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Relative using projection/manipulative mirroring

Hi guys,

I now understand I have a relative who (among other things) constantly tries to ascribe to me his/her thoughts and actions by using projection and/or manipulative mirroring. Or in any case projects his insecurities onto me, as if I was willingly reminding him of these insecurities. The mirroring is mostly implicit, ie embedded in things like tone of voice, unstated subcommunication, etc.

Some examples:

1: (responding to a message of mine where I sent him the screenshot of an English article) Since I'm ignorant, I translated what you sent me with Google translator...

2: (on the phone): You always asked to be paid for work done for me. You did favors to all other people but to me.

This no. 2 above is something that can be said of this person, but I still was triggered into defending.

3: You think I am not at your height, you don't like me, that's why you're saying that.

4: I don't understand what you are saying. I am stupid, I'm not smart as you are.

5. (on the phone, talking about an illness I had recently): I'm glad you're better. (then with a sad, somber tone implying I don't trust him due to my being "nasty"): You know, I could help you if you asked. I know some good doctors... but I am afraid of saying anything to you...

This no. 5 also triggered me into losing my calm and verbalizing that there were reasons why I didn't trust this person due to his past behavior. Though I guess this falls more into guilt-tripping than into mirroring.

Of note is that the communication has now started to be a mix of slight admissions of his behavior (in other interactions I didn't post here), and further denials, projections, and retaliation. Which leads me to think this person knows what he's doing, ie it's not unaware (even though he says he did not do it on purpose in the past).

The projection / manipulative mirroring is constant, interspersed in all communication, and aggravates the hell out of me. It's also constantly shifting: this person finds new stuff to throw at me every day. I usually need one or two days before I can fully realize that something that was said was a manipulative mirroring thing. And in those two days, I feel very bad.

I guess my question here is, on the one hand, what could be a good way of handling these without destroying the relationship more than it already is destroyed.

I tried accusing back and adopting a judge frame, but I must admit I did it mostly in anger, and then it has started escalating into this:

Relative: You are angry because you are going through a delayed adolescent rebellion. But it is about time you settled into your newfound independence and stopped throwing your repressed anger onto other people.

Which, ironically, has been what this person has always been doing to me (ie throwing repressed anger onto me), while constantly accusing me of doing it to him (I guess we could call it a pre-emptive manipulative mirroring, to nip in the bud any understanding on my part of what he was doing).

On the other hand, I guess I am starting to wonder if this "relationship" is worth salvaging or if instead I should fully detach (again) for some time (months/years).

This person is in therapy, though I have seen no significant change. And most of my suffering has been processed. So it is mostly a matter of what's now better for me.

My take: I think I will call this person in the next days, and go meta on this. Fully explain I know what is going on. And state I will, from now on, interrupt communication instantly if I ever hear any of this stuff again.

Lucio Buffalmano, Transitioned and Kavalier have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoTransitionedKavalier

Hello Bel,

In part, that's the (small issue) that any cool guy faces: some people will feel insecure, "less than" and come up with that crap.

However, it doesn't have to be that way.

It doesn't happen much to me at all, for example.

Maybe I'm not as cool as you though...

LOL, couldn't resist with that joke :D.

Jokes aside, this feels to me like a warmth / availability problem.

Such as, they think of you as "better" and higher value, but like you look down on them, and that their value is not available to pull them up.

These people shouldn't even be thinking you don't like them.

From a Mach point of view, if you're still  in touch, they shouldn't be thinking that even if you truly don't like them.
If you truly don't like them, you should be at arm's length and barely talk.

Exceptions always apply of course, but if you talk to someone on a regular basis, you must have at least a "good enough" relationship.
Lose-loses aren't good for anyone.

When you get those power moves, the issue is already there, but it's still not too late to correct course.

Them: You know, I could help you if you asked. I know some good doctors... but I am afraid of saying anything to you...

Why getting angry?
Answer to increase warmth instead.

