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The Loneliness of Crazy Making

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In order to manage another's crazy making behavior, you need to name and manage the painful feeling of loneliness that occurs when you are at the other end of crazy making behavior.

When you grow up in a crazy making household, as I did, you don't know that it is crazy making. As a child, you have no way of knowing that your parents may be projecting onto you their own woundedness. You have no way of knowing that they can't really see who you are because they can't see their own true selves. You just know that their behavior doesn't feel good. You might not have a word for the feeling that feels so painful -- you just know that it feels so awful that you need to try to do something about it.

The word I have for this feeling is loneliness. It's not a great word to describe the terrible feeling, but it's the best I've come up with. Under the overall heading of loneliness you might have been aware of feeling alone, empty, afraid, abandoned, isolated, anxious, agitated, confused, sad, angry. These are some of the emotions we experience when we are very lonely -- when we want to feel a connection with our parents or other caregivers and we can't because they are not only not available to it, but they are blaming us for their unloving behavior. This is the crazy making -- treating us in unloving ways and acting as if it is our fault that they are not being loving to us.

Crazy making takes away a child's sense of safety -- of being seen, heard and validated. Because it creates so much inner pain, we all learn ways to protect against the intense loneliness that will always result from crazy making. Each of us chose different strategies, or a combination of strategies, to attempt to have control over getting the love and connection we needed. Some of us chose to become caretakers -- good girls and boys attempting to do everything right in the hopes of warding off the blame. Others chose to act out with anger and temper tantrums in reaction to the crazy making. We might have learned, as we moved into adolescence, to adopt the same judgmentalness and blaming behavior that we grew up with, becoming crazy makers ourselves. Or, we might have resorted to resistance -- shutting down or procrastinating in our attempts to not be controlled by the crazy making. All of our protective behavior had the intent to get love, avoid pain and feel safe. We became addicted to our protections as a way to avoid the loneliness of disconnection and crazy making.

At some point, if we want to grow into loving adults and have loving relationships, we need to become aware of crazy making - our own and others. We need to become aware of when we are saying one thing and doing another, when we are being dishonest and manipulative, when we are projecting our own unloving behavior onto another, when we are turning things around and putting it on the other person, and when we are blaming another for our own feelings and behavior. And we need to be aware of when another is behaving in these ways with us.

I have discovered that if someone is crazy making me and I don't attend to it and name it, I will feel agitated. My agitation lets me know that I have not taken care of myself in the face of crazy making behavior. I've found that if I just say, without blame or judgment, "This feels crazy making," then I feel fine. It's not another person's crazy making behavior that causes me to feel upset, angry, defensive, or to resort to caretaking. It's my own lack of naming it and then getting hooked into it as a result of not being aware of it.

No matter how crazy making another person is -- blaming you, accusing you, lying to you, resisting you -- you can maintain your equanimity if you become aware that it is crazy making and name it out loud. This is challenging if you grew up with crazy making, but when you learn to do it, your inner child will feel safe and happy!

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