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Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on December 16, 2022, 5:23 am

That speaker then doesn't even have to convince or provide good arguments.
As a matter of fact, not providing any argument and not even continuing to talk is then a "fly higher" manipulative (fake) punishment: he has no time for those beneath him, so he stops engaging, and leaves him to wallow in his inferiority.

Thank you Lucio, this resonates especially with my past experience with narcissistic people, who used to do this especially when I asked questions to understand what was happening.

Them: Eh don’t think about it!


Them: Eh one day you’ll understand!

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A visit to relatives

The background is: when I started understanding these relatives' manipulations, I was helping them in an inheritance matter.

When I understood what they were doing, I went no contact and stopped helping them.

Recently I resumed (formal) contact, and some weeks ago I went to their house to visit for the first time in more than one year, together with my partner.

So we get there, and one of my relatives starts talking.

He bragged

I immediately see he is aggrandizing himself and bragging, but what I did not understand until yesterday was why he was bragging about this specific thing.

Basically, he tells an elaborate story about how, in the last months, the bank where the inheritance was located had omitted transferring to my relatives a significant portion of the assets.

Then he details how he sent an email to the complaints department of the bank; and how, in this email, he pointed out what had happened, protested, asked for redress, etc.

And how, after receiving his email, the bank finally gave my relatives all the missing assets, even apologizing for the mistake.

This discourse by my relative went on for like 20 minutes, and I stayed silent.

Then he started another story about how he was able to get some other documents from the same bank after protesting again.

After letting him talk, I joined the conversation

After he ended his talk, I said this:

Me: Nice! Do you think they complied immediately since they knew I am a lawyer, and maybe feared I could intervene here?

Him: I don't know. (stoneface)

Then after some more chitchat, in which I found myself talking out loud about the possibility of suing the bank on a related matter, we left.

My partner later told me this relative of mine had felt a bit "out of place" and "bragging" to her.

My later reconstruction of the dynamics

I didn't understand the dynamics here until weeks later.

Now I realize that this relative was basically saying to me, with his bragging:

Him: You see? We don't need you helping us Bel! We can do this even without you!

I think my (unconscious) answer after giving him rope (which was also unconscious) is total proof that Power University ROCKS SO MUCH!!!!

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Raging is expressing or projecting anger to or on someone with intensity.

It is a power move and can probably also be qualified as abuse, especially if repeated.

It is meant to accomplish several things at once:

  1. intimidate;
  2. establish superiority;
  3. get rid of accumulated repressed anger by projecting it on another person;
  4. (if public) destroy the social standing of a person, by conveying to bystanders the message that the person raged on is unable to defend him or herself, or in any case is significantly lower status than the rager.

It can be an unconscious ill-learned behavior, or it can be a malicious power move.

It can be done verbally (in presence), on the phone, and even in writing (ie via text message or online).


  1. here a colleague of mine raged on me via text after I made a demand;
  2. here another colleague raged on me during a phone call after I ended negotiations.

It can be effective if done directly, as in these two cases. Especially, people who have been raged on by caretakers, and who have not healed the wound, are susceptible to adopting a "fawn" (submission) response to this kind of power move.

But the most covert and insidious raging is "triangular raging".

In triangular raging, the aggressor hides under the cover of raging against a third party (a bit like in triangular guilt tripping). The third party is usually an inanimate thing, or a past event, or another person that may or may not be present to the raging session.

However, while the apparent object of the rage is a third party, this is only a cover: in reality, the rage is meant to be conveyed to either the immediate addressee of the conversation, or to a person in any case present at the raging session (whom we'll call "person X").

That is, the main effects described above (intimidate; establish superiority; if public, destroy the social standing of a person) are precisely meant to affect person X (who is present) and not the third party.


  1. raging to person X at a movie person X is watching:


2. raging to person X at a TV interview, or a TV politics talk show, that is being aired while eating together with person X;

3. raging, in the presence of person X, at a third person present while together with said person X (eg: person A and person X go to a store together, and person A finds an excuse to rage at a clerk in the presence of person X);

4. raging to person X at someone who has conned or tricked or disrespected person X.

The latter (number 4) is especially good and common cover: if a person rages at person X under the cover of being angry that a third party has conned person X, it is easy for the power mover to hide under the cover that the rage is "honest anger", and it is even easier to say that the rage is directed to the "bad third party", and not to the victim.

But make no mistake: in reality, the rage is always meant to directed (at least unconsciously) precisely at person X. It is thus a form of "victim-blaming": person X, already conned by another, has to also endure the rage from the rager (apparently "for being conned", in reality because the rager wishes to obtain the above effects).