First, I'd address the issue very clearly with "honest anger".
But it's a different type of anger than what you've shown so far -I still haven't put my finger of what's the exact difference-.

But see how it would look like:

You: afraid? Afraid of what, what are you talking about, don't say that please, I very much value your opinion and suggestions and very happy to welcome them

Then maintain that frame:

You don't like hearing that shit, you value them as people, and welcome their advice.

Then you can add stuff like "I may or may not contact your doctor, that's not the point, the point is that I still value your input".

It's not too different to when women say something like "you're not gonna rape me right".
I always reply with that type of honest anger, and not even once I remember a woman who didn't backtrack and apologize.

Or:

Them: You think I am not at your height, you don't like me, that's why you're saying that.

If they say that to me, I'd make a joke about me being short.
Then get back to "serious" and similar to above.

You may say:

You: I think I am not at your height? What are you even saying X, that's offensive man. It's offensive both to me and you actually. And saying "I don't like you", don't put those words on my mouth please. Have ever said I don't like you? Have I ever made you feel I don't like you?

Then hold frame: it's their (wrong) interpretation.

And you don't accept them.

You like them (enough), or at least do not look down on them -and they must not dare insinuate otherwise-.

If you didn't like them, you wouldn't be in touch with them.
You can even say that: "I'm not in touch with those I don't like".

If you do it well, they should be apologizing.

Transitioned, Kavalier and Bel have reacted to this post.
TransitionedKavalierBel
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks both this is something I used to know which had kind of fallen out of my repertoire.

Fits in nicely in the build up of my BBC default response to micro aggressions and careless judge comments

  • Build-up
  • Bridge-back
  • Change topic( to something positive or collaborative)

On the dating analogy Lucio you're scaring me.  I now realise that a lot of the really really weird things my dates came out with which scared the pants off me are actually common experience.   Sounds like there is a new evolutionary psych book to be written but you would have to do it through several layers of pseudonym and with your asbestos underwear on.

 

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Lucio BuffalmanoKavalierBel
Thank you so much Lucio.
I feel there is potential for a big step on my part here.
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on November 24, 2022, 2:19 pm

Jokes aside, this feels to me like a warmth / availability problem.

Such as, they think of you as "better" and higher value, but like you look down on them, and that their value is not available to pull them up.

These people shouldn't even be thinking you don't like them.

From a Mach point of view, if you're still  in touch, they shouldn't be thinking that even if you truly don't like them.
If you truly don't like them, you should be at arm's length and barely talk.

Exceptions always apply of course, but if you talk to someone on a regular basis, you must have at least a "good enough" relationship.
Lose-loses aren't good for anyone.

I have to admit this thinking requires more maturity than I currently (feel I) have.

What I have been doing so far has been, instead, the opposite: I have been trying to get them to acknowledge what they did to me.

Paradoxically, their statements are now (for the first time) true, unlike in the past where I was power-moved constantly by these people.

But if I asked the question, maybe I am ready for another accelerated personal growth.

I need to think about it and internalize it.

On this:

You don't like hearing that shit, you value them as people, and welcome their advice.

Then you can add stuff like "I may or may not contact your doctor, that's not the point, the point is that I still value your input".

This requires a big growth in the security of one's personal frames of reference. As in: being able to hear counterproductive advice, and seeing it for what it is, and still thanking the other person.

In the past, I fell for all their counterproductive and self-serving advice. And now I don't want to hear any advice.

But I see both are prongs of a similar insecurity, to be overcome.

When you get those power moves, the issue is already there, but it's still not too late to correct course.

Them: You know, I could help you if you asked. I know some good doctors... but I am afraid of saying anything to you...

Why getting angry?
Answer to increase warmth instead.

First, I'd address the issue very clearly with "honest anger".
But it's a different type of anger than what you've shown so far -I still haven't put my finger of what's the exact difference-.

But see how it would look like:

You: afraid? Afraid of what, what are you talking about, don't say that please, I very much value your opinion and suggestions and very happy to welcome them

Then maintain that frame:

You don't like hearing that shit, you value them as people, and welcome their advice.

