Definition: Problematic personality traits that make some people nearly impossible to settle cases with.
It is often said that criminal law attorneys work with bad people acting their best, whereas family law professionals work with good people behaving their worst. Family law professionals are challenged to implement mediation and negotiation techniques that bring forth the better selves of temporarily insane clients. With some skillful guidance, most of our clients can bring their rational, peace-loving minds to the fore.
This is not so much the case with people who suffer from Personality Disorders (PDs). You may be familiar with the common character pathologies: narcissists, borderlines, sociopaths, hysterics. It requires a special, counter-intuitive mindset to mediate, negotiate, or litigate with PDs. Their logical minds simply do not function under stress. And their minds are always stressed! PDs perceive threat, injury, hurt, dismissal, abandonment, and disrespect in the most innocuous of statements or neutral of actions.
PDs are masters of the art of insult, blame, and deflection. If they feel hurt, they strike back with double fury. They launch scud-missile-like verbal assaults to counter perceived psychic injuries. Yet they see not what they do. Lacking personal insight, PDs drive people away with aggressive behaviors but never understand why people want nothing to do with them.
People with PDs never learned to process emotional injury in a healthy way. They are hypersensitive to, and hyper-vigilant about, being disrespected, ignored, or unheard. Like young children, they express hurt in tantrums and find solace in retribution. Emotional justice comes from an “eye for an eye” approach to conflict resolution.
People with PDs demand unquestioning belief in their value and blind trust in their declarations. If something goes wrong, the blame lies with others. They never apologize. They see everything as being either right or wrong, good or bad. It’s always all or nothing, me or you, black or white.
Sound familiar in this election season?
Can you imagine attempting to mediate or negotiate a divorce with Donald Trump as a divorcing spouse or, maybe worse, as an opposing attorney? How could a fair-minded, balanced, reasonable settlement be reached?
Let me introduce my good friend and colleague, Charlie Mundhenk. He is a talented and quite clever psychologist and mediator. In the next several articles he will illustrate, through various Trumpisms ( “I’m going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it!”), the mindset and behaviors of people with PDs. Charlie will provide practical tips for working with people who bring to the divorce process a pathologically hurt mind and a fearful heart.
Attorney and Mediator
David Kellem Law Group, P.C.