False Accusations and Distortion Campaigns

Definition:

False Accusations - Patterns of unwarranted or exaggerated criticism directed towards someone else.

The pointed finger

Almost everyone has felt the injustice of being unfairly accused at one time or another. However, for some people who are close to a Personality-Disordered individual, being falsely accused can be a frequent, almost routine experience.

False Accusations, Distortion Campaigns and Smear Campaigns can all be used with or without a grain of truth, and have the potential to cause enormous emotional hurt to the victim or even impact their professional or personal reputation and character.

What they look like

  • A man who gets sick accuses his wife of trying to poison him.
  • A woman falsely accuses her husband of having an affair and repeats this to everyone in the community.
  • A mother falsely tells friends and neighbors that her daughter has an eating disorder.
  • A teenager files a false police report about one of his parents committing child abuse.

Why they do it

False Accusations can be forms of Baiting, or Proxy Recruitment used by abusers to instigate or win in a dispute.

Sometimes false accusations are used by abusers as a deflection technique, to discredit their victim and promote the idea that the abuse is merited or has been overstated. For example, an abusive parent may tell other relatives the child is a chronic liar and ‘drama queen’.
Some false accusations are rooted in Dissociation – where a Personality-Disordered Individual confuses their feelings with facts.

How it feels

It is a frightening, humiliating and upsetting experience to discover you are a victim of false accusations. When dealing with Personality-Disordered individuals, the nature of the accusations may seem clever and manipulative or may seem illogical or absurd. However the reaction a Non has is usually the same: there is an overwhelming urge to clear your name and set the record straight.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t believe everything a Personality-Disordered person says to you or about you, even when they say they love and care about you. If they are vulnerable to deceiving themselves they will occasionally try to deceive you too.
  • Don’t ask the Personality-Disordered individual to retract their accusations more than once. The goal of the false accusation may be simply to bait you into a fight.
  • Don’t over-analyze false claims. If someone believes something untrue, that is their problem, not yours.
  • Don’t blame yourself for being falsely accused. You are responsible for the truth in your own words, not someone else’s.

What TO do

  • Remind yourself that one person’s opinion of you does not define you.
  • Pay close attention to the way a loved-one talks about other people. That is likely to be the way they will eventually talk about you.
  • Seek out the counsel of wise, caring and supportive people who you can trust to tell you the truth and help you rebuild your self-esteem.
  • If someone says something which you believe isn’t true, it is appropriate to state your truth clearly. Once!

False Accusations, Distortion Campaigns and Smear Campaigns can all be forms of Baiting, Projection orProxy Recruitment.

Baiting - A provocative act used to solicit an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another individual.

Projection - The act of attributing one's own feelings or traits to another person and imagining or believing that the other person has those same feelings or traits.

Proxy Recruitment - A way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing “doing the dirty work”

Examples of False Accusations:

A man accuses his wife of trying to poison him when he gets sick.
A woman accuses her husband of having an affair and tells this to a marriage therapist.
A mother falsely tells friends and neighbors that her daughter has an eating disorder.
A teenager who files a false police report about one of his parents committing child abuse.

It can be a frightening, humiliating and annoying experience when you discover that you are a victim of false accusations. When dealing with personality disordered individuals, the nature of the accusations may seem clever and manipulative or may seem illogical or absurd. However the reaction is usually is the same: there is an overwhelming urge to clear your name and set the record straight.

What NOT To Do:

  • Non-personality-disordered individuals can sometimes be stunned to discover that the personality disordered individual in their lives completely believes a false reality that they have invented. It is common for non-personality-disordered individuals to spend a great deal of effort fruitlessly trying to reason, cajole or argue with a personality disordered individual into “snapping out of it”, “waking up and smelling the coffee” or “facing the facts”. It can be hard for non-personality-disordered individuals to accept that for a person who is dissociating, the denials they are expressing are the facts - at least at that time - for them.
  • Under such circumstances, standard communication or negotiation techniques are ineffective - since they are built on the premise that both parties can agree on what the facts are and can work towards a compromise.
  • Arguing or trying to reason with a person who is dissociating will typically result in a frustratingCircular Conversation.

What TO Do:

  • Accept that each person's reality is their own property and everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe, think what they want to think and experience their own world without intimidation, control or persecution. That applies to the personality-disordered individual in your life and it also applies to you. That will mean you may have to "agree to disagree" on important facts, history or conclusions.
  • Remind yourself that one person's opinion of you does not define you. You are you.
  • Seek out the counsel of wise, caring and supportive people who you can trust to help you rebuild your self-esteem.
  • Visit our Working On Ourselves section for some ideas.
  • If someone says something which you believe isn't true, it is appropriate to declare "I don't see it that way". Once!
  • If you, or any children in your care, are being exposed to abuse of any kind, take appropriate action to protect yourself and your children.
  • After that it is appropriate to walk away from any further discussion and go about living your life in an emotionally and physically safe, healthy, and productive way.