Pulling Punches – Baiting and Picking Fights

  Baiting and Picking Fights – “Baiting is the practice of generating a provocative action or statement for the purpose of obtaining an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another person.”
This is what I associate with Pushing away and Pulling back. That back and forth feeling of being suffocated, needing to escape being hurt, fearing the loss, and desperately trying to get that person back, often by apologizing profusely and doing everything we can to be perfect for them again. Repeat.
That’s the resulting cycle anyways.
It starts with something small. Gradually growing into something else.  Baiting and Picking Fights is HOW this cycle is fed.
I know I have a very caustic tongue. I’m not physically violent towards anyone, but I know how to wound your pride, your ego, and your heart. It’s not necessarily a big explosion, though eventually it may get there. It’s small steps, little barbs. Small hurts, followed by tearful apologies about how we’re such bad people… For me the fear that’s generated turns my stomach and flips my heart. The person hurt is really wonderful, we don’t deserve them, we’re so sorry that we would even think to say such things, act that way. The thing you need to keep in mind is, we absolutely feel this way, at least I do. I don’t set out with this in mind. I don’t wake up in the morning and think, ‘Gee, today seem s like a good day to fight with so-and-so to see if he/she’ll leave me.’ It just happens. It happens gradually as we get closer to someone. And it’s always with someone we’re close to. The fear of being hurt by staying, coupled with the fear of being abandoned by leaving. I’ve never figured out how to find a way past this. I don’t mean to be this way, and I can see myself doing these things, which is why I know I’m such a terrible person when I do it. I try to make up for it, but I can’t seem to stop myself from doing it again when something sets me off. It’s generally not out of the blue though it may seem that way to the other person. I know for me, I’ll be triggered by something, read more into something than was there, feel like I’m losing myself to them and need to get myself back.  I’ll bite back quick and hard and there’s really no thinking about what comes out next. Over the years I have learned to temper a lot of these reactions. I’ve learned to hold back, not be so quick to lash out. However this has the effect of allowing me to internalize the hurt I feel, bottle it up, ruminate on the things I want to say from it… it gives me time to tailor a harsher response when something bigger does set me off. I’m trying to fix this too. I’m trying to write down the responses I want to scream out. Release my anger onto paper. Come back to it. Find a better response, a calmer response, and then come back to it for discussion when I feel like I’m more in control.
There’s something else though. An element of, if the other person will allow me to push, stay with me through the hurtful things I do, it ‘proves’ that they won’t abandon me.  The more we can push away, the more baits and barbs we can throw, the more fights we can pick, the longer they show that they’ll tolerate it or try to work it out with us, the more we can believe that they mean what they say and aren’t trying to deceive us … If we can make someone we care for SO ANGRY, they’ll either prove us right, or prove us wrong. Either way we’ll know something for sure, and it stops (momentarily) the constant second guessing going on in our heads. Believing someone, trusting someone… I know I’ve been hurt so badly that I can never fully do this. That doesn’t mean I don’t want it. I just have to test the fences to be sure.
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7 comments on “Pulling Punches – Baiting and Picking Fights

  1. If we can make someone we care for SO ANGRY, they’ll either prove us right, or prove us wrong.That is it in an absolute nutshell. You said everything about why we do what we do in that one sentence. We don't even trust ourselves. We question our own judgements and perceptions and all we can do is test the other person. There is no other alternative. At least not one that will satisfy the fear that lives within.

  2. What advice can you give the person whom you are baiting about how to respond in a way that will not end in a fight?Also, if the BPD in my situation is the former wife, who asked for the divorce and left over husband's objection, why is she still testing to see if husband will stay? Yes, he has to co-parent a minor child with ex-wife, but why should he put up with the name calling and lies? Or is that just baiting (and if so, to what end)?Apologies if these questions sound naive or weird. We are at our wits' end trying to figure out the most effective (for parenting purposes) and least offensive (for keeping the peace purposes) way to respond to her.

  3. She doesn't think it is baiting. She's wounded and trapped. How'd you like to revisit your failed life every time you had to drop off your child? You can't make her feel better. But you can tell her that she is wounding you, too.

  4. I guess the best advice I can give is to reassure them that you are not out to get them. Let them know that this is not about sides, it’s about find a mutually beneficial path. Reassurance is important, but you’ll have to do this often, probably every time. Let her know that you are not enemies, that you want to do everything you can to be as a good of a parent as you can with her and you are both necessary for this to happen. He should not put up with the name calling and lies. There needs to be boundaries. He should make it clear that this behavior is not acceptable, but it needs to be done in a way that she will know that they can and will continue to work together to parent their child. You are adults and you should treat each other like adults with mutual respect for the child’s sake if nothing else. Name calling and lies are definitely baiting. I can’t with all certainty say to what end. Even though you are no longer together there may still be abandonment fears, fears that you will take the child away, no longer assist in co-parenting, leave her alone with all the responsibilities… testing to see if this will happen will prove her fears right. The thing to do is to reassure her that even though you are no longer together, that you will continue to be there for your child, no matter what. But she needs to work with you to be the best parents you can be. Reassurance. These questions are not weird or naïve. I’m glad you asked. Hope things work out.

  5. I agree with Anon 12:15… she won't recognize it as Baiting. We don't usually see it that way. Maybe try to get her to talk about what she's worried about that makes her so hurtful. It is important that you let her know that she is hurting you though and that you wnat to have an amicable relationship (even if just for the childs sake), so you need to work through the hostility.

  6. Thank you both for the thoughtful responses. I will share with my husband and we will think about it. I have to admit I am a little confused about the reassurance that he will co-parent. He has done more than half the parenting during and since the divorce (50/50 custody, doctors appointments etc), and she obviously knows it because they coordinate it. The only thing that changed seems to be that since the divorce, he doesn't let her yell at him live (she still does it by email). So I'm wondering whether reassuring her about his co-parenting won't seem to her like pointing out the facts, which usually enrages her. But if it works, I am sure we are willing to try it. Thanks again.

  7. I realize this is 2 months ago, but I am just coming to the realization that my husband of 40 years exhibits this pattern of behavior. I have been in reassurance mode all these years and it still hurts. The constant pattern is driving me crazy….we can't move forward. Is there no help for this borderline behavior?

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