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Personality awareness: The key skill to dealing with high-conflict people
You need to have personality awareness to protect yourself from and deal with potentially high-conflict people on a regular basis without getting hooked by them.
Could you become a high-conflict person’s (HCP’s) Target of Blame? If you’re not watchful and careful, yes. HCPs generally pick on people they are close to or people in authority positions. These close personal or supervisory relationships usually involve the types of people we’re inclined to invite into our lives, often without knowing much about them.
Avoiding and deflecting high-conflict behavior is like avoiding illness. You can protect yourself from becoming someone’s Target of Blame by vaccinating yourself with knowledge of the personality patterns of high-conflict people. I call this personality awareness.
In fact, with personality awareness you will be more confident in dealing with people, because you will know how to recognize the warning signs of dangerous personality patterns before they do you much harm.
You need to have personality awareness to protect yourself from and deal with potentially high-conflict people on a regular basis without getting hooked by them. I’ll show you how to develop this with some simple assessments you can use when new people come into your life and with tools for when you think you may be dealing with an HCP. As members of society, it will help us all if we can share this knowledge and limit the harm that high-conflict people often do by gaining the trust of those who are uninformed or simply naive.
Four Things You Need to Know About HCPs
First, people with one of the five personality disorders (narcissists, borderline HCPs, sociopaths, histrionics and paranoiacs) belong to all economic, social, political, and ethnic groups. You can’t tell an HCP by their background.
For example, you can’t identify an HCP by their profession or by how much other people trust them. In fact, highly admired leaders and members of the helping professions (teachers, physicians, clergy, therapists, nurses, etc.), may be slightly more likely to have personality disorders than people in other lines of work, because of an attraction to the intimate relationships and authority positions in these professions.
Second, studies suggest that the percentage of HCPs is increasing. This means that your risk of being targeted is growing as well.
Third, because people with high-conflict personalities think and act differently from what an ordinary person would do or expect in a conflict, your methods for managing them must be different from how you would normally resolve conflicts.
Fourth, HCPs aren’t inherently evil. We shouldn’t judge them as bad human beings or try to push them out of human society. Many were born with their personality disorders, or developed them because they were seriously abused or indulged in their early lives. Some high-conflict people, with the right interventions, can be redirected into getting help and leading productive, more satisfying lives. But for the ones who can’t be helped, we need to work together to limit their damage.
- Are all lists bold?
Personality awareness has suddenly become so important to avoiding becoming a Target of Blame because of four big, recent changes in our world, which make us more vulnerable and less aware of who we’re dealing with:
- We don’t have personal histories with each other: Today, people have an incredible amount of mobility, so much that we have become a society of individuals. Yet we need to be around others, so we are constantly inviting new people into our lives: in dating, at school, at work, hiring repair people, joining churches, volunteer groups, investing, sports, you name it. But most of the people you meet don’t have a history that you know about. You don’t know their reputation, their prior relationships, or anything beyond what they tell you about themselves. Without a history, it’s not obvious on the surface who you can really trust and who you can’t. You can check someone out online, but you can’t always determine what information is accurate and what is false.
- Families and communities have become weaker: Communities, neighbors, and extended families used to know each other and watch out for each other. This meant sharing their opinions of strangers or potentially dangerous acquaintances. Plus, everyone knew someone who knew the people you might want to know. Gossip was actually a way that people learned whom to avoid or how to manage them. Extended families and communities were pretty good at screening out (or at least managing) HCPs and protecting others from them. But now, in our society of individuals, you’re mostly on your own, so you have to do all the screening yourself.
- We are all subject to electronic manipulation: Online, with a little effort, anyone can hide who they are and present themselves as someone completely different. More and more, people are using technology to mislead us about themselves—whether it’s with an attractive but phony photograph, an impressive but false résumé, or a sad story that hooks you in but turns out to be a lie.
- Our entertainment culture misleads us about real-life personalities: We are constantly being entertained on TV and endless on‑demand movies with appealing stories of people who act like jerks (often HCPs) but then turn around. They have new insights and change their behavior. They become wiser and nicer by the end of the show. (Think Disney, or romantic comedies.) But this distorts our real-life perceptions. HCPs rarely have insights and change like this, despite everyone’s efforts and naive belief that they can change the person.
