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Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life.
Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find
a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause
but also by nursing a fanatical grievance.
                                                        Eric Hoffer

Problem Neighbors
(Those Who Live By The Feud)

On this page:
Culturally Ingrained Feuding Explained | Doing The Dirty Work Yourself | There Could Be Something Else Going On | I'm NOT Weak! | Attacking By Proxy | Links to shutting down a problem neighbor

If you have a problem neighbor who is intentionally going out of his way to harass you, then odd are, you've crossed someone who 'lives by the feud.'

Want to know the scary part? In the mind(s) of the feuder(s) -- no matter how much damage, harassment or torment he/she/they have inflicted on you -- they consider themselves to be the victims(1).

They are only doing this because of the wrong and injustice YOU did to them. And the only way the balance will be returned is when you have suffered more than they.

Does this sound insane? Well, to tell you the truth, it might be. Quite frankly though, that doesn't matter. You still need to find a way to stop the trouble. The only thing actual insanity does, is slightly alter your tactics.

BUT, it's actually a long trip before you get to insanity. Odds are both the 'I'm the victim here' attitude and the troublesome behaviors of your neighbor(s) are arising from  cultural, socio-economic, ethnic and familial paradigms.

Then mix that paradigm in with the individual's personality, a serious lack of coping skills and a sense of entitlement. Toss in things that are exacerbating these issues (like hard economic times, drinking, familial tension and countless other stressors) and you'll have a neighbor painting a target on you, your family and your property.

These collective motivations for harassing you are FAR more common than mental illness being the cause. We tell you this because while you may think the other person is insane, a much simpler explanation is that 'people who live by the feud' are aliens.

In fact, it would be a lot easier to understand their behaviors, if they had antenna or ridges on their heads and green skin. Because that way, when you looked at them it would be easier to accept that you are dealing with someone  from a different planet.

You are being confronted with a totally different cultural, ethnic, socio-economic and -- usually personally -- dysfunctional way of thinking, A.K.A. an alien mindset. While these people are not literally from another planet, figuratively speaking, they are.

This is not a judgment, it is a statement of fact. A fact that if you want to put an end to the harassment, stress and strain, you will have to accept.  It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is what it is. And what it is has -- like it or not -- landed in your lap. And it is up to you to find a way to deal with it.

More than that, if you want the problem resolved, you'll also have to accept that

  • This situation  will not 'just go away.'
  • The police cannot 'just' make it stop by 'talking to' the person/people.
  • YOU are going to have to do something about it (this means being proactive rather than reactive).
  • It's going to cost you time and money.
  • It could escalate.
  • You'll have someone who hates you as long as you both live there.
  • You're going to have to practice 'Cultural Sensitivity Out On The Sharp End.'

That's because you're dealing with someone who 'lives by the feud.' And that translates into this chaos, strain, destruction, hatred, trouble and grief is to the feuder ... among other things ... entertainment.

Yes, you read that right. The feud gives him something to do.

While conflict, trauma-drama, harassment, vandalism and hatred are not your ideas of entertainment, to the small, petty, mean and venial, it is not only that, but a whole lot more. That's why they do it. A feud is a LOT more fun and exciting than watching TV. More than that, it's a game they can play themselves.

The way you stop it is by making  A) the game no fun anymore and B) it too 'dangerous' for them to act.

We'll give you links on how to 'shut down' someone like this later. But this page is an introduction to what makes people who live by the feud tick. Why is that important? Well first so you'll know WHY what you've been doing hasn't worked -- and in fact, has probably escalated the situation.

Second so you'll know why what we recommend WILL work to make those who live by the feud go seek their entertainment elsewhere.

Get a cup of coffee ... this is a long page.

Culturally Ingrained Feuding Explained
Being of Scottish descent, I have a saying about my people: There are two kinds of Scots. With both kinds if you make an enemy you've made an enemy for life. The question is ... have you made an enemy for the life of your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grandson? Or have you made an enemy for the next 30 seconds? (2)

Obviously that is an extreme, but grudge holding and revenge seeking is a accepted norm in many cultures. These days though it is generally more 'genteel' in its execution. This does not mean it has gone away though (as anyone who has ever been burned in office politics can tell you). Nor does it mean it's always polite and hidden as it is in modern 'civilized' society.

