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Hate Being the Bogey Man?

Then Give up These Four Things!

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Being cast as the bogey man is hurtful, crushing and upends your sense of reality. Your self-esteem and sense of value is threatened. Being the bogey man in your romantic relationship can wear you down into a beleaguered timid powerless victim OR make you want to fight to prove that you are being unfairly burned at the stake as a saint.

Either way you lose. You remain the bogey man.

There are many reasons for your partner to make you into the bogey man, but it’s important to recognize that some part of you is hell bent on proving your goodness even if you get burned and scarred. There is an interplay between your partner needing to cast you as the bogey man and your need to transform that casting into a guardian angel.

What’s in it for your partner to make you the bogey man?

Fiona, a 37-year old deputy principal of an arts charter school interacted with her husband in familiar derogatory terms. The lens through which she saw him was coated with irresponsibility, untrustworthiness, unreliability and most of all inattentiveness to her and what she wanted. She wasn’t even aware she was doing it; it was just the way she related to him.

Making David, her 39-year old journalist husband into the bogey man was very useful:

• If he’s the bogey man then she is the good, dutiful righteous one. She gets to feel good about herself.

• If David’s the bogey man then everything that doesn’t go her way and turns bad becomes his fault. Fiona doesn’t need to look at her part in uncomfortable outcomes.

• With David being the bogey man Fiona needn’t learn from her mistakes and grow. After all, it’s all his fault, so why should she change?

• Every time she feels bad she has a convenient receptacle to vomit out all the toxic stuff inside that makes her feel awful. That allows her to reset and get on with life – until she fills up with intense negative emotions again.

What’s in it for David to be cast as the bogey man in this repetitive drama?

• He gets to fight the good fight, be the brave soldier, do his duty toward the relationship, in the hope of recognition and reward.

• David has a desperate need for validation and approval. With Fiona throwing muck at him, he is incentivized to be a paragon of perfection so that she can’t but recognize, approve and validate his commitment, loyalty and fealty in their partnership.

• He gets to see himself as the long standing sufferer and martyr who despite all odds, puts up with the witch that Fiona is, feels accomplished and proud of himself.

• David can get sympathy and care from others because of the way Fiona demonizes him, while he provides for the family, doesn’t cheat or do anything without running it past her.

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What makes Fiona and David a good match in the bogey man script?

Yes, they are a good match.

Both are having unconscious needs met, but not in a way that they can be metabolized for growth into mature stages of life.

Neither of them received the crucial parenting in infancy and toddlerhood where their massive emotions were named, tamed, un-shamed and absorbed. So both had to live with toxic emotions disfiguring their lives and stunting their personal growth.

Until they met – then their unconscious minds saw opportunities to have what they missed out on as little ones.

Fiona saw in Dennis a deep well where she could evacuate all her bad feelings, without fear of having them thrown back. She could separate the good and the bad. He was the ideal bogey man. All the bad stuff could be laid on him.

If only her parents had absorbed and metabolized her feeling when she was small, she would now be able to tolerate that she has good and bad parts as did everyone else. It was Dennis who seemed to be able to tolerate her bad stuff, until she could make the transition into the more realistic stage of development.

Dennis saw in Fiona someone who was hard to please. So any praise would be valuable and worth more than the pats on the back his colleagues gave him. Being the bogey man for Fiona was an opportunity to replay and try to complete the unfinished business of his childhood where his mother was permanently sharp, critical and demanding, and never satisfied. His efforts to please her and get the approval and recognition of his mother – essential to his sense of self as a good enough person to go out and live life to the full. So being Fiona’s bogey man was his crucible. If he had his basic needs met for validation then he too could move on and accept that he didn’t have to attempt to be all good (perfect) and fight for it by making Fiona all bad.

BOTH FIONA AND DAVID FEEL BAD INSIDE.

FIONA WANTS TO GET RID OF IT BY PUTTING IT OUTSIDE HER AND IN DAVID.

HE WANTS HER TO TRANSFORM HIS SENSE OF BADNESS INTO A SENSE OF GOODNESS, SHINING HIS INNER GEM SO HE CAN SHINE.

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Breaking the cycle of the bogey man drama

Like it or not, Fiona’s need to dump her bad feelings is out of her conscious control, and therefore it is going to be up to David to respond differently, so that she can feel safe enough with clean feelings inside her. David needs to accept that she can’t help it and that he isn’t being personally vilified – merely being used to perform a parenting function that she failed to have at a crucial time in her infancy. David has to be willing to give up certain expectations and hopes in order for the negative bogey man cycle to break.

The main hope for David is to mourn the loss of is that Fiona is able to see him as a human and realize that they are both imperfect – rather than split them into good and bad people

How to engage with a partner who makes you a bogey man

1. Give up trying to prove your good intentions – helps avoid continual failure

2. Give up trying to explain yourself – it can’t and won’t be heard by Fiona who needs to make you the bad guy.

3. Give up the game of scoring points when dredging up the past – Fiona has no capacity for your stuff, because she can barely cope with her own

4. Give up the wish that you can change your loved one’s reality to match your own – as long as she needs you to be the bad guy her reality will never match yours, and the harder you try the worse it gets, making you feel crazy.

Get personal therapy where David’s needs for validation and attempts to feel accomplished through perfection can be humanized and his self-worth properly crafted so that he doesn’t need to be filled up by a single other person.

Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2022

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