By Bill Eddy

On Wednesday, Jan. 30th, a 70-year-old man shot and killed the chief executive of a company he previously worked for and shot the executive’s lawyer, after a mediation session at a law office in the Phoenix area. CBS 5 News reported that he had a reputation as “angry, a bully, a nut job.” This appears to be yet another case of a possible “high conflict person” (HCP – someone with a preoccupation with blaming others, a history of extreme behavior, unmanaged emotions and all-or-nothing thinking) at a time of high risk.

It’s ironic and sad that I just wrote an article a couple months ago about the pattern of HCPs in high-expectation relationships (such as jobs, marriages, etc.) combined with “times of high risk.” Unfortunately, this pattern is not generally recognized by the public or professionals. Employers, lawyers, mediators and others involved in decision-making need to start recognizing this pattern:

HCP + High-Expectation Relationship + Time of High Risk = Extreme Behavior (See article: “Times of High Risk with High-Conflict People”)

Paranoid HCP? If this man apparently had a long history of “acting paranoid” and “obvious anger issues”, then he may have also had a paranoid personality disorder – one of the five common personality disorders associated with HCPs.  Such personalities often see others as involved in conspiracies against them. In this case, he was involved in at least five lawsuits since 1994, and had swore at and made threats to against the lawyer in a letter in this present case, including: “I am going after you with every fiber in my being and I won’t rest until I see you behind bars for conspiracy to defraud.”  (quotes from CBS5AZ.com article “Phoenix office shooter described as ‘nut job’” 1/31/13).

High-Expectation Relationship? It’s hard to know the employment relationship history in this case, but when an HCP becomes fixated in intense blaming of an employer or relationship partner, their fantasies often take over and they view the situation as “all-or-nothing” and experience “unmanaged emotions.”

Times of High Risk are times of perceived loss for HCPs. Legal decisions are especially times of high risk because legal decisions usually involve loss for someone. A cursory review I have done of several family court murders shows that they occurred within two weeks before or after a decision was to be made at a court hearing – and often on the same day. In this week’s case, it was a mediation process in a civil lawsuit at which decisions were to be made. Given that the man brought a gun to the mediation session, he may have been anticipating a major loss and did his shooting immediately after the mediation session was over.

From the early news reports, the above pattern seems to fit this situation. As professionals, we need to also know that HCPs are more susceptible to mirroring the extreme behavior of others. Therefore, I expect that we will see more of these such shootings in the future. And they are no longer just associated with court hearings. Now law firms and mediation providers need to be more alert to clients with warning signs of a preoccupation with blaming others, past extreme behaviors, all-or-nothing thinking and unmanaged emotions.

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 the Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California. He is also the President of the High Conflict Institute, which provides speakers, trainers and consultants on the subject of managing high-conflict people in legal disputes, workplace disputes, healthcare and education. He has taught Negotiation and Mediation at the University of San Diego School of Law and he teaches Psychology of Conflict at the Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law. He is the author of several books, including:

Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder

BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns

It’s All Your Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything

For more information about Bill Eddy, please visit: www.HighConflictInstitute.com.

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Oh, Brother!

Many families worldwide have an HCP who still depends on other family members as an adult to solve their routine personal problems – and angrily blames them when they don’t do it the way the HCP wants. I’m not talking about helping out a family member with a temporary financial or relationship problem. I’m talking about an HCP who drains their family for decades, before family members figure out how to set limits without making things worse. Using B.I.F.F. responses can be part of managing this type of family problem.

The following example is drawn from chapter 5 of It’s All Your Fault! Maria’s younger brother, Carlos, has been difficult his whole life. Now he has been fired from another job and lost his house. He wants Maria to deal with it and fix it for him, once again. She has been successful in her own life, but is exhausted trying to help him out. Yet she feels guilty if she doesn’t.

“Either you’re with me or you’re against me!” Carlos, age 38, screamed into the telephone at his sister, Maria, age 42. “People listen to you,” he said. “It’s all your fault I lost my job! You should have talked to my boss and helped clear up his false impressions of me, like I asked you to.”

“Carlos, you’re responsible for your own life. I can’t fix every problem you get yourself into. It’s not my fault. It’s your fault. It’s your life and your responsibility,” Maria replied.

“See how you talk to me!” Carlos replied angrily. “It’s true you never cared about me or what happened to me. You never wanted a younger brother.”

