top of page
  • Michaela Patel


Updated: Dec 2, 2023

a paper note taped to background
blame shifting

Living most of my life around antagonistic, immature adults I thrive on clarity. I have learned the hard way that feeling repeatedly confused isn't a red flag but a red banner. Being mistreated by selfish and mean folks taught me to tune into my gut when I feel unsettled and if emotionally it feels like a rug had been pulled from underneath me a loud siren goes off in my head forcing me to a halt. Trusting myself is a vital daily practice of believing what I am hearing and seeing rather than making elaborate excuses for unacceptable behaviour.

There may be many things that cause us to feel untethered as dealing with high conflict personality always rings chaos. It is only natural that one seeks answers to the many questions arising in environments inconducive with peace and clarity. Many of us frantically web browse cetain toxic patterns in order to gain a level of understanding, falling deep into a vortex of attempting to nail down the precise personality pathology. Not only it is impossible to settle on the correct diagnosis without a thorough professional assessment, it can become an unnecessary, unrellenting chase. In fact, the overwhelming majority of self-righteous folks won't feel the need to ever set a foot anywhere close to a professional's office. Rather than rushing into diagnosing someone it is much easier to examine their personality style for signs of self-centredness, self-entitlement, and self-righteousness. Let's clarify these.

Self-righteous people push the narrative of a single way of viewing things with only one reality being the ultimate truth whilst diminishing the rights of others. 'I AM RIGHT, EVERYONE ELSE IS STUPID' leads to denying another’s self-expression by controlling what they say, how they say it, when they say it, how they dress, how they earn and spend their money, when they have and how they parent their children, which school they attend, which faith they belong to etc. It presents itself by controlling activities, by manipulating the lives and the reality of others (gaslighting). Ultimately, it renders others disabled from trusting themselves to choose and lead their own lives.

Self-entitled people push the narrative of deserving more than others while ignoring and denying the needs of everyone else. 'I DESERVE TO TAKE THIS, YOU DON’T' leads to exploitation, cheating and disempowerment of others. It presents itself as double standards, hiding income, having affairs, visiting strip clubs and other less desirable activities. Ultimately, it renders others insecure and confused.

Both of the above lead to mental-emotional instability and chronic illnesses in their victims. Self-centred personalities create divisions by setting themselves apart from and ABOVE everyone else, clearing the path for self-entitlement and self-righteousness. Like the splitting off of a cancerous cell that gradually kills its host, egotism is the cancer of the psyche which plagues our collective.

To spot a difficult person right away isn’t always possible for multiple reasons. Particularly when you've been exposed to someone manipulative and controlling growing up, which is far from rare because damaged people are literally everywhere. The main symptom that you are dealing with a difficult person is feeling depleted after interacting with them. Antagonistic personalities have one thing in common: They are conflict driven. They NEED conflict and they need to win it by bringing others down.

Is it possbile to get addicted to relationship toxicity?

Absolutely! Being exposed to unpredictable negativity repeatedly (which is how we are kept on our toes) together with the sweet, sweet highs of making up (which follow whenever we give in and as long as we are still useful to others in some way) cements us into a traumatic dynamic of a highly addictive, emotional rollercoaster called THE TRAUMA BOND. The only predicatability becoming the heroin like euphoria of 'all is good again' which powerfully SOOTHES the excruciatigly painful lows - the result of being attacked, criticised, blamed and shamed. To navigate such tempestuous space becomes increasingly confusing and extremely tiring because the tables get somehow always turned on us...

quote from True Love Empath
manipulation of reality under pressure

Manipulative people are skilled at focus shifting. Away from what THEY did/are doing and onto what we did (true or made up). When we fall for what WE did wrong, we stop seeing ourselves as truly nice, harmless people. This makes it possible for others to further convince us, conflict averse individuals, that we are in a need of a conflict to re-establish peace. Furthermore, by repeatedly falling for the bait of 'you are bad' our psyche was trained for a defence as the shame cards got pulled from years ago. Being converted into a flawed perpetrator was a very unpleasant experience which further pushed us into the muddy waters of [purposefully] created drama and enveloped us in [projected] shame. ‘We must be grateful for what we've got because who would stay with us when we are so hard to get along with?’ [a narrative of every child with abandonment issues]. ‘We cannot leave those who are willing to stick around through all that we have put them through, do we?’ [a narrative of every child who normalised parental abuse].

