Crazy-making Behavio(u)r

As some of you know, I joined a co-housing community a few months ago.

Yesterday we had a visit to the building site, and I carpooled with another member who I’d begun to feel mild discomfort around but no alarm bells. She recently semi-reprimanded me because when I called her I got straight to the point without all the pleasantries of “How are you, lovely day, etc.” I just said “I called you because you always know everything.” That offended her.

The morning started by her asking me at the last minute if I could arrive 10 minutes earlier, so I skipped half my breakfast and she wasn’t remotely ready when I got there. On the way up, she asked to taste my protein bar and my coffee, which is a bit of an overreach for me if I’m not good friends with the person, but I gave her a pass.

A couple of other members live a 90 second drive from the site, and invited us all over beforehand. As we were leaving their place, I chose to walk to the site, and asked another member to let D. know I was going to walk.

When we are all gathered at the site, D. says to me “You abandoned me.” I thought she was joking and asked if she’d been told I was going to walk. She said yes, and then said “You left me.” As an aside, I think she has a crush on me.

She brought it up another couple of times, and I asked her why she was upset I’d chosen to walk. She responded with “We arrived there together” and “I don’t want to feel like a chauffeur.” I had already previously offered to drive my car, I had offered to drive her car, and I had paid for well over half her gas. :thinking:

As we were driving home, I asked if it had really bothered her. She said no, then she said yes, so I asked her what had been going on for her. She said it didn’t have to make sense, and I asked her what she would have had me do instead. She responded with “Get in the car and drive back down there (to the building site) with me.” Again, this is literally a minute and a half drive.

My M.O. with this type of behavior is RUN. She reminds me of my father and all the bizarre and confusing behavior I put up with for decades. Things that don’t make sense and never will. If I didn’t have to, I would block her and never see her again. Unfortunately, this is someone I will have to deal with for years to come on an ongoing basis. She’s also only one person out of close to 40.

I’m posting this because I needed to get it on paper and out of my head (thank you!) and also because it’s causing me to have second thoughts about this community. I also realize that there will always be people like this everywhere I go, and I’d rather learn to deal with them than run; I also don’t want to force myself to be in the presence of people who practically leave my head spinning from dissociating.


You did so well… getting clarity and being willing to see what the person felt they needed. Did you dissociate during that conversation or was it after in the “analysis” phase?

I ask because in what you shared I see consideration: you asked someone else to let her know you’d be walking. I see self-awareness: the walk was your choice, right for you, and you did it! I see strength and we-space awareness: you did share a car ride, and you’ll likely be sharing community. Getting to know someone’s triggers and needs (even if unbalanced) can help map a landscape (and even clear up dynamics and set agreements).

Since I have and can edge towards both anxious and avoidant attachment styles, I can sense the challenge here.

For people with a lot of anxiousness about closeness, they can crave/need “sharing” in all things, WITHOUT FAIL. They can need someone to “never leave me!” and even something that has a whiff of that can feel stark, “You left me.”

I both know that painful internal trigger of… nonsensical abandonment… and also how silly I can feel to have that… and how silly I can think someone else is if we didn’t actually have an agreement to go everywhere together! Like I said, I’m bi- when it comes to attachment styles (which is actually a spectrum).

It’s easier sometimes for me to honor my avoidant style. For example, if my partner/kids might want to stay at a gathering for 6 hours, and I might want to leave after 1 hour… we drive separately and we have that agreement. Or, I’ll agree to come back to get them.

If I know someone’s style is more easily triggered abandonment (and in this case it seems pretty easily triggered – you did not decide to go home with someone else, just walk instead of drive), what is clear is that more upfront communication about options is needed.

I’ve had agreements where any change in venue we will find each other and decide together how to get there. I’ve had agreements where we will check in with each other every 30 minutes or so, see how we’re doing, and if either one wants to leave, we leave together without complaint.

High maintenance. I know, I am. :wink:

I do prefer people be honest about their feelings, and even that they don’t necessarily make sense. Our triggers do not make “sense” but they do hit our senses! Sometimes we end up senseless…

In we-spaces, I know that there are all kinds of expectations that will not get met. People are too different and we’re coming off of global trauma as well. “You hugged me!” “But we always hugged!” “Not anymore!” Yes, crazy making…

That’s where being in improv, and being in calm confidence let’s us have the conversation like you had. HARD conversations. It can let us manage the triggers that make us want to RUN RUN RUN (always primitive brain) and find Right Distance Right Depth as well as finding Agreements that work.