Combine these four very recent cultural changes with centuries-old human nature, and it’s a potentially dangerous mix. Why? Because certain aspects of human nature set us up for easy manipulation and increasing vulnerability to becoming Targets of Blame:
- We tend to trust people. Research has demonstrated over and over that we err on the side of trust more often than mistrust. This is especially true when someone tells us that they need our help. Unfortunately, this healthy trait makes us vulnerable to high-conflict people—who are constantly and emotionally asking for help, often playing the role of a victim.
- We especially trust people in groups that we identify with. Lots of brain research shows that, from infancy, we stereotype people based on our own background and culture. We overly trust people who belong to the group we identify with—especially our own ethnic, racial, political, or religious group. Yet we shouldn’t trust about 10 percent of them. And we overly mistrust people who belong to different groups than we do—yet we can trust about 90 percent of them.
- We tend to trust our emotions. Emotional connection is one of the strongest drives of human beings. We constantly want to be loved, liked, and respected. Yet manipulating our emotions is one of the key techniques of the people who may ruin your life. You will fall in love with them. You will be impressed with their stories. You will be persuaded by their charm and their interest in you.
- We doubt our own behavior. Ironically, while we easily trust other people, we’re harder on ourselves. When we’re in a conflict with someone, our first impulse is to question ourselves. Did I say something wrong? Did I do something stupid or offensive? What should I do differently next time? This normal human trait helps us learn, change, and grow. But when dealing with high-conflict people, this trait can lead to trouble—especially when you start to trust one of them more than you trust yourself.
These are all normal human traits. There’s nothing wrong with having these responses. In fact, they will work 90 percent of the time. You just need to learn when to override them. Otherwise, you risk becoming a Target of Blame. That’s what this book is all about: learning to recognize warning signs that most people ignore or don’t see—and then overriding your natural responses with actions based on your newfound wisdom about HCPs.
Scientists discovered footprints made by some of the largest creatures ever to walk the Earth.
- Paleontologists published a paper on the discovery of dinosaur footprints on the roof of a French cave.
- The prints are deep underground and were made during the Middle Jurassic period.
- The footprints belonged to titanosaurs, the largest land animals ever.
French scientists found gigantic dinosaur footprints on the roof of the Castelbouc cave the Lozère region of southern France. A new paper outlines the discovery approximately 1640 feet under ground by the paleontologist Jean-David Moreau from the University of Burgundy–Franche-Comté and his colleagues.
The footprints likely belonged to an unknown species of titanosaur and were made 166 to 168 million years ago, in the Middle Jurassic Period. Titanosaurs, a group of long-necked, lizard-like sauropods, could be found all over the world in present day Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Australia. Among titanosaurs were the largest land animals to have ever existed, like the Patagotitan, which stretched 121 feet long and weighed 138,000 pounds.
The titanosaur Alamosaurus.
Credit: Bogdanov, 2006. Creative Commons.
Some of the 38 tracks found in France were as large as 4 feet long. They were likely made by three dinosaurs at the time when the area was on the surface, making up a muddy shoreline along which the giant creatures traveled. Over time, the site was buried by geological processes, with the tracks becoming moldings in the roof of a cave that's half a kilometer underground.
They were spotted as part of a caving expedition in December 2015 by the paper's authors. To find them, the scientists had to go down a narrow labyrinth of crawl spaces that often get flooded. The tracks were in a space about 260 feet long, 66 feet wide and 33 feet high.
Dinosaur tracks in the ceiling of Castelbouc Cave in France.
Credit: Jean-David Moreau et al./J. Vertebr. Paleontol.
Speaking to the French science magazine Sciences et Avenir, Jean-David Moreau explained that a caver "who was ahead of me turned to me and with the lamp of his helmet projected a grazing lighting on the ceiling which allowed to bring out the marks."
You can read the paper "Middle Jurassic tracks of sauropod dinosaurs in a deep karst cave in France," published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Humans may have evolved to be tribalistic. Is that a bad thing?
- From politics to every day life, humans have a tendency to form social groups that are defined in part by how they differ from other groups.
- Neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky, author Dan Shapiro, and others explore the ways that tribalism functions in society, and discuss how—as social creatures—humans have evolved for bias.
- But bias is not inherently bad. The key to seeing things differently, according to Beau Lotto, is to "embody the fact" that everything is grounded in assumptions, to identify those assumptions, and then to question them.
Ancient corridors below the French capital have served as its ossuary, playground, brewery, and perhaps soon, air conditioning.
