DEALING WITH A HIGH CONFLICT PERSONALITY
Updated: 16 hours ago
Having discussed the typical pattern of behaviour and the overall challenges of antagonistic personality in my previous article, I would like to uncover the nuances of real life interactions on an example - a single day campaign of 20 (!) back and forth emails as an effort of an entitled and manipulative parent to secure holidays by bending the boundaries of established parental agreement. After a number of consecutive years of changing the child's arrangements as means of maintaining control, the difficult parent was asked for a signature to add weight to what had been finally agreed upon. The agreement clearly states the length of summer holidays being 14 days for respective parents.
I have highlighted the antagonistic parent's communication in bold, adding clarifying comments under these in italic. Notice how keeping communication purely practical and minimal (not engaging nor defending!) one is able to stay away from purposefully created drama whilst firmly guarding their boundaries with dignity. Afterall, we can only stand tall without kneeling down or bending backwards...
AP (antagonistic parent): I am taking [child's name] on holiday 6th July till 19th July.
The lack of addressing the other parent shows total lack of regard and respect. Notice the demanding tone of a statement rather than a question or a proposal.
VP (victim parent): [name of the AP], my family was planning to come the first weekend in July so they will have to reschedule. Before they do, can you let me know when you have actually booked your stay/flights so we aren't in the same situation like this Christmas where you reserved the dates far in advance without making actual booking?
AP: We would leave Friday July 5th. [Child's name] would miss last day of school. I'll email the school. Return to [airport name] at 1.30am on 20th July.
Again, a statement rather than a question posed with total lack of respect for the other parent's view on their child missing school. Taking control by offering to sort things out.
VP: [name of the AP], I disagree with this. If you are taking him on the 5th then he needs to return on the 18th. Please observe and respect our agreement and get back to me with new proposal.
AP: Please do the maths. It's 14 nights and a few hours. No different to what you did on your return from holiday. To help you...
5th 1 night
7th 3 nights
8th 4 nights
9th 5 nights
10th 6 nights
11th 7 nights
12th 8 nights
13th 9 nights
14th 10 nights
15th 11 nights
16th 12 nights
17th 13 nights
18th 14 nights
we leave on the 19th and land early hours of 20th morning. You can pick him up at the airport at 1.30am and I can provide you with flight details.
Please don't be pedantic over 1.5 hours.
Notice the patronising/condescending tone and the gaslighting unfolding in detail. Appearing helpful by offering the other parent to pick up the child in the middle of the night when contract states the child needs to be dropped off. The start of an attack by lying and projection, insulting the other parent.
AP (less than an hour later): Can you please come back to me asap as I'd like to book the tickets and accommodation.
Notice the pressure to act fast without providing space for the other parent.
VP: [name of the AP], I will not agree to this. Please refer to the upheaval and pedantry from you over our last summer holiday. There aren't one set of rules for you and a different set of rules for me.
AP: Fine. I will let [child's name] know that we have to amend our plans over 1.5 hours.
Attacking by using their child as a pawn to emotionally blackmail the VP, further ridiculling VP and AP starring as the victim.
VP: [name of the AP], You have perfectly demonstrated my point. You can try to involve [child's name], pit him against me, and try to coerce him into thinking that I am wrong. It's not going to look good on you in any capacity in the eyes of another, mature adult who has a regard for his wellbeing.
I am looking forward to a new proposal in which you observe our signed agreement.
VP additional email: Just to make sure there are no misunderstandings. The agreement says 14 DAYS. So if he goes on the 5th he will have to be back on the 18th July.
AP: Will you accept 6th outbound and return 1.30am on 20th?
Further manipulation by negotiating and appearing reasonable.
VP: [name of the AP], I will not accept it. We are not moving the goal post again. It was the reason why we had to have an agreement signed in the first place - to ensure the rights and rules work equally, both ways.
Further attempt for control and manipulation by being vague.
VP: [name of the AP], if your are taking him from me on the 7th July and I have him back on the 20th then that is 14days. Can you confirm the flight times?
AP: You're now being difficult. I have had to reduce the days for holiday because of your inability to show any form of flexibility and for what? 1.5 hours? Sadly, you think of yourself only.
You could say fine but you would get a day back, could you not? As per your email " its not going to look good on you in any capacity in the eyes of another adult who has a regard for his wellbeing".
Surely a day out in the open air is better than being couped in a 2 bed flat.
Yes I will explain to [child's name]. He needs to understand who you are. I am also well aware of the conversation you have about me behind my back.
The flight times are irrelevant. I am well within my right to book as it's within the constraints of the parental agreement.
I will let you know closer to the time what times he will be picked up and dropped off.
Most people would appreciate that he's being taken away for 2 weeks. That's not me asking for nor a thank you I assure you.
Attack in full swing with AP and the child becoming the victims of VP's behaviour. Notice the attempt to bring VP down by further projecting 'you are being difficult, think of yourself only', threatening 'he needs to understand who you are', blaming and shaming 'you think of yourself only, better than being couped in a 2 bed flat', lying 'you would get a day back, flight times are irrelevant, I am well within my rights to book'. The demanding, condescending tone towards the end in attempt to take control.
VP: [name of the AP], I do not and will not agree to anything vague. I am yet to be provided with times of pick up and drop off, which dates you have settled on for us to be in agreement/me allowing him to go.
Please stick to our written agreement. You could also refer to your holiday emails from November and July, and any of previous holidays that you took in line with this agreement. This holiday is no different.
AP: Listen, you lied about your holiday previouly. [Your partner's] home does not constitute holiday. You did not return [child's name] to me per the agreement so I suggest you reign your behaviour in.
It is with sadness that I hear that you have anxiety issues. May I suggest you visit the GP for help.
As per me last email, you have been provided the dates and they fall in line with the agreement. I will provide you with timings closer to the time.
Further attack by using false accusations, drawing irrelevant stuff in. Notice the condescending tone, unashamed to use known weakness against the other parent, gaslighting 'you have been provided dates and they fall in line'.
VP: [name of the AP] provide me with dates and times of [child's name] being taken and returned as you have done in previous years for me to be able to agree to it. It is really straightforward.
AP: This is a control matter. I will provide you details in due course. I can't be any more clearer than the above. You have been provided the dates well in advance and will be within keeping of the agreement.
May I respectfully ask that you stop with the harassment.
Further projection making the VP appear controlling. Further gaslighting 'I can't be any more clearer' and the AP starring as the victim of harrasment to prevent further questioning by the VP hence clarification.
As you see the devil is in the detail. Difficult people will make it very difficult for you to see yourself clearly. They muddy the waters with false accusations, denial and blame, projecting their own disowned qualities onto the truthteller in order to maintain their delusional act. And once you get in the mud with them they have you busy defending yourself whilst they are off the hook. The moment you engage in the below the belt business you lose your hight which makes it impossible to oversee the situation from a place of safety. Their agressive upkeeping of the distorted image of themselves serves to avoid psychological breakdown caused by the, otherwise overwhelming, feelings of shame. Unfortunately, the endless attacks and blame shifting leads to breaking the many others.
Having a theoretical idea helps but, sadly, without a painful initiation no one is immune to toxicity. It takes time and skill to notice its signs, to uncover the many reality distortions, to name things and make sense of everything. Because only when we can finally see others clearly we can see ourselves clearly too...
Thank you for reading. If my article contributed to understanding yourself, please be generous and share it with others.
Copyright © 2023 Michaela Patel