Proxy Recruitment - A way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing “doing the dirty work”
Sometimes attempts to control someone or abuse them are fairly obvious, with Proxy Recruitment however, manipulation of others is used to achieve the same aim in a highly secretive way.
Friends, colleagues, or family members may be drawn into the perpetrator’s game plan through false accusations of abuse, smear campaigns or distortion campaigns, and these people are then encouraged to take up the perpetrator’s cause against the victim.
In an iconic scene from The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch sends a troupe of Flying Monkeys in pursuit of Dorothy. The term Flying Monkeys has evolved to represent any proxy, recruited by an abusive person to assist them in controlling their victim.
What it Looks Like
- A woman asks a marriage therapist to talk to her husband about his non-existent “problems with infidelity”.
- A mother seeks support from siblings, her spouse, friends and neighbors over untrue claims her daughter has “behavior problems”
- A teenager falsely tells his sister that other people are saying horrible things about her.
- A teenager files a false police report about one of her parents abusing her.
- A leader or manager in an organization directs his subordinates to ostracize one of their colleagues.
How it Works
Proxy recruitment can be an extremely powerful way of establishing control over another person. It forces the victim into a defensive posture - justifying themselves or denying false claims to friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances and authority figures. It often attempts to reverse roles in the eyes of others - casting the abuser as the victim and portraying the victim as the real abuser. It also deflects attention away from the abuser and provides cover or justification for further abuse to occur.
Proxy Recruitment is much easier if the abuser assumes a position of authority. Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram demonstrated that people will often perform an irrational act if instructed to do so by an authority figure, even if that act is unkind or cruela to another person.
Proxy recruitment isn’t just a tactic used by people with Personality Disorders. It is a universal reaction to recruit allies when engaged in a conflict situation – however when it involves misrepresenting the truth or causing deliberate harm, it is a form of toxic and abusive behavior.
What NOT to do:
- Don't believe everything you are told by a person who suffers from a personality disorder. They may just be telling you something false as a means to an end.
- Don't react quickly to surprising news. You have the prerogative to think for as long as you want and to react how and when you want.
- Don't lose your temper or lose control of your emotions. You can't control other people but you always have control over your own words and actions and that is where you have the most power.
- Don't sit still and allow someone to rain down on you insults or criticism in the name of another person. If the room is a painful place to sit, then it is perhaps a good time to go sit in a different room.
- Don't make promises, commitments or contracts that will hurt your relationship with people whom you trust, you love, people whose company you enjoy, old friends, and trusted relatives. No-one who truly loves you will want to take healthy, supportive, positive relationships away from you.
What TO do:
- Objectively verify anything you are told before acting on it.
- Keep in touch with those you love and trust and tell them about any problems or issues you are hiving.
- Maintain a healthy balance between family, friends, work and play. You need them all in the right measure to keep a healthy balance.
- Politely refuse to engage in Divide and Conquer without starting a fight about it. Remove yourself from a conversation if it is an unhealthy or dysfunctional one.
- Maintain your self-control. This is how you keep your power and demonstrate that you are not going to be manipulated like that.