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What is Crazy-making?

“Crazy-making” behavior is behavior that is irrational, immature, and illogical. It can be abusive and manipulative, designed to confuse, irritate, exhaust, or provoke a target into some emotional reaction. The target feels either like the person with the crazy-making behavior is trying to make them lose their sanity or provoke them into becoming reactive. This happens especially when a narcissistic person acts like nothing is wrong or that the target is making a big deal out of nothing, or worse, that the target is crazy, mentally ill, or losing their mind.
The crazy-maker may play dumb about their behavior, as though they don’t understand the problem. Crazy-making behavior attempts to bait, provoke, harass, triangulate, stir the pot, irritate, minimize, or invalidate the target. It often gets to the point where there is an explosion of anger or where the target becomes so tired of the conversation going nowhere that they give up and cave in order to regain sanity and some level of peace. If and when the target does explode, the crazy maker acts shocked and confused and may use the target’s reaction to prove further their point that the target is the one who is unhinged, overly emotional, or abusive.


The goal of crazy-making behavior is, in part, for the abusive person to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, as well as to keep power and control over their target by not giving them the truth or seeking a resolution. This behavior also feeds the narcissist’s ego and self-esteem, making them feel smug and superior by “winning” or controlling the conversation and pushing their target’s buttons until their target reacts.

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Example of Crazy-making

Jane continually tells John how all these other men are flirting with her or how certain men are so attractive. Once John starts showing signs of jealousy, Jane spins things around, denies that she said anything wrong, and blames John for being too sensitive, controlling, and insecure. Jane takes it a step further because she enjoys seeing John get so upset, and in a calm and condescending voice, tells him that he needs to see a therapist.
The most telling sign that you are experiencing crazy-making behavior is that you feel like this person is making you crazy. Because crazy-making behavior is often presented in a “there’s nothing wrong with what I’m doing you are the one with the problem” kind of way, many people on the receiving end of it become baffled as to who has the problem. A great way to tell where the crazy-making behavior originates is to ask yourself how they would react if you were to do the same thing to them or how others would react if they experienced it. Odds are you will find that if you were to do the same to them, they’d become outraged, or you will find that you only feel this way around certain people. If you don’t feel this way around others, then it’s not you. It’s them.

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