Few things are more distracting than constant drama in an intimate relationship; and yet, when we can pull back and see where our power and responsibility lie, we can act with courage and discernment, and we can rebuild our life—with or without that person in it—in a way that supports us.
I have received many letters and had many students ask how to defeat, destroy or escape their crazymakers over the years. I have seen many crazymakers leave, mellow and even heal through the use of creativity tools—either when they use the tools themselves or when their intimate other uses the tools and thus changes the dynamic of the relationship.
It is unlikely that you can change your crazymaker. But you can come to understand why the connection to this person is so strong for you, and you can slowly expand, soothe and mend yourself. You can distance yourself physically, emotionally or spiritually. You can pull away, pull back into your own power and your own right to make decisions for yourself. When you change, you change the situation. Any intense relationship works like a mobile: You cannot move one piece without affecting the others. So while the situation may feel dire and you may feel powerless, you do hold the potential to alter it.
One of the key elements in understanding our relationship to our crazymaker is to understand what we are getting out of it. A crazymaker is a giant distraction, but the unvarnished truth is this: Most of the time, we use our relationship with our crazymaker to block our own next creative or positive action.
Simon, a designer, married a very controlling person who worked in finance and was quick to dismiss Simon’s art as a “frivolous” career that was only as valuable as the money it made. Because Simon’s income was very erratic and his spouse’s was very steady, Simon found himself in the position again and again of feeling “less than”—and his spouse was happy to point it out. Simon had long wanted to try costume design, but when he spoke of this, his spouse rattled off a list of logical—and toxic—questions. How will you do that? You aren’t that kind of designer. You’d have to learn a lot to do that. How will that ever make money? On and on, until Simon felt it was easier to ignore the whole idea than to talk about it.
As I watched Simon, who was deeply creative and wildly talented, move more and more into a passive state, I felt devastated. His crazymaking spouse was a baffling choice for him on the surface. What did they possibly have in common? But beneath the surface, I saw that Simon had a deep fear of risk. Though his dreams and desires were large, he was afraid to make a step toward them. And though his spouse was a crazymaker and he felt that he was “shrinking” in the relationship, she let him solidly off the hook. If he wanted to stay blocked, there was scarcely a surer way than to spend his life with a person who would knock his ideas down faster than he could.
As painful and scary as it is to live with a crazymaker, it often feels more painful to face what we want to avoid. Crazymakers thrive on doubt, and it is our self-doubt that causes us to align with crazymakers in the first place. Each new volley of disparagement engenders more self-doubt. “Maybe they’re right. Maybe I am stupid,” we think. The poisonous barbs do their trick.
Few distractions are as powerful as someone in our immediate circle voicing doubt and casting wrenches into our path. But once we begin to act in our own best interest, the crazymaker’s grip—or the urge to make others crazy—lessens. It takes deep honesty and great courage to break this cycle, but a page at a time, a conversation at a time, we pry loose their grip on us. As we record our own perceptions, we are no longer victimized by the crazymaker’s crazy version of reality.
Cool Mona Note: If you deal with crazymakers, you’ll probably need to eat a lot of Margarita Pie.