Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life
Dr. David Hawkins
The Relationship Doctor
People come in all shapes and sizes. I have no problem with that. However, when these people are in my life, and they are bona fide, dyed in the wool, Certifiable CrazyMakers, I’m no longer as friendly or hospitable.
Now don’t take me wrong. I’m aware we all have our unique foibles and idiosyncrasies, and that we are called Scripturally to bear with one another’s weaknesses. (Colossians 3: 13)
But, what if they drive you crazy? What if, when you’re around them, you feel absolutely nuts? Your head spins, up looks like down, and down looks like up. You’re certain you make sense, but they twist your words to come out the way they want them. What do you do then?
Recently a woman wrote the following email to me:
I’m thirty-five years old and every time I’m around my mother I feel crazy. She complains about problems incessantly. She hangs onto old wounds and grievances, and never forgives. She sees life from a half-empty point of view, and nothing I say will ever encourage her. I try to be a good daughter, but she drains me. I don’t want to visit with her anymore, but she makes me feel guilty when I try to pull away. What can I do?
Here is a picture of a people-pleasing woman who is enmeshed with her mother, and their relationship appears to be toxic—that is, not life-giving, but rather draining and dysfunctional.
In this email, the woman’s mother appears to be a Sufferer—she gets some twisted satisfaction (secondary gain) in playing the victim. We can see the daughter dancing as fast as she can, trying to please her mother, but never being able to do so. Is she called to continue giving and giving, in spite of the harmful effects on herself? I don’t think so. Some things to consider are:
- We are responsible for ourselves and our well-being. Giving and giving, when it literally makes us feel crazy, is not a virtue. We have a responsibility for our time and welfare also. Energy-drains in one area of our life detract from other responsibilities.
- We must learn to set limits on people who suck the life out of us. We can choose to give them some of our time, and offer some encouragement, but guarding against enabling dysfunctional behavior. We teach people how we are to be treated, and thus we have a responsibility not to continue the dysfunctional dance.
- We are called to carry one another’s burdens which they cannot carry themselves, (Galatians 6: 2) but to encourage others to carry their own load which they should carry themselves (Galatians 6: 5). We must learn to discern the difference. In doing so we help others while also tending to our personal needs, the needs of our family and other responsibilities God has laid on our hearts.
Another woman wrote this email:
I’m in dating a man who is what you’ve called a Control Freak. He has to have everything his way. He is jealous about me being with my friends, criticizes the way I spend money, and nothing I do is right in his eyes. He is rigid, controlling and manipulative. Although I love him, I’m not sure I can spend my life with him. When he’s on one of his rampages, he makes me feel crazy. What should I do?
Here’s another example of a crazymaker, which I discuss in my book, Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life. In this email we see that the woman’s boyfriend appears to be a Control Freak. These individuals are often very insecure and micro-manage their insecurities by controlling everything and everyone in their world. The challenge is how to live in relationship with them, if that is what you choose to do, while not being overwhelmed by them.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Empathize with their fear and insecurity. Let them know you understand their feelings and position, while firmly indicating you don’t necessarily agree with them.
- Don’t explain or defend yourself. While it is very tempting to get into a reactive, explanatory position with the Control Freak, don’t do it. The arguments will be circular, non-ending, and certainly not productive. Listen to their concerns, empathize with them, and don’t get into a defensive posture.
- Do firmly state your feelings, needs and desires. After doing so, ask them to listen and understand your point of view.
- Then, negotiate. Encourage negotiating a win-win solution. Encourage the exploration of possibilities, rather than bullying a one-sided victory.
We can see CrazyMaking qualities in both of these situations. In the first situation we have a Sufferer who can never be pleased. The daughter needs to learn not to get hooked trying to make her mother happy. She must differentiate true guilt from the false guilt thrown by her mother.
In the second situation we see a woman getting hooked trying to please her boyfriend. However, that will only happen if she decides to give up her “self,” which is a sure path to depression and ultimate loss of the relationship.
In my book I discuss five different types of CrazyMaker: the Aggressor, the Egotist, the Sufferer, the Borderline and the Control Freak. If you are in a relationship with someone who makes you feel crazy, send a note to the Message Board and we’ll explore solutions together.
About the author: He is known as The Relationship
Doctor. With more than 30 years of counseling experience, David Hawkins,
Ph.D., has a special interest in helping individuals and couples strengthen
their relationships. Dr. Hawkins’ books, including When Pleasing
Others Is Hurting You and When Trying to Change Him Is Hurting
You, have more than 300,000 copies in print.
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