“That’s not true, and you know it!” Maria responded in exasperation.

Carlos continued, “So, since I’m losing my job, I’m also losing my house. You have to let me stay with you, again. If you’d helped me keep my job, this wouldn’t be your problem. But now it is your problem, and you have to fix it. So starting on the first of the month, I’ll be moving in again.”

“Don’t try to blame me for this, Carlos.” she replied. “And you’re not moving in with me again.”

 

About Bill Eddy
William A. (“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 the Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California.  He is also the President of the High Conflict Institute, which provides speakers, trainers and consultants on the subject of managing high-conflict people in legal disputes, workplace disputes, healthcare and education.  He has taught Negotiation and Mediation at the University of San Diego School of Law and he teaches Psychology of Conflict at the Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law.  He is the author of several books, including:

Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder

BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns

It’s All Your Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything

For more information about Bill Eddy, please visit: www.HighConflictInstitute.com.

ImageThe 49th Annual Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Conference (AFCC) was another fantastic opportunity for Judges, Lawyers, Psychologists and Social Workers to get together to find clues about unraveling the puzzle of high conflict divorces. With this year’s theme “Attachment, Brain Science and Children of Divorce” a lot of research was presented pertaining to attachment.

Two things struck me from the conference. The first point was how lucky AFCC members are to have a forum for learning about the most up-to-date research and practices. The second point was despite all the work being done, that we have only begun to understand the complex dynamics of high conflict divorce and that research is desperately needed pertaining to interventions with high conflict families.

Unfortunately, even the best laboratory research may not generalize to the “real world” and people are so complex that no two families are alike.

My view of families is that they are stuck in a brick outhouse, and a ripe one at that. To explain this, each “brick” is a separate problem, whether the parents own issues from before the relationship, problems in the relationship, communication or problem solving weaknesses, extended family interference, mental illness, or a multitude of other possibilities. Solving issues in such high conflict families involves chipping away at one brick at a time while also teaching the family new skills and processes.

As professionals, we are obliged to keep up with the best possible knowledge of the day, while using “clinical judgment”, which is more of an art than a science, to meet the unique needs of each family we work with. The vast number of excellent programs emerging for working with high conflict divorces is both reassuring and overwhelming. Each program is a tool for the professional’s tool belt, and no one thing is, or ever will be, a cookie cutter solution for such families. This is one area where we do not have to worry about being replaced in the foreseeable future by computers and videos.

Even though professionals in the midst of divorce proceedings appear adversarial, including the mental health professionals at times, events such as the AFCC conference show that we are all on the same team – the one aimed and helping kids be their best.

About our Guest Blogger

ImageStephen Carter, Ph.D., is a Registered Psychologist based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, specializing in counseling and assessments with adolescents and children, and assessments and interventions with divorcing families. He is the author of Family Restructuring Therapy, which is available for sale via unhookedbooks.com  This book is a “how to” manual for working with families in separation and divorce using an active, directive therapeutic process called Family Restructuring Therapy. This philosophy and effective process works well for the “normal” divorced family who need to learn new practices and patterns, and for the “high-conflict” family whose behavior patterns have become so maladaptive that the children’s well-being is at risk.

A valuable resource for mental health professionals, and also for lawyers and the Court when trying to decide what can be done with challenging parenting battles. It is clearly not a passive approach to counseling. If you’re tired of witnessing the damage that conflict has on children and want to engage in the highly satisfying work of helping parents communicate effectively and seeing children relieved of the burden of picking sides, devour this book and get to work!

To learn more about Dr. Carter, or to explore family counseling options, please visit www.familyrestructuring.ca or send him an email at carter@chvbv.ca.

Reading about the Holocaust during my childhood left me wondering why my grandparents’ generation did nothing about it for so long. My childish mind could not grasp why adults allowed other adults to destroy people. Now in my 40’s, my mind remains focused on that same simple principle. Why do we sit back and allow adults to destroy people?

Today’s sentencing of recently-convicted Charles Taylor, the ex-Liberian leader, satisfied my long-held simple belief. A UN-backed court in The Hague sentenced Taylor to 50 years in prison – a life sentence at his age. The misery and destruction his greed brought on the people of Sierra Leone came to an end a decade ago but the trauma for the thousands who were mutilated, raped or lost loved ones (more than 50,000 died) continues for life. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18259596

As always, I want to know what drives a person to behave the way they do, and especially how one becomes a despot. Greed is an easy answer, but what underlies greed? It’s easy to say he’s a sociopath – duh – but what does that mean, and how do you spot one and stop them before they rise to power and start destroying people?

