09/22/2014 06:02 pm ET Updated Nov 22, 2014

Crazy Making


Have you ever felt confused, immobilized, angry and frustrated at the other end of a conversation and not known why you were feeling this way? The chances are that you were being crazy made.

Crazy making is not easy to talk about or describe. It's behavior that on the surface is saying one thing but underneath is really saying something else. It's often behavior that is a projection from the person who is crazy making onto the person who is being crazy made. It is behavior that is not logical, not based on truth but on manipulating the other person into feeling wrong and changing their behavior.

Let's take some examples.

Rita and Stanley have been married for 14 years and have two children. Stanley makes a good living as an attorney while Rita stays home raising the children. Rita has also been the one to take care of handling the finances -- making the investments and paying the bills. Rita has a good head for finances and has done well managing things.

However, Stanley has a spending addiction. He will suddenly spend huge amounts of money on things that Rita considers unnecessary, without consulting Rita. The result is that Stanley has put their family into a lot of debt. However, when Rita tries to place any limits on Stanley, he yells at her that she is trying to control him, and that it's her fault that he doesn't consult with her first because she always says no. Rita ends up feeling confused, frustrated and angry. She is being crazy made by Stanley in that he is blaming her for his lack of financial responsibility.

Crazy making comes in many forms. For example, Kathy is a very successful physician. However, she comes from a family that is threatened by her success. Her family has always wanted control over her being there for them and fears that if she does well she won't care about them. So, when Kathy visits her parents, feeling happy and successful in her life, her mother will often look at her and say something like, "You look so tired and pale. Are you well? You must be working too hard. We're so worried about you." While these comments may sound caring, they are anything but caring -- they are crazy making. They are geared to get Kathy back into the fold, back into being controlled by her parents. They are meant to undermine Kathy and create doubt within her regarding her path and her success.

Rudy has been on a spiritual path for the last few years. One of his old friends, Andy, is very threatened by the changes he sees in Rudy. Andy fears that if Rudy continues to grow emotionally and spiritually, Rudy will no longer be interested in spending time with Andy, since Andy has no interest in personal growth. So, when Rudy told Andy he was planning on attending a personal growth workshop, Andy gave him a crazy making response: "When are you going to give up looking for a guru to take care of you? When are you going to stop using God as a crutch and get back to reality?"

The problem with crazy making interactions such as these is that it is difficult to know how to respond. I've discovered that the only way I can take care of myself in these interactions is to be mindful that my sense of confusion is telling me that this is a crazy making interaction and that I need to disengage from it. The response that seems to make me feel cared for is when I say, "This feels crazy making. I'm not available for this conversation," and walk away. If I try to explain why it's crazy making, I get nowhere, because you can't really explain the illogic of the crazy making statements when the person making the statements is in an ego wounded state, which they always are in when they are crazy making. You will just get deeper into crazy making if you try to logically explain why what the other person is saying makes no sense, is a projection or has no basis in fact.

If the controlling part of you gets activated, you are likely to respond to crazy making with anger, explanations, denial or even rage. Then you appear to be the crazy one because you are so reactive to a seemingly benign statement. The crazy maker is off the hook once you become reactive to the crazy making. Your reactive behavior becomes the focus.

The challenge here is to tune into your body and get to know the feeling of being crazy made, so that you can take care of yourself in the face of it.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, and join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships." Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.

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