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Bermuda Triangle Arguments

Bermuda Triangle Arguments

Have you had one of those Bermuda Triangle arguments? Also known as “How to get lost in an argument and not find a way out.” We’ve all been caught in those baffling arguments that seem to go nowhere, mostly because the directional arrows of who is to blame and right or wrong keep getting switched. Children are masters of this! It’s as though they have been given the manuscript.

Take a look at the three roles. Think of them as hats that each of us wear, and consider how we keep switching them:

Victim:  The hat would say, “Poor me.”

Perpetrator: The hat would say, “This is your fault.”

Rescuer:  The hat would say, “I am just trying to help.”

In any given argument we can wear all three hats and they just keep switching from head to head. What is extra baffling is when two people wear all three hats at different times.

Here’s an example.

“I told your dad you would go with him. You’ve been saying you missed him.” Mom is rescuer.

“Mom! I’ve already promised to go with Chelsea!” Daughter is victim. “You always do that. You never ask me first.” Daughter becomes perpetrator.

Which of course makes mom the victim.

“Well you didn’t tell me you had plans. I can’t do anything to please you,” says Mom who is now the perpetrator. Which will make the daughter the victim.

And so it goes.

Each time someone changes his/her hat, the other person changes his/hers as well. Each speaker can wear multiple hats with one sentence. Everyone gets lost in these arguments . . . like in the Bermuda triangle.

The way out of this? Don’t enter the triangle. Don’t put on the first hat.

The resolution to this one would have been when the child said the first fighting words “always” and “never.” Mom could explain she didn’t know and maybe even apologize. If mom can respond with, “Well, we can work this out.” and not react to being accused, she will steady the argument and work to a resolution.

When the mom in this story started with “You never told me,” she put on the perpetrator hat.

While it may be true that the daughter never told her, telling the daughter at that point is putting on a hat.  Mom was defending herself because she felt like a victim. A better solution would be after they solve the dilemma for mom to say, “Why don’t we think about a calendar on the fridge where we write all of this down?”

Always keep in mind, the person with the most power to change things and create the template for how to communicate is the parent. Expect your child to put on the hats. Discipline yourself not to do that.

FYI – In couple’s therapy, this is one of the first sessions in order to help folks understand why arguments fail. So you and your spouse may want to discuss this and practice with your communications first.

Question: Now that you know the hats, can you remember getting lost in the Bermuda Triangle? Tell us how.

Dr. Deborah Maxey has a private practice in Lynchburg Virginia where she works with families and individuals. She helps train foster parents, works with abused and neglected children and is an expert witness in court for Attachment and Trauma.

Join us at www.just18summers.com for our parenting blog each Monday-Friday and for info about the Just 18 Summers novel.

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