Although I do not personally subscribe to the ideas of revenge, vendetta or the feud, I did grow up around it and am descended from a race and culture that believes in feuding and personally avenging perceived 'wrongs.' (Keep that 'personally avenging' part in mind, it is important.) I have also spent a lot of time dealing with cultures, socio-economic levels and individuals where honor, face, tribalism and vendetta are a way of life. In some circles, these are considered issues that are worth killing over. 

To tell you the truth though, most individuals who live this way, are less than anxious to die over the same issues. Oh sure, they're willing to escalate things so someone else suffers, but as far as they're concerned they've already suffered. They want you to suffer more, not them.

While odds are you won't have to go that far... this is the idea that you can exploit to put an end to the harassment. While there are cultures that claim to embrace martyrdom, when push comes to shove, most people aren't willing to die for their beliefs. And most feuders really aren't interested in pulling mountains down on their heads either.

Sure, they want to win, but when victory comes with the price tag of potential self-destruction ... well, they'll just take the status quo of the ongoing feud, thank you very much. Sure they'll lose people to the feud over time, but all-in-all the group will survive. And while we're at it, the chances of them specifically going down in the feud? Well, there's lots of other things that can kill them too, so just add that to the list.

That is until it really does come down to them in the crosshairs when they aren't 'ready for it.' Then, like everyone else, survival instincts kick in.

If you have a hard time getting your head around this attitude. If the idea of casually accepting a never ending animosity, conflict, revenge, vendetta and even generational hatred that might kill you is unimaginable to you -- then you are a very modern person.

You're also out of touch with how things have run for most of human history. And how these patterns still are deeply embedded in the paradigms of many cultures and socio-economic classes. The truth is, although we say 'think of them as aliens,' this is a VERY human behavior. The alien way of thinking is your modern thought and social ideals.

Which quite frankly leaves you unprepared to handle this kind of problem. Well, we're here to help you fix that problem. But as Einstein said: You cannot resolve significant problem with the same thinking you were at when you created them. Does this mean we're blaming you for the problem? No. But we are going to show you how 'what you thought would work' does not mix well with a feuding mindset. And why.

One of the key elements to understand about feuds is that they are a cultural pastime. While a feud can go on for generations, it takes a backseat to the requirements of day to day living. And that especially means in places where survival is a result of farming, ranching and other 'hardscrabble' existences. In those kinds of situations, we're talking about work or starve.

In situations like that, it is the requirements of survival that limits the feud.  Unless they find an alternative way to support themselves (and this includes having food to eat), very seldom will you have someone who can devote full time to destroying the tribe on the other side of the mountains.  This creates a part time feud/jihad/clan war that can go on for centuries. In fact, it usually becomes part of a cultural identifier. "We are the so-and-so, we hate those guys and that is who we are."

In feuds, full scale battles are rare. Even rarer is actual invasion and conquering of the others territory. What is extremely common however, are border skirmishes and raiding parties. The feud is a ongoing series of little outrages, wrongs and destruction. Neither side is willing to forgive or forget any episode that they came out on the short end. Atrocities and wrongs done to the other party (where this side 'won') are dismissed as justified payback for times they didn't win.

The simple fact is, while the culture of the tribe/clan is partially defined by feud, only a VERY small number of people are engaged at any one time. Most time is spent in making a living. Again let us stress, we're talking a choice between feuding and starving most of the time. In environments where feuds and tribalism/ clannishness thrive, you can't just run to the supermarket, if you don't work to raise food you don't eat.

But even though small numbers of individuals are actively involved at anytime, that the entire tribe, clan or mega-group isn't supportive of the idea. It is not an exaggeration to say that the hatred of 'them' is instilled in these people with their mother's milk. In case you missed it, that means the women in these cultures are also encouraging this kind of thinking and behavior.

