Intimidating comebacks

A psychological fighting stance is all about emotional balance: self-acceptance, abiding by your own moral code (something you’re probably doing anyway), forgiving yourself for failing to reach perfection (this is rarer), and, finally, offering yourself as much compassion as you’d give a beloved friend (I suspect some of us need work in this department). This works because cruelty, to be effective, has to land on a welcoming spot in the victim’s belief system.

Guy mocked Theresa’s age and lack of physical fitness because he knew she hated those things about herself. Cruelty, whether physical or emotional, isn’t normal.

You’ll no longer watch helplessly as some Mean Guy emotionally abuses his wife—even if you happen to be the wife in question. Well, you are if meanness has pushed you to the point of anger or despair.Mean people are adept at adopting the tone of a critical parent, making others unconsciously regress into weak, worried children. Instead, use the only thing that trumps the emotional power of a bad parent: the emotional power of a good one. As Guy served cake and cruelty, Theresa’s older sister Wendy spoke up.“Now, Guy,” she said, in precisely the tone Supernanny uses with kids on TV, “that kind of petty meanness doesn’t become you.But right now the lessons of my life are coming in handy for you.” This response stops the daughter cold, partly because it’s true and partly because it contains not a whiff of pushback.The mother zigs when the daughter expects her to zag. If you keep a balanced stance and surround yourself with normal people, you’ll eventually master the black belt skill I’ve named Wicked-Kind Parent.“Don’t worry, hon,” said Theresa’s husband, Guy, when she failed to extinguish all her birthday candles in one breath.

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