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Dealing with Bitchiness and Nasty Sarcasm

Bitchiness and Nasty Sarcasm, like any lashing out or meanness, are signs of sorrow and pain, or frustration, or not wanting to face a reality that doesn’t fit with current personal paradigms.

The first key, for the person on the outside, dealing with them is to remain as emotionally detached as one can. This is not something I say lightly, it can be very unpleasant when someone you love or think a lot of lashes out verbally. If it is someone we admire and want to admire us, angry or mean words can be deeply disturbing. Not taking someone’s words personally, when we care or want to help, is hard. Really hard. However, maintaining some sense of emotional distance is essential. If we can’t manage immediately, perhaps over time – remembering that annoying adage, what they say and do is more indicative of their personal state than your own.

The second key is to find the underlying cause: Not to fix it or to try and rescue, the people being nasty, from it but simply in order to understand. To be able to listen to their words, not literally, but for the underlying message of pain.

1. Emotional Disconnection.
When someone is feeling emotionally disconnected they are in deep despair. They feel intense loneliness and fear that they will always feel this way. They often cannot see any way out of this.

2. Lack of Autonomy, Feeling Powerless or Lack of Playtime.
People who feel they have no control over too many aspects of their lives, or really important aspects of their lives, or who lack downtime, experience intense frustration with the world. They lash out as a way of expressing the intensity of sensation within their bodies. They may not even realise that the discomfort is in their bodies, not outside them being inflicted upon them.

3. Facing an Unwanted Reality.
When people are bitchy or nastily sarcastic, it is often triggered by an external ‘mirror.’ They see someone doing better than they are, in some area of their lives.
They see someone happier than they are, in some area of their lives.
They experience someone saying, No, or setting a reasonable boundary, when they thought that person was ‘perfect’ or always going to agree with them, or they are used to doing something, that is no longer appropriate or acceptable due to a change in age or development or situation.

The third key is to hold our ground. Not in a mean way or to teach a lesson, or to punish the other. The discomfort in the other is intense, and they do not need any further pain. This key is about not accepting the behaviour…all the while accepting the person.

An example could be children, in a classroom, who feel emotionally detached from their parents. Let’s say their whole sense of self is caught up in being ‘the best’ or ‘the richest’ or ‘the best looking’ or ‘the sweetest’ or whatever. And then another child out
‘bests,’ ‘riches,’ ‘beautifuls,’ ‘sweets’ them.

The reality shakes their core and they will try to hurt the other, to make the other lesser so as to restore their sense of well-being.


Once the initial situation is dealt with, then we need to look at how to support these people.

1. We emotionally connect through warm, non-intrusive touch and warm, non-intrusive eye-contact. We use stories and rituals and daily rhythms that tie these people to a group in a positive way.

2. We ensure they have time to choose during their day. We give them options. We allow downtime where they do not have to be conscious.

3. We always expect they are making gains towards ways of maintaining relationship and their own personal sense of self, even when they slip.

We could think of it as an elevator climbing a shaft very slowly. The roof does not move in order to accommodate it but all the while it is climbing the floors until it reaches the penthouse. Where the good stuff lives.


(When the elevator doesn’t want to move? We sometimes have to walk away.)

Posted in All About Tantrums, For Adults | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bitchiness and Nasty Sarcasm – Bullying TANTRUMS of Sad People

I’ve talked a lot about Karpman’s  Drama Triangle and how those nonconscious (learned but automated) and embedded patterns (they are in place by the age of four or five) can muck up our parenting, without us even realising it. This post went viral: TANTRUMS: Do You Make Them Worse or Help Them Ease?

(This is all true for our adult relationships, too.)

It is a a sure sign that people are caught up in the drama of relationship when they are either bitchy or nastily sarcastic (as opposed to the fun of sarcasm when we are bantering or teasing with the intention to amuse and emotionally connect). These are the people for whom the identification and expression of their emotions has been messed-up.

For these people, the sensations of discomfort created by either seeing, hearing or doing something they are not familiar with, or that challenges their core-beliefs, are huge. They might also feel uncomfortable when they are faced with a real consequence or information they don’t like, or when they see someone who is succeeding in some way, that they are not – relationship, academic, financial, health, promotions etc.

They have little practise at identifying their own emotions, which, like all of us, begin as sensations in their bodies. They don’t know what to do with the discomfort. They might not be able to tell anyone else they feel uncomfortable. They might not even be able to consciously identify those sensations as discomfort.

