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Another characteristic of these case examples is how self-sabotaging these personalities can be. This is one of the most striking characteristics of High Conflict Personalities — their actions are so self-sabotaging and out of proportion with external events that they seem beyond comprehension. However, there is logic to their behavior if the high-conflict personality patterns can be recognized.

The importance of looking for the pattern in understanding personalities — to analyze past behavior and predict future problems — is demonstrated in the following case example decided by the California Supreme Court. Eben Gossage graduated from law school in and passed the bar exam on his first try. However, when he applied to the California State Bar to become a practicing attorney, a difficulty arose with the final requirement of the process — the moral character determination.

Apparently, he had legal problems in the past, which he attributed to an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Specifically, when he was 20 in , he killed his year-old sister during an argument. He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, and served two and one-half years in state prison. After he got out, he apparently turned his life around. He stopped using drugs and alcohol.

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After passing the bar, he assisted nonprofit groups, lobbied about the harmful effects of pollution on city residents, volunteered in local political campaigns, volunteered as a university math tutor, and helped drug-addicted youth prepare for their high school equivalency exams. In , the Bar Court held a hearing on his moral character, and numerous people testified on Mr.

The Bar Court became convinced that he had sufficiently rehabilitated himself, and decided that he was qualified to practice law. However, the California Supreme Court reviewed the case. They had concerns. They included his girlfriend and other personal friends, … college and law school professors, and prominent public officials …. The foregoing witnesses described Gossage as an honest person who had expressed remorse for killing his sister and for committing drug-related crimes.

No one had seen Gossage under the influence of drugs or alcohol since he was last released from prison in These individuals opined that Gossage had successfully overcome any substance abuse problem or personality disorder afflicting him in the pre period, when he killed his sister and committed other serious crimes. None saw any sign that Gossage presently suffered from a diagnosable mental disorder or psychopathological condition. Carfagni, similarly suggested that receiving four to six traffic tickets over a three- to five-year period might reveal the presence of an antisocial attitude or personality.

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The Supreme Court was concerned that on his application for admission to the bar he mentioned only four of his 17 criminal convictions — which included forgeries, driving with a suspended license, failure to register his vehicle, several failures to appear in court for automobile violations, and failure to finish paying fines. However, the majority again omitted and misstated relevant facts, and it never confronted the ominous implications of the pattern of misconduct committed while Gossage was preparing to be a lawyer The dissent perceived a dangerous tendency in Gossage to excuse his misdeeds, including those committed after he entered law school, when he should have been more sensitive to the rule of law.

The Bar Court made a common mistake by looking only at Mr. The Supreme Court, however, looked at the whole picture of Mr. As the reader of these materials is a mental health professional, this section will be a brief overview of how personality disorders and maladaptive traits appear in legal disputes. The fundamental characteristics of personality disorders lead many into high conflict disputes:. While the Axis system was removed, the DSM-5 does retain the three clusters of personality disorders.

Persons with Cluster B personality disorders appear to have characteristics that draw them into intense, ongoing conflicts on a regular basis — much more than the other clusters. He puts Borderlines in another category and includes Dependents in his Interpersonally Imbalanced group, but I find that Cluster B accurately identifies four of the five High Conflict Personalities I most often see driving legal disputes.

In contrast, Cluster A includes Paranoid suspicious , Schizoid asocial , and Schizotypal eccentric personality disorders.

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Except for Paranoid, people with these personality types are much less likely to tolerate intense, ongoing conflicts because of their personality types. Cluster C includes Avoidant withdrawing , Dependent submissive , and Obsessive-Compulsive conforming personality disorders. Those in Cluster C have generally adopted methods of avoiding conflicts , and do not seek to prolong disputes.

However, I have seen Cluster C personalities frequently involved in disputes aggressively promoted by Cluster B personalities. They often seem to get into relationships with Cluster Bs as the more passive partner — one who tolerates ongoing abuse because of their withdrawing, submissive, or conforming Cluster C personality style.

Eben Gossage was identified as possibly having an Antisocial Personality Disorder. He was able to collect at least 20 committed witnesses on his behalf. Did they all know about his ongoing antisocial behavior — continued violations of the law? Or were they swept up in the emotions of this man who had worked so hard to overcome his past?

Whatever the reason, his drive to become an attorney at the same time as he was continually breaking minor laws kept a dispute going in the courts for almost a decade and ended up before the California Supreme Court.

