CrazymakingBy Dr. Margaret Paul
February 20, 2023
Crazymaking interactions lead to anger, frustration, and confusion. Learn about what crazymaking is and what to do about it.
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 crazymade.
Crazymaking 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 crazymaking onto the person who is being crazymade. It is behavior that is not logical and 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 who handles the finances - makes investments and pays 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 her. 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 crazymade by Stanley in that he is blaming her for his lack of financial responsibility.
Crazymaking 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 crazymaking. 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. He fears that if Rudy continues to grow emotionally and spiritually, he will no longer be interested in spending time with Andy, since Andy has no interest in personal and spiritual growth. So, when Rudy told him he was planning on attending an Inner Bonding intensive, Andy gave him a crazymaking 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 crazymaking interactions such as these is that it’s 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 I’m in a crazymaking interaction and that I need to disengage from it. The response that seems to make my inner child feel cared for is when I say, "This feels crazymaking. I'm not available for this conversation," and walk away. If I try to explain why it's crazymaking, I get nowhere, because you can't really explain the illogic of crazymaking statements when the person making the statements is in a wounded state, which they always are when they are crazymaking. You will just get deeper into crazymaking 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 crazymaking 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 crazymaker is off the hook once you become reactive to the crazymaking. Your reactive behavior becomes the focus.
The challenge here is to tune in to your body and get to know what it feels like to be crazymade. Then, you can begin to take care of yourself in the face of it.
Heal your relationships with Dr. Margaret’s 30-Day online video relationship course: Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love.
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Your emotions are a great gift, letting you know when you are on track or off track in your thinking and behavior, or when you need to attend to what is happening with a person or situation. Today, practice learning what your painful emotions are telling you, rather than avoiding them with your various addictions.
By Dr. Margaret Paul