That’s what I’m exploring, best I can. Curious how this feels to you and others, and what refinements might be possible, too. @Cathy does a lot of work on expectations and agreements as well.


I appreciate the (u) in ‘behaviour’…thanks for that… :slight_smile:

For better or worse I’m going to ‘unpack’ what you’ve described as if the events had happened to me only because it’s unlikely that it would affect me to the same degree it has affected you. No judgement. We just have different triggers and I think it’s good to learn from folks that don’t have the ‘triggers’ that we do.

So firstly I would acknowledge that it was me that initiated the contact despite maybe already knowing a bit about her behaviour. No blame but just unpacking the structure of what happened. She didn’t come at you…she wasn’t an aggressor…neither were you of course. I would just make that clear to myself. I initiated contact. For some reason, for me, that clarity makes a difference. She wasn’t ‘laying in wait’ for me. You weren’t ‘ambushed’…well, you get the point… :slight_smile:

Secondly I would be very clear that her behaviour has no relationship to me. This is something that she would have done with anyone who had taken the same steps as you. I would recognize that I am completely replaceable in that series of events…she very likely would have used anyone to ‘run’ her behaviours on. You were simply convenient.

The intention of her behaviours are to get one or more of her basic needs met…most likely for feeling a sense of certainty or importance. Her intention is not to hurt or upset you…she’s desperately trying to manipulate the outside world (you) so she can feel ‘X’ which means she doesn’t have the resourcefulness to arrive at the feeling she desires from within herself. That deserves some compassion I think…which, for me, doesn’t need to include allowing myself to be manipulated to serve her needs.

There’s a part of me that would just kind of shake my head in amusement and see her behaviours as a kind of ‘entertainment’ in a way. Not to belittle her but to place her behaviours in a category that doesn’t make it any more important than any of my own goofy weird behaviours that I laugh at.

There are other things that come to mind but those are some of the more obvious responses to me that I would have. Not saying of course that what I’ve written is the only or the right way to respond. Just offering some ‘emotional strategies’ of a sort.

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I dissociated during the conversation because I felt attacked and I was utterly baffled and trying to reconcile her behavior. (Super familiar and old pattern.)

Me, too, I totally get that.

I do the same thing. I usually drive myself so I can escape whenever I need. Note to self: Do this next time someone wants to carpool. Also excellent excuse not to carpool. “I never know how long I’ll want to stay.”

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You’re welcome. I did that just for you, and I knew with absolute certainly you’d notice. :smiley:

That was helpful, thank you. It let me feel a little more detached from the situation.

This is the hard part. I want to have an awareness of her triggers so I can behave compassionately, but not to the extent that I’m going to sacrifice myself - and being manipulated makes me angry.


I think I am too!! My mate is really very understanding of my needs in this regard. I’m fortunate.


It was SO helpful to me when I realized that the anger at being manipulated was a sign that I wasn’t actually in my YES, that I had done something that was a NO for me because I felt I didn’t have a choice.

So my anger at “being manipulated” was mostly my own call to have Better Boundaries.

Of course, I do find some ways that other humans seek to get their needs met pretty… uhh… repulsive. Definitely not a YES for me and unlikely to ever be.

While I can be okay with someone owning their own triggers and attachment issues, I won’t try to be close to someone who makes the issue about me. No shoulding on Rickity-Rick.

I know I have challenges with anything that has a whiff of abandonment, and I wasn’t at all clear with you that if we ride together that it’s hard for me if we don’t make transitions from one location to another together. To help ease my anxiety, would you be willing in future situations to… either ride with me or tell me personally that you’re walking because you really need the fresh air… or drive separately?

If someone’s abandonment issue keep coming up as “You left me!!” then I’d need more distance, which is of course likely to trigger their abandonment issues… but I’m not signed on for protecting others from pains triggered by healthy self-care and respectful freedoms I need in order to thrive…


I knew you were thinking of me when you did that…lol…very kind of you to consider my cultural grammar needs…I would have felt terribly victimized and marginalized if you hadn’t been so inclusive with your spelling. :grin:

Yeah, that balance is tricky. I’ll admit that my tendency is to assign her complete responsibility for her own triggers and reactions. I wouldn’t be intentionally cruel of course and trigger her on purpose…that doesn’t interest me. But I sense a pretty immediate clarity about Right Distance/Right Depth that can include not feeling responsible for her reactions, while not pandering to her manipulations. And maybe she’s someone who you can live with in community without needing or wanting to be close friends.