We can’t diagnose him and other despots because we don’t know them, but a clear pattern of behavior is evident. They:

1.      develop a strong contingency of negative advocates, a term introduced by Bill Eddy in It’s All Your Fault!, who want to follow a strong leader,

2.      deign themselves above the law, pushing boundaries and don’t experience consequences because they get away with it,

3.      show a willingness to hurt others for personal gain,

4.      have a lack of remorse.

(page 162 of the Fault book)

When someone with these traits has access to a vulnerable population, as in Charles Taylor’s case, things quickly get out-of-control and adults begin destroying other adults.  The 5-year Taylor trial illustrated his:

1.      ability to motivate huge forces of negative advocates in two countries to affect some of the heinous crimes against human in history,

2.      propensity to hold himself above the law for more than five years,

3.      willingness to decimate humanity due to his greed for blood diamonds,

4.      lack of remorse.

The sentencing judge cited Taylor’s lack of remorse as a sentencing factor.
And now, the world has convicted the first former head of state of war crimes by an international court since the Nuremberg trials of the Nazis after World War II. I’m ecstatic! I actually wept after reading of his conviction.

Is Taylor a high-conflict personality? Yes, to the extreme. Could we have prevented his atrocities? Probably not, because of Africa’s then isolation and vulnerability. Will Taylor’s conviction serve as a prevention mechanism against other world leaders from doing this again? We know that high-conflict people must have boundaries and consequences enacted and enforced by others because they do not have the ability to do it themselves. In this case, the world court filled the role of giving Taylor consequences. Will he learn anything? Sadly, research tells us he will not. However, a strong message has been sent to other world leaders that if they commit such atrocities, they will face consequences regardless of how powerful they are.

Consequences shape society.
Last month I met the Vice President of Liberia and other high-level government officials at a trade delegation meeting in Arizona and I’m happy to report that a new age is dawning in Liberia with no despots on the horizon.

About Unhooked Books
unHooked Books is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA. We’re not just 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. Thanks for stopping by! Megan Hunter unHooked Books megan@unhookedbooks.com

I’m writing this before knowing John Edwards’ verdict in North Carolina on charges of violating federal campaign laws by spending nearly $1 million of donors’ money on hiding his affair (and child) with Rielle Hunter. Whatever the outcome, he has already admitted that he is guilty of narcissism: “[My experiences] fed a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe you can do whatever you want.” He admitted that he had become “increasingly egocentric and narcissistic.” (abcNews, Aug. 12, 2008)

I don’t diagnose people in public, but I share what others report – especially what people publically say about themselves. He has provided a great opportunity to explain narcissism with a real life example, including what it is and what it isn’t. Narcissism in small doses can be a good thing. Narcissism in too large a dose becomes narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), which can be harmful – for the person himself as well as those around him.

Narcissism helps us all get by in the face of adversity. It helps us believe in ourselves enough to keep going. We all have some of it, or we wouldn’t have survived this long. Entrepreneurs, actors, politicians and many professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.) tend to have above-average rates of narcissism, because it helps them push forward despite repeated criticism, rejection, set-backs and occasional public humiliation.

In other words, they believe in themselves so much more and in what other people think so much less, that they can survive as risk-takers – and they are risk-takers. When they have a good idea, good talent and other good qualities, this narcissism helps them contribute to society from positions of leadership and power. You want your leaders to have some extra narcissism so that they can cope in protecting us from strong enemies and leading us forward in dealing with big problems.

However, when they have a bad idea, little talent and lack sufficient redeeming qualities, this extra narcissism can get them into a lot of trouble and public humiliation. If they have narcissistic personality disorder, this means that they do not learn and change their behavior. So if they get into trouble, they can’t see that they did anything wrong and keep going. In a sense it’s like a form of self-blindness – they really can’t see the effects of their own behavior.

Does John Edwards have NPD? I don’t know, but you can watch whether he learns and changes, or keeps on the same path. Here are some characteristics of NPD. See if you think he fits:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance?
  • Fantasies of unlimited success and power?
  • Believes he’s special and unique?
  • Requires excessive admiration?
  • Sense of entitlement?
  • Interpersonally exploitative?
  • Lacks empathy?
  • Envious of others or believes others envy him?
  • Arrogant behaviors or attitudes?

