Difficult People :: Saving Yourself From Crazy Makers And Gaslighting

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. You’ll never change them because that’s the very nature of crazy (so put your energy elsewhere!), you can however protect yourself. You are surrounded by them and you can't escape the insanity. They are your ex, colleagues, friends, lovers or family members--sometimes you even have to co-parent with them.

Perhaps your life demands regular contact with them, leaving you with feelings of dread and terror—you may also have somatic complaints or physical symptoms especially if you had a parent with similar behaviors and you are now re-experiencing the trauma! Crazy makers drain your energy and consistently engage in controlling, destructive, manipulative and reckless behaviors. Sadly, similar to a train off the tracks, they leave a path of destruction. Children are especially vulnerable to becoming collateral damage when a parent is a narcissist and/or psychopath.

What are some of these behaviors?

  • They set traps for you—it can be a no-win game

  • They are masters of distortion and manipulation

  • They create drama, drama and more drama

  • The exhibit excessive negativity

  • They display outbursts of rage and anger

  • They are frequently competitive and aggressive

  • The struggle with substance and behavioral addictions

  • They are recklessness and interpersonally exploitive

  • They engage in psychological splitting which is a primitive defense mechanism (extremes of good/bad)

  • They exhibit pathological envy and jealousy

  • They display grandiosity

  • They engage in gaslighting

  • They sabotage your efforts.

They may already have an actual psychiatric diagnosis such as Histrionic, Borderline, Narcissistic or Antisocial Personality Disorder, and problem behaviors related to their own history of trauma, abuse and substance abuse. 

You experience fatigue and overwhelm from being in their negative vibration and the very practical aspects of cleaning up their messes. They don't care who they hurt with their aggression and their sometimes unconscious aggression and destructive nature—they hurt their children if it means getting a primitive need met.

Sadly, 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 are co-parenting, don’t do it alone, seek professional counseling or a group to support you and your children.

  • Trauma bond can be at play so develop healthy boundaries. Crazy makers will continually pull you back into 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 at the top. You will need skills to protect yourself and they depend on other individuals who are weaker and whom they can use.

  • They often play the victim. This can be confusing as they turn things around leaving you scratching your head. Pay attention to when you actually no reality from non-reality.

  • 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. And even then, it’s not real help or change that they seek.

  • They are very fragile at their core even though they present as strong and together. They rarely acknowledge shortcomings or take constructive feedback and they can’t acknowledge their weakness or vulnerability. Some who are less ill may benefit from good therapy that can help them identify with their own pain which can hopefully generalize to the needs of others.

  • Heal yourself and seek your own counseling and 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 ruin things like companies (destruction) and relationships (infidelity and betrayal). They can’t tolerate it if you’re an awesome, good human—they will need to devalue you. Because they tend to blow things up, get out of their way. When they don’t self-destruct, they will simply move on.

  • You won't win. Cut your losses and use your energy in other, more important ways.

  • They are very limited in their ability to have real relationships. They do not experience healthy connections, empathy or compassion. It’s not your fault.

  • They have generally experienced a history of neglect, shame, abandonment and other painful, traumatic experiences that have led to their current life circumstances. They generally dissociate this aspect of their “self” and do not admit this.

  • 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. You stayed too long for many reasons, it’s not too late to make a getaway.

  • Activate your vagus nerve. Learn more about this here. One of my favorite ways to do this is by practicing deep, diaphragmatic breathing. This will help you better deal with the stress involved in these relationships. 

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. I tend to prefer working with individuals struggling to leave relationships with narcissists. 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 and grown-ups who have necessarily had to sever relationships with a toxic parent. 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 (remember, masters of distortion), you will 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 and a distorted view of others

  • 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