Welcome to the Land of Emotional Reasoning: I’d Turn Back if I Were You

Welcome to the Land of Emotional Reasoning. To the north, you’ll find Never-Never Take Responsibility Land and just to the south you’ll find the Land Where It’s Always Somebody Else’s Fault.

Wikipedia defines emotional reasoning as “a cognitive error that occurs when a person believes that what [s]he is feeling is true regardless of the evidence.” On a personal note, as a Thinking type, emotional reasoning is frequently the bane of my existence or rather one of my “banes.”

Emotional reasoners are prone to confusing their feelings with facts. Feelings are subjective internal states. Oftentimes, feelings arise because of an external event.

For example, a loved one dies and we experience grief and sadness. In this instance, an individual’s feelings and external reality are congruent.

Alternately, sometimes we misinterpret an external event and feelings arise that are incongruent with the precipitating event.

For example, you see a friend across the street and call out to her. She doesn’t acknowledge you and continues walking. As a result, you become angry and hurt because you assume that your friend rudely ignored you. In reality, your friend had her iPod on and didn’t hear you calling to her. * This is where reality testing comes in handy, but we’ll get to that later.

Sometimes feelings arise from an internal event. Many emotional reasoners are prone to manufacturing dramas in their minds without much input from the external world. They live in the permanent present of whatever their immediate feeling state is — regardless of whether or not there’s a basis for it in reality.

The basic assumption is, “If I’m feeling this way, there must be a reason for it.” There may be a reason for the feeling, but it might not have anything to do with reality, but with unresolved fears, hurts and, quite possibly, pathologies.

Emotional reasoning, or rather, social-emotional intelligence isn’t all bad. It can be quite helpful actually. Empathy, compassion, knowing how to read others, picking up on the needs of others and being sensitive to the feelings of others are just as important as critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Research shows that the best managers and strategic reasoners utilize both IQ and social-emotional reasoning.

Critical thinking occurs in the brain. Emotional reasoning takes place in the heart, gut or some other part of our anatomy — this goes for men and women. Emotional reasoners make choices based on what feels “good” or “right.” Critical thinkers make decisions based on facts and what is just or sensible.

Why is understanding emotional reasoning important for the Shrink4Men community?

If you’re married to, dating or divorcing an abusive and possibly unstable ex, odds are she’s an emotional reasoner and emotional reasoners are also often persuasive blamers and persuasive blamers are often at the root of many a high-conflict divorce/high-conflict custody case, false allegations, smear campaigns and a host of other Kafka-esque behaviors, tactics and sometimes criminal offenses.

An abusive emotional reasoner will verbally eviscerate you, call you a shitty father or mother in front of your kids, hit you and then tell you that their behavior was all your fault because you did . . . whatever they feel you did and insist that their behavior wasn’t really hurtful or abusive. They really love you and how could you accuse them of being so mean, selfish, abusive, etc., etc.?

These individuals can weave a web of distortions, half-truths, confabulations (lies told by liars who believe their own lies), blame, shame and guilt around you until you’re lost in a pink haze of their alternate emotionally-based “reality.” You may even start to believe the emotional reasoner’s “logic” even when you know better.

By the way, if you can fall prey to this, so can judges, attorneys, psychologists, court evaluators, friends, colleagues and family members.

Emotional reasoning can be seductive — even for those of us who are predominantly critical thinkers. The emotional reasoner is so persuasive, so convincing. You start to think, “Maybe it wasn’t that bad. Maybe I really did deserve to be called names. Maybe I really deserved to get hit. Maybe I really am a shitty dad . . .”

Stop yourself. Stop yourself right there. This is when emotional reasoning becomes a contagious trap.

Reality test. If your mind is too clouded from the pink haze to do this on your own, call a friend. Call a family member. Call a shrink. Call someone whose judgment you trust and reality test.

Emotional reasoning is usually easier than critical thinking. Critical thinking based on facts, evidence and logic takes effort and work. Emotional reasoning — not so much.

Don’t remember what really happened because your emotions were too out of control? Make something up.

Embarrassed by something you did or said? Deny it ever happened and blame whomever it is that’s making you feel bad about yourself. Like Jason Alexander’s character George Costanza once reasoned on Seinfeld, “Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

Want to get your way at the expense of someone else? You deserve it. You’re entitled. The person standing in your way hates you/is trying to control you/doesn’t understand you/doesn’t care about you/isn’t making you feel heard/isn’t making you feel loved/isn’t making you feel special. Tell everyone what a monster he or she is and maybe even have them arrested. After all, they deserve it. Who are they to tell you no or get in your way?

Hey, if it makes you feeel better who cares about anyone else’s needs or feelings or pesky little minor details like the truth?

It’s not just individuals who are prone to emotional reasoning. Our society is becoming increasingly governed (I don’t mean politically, although, one could make an argument for this) by emotional reasoning.

