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This book seems to be a mixed bag, but I am compelled to write about it because it has impacted me deeply - raising memories of experiences from my past that I would otherwise prefer be archived in my mind. Sorry Mr. Eddy, but it did indeed scare me as much as inform me.
Eddy's book concretizes in our minds a specific type of person that most of us has experienced to one extent or another. The "High Conflict" personality disorder that the layperson might just write-off as "crazy", "dishonest", "a drama queen" or even "just plain insane"...or more likely, "psycho".
The book is laid out as one would expect, with an introduction and some extreme examples of HCPs (High Conflict Personality), and quickly dives into how one might identify and, if necessary, interact with an HCP. For each of the five types, specific guidance is given for that type.
Finally, there is a section on how to avoid becoming a pawn (Negative Advocate) of an HCP, and a section on some HCP hypothesis and theory, involving evolutionary, psychological, sociological, and environmental possible causes of HCP.
Despite indicating earlier in the book that HCP is not a choice, the author then offers a very-much-needed section on self-awareness and empathy, as well as a "in a nutshell" checklist of emotions and behaviors to watch out for in ones self and others that might be indicative of a high conflict personality.
I'll address my concerns with this book first.
1. Eddy places a massive amount of power in the hands of his readers to diagnose family members, co-workers, and anyone else with a personality disorder. Virtually none of us (particularly those reading this book) is in a position to diagnose other people with mental disorders. Most people, myself included, need to be very aware that throwing around labels such as sociopath, narcissist, paranoid, etc tends to be dehumanizing and is often done by those who do not have the appropriate professional background to do so legitimately.
This book empowers the reader to make these judgements without necessarily having the appropriate background.
Example: Both my wife and I have cracked jokes about my "ADHD Moments". Both of us think we are pretty slick at pinpointing what pop-culture tells us should be an easy, harmless, surface-level diagnosis.
But a professional psych-eval indicated that my "ADD Moments" may just be aspects of my personality and my trying to multi-task mentally. I could have sworn otherwise.
If laypeople are so poor at objectively pinpointing a diagnosis such as ADD - how much weight should be giving our diagnosis of "Paranoid High Conflict Personality" in others?
Eddy does say that "HCP" is "not a diagnosis". But it is treated as such throughout this book, and most readers (myself included) wouldn't know what the difference is - we have neither the formal education nor the requisite background on an individual to make such a call.
2. Bill Eddy's examples seem to range in extremity. While the "Abusive, Histrionic Mother" and "Paranoid, Delusional (and armed!) US Marshall" seem like obvious examples of personality disorders, the descriptions of how to identify these disorders leave a lot of wiggle room. The book neglects to adequately emphasize the care and deliberation required in making the judgements it so empowers the reader to make.
Other identifiers make mis-diagnosis likely. "Behaving Badly" or "Negative Behavior" are very subjective, and just are not good markers for labelling someone. Some of Eddy's examples fall far short in this regard.
Is the person you are judging to be a HCP a teenager who is going through a tough time and trying to figure out who they are? Have they just gone through a particularly traumatic event? Did they just have a baby? Go through a divorce? Is it possible they they just have a different perspective than you, or their stakes are higher due to their situation in life? Is it possible YOU are being a bit too sensitive, and focusing on THEM too much?
Perhaps this is their first job out of college and they truly have a fundamental misunderstanding of how office politics work? Perhaps they are a new mother who is trying to understand an appropriate level of protectiveness for her children?
These are very delicate situations, and just like the HCPs we are supposed to be sniffinig out, the book doesn't care to differentiate. It seems "All or nothing" thinking and "blaming others" is "bad behavior" - unless you are righteously trying to sniff out "HCPs" everywhere you go. Eddy doesn't mention any studies delimited by age until at the very end, where it's mentioned in passing that the youngest group is 20-29!
This is irresponsible, in my opinion.
I know I have friends and family that have seemed, at the time, to be trying to engage in destructive conflict with me. But in hindsight I have often seen the situation to be based more on misunderstanding, or differences in circumstances at the time. Had I written these people off as HCPs, and not revisited the relationship with a different perspective, I may have missed out on a lot of value in my life.
Consistent patterns of manipulation, lack of self-awareness, and dishonesty seem to be hallmarks of Eddy's definition of an HCP, and I wouldn't argue that people exhibiting these attributes don't call for much empathy (a word that isn't emphasized in this book until the last chapter).
However, the book risks labeling healthy people who "stand out" as having a mental disorder:
-Do you sometimes behave in ways 90% of the population doesn't behave? HCP.
-Are you openly passionate about the things that are important to you? HCP.
-Do you have rigid, uncompromising principles? HCP.
-Does someone "act badly" or have "negative behavior"? HCP
-Do you exhibit "extreme behavior (By whose standard, Eddy doesn't say)? HCP.
Bill Eddy claims that HCP is not a "diagnosis" - but every sentence in his book says otherwise. He makes it a label that overrides the humanity of the person being labelled in every way. The overly broad, subjective, qualitative criteria presented here is not buffetted with appropriate caveats and warnings, until the end of the book, where empathy and self-awareness is mentioned in passing.
3. Labelling someone as "An HCP" denies the humanity of the person being labelled. In this context, "humanity" means the ability to learn and change...it means the ability to make mistakes...the ability to grow...the ability to make choices.
