More Serious Adjuncts to Abuse


Bullying. This is a special case of projective identification as described above. The bully gets someone to feel and act out his or her fear so the bully doesn’t have to. The target may or may not be weaker, but is chosen because by inclination or disempowerment they are likely to to organize their response around fear. This is recognized by folk wisdom, which recommends fighting a bully, even if losing the fight is likely. That is because the fighting response, although fear may be present, is not a living out of fear. This deprives the bully of the projection, so interest is lost in bullying that person.

Just Enough: This a way to avoid consequences. The perpetrator is someone who has not done what they agreed to do and probably never intended to do it. When the target is at the end of their patience and about to enforce a consequence (evict a tenant, fire an employee, end a relationship, revoke probation, etc..) the perpetrator does some small relatively easy part of what they should already have done (like make a small payment, schedule an appointment, do a small chore etc..) Even if the target understands that the token is not at all commensurate with the backlog of irresponsibility, it is hard for most people to follow through on the consequence. The perpetrator usually gets a reprieve (“to prove he means it”) and the backsliding begins immediately. That is, the perpetrator has done ‘just enough’ to avoid getting in trouble. This may last for many repetitions and often expectations are just eventually dropped as the target gets desensitized to non-performance by the perpetrator.

Forced Teaming: This term was developed by Gavin de Becker in his book The Gift of Fear. A false loyalty is imposed on the target by the perpetrator suggesting to the target that they have a urgent common problem (and implying they need to start working together right away). This leads the target to forget about normal risk assessment. Even if the two people have a common problem, it is unlikely that 1) it is really urgent, 2) they have a best solution in common, and 3) joint action is necessary. This technique is meant to bypass healthy distrust and in real life is almost never benign. Unfortunately many movies employ forced teaming as a plot device for characters to get to know each other, which may desensitize people.

Urgency: Urgency limits the target person’s options of getting more information, consulting others, investigating facts, or checking gut instinct, which takes a little longer to settle. Urgency also activates the ‘fight or flight’ system which 1) itself increases a subjective sense of hurry, and 2) limits creative options that might otherwise come to mind. When hurried, there is a tendency ‘to go along.’ As an antidote, there is a folk saying, “If the answer has to be now, it has to be no.”

Posted on April 6, 2014, in Narcissism. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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