You see evidence of it in the news everyday. Injustice results when we combine our proclivity for emotional reasoning and the rampant gender bias of “women = victim; man = villain.”

For example, in the Land of Emotional Reasoning and gender bias, “Susie” murders her children in cold blood during a bitter custody battle. Susie then claims her husband abused her and she was afraid he would molest their children. All of a sudden, Susie is magically transformed from heartless, murdering psycho to poor, abused, downtrodden, confused woman who killed her own children as a desperate cry for help.

Heck, more often than not Susie doesn’t even have to claim her husband abused her. We do it for her because if a woman commits a violent crime, there must be a good reason for it and, of course, that reason must be some man.

It’s much easier to believe Susie is a poor, stigmatized, misunderstood woman than face the fact that there are monsters among us and about half of them are women. This is why many of us continue to fall prey to emotional reasoning and make excuses for this kind of horror show, even when we’re otherwise critical thinkers.

Social-emotional intelligence is just as valuable as critical thinking and IQ. For your own well-being and safety and the well-being and safety of your children, it is imperative that you don’t get lost in the emotional reasoning of your unstable and abusive partner or ex (or your partner’s ex). Reality testing is your life preserver, which is one of the reasons abusive types try to isolate you. They want to control your reality.

Please take my advice and don’t let them.


Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

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  1. says

    I have to wonder sometimes about the liars who believe their own lies. Are they really lying, or is their ability to perceive reality so impaired they just don’t remember things the same way others do?

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      Good question. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a little of both. Maybe a one-sided sense of ethics or morality is also involved. Oftentimes, many of these individuals are hypersensitive to anyone infringing upon their rights and feelings, but completely oblivious to how they infringe upon others’ rights and feelings. Emotional tone-deafness? I don’t know.

      I think they really and truly do see things the way they do and that many of them really do believe they have good reasons for doing what they do. In some ways, some of these individuals have a very childlike fluid morality.

      Look at how easily children often blur the lines between fantasy and reality. Kids with imaginary friends act like their buddy Joey is really real and they won’t admit he’s not really there. They rarely break out of character.

      Some kids really do believe there’s a monster in the closet and won’t be convinced of reality even when you show them that the closet is empty. Is this about children having a stronger access to the unconscious and a less developed consciousness? Don’t know.

      Maybe it’s not distorted perception. Maybe it’s arrested perception.

      • says

        Thanks for the reply, Tara. The monster analogy is perfect. Once that false reality has taken hold, you’re damned if you say otherwise. As you mentioned, the trick is not to start believing it yourself 😉

        • bubbajoebob says

          There is an Arabian folk story. A man was trying to nap under a tree, but he kept being awakened by children playing nearby. Finally, he calls the children over and says, “Why are you playing here? Don’t you know they are giving away oranges in the next village?” And the children run off the next village. The man now sits back down, but finds he cannot sleep, and he jumps up and runs off. “What am I doing here, they are giving away oranges in the next vilage!”

          Arabians, ie Muslims, tell that about their own ability to believe their own lies. My own wife, who is clearly PD, is also Muslim. It made it hard to sort out why she believed her own BS, but she clearly did. However, I called her on her BS to me, held her toes to the fire on it, and after a while it was clear to me that she knew she was lying, even if she acted like she believed it. When it was clear she gained absolutely nothing from me by lying, it stopped. No more big stories, just the little lies (I didn’t do that!). She still tells ridiculous lies to others, but now that I know she knows the difference, it makes her manipulation of others even more pathetic.

          When believing in your own lies results in no gain, either in manipulative advantage or psychological “soothing,” it stops.

          • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

            Hi bubbjoebob,

            Interesting that she stopped lying to you once she no longer derived any sort of gain from it.

            On a separate note, many religions train their followers to believe “lies” or rather their own respective faith/mythologies. For example, the virgin birth, god with elephant heads, mana falling from the sky, etc. It’s more likely your wife’s potential PD traits and not her faith causing the lying. Now, I’d like to ask everyone to please refrain from discussing religion. It’d make for a great discussion — just not here, no offense to anyone.

            Dr T

          • bubbajoebob says

            Dr T,

            Like you, I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of religion, but there are particular reasons Islam produces, as Arabs themselves recognize in the story, people who believe their own line of BS. It is quite one thing to find a particular tenet of a religion, such as the virgin birth, unbelievable, and another to recognize that religions shape their adherents. It is a consequence of Islam that Arabs learn how to mirror from earliest childhood, and that is why so many people find them such excellent hosts, because they become very sensitive to their guests and what they want or desire. It’s why US soldiers sent to Iraq, for example, have to be taught that the village elder they speak to will answer their questions by telling them what he thinks they want to hear, not what he knows (particularly if he senses it would distress the soldiers). He is not willfully being deceitful, he is doing what his religion commands in making sure his words do not offend his guests. It goes much deeper than this, but that point should enable you to grasp why truth/reality and what is spoken and believed are not related.