Do you see how difficult it is to spot an unacceptable behaviour when we lived around it long enough?

To start noticing the multi dimensional reality distortions we must dive deep into the self-entitled, antagonistic psyche and observe its behavioural blueprint under pressure. To unveil the tricks of the master magician, to understand how they operate, we first must discover what are they attempting to achieve. When I first understood the DARVO concept it had added a crucial dimension to my perception of toxic people and infinitely validated how self-entitled and manipulative behaviour looks like.

So what is DARVO?

This concept was developed by Prof.Freyd, a world renowned psychologist and researcher in the area of betrayal trauma. It stands for DENY, ATTACK, and REVERSE VICTIM and OFFENDER, and it describes a typical behaviour response of offenders when confronted with reality.

How exactly does it go? In the first instance the offender vehemently deny any evidence (no matter how well or in their face is the truth being presented), shortly followed by attacking the one who confronted them (with made up lies and half truths typically irrelevant to the subject) to set up the scene for a role reversal.

As the one who confronted them with truth falls for the trap of needing to immediately defend themselves against the outrageous lies (which serve to switching focus away from the original issue), the offender is now pretending they are being attacked (playing the victim) and in doing so making the confront-er appear like an offender. Voila! The role reversal is seamless to an untrained mind, which is frantically scrambling for thoughts (a reason why one is feeling like their brain is fried after any such interaction), exacerbating one’s feelings of frustration, shame, powerlessness and anxiety.

How are these experiences shaping our future interactions with the offender?

The above pattern, defining the vast majority of interactions with antagonistic personality, is bound to wear any caring, conflict averse and peace loving personality out. We eventually capitulate, giving in to demands of entitled people to avoid feeling powerless. By going along with what others want we can, at least temporarily, keep face and peace which gives us some sense of control. Furthermore, tip toeing around easily angry folk becomes our way of preventing future fights. By keeping a low profile we become overall ‘less demanding’ [neglecting our own needs]. Nothing is better received by the self-centred personality than minimising our importance in favour of theirs. Sadly for us though, our favours aren't perceived as giving but giving IN. It took me years to wrap my head around this particular puzzle piece that pretty much cements the illusion of the offender's entitlement to treat us how they desire with ZERO consequences. Which is also why it feels like our giving is never enough and why they get pretty angry when we set limits.

Setting boundaries with difficult people is (you guessed it) difficult. Primarily because a/ they don’t see others as individuals but a supply to be [ab]used, and b/ they are incapable of self-reflection, having zero awareness and little empathy, hence little remorse and drive to change. It is literally vital to have everything confirmed in writing (texts, emails, parenting apps that disallow the deletion of messages) for these reasons:

  1. To reduce the risk of being blatantly lied to and making us doubt our own sanity. One cannot easily dismiss or deny what was once written. Sure, it can be explained in a different way (which they often do to muddy the field) so one needs to make sure vague responses are clarified by asking direct questions for them to have little room to wriggle out.

  2. To create a safe space away from being forced into making rushed decisions (a technique favoured by cold calling scammers and cons). Having time to reflect opens up new avenues one isn’t always thinking of when pushed against the wall as our logic doesn’t function in highly emotionally charged situations. These people know it! Besides, the discrepancies and half truths aren’t always noticeable at the first glance but crystalise in time.

  3. To reduce the risk of being infected by the bullshit and feeling flustered from defending ourselves on the spot, in doing so preventing the offender to get away with murder.

  4. To keep a memoir of all the 'lovely' things that were said about us (the name calling, the false accusations, the blatant lies and projections) in the attack phase just in case we forget how truly unhappy and unhealthy they are, and how much better off we are/will be without them.

  5. To remind ourselves at every opportunity how lucky we are to be no longer part of this truly dangerous dynamic in person.

Having only written communication with one particularly self-entitled, manipulative person took years of step by step closing other avenues of communication down. First direct face to face, thereafter social media, and eventually I had to reinforce my boundaries around texting (only emergency communication within reasonable hours). It really took a very long time [too long to the detriment of my wellbeing] of reasserting my boundaries over and over again in a form of short, punchy sentences firmly stating other options unacceptable.

My next article demonstrates a real life example of dealing with a high conflict, controlling person and how to maintain your stance in protecting yourself.

Thank you for reading. If my article contributed to understanding yourself, please be generous and share it with others.

Copyright © 2023 Michaela Patel


bottom of page