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Proxy Recruitment

Definition:

Proxy Recruitment - A way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing you up, speaking for you or "doing your dirty work" for you.

Description:

The goal in proxy recruitment is to gain the upper hand in a relationship or in a conflict by getting other people involved. This often takes the form of false accusations, smear campaigns or distortion campaigns in which the victim is portrayed as an abuser.

Some examples of Proxy Recruitment:

  • A woman asks a marriage therapist to talk to her husband about his "problems with infidelity".
  • A mother seeks support from siblings, her spouse, friends and neighbors over her daughter's "behavior problems"
  • A teenager falsely tells his sister that other people are critical of her.
  • A teenager who files a false police report about one of her parents abusing her.
  • A mother who falsely tells a doctor that her child has symptoms of an illness (also known as Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome)
  • A leader or manager in an organization who directs his subordinates to ostracize one of their colleagues.

Proxy recruitment can be an extremely powerful way of establishing control over another person. It forces the victim into a defensive posture - justifying or denying their own behaviors 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 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. In 1961 and 1962, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram performed a famous series of experiments which demonstrated that about 2 out of 3 people will perform a cruel action towards another person if instructed to do so by someone whom they regard as an authority figure. This demonstrated that most people are prone to doing something they do not want to do, even something they would normally regard as "wrong", just because they are told to do it by an assertive or authoritative person. Click Here for More Info on Milgram's Obedience Experiment.

Proxy recruitment isn't just the domain of people with personality disorders. It is a universal reaction to recruit allies when engaged in a conflict situation. However, it becomes abusive when the truth is misrepresented or the recipient is being hurt.


For More Information & Support...

If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.

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