            As for my wife, I didn’t say her faith caused her to lie. I said she believed her own lies, and that being Muslim seemed to be a part of why. You may not understand this statement, but I stand by it. I would add that her lies to me were always intended to manipulate, but ended when two things happened: the first was I made it very clear that years of her lying had entirely backfired because I now trusted absolutely nothing she had ever said; the second was that she called me a “murtad,” which entails very specific penalties in Islam, and not only did I laugh at her threat (for it was), but in the ensuing argument made it quite clear that I knew Islam and its law better than she did, who was reared in it. She could not manipulate me, nor could she intimidate me with authority. It took removing both pieces to stop her pathological lying to me.

            Of note, she lied like a NPD. Her lies always set her against incredible odds, powerful people questioned her ability and competence, but she was always vindicated and raised up as a consequence OR she was sick, deathly ill, as a child, or shortly before I knew her, and she was hospitalized by a gangster former boyfriend for a month, but she recovered and look at her now. That, and she was pregnant, I’ll add that one as well. While she doesn’t try these with me anymore, she still does them to Facebook “friends” (there’s a reason I’m blocked from her Facebook page) and even to relatives–all people far enough away not to double-check her BS, but when I get phone calls asking how’s she recovering from her latest chemotherapy, I don’t bother trying to keep a straight face.

            She is still a pathological liar, just not to me. I don’t care how she came to be one. Whether it makes sense to you or not, I had to destroy her belief in its effectiveness and that was inseparably tied to the religion of her birth, Islam. It still is, in the lies she tells to others even now, but it would take pages to explain why.

          • Mellaril says

            Going down the rabbit hole of religion…what you’re describing is the concept of “Original Sin.” We gained the Knowledge of Good and Evil and get to decide “what’s right in our own eyes.” PD’s carry it to a higher level amd often insist on visiting their decisions on others.

      • Lebrocq says

        What about insecurity, low self esteem? – they believe their own lies because if they don’t they would have to stop and look at themselves, their own behaviour, and probably go through the emotional pain of realizing they have some work to do – they have issues and they hurt other people?

        • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

          That could be part of it, too. When you have low self-esteem, it’s probably easier to misinterpret and innocent comment as an insult or attack.

          The more I think about it, arrested psychological development seems more and more plausible as a factor.

          For example, you child breaks a glass nick-knack on a table she knows she is not supposed to play with and then denies having broken it when questioned and blames it on her brother who’s napping in his crib. You know she broke it, but she concocts a fantastical alibi and appears to believe her tale.

          Clearly, the child is afraid of being punished and losing parental affection and approval if she admits she broke the glass animal, so clings to her imaginary alibi or accusation that her baby brother who hasn’t developed fine motor skills did it.

          Perhaps the same phenomenon occurs when abusive, unstable emotional reasoners spin their tales. Anything to avoid criticism or censure — especially deserved criticism or censure.

          • db says

            My former wife suffers from the same and always very childlike in many actions – or responses by deflecting/handing out blame. Fortunately, through my line of work I am connected daily with people in many fields, including yours. It was explained to me by her that those who experience child sexual abuse often become locked in the age of that time period. They are not prepared psychologically for sexual contact with adults and all that comes with it, especially in an abusive situation and they remain forever locked at that age. Parallels can be drawn with a handful of other comparable major traumatic childhood events leading to similar impacts. The result years later are adults riddled with a lifetime of failed relationships, addictions, believing their lies to be the truth, poor decision-making and other “arrested psychological development’ behaviors as you call them. Much of it includes the denial or recognition of their own mental difficulties – again often in a child-like manner.
            As she put it, ’12 year-olds don’t do relationships very well.’
            I know my ex was sexually abused and had emotional chaos within her family as a child. Certainly doesn’t fully explain or justify the many complexities of disordered personality traits of these women, but perhaps a factor for many. Just a thought.

      • sun day says

        “…but completely oblivious to how they infringe upon others’ rights and feelings”

        This really resonates with me currently. It relates to my final tolerance of having my boundaries being overstepped. Essentially I was told that expressing my opinion—a non-directed opinion about an inanimate object in this case—made her feel bad. It all fits into the contradictory behavior of these folks. I spent a year trying to outsmart the system and became fed up with being sabotaged wherever I turned.

        When I was straightforward about why the relationship wasn’t progressing in a healthy direction, she only attempted to control my reality with cutting statements about who I was as a person. Observing this need to control and undermine over a period of time was proof of her constructed emotional-based reality. The only way for her to feel secure was for me to passively take part in her distortions.