It is even possible to hide under the cover preemptively:

(after raging) My anger is only meant to "wake you up"!

How to address

I believe there is a difference here between private and public raging.

If private, the best way to address raging seems to be to interrupt all communication and extricate oneself from the rager's presence.

Especially if done without saying a thing, this seems to produce the effect of "shaming" the rager and show that raging doesn't work to intimidate and may, in fact, cause the loss of the relationship.

If public, addressing it by keeping proud non-verbals, and assertively demanding a respectful tone, then ending conversation, seems best. This has the effect of "surfacing" the raging session to bystanders, and publicizing that the rager was trying to intimidate. It reverses the effects meant by the rager, and causes a public loss of respect by bystanders for the rager.

Status differences

This seems to be one of the cases where the destructive effects of the power move are so high that checking it is warranted even in case one is significantly lower status than the rager.

That is, barring exceptional cases, checking the rage of a boss seems to be warranted even if one might lose a job.

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This is from my partner Bella, who was at a dinner with friends:

Other female: But... why did you get the french fries separate, you like being a little gross?

Bella: (looking at the all others but not at the person in question, smiling): But... did she just insult me publicly?

All: Ahahahaha, that's true!

Other female: (redfaced) No no, sorry, I wanted to just ask...

Public surfacing with group support!

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Quote from Bel on December 19, 2022, 8:01 pm

My later reconstruction of the dynamics

I didn't understand the dynamics here until weeks later.

Now I realize that this relative was basically saying to me, with his bragging:

Him: You see? We don't need you helping us Bel! We can do this even without you!

I think my (unconscious) answer after giving him rope (which was also unconscious) is total proof that Power University ROCKS SO MUCH!!!!

Very possibly, if not even likely.

Reading the message that's exactly what I thought.

The cool thing is that once you open that new (much better for you and also probably more truthful) frame with your question, there was little he could do.
To deny, he would have seemed nasty and not very credible because he'd have no idea why they acted fast. His denial would have further thread-expandd on that possibility.
He'd have needed to deny that frame while also seemingly partially agree to avoid being nasty/unrealistic, but that would have required a lot more than he had in store -plus, you could have realistically said something like "who knows, but from my experience practicing law, a past exchange with a lawyer does serve as future strong incentive for good behavior. Anyway, glad you got your money, dear relative"-.

Rock on, Bel! 🙂

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By the way, that was proper subtle frame control.

No denying, no arguing, no exaggerating or joking.

Let him build the whole castle on hot air, then one single question to seed doubt and prick the whole bubble.

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Thank you so much Lucio!

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A text exchange with a relative

I lately started unconsciously fading my relatives, whom I sensed were using my "trying to make sense of past matters" against me.

I have recently been speaking for months with one of them. Initially, when I resumed contact, she said to me she was sorry for everything she had (inadvertently) done.

After months of talking, where I unconsciously provoked her constantly as I sensed there was something amiss, she finally settled on "we didn't do anything, all you experienced is absolutely normal".

Talk about gaslighting. Then I started fading them.

Recently I received a text from the other relative (the one who, in the post above, tried to subcommunicate "we don't need you as a lawyer helping us").

Which text was sent both to me and my partner:

Him: Hi Bel and Bella, X and I have an intense desire to spend some hours with you to celebrate the start of the new year. We propose to meet on the 1st at a restaurant or in the next days if you are busy. In the meantime we extend to you many wishes for a merry Christmas. X and Y

I thought about this and then answered as follows:

Me: You know, fifteen years ago, the night you woke up with a medical emergency and I heard you screaming, I didn't get up immediately.

I was worried you may have been raging against me for the nth time.

You'll understand that I now won't be there for your invite

But, I immediately had a feeling of having done something wrong.

I was in distress for much of my evening.

I think I did several things wrong here:

  • I subcommunicated I was still thinking about a thing that was much in the past. I exposed a "weakness" and also came out as "petty"
  • I power moved on him like there was no tomorrow. My move was "if I was almost unwilling to help you in a medical emergency when I didn't know what you were doing to me, you don't need to be explained whether I am willing to meet you for a simple lunch, now that I know what you've been doing to me"

So I think I learned two things here:

  1. Never subcommunicate I am still upset by the distant past. That makes me lose.
  2. Never retaliate with power moves against family, even if there is almost no relationship left.

No. 2 seems to be because: i) things may change and ii) I want to subcommunicate I am not ok with playing at that level, not drag myself into a low-level power play.

Also, I think there is a mechanism of "going against myself" if I power move against family. It is as if the blood ties make me suffer when I do something against them, even if it is just a verbal power move. I feel this strongly, somewhat.

