Type Three Conflict: “Difficult People”

“If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

Type Three Conflicts are caused by a “cataclysmic malignant narcissists” (CMN) or bullies. Recognize these people and never, ever become dependent on them or enable them no matter how enticing as they are often the most kind and understanding people in the room. That kindness will become cruelty. You have to stay in control and make good decisions around these people – and with the knowledge you gain here  – you can.



“In the desert, an old monk said to a fellow traveler, God and the devil look very much as one.”  old proverb noted       in The Sociopath Next Door


CMN is a term I have created to describe a person who automatically and unconsciously reverses reality in order to have absolute control. This reversed reality, these beliefs, are held onto regardless of any evidence to the contrary. Most importantly they believe they are victims and their victims come to feel they are somehow responsible. Very importantly, most people at first, believe them.  Research is showing that they can either be men or women and that they have anti-social personality disorder (ASPD) or borderline disorder (BPD) Both of these are imbedded in narcissism.

Type Three conflict is either abusive (unilateral) or it is high conflict, (bilateral: one party is abusive and the other party may have a personality disorder as well or the other party may be an untreated addict. In my formulation “high conflict” is when both parties are in their own selfish, defensive orbits,  – so they both have issues separate and apart from each other  – that is, one did not cause the others’ behavior.  It is very important to remember that just because one person is bad the other need not be perfect.)

CMNS hide their aggressive behavior by blaming it on their victim. For example, the CMN accuses their spouse of being a nymphomaniac while it is in fact they who are having an affair. This need for control is often driven out of paranoia that some “other” is trying to control them or that they may not get their way – and/or it is driven out of grandiosity  – that the world should instinctually bow to their will.  This paranoia/grandiosity may be opposite sides of the same coin and it may be rooted in the same organic disorder.


The CMN relies on the psychological defenses: “projection,” “projective identification” and “dissociation” to reverse reality. Projection means the CMN externalizes the problem, i.e. blames their aggressive behavior on another individual or group of individuals. Projective Identification means that the CMN’s victims to some degree, internalize, or come to believe, the CMN’s projection. They are very apt to become bewildered and confused, wondering if they have done something wrong. Dissociation exists on a continuum with projective identification and, in effect, means to deny one’s own behavior all together.


Neurobiological research has given substantial support to these defenses. The researchers Allan Schore , PhD and Tony Greatrex, M.D. are excellent resources. Charles Wang, M.D. has also been an important resource. For more information see my ebook on this site.


Clear signs of a Type Three Person (a CMN)

Jekly and Hyde: They are warm and understanding one moment and then harsh and cruel, completely dissociated – leaving you out in the cold.

Counterintuitive behavior: Very often Type Three people tell you exactly what you want to hear; they make kind and sensitive comments about others and talk at length in a thoughtful and intelligent way. In short order their apparent wisdom is offset by rage, which contributes to the victim’s confusion and feelings of guilt. Neurobiologists now know it causes their victims to rationalize their mind-boggling, contradictory behavior.

Perceive themselves as victims, and their victims as perpetrators/evil.

Perceive themselves as saviors: when in fact they are a destructive force.

Pillsbury dough-boy behavior: no amount of poking them changes them in any sustained way. They revert back to their natural form.

Approach-avoidance relationships: they get close to others only to suddenly withdraw.  This is why many victims complain of feeling whip sawed and that the rug is completely pulled out from under them.

“Hell hath no fury:” Outraged and accusatory at any perceived or real obstacle to their goals. Often referred to as “narcissistic rage.

Alloplastic thinking: modify reality to defend their position

Narcisstic Withdrawal: they abandon anyone who criticizes them.

Unappreciative or respect genuine acts of support and kindness. They project onto others’ prosocial behavior their belief that it is either hypocritical or scheming.

They are inherently selfish resulting in poor judgment: making it impossible for them to see “the big picture.”

Exploitative: need to put others down and keep them down.

Surrounded by enablers: those that continually praise them and bail them out.


To paraphrase from “Law and Order” – how do you know to check the ceiling for fingerprints when you don’t see the trampoline in the room.


Clear signs of a Type Three Conflict:

  • Fear based: whip people into a frenzy. In their minds they are reacting to a threat – which may very well stem from some neurological condition induced by trauma or by genetic makeup. Good luck trying to treat it with insight-oriented therapy as it is regarded by some mental health care providers as thought that is on “on the spectrum.”Lie dormant: I cannot tell you the number of people I interviewed devastated on their honeymoons by abusive behavior emerging seemingly out of nowhere.
  • Confusion and chaos created by reversing reality: so that for example, believing that the folks who are most helping you are the ones most hurting you.
  • Bewildering: Individuals begin questioning themselves, others.
  • Group think reversing reality: The Vincennes incident is an example of a Type Three conflict. The captain of an Aegis-guided missile cruiser in The Persian Gulf in 1988 was a CMN who believed and got his officers to believe despite all the electronic equipment telling them otherwise – that a commercial jet liner with nearly three hundred people on board was attacking his ship. In fact it was flying away from them – exactly opposite of them – yet they blew it out of the sky – killing nearly three hundred innocents.
  • Not morally equivalent : These arguments are right versus wrong. The CMN’s argument is wrapped in myth related to fear and paranoia. It has nothing to do with facts – just fears – just what we believe to be true.
  • Chronic, destructive: The CMN is out-of-control: has to keep destroying and instill fears in those who do not go along with him.
  • Paralysis: Ultimately the reversed thinking cannot bear the weight of reality but the CMN cannot give up.


“It is easy, terribly easy to shake a man’s faith in himself. To take advantage of that, to break a man’s spirit is the devil’s work.” George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)


Impact of Type Three Conflicts:

  • Widespread destruction Hence their destructiveness is widespread – overtaking the family, the place of worship, the business, the nation as this person must control the other.
  • Followers: rely on a group of people, followers so to speak who become psychologically attached to them, to support them. (see projective identification in my ebook).
  • Weakened identity as the CMN is indifferent to the victim’s response.


We are all actors on this stage

Keep in mind William James (1842-1910) remark “the greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.”

If You Need Help

If you need help please call the domestic violence numbers at the The National Council for Child Abuse and Family Violence.

800-799-7233 – or – 800-787-3244

You can visit their website at www.nccafv.org