  2. Freedom says

    Too often people get into the mindset of “i feel it, therefore it must be so”. They don’t take into consideration they – perhaps – they’re mistaken about something, that – perhaps – they don’t have all the facts, or that – perhaps – they’re flat-out wrong. “I feel it, therefore it must be so” is such a dangerous slope to reside in, not usually FOR the person who actually resides there, but for the rest of us who have to deal with it. I’ve had co-workers (all of them women) who have sworn i’ve said something to them that i’ve never said – – all because of their (issue). Now how do i know i’ve never said what i was accused of? because its never even crossed my mind, whatever it is that i’ve been accused of. Other times, i’m somehow caught up in drama from one female co-worker about another female co-worker and how they’re being mistreated. Now i know the other person and there’s no way this person would ever say or do whatever they were accused of. I’d finally approach the accused (after all, i am the supervisor) and i’d get the explanation of how things really went down. But each and every time the accuser is absolutely certain it went down this way, even tho i’ve had issues with that person myself about their inaccuracies and flat-out lies. but because they feel it, therefore it must be so.

    The facts do not matter. Most times the facts nothing more than an annoyance to the person. “Damn the facts… it is so because i say it is so”. They are the epitome of the old saying “perception is reality”. Doesn’t matter how accurate the perception is… just that their perception IS their reality. And there’s no room for adjustment. It works for them… just not the rest of us. They get a good night’s sleep while we’re staring at the ceiling wondering “how in the Hell can someone come up with something like this?”.

  3. 2.wife says

    This is exactly what my FI´s ex will do.
    She will say something in one sentence, and in the other one deny it. Just like that.

    She will do something, and the next day deny she did it or claim that you misunderstood.

    She will have a conversation, but afterwards tell you that you said things and agreed upon something you never talked about.

    We always ask ourselves how. How does she do it?? Is she really without any perception of reality or is she a conventional liar?

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      Hi 2.wife,

      Oftentimes, these types will believe whatever is expedient in the moment to absolve them of guilt/shame/responsibility/feeling bad and then contradict themselves minutes, hours, days or weeks later when another lie is more expedient or when they get busted on a previous lie. When you’re on the receiving end of it, it can be extremely crazy-making.

      However, if you’re involved in a divorce/custody case and can get this type of person to contradict herself this way under oath, a savvy judge will see her as ” not credible” (I think that’s legalese for d-i-s-h-o-n-e-s-t).

  4. cocopop says

    In my case, the manipulation mainifested itself in less outright lying as it did in making believe I was completely nuts. Issues would be drawn out, twisted in knots and I would be taunted unmercifully and if I dared to react, then I was the crazy one. My therapist, who has also worked with my two sons, tells me my ex is an adult child who doesn’t have the proper adult reasoning capabilities. The good news is, he feels the boys got a healthy dose of me growing up and they will, in time, surpass their mother’s inmaturity to become well adjusted young men. It is my greatest hope.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      A client’s 6-year old daughter has already surpassed her mother in critical thinking ability and ethics. When his daughter acts out from time to time — as kids do — he intervenes by explaining more appropriate ways to get her needs met. Through his parenting diligence, his daughter’s tantrums have subsided and she’s developing a clear sens of right and wrong. He’s tried the same tactic with his 30-something wife with little success. In fact, when he tries to explain that she doesn’t have to get nasty or pitch a tantrum, she accuses him of being controlling and thinking that he’s “just so smart,” etc., etc. — you know the drill.

      As I’ve explained to him, he can parent his actual child and see results. His wife probably does need to be re-parented, but he can’t do it and it is neither his responsibility nor would it be healthy for him to try to do so. A trained MH professional needs to do that and even then, it might not be possible.

  5. thatguy says

    Want to get your way at the expense of someone else? You deserve it. You’re entitled. The person standing in your way hates you/is trying to control you/doesn’t understand you/doesn’t care about you/isn’t making you feel heard/isn’t making you feel loved/isn’t making you feel special. Tell everyone what a monster he or she is and maybe even have them arrested. After all they deserve it. Who are they to tell you no or get in your way?

    I think you must know my X personally because this is her to a Tee.

    My question is how to you suggest men/women deal with this kind of personality to be productive co-parents and do right by our children?

    • says

      The simple answer? Parallel Parenting.

      In my experience, the only way to ‘co-parent’ with a high-conflict personality like you describe is from a distance. Minimize contact and limit communications to only what’s necessary and only by email. Cross your fingers and maybe within a decade or three they’ll find a new target.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      Hi thatguy,

      That depends. Are you still married to/together with the mother of your children?

      If so, you can try setting boundaries around not undermining your parental role and/or denigrating you to the children. This may or may not work. If she won’t respect your boundaries, you need to work with your children on countering her behaviors and attempts to control their perceptions of you as well as your relationship with them. What’s going on with you as parents?