Then you can add stuff like "I may or may not contact your doctor, that's not the point, the point is that I still value your input".

It's not too different to when women say something like "you're not gonna rape me right".
I always reply with that type of honest anger, and not even once I remember a woman who didn't backtrack and apologize.

Or:

Them: You think I am not at your height, you don't like me, that's why you're saying that.

If they say that to me, I'd make a joke about me being short.
Then get back to "serious" and similar to above.

You may say:

You: I think I am not at your height? What are you even saying X, that's offensive man. It's offensive both to me and you actually. And saying "I don't like you", don't put those words on my mouth please. Have ever said I don't like you? Have I ever made you feel I don't like you?

Then hold frame: it's their (wrong) interpretation.

And you don't accept them.

You like them (enough), or at least do not look down on them -and they must not dare insinuate otherwise-.

If you didn't like them, you wouldn't be in touch with them.
You can even say that: "I'm not in touch with those I don't like".

If you do it well, they should be apologizing.

The solution is, I can see, incredibly effective.

It's a bit like "it's ok" after having checked a power move.

You let the past in the past, and concentrate on now.

I'll try to internalize this big step before proceeding.

Lucio Buffalmano, Transitioned and Kavalier have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoTransitionedKavalier

Its that time of year when I'm working on my PU so I spam the forum.  Don't worry guys it will be short lived.

Bel we have this saying in English - 'don't put words in my mouth'.   I often express a gentler way - 'is that what I said'   This gives you wriggle room where you can say it with a surprised tone and save face for the person: "well what I meant was...." or if you think they are taking the piss (as we love to say downunder) you can say it with an amused tone - 'is that REALLY what I said' - pointing out to everyone that was NOT what you said.  And then hammer it home if you want: 'Well the actual meaning of that is..."  Another way to soften/bridge back.  "I could see how somebody could think that, and what it is really about is..." But you made a great point and maybe we could tweak a bit by...."

Off the back of this case study I see similar dynamics in work meetings.  They attribute a straw man to you and then hang it.  E.g. in Bel's world if an opposing attorney said after Bel had proposed a course of action.  'We can't just ignore legal precedent.  The problem with ignoring the case law is that the judge is literally bound to take it into account in formulating their judgement.  And Judge's respect past judgements which is the basis of case law.....and blah blah blah'

You can see the problem Bel.  By the time he's raved on nobody can remember what you really said and he's made you sound like an idiot. Because the person who thought you could ignore case law would indeed be an idiot.

I have heard people go for shock value and totally call them on it.  'You must have missheard me.  What I actually said is....'    Maybe do this if they keep doing it in a meeting or in consecutive meetings.  I.e. they've crossed over from competitor to office enemy.

I might say 'Brian (use name as an interrupt) sorry for cutting in.  My idea was a bit different but you jump in briefly and I can recap after'  Hmm sounding that out loud - my wording does seem a bit clumsy there if anyone can think of something punchier.

Lucio Buffalmano and Bel have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoBel

Yeah, also consider Bel that we've been talking to the plural so far, but each relationship/individual may be different and not necessarily the same use case, or best dealt with the same approach.

This one from Kevin is really good:

Quote from Transitioned on November 26, 2022, 4:33 am

Bel we have this saying in English - 'don't put words in my mouth'.   I often express a gentler way - 'is that what I said'   This gives you wriggle room where you can say it with a surprised tone and save face for the person: "well what I meant was...." or if you think they are taking the piss (as we love to say downunder) you can say it with an amused tone - 'is that REALLY what I said' - pointing out to everyone that was NOT what you said.

You can use that for higher warmth / more friendly approach and a smoother transition instead of jumping to the "honest anger" I proposed.

Transitioned and Bel have reacted to this post.
TransitionedBel
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on November 26, 2022, 5:23 am

Yeah, also consider Bel that we've been talking to the plural so far, but each relationship/individual may be different and not necessarily the same use case, or best dealt with the same approach.