Bill Eddy's label of "HCP" becomes everything they are because of the way he uses the term. The person it is applied to no longer a person...they are "An HCP".
Eddy asks many questions...where did HCP come from? Is it biological or environmental? He leaves out more questions...what isn't subjective about one lay-persons HCP diagnosis of another human being? Unfortunately, for how firmly he hammers home the acronym, these questions remain unanswered.
It is easier of course, to write someone off when they are a label and not a person. However, as I have alluded to previously, your HCP may not be someone elses HCP - so perhaps some additional perspective and context and delicacy should be emphasized here.
4. Identifying "Who is an HCP" seems eerily like something that would appeal to an HCP. It is entirely outwardly focused. Identifying the mental health issues in others is entirely second handed, and reeks of an external locus of control.
In fact, I felt a little like an HCP as I scoured my memory for people who might fit the profile. While I certainly have experienced them, I find the temptation to focus on their behavior instead of my own a slide in the wrong direction.
Eddy insists that HCPs can't control what they are. And then he gives tips at the end for how to avoid HCP behavior in one's self. So which is it?
I would recommend a different approach - one that Eddy glosses over near the end of his book in the remarks on self-awareness. Rather than carrying around an "HCP Template" and holding it up to anyone that seems consistently troublesome to you, look inwardly instead.
What are your values? Are they identified hierachically? Do you view your relationships as sacrifices, or mutually beneficial partnerships? If you are unable to say no to people that don't make you "happy, better or money", then what do you need to change about yourself?
Focusing on one's own wellbeing in a healthy, objective manner is at least as healthy, if not healthier, than trying to diagnose others with mental disorders.
This type of philosophical self-awareness takes back seat in this book.
5.The author, Bill Eddy, seems to be on a marketing blitz in which he is desperately trying to get his terminology, particularly "HCP" into common usage.
I find nothing wrong with this, however I would more readily accept this term if it were more broadly accepted across the industry. It would make it feel less "Pop-Culture-ish".
That being said, here is what I appreciate about this book:
1. This book concretizes, for the lay-person, a name for the experiences we have all had: The Crazy-Ex, the Paranoid Drama-Queen at work, the Accusatory Casual Acquaintance, the Fender-Bender victim in a neck-brace, the perpetual Sexual-Harassment victim, the Infinitely Hurt/Sensitive Family Member, etc.
Anyone who has had to deal with the ongoing manipulation, destruction and invasiveness of someone who truly fits the extremes of this profile will instantly understand what this book is talking about.
This book gives it a name, and helps the lay-person conceptualize what would otherwise be hard to describe.
2. Eddy's advice for dealing with an HCP is spot-on. Basically "Find a reason outside of your control that necessitates spending time apart." I know this from experience, but I imagine this would be invaluable advice for anyone encountering this scenario for the first time.
Keep them at arms length. Don't get too involved with them. Show them respect, and keep anything from being personal. Unfortunately for me, it's too late to have learned these from the book. I learned the hard way, but I am pleased that my approach tended to be what Eddy recommends here.
He is absolutely correct that you should never tell an HCP that they are one. However, this should be common sense, of course.
3. Understanding how to avoid becoming a Negative Advocate was particularly useful to me, as a hands-on, empathetic personality who is drawn to action and opportunities to build relationships and add value. The book explains how anyone can be manipulated this way, and understanding this in advance can help one set the right boundaries up front when advocating for others - something many have to do as part of their job.
4. The context added at the end of the book...evolutionary and biological reasons that HCPs may indeed have NEEDED to exist...adds valuable perspective that should probably have been imbedded in the introduction and within each descriptive chapter on the types. Rather than portray this inhuman HCP as some kind of anomaly to be feared and avoided at all costs, this chapter brings us back down to reality.
In conclusion, one overarching demand can be made on all human beings, in my opinion- fidelity to obejctive reality whenever possible. That is, truthfulness in thought and action. HCP or not, a liar will turn your life upside down.
Perhaps it is intentional that Eddy leaves so much to the imagination...everyone reading this book is bound to notice that at least some of the loosely defined, qualitative HCP criteria apply to oneself. However, by the time ones mind reaches that point in the book, we are paralyzed in fear of making an "all or nothing" judgement, or facing the reality that we may not be like "90% of the population", or, god forbid, we might feel strong emotions about these thoughts, be passionate about our perspectives, assert them, argue with people we disagree with, stand up for ourselves, and otherwise do anything else someone might consider "behaving badly" based on whatever arbitrary standards they choose. Eddy does nothing to clarify the situation.
We may not all have psych degrees, but everyone should feel entitled to seek the truth and condemn and avoid those who obfuscate it. Distancing oneself from non-reality seems to be the ultimate goal for anyone in these positions, and in the end Bill Eddy's book helps perhaps a little more than it hurts.
Some additional warnings and caveats to the casual reader might benefit a second edition of this book and prevent some of the pitfalls that thinking in terms of "HCP or not?" might introduce.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Unfortunately, I found myself the target of Sociopaths too many times to count. I decided to buy this book in an effort to figure out why. This should be required reading for anyone that works with people. I learned that being sensitive, caring and vulnerable can make you a target but you don't have to be a victim. And any field can be rife with them, especially the caring professions.