      If you’re no longer together, I probably wouldn’t attempt to co-parent with her, but rather look into adopting a parallel parenting plan.

      • thatguy says

        I’ve been looking at OFW and parallel parenting plans. Definitely would need help with drafting a parallel parenting plan. I would also want equal parenting time. Of course as your OFW article states she would never agree to this because of accountability, which there is none besides my diligent efforts and time that I don’t have or want to give up so easily any more (it takes a TON of time to do all this work). She would never agree to equal parenting time or a parallel parenting plan. So looks like I’ll have to escalate the issue. (great!)

        Thanks for the feedback!

  6. dcbevans says

    I spent five years in the reality distortion field of my ex’s emotional reasoning. These emotions with which she ‘reasoned’ had their origins in her past, prior to the relationship with me. I’d bet that they stemmed from guilt, shame, hostility, massive insecurities, etc. And the resultant emotional reasoning went like this: “I feel insecure, therefore you are a cheating loser.” I would provide proof, again and again that her accusations were false, but there was no changing her mind. At one point she did say outright that her feelings were ‘real’ and that I was cruel to try to deny them. What a way to spend a life…sad.

      • Marshall Stack says

        I’ve been accused of infidelity more times than I can count, and I’ve given up on trying to convince her otherwise because it doesn’t work. She had been cheated on a few times before she met me, and she splits black when it comes to infidelity – men are all cheaters – while completely ignoring the facts that prove I’ve never cheated on her. I don’t know how to acknowledge that her feelings are real when they have nothing to do with me, especially when *she* can’t acknowledge that.

  7. alreadylost says

    NPD is a bit different in my experience. They have such a distorted view of themselves that it is not possible for them to even consider the possibility that they might be part of the problem or imposing on lesser beings. In a store at closing time? The sales staff / store manager can just wait till she’s damn good and ready to leave. It never even enters her mind that the staff may have plans, may have family waiting, may have to pick up the kids from day care, may need to catch a ride with a coworker, may need to make it to the repair shop before they close to pick up the car, or have any number of other time critical things to take care of. She hurt someone’s feelings? Why it never happened. She promised to meet here at this time? No you got the time / place wrong. You told her you might go to a movie depending on how busy work is? That’s an iron clad promise to take her to dinner followed by shopping then a movie and clubbing afterword. After all she IS the most important being in the universe

  8. Mike says

    I finally have a name for this. The name needs to be something much more sinister because this behavior from my X almost destroyed me and is destroying my children.

    I’ve experienced every single one of these things described in this article. I nearly suicided because of this. This problem needs to be publicized badly. Even now that I have been divorced from this woman for several years now she still manages to cause problems in my life every once in a while. I would love to see an article discussing how to deal effectively with these people. My children are the worst victims of this. Everytime I’ve tried to help my children it just makes things so much worse. Nothing you say can get through to these people. My X is happily destroying the lives of my children and I can’t do anything about this. My children have even started acting this way. Is this learned behavior or is it something genetic? My X’s family is not all like this. It just seems to be her.

    Because of this I’ve had to completely cut off contact with my children just to keep my life intact. Is there something that I can do? This thing is so much more destructive than I can express here. It seems kind of mundane in the article but it is so ridiculously bad. One problem is that my X can hide it from people that don’t know her. So any time I involve the authorities I come out looking bad.

  9. Jason says

    There is an interesting parallel to this where a person believes that feelings are a sufficient substitute for actions. That is, intending to do something becomes the same as doing it.

    An example of this is a person saying they are sorry, but not actually changing their behavior or doing anything to make up for what they have done. My ex would not only do this, but get mad if the issue ever came up again. In her mind, saying “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t mean it” was the same as resolving the matter completely.

    This became a huge problem in counseling since my ex would become very defensive over issues that in her mind had already been resolved. She couldn’t understand that even if I or the counselor accepted that something had happened, knowing WHY would have been an immense help. (This has probably caused me the biggest issues recuperating from my marriage–I have no answers for several things beyond, as I’ve said previously, that she has the emotional maturity of a thirteen year old.)

  10. Irishgirl says

    “Reality testing is your life preserver, which is one of the reasons abusive types try to isolate you. They want to control your reality. Please take my advice and don’t let them.”

    Welcome to the Matrix…be sure to take the red pill!

  11. thistooshallpass says

    When I divorced my ex, we went to mediation (which I had to trick her into to get her to show up…i told her it was a separation agreement, and then filed for divorce one she was there.)

    Anyway, during mediation, I showed up with all the facts/spreadsheets/financials, etc. And she had NOTHING with her. We each took turns talking and she just went on and on about how she feels i should get nothing bc she was upset that her dad had died 2 years earlier, and that i still had a dad, so i shouldn’t get anything. (unbelievable, right? like WTF does that even have to do w anything?)

