Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone whose relationships are forever changed by the shootings in Santa Barbara.

Blame abounds. Who or what is responsible? Video games, lax gun laws, a seriously flawed mental health system, garbage movies and video games, the parents, a kid suffering from Affluenza and narcissism?

Apparently, the shooter was a lost, lonely kid who we believe was mentally ill, but do we know his diagnosis? Schizophrenia? Antisocial Personality Disorder? Who knows? But his self-admitted ‘pining for his mother’ speaks volumes about the ugly seed growing in him. This guy experienced a lot of loss in his formative years.

Loss 1 – Parents moved him from Europe to the U.S. at age 5 = Loss of culture, home and possibly extended family

Loss 2 – Parents divorced at age of 6 = Loss of family, safety, and stability

Loss 3 – Dad quickly brought new woman into his life = Loss of hope of family reunification, loss of time with Dad

Loss 4 – Mom moved back to Europe = Loss of primary relationship…and hope.

Most kids, depending on their temperament, could handle this.

Instead of pointing all fingers at the shooter, we could take a look at a narcissistic society that lacks emphasis on commitment to marriage and family. I’m not blaming the parents for doing what most have done. Sometimes dissolution is unavoidable but in many or maybe even most cases we could make it work. Maybe we ought not to rely on the common thinking that we shouldn’t stay together for the kids. Maybe we should.

Here are a few suggestions for help in dealing with building a strong marriage, or helping kids cope when divorce is the only answer.

An evidence-based online program for kids whose parents are going through divorce. Children of Divorce – Coping with Divorce. Kids who take this course during their parent’s divorce, or maybe even after, have a far better chance at sustaining good mental health both now and into their adult lives. Highly Recommended

A helpful book on building a strong marriage: Take Back Your Marriage: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart

Great gift for anyone having a baby:

Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love


New-Orleans-blog-4-30-142It’s the busy travel season! Over the past month, I was in five cities (in four time zones) giving seminars on managing high-conflict personalities. First, I was in New Orleans, to present to their new AFCC Chapter there (see photo with organizers). I saw old friends and met many new ones, as we discussed key issues in managing high conflict parents (and an occasional high-conflict professional) in separation and divorce cases. I emphasized recognizing patterns of high-conflict personalities, so that professionals will use different methods to help them – not to diagnose them.

I encouraged having a “private working theory” which includes not trying to force insights on high-conflict people (HCPs) – just forgedaboudit! – because this just creates an unnecessary tug of war that frustrates the client and the professional. Instead, I gave four key skills to use, which focus on future behavior and decision-making: Connecting with Empathy, Attention and Respect; Analyzing Alternatives (making proposals, etc.); Responding to Misinformation or hostile emails (BIFF Responses); and Setting Limits. Of course, I got in some New Orleans jazz, gumbo and scenery – and I look forward to the AFCC International conference there in 2015!

Next, I spoke at a children’s hospital and gave them similar tools. The staff especially liked the BIFF Response method for dealing with angry emails and letters. We practiced responding to parents in conflict over their child’s treatment. Most people don’t realize that working with children in any setting these days involves dealing with separated and divorced parents, some of whom remain extremely angry at each other and carry out their conflicts into the children’s healthcare treatment, education, recreation and other activities. I was very pleased to work with such dedicated professionals who are willing to work with ill children – and their high-conflict parents.

Then, on to Calgary in Alberta, Canada. There I spoke to the Alberta Family Mediation Society and their new AFCC Chapter, for a combined day and a half of presentations on (you guessed it) high-conflict personalities in separation and divorce. I gave them the same tips and tools I gave the New Orleans AFCC chapter, as well as more specific mediation techniques for managing high-conflict people. I emphasized teaching mediation clients simple skills to use and reinforcing those throughout the process: asking the mediator questions, making their own agenda, making proposals, asking questions about proposals and making decisions – a method I am now teaching as “New Ways for Mediation.” I especially enjoyed seeing many friends in Alberta, including those running the New Ways for Families programs in Calgary and nearby Medicine Hat. These programs are thriving at teaching parents new skills to help them make their own decisions out of court. We hope to have research results published next year from three years of experience, as well as expanding into other cities in Alberta.

Next Blog: On to Pennsylvania and Ohio


Bill Eddy is a lawyer, mediator, therapist and the President of the High Conflict Institute based in San Diego. He is the developer of the New Ways for Families method and the New Ways for Mediation method, as well as the author of several books including The Future of Family Court and It’s All Your Fault: 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything. This year he is working on materials for the New Ways for Work method of coaching potentially high-conflict employees – or anyone – to use the same “new ways” skills for greater success in the workplace. For books, video training and free articles, visit us at www.HighConflictInstitute.com.