Betty Broderick was identified as possibly having a Borderline Personality Disorder. At first, she was able to gather a lot of sympathy after she killed Dan Broderick because of her emotional drive. She was a Persuasive Blamer for a long time. It took two juries to convict her of murder, several years after it occurred. While she is no longer that persuasive, she still believes that Dan and Linda are to blame for their own murders. Gloria Green spent two years getting the family court judge to seriously consider — and mostly agree with — her numerous allegations against her husband.

It was not until the final trial that most of her blaming claims were fully analyzed and determined to be unfounded. Mental health researchers have studied cognitive distortions for many years. Common cognitive distortions that appear in high conflict cases include:. Since the cognitive distortions of those with personality disorders generally cause them to interpret events as all external, they desperately seek something or someone else to blame.

It appears to be a sincere, but misplaced, effort to change the cause of their distress and problems. They help generate an Enduring Pattern of Blame, with identifiable characteristics in many disputes. Not all of those with Cluster B personality disorders or traits appear to be Persuasive Blamers. Some of those in therapy are willing to look somewhat at their own behavior and are less likely to focus blame on others. Some in this Cluster are also unpersuasive with their dramatic emotions and cognitive distortions. However, some of those with Cluster B personality disorders or traits become High Conflict Personalities because of their Cluster B characteristics — high intensity emotions, personalization, projection, and so forth.

In most high conflict cases, the Target of Blame is someone with whom the HCP has or had a close relationship.

This is often a spouse, former spouse, neighbor, coworker, business partner, or professional — especially one with whom the HCP had an emotionally close relationship, such as a doctor, lawyer, minister or priest. In divorce cases, the other spouse is an easy Target of Blame for all of the problems in the marriage — and for the divorce. HCPs have difficulty tolerating the idea that these problems could be partially their fault. Society assumes that marriages and divorces are partially the responsibility of both parties, except in cases of extremely bad behavior by one spouse.

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Therefore, High Conflict Personalities blame their former spouses for extremely bad behavior. A wife becomes an unfit mother, a slut, a slouch, a controlling witch, and so forth. A husband becomes a spousal abuser, a child abuser, a deadbeat Dad, or a child molester. In some cases, the HCP knows that the allegations are not true, but feels driven to make them by his cognitive distortions.

He feels he has to dominate her and the children to feel in control in the divorce. These are the extremes of behavior that fit the extremes of emotions the HCP feels. While the average person spends some of their emotional energy on reflection and self-change, HCPs appear to put all of their emotions into attacking their Target — to try to get them to change, to stop doing something, to compensate them for their troubles, or simply to divert attention from their own bad behavior. Therefore, the HCP starts pursuing others to help blame the Target. HCPs are not seeking help for problem-solving ideas and general support.

When High Conflict Personalities are in a conflict, there is nothing to discuss or negotiate. Problem-solving ideas are irrelevant. They are seeking Advocates of Blame. When most people try to give them problem-solving ideas, it is not what they want. It makes them feel disbelieved or partly responsible. Since the HCP cannot tolerate the idea that they might be part of the problem, they will keep searching until they find Advocates who agree with them that they are totally blameless.

In order to be totally blameless, they must get Advocates to agree that there is a Target who is totally blameworthy. Such Advocates can be family members, friends, or professionals. She might become more manipulative — behaving seductively, tearful, helpless, and offering rewards.

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Or she might give up and look elsewhere for another Advocate. The goal of releasing their internal distress gives HCPs enormous energy with which to engage in an ever-escalating, high conflict dispute. Customer Service Representatives have stories about HCPs who call with complaints about the oddest things. Then their emotions escalate. It would be laughable, except that the way the representative handles the call can make the difference between whether the company is sued or not.

Even though the lawsuit may seem frivolous to the company, it may feel deadly serious for the HCP. Even though the HCP may lose the lawsuit, the time and money spent on the case can be enormous. This is an area where training by mental health consultants is invaluable in preventing potential lawsuits for businesses, large and small.

While most potential Advocates may feel empathy for the emotional distress expressed by the HCP, they are not persuaded by the real facts of the dispute. It will take more persuasive facts to win them over. Thus, those with High Conflict Personalities begin to generate distorted information that fits how they feel.

Their feelings create their facts. While mental health professionals often recognize this, most businesspersons and legal professionals truly do not understand.