    The mediator said, out loud: “well, it appears that (my name) has a lot of ‘FACTS’ and (exBPD name) has a lot of ‘FEELINGS’. And my ex’s reaction was like ‘Yeah!!’. as if i was the one being told off, bc her ‘feelings’ were equally as valid. she didn’t even understand the mediator was trying to say she has no basis for any of her absurd requests or claims.

    (and i should mention…this was after SHE left ME for an affair). but apparently i was the one abandoning her and deserved nothing.

    a year later and still hard to get used to that one. glad im out.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      I. Love. Your. Mediator.

      Am also very happy you escaped the Land of Emotional Reasoning. Your ex seems like she’s living in a very upside down world. How did you cope with it while you were still in it, thistooshallpass?

      • thistooshallpass says

        I loved the mediator too. I was referred to her because she specialized in HCP mediation. My ex came in wanting me to get nothing (and in fact tried to empty all our accounts a few weeks prior, even though she didn’t ‘want’ a divorce). The mediator took her into another room, came out 10 minutes later, and got my ex to agree to split everything in half. No idea what she said but it worked!

        To answer your question…how did I cope with it when I was still in it?

        Answer is this: for most of our relationship, i just didn’t really ‘need’ much. I put her needs and feelings first and just believed that if she felt something strongly enough, maybe she was right and i was at fault. (terrible!).

        I was only 23 when I met her, and she was my first relationship. Since the demise, and looking back, i can see how imbalanced it all was the whole time. It wasn’t until the affair and her COMPLETE lack of remorse that it because super clear to me. She even admitted at one point ‘yeah, i have no empathy’.

        Did I mention she is a licensed psychologist? no joke.

        However, if it is helpful to anyone…the way i coped when i had to deal with her through the divorce process….I got a lot of therapy and was coached coached coached on what to say, how to hold my ground, and not let her ‘intimidation’ tactics work on me anymore. She could still ‘needle’ me to get a reaction, even as practiced as I was though…and say something SO outlandish that i would blurt out ‘thats just absolutely not true!’. and presto. she had her reaction.

        Her favorite line was ‘See! i dont feel ‘heard’ by you’. i credit this to her PsyD training. She learned how to talk the talk… making me look like the bad person for interrupting her.

        Usually it would be the EXACT thing she was currently doing to me. IE “you have damaged me sexually’ = ‘i am actually damaging you sexually by cheating on you and lying. Or during mediation: ‘I had to take all the money, because you are out to get me’=’I am clearly out to get you. i tried to take all of your money, and am cheating, lying, doing drugs, laughing about it like a sociopath all along the way.”

        But to finish my answer….I coped…and got through it. BY talking to her calmly and validating HER feelings. “I know this is so hard for you’, blah blah. I had to vomit in my mouth a little each time. Ok, a lot. But I was coached, and it worked.

        Validating HER, talking about HER feelings, even when she was instigating the most cruel torture upon me…was my path out. Because when she felt ‘seen’ and ‘heard’ by me…she calmed down and felt like she could be ‘nice’ (ie, remotely civil…in her mind benevolently generous to bestow upon me the grace of her presence). If i were ‘mean’ to her, or held her accountable, or godforbid had FEELINGS of my own! Then I was abusive and controlling her.

        I am a woman too, by the way. I have feelings and intution too. But also logic. She actually got away with way less because she was doing all of this to a woman and not a man. She tried to play the ‘but you’re an asshole’ card on me (not remotely true), and because im a woman, and a nice and gentle and caring one at that….she had a hard time getting anyone to believe her. I have such sympathy for the men on here who get blamed and accused and people believe these crazy women’s distortions and lies. I am grateful that, as one person put it…she kept trying to throw dirt on me…and the problem was, it didnt stick very well.

  12. Paul Elam says

    Run, Forest, run! LOL! What an absolutely sterling article. People use to have an intuitive sense of these things, I think. “You can’t argue with a sick mind.”

    We used to reduce this to a dual, but simple equation for people in drug treatment. Intellect over emotion is the basis for mental health. Emotion over intellect is the basis for a life afflicted with conflict and one unnecessary drama after another.

    And if you really can put intellect over emotion then you don’t tolerate well those who can’t.

    I’ve developed a simple rule with people who practice the latter instead of the former. I get them out of my life no matter the cost. It is the only way for me.

    Somebody once said, “Hell is the impossibility of reason.” I don’t remember who it was but they were right. Emotional reasoning is the impossibility of reason. Emotional reasoning is HELL.

    It took me years, YEARS, to come to terms with the fact that I could only ensure peace of mind in life by INSISTING on reason; by making it a deal breaker in all relationships. No exceptions, no compromise.