Family systems theory has been around for decades, but there is little discussion of it today. Yet understanding how family systems work can help professionals and parents going through separation and divorce. In this article, I explain some of the basics, some of what happens to family systems in divorce and how to truly help families in divorce. I also point out why the adversarial process of family courts successfully managed family conflicts in the past, but is guaranteed to fail today’s high-conflict family systems (regardless of procedural changes within the adversarial structure) – whereas skillful family mediation and other non-adversarial processes can succeed.

Family Systems Theory

Family systems theory describes families as operating like the solar system: each member of the family has a “pull” on every other member of the family – like gravity pulls planets towards each other and other forces push them away, so that they stay in balance spinning around each other in a predictable orbit. Family systems have many common characteristics, including the following:

They are powerful: Family systems are a powerful source of support. You can take them for granted. Family members will consistently act in predictable ways, so you don’t have to guess each day. You can focus on what your tasks are and respond fairly automatically to each other. In this regard, a family system is like a personality – very predictable, so that you know what you can get from whom, when and where without putting a lot of energy into thinking about it. Family systems have built houses, companies (family businesses are everywhere) and nations (dynasties). For example, most successful Olympic athletes, musicians and actors had strong family support – from a very young age. The family system organized itself around their success.

They seek stability: A family system develops standard ways of doing things. The whole family participates in enforcing its code of conduct, values and roles people play in it. Even young children tell each other, their parents and their toys how they should or shouldn’t behave, which helps them learn the rules of the family system and follow them. Family secrets are kept, so that the family system is not thrown off balance. The more dysfunctional the family, the more rigid the roles to help keep it stable, the more extreme behavior and the more secrets to keep it as stable as possible. Everyone is part of the family system – no member is an “island.”

They create roles: In every family system, everyone develops a role. One member talks a lot and another may be quiet. One person is highly competent at one skill and another is good at something else. In traditional family systems, especially in rural societies, the roles have been very clear-cut. In modern times, roles are more flexible and may overlap, as family members interact with the larger society. This can cause instability, so that the family may spend more time arguing over roles or members may simply leave the family system and have little or no contact.

They are part of larger social systems: Family systems, like “nuclear families” (two parents and their child or children), are part of larger extended families, which are part of communities, which are part of regional cultures, which are part of nations and world social systems. The values, rules and behaviors of these larger social systems strongly influence smaller family social systems. As one changes, so do the others – but not necessarily happily so.

They are resistant to change: In times of threat from outside of a family system, the family can be very powerful, because everyone automatically knows how to behave and what their roles are. Regardless of internal squabbles, family systems can be strong in jointly warding off danger – especially threats to the family system. This includes resistance to positive changes. They maintain the status quo at all costs. They don’t let people change their behavior very much. They are always aiming for stability, like a ship at sea trying to balance itself in a storm.

Today’s Social Changes Regarding Marriage

Since about 1970, there have been dramatic changes in our larger social systems and within families around the world. We are shifting from fairly rigid family structures to quite flexible family structures. Freedom to divorce, gay marriage, multi-racial households, children born to unmarried parents, people living alone and a multitude of other changes are having unpredictable affects on the future of family systems and larger social systems.

In terms of the separation and divorce process (we now speak of “separation and divorce” because so many couples no longer get married), the relationship of Family Court to family systems has changed dramatically in the past few decades.

Individual over the family: Divorce laws gave social permission for people to get divorced at will, simply due to “irreconcilable differences.” If one person wants a divorce, they will have it. This creates an ease of disruption that impacts the whole family system. Rather than having skills to cope with these significant changes, many families instinctively put all their energy into resisting these changes in order to stabilize the family system – either by engaging in abusive behavior or publically blaming each other in an effort to get the public to force them to behave.

Lack of continuity: Families don’t last to raise the children in one household. The average age of children when their parents divorce is around 6 or 7 today. This means that they will be raised in two households longer than they were raised in one household all together.

Equal roles: In the past, one family member was the “breadwinner” and the other raised the children. In divorce 20-30 years ago, one family member often left the family system and the remaining parent raised the children. Now, both parents are expected to work and both want to raise the children. Both need new skills for cooperating in ways they never did before.

The Changing Role of Family Court

From approximately the 1970s to the 1990’s, family courts have been setting divorce policies that define these changes. Parenting is supposed to include “significant time” with both parents. Both parents are supposed to earn an income and child support and spousal support are supposed to adjust for differences in earning ability. Former spouses are free to engage in sexual activity of their own choosing. “Get over it” is a common expression heard in family courts, when one party resists the changes of the other. The individual is primary now. During this time period, the divorce rate rose to about fifty percent of marriages. Courts made decisions, the parties’ followed the court’s authority and new family routines were established.

