"Provocative" can mean many different things to different people. What I'm going to address in this article are those people who use negative provocation as a neurotic defense against their own feelings of rejection and alienation. Let me start by saying that both of my parents were somewhat provocative. They could say things that would get a reaction out of me. I loved them deeply. But, there were times when they would say things that would literally push me away and cause a negative reaction. Fortunately, in my family, provocation was not a pervasive pattern that led to extreme disorder.

As a result, over the years I found myself in a couple of provocative relationships. They didn't work out. I can remember sitting at a dinner table with my future mother-in-law and she deliberately picked a fight with me. I handled it beautifully with a laughing smile and a confrontive remark.

Currently, when I am in the presence of a provocative person, my initial reaction gives way to my real need and purpose in life: to give universal love.

As a psychotherapist for over 40 years of experience, I have seen many people and relationships quagmired by provocative statements that were pervasive and led nowhere except alienation and emotional divorce. In the midst of such a situation, you may ask yourself the following: Are you trying to provoke me? If so, why? Did I provoke this? It's a dilemma, because many times provocation comes out of nowhere and leaves you wondering how it started.

However, a provocative person (provocateur) does not aim to provoke your anger. But, that is usually what happens. Some provocateurs are on the hunt for power and influence, and their need to provoke is a drive to gain that. However, as with most provocation rejection is usually the result and the opposite of their intention.

There is an axiom that you win some battles and lose some. Understand that you are in a battle, especially with a provocateur. There is nothing wrong with seeking power and influence. But when the strategy of negative provocation is used, it gets the wrong result. Negative provocation begets rejection, failure, powerlessness and helplessness. Oh, one may get some early quick and transient feeling of influence and power but, over the long haul, it will invite rejection and distance.

One of the questions that I mentioned above was, "Did I provoke this?" This is an excellent question which will help you become aware of any learned provocative tendencies. I suggest the following strategy: search deeply within yourself and examine your family history for those significant other people who use or have used negative provocation as an ineffective strategy. Become aware of how you felt about it. I am sure you did not like it. As a result, you may have internalized some of their provocative behavior and perhaps even use it yourself, without knowing it. Now is an excellent time for examining and self-monitoring your role in this type of negative exchange.

Try the following affirmation and repeat it over and over again until it sinks in: "I refuse to be provoked. I am calm and clear and I wish to express universal love". Repetition is the key.

Another strategy is to make a list of those situations in your life that smack of negative provocation. Examine how you felt and how you handled each of those situations. Take an inventory of the strategies that you used. How did they work? What strategies would you like to use in the future when confronted with a provocative person? Sometimes, you can just get up and leave. But, be careful of what emotions you carry with you as you exit from the face of a provocateur.

If you see yourself as a provocateur, examine how your provocations have affected your relationships with other people. Take full responsibility for yourself and see if you can eliminate any kind of blaming that may keep you locked into negative provocation. Examine how you want to deal with your own provocative behavior. If you wish to take it out of your life, put it on project status.

Once again, don't blame others for your provocative behavior. Remember, it is a learned behavior which can be unlearned. Keep hope alive! Put love into your top agenda and love will fill your life instead of rejection and alienation. Negative provocation is a love killer and can cause deep primordial pain for others. (See Feeling People by Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D.)

Author's Bio: 

Paul J. Hannig, PH.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in Chatsworth, CA who does individual and group counseling. His therapeutic expertise involves mood, anxiety and personality disorders, deep emotional pain, depression, phobias, relationships, life stage transitions, deep feeling therapy, spiritual psychotherapy, core identity work, and Life Coaching. His therapy model is experiential, psychoanalytical, and integrative, combining an individual, interactional and multi-generational approach to treatment. He is author of the book, "Feeling People", "Sizzling Relationships: the 401(k) of Love", "Coping with the Disorder", and the web site http://www.PsychotherapyHELP.com. In addition to his private practice in Los Angeles, CA, his expertise is made available worldwide via Telephone Therapy and Skype sessions. With the creation of the PsychotherapyHELP web site, Dr. Paul now brings his knowledge and expertise to all who search for answers to deep emotional pain and interpersonal problems. He can be reached at 818-882-7404 or email at phannigphd@att.net.