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tue posted: Tue 2017-06-20 05:29:37 tags: healing
ThoughtCatalog: 20 Toxic Tactics
Terrible title, good field guide for spotting narcissistic and/or abusive distortions.

Back in college one of the courses I took when I was leaning toward a Psych degree was Abnormal Psych. In our journey through the DSM-IIIR of course we touched on personality disorders. When you're coming at it as an academic exercise, it's easy to think that all these disorders are rare and somewhat evenly distributed. But from my decades of experience, the conclusion I've come to is that personality disorders, or cluster B disorders at least, are so intractable because they are basically clusters of minor maladaptive strategies that almost everyone engages now and then. The genuinely disordered subject just leans on them as primary strategies and is in denial about the toxicity, abnormality or maladaptivity. Just because your teen or even your spouse frequently turns to sarcasm (when they don't feel safe or just don't know how to express their feelings from a position of genuineness and vulnerability) doesn't mean they're NPD or a sociopath.

Gottman's marriage success handbook posits "accepting influence" as one of its 7 principles for making marriage work. What we have been exposed to, coming from dysfunctional families, is a model where "influence" was replaced with coercion and manipulation. Here's the bottom line that I think characterizes healthy marital "influence": It's wholly voluntary. There may be rewards for compliance but definitely no penalty for noncompliance.

I tried to think of other things but ultimately, the picture of what "healthy influence" is, boils down to what contract, manipulation and coercion aren't.

Gottman's blog gives this example of a situation where there was an opportunity to accept influence: Husband announces The Guys are picking him up that evening for a fishing trip; wife reminds him that he agreed to help her clean house for her friend's visit; husband reneges. I feel like this is a TERRIBLE example, not even a matter of "accepting influence", but rather a matter of the husband keeping his word, following through on an agreement. There are natural relationship consequences for a pattern of breaking agreements or being unreliable or whatever you want to call it. It simply speaks ill of the hypothetical husband's character.

Another management coach blogger illustrated a situation in which a husband persuaded (influenced) his wife (who preferred beach vacations) to agree on a ski vacation - highlighting the snuggling by a romantic fireplace, taking sauna, sipping hot cocoa all day etc.

This struck me as a much better example, but if the footnote to the story was that the wife thought about it and refused, and the husband took this as his cue to throw a temper tantrum and withdraw for a week, then it wasn't influence at all. Influence propositions have no strings attached, they can be taken or declined without consequence. Conversely, if the outcome was the wife saying "OK, but our next vacation we have to go to the beach AND we have to bring Mother"... that's no longer an influence example either, that's an influence proposition that got turned into a contract. Not that there's anything wrong with mutually agreeable contracts - Miss Cupcake and I divided up housework with a certain degree of conscious reciprocity and we're both happy with that. But she hasn't "influenced" me to vacuum, I would do that anyway if I still lived alone just because I'm not comfortable with rampant crumbs and dustbunnies. And if one of us neglected our share of housekeeping there would be some contractual complaints from the other.