Starting around the 1990’s, surprising changes occurred. Methods such as mediation and attorney negotiation took over the role of courts in family decision-making. Lawyers and mediators simply educated the parties about the laws that had been established over the prior 20 years and the parties started avoiding court all together.

But at the same time, the remaining cases in family courts started to focus on family violence, restraining orders, child alienation and supervised visitation. These were the families who were unable to make the shift to the “new world family order.” Much of the family violence was perpetrated by men who saw themselves in the traditional role of being “head of the family.” Their violence (often reactive and unplanned) was aimed at keeping their wives in the family and under their control. Much of the alienation and false allegations were perpetrated by women who saw themselves in the traditional role of “in charge of the children.” Their efforts (often unconscious) seemed to be to resist the changes to equal roles in shared parenting.

Why the Adversarial Process Fails Today

Today, the family court process of litigation has been abandoned by most families, who can make their decisions out of court – with or without professional assistance. They have the skills to cooperate at a level that can manage the transitions that go with their new family structures. The families who are going to court today are those who do not have the negotiation skills nor the emotional healing skills to manage on their own. Yet putting them through the traditional litigation process simple exaggerates their resistance to everything – changing roles, loss of partners and shared parenting. Many of these families have one or two parents with personality disorders – which are increasing during this time of rapid change in our society. The adversarial process makes them behave worse and does little to truly understand their underlying problems.

Non-adversarial methods are needed for today’s family court cases. That is why methods such as mediation, collaborative divorce, attorneys assisting in negotiations and judicial dispute resolution are the way of the future – especially for these family systems in pain and resistant to the changes of the larger society. This is why skills training is needed for the whole family to help the whole family system go through these changes and into new forms.

Family systems – especially dysfunctional family systems – will resist family courts until we learn these lessons. This is not to say that there is not a role for family courts – it’s a different role which needs new knowledge and skills for understanding and managing dysfunctional family systems and their common mental health issues today.

Part 2 of this article will focus on managing mental health issues in family court and out of court with non-adversarial methods, including mediation and collaborative divorce.


Bill Eddy is a lawyer, mediator and clinical social worker, and the President of the High Conflict Institute. He is the author of several books including The Future of Family Court: Structure, Skills and Less Stress and Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He is also the developer of the New Ways for Families method of teaching skills to family systems (both parents and the children) and New Ways for Mediation for managing potentially high-conflict families. His website is http://www.HighConflictInstitute.com.

We believe in supporting good causes and our friends. Our friends at PDAN have a wonderful fund raiser going and we’d love to help as much as possible.


Dear friends,  

For the past month, PDAN has been working on helping children with emotional challenges living in foster care in the US.  We received a generous grant from a healthcare company to assist us with this. The project is called “A Book for Alex”. Our goal is to give free books to foster care centers, for children who may have a predisposition to personality disorders. Our primary focus is the needs of children having traits of attention deficit and/or hyperactivity. In general PDAN is targeting all children with higher risk of developing emotioImagenal dysregulation or a personality disorder in the future, due to biological or environmental factors. 
Based on recent data, over 22,500 children aged 6-12 with serious emotional problems live in foster care institutions in 10 states: Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Minnesota, Indiana, Arkansas, Ohio, Wisconsin, New York and Pennsylvania. (Data from Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) 2012 by the US Department of Health, Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. These 10 states are the states with a higher percentage of children living in foster care with serious emotional problems.)

Thanks to the grant we received, we’ll be able to address the needs of just over 2,000 children. Our next goal is to find the funds to give away 5,000 books. This would still be only 1 book for about 5 children in need. We have develop a good system to reach children institutions. We would love to have the opportunity to apply our team’s efforts to a larger number of foster care centers, special needs schools and children or family shelters 

Cost of this project: Each book cost us after printing, packaging and distribution about $4.25 per book. With $21,250 in donations, we will have the funds needed to distribute 5,000 books to children in USA. We would appreciate so much if you would take a few minutes to make a donation for these children in needs. If anyone in your family has experienced serious emotional problems, you know the deep impact this condition has on the lives of individuals and families. Please help us help these children!
Thank you for your support, 
The PDAN Family


PDAN is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to increasing public awareness of personality disorders, mitigating the impact of personality disorders on relationships, and preventing the development of personality disorders in children. pdan.org

HCPs have a repeated pattern of aggressive behavior that increases conflict rather than reducing or resolving it. It may be part of their personalities – how they automatically and unconsciously think, feel and behave – and they carry this pattern with them. They tend to have a lot of:

  1. All-or-nothing thinking (one person is all good, another is all bad)
  2. Unmanaged emotions (exaggerated anger, fear, sadness – out of proportion to events)
  3. Extreme behavior (yelling, hitting, lying, spreading rumors, impulsive actions, etc.)
  4. Preoccupation with blaming others (people close to them or people in authority)

To HCPs, it seems normal and necessary to intensely blame others. They can’t restrain themselves, even though their blaming may harm themselves as well.