    It is a hard line to take because there is a lot of “crazies” out there, but in the end I sit here with fewer people that I allow to stay close to me than I can count on one hand, and for some reason I am generally happy, with my self respect, property and lifestyle intact.

  13. Jason says

    Great article Dr. T and also PRICELESS words of wisdom from Paul Elam. I wouldn’t be where I am today without this website and Paul’s AVFM radio show.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      Thanks, Jason. And I agree re: Paul’s comment above.

      It took me many years and a lot of painful experiences to learn the same exact lesson. Every now and again, some predominantly emotional reasoners slip under the radar and make a mess. I use those moments to better understand my blind spots and try to learn from them.

  14. Dr. F says

    Thanks Dr Tara for this article.

    It has all the wonderful flavour of the discussions my family would get into when I was growing up.

    My father is an RETB and cognitive therapy shrink and he’d talk of Windy Dryden, Beck, Ellis and others while we listened. These were the giants of this fascinating new way of thinking and he read a new book by them it would get passed around like a treasure for everyone.

    My older brother was so inspired by our dinner talks that he became a psychiatrist himself and now works side by side with my father in the same practice.

    Your article really hit home to me and reminds me that the locus of all our controls really makes the strongest bed when made from the head’s of our reasoning and not the “feel” of our intuition.

    Although always a student with such things, my rationale tells me that it’s absolutely expected to stuff up sometimes and surrender to the faulty head inside your heart.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      Thanks for the kind feedback, Dr F.

      I reckon your father is evidence of NAPALT (Not All Psychologists Are Like That). Two shrinks in the family though, eh?

      Although always a student with such things, my rationale tells me that it’s absolutely expected to stuff up sometimes and surrender to the faulty head inside your heart.

      Yup. Most of the worst decisions I’ve ever made were based on fear or wishful thinking. They are also the decisions I regret.

  15. Verbal says

    “An abusive emotional reasoner will verbally eviscerate you, call you a shitty father or mother in front of your kids, hit you and then tell you that their behavior was all your fault because you did . . . whatever they feel you did and insist that their behavior wasn’t really hurtful or abusive. They really love you and how could you accuse them of being so mean, selfish, abusive, etc., etc.?”

    They like to play the “extreme provocation” card to justify their outlandish reactions. They will tell you that their actions were absolutely justified under the circumstances that you created. They had no choice but to lash out, because you put them in a position where that was their only option. Their abusive behavior is your fault.

    Of course what they consider to be “extreme provocation” is the kind of stuff that doesn’t even register on most people’s radar.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      “They like to play the “extreme provocation” card to justify their outlandish reactions. They will tell you that their actions were absolutely justified under the circumstances that you created. They had no choice but to lash out, because you put them in a position where that was their only option. Their abusive behavior is your fault.

      Of course what they consider to be “extreme provocation” is the kind of stuff that doesn’t even register on most people’s radar.”

      This is very often true. Hi, Verbal!

    • thatguy says

      Funny I’ve been accused of harassment and being abusive in email. My crime? Calling her out for her emotional rants/slander of me online, not keeping me informed, lying to me, etc.

      Now who’s the one being harassed and abused?

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      Thanks, MB. I’m concerned about these behaviors and mindsets and, in some cases, pathologies being passed down generation to generation, too. It’s so important that we break these cycles of inter-generational abuse.

      Certain areas of the mental health profession seem to be trying to “break” the familial transmission of dysfunction and abuse by instructing the targets of the abuse more understanding and accepting of the abuse.

      This scares me to no end.

  16. gooberzzz says

    Once again, a very accurate assessment of emotionally abusive women. I can see how this is an uphill battle. We live in a culture that continues to give these types a pass. I am personally wore out from dealings I have had with members of my family, select friends and ex-coworkers through the years that exhibit this type of behavior.

    Having grown up in a community of man-hating women has not served me well. I am at the point of surrender. When I interview for jobs, and see that the staff is predominantly women, I turn around and leave. I don’t like having this anger toward women, but its just hard to tell anymore who’s real, and who’s well..umm…a bitch out to slit your throat.

    I think because of this, I have identified myself as a gay man, and at 37-years old I have to say, it is a pretty lonely existence, if I was to be completely honest. Nature loads the gun, nurture pulls the trigger. Unfortunately, in my experience, many gay men align themselves with the attitudes of emotionally abusive women.

    Best of luck and again, and thank you for your articles and contributions. It does help.

  17. LiliM says

    This is so very true. Because the Crazee thinks it, and feels it to be true, it MUST be true. Everyone of the women I have ever met that fall into this description are master rewriters of history. As Micksbabe said, it’s really scary they are breeding. Like Bipolar Mom, I shudder when I read about people like this. They are raising another ruined generation. It makes it harder for the kids wanting to be normal to get out.

