The hardest thing to “get” about hostile or high conflict personalities (HCPs) is that they lack an awareness of how they contribute to their own problems. They honestly view other people as causing the way they feel and the way they act.
“She makes me feel this way.” “He made me do it.” They think they have to react the way they do, in order to protect themselves or to connect with people without feeling extremely vulnerable psychologically. They may be aware that other people react negatively to them, but they think that it’s everyone else’s fault.
Sure, they may be aware that they are lying sometimes or manipulating sometimes. But they feel that they have to lie and manipulate, because of unmanaged fears within themselves that they are not aware of. And you can’t tell them that! And you can’t change them! Trying to point out these hidden feelings will most likely trigger an intense rage against you. They’re hidden for a reason. For many HCPs, this pattern of behavior is the result of childhood abuse. They learned that it didn’t matter whether they were bad or good – they still got physically hit, verbally abused, ignored, neglected or otherwise abused. They grew up learning that aggressive behavior is how you solve problems.
For other HCPs, it is a result of being raised with a strong sense of entitlement and exaggerated self-esteem. They learned that it didn’t matter whether they were good or bad – they still got what they wanted! This seems to have increased in society since the 1970’s with the increased emphasis on self-esteem. While having low self-esteem is a bad thing, too much self-esteem is also a bad thing – if it teaches people that they are superior to others and that they can get whatever they want, without learning skills and without working for it.
In both cases, abuse or entitlement, HCPs have not learned that their own behavior creates or worsens the conflict situations they are in. In many ways, this is a disability, as HCPs can’t see the connection between their own actions and how others respond to them. They don’t know how to solve relationship problems, so they make things worse and don’t understand why they feel so miserable so much of the time. They turn these feelings into blaming others – and staying upset. Because blaming others doesn’t solve problems.