About 6% of the population of the United States has narcissistic personality disorder, according to the most recent large study. This is also known as pathological narcissism or malignant narcissism. But if you recognize some of these characteristics in someone you know, DON’T TELL THEM! You will make your life a lot worse. Some people with these disorders become highly defensive and sometimes dangerous when confronted with their weaknesses or problems – for this reason they are often considered “vulnerable narcissists.” Others with this disorder truly don’t care what anyone else thinks – sometimes called “grandiose narcissists.” Many politicians seem to fit in this second type, since they truly don’t care what anyone else thinks. Yet they can be extremely charming, attractive and even intelligent.

Yes, NPD has nothing to do with intelligence, which confuses people. They wonder how someone in a position to become Vice President or President of the United States would be so stupid as to take the kinds of risks Edwards took in having an affair during a campaign – even when his wife is possibly dying from cancer. It’s because intelligence is not the issue – personality is the issue. We have had many examples recently of highly intelligent and charming politicians who have crashed and burned – or at least humiliated themselves publicly. Several governors have been kicked out of office recently. Some politicians running for president have had a hard time recognizing when to quit, despite humiliating defeats. Many of these folks are the ones most eager to judge other people.

To me, the issue is the future. How can we spot politicians with excessive narcissism or NPD before we elect them? The key is to recognize the PATTERN of behavior, even on a small scale. Lacks empathy? Sense of entitlement? Grandiose sense of self-importance? When you vote for any office this year, keep these patterns in mind. Don’t let good looks and charm mislead you. Check the list above instead.

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author of It’s All Your Fault!, Splitting, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns and Don’t Alienate the Kids! He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, Sweden, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: www.highconflictinstitute.com

… but I enjoy watching people work in groups, especially celebrities. Thinking back to business school days, I recall the concept of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing, a process clearly evident as the teams form on Apprentice. That is, until The Donald mixes teams up and the process starts all over again – a brilliant strategy to draw out authentic personalities.

A couple of people have stood out in that high-conflict kind of way this season – Lisa Lampanelli and Aubrey O’Day. I still don’t know who Aubrey is or how she became a celebrity. Lisa is an abrasive, highly successful comedian.  I don’t have enough room in this blog to write about both of them – their behaviors could fill a book – so I’ll focus on Aubrey, who appears as the best project manager (EVER, in her mind, having actually likened herself to The Donald – to his face — at one point).

She’s intelligent, creative, driven and enjoys endless energy. Doesn’t hurt that she’s gorgeous. This is where our expectations get screwed up. We look at the package presented, see the bottom line results she can produce and get confused about her stunning depths of destructiveness on the team.

Case in point, when Arsenio Hall led the team, he ended up losing his mind (believe me, this is an understatement) (his team won) after holding it together in the boardroom. He completely over-reacted in a major meltdown after Aubrey repeatedly poked him with the proverbial needle under the table, then went into victim mode when things didn’t go her way. Tears work for her. She projected, bullied, and used every last ounce of energy to make her teammates look inferior.

This is where we get it wrong. Arsenio comes off looking as hot-headed, explosive and temperamental while Aubrey holds herself as not just a jewel in the crown – as the actual crown. Her behavior patterns are easily identifiable once you understand high-conflict personalities (see: “It’s All Your Fault” for more information about HCPs).

So the question is, what do you do when you have a high-producing employee who sucks up to the boss, but slays everyone around her? Do you keep her? Move her? Fire her? You know she causes major trouble, which shoots morale and causes retention problems.

Limits and consequences are required. Just like small children, high-conflict people will test boundaries and limits, so they need those around them to set limits and follow through with consequences when boundaries are breached. And yes, that may mean she would eventually be let go. Some HCPs can behave better with limits and consequences but some may not, and if they do not, the behavior is too destructive to her colleagues. It’s simply not worth the negativity and low morale sure to come with such behavior.

The next question is, how do her fellow colleagues deal with her? We’ll save that for next time. Stay tuned.

About Unhooked Books
unHooked Books is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA. We’re not just 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. Thanks for stopping by! Megan Hunter unHooked Books megan@unhookedbooks.com