Despite what many of us think, they don’t feel uncomfortable because they feel threatened. They feel threatened because they feel so uncomfortable; they experience their bodies as unsafe places to be. The discomfort comes first.  And they don’t like it. And they want it to go away. And they have no idea the discomfort is inside themselves. So they identify a ’cause’ or target and lash out.

In our society, where violence is not an acceptable way to deal with our problems, one of two things happens – or sometimes a combination of both – they either become subversive with their physical attacks, ensuring others don’t see them hurt the other – or they become verbally abusive, perhaps pretending to be sweet all the while meaning something very different. This is passive-aggressive behaviour and it’s very unpleasant and can be deeply damaging for those on the receiving end.

As far as Karpman Roles are concerned, consider these:

The Victim: This is not the actual victim, who is on the other side of the bitchiness and sarcasm, this is the person who is taking the role of a Victim.  As soon as someone challenges their role in a mean or bullying situation, they do their very best to twist the situation around so that they appear innocent or blameless. They might pout and make their eyes all big and surprised-like. They might cry. They might stop taking care of themselves. They will try to find someone or something else to blame . They will lie.  The more they are challenged, or believe they are not being allowed to slip into this role, the more desperate and extreme their behaviour will become.

The Rescuer: This person won’t try to help the actual victim, they will comfort the person taking the Victim stance. They make it their job to keep the Victim happy and reassure them that they have done nothing wrong. They will help the Victim to blame the real victim or the person/people challenging them. They will perpetrate any lies the Victim invents. They give up their own identity to protect their relationship with the Victim, even though it’s a very unhealthy (possibly codependent) relationship.

The Persecutor: Anyone who challenges the Victim about their bitchiness or other nastiness toward the real victim will be labelled as a Persecutor by the Victim and Rescuer.

Persecutor is also the label a Victim will give to someone who stops Rescuing them. (Got that? It’s a bit confusing, I know.)

The real persecutors are those being bitchy or nasty, feel uncomfortable, find a target and lash out.

What happens, more often than we would like to accept, I suspect, is that when we are asked to deal with a bitch or a bully, is that we too take on a role in the Drama Triangle.

It’s easy to forget we are observers and need to stay observers. Too easily and too often, we become part of the problem. Too often, we see what we want to see. People are built to find evidence that supports what they already believe.


We might become Persecutors, and blame the real victim.

We might become another Rescuer, and try to save the real persecutor who is acting the role of a Victim. Even if we don’t do that, if we take on this role (and it can be difficult not to) it is likely we will pat ourselves on the back when we come up with a solution that suits us or seems right to us. This is not because we are mean or any more self-centered that anyone else, it is just because we have become involved and have forgotten to remain detached observers. Or we didn’t realise that was a more appropriate role.

We might become a Victim, and remind everyone just how much we are doing and how hard we work and how it’s not easy being a parent/teacher/boss, and how we didn’t get enough sleep last night, and how our husband ran away with another woman, and how the financial pressures we are facing are immense and how our childhood wasn’t ideal and how the cat vomitted on the carpet this morning and blah, blah, blah.

Yeah, nah. None of these are helpful.

As a parent, I know how much we all want to believe our own children are telling the truth. They want us to believe that too. What we think of them, matters to them. For some children, it’s a desperate need to feel connected and protected that will drive them to be bitchy, nasty or otherwise bully. It’s not attention, it’s a plea for emotional connection, freedom to explore at their own pace, and/or sensible edges to their world.

What to do instead?

…Next Post…

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Food Harvesting with my Boys – My Latest at World Moms Blog

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TANTRUMS: Helping Kids When They Dig Themselves Into A Hole

All relationships go through times of emotional disconnection. This is natural and normal and part of being one human living with other humans. When our children tantrum, whatever the reason, these are times when they feel disconnected from us.

Sometimes their tantrums are accompanied by another need, as when they are tired or hungry(Reaction Tantrums). Sometimes their tantrums are more about learning that the world has edges and they cannot always do what they would like to do (Processing Tantrums).  All tantrums are about having big sensations in their bodies that they would like to go away – some need more soothing (Reaction Tantrums) and  some need to be completed to that new information can be integrated into their neural pathways (Processing Tantrums). They all feel bad.


During any kind of tantrum, our children need to know they can find their way back to us. They need to know, deep inside, they are still good and worthy, even if some of their behaviour is unacceptable. They need to know how to emotionally reconnect after disconnection. They need to know how to make things better. Their ability to do this will determine how well they can manage their adult relationships. It’s a big deal.