Bingo!! Exactly my feelings as well. And, of course, even with that as a central pillar to my feelings on the matter I can still act with compassion and empathy…it just means I don’t sacrifice my own wellbeing so others can meet their needs through me. Now, easier said than done at times for me…there are still situations that are difficult for me to negotiate but I’m working on it. … ‘Better Boundaries’!!


High maintenance? I don’t think any of us are. Our needs are just … needs. Normal ones. (Most) everyone has them; it’s that (most) everyone is afraid to voice them because of possible rejection. Especially men.

The term “needy” or “neediness” is nearly always used in a negative context. Depending on how resourced we are, this level of need changes from day to day. As long as we aren’t continually draining others, they’re just normal, freakin’ needs and I’d love to live long enough to see the day when that’s finally acknowledged by society as a whole.

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The ONLY thing I’d do differently is waiting to tell her in person that I’d be walking - but the walking was always a non-negotiable, regardless of her reaction.


So what DO you do when you’re faced with someone who is being hijacked by their inner 6-year-old?

I’m not remotely thinking the answer is “give in to their tantrum/insecurities”.

AND - this is the type of person I simply want to wash my hands of. It’s hard to discern whether that’s the Flee response, or Healthy Self-protection. It actually seems like Immature Self-protection. There must be multiple alternatives I’m not recognizing.

At the moment, I’m not able to visualize staying with them because all I see is someone stubbornly trying to get their needs met at my expense, what I need be damned.

Although - I can see saying “I’m sorry, I need to walk. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”


It’s a flee reaction if you make the decision when triggered.

If after calming, confidencing, and clarifying it feels like this person is not someone you want to be close to, that is… freedom. At least to me.

There are times (and life segments) where I needed more isolation from people who demanded I be different, to meet their needs at my expense. It was recognition that I was “susceptible” to saying yes when I really needed to say no. Susceptible is the term I use, immature self-protection also works, doesn’t it?

An immature tree can’t be climbed without damage. A more mature tree can. Aspects of our self’s can indeed be immature and unready for the kind of dynamic.

I do believe as we strengthen our clarity, we can have easy-ish access to language that works for us. Sadly, it may not work for the person triggered or whose inner 6-year-old is now driving the car and the conversation.

I just don’t know anyone I love who doesn’t get triggered. Sometimes that is inner child needs taking over. Sometimes it is primitive brain, old trauma flashes, or needs that are now desperate.

It’s hard for me to know that those with the most desperate needs are also those who struggle most with getting them met. It’s why I believe we all need a circle of support, and it’s more likely (although not guaranteed) that a person with desperate needs is likely to find those met in an organization or community than by an individual.

A healthy adult doesn’t want (or allow) someone to make them their “mommy” or “daddy” – and with inner child flare-ups and attachment trauma, we need to be discerning. If we know about inner child flareups, sometimes we can ask, “How old do you feel?” I’ve been asked that and it helped a lot to recognize I felt 5 years old!

And some people would flip out. I don’t have the spoons to be close or share a car with people who flip out or demand that I be different. If they are going to be in my world, I can clarify that I am someone who is open to Agreements that serve us (and can be changed), but if someone has expectations about me they unilaterally demand I keep, they are likely to be fucking miserable being close to me .

Cathy and I did a session or two on Expectations vs. Agreements. Admittedly, not something most people know. So the discussion on Agreements and Expectations tends to come early in any relationship where we’re sharing space more intimately (like a car trip).

Thanks for continuing this… so useful for me to write out and hear your wisdom, too.

P.S. I own high maintenance. There are, indeed, people/homes/cars that are low maintenance and some that need more tending. I need to tend to myself each and every day in pretty profound ways in order to thrive. Some might argue that everyone needs that. I’m not sure. I just know I do, and I am clear about that. It’s not a criticism for ME to say that… about ME. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: I agree that “needs” and “neediness” is usually a criticism and not acceptance of reality, yet.


Yes, we all have basic human needs that we require to be met in order to firstly survive and then (ideally) thrive. For me I see a distinction between ‘needs’ and ‘neediness’. Neediness is certainly about wanting needs met but it has a demanding, suffocating sense to it that conveys ‘if you don’t act/think/speak in a particular manner that suits me then you are responsible for me not getting my need(s) met and you are the cause of my resultant unhappiness/anxiety/anger etc!!