- People have been digging up limestone and gypsum from below Paris since Roman times.
- They left behind a vast network of corridors and galleries, since reused for many purposes — most famously, the Catacombs.
- Soon, the ancient labyrinth may find a new lease of life, providing a sustainable form of air conditioning.
Ancient mining areas below Paris for limestone (red) and gypsum (green).Credit: Émile Gérards (1859–1920) / Public domain
"If you're brave enough to try, you might be able to catch a train from UnLondon to Parisn't, or No York, or Helsunki, or Lost Angeles, or Sans Francisco, or Hong Gone, or Romeless."
China Miéville's fantasy novel Un Lun Dun is set in an eerie mirror version of London. In it, he hints that other cities have similar doubles. On the list that he offhandedly rattles off, Paris stands out. Because the City of Light really does have a twisted sister. Below Paris Overground is Paris Underground, the City of Darkness.
Most people will have heard of the Catacombs of Paris: subterranean charnel houses for the bones of around six million dead Parisians. They are one of the French capital's most famous tourist attractions – and undoubtedly its grisliest.
But they constitute only a small fragment of what the locals themselves call les carrières de Paris ("the mines of Paris"), a collection of tunnels and galleries up to 300 km (185 miles) long, most of which are off-limits to the public, yet eagerly explored by so-called cataphiles.
The Grand Réseau Sud ("Great Southern Network") takes up around 200 km beneath the 5th, 6th, 14th, and 15th arrondissements (administrative districts), all south of the river Seine. Smaller networks run beneath the 12th, 13th, and 16th arrondissements. How did they get there?
Paris stone and plaster of Paris
It all starts with geology. Sediments left behind by ancient seas created large deposits of limestone in the south of the city, mostly south of the Seine; and gypsum in the north, particularly in the hills of Montmartre and Ménilmontant. Highly sought after as building materials, both have been mined since Roman times.
The limestone is also known as Lutetian limestone (Lutetia is the Latin name for ancient Paris) or simply "Paris stone." It has been used for many famous Paris landmarks, including the Louvre and the grand buildings erected during Georges-Eugène Haussmann's large-scale remodelling of the city in the mid-19th century. The stone's warm, yellowish color provides visual unity and a bright elegance to the city.
The fine-powdered gypsum of northern Paris, used for making quick-setting plaster, was so famed for its quality that "plaster of Paris" is still used as a term of distinction. However, as gypsum is very soluble in water, the underground cavities left by its extraction were extremely vulnerable to collapse.
Like living on top of a rotting tooth: subsidence starts far below the surface, but it can destroy your house.Credit : Delavanne Avocats
In previous centuries, a road would occasionally open up to swallow a chariot, or even a whole house would disappear down a sinkhole. In 1778, a catastrophic subsidence in Ménilmontant killed seven. That's why the Montmartre gypsum quarries were dynamited rather than just left as they were. The remaining gypsum caves were to be filled up with concrete.
The official body governing Paris down below is the Inspection Générale des Carrières (IGC), founded in the late 1770s by King Louis XVI. The IGC was tasked with mapping and, where needed, propping up the current and ancient (and sometimes forgotten) mining corridors and galleries hiding beneath Paris.
A delightful hiding place
Also around that time, the dead of Paris were getting in the way of the living. At the end of the 18th century, their final destination consisted of about 200 small cemeteries, scattered throughout the city — all bursting at the seams, so to speak. There was no room to bury the newly dead, and the previously departed were fouling up both the water and air around their respective churchyards.
Something radical had to happen. And it did. From 1785 until 1814, the smaller cemeteries were emptied of their bones, which were transported with full funerary pomp to their final resting place in the ancient limestone quarries at Tombe-Issoire. Three large and modern cemeteries were opened to receive the remains of subsequent generations of Parisians: Montparnasse, Père-Lachaise, and Passy.
The six million dead Parisians in the Catacombs, from all corners of the capital and across many centuries, together form the world's largest necropolis — their now anonymized skulls and bones methodically stacked, occasionally into whimsical patterns. The Catacombs are fashioned into a memorial to the brevity of life. The message above the entrance reads: Arrête! C'est ici l'empire de la Mort. ("Halt! This is the empire of Death.")
That has not stopped the Catacombs, accessible via a side door to a classicist building on the Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, making just about every Top 20 list of things to see in Paris.
