Divorce and the Target of Blame

Some people who are facing a contentious divorce may be in that position because they are coined as having high conflict personalities. The high conflict person can be very draining to those who are close to them or to the professionals who are working with them because they have the ability to hook the other in by making the other their target of blame. According to Bill Eddy, the guru of the High Conflict Personality, you know you’ve been hooked by the HCP as a target of blame when you:

  • feel shame as if you have done something wrong
  • you feel the fight, flight or freeze survival instincts
  • become defensive and have a need to blame the high conflict person
  • believe you have to prove yourself to be right
  • feel upset that the high conflict person is “getting away with something”.

Bill Eddy suggests that when you are the target of blame for a high conflict person that you: “remind yourself that it’s unconscious.  This high-conflict behavior isn’t a conscious process for the HCP.  He or she is not ‘knowingly’ taking advantage of you.  His or her actions are driven by unconscious personality patterns.  This doesn’t mean that everything they do is unconscious.  Most HCP’s have lied about something and knowingly engaged in behavior that’s improper.  But they’re driven to do these bad things for unconscious reasons.”

Mr. Eddy reminds us that the High Conflict Personality has always had a target of blame. There has been someone before you and there will be someone after you. This behavior is a pattern for the HCP so that they can remain distracted from their own grief and their own historical fears. Whether you are the HCP’s divorcing spouse or other family member, friend, attorney, mental health professional, you need to be ready for the possibility of becoming their target of blame and work to not get hooked.

Collaborative Divorce is an efficient approach for working with a High Conflict Personality because there is the powerfully safe environment of the professional team to deal with the challenge from a multidimensional perspective. The lawyers and the neutral Financial Specialist help the HCP neurologically move from the mid-brain (fight, flight or freeze center) up to the left cortex where higher, rational, concrete thinking can take place. The Coach can help the HCP recognize and manage intense negative emotions. The Child Specialist can help the HCP to reprioritize his/her thinking and remember to put the needs of the children in the forefront.  If you work in the field of divorce, Collaborative Divorce training is essential for less taxing, more gratifying work. There is a three-day training coming up on February 2-4, 2012 in Pomona, CA. Here is the direct link to sign up:


If you are the divorcing spouse of a High Conflict Personality, please consider getting a Collaborative Divorce. It will help your restructuring family to transition more peacefully. It will focus on the well-being of your children and place your divorce in the context of a normal transition in today’s world.

Writing this blog reminds me of a very meaningful statement by Wayne Dyer. “All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you.” Please keep this in mind when working with a HCP. It will help you avoid getting hooked.

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