yourself.
  • They often play the victim. This can be confusing.
  • Challenging individuals usually don't change because they rarely recognize that their behaviors are problematic. They usually have to hit rock bottom before they enter treatment. They rarely acknowledge shortcomings or take constructive feedback because they are so fragile. Good therapy can help them develop healthier, more realistic self-esteem, identify with their own pain which can generalize to others and develop more socially appropriate ways of relating and coping skills.
  • Heal yourself, seek therapy to clear the toxicity. You aren't likely to get the closure you need from them. Stop trying to get them to see your pain. It won't happen. You may have to do this healing on your own. You may also have PTSD so find a trauma therapist who understands your symptoms. If it's trauma from a parent, heal your inner child.
  • They leave a trail of destruction behind them. They wreck things like companies (destruction) and relationships (infidelity and betrayal).They tend to blow things up. They also move on.
  • You won't win. Cut your losses and use your energy in other more important ways.
  • They have generally experienced a history of neglect, shame, abandonment and other painful, traumatic experiences that have led to their current life circumstances.
  • Recognize that you've known about this problem behavior but something kept you from acting sooner. You can learn from your instincts and protect yourself in the future.
  • Activate your vagus nerve. Learn more about this here. One of my favorite ways to do this is by practicing deep, diaphragmatic breathing.


Some relationships are easier to exit gracefully than others. I make the choice to work with some challenging personalities because I'm trained and can set helpful, therapeutic boundaries. In my personal life, I have a low threshold for problem personalities. When they are a family member, it is particularly difficult, even heartbreaking, to make the decision to sever ties. I've known young adults who have necessarily had to sever relationships with a toxic parent and the reverse situation occurs as well--parents have to create distance from children. You must save yourself as you've sacrificed enough of your precious life energy to remain in these troubling relationships. To save yourself and others from harm, learn more about these problem personalities so that you can understand the nature of the problem and better recognize their symptoms and pathological behaviors. This will help you feel less confused about reality as they can be masters of distortion, as you gain the clarity you need to create a smart plan to exit. Learn to identify the behavior patterns of these chaotic individuals so that you can protect yourself, your children and others that you care about. Enjoy this super easy read from Psychology Today. 

Cheat Sheet for NPD:

  • Grandiose self-importance
  • Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success
  • Believes themselves to be special and above others
  • Demands excessive admiration
  • Is exploitative
  • Has a sense of entitlement
  • Lacks empathy

Cheat Sheet for BPD:

  • Mood swings and emotionally labile
  • All or nothing thinking
  • Efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, such as rapidly initiating intimate (physical or emotional) relationships or cutting off communication with someone in anticipation of being abandoned
  • A pattern of intense and unstable relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, often swinging from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
  • Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self
  • Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating. Unless these behaviors occur primarily during a period of elevated mood or energy, they may be signs of a mood disorder and not borderline personality disorder
  • Self-harming behavior, such as cutting, scratching, burning
  • Recurring thoughts of suicidal behaviors or threats
  • Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness and boredom
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger
  • Difficulty trusting, which is sometimes accompanied by irrational fear of other people’s intentions
  • Feelings of dissociation, such as feeling cut off from oneself, seeing oneself from outside one’s body, or feelings of unreality