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Realise that normal social rules may not apply

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


As you respond to those exhibiting SBCMB, you need to realise that normal rules of social engagement may not apply. For example, a normal rule of social engagement would be that when you express something negative, you also at the same time show politeness, or express appreciation, or be gracious, as might be expected in a normal relationship. However, you may find that when you do this with a person exhibiting SBCMB, they take it far beyond what you intend. That is, the person may seize on your expression of appreciation, amplifying it and taking it as evidence that you are clearly “on their side”. Thus, they will use the expression of appreciation to ignore the critique. This means if you want to have a chance of being heard, you may need to be far more clear and direct in your critique, and forego the regular politeness or expressions of appreciation that might normally accompany that critique.

Empathy also might work along different rules than normal. That is, you may feel deeply sad for the person’s vulnerability. You may know something about their own childhood or background or past traumatic experiences that you suspect may have been a significant factor leading them to a distorted view of themselves. If you feel such empathy, that is normal. However, unfortunately, such empathy is easily used by the person to distract from or excuse the seriousness of their own damaging behaviour towards you or others. You need to remember that the behaviour is still damaging and wrong. While you may feel empathy, you aren’t being “loving” by allowing them to keep doing it. Furthermore, truly loving the person might mean doing things that they will not (nor may ever) understand as loving. They may, as we have noted, say that they feel deeply betrayed by you. This is often what is so hard. You want to love them truly, and you want them to see that you love them, but they may never accept it as love. The only thing they will accept as love is acquiescing to their will, which is actually damaging for everyone.

Read the next section: Be very clear on your personal boundaries


Copyright © 2021 Lionel and Bronwyn Windsor

Note well: Because of time and energy constraints, we’re not personally able to respond to any queries or comments about this paper. So please realise in advance that if you send us a message about this paper, you are unlikely to receive any response from us.

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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