It can take generations before this kind of thinking is moved from a widespread cultural norm to being limited to certain segments of that society. What's more is with modern mobile societies it can put it right next door. In other words, just because you're dealing with such a person in your neighborhood, doesn't mean he's operating along the same social lines that you are. There's a good chance the person comes from a feuding background -- and the remnants are still there.

Something that is probably missing from your obnoxious neighbor's behavior, is the economic gain common in generational feuds between clans and tribes. These raids are not just about killing a member of the hated 'other,' this is about acquiring loot and resources. In the old days, you didn't just go kill, you stole livestock and tried to gain control over lucrative resources.  While many people from feuding societies themselves don't recognize the financial aspects, economic gain IS a big reason why this system continues(3).

Another purpose of the feud -- and one that the participant CAN understand -- is it allows the young men to show their courage. This builds his social status within the tribe/clan/culture. "Oooh, see what a big bad warrior he is? He's gone off on a raiding party" Or he's gone off to 'fight.'

This last aspect of the traditional feud IS something that will apply to your problem neighbors. Not only is he is going to show you what the cost of messing with him is, but in his mind what he is doing is building his status -- even if he is a group of one.

Doing The Dirty Work Yourself
An observation by George Orwell (Animal Farm) is often misquoted(4). The actual quote, from an essay about Rudyard Kipling is: He (Kipling) sees clearly that men can only be highly civilized while other men, inevitably less civilized, are there to guard and feed them.

That is a VERY important concept, because one of the biggest assumptions of modern culture is: It's someone else's job.

For example it is the police's job to protect you from criminals and tell your nasty neighbor to behave. It is the military's job to hold at bay foreign invaders so you can carry on your business. It is the trashman's job to take away your garbage. It is the city's job to supply you with water and sewage. It is the farmer's, rancher's and food processors' job to supply you with food.

The truth is that life is too complicated for you to do everything. In fact, society can't exist without this distribution of skills and services. However, the reality of this is often class distinction creeps in. This is where one group believes it is 'too good' to do a particular job. This especially applies to dealing with physical danger and criminal or destructive behavior.

A huge difference between you and the feuder is that the person who lives by the feud isn't above doing it him or herself. That person isn't 'stooping' to this level, to him or her, it's always been an option.

In the lower socio-economic levels and ethnic cultures, a person's social status isn't based on how many people they have doing the 'dirty work' for them. For people (whose employment is often someone else's dirty work) their social status is often based on what they are personally willing to do to protect, elevate and maintain their social status, honor and reputation.

It's VERY hands on for these people.

For example in the socio-economic, ethnic area where I grew up, outright rape was a killing offense. You didn't wait for the police to arrest the individual and the courts to try him. If someone raped one of your family, it was expected that the individual would be hunted down and killed by a family member. Bother, father or cousin would go out and commit first degree murder. (That's if the woman didn't do it herself.)  Here's an interesting point, the individual who killed the rapist and went to prison for it, would still be considered 'a good man' for meeting the code of that lifestyle. In fact, the family would be shamed by the rest of the community for not doing this(5).

What is common in this kind of thinking is that status, pride, respect and reputation is gained by doing the harassing, vandalism himself. Further status is gained by not just standing up to you when you try to confront him, but getting you to back down by extreme behavior. To this mindset, he has 'counted coup' and been elevated by doing it himself.

The reason this is important is while you will probably not have to resort to kicking his door in and shooting him to avenge your honor. But, you WILL have to do some work yourself. The work you'll need to do is to collect information so someone else can act.

Remember we mentioned that the police will not be able to 'just' make this problem go away for you? While police involvement might become necessary you will need to provide them evidence, documentation and proof. Do yourself a favor and do not tell yourself that 'you're doing their job for them.' This is an attitude common to people who believe the police are their servants.

This is you giving the police the information they need to act. Information that allows your neighbor's behavior to become a legitimate legal issue rather than two people feuding. Because when groups are feuding, odds are, both parties are misbehaving. Your challenge is not only to provide the police the information that they need in order to act, but also to demonstrate that -- unlike your neighbor -- you have chosen NOT to take a hands on approach by engaging in illegal activity.