    • gooberzzz says

      There is ONLY one way to deal with “crazee.” No contact. That means do not return their calls, or emails, do not apologize or explain yourself, throw away everything that “crazee” ever gave you (which probably won’t be nothing more than some cheap mementos that they’ve assigned way too much meaning too), reconcile the FACT that there is no reasoning with “crazee” and try to move on with your life with what dignity and self-worth you have left.

      If enough people did this and stopped enabling “crazee” than there may be some hope. As it stands, “crazee” is celebrated in our culture. They are given their own TV shows.

      • SineNomine says

        If enough people did this and stopped enabling “crazee” than there may be some hope. As it stands, “crazee” is celebrated in our culture. They are given their own TV shows.

        No kidding. “Real Housewives” and “Bridezillas” come to mind. The behavior they exhibit is horrifying, not entertaining.

        • gooberzzz says

          Just to add…

          The Kardashians
          Jersey Shore (A woman that left Jersey Shore is getting her own show)
          Tots and Tiaras (TLC)
          Kate Plus 8 (TLC)
          My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (TLC)
          Say Yes to the Dress (TLC)
          Bachlerette (ABC)
          Hoarders (TLC/A&E – They never address the underlying BPD or NPD issues)
          And there is some show about a dance instructor that basically yells through the whole show and makes children cry, can’t remember name.

          Many of the above are on a network called ‘The Learning Channel’ VERY Scary! However I am quite fond of Stacy on “What Not to Wear.” She seems to be the most reasonable female reality star they have.

    • thatguy says

      Everyone of the women I have ever met that fall into this description are master rewriters of history.

      This is …oh so true…

      My X is a master at this. I present her with a documented timeline of emails, medical records, etc. and there’s _always_ a justification from her point of view for her actions.

      It constantly amazes me how she justifies her behavior instead of jumping to the next stage of actually taking responsibility for her behavior. “It’s everyone else’s fault” kind of mentality and she surrounds herself with anyone who will listen and sympathize with her point of view. What’s funny is that she makes sure to keep those sympathizers as far away from me as possible and presents me as “crazy” for various reasons that make no sense.

      • redex says

        Yep, the rewriting of history is amazing. The most frustrating part is watching mutual friends write me out of their life because they choose to believe her confabulations. As angry as it makes me I have to continually remind myself that she manipulated me into “willingly” taking part in and living in her world, as she saw it. 4 months out of a 12 year relationship and it’s so weird to be drama free (except when I have to deal with her of course). It really is sad because in her world the entire planet is out to destroy her, when you live with someone like that you know how they think, and how they perceive things. It’s a dark, sad place.

  18. dg says

    I’ve been told to my face: “Who are you going to believe, me (her feelings)? Or what other people tell you.” This was after a local coach had awarded our son (her stepson) with the team equivalent of a lifetime achievement, who’s mom had died, and mentioned that briefly in passing as in “look how far he’s come.”

    My wife became hideously upset. How dare he? Didn’t the coach know how much we tried to avoid any appearance of difference or that he wasn’t _always_ family? How dare he belittle her by making it seem that the team did this and she had no part? You MUST go talk to that coach! How dare you think I’m overreacting, and that it’s no big deal! He embarrassed me!

    My reply, FWIWW: ” If I heard the speech – which you didn’t – and analyzed it, found nothing in it that put you down, and then had several people come up and tell me afterward what a great job we did raising our son, then I have to believe that your concerns are unfounded. No-one played the victim card, no one dwelled on it, and it seems no-one thought you were worthless in raising our son.”

    Of course, as you would expect….. heh.

    More disturbing though was our daughters chiming in that I should stand by her no matter what.

  19. alreadylost says

    First let me apologize upfront for the rant

    My STBXWy was scheduled to attend her son’s wedding. A 10 HR road trip away. It’s been scheduled for over a year. The date and time set in stone. The wedding was on a Saturday. Just to be generous I gave her the funds and all necessary resources to either drive her car, rent a car, take a bus, buy a plane ticket, whatever she needed to get there. The Wednesday before the wedding she announces she can’t go because I won’t take her. Thursday she still has made no effort to make preparations to go. I of course am to blame for making her miss the wedding. Friday morning she is not packed and blaming me for her missing this wedding. I have to browbeat her into packing and loading the car then take off from work and drive her to the wedding. I am not allowed to attend the wedding and have to sit in a coffee shop during the ceremony. During the reception I have to stay in the room or the hotel lounge because I’m not allowed to attend the reception. Her adult daughter has threatened to physically attack me if if show up either place. So I spend a day’s vacation and a weekend making sure she gets to this event even though she has had plenty of time and opportunity to get there herself. I must admit I came very close to just saying to heck with it and letting her miss out. The only reason I did not was this divorce is going to get really nasty and I did not want to give her any ammunition to use. So what’s the consensus on this (ahem) lady.

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