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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

Crazy Mind Games

mindgamesDo you have someone in your life who plays crazy mind games?  Are you at the point where you realize something is wrong, you know something bad is happening, you know it’s a pattern, but then, you really can’t pinpoint the problem and you certainly don’t know what to do about it? Chances are, the person playing with your mind is someone close to you, a boyfriend or girlfriend, spouse, parent, child, sibling, or maybe even a boss or coworker.  It is probably someone you come in contact with frequently, someone who holds some degree of power and/or influence in your life, and someone you feel like you are constantly “chasing after his or her approval.”

While crazy mind games can be as individual as the person acting them out, there are some common types of typical mind games that your particular loved one uses.  Read the following list and see if you can identify any that commonly come your way:

  • Unsatisfying Response to Dialogue.  While most people can carry on a conversation with relative ease and lack of complication, the person playing crazy mind games will often make replies to your sentences by saying something emotionally dysregulating, loaded, and full of implication and blame.  Oftentimes, the person cannot even answer an uncomplicated question with a yes or no response.  You may find yourself trying to gain simple information from this person to no avail.  You leave the conversation feeling stymied, guilty, and worse for the wear.
  • Ad Hominem Attacks.  These are attacks directed toward your worth and character  rather than the position you are maintaining.  For instance, you say, “I think we should all sit down together at meal times without any electronics.”  He or she replies, “That’s because you’re a control freak.”  The merits of your opinion are not even considered and you are shut down and attacked in the process.
  • Cognitive Dissonance.  People who play mind games are crazy makers, which means, they make those around them feel crazy.  Cognitive dissonance is an internal battle between your thoughts and feelings, caused by the experience of knowing something is one way, while the other person is telling you it’s another.  Crazy makers’ attitudes and body language do not match their words, and they constantly invalidate your opinions and emotions.  These behaviors cause you to feel crazy.
  • Dramatic Exits.  Some mind game players like to be very bombastic about their non-sensical position, carrying on as if the argument were a life or death situation, and then, when it’s your turn to respond, the crazy maker leaves abruptly.  Or, some like to just stare at you silently prior to leaving.  Either way, the feelings left in the air are both unsettling and shocking.  You, stunned, ask yourself, “What just happened?”
  • Inability to Resolve Conflicts.  People who like to play mind games tend to both cause and thrive on conflict – all the while blaming you and accusing you of being the one who causes the problems.  Crazy makers will not resolve any conflict, ever, because it’s just one more dramatic way to control you and the situation, avoid responsibility, and do whatever the hell they want!
  • Guilt Trips.  Guilt trips are a common form of manipulation tactic, and are very effective.  If your loved one uses guilt trips, you are frequently struggling with a sense of false guilt and false responsibility for his or her feelings.  Guilt trips are very effective means of controlling others.
  • Creating Scenarios Where You Fail.  It’s a no-win situation with these people, and they like it that way.  As long as you lose, they win.  As long as you’re bad, they’re superior and smug.  You are their convenient scapegoat.
  • Bait and Switch Tactics.  Your loved one seems to be “normal” and kind and is treating you well.  You are having a conversation that seems to be working.  Your trust level is up and  your guard is down – when all of a sudden, out of the blue, maybe you “triggered” him or her, maybe you didn’t; he or she is flying off the handle, running away, or giving you the silent treatment.  What just happened?  Why did this happen?  Who knows.  But one thing is certain, this is just one more crazy mind game used by people who are toxic and incapable of healthy interpersonal relationships.

All of these strategies serve four main purposes for the crazy maker:  power, control, and evasion from responsibility and self-reflection.  As you experience all of this nonsense, you become willing to give up and shut up.  It gets to the point that its just not worth it for you to even try talking to these people.  In essence, they win.  If you spend too much time with these types of people you end up losing yourself, becoming numb, and living a shell of an existence.  The healthiest things you can do are to put up boundaries, do not personalize their behaviors, and disengage from the madness.

When you do have an encounter with the difficult person in your life for any length of time, it is advised that you find a safe person to “detox” with after the occurrence, because each encounter is like a little trauma and you need to recover.


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Crazy Mind Games

Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Southern California ( Lifeline Counseling is a non-profit organization 501(c)(3) corporation. Sharie is also an abusive relationship recovery coach -


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APA Reference
Stines, S. (2016). Crazy Mind Games. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 25, 2020, from