Collecting information to shut down problem neighbors is like changing your baby's diapers. It's a dirty job and it's yours to do it, because nobody else is going to.

There Could Be Something Else Going On
A number of years ago the NYC Transit Police asked the NYPD to assist them by assigning officers to 'turnstile duty.' The city was losing money because many people were jumping the subway turnstiles without paying fares. At first the NYP officers resisted because it was considered beneath their dignity. However, in time it became a choice assignment. Why?

Because officers who took this duty quickly developed the highest number of felony arrests in the department.

You see, individuals who engage in criminal behavior very seldom limit themselves to only one kind of crime. When someone jumped a turnstile, the officers would run a background checks. The officers often discovered that there were warrants out for the individual. Viola! Instant arrest. This is also why the Highway Patrol tends to hold the same record. Felons and their friends not only speed, but often drive questionable cars.

If you have a problem neighbor, there's a good chance that there's something going on in that house that the people who live there don't want looked at too closely. And that can be a big motivation for your neighbor's hostility and aggressiveness.

Now common sense says if you're up to something that you don't want the authorities looking at, don't attract attention to yourself. On the other hand, common sense says that if you have a felony warrant out for you, don't jump the subway's turnstile either. And yet the arrest records show a lot of folks don't have 'common sense.'

The truth is, however, intimidating neighbors and buffaloing people into silence IS a common strategy to make sure the authorities don't look too closely at what they are doing. Because the authorities won't know where to look if you don't tell them.

This can range anywhere from drug dealing, auto theft and identity theft rings, drug manufacturing and all kinds of other criminal activities to drug usage, domestic violence, sexual assaults on children to just noisy and obnoxious partying. It can also include housing violations, excessive numbers of animals and zoning violations.

Often people who 'take the hands on' approach believe if they intimidate you, you won't risk turning them in. And the simple fact is the way most people go about turning them in IS ineffective.

That is because instead of gathering and documenting proof, the way they complain is not unlike children telling on one another. Something happens and they call the police and say "He did this!" The authorities cannot act on your word alone. Sure they can talk to your neighbor, but unless there has been a major crime committed, they can't act without evidence. This even includes vandalism, you 'know' he did it, but do you have evidence?

However, if you quietly collect evidence and then turn it over to the police, you give them what they need to act.

For example, not too long ago we had a drug dealer move onto our street. While there was an increase of traffic on our streets, it seemed every time the individual went on his weekly 'fishing trip,' for the next two days the amount of cars with temporary license plates would explode (drug dealers change cars often to prevent identification -- except when you are ALWAYS seeing cars with temporary plates in the window pulling up to the same place, that tells you some things up). For two months, we filmed the comings, goings and the faces of the people there. When it was taken down to the police department and shown to officers in the drug unit, I sat there and listened to the detective say "I know him, him and him. Oh yeah, I know him."

Three weeks later a raid on the premises not only netted the local department a sizable hard drug stash, but also revealed a hidden wall and a large hydroponics system with a big cash crop. Problems in the neighborhood (speeding cars, vandalism, breaking and entering) evaporated when that drug dealer went away.

And none of us were called in to testify because the police had acquired their own evidence to get a search warrant.

I'm NOT Weak!
We know a psychologist who has a saying: There is an assumption of sanity in this culture. By this she means that when we meet or deal with someone we grant them the courteous assumption that they are sane.

Recognize that often people who believe they are constantly under attack do so because down deep they pathologically feel weak, helpless and lack control over their lives. Which in light of the fact that most of them have poor social skills and very limited coping skills, really isn't that far off the mark.

Such people often attempt to gain 'power' through a series of conflict and trauma drama. We just told you something very important. And it's important for several reasons.

One, while it may be a big, confusing and scary event to you, with these kind of people, it is a pattern. The conflict with you is just the latest in a long line. And while we're on the subject, you will NOT be the last either. To you this situation is big and scary, to this person it is as familiar as walking into a bar is to an alcoholic.

