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Energetically co-opting others to affirm themselves

This is a section of a longer paper. There is a roadmap for the entire paper, and you can download the PDF.


Those who exhibit SBCMB also tend to devote a great deal of energy into co-opting others in a strenuous effort to elicit affirmation of their own worth (or the worth of their own plans or projects). Two different kinds of people are co-opted: those “below” and those “above” the person.

Firstly, people “below” them. By this we mean people who follow them, or who are under their authority or influence in some way. In a family, this is the child/ren and/or spouse who wants to please them; in a church, this is the church members, employees, lay leaders, etc.; in the case of an influential public figure, this is the followers or fans. They will often co-opt such people by portraying themselves as having been seriously victimised by others. This draws these people into feeling sympathy and increased devotion towards the person, and expressing disappointment or outrage against those who criticise the person. This all serves to convert any criticism into a further opportunity to cement the person’s worth and status as an unfairly persecuted victim.

Secondly, a person can devote a great deal of energy into co-opting people “above” them to affirm their own worth. By this we mean people who are either in a direct position of authority over them, or those who are “senior” to them in their social group or profession or vocation, or those whose name or title or profession might have influence or gravitas among their peers (e.g. a counsellor). A person exhibiting SBCMB may, for example, seek out such people and ask them to engage in conversation or to provide them with advice or even counselling. They then “manage upwards”, depicting themselves as worthy yet vulnerable or victimised. This elicits encouragement or sympathy or endorsements. They then “curate” these conversations and endorsements, collecting them, recording them, and frequently repeating them to others—especially their peers—often out of the original context, to demonstrate their worth and to deflect criticism. They may even co-opt some of these “seniors” into becoming active advocates or defenders for them. Even more seriously, they may use some of these conversations (often selectively) to give the impression that these people have thoroughly investigated them, or that they are in formal accountability relationships with them, thus using the people’s names and reputations to provide them with protection against criticism.

Read the next section: Expressing feelings of betrayal when serious action is taken


Copyright © 2021 Lionel and Bronwyn Windsor

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To read the whole paper: Slow-burn crazy-making behaviours

Slow-burn crazy-making behavioursOnline: a roadmap for the entire paper Download the entire PDF

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