How to drive people crazy

In his Conscious Business audio book, Fred Kofman lays out the steps to drive people crazy based on prior research on schizophrenia. The steps are as follows –

1. Start by establishing that the other person is dependent on you. Make it clear that the other person would not be able to fend for themselves without you (this is effectively the first step to the bullying)

2. Phase I of the “double bind” – establish an objective and a consequence. An example objective consequence would be – “I want you to take more risks. You play it too safe. If you don’t do that, I will <insert consequence>.”

3. Phase II of the “double bind” – establish a contrary objective with a consequence.” The example here would be – “I want you to not fail. Your failure costs you and us so much. If I find you failing, I will <insert consequence>.”

4. Phase I of the myth of discussion – make it clear you aren’t willing to discuss any objection to your contrary goals. The moment they bring up the apparent contradiction, refuse to discuss it by becoming angry and blaming it on them. “This is exactly what you always do – you always cause trouble and ruin the peace.”

5. Phase II of the myth of discussion – pretend that everything can be discussed. At the same time, pretend that you are always open to discussing things. “In our family, everything can be talked about in the dinner table.”

I took away a few notes from this –

1. The research on schizophrenia shows that the environment plays a big role in the condition. Typically, it is caused by people around the victim who engage in the pattern of behavior described above.

2. Why do people put up with this clear contradiction? It takes maturity to step up and say – “Hey, what you’ve told me makes no sense as they contradict each other.” It feels obvious from the outside but it isn’t.

3. I say this because I spent some time in an environment that was very similar. And, yet, as obvious as it might be now, I didn’t have the courage to stand up and call it out.

4. When we read notes on extreme behavior like this, we tend to file it away as “not relevant.” However, it is likely that every one of us has worked in a company that has exhibited this behavior. That is why I picked the “Take risks.. but don’t fail” example. It is very common. Fred Kofman calls this “organizational schizophrenia.”

drive people crazy, contradictions(Thank you Dilbert!)

5. The principle behind this is the power of inconsistency of messages to mess with our minds. Something for us to keep in mind as leaders, managers, parents and teachers. Or, as Fred Kofman puts it, now that you know what it takes, don’t do it. :-)

4 thoughts on “How to drive people crazy”

  1. Thank you for sharing, Rohan. As a child of emotional (an physical) abuse, I can relate to this post on a personal level.

    This is especially true for the first step: “establish that the other person is dependent on you” since kids are inevitably dependent on their parents.What you pointed out is also called gaslighting, where you manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.

    For adults, I believe manipulations such as these would work best on those who are under appreciated and with low-self esteem.

    You pointed the obvious yet so many of us fell into this trap.


Comments are closed.