Do you need help dealing with a High Conflict Person at home, work, or school? Bill Eddy’s book, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People may be just what you’re looking for!

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Bill Eddy is a lawyer (Certified Family Law Specialist), a child and family therapist (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and the Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center. He is the President of the High Conflict Institute, which provides training worldwide in managing “high-conflict people” in legal disputes, workplace disputes, healthcare disputes and educational disputes. He is the author of several books, including The Future of Family Court: Structure, Skills and Less Stress. www.HighConflictInstitute.com.

About Unhooked Books
Unhooked Books is the one place for people to find the best and most current information and resources available on personality disorders, high-conflict personalities, divorce, parenting, co-parenting, living healthy, eating healthy, and managing your life. Founder & CEO, Megan Hunter, established one place for people in any type of relationship to find tools to enhance relationships, prevent relationship disaster and handle relationship transition. Her firm belief is that with just a little education, most people can resolve most relationship issues.

faultfrontJuan Martinez is in the middle of closing argments in the Jodi Arias murder trial. His theme — according to the Defendant, absolutley nothing is her fault!

We know she lied. She admits she lied. Soon it will be up to the jury to determine whether they believe her or not.

I’m not going to debate the case and whether she deserves the death penalty or not.

I am going to say that Jodi’s behavior patterns in her relationship with Travis Alexander illustrates very clearly the traits of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I am not a clinician, nor is this a rendered diagnosis, nor is a diagnosis what interests me.

What does interest me and should interest everyone is the behaviors that were displayed in her relationship with Travis and how we all need to understand this in our own relationships. BPD is known as a “relationship disorder”. While some see it as complex, it’s really quite simple when viewed in the context of connect/disconnect. Some people with these relationships disorders have a strong need to connect, to be in a relationship. It becomes the most important thing to them, and with some it reaches a level of obsession.

They mold themselves into the other person’s life to become indispensible and shape themselves into the exact vulernable spots of the other person. This is not intention. It is the operating system of this relationship disorder.

When disconnect or even the perception or threat of disconnect occurs, a frantic anxiety and fear of abandonment may occur, leading to behaviors that may go to extremes to avoid the disruption of that connection.

Did this happen with Jodi and Travis? It appears so, although we can’t be 100% certain.

Why is this important for us to know?

Because approximately 2-6% of the U.S. population may have Borderline Personality Disorder, according to a study done by the National Institutes of Health. Because people with this disorder do not know they have it – it’s as natural to them as drinking water to everyone. Because I receive phone calls and emails every day from people who are confused and hopeless about their relationship with someone whose behaviors mimic Jodi’s, and whose lives are hellish. Because we need to be able to identify these behaviors before we make permanent commitments in dating relationships. Because we need to help people whose relationship behaviors seem extreme and outside the norm, seek treatment.

The thing about Jodi. She claims that nothing is her fault. We know that’s clearly inaccurate, but here’s the thing……if she does have BPD, I put forward that it truly is not her fault as it truly is a mental illnes she did not request. However, she does deserves the consequences that may be handed to her by the jury. The whole event is sad and we have to learn from it to prevent this happening again. Learn more about personality disorders at www.pdan.org.

Read more about BPD and high-conflict personalities in It’s All Your Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything by Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.

About Megan Hunter

meganMegan Hunter is founder and CEO of Life Unhooked, a speaking, training and consulting company that provides a fresh perspective and approach to help companies and individuals identify and overcome the damaging behaviors of high conflict personalities. She was co-founder of High Conflict Institute, founder and CEO of UnhookedBooks.com, and CEO of High Conflict Institute Press. Her life goal is helping people ‘unhook’ from bad behaviors and bad relationships. She is a past member of the Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners, appointed by Governor Janet Napolitano and re-appointed by Governor Jan Brewer.

