Heart, Spirit & Mind

Deflection undermines good relationships

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People often confuse discussions with argument. The differences can be subtle.   One form of communication is productive while the other is not.

When you discuss something, you have a conversation with another person. One party speaks while the other actively listens and attempts to understand the other parties point of view with the objective to find common ground and peaceful resolution.

When you argue, you talk AT them and instead of actively listening, you spend that time formulating a counter-argument and judging them.Sometimes people are unable to actively engage and listen without invalidating you.  By invalidating your point of view, they deflect your point of view and convince themselves their point of view is the only valid one.  Valid points of view often get deflected when winning is more important than understanding another point of view.  This not only ensures that the conversation does not progressive positively, but it often distorts facts and is a very dysfunctional way of navigating relationships.

Destructive deflections is a form of projection that serves one purpose: to invalidate your point of view and escape accountability. Destructive deflections serve as diversionary tactics so that one’s own point of view, one’s facts, remain unchallenged and unquestioned. When someone deflects, they put up a wall that communicates that whatever you say or do will not get through to them, truth be damned. They may even tell themselves the wall is there to protect them from something that isn’t worth their time and emotional energy. Often, it is because there is some truth about their own actions that they are unwilling to face. They would prefer to delude themselves. They deny the veracity of other’s points of view in hopes of “winning”—which really, is fear, insecurity and sometimes self-loathing cracking through.

One Comment

  1. Though I’m not qualified to be a therapist nor psychiatrist, I believe our 25-year-old daughter is emotionally immature. Her state of mind may end up preceding negative consequences in her life for many years to come. I need to know what type of regularly-scheduled professional help you’d recommend for “Heather.”

    Heather lives in an apartment in the next town over with her 5-year-old daughter, “Crystal.” Heather is a single mom, working two jobs and going to school part-time. I’ve changed our names to protect the privacy of my family.

    If Heather looked in a mirror sometimes — not to check her hair or makeup — but instead to see just how sour her expressions can be, she might realize how she looks to other people. If a recording was available, she might be surprised to hear one of her explosive tirades about her daughter’s father. She might realize how unpleasant she sounds.

    Maybe not. Heather’s self-absorption and anger fuel an unhealthy cycle that repeats itself day after day. Her life ends up going in circles – repeatedly gathering more intense frustration and resentment mostly directed at the father, “Frank.” This has been ongoing for nearly six years, since Heather gave birth to their daughter in 2011. While people agree with me that these constant bad moods aren’t good for her, I must remind myself Heather’s an adult, and that she’s well past the teenage years of rebellion and adolescence. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t have concerns about the profound effect our daughter’s anger and negative attitude are having on her livelihood.

    Here are two recent contributors to Heather’s behavior. They compound a volatile situation that’s already evolving.

    In the past 12 months, Heather has gotten into three car accidents, including one while under the influence of alcohol. She’s complained a lot ever since about the fines she’s been paying. Heather recently yelled at her mother about her insurance rates are going up. These are Heather’s accidents we’re talking about here – no one else’s – yet she seems to use her anger toward her mother to at least in part to deflect the responsibility of owning up to the consequences of these accidents.

    Heather cannot seem to sustain relationships. In a span of about five years, she’s declined an engagement to “Joe,” a young man who proposed to her with a ring. Following this a couple of years later, she began dating an older man who turned out to be a bar fly. It’s been alleged that they were drinking one afternoon and got into an argument. “Mike” let her leave the bar, drive drunk and get into a serious accident in about a year ago, not even bothering to come to the hospital later that evening. Heather hit a telephone pole. She totaled her car after it flipped over in the roadway. Her daughter wasn’t in the car. She went to court and was charged with operating under the influence. About 10 months later, Heather totaled another car of hers after hitting a patch of black ice. This time her daughter was in the back seat. Thankfully, neither were hurt. The black ice couldn’t be avoided as they were on a steep hill. And most recently, Heather backed a rental car up in our driveway (she was driving it following the black ice accident) and dented a car across the street. Again no one was hurt, but another accident nonetheless.

    She’s told my wife that the relationship with Mike the bar fly is over, but my wife isn’t convinced that Mike is out of the picture. Neither am I, since Heather inexplicably seems to be attracted to disrespectful men and the havoc they have wreaked in her life. Earlier this fall, Heather dated a young man until that relationship fizzled after only a month. “Stan” seemed to be a pleasant and responsible enough individual. He works two jobs. She hasn’t explained to me what happened, but we don’t expect her to as she’s an adult.

    The accidents and the relationships are the primary reasons for my concern. Other circumstances have more to do with what a lot of people in Heather’s generation are challenged with: Not having a plan with life. Heather has yet to explain to us her plans to get her own apartment and finish school. She says she’s planning to become a lawyer. While that’s a good ambition, Heather has lots to contend with between now and going to law school, let alone affording it.

    There’s the “here and now.” When I spoke up recently about how rude she was being over the phone to my wife, I was told to let mother and daughter work out the matter of Heather’s initial – and absolute refusal — to acknowledge the surcharges resulting from the accidents. What concerns me most is how Heather’s anger and frustration with her accidents blocked her from being anything remotely close to rational with her mother. She would not listen to her own mother explain the consequences Heather must face. This is dangerous and impulsive behavior. It was only after my wife finally hung up on her following the second phone call and tirade that Heather apologized.
    A close friend of the family shares some of my concerns. “Linda” told my wife and I recently that Heather’s continued outright anger toward her daughter’s father is going to have consequences for Crystal. Linda said that Crystal will soon realize that Mom is just plain angry. This means that Crystal could decide to spend time with her father (and his girlfriend) more. This is certainly not what Heather wants (and is one of her fears with Frank soon marrying his girlfriend). She’s loud and uses foul language during her outbursts. Perhaps this is a way for her to deflect the responsibilities of raising a child in this world. Heather has yet to realize there are consequences for acting out in front of her child. Crystal is getting older and is beginning to see how angry her mother is.

    We need some direction as we head into 2017. So does Heather. Heather’s fuse is getting shorter and shorter. I wonder about when there won’t be any fuse left.

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