To get back to the story, the next morning he wrote me this:

Him: I am sorry to be the cause of your painful memories. Of that night I remember my extreme suffering and that you were the one to bring me to ER, of which I am grateful to you. We are saddened for our invitation, but respect your position. We hope the next year may bring understanding and serenity to all of us. Many wishes ...

I thought about this, and replied as follows:

Me: Thank you X, you already showed your gratitude to me, you don't need to do anything more.

And I think all of us finally understand everything now 🙂

As for the serenity, I am sure it will increase for all of us. Merry Christmas

Him: Many affectionate wishes to you both

I don't know why, but after this last exchange I felt (just a bit) better.

But I'm still very sad for this outcome.

In fact, I can't really take this exchanges anymore, and I will need to find a way out, even if it is blocking them again to resolve my conflicting emotions more.

Thank you for reading this guys, and feel free to comment.

Edit: I think another mistake of mine here is "closing the door". There may be a higher level principle that says "you never want to communicate you want to close the door forever with family".

It might have been better, and it may be better from now on, to simply not answer them anymore and let them write what they want, at least until I am able to reach an internal decision that finally settles my conflicted emotions.

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Some additional thoughts about this:

  • I have - probably have had for a long time now - a "feeling" for when I make a major faux pas, let myself be provoked, or fall badly for a power move. And it is a very bad, distressing physical feeling. The main effect I notice is a major increase in hunger;
  • on the converse, I am recently starting having or noticing a "feeling" of when I handle things in a socially "good" way, or when I successfully "check" power moves - which is a new thing for me. It is a feeling of being "bigger", and of being "settled, at peace". Don't know how to explain it better.

The interesting thing is that these two feelings seem to be decoupled from ultimate, long-term outcome of the interaction, and only based on the short-term.

In other words, the feeling I had when lastly answering my relative was "good", but I also was "sad" that I was closing the door, and I think I may probably have handled badly also the last part.

Or maybe I am simply mistaken here, and need to make more clarity in my thoughts.

Hey Bel,

Yeah, generally speaking, relationship issues with close folks -often, parents or spouses- are difficult and challenging.

And as you noticed, there is often no "winning" with a relative in the sense of "beating them" or "showing them".

I've met more than one person who "proudly" shared their stories of having "showed it" to their parents. And they always came across as harboring anger, and bitterness -plus, still being in the throes of toxic judge power dynamics and granting their parents too much judge powers-.

There was also a former forum member here who was having an issue with his father and was looking for ways to "get back at him" or "win".
And he just didn't want to listen to me telling him it wasn't a fight he should have pursued to "win".

And it's because I don't think you can really "win" power-moving against a parent.

What you can do instead is gain healthy emotional distance -and independence from those judge dynamics, when they're still there-.

About your message, I agree with you that it was strong.
I'd have personally apologized on the second message, and maybe even if you still felt it was true -also because it was a public chat at that point-.

But I'd also add to it: it's been done and it's best to move on.
And there's no point in blaming yourself because, in a way, it was also a good message in the sense that it spoke your most unfiltered truth.
And if at the time you felt it was fair to say it, then it was fair to say.

About this:

Quote from Bel on December 24, 2022, 1:38 pm

After months of talking, where I unconsciously provoked her constantly as I sensed there was something amiss, she finally settled on "we didn't do anything, all you experienced is absolutely normal".

Yeah, it's not really very collaborative to close the door like that.

Even while holding strong beliefs and wanting to stick to them, if one wanted to collaborate and help, this could be a fairer format:

We did the best we could.
And we truly believe -and hope- we did fine, to be honest.
But if you don't feel so, your point of view is as good as ours and we apologize. (<---- insert an apology in the hypotethical scenario, even while not accepting that scenario. It's still a way of showing respect/love)
And we're happy to talk about it, if you wish.
And as we revisit the past, we also hope we can be better going forward.

But we can't control what others say, can we.

Some people cannot give what they're just unable to give -be it love, a healthy environment, an admission of guilt, or a (hearfelt) apology-.

It angers us as people who are able -or have learned- to look at our own side of the equation, and own our mistakes.
And that's a good thing.

We shouldn't stop holding others to higher expectations.
But we can accept that some people will never reach our higher standards.

OK, we had a turkey for a parent.
Not ideal, but that's how it is.
There's a lot of them around anyway, so the odds are good that at least one person close to us also is :).

As we were saying with John the other day, we can control ourselves though, be better people, and break the generational cycles.

And that's quite a hero's journey.

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