Two, while they aren't insane, many of them have personality disorders(6). This is why we started this section about the assumption of sanity. While NOT technically insane, personality disorders cause people to act in seemingly irrational and hard to understand ways. If you offer someone what you believe to be a reasonable compromise to an issue and they have a melt down, it can be rather unnerving. Well people with personality disorders tend to rely on that response from people to get what they want.

Three chronic low self-esteem can often create a pattern where the person is trying to fill a giant hole inside of themselves. A hole that will never be filled. No matter how much they engage in behaviors that they believe will fill it, their paradigms, beliefs and how they think KEEP that hole inside of them. It's kind of like trying to fill up a spaghetti strainer, nor matter how much you pour in, it keeps on running out. Their feud with you, is just them pouring more water into that strainer.

BUT, they feel they have to do it. Otherwise that hole inside of them will overwhelm them. Instead of seeing them as a wild and unpredictable danger, it helps to understand that they are -- and we're going to change the analogy here -- like someone pathologically trying to bail out a sinking boat with a spaghetti strainer.  A feud with you, keeps them from sinking -- at least they believe is.

Fourth and finally, there's a lot of anger with these people. And if you believe you understand anger, you probably don't, you might want to take a deeper look at the subject. These people are furious that the world would dare to behave in a way contrary to how they believe it should be. Angry that they actually have to do something to improve their conditions. Furious that the world doesn't cater to them like momma did when they were children. And outraged that people would dare to tread on their low self-esteem.

When it comes to this anger, they want to share it with the world. And lucky you, until you find a way to convince them NOT to mess with you, you will be the lucky recipient.

It's important to realize that the person who is acting so irrationally towards you, IS irrational and emotional. This isn't about you, this is about the demons that are driving this person. You just are a convenient way for this person to self-medicate.

Fighting By Proxy
There is a certain subcategory of people who live by the feud that need to be mentioned. This is the troublesome neighbor who calls the police and code enforcement people at the drop of a hat.

Pretty much all the same venial, self-righteous, anger and 'self-empowerment through the grief they cause you' dynamics are going on with these people as the Do-it-yourself crowd. Except these people get their ya-yas by siccing the authorities on you.(7)

There as a couple of extra points going on in this case. First is overwhelming self-righteousness. Not are they getting back at you for imagined wrongs (e.g. your dog running across their property), but they have a double dose of righteousness because the LAW is on their side (your dog is trespassing, it should be in your yard, it should be under your control, etc., etc..).

Recognize the importance of this concept. It's not just them being petty, venial and cruel. In their eyes, they are right with God. Because the 'law is on their side' it's okay to do this to you. Since that is the case, they can give themselves permission to be petty, venial and cruel.

Second, it is safe. The person can act out all their pettiness and viciousness and get away with it. By working via proxies this person does not risk being hurt while attacking you. They can hit you all they want and not worry about being hit back. Furthermore, they can 'hide behind the skirts' of the law.

We specifically chose that term because there is a large element of running and telling mom' in this behavior. If they can't take you head on, they'll call in someone who can.

Links to shutting down a problem neighbor
One of the biggest problems about handling a problem neighbor is people want there to be a simple 'you just do this' solution. There ain't no such critter.

What there is, is a blend of a mindset and general strategies that YOU have to modify for the specifics of the situation. The two biggest challenges you face are:
   1) Accepting that this situation won't just go away
   2) That while it is fixable MOST of what you think will work will only make
       it worse.

What follows is a list of links that can help you find ways to handle problem neighbors. The links aren't listed alphabetically, they are listed in levels of importance. The reason that we did this is that much of what shutting down a problem neighbor involves is what you DON'T do
Provoking An Attack
Dealing with Difficult People
Pyramid of Personal Safety
Property Protection
Stalking solutions
Kinds of Violence (especially personal)
Monkey Brain

The later links not only apply to what is going on with your neighbor, but what is going on with you that could feed into this problem. Also there are some books to the side that we STRONGLY suggest you look into, especially titles by Bernstein, Quinn, Goleman, Samenow and Carter.