When an infant cries because it’s hungry or tired or a toddler cries and wants comforting from someone when it gets hurt we don’t typically see those behaviours as ‘needy’ in a negative sense but those are needy behaviours…and they’re appropriate to the context of ‘childhood’. When an adult behaves in similar ways then I think it’s seen in a negative light because the behaviour doesn’t match the context (adulthood)…and I think our primitive brains sense a sort of potential ‘danger’…something ain’t right here!!..a wounded animal or an animal that is not behaving ‘normally’ can be a dangerous animal!!. Danger!!

Is it appropriate for an adult to expect/demand to be coddled and attended to because they have needs that weren’t met in childhood? My sense is that is not a useful approach and, for me, does have a negative feeling to it that repels me away from them rather than attracts me toward comforting them.

I think ‘high maintenance’ can be done without that level of neediness however. I presently have some requirements for feeling safe/calm/confident that most people I know don’t, including my wife. I sometimes ask my wife to accommodate me in regard to those requirements BUT I would never deny her the agency to say ‘no’ to me (and she does say ‘no’ sometimes) or make her responsible for my feelings of anxiety/disappointment etc. I see her participation as a preference not a requirement.


When I was triggered, and somewhat dissociating, I stayed with what was happening and tried to make sense of it. I really didn’t react in any obvious way to her, because I was trying to process what was really going on.

In the past, I’ve been disappointed in myself for this type of reaction, as I’ve always wanted to be able to respond in the moment.

When this happens, I later end up withdrawing from the person with no real explanation because I have made the decision that they aren’t someone I care to spend time with. It’s been pretty clear with several people that they have no idea why I did this, but for me I’m simply DONE with them. Sometimes I think I’m being unfair, but I’m quite sure they wouldn’t get it, anyway.
(I definitely have friends with whom I will share what was going on for me, so this isn’t with everyone.)

This is helpful because I’ve always seen this as black or white. Rather than a part of me is immature, I see it as all of me somehow didn’t handle the situation well.


I’m delighted to be a fellow reformer from being hard on ourselves for not being “reactive” in the moment to giving it some time and pause to process and get clear.

I used to be far happier with myself if I could have a “quick comeback” – a witty cut or put down – if someone pulled some shit like “you left me.”

Remembering Rick of back then, I get it. SO MUCH BETTER THAN FREEZING or being bullied or made wrong!

Yes. And more YES. I do want to see beyond the superficial or the facade or the acting out reactions and not necessarily rise to meet dysregulation with even more powerful dysregulation and primal defense. That’s not really a good look for me :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


My needs have gotten desperate a few times in my life. Once this woman who was a non stop talker wanted to come over and watch a Disney Movie with me (which I wasn’t really interested in so I wasn’t honest to begin with) . For some reason the details of when, what we eat and other things got so unbelievably complicated that I had to pull back. Yes I admit I didn’t know about boundaries then and I didn’t want to hurt her or anyone else. But there came a time when I just could not interact with her anymore both because of the non stop talking and all the complications of something that really could have been easier. I had to tell her that I was sorry but I couldn’t do this anymore. She was hurt and I had a painful upset stomach for a few days. I’m not sure what I would say today if this kind of thing happened. I would pause and tap for sure.

My mother would call me every day at 2pm to dump on me everything that was wrong in her life. Sometimes I didn’t answer the phone but of course she’d call again and again until I gave in and answered. I would give suggestions and she’d tell me all the reasons they wouldn’t work. Finally I told her please don’t call me again with all your problems until you do something to help yourself. That didn’t go over well. She told my step father to turn all my pictures toward the wall. :roll_eyes: Of course I felt guilty.

I’m glad I’m learning boundaries and know that I deserve to have them. Plus pausing and tapping.

This has been an interesting and enlightening conversation.


I’ve not been the most fun to be around at certain times in my life.

In retrospect I appreciate those who did, and who could, as well as a few that made it clear that my complaining and worrying was more than they wanted in their lives.

“Love you… but no.”

I’m glad I can more honestly honor my limits. I’m so much more resilient than I used to be, and there are also real limits on how much of certain vibes I can handle.


I only recently (last 4 or 5 years, if that) learned about boundaries. I suppose I had heard about them in some vague sort of way, but didn’t have the slightest clue how to go about getting some. I’m sure a lot of us were never allowed to have boundaries, or if we tried they were promptly shat upon.

My mom used to walked into my bedroom whenever she felt like it, even when I was an older teenager, and I can remember how angry it made me but it didn’t even occur to me to object.

Thank you for joining in; it’s always good to have your voice.