About Unhooked Books

Unhooked Books is more than an online bookstore. I opened Unhooked Books after seeing a need for one place for people to find the best and most current information available on personality disorders and borderline personality disorder in particular, living healthy, eating healthy, and managing your life. After 15 years in divorce and child support law in a county prosecutor’s office and the Arizona Supreme Court, I co-founded High Conflict Institute which helps people in high-conflict disputes of any kind. This bookstore stemmed from the needs of the people who contacted us out of desperation. Our books are written by people who are experts in their fields. I’ve personally met and worked with most of them, and those who I haven’t met, come highly recommended by those whom I have met. Enjoy perusing our bookstore and contact us with questions or comments.

Todo es tu CulpaBill Eddy’s best selling book, It’s All Your Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything was released today, May 1, 2013, in Spanish:  ¡Todo es tu Culpa! 12 Consejos para Lidiar Con Personas Que Culpan A Otros De Todo.

Please help us spread word about this book to the Spanish-speaking community everywhere. Published by High Conflict Institute Press, this book has grown in popularity as society struggles to deal with the most “difficult” people. Eddy refers to them as “high-conflict personalities” because they are driven by a pattern of behaviors that are seemingly contradictory to their own best interests; they blame others for just about everything; often portray themselves as the victim; are overly defensive; and take nearly everything as criticism. Bill explains:

1.  High Conflict People (HCPs) have a long-term problem of blaming others.

2.  HCPs appear to have Cluster B personality disorders or traits, with chronic unconscious Internal Upsets (IUs) that they mistakenly believe are caused by others—their Targets of Blame (TOBs). These include: Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder.

3.  HCPs truly want to feel better, so they attack their TOBs in misguided efforts to change or eliminate the danger they feel.

4.  HCPs don’t reflect on or change their own inappropriate behavior. Their problems and conflicts continue and often escalate into high-conflict disputes.

5.  You know you’re a Target of Blame when you are personally and repeatedly blamed or criticized in an intensely negative way by an HCP.

Understanding, Identifying and Managing High Conflict Personalities in Your Life

This ground-breaking book helps you identify high conflict personalities in your life and offers 12 outstanding tips for handling them in dating or marital relationships, at work, in the neighborhood, on the HOA board, in legal disputes and everywhere. Bill explains the operating system of the HCP — why they act the way they do — and how to respond to them in an opposite way from the way you respond to everyone else.

Si usted no ha sido Blanco De Culpabilidad de alguien, lo será pronto. Según el autor Bill Eddy, el culpabilizar a otros está incrementando en sociedades alrededor del mundo y hay un patrón en el comportamiento de culpabilizar impulsado por personas con ciertas personalidades. Quizá el15% de nuestra sociedad culpa a otros por todo. Aunque sea un problema que está aumentando en nuestra sociedad, Bill Eddy cree que también es predecible, además de ser un problema que puede ser gestionado en la mayoría de los casos teniendo un mejor entendimiento de los patrones de los desórdenes de personalidad y haciendo lo contrario a lo que querrá hacer cuando sea atacado.

Bill Eddy es un autor y orador para mediadores, abogados, jueces, terapeutas entre otras personas. Eddy ha escrito esta útil guía que puede ser usada por cualquiera en situaciones de la vida cotidiana. “¡Todo Es tu Culpa!” está basado en su experiencia de más de 20 años de trabajo con gente conflictiva. “Sus 12 consejos para lidiar con gente que culpa a otros por todo” proveen valiosas respuestas para prevenir que sus problemas cotidianos de trabajo, problemas familiares y del vecindario se conviertan en disputas altamente conflictivas.

To order paperback copies, please click here. Will be available later this month at Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, Nook, Apple iStore, Scribd, Kobo, Gardner’s, eSensa, eBookPie.

About Bill Eddy

Bill Eddy, L.C.S.W., J.D. is a family law attorney, therapist and mediator, with over thirty years’ experience working with children and families. He is also the President of the High Conflict Institute based in San Diego, CA, which provides speakers, trainers and consultants on the subject of managing high-conflict people. He teaches Psychology of Conflict at the Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law in Los Angeles, CA, and at Monash University School of Law in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of several books, including: It’s All Your Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything (now available in Spanish and English). For more information please visit: http://www.HighConflictInstitute.com.

About Unhooked Books

Unhooked Books is more than an online bookstore. I opened Unhooked Books after seeing a need for one place for people to find the best and most current information available on personality disorders, high-conflict personalities, living healthy, eating healthy, and managing your life. After 15 years in divorce and child support law in a county prosecutor’s office and the Arizona Supreme Court, I co-founded High Conflict Institute which helps people in high-conflict disputes of any kind. This bookstore stemmed from the needs of the people who contacted us out of desperation. Our books are written by people who are experts in their fields. I’ve personally met and worked with most of them, and those who I haven’t met, come highly recommended by those whom I have met. Enjoy perusing our bookstore and contact us with questions or comments.