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The provocation trap

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A crazy maker has a number of tools to deflect blame, absolve himself of any responsibility, create drama, and suck the life out of anyone who gets close to him or her. Knowledge is power. Once we know better we do better. It is imperative that we become aware of the games they play so that we can protect ourselves. One of the most insidious weapons they employ is the provocation trap. The trap will turn a situation around so that they look like the victim. You are the bad guy, and everyone who sees or hears about the incident thinks that you have lost your mind and/or you have become a horrible human being. The trap is best explained by example.

It’s Friday evening at 10:00 PM. A husband is beating his wife in the living room. Frantically she calls 911. By the time the police arrive the husband is calm, polite, and acting puzzled by his wife’s bizarre behavior. In the meantime the wife is screaming hysterically in pain, rage and fear. The cops exchange a knowing eye with the husband that says, “Women can just get out of control for no reason. Maybe it’s hormones.” The husband isn’t arrested. He isn’t even given a warning.

Three sisters plan a Mother’s Day party and besides their own mother they invite a number of friends and acquaintances who are related mothers and daughters by blood or marriage. After the gifts are exchanged and the women are talking and nibbling on hors d’oeuvres, the sisters take their mother to a back bedroom to share a special surprise. Their father passed away a few months before and the daughters have chipped in to buy a headstone for the grave. Instead of being delighted their mother goes ballistic screaming so that all the guests in the family room can hear, “How dare you make that decision. I am going to decide what happens with your father’s grave. What about how difficult my life is financially? (Mom is more than well off). I am so lonely. You never come to visit me. (Each daughter calls or sees Mom at least once a week). You don’t care about me! You just care about your father who isn’t even here anymore!” The daughters beg their mother to stop, but she just increases the drama. All of the guests wonder what the daughters have done to brutalize their mother. After all she wouldn’t be screaming like that if they hadn’t done something abominable. The discomfort of the family altercation causes all of the guests to leave in a hurry. The sisters get together to debrief a week later. The conclusion they come to is Mom is jealous of the “attention” and money that is going to their deceased father. What about all those people who think so poorly of them now? Do they tell them the truth? Would they even believe them? Would it make things worse? People who use the provocation trap leave us not knowing which way to turn.

These folks are scary manipulators who will make you walk on eggshells at best or become homicidal or suicidal at worst. Sometimes they go off just to get a reaction from you. Don’t give them the pleasure. If possible cut them off completely, but if they must be in your life keep your interactions with them short, civil, and factual. If you are having trouble extricating yourself from such a toxic relationship here is a Web site of therapists in the Dayton area: http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/state/OH/Dayton.html

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