An underground economy
However, while the Catacombs certainly are the most famous part of the centuries-old network beneath Paris, and in non-pandemic times draw thousands of tourists each day, they constitute just 1.7 km (1 mile) of the 300-km (185-mile) tunneling total.
Subterranean Paris wasn't just used for mining and storing dead people. In the 17th century, Carthusian monks converted the ancient quarries under their monastery into distilleries for the green or yellow liqueur that still carries their name, chartreuse.
Because the mines generally keep a constant cool temperature of around 15° C (60° F), they were also ideal for brewing beer, as happened on a large scale from the end of the 17th century until well into the 20th century. Several caves were dug especially for establishing breweries, and not just because of the ambient temperature: going underground allowed brewers to remain close to their customers without having to pay a premium for real estate up top.
Overview of the Paris Catacombs.Credit: Inspection Générale des Carrières, 1857 / Public domain.
At the end of the 19th century, the underground breweries of the 14th arrondissement alone produced more than a million hectoliters (22 million gallons) per year. One of the most famous of Paris' underground breweries, Dumesnil, stayed in operation until the late 1960s.
In that decade, the network of corridors and galleries south of the Seine, long since abandoned by miners, became the unofficial playground for the young people of Paris. They explored the fantastical world beneath their feet, in some cases via entry points located in their very schools. Fascinated, these cataphiles ("catacomb lovers") read up on old books, explored the subterranean labyrinth, and drew up schematics that were passed around among fellow initiates as reverently as treasure maps.
As Robert Macfarlane writes in Underland, Paris-beneath-their-feet became "a place where people might slip into different identities, assume new ways of being and relating, become fluid and wild in ways that are constrained on the surface."
Some larger caves turned into notorious party zones: a 7-meter-tall gallery below the Val-de-Grâce hospital is widely known as "Salle Z." Over the last few decades, various other locations in subterranean Paris have hosted jazz and rock concerts and rave parties — like no other city, Paris really has an "underground music scene."
Hokusai's Great Wave as the backdrop to the "beach" under Paris.Credit: Reddit
Cataphiles vs. cataphobes
With popularity came increased reports of nuisance and crime — the tunnels provided easy access to telephone cables, which were stolen for the resale value of their copper.
The general public's "discovery" of the underground network led the city of Paris to officially interdict all access by non-authorized persons. That decree dates back to 1955, but the "underground police" have an understanding with seasoned cataphiles. Their main targets are so-called tourists, who by their lack of knowledge expose themselves to risk of injuries or worse, and degrade their surroundings, often leaving loads of litter in their wake.
The understanding does not extend to the IGC. Unlike in the 19th century, when weak cavities were shored up by purpose-built pillars, the policy now is to inject concrete to fill up endangered spaces — thus progressively blocking off parts of the network. That procedure has also been used to separate the Catacombs to prevent "infiltration" of the site by cataphiles.
Many subterranean streets have their own names, signs and all. This is the Rue des Bourguignons (Street of the Burgundians) below the Champs des Capucins (Capuchin Field), neither of which exists on the surface.Credit: Jean-François Gornet via Wikimedia and licensed under
The cataphiles, however, are fighting back. In a game of cat and mouse with the authorities, they are reopening blocked passages and creating chatières ("cat flaps") through which they can squeeze into chambers no longer accessible via other underground corridors.
Catacomb climate control
Alone against the unstoppable tide of concrete, the amateurs of Underground Paris would be helpless. But the fight against climate change may turn the subterranean labyrinths from a liability into an asset — and the City of Paris into an ally.
The UN's 2015 Climate Plan — concluded in Paris, by the way — requires the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2050. And Paris itself wants to be Europe's greenest city by 2030. More sustainable climate control of our living spaces would be a great help toward both targets. A lot of energy is spent heating houses in winter and cooling them in summer.
This is where the constant temperature of the Parisian tunnels comes in. It's not just good for brewing beer; it's a source of geothermal energy, says Fieldwork, an architectural firm based in Paris. It can be used to temper temperatures, helping to cool houses in summer and warming them in winter.
One catch for the cataphiles: it also works when the underground cavities are filled up with concrete. So perhaps one day, Paris Underground, fully filled up with concrete, will completely fall off the map, reducing the city's formerly real doppelgänger into an air conditioning unit.
Cool in summer, warm in winter: Paris Underground could become Paris A/C.Credit: Fieldwork
Strange Maps #1083
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