29/01/2010

Nasty People (by Jay Carter)

I'd never heard of Jay Carter - he's a psychologist, apparently quite well-known in the USA. I doubt if I'd ever have picked up this book even if I'd seen it, since the title is a little off-putting. But a friend lent it to me, saying it was worth reading.

'Nasty People' is actually a bit of a mis-nomer. The book is about the behaviour called 'invalidating' - when someone puts another person down, manipulating them emotionally for their own means. And, as Carter points out, probably everyone indulges in this kind of thing occasionally; perhaps when feeling hurt, or when insecure.

He suggests that as many as 20% of the population do this regularly, perhaps without realising it, and that around 1% are truly 'nasty' - invalidating others deliberately. I find it hard to believe that it's as many as 1 in 100. I'm not sure I've ever come across anyone that unpleasant.

However, it's certainly true that invalidating behaviour crops up time and again. It's all too easy to use when feeling cornered, or hurt in some way. The author claims that those who do it the most - including the really nasty ones - were probably themselves invalidated as children.

He also explains who the 'victims' are - those who allow the 'invalidators' to walk over them. Sometimes they're married to each other, in an unpleasantly co-dependent relationship. And he gives techniques for rising above invalidation - using humour, perhaps, or even turning the invalidation back on the invalidator. Most of all, not taking things personally seems to be of the essence.

I found the book very readable; the style is chatty and friendly, and it's quite fast-paced. I also found it thought-provoking; I hope it will help me spot invalidating behaviour in myself and others in future. It would be very useful for anyone in a relationship that involves invalidation, and also for parents of children who are being bullied or manipulated in some way, perhaps at school.

Recommended.

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