- He looks for flaws in everyone and everything, to feel superior.
- He often criticizes others and sees himself as knowing what’s best.
- He judges others; gathers knowledge, so thinks he is in a position to judge.
- He is willing to put others down in an effort to make himself look better.
- He is a perfectionist and overly demanding of everyone, without genuine appreciation for their efforts.
The Crabs are the critics of the world. They avoid their fears of intimacy by pushing others away with their critical behavior. They look for flaws in others and then comment on them in negative ways.
Here is a true story of a Crab focusing on flaws and thus pulling down his spouse: A friend of ours had been married about two years. She and her husband bought their first house and she wanted to decorate. She decided to start by wallpapering the guest bathroom. She bought expensive designer wallpaper with a very large pattern. (Perhaps you know that a large pattern is more difficult to match at the seams and especially at the point where the beginning and end meet.) Well, our friend worked very hard at it until she was proud of how it looked. When she was finished she proudly called her husband to come and see. He walked into the room and slowly looked around, checking every seam. Then looking back at the small space above the door he had just entered, he said, “Ah, that’s where you finished. I can see where the pattern doesn’t match.”
Please notice that this critical statement was neither preceded nor followed by a mention of how well she had matched all the other seams, nor how great the bathroom looked overall.
It’s easy to imagine how disappointed and deflated she felt. Hopefully it’s also fairly obvious that his behavior would cause her to feel distant from him.
Yet, some people mistakenly believe that criticism is a form of “holding high expectations” and therefore is a good way to help people achieve their best. They are misguided in thinking that criticism is a form of encouragement to do better. Think Simon Cowell.
For example, sometimes you will hear a woman refer to her father by bitterly saying, “I was never good enough for him. No matter what I did, he always said, “You should have done better.” This is not support! This is criticism and the child feels diminished, not enabled. It would be entirely different if the parent had said, “Hey, I saw you trying really hard out there. I know it was tough and you did great. I believe that if you keep trying, someday you will win!” This would help a child believe in himself and try again, knowing he has his father’s love and support even if he doesn’t win. However, be sure that you are being sincere and not giving false praise. It helps if you remember to praise the effort, not just the result.
Again, we want to clarify for the record that acting like a critic is not the same as helping someone raise their personal bar. To be willing to try to do better requires that you feel some degree of confidence that you can achieve – and that you will live through it even if you fail, thus you are willing to risk. Instead, the Crabs suck out the confidence and self-esteem of others. Sometimes this is done to increase the Crab’s own self-esteem by appearing superior, especially when the criticism is given to a peer or spouse.
Behavioral therapists stress the necessity of giving positive feedback to every small step forward, not just when the final goal is achieved. They look for progress not just perfection.
Sometimes a Crab will defend his negative comments by saying, “I just want to be honest.” But his passive-aggressive hostility is revealed by his lack of tact and empathy when giving “honest” feedback. When asked, “Does this dress make me look fat?” a Crab might say, “Yeah, your butt looks really big.” But a man with common sense and tact might say, “I’ve seen you in other dresses that are more flattering.” There is a world of difference between the two statements!
A subtle but damaging way some Crabs criticize is by “correcting” someone else publicly. For example, at a party the wife may start to tell a funny story about her recent traffic accident. But at numerous points in the story her husband corrects her: “no, the car slid only 5 feet not fifty,” or “it’s only a small scratch not really a dent,” etc, etc.
Crab behavior is a defense mechanism. It is a cover-up for the man inside. It is not true Man-imal behavior. Most likely the Crab was raised by a Crab parent, and learned negative responses to defend himself. We feel true compassion for Crabs painful childhoods—but we don’t recommend you get in a relationship with one!
True story: We know a woman who married a Crab, although we and several others warned her to stay away. But she felt this man had many redeeming qualities underneath and that he was the right man for her. Before she married him she even got him to acknowledge he had a critical focus and he agreed he wanted to change it. Together they worked on it, but this is a very hard habit to break! Fifteen years into the marriage they were still battling with his negativity. (Remember this is a man who actively wanted to change!) She and both their children were often on the receiving end of his flaw-finding temper (but no physical violence). However, he had improved some and we could all see some of the underlying man, worthy of her commitment. But she started to see some of the same critical and angry responses in their son. This motivated the parents to work even harder and they attended a personal growth workshop. In the workshop the husband made a final break-through. With a great deal of courageous self-honesty he was able to let go of the shell of criticism he had built to protect himself. Now, 19 years into the marriage, we can all see the tender and playful Panda underneath the Crab she married! This highly unusual woman had the vision and the strength to stick with her man and support him through the trials of his personal growth. She asked us to include her story to give hope to any woman in a similar situation.
However, both of us observed this woman as she faced her challenges, and we say we couldn’t have done it. Of course she was in love with him and surely that helped her stick with him while he matured.
Note: We hope you found benefit and some good insights from this brief chapter excerpt. When the book is published you will find a great deal more information about the Gorilla and the rest of the Man-imals. We are very interested in hearing your comments, concerns, stories, suggestions, and questions. Please send your feedback to [email protected].
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