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1) As grammatically clumsy as that sentence is, it does carry an important concept. Namely that an entire family/social network can get involved with the feud. It often isn't just the one person, if things escalate you can find yourself facing an extended family or network. As odd as this may seem to someone coming from a nuclear family, the mother or grandmother of the person you are having problem with could be encouraging and advising his (or her) behavior. Return to Text

2) For the record, I tend to be more of the 30 second variety. If you infuriate me and you're alive after 30 seconds, there's a good chance you're safe. (Unless you do something else). However, there are members of my family who still hold grudges about events that occurred over 50 years ago. And they are still looking for ways to extract revenge. 
There is an old routine about an Americanized Scot meeting a Highlander. After the American identifies himself of being descended from another clan, the Highland says how he hates 'those people.' Flabbergasted the American asks why the animosity. The skit ends
H - "You people burned down our castle!"
A - "But that was 500 years ago!"
H  - "Have you apologized yet?!"
This would be a clich? except I personally know an American of Scottish descent who encountered a situation like this while traveling in Scotland.  Even in the 'modern' world, generational grudges run deep in certain parts of the world. Return to Text

3) This is less obvious in modern days, where rhetoric is presented as the reason for the violence. But, behind all the strum und drang and despite the fact that the young 'warriors' do not personally gain economically, there is a STRONG economic element in traditional feuding. For example, the American Plains Indians raided for horses. Scottish clans stole cattle from one another. Water is a huge issue in the Israel/Palestinian conflict (land without water is pretty useless). And jihad organizations provide large financial entitlements to suicide bombers. If you look, you can -- and will -- see the money and resources that drive the conflict.  Return to Text

4) Variations are 1) "Civilized men can only be so because less civilized men protect them." 2) "People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand by to do violence on their behalf." 3) "We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."  The last two are blends between the Kipling comment and something he said in Notes On Nationalism. NoN quote is:Those who 'abjure' violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf. Return to Text

5) What is now known as "date rape," wouldn't usually end up with death. But the person who 'took advantage of her' would be severely beaten. This isn't a case of society looking at it as "rape light" as many advocates would have you believe. This was an issue of A) the woman's relationship with the assailant B) her behavior prior to the assault being a mitigating factor and C) If her family over reacts, it will cause a feud with another clan that WILL results in deaths of family members.
That last point is not hyperbole. In these levels a woman knows her behaviors can easily result in the deaths of her own family members. The clan and family that protects her also expects her NOT to endanger them. Return to Text

76) See Emotional Vampires: Dealing With People Who Drain You Dry by Albert Bernstein for not only a layman's explanation about the different personality disorders and their behaviors, but how to set boundaries that counter their behaviors. Return to Text

 7)There are ways to deal with this. BUT you have to remain calm, rational and keep your emotions in check (which can be difficult). Here's what you need to know: The police KNOW about people using them to terrorize neighbors and extract revenge ... especially after losing a fight (yep, you heard that right, they start a fight, lose and run to the police claiming you attacked them). If someone calls the cops too often they are put into a category of being a nuisance caller. After that, the police know who the real problem is.
The trick here is when the police show up because of the 'complaint' it usually comes out of the blue -- USE THAT! Let's say for instance a neighbor called the police because your dog went onto that person's property. Tell the responding officers that this person is responding WAY out of proportion. Often the first you know about this is when the police knock on your door. Be sure to tell the police that the person didn't talk to you, communicate that there was a problem and that this is the first you've heard of it. Wow ... instead of trying to communicate that there IS a problem, negotiate, compromise and give you a chance to fix a problem you didn't know existed, she's calling the cops (and yes, proxy fighters are usually women).  Sure, you'd be willing to do something about it, but you didn't know there was even a problem until they showed up. If you can remain calm and reasonable about this, guess who is going to look like the barking moonbat?
Incidentally, since these people also tend to call more than just the cops, if you do encounter such a pest, keep a log of all the different times and departments this person has sent to harass you. Alleged municipal code violations, animal control problems, boundary disputes, covenant violations, write them ALL down. Having the ability to sigh ask "Again?" and then show a list of all the times this person has tried to use authorities to harass you, does wonders to show who the real problem is.
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