Yes, been also thinking to answer their "you're in a delayed adolescent rebellion phase" with "how are you coping with your midlife crisis?". 😀

I think that, unfortunately, there's almost no relationship here anymore. They didn't use to treat me with "kid's gloves", to use a euphemism. One of them always used to say to me: "Intelligence skipped a generation here". Worst part, I believed them for so long.

But as you say: even if one wants to adopt a purely Machiavellian POV, your suggested solution still frames me as the "higher power/more reasonable guy". So I win anyway, including from a power dynamics perspective, by stopping being the "kid" and adopting the "grown up" frame.

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Lucio BuffalmanoTransitioned
Quote from Transitioned on November 26, 2022, 4:33 am

Its that time of year when I'm working on my PU so I spam the forum.  Don't worry guys it will be short lived.

Bel we have this saying in English - 'don't put words in my mouth'.   I often express a gentler way - 'is that what I said'   This gives you wriggle room where you can say it with a surprised tone and save face for the person: "well what I meant was...." or if you think they are taking the piss (as we love to say downunder) you can say it with an amused tone - 'is that REALLY what I said' - pointing out to everyone that was NOT what you said.  And then hammer it home if you want: 'Well the actual meaning of that is..."  Another way to soften/bridge back.  "I could see how somebody could think that, and what it is really about is..." But you made a great point and maybe we could tweak a bit by...."

Off the back of this case study I see similar dynamics in work meetings.  They attribute a straw man to you and then hang it.  E.g. in Bel's world if an opposing attorney said after Bel had proposed a course of action.  'We can't just ignore legal precedent.  The problem with ignoring the case law is that the judge is literally bound to take it into account in formulating their judgement.  And Judge's respect past judgements which is the basis of case law.....and blah blah blah'

You can see the problem Bel.  By the time he's raved on nobody can remember what you really said and he's made you sound like an idiot. Because the person who thought you could ignore case law would indeed be an idiot.

I have heard people go for shock value and totally call them on it.  'You must have missheard me.  What I actually said is....'    Maybe do this if they keep doing it in a meeting or in consecutive meetings.  I.e. they've crossed over from competitor to office enemy.

I might say 'Brian (use name as an interrupt) sorry for cutting in.  My idea was a bit different but you jump in briefly and I can recap after'  Hmm sounding that out loud - my wording does seem a bit clumsy there if anyone can think of something punchier.

Thank you Transitioned, it's very helpful.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano
Quote from Bel on November 26, 2022, 12:43 pm

Yes, been also thinking to answer their "you're in a delayed adolescent rebellion phase" with "how are you coping with your midlife crisis?". 😀

Funny enough, I've also heard that "rebellious phase" a few times.

A conveniently self-serving frame of any criticism or push-back: the rebellious adolescent rebels without a reason, "without a cause", so whatever he says must not be taken seriously.

To be frank, it wasn't totally wrong in my case -but still plenty of a power move-.
Going back to that "growth in the suffering", there is a silver lining in growing up with manipulators: you really come to dislike the f*ck out of them, which makes you more resolute and ruthless in cutting any future manipulator from your life.

I'd skip the mirrored attack back on the midlife crisis though.
It's not as biting and feels like the responder is overly invested (and entering a "turkey spiral").

If you want to take that line apart, consider these alternatives:

  • (disgusted face, as if to say "what a nasty game") Let's skip the cheap psychologizing and focus on the crux of the issue (and go back to whatever you were discussing)
  • Actually, I've been studying a lot of psychology, manipulation, and power moves. Trust me, you don't want to go there (as if to say "I know better than you, and now I know you're a POS, and you better not provoke me into throwing it all back to your face")
  • "Yeah, you seem to really like that line a lot to sidestep any valid criticism don't you"
  • ...

The main thread among those options (and countless more possible ones) is that they're not as reactive.

They all hit back, but in a more detached fashion.

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TransitionedGrowfastBel
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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