Have you ever noticed that some people view the world in a way that invites high-conflict and chaos? Recently, I was typing out a blog-post, when my cell phone rang. Although the call was from a blocked number, I decided to answer it anyway. A man with a heavy accent introduced himself and provided a professional sounding title. He explained that my computer’s IEP address had been stolen, and was being used for subversive activity that could be mistakenly traced back to me. This man assured me that he was here to help. He requested to walk me through a series of steps that would permanently disable my laptop, but protect me from being accused of a crime. He insisted that without his assistance, I could end up in a lot of trouble.
I replied with a simple, “no thank you,” and hung up my phone. A Google search quickly confirmed that this was a poorly executed scam.
The Art of the Scam
Although obviously a fraud, this swindler didn’t bungle things entirely. During our phone conversation, he was able to throw me off guard by,
- Passing me off to someone claiming to be a supervisor, who confirmed the story.
- Encourage me to verify his authenticity online. He then tried to quickly redirect me, so that I wouldn’t actually look up his phony title.
- Providing a dramatic, fear-filled, story, and pressuring me to take action.
I’m curious what the end results would have been, had I fallen for this scam. One thing is clear, there are plenty of people who view the world far differently than I do.
Social-media does a wonderful job of combating stereotypes. There are plenty of articles and memes reminding us that being Muslim doesn’t make one a terrorist, and being diagnosed with a mental illness doesn’t make a person dangerous. While choosing not to stereotype others is good, there is also a need to learn how to recognize danger. As parents, we are responsible for teaching our children to identify potentially destructive people in their lives.
This post is all about maintaining a balanced perspective that is neither overly paranoid nor naive.
Identifying Harmful Worldviews
Eyeglasses come in different styles and varieties. Some are for reading, others shield us from the sun. Some lenses protect our eyes, and sometimes lenses get broken. Put on a different pair of glasses, and you will view the world slightly differently. [Tweet “Worldviews are like glasses, people observe events through a variety of different lenses.”]
One type of worldview promotes that, “People should be kind to each other, and help one another out.” Others–like the con artist on the phone–hold a worldview that proclaims, “Life is one big scam. Con others before they con you.”
In this post, we will examine key warning signs of four, high-conflict worldviews. This way, when you, or your children, are approached by someone with a high-conflict personality, you will be less likely to get sucked into the chaos.
High-Conflict, Black-and-White Glasses
Those with black-and-white glasses view the world in extremes. People and situations are either all good, or all bad. There are no shades of grey. Black-and-white thinking, also known as splitting, is a key component of borderline personality disorder. Those with black-and-white glasses, may adore you one day, and hate you the next. As a result of this pattern of behavior, they have a long history of intense, short-lived relationships. If you find yourself connected to someone who vacillates between loving you and hating you–without being able to accept both your strengths and weaknesses–then you may be connected to someone with a black-and-white worldview.
High-Conflict, Mirrored Glasses
Mirrored glasses reflect one’s image. Those with a mirrored worldview, have difficulty empathizing with others. Everything is all about their achievements. A self-centered, lack of empathy, is a key feature of narcissistic personality disorder. When a person with mirrored glasses suffers a narcissistic injury–that is, whenever they feel slighted, or put down–you may find yourself the target of narcissistic rage. This rage can include:
- An emotional outburst.
- Covert emotional abuse.
- And, sometimes reaches the point of physical abuse.
If you find yourself connected to someone who appears unable to demonstrate empathy, then you might be connected to someone with a high-conflict, mirrored, worldview.
High-Conflict, Sparkly Glasses
Sparkly glasses are attractive and stylish. They draw attention to the person who wears them. Those with high-conflict, sparkly glasses, must be the center of attention at all times. This is a key feature of histrionic personality disorder. If a person with this worldview fails to get the attention that he or she feels is deserved, you may find yourself a target of rage.
High-Conflict, Shattered Glasses
Glasses are fragile and sometimes break. Like shattered glasses, there are people who are broken internally. These people have no regard for the rules of society. Rules may be followed because of the fear of consequences, but respect for others is never internalized. Those with shattered glasses are good at putting on a show. They can be charming one day, and take advantage of your kindness the next. This is a key component of antisocial personality disorder. Those who hold this worldview, see people are a means to an end. Conning those close to them is a normal way of life.
Increasing High-Conflict Awareness
Please note, this is not an article on diagnosing. Not everyone who demonstrates these features has a full-blown personality disorder. Some do, while others simply have high-conflict, mal-adaptive ways of interacting with others. It’s also important to note that not everyone who has a personality disorder will be in high-conflict relationships. Some, direct their rage inward. Diagnosing is a complex process, that should only be left to the professionals.
Yet, there is a very real reason for this article. Ten years ago, I found myself caught up in a high-conflict relationship. I spent years spinning my wheels, thinking that I could fix things. Today, I understand just how ingrained a high-conflict personality can be. I’ve read numerous studies of people who invested money, time, and energy, attempting to resolve issues with a high-conflict loved one–driving themselves to the edge of insanity in the process.
Those who take a naive approach to life–always trusting, and believing the best in others–may be setting themselves up for longstanding challenges. Jesus said that you and I should know people by their fruit. Learning how to become a fruit inspector involves increasing our ability to identify high-conflict traits in others. It involves putting 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 into practice–testing everything and holding on to the good.
Helping Our Children Discern
I don’t want my children to go through life fearful of others. I also don’t want them to naively believe that everyone they meet has their best interest at heart. Instead, my desire is that they take a balanced approach by learning to recognize the high-conflict, warning signs. This way, they can make an intentional choice. They may choose to end their high-conflict relationship, or they might decide to put relational safeguards in place, to protect themselves from the conflict that is almost guaranteed to ensue.
If you are in a blended family, like us, keeping the peace can be an even bigger challenge. To dive deeper into strategies for avoiding high-conflict situations, check out Jenny’s thoughts on reducing stepparenting battles.
Continue the Conversation on High-Conflict Worldviews
In short, I hope to raise compassionate, caring children, who build their relationships with wisdom. What do you think? Have you ever come into contact with one of these high-conflict personalities? Are you preparing your children for managing relationships with difficult people? If so, I would love to continue our conversation in the comments below.