Some children, those I call Owls, get very stubborn when they are tantruming. They get so overwhelmed by the big sensations in their bodies, and their ability to think rationally can be so far off-line, that they dig themselves into deeper and deeper holes.  That is, they make things worse for themselves, even when they desperately want to make things better. Helping these kids to calm and emotionally reconnect takes a bit of conscious parenting. Here’s a process that seems to work for our Owl child:

1.  Stay calm and take nothing they say or do personally. It’s NOT about you or your internal needs or dramas. Imagine you are observing the situation, not participating in it.


2. State the situation clearly and with as little emotion as you can manage. “You are not having ice-cream for breakfast, it’s not a healthy start to the day.” OR “You’re hungry, I know, we’ll get you some food as fast as we can but all the same, you’re not allowed to hurt your brother.”

3. As frequently as you can, make warm, non-intrusive, eye-contact. It can also be good to hold them in your arms, with their backs snuggled into your tummy – when they relax, you relax, when they tense you hold a little firmer – not to hurt them, just to contain them. This helps them to feel the edges of their bodies. (They will probably hurt you and complain you are holding them too hard.) During this time you could remind them that you love them, in a calm voice but stop them from kicking, pinching, biting etc. They might say all sorts of mean things in return. Ignore those things, you’re the observer – not a participant.

4. If they go and hide somewhere, follow them and remind them you love them and you are available for a cuddle as soon as they are ready. Then leave them to it. You could pop back every now and again to remind them that you love them, but it works best – long-term, if they come to you, rather than you going to them. (You’re NOT a Rescuer you’re an Enabler.)

5. Snap them out of the tantrum in some way.

(A) You could try ‘Random Words and Phrases’ as Hand in Hand Parenting suggests – where you call out anything that will give their brain an alternative picture to focus on. “Red Noses!” “Hairy Elephant Legs!” etc But often these make Owl children more angry, so then try…

(B) Distract them by suggesting to someone else that they go and do something pleasant, within the upset one’s hearing. “Why don’t you go and play with Jason?” said to Joe, can make Sam re-emerge from his anger. You might need to try something different each time.

(C) Divert them by reminding them they can hit the pillows in their bedroom as much as they like but they are not to hit the cat, etc.

6. Carry on with something else, remove your focus from them: prepare the food if they are hungry; help them into bed, if they are tired; fold the washing or continue with the grocery-shopping if you are simply setting a boundary.

7. Expect them to apologise. Of course, apologies can be ‘just words’ but you can easily say, “I don’t believe you mean that just now.” People cannot genuinely apologise until they feel better themselves. You’ll know when they are feeling real remorse, then you have a lovely snuggle, makes loads of eye-contact and emotionally reconnect. They don’t have to apologise about being hungry…how silly would that be? But for any mean-ness or any hurt they have caused. (Whether you believe in asking children to apologise or not; it is the way adults in the western world are expected to begin repairing relationships. I believe it is a skill to be taught and practised as much as learning to use the washing-machine or balance their cheque-books.)

6. Expect them to ask, “How can I make it better?” For some situations, it’s enough to have the genuine apology. For other situations, payment for repairs or help to clean up the tantrum mess might be more appropriate. (Always work alongside them, so it is a re-connective process.)

7. Never mention it again, unless they raise the topic.

{About a week after I wrote this, my lovely Owl (Sam) managed to dig himself into a hole about who was going to open one of our gates. He wasn’t going to do ‘that’ gate no matter what, but when his four yo brother, Ed, said he would have a go at it, Sam quickly volunteered to help if Ed had any problems managing, and did. He found a way out of his hole before he got in too deep. If I had pushed the issue, instead of waiting for that to happen, he would have simply dug himself in deeper and he would have had no relief from the stress he was experiencing in that hole. And I’d still be sitting in the car waiting for the gate to be opened.

The intense stubbornness these kids display can be immensely frustrating for parents and teachers…perhaps until we realise, it’s a sign of stress and feeling overwhelmed and we have to give them breathing space in order for them to calm, and manage the situation.}

For more innovative and science based information on parenting, in particular tantrums, you could go and buy my book – All About Tantrums: Why we have them, How to prevent them, What to do when they happen. There’s the link riiiiiiiiight there:

‘All About Tantrums’ is also now available for Kindle.

(The advertising on this page is all about WordPress. I have no control over it, nor do I get any money from it.)

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