The psychoanalyst Harold Searles ( 1965) noted, “…the initiating of any kind of interpersonal interaction which tends to foster emotional conflict in the other person-which tends to activate various areas of his personality in opposition to one another-tends to drive him crazy”.
Crazy-proofing is not running from connection, but forming healthy bonds. There is a good kind of crazy we want to honor-freedom, imagination, spontaneity, creativity.
Others can try to drive you crazy, for a million different reasons, sometimes nefarious, often not. Living in fear is not a viable solution for the complexities of human existence. We are born crazy, in a way. How do we best play our cards?
Eight Essential Ingredients
These ideas bear repeating. They easily slip from memory, especially when things get heated up. They require practice to change brain and behavior, and while kind of sequential, they are also non-linear, and usefully incomplete.
1. Know Thyself: Self-awareness is the foundation. Know your levers, know what all your buttons are, as if you were another person who was trying to manipulate you. Step outside of yourself without losing yourself. Self-doubt is your ally. Recognize when you need help and get it, no matter how challenging.
2. Write Your Own Operator’s Manual: Putting self-knowledge into practice requires being able to slow down thinking, under conditions of anxiety, perceived and actual threat, and a variety of other powerful feelings, in order to catch yourself in the act of reacting emotionally-before it is too late.
Once the brain enters a reactive state, it is much harder to interrupt than preventing it from going there in the first place. It is possible to learn to interrupt and de-escalate oneself, though, which is an essential skill to develop. Map yourself out clearly, without becoming a robot.
3. Slow Down and Think: The TARGET Model is helpful, looking at how the brain’s executive, memory and alarm systems can get tangled up, allowing triggering situations to take normal functioning offline, and allow distress-based systems to take over-getting “brainjacked”. Over-learn alternative, adaptive responses for when things get hairy.