Those who exhibit SBCMB tend to create a relational climate that revolves around themselves. By “relational climate” we mean the way people in a group tend to relate and speak to one another. The way a person exhibiting SBCMB tends to act and speak—especially their tendencies to use words persuasively and to portray themselves as the greatest victim in any situation—means that the relational climate of people in their spheres of influence tend to revolve around that person. The person gravitates towards the centre of everybody’s concern. The various patterns of relating and general conversation seem frequently to end up being “all about” the person rather than about other people or issues.
An illustration: Creating a relational climate that revolves around themselves
A person known to me (Lionel) became involved in an online debate about a significant issue. After a while, as the person interacted with various other people, I observed that the issue itself became secondary to the conversation, while the actual topic of debate gradually became more and more about the person themselves. Commenters focused on how clever or gracious the particular person was. Questions revolved around whether the person was being treated fairly or not. Any statements made about the issue tended to be judged on the basis of whether that one person’s feelings had been taken into account.
This relational climate was clearly being “fed” by the person themselves, as they continued to interact. That is, the person kept reinforcing the climate by rewarding “good” behaviour—commending and thanking anyone who took their feelings into account, with statements like “that means a lot to me”—and criticising “bad” behaviour—i.e. complaining about anyone who happened to disagree that they had not properly understood or engaged with the person. The person kept insisting that those who disagreed with their view had a moral obligation to engage further with them, in other forums, implying that not doing so was a moral failure. The issue itself ended up being almost impossible to discuss objectively, as the personality and their feelings almost entirely overshadowed the issue.
After this online debate, I (Lionel) spoke to various people who had tried to engage in the debate but had disagreed with this individual. As a result of the interaction, many of them had increased feelings of guilty, anxiety, and self-doubt.
Read the next section: Self-affirming reactions to criticism
Copyright © 2021 Lionel and Bronwyn Windsor
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