Bear, Rob Titchener and the HijackalsTM Trap

Sassistas let out a long groan when Stephen Bear, an under-educated, over-confident little boy from Walthamstow bounced out of the House having been declared the winner of Celebrity Big Brother 2016. Why?

It was not that he is a man-child - we often deal with that.

It wasn’t his appearance – some of us like a day-glo orange body in a tasteless shirt and a tinsel boa.

It wasn’t that he was bouncing around like Tigger – energy can be good in a man.

What dismayed and alarmed so many of us is that he had won for a four week display of Hijackaling.

The only consistent theme in this boy’s behaviour was to be centre of attention and it didn’t matter what he did to get it. Antics included:

  • Tantrums

  • Aggression

  • Swearing

  • Accusation

  • High drama (some naughty person put his lady-mask under the chair poor pet)

  • Lying (or, at least, blatant twisting of truth)

  • Loud squawking and finger pointing in the face of challenge

And all of this in a high-octane, self-righteous shouty tone which just insisted ‘Look at meeee!’

But Bear-type behaviour comes in various volumes. We have all been transfixed with the plight of Helen Archer as she has been crushed under the cruel manipulation of Rob. All too many of us look at our relationships or our friend’s relationship and think ‘Is that right…really!?’

The Sassistas wanted to know if such behaviour is rare. We read the work of Rhoberta Shaler Ph. D. and found that, worryingly, it is not.

Rhoberta Shaler’s book ‘Escaping the Hijackal Trap’ gives a down to earth, no-nonsense look at bad behaviours within relationships. Shaler defines a Hijackal as:

“A person who hijacks a relationship for his or her own purposes while relentlessly scavenging it for power, status, and control.”


So how do you know you are in a Hijackal Trap? Well, if you feel that your partner alternates between pulling you close and then pushing you away and if they are creating continual drama and confrontation – and it is always your fault (according to them) – then you need to stop and assess.  


Shaler sets out six red flags:

  1. ‘Black and white, all or nothing thinking’. One minute you are the light of their life, the next you are the scourge of the earth. They tend to use extreme language where you are either fantastic or totally useless. There is no grey in a Hijackal’s thinking – and they are always completely convinced they are right.

  2. ‘Leaving things vague and uncertain’. This is a control mechanism. Just when you think something is agreed, they will change tack and do something different. Oh, and they are right to do it!

  3. ‘Mismanaged and/or extreme emotions’. When a little thing happens all hell breaks loose. The slightest criticism unleashes a torrent of vitriol.

  4. ‘An indefatigable need to win’. It is not enough to be right (even when they are not) they need to have the last word on everything. Being wrong is inconceivable to a Hijackal.

  5. ‘A constant need to blame’. As well as the Hijackal being right, you will always have to be wrong.

  6. ‘Absurd grandiosity of behaviour or claims’. The Hijackal will come out with outrageous statements and be mortally offended when you question them. How dare you? You begin to second guess yourself. Are you crazy or them?


Shaler goes into a number of reasons why we might be drawn to a Hijackal – wanting to save, wanting it not to be true to name but two.

But forget trying to save a Hijackal – they are hard wired. Instead you need to save yourself.

So what do you do?


Firstly, Shaler advises against labelling the behaviours as a disorder. It is possible that your partner has sociopathic behaviours, but unless you are a psychologist or psychiatrist, home-diagnosis is dangerous. Instead, you need to focus on strengthening yourself. This is difficult because of what Shaler calls the Gotcha Factor in which Hijackals keep you in the trap by:

  • ‘Keeping you second guessing and so self-doubting’

  • ‘Putting words in your mouth and insisting you said it’

  • ‘Turning emotions into facts’

  • ‘Leaping from fact to conclusions’ with little thought in the middle

  • ‘Using shame and guilt rather than facts’

  • ‘Doing anything it takes to win in the moment’

  • ‘Hiding venom in chocolate’ – a lovely expression for smiting you with a smile

  • ‘Being passive aggressive’

  • ‘Using the silent treatment’


If all of this sounds worryingly familiar, step one is to stop blaming yourself. Anyone, who has seen the film or play ‘Gaslight’ will know that ongoing demoralisation pulls you down into a pit of confusion and self-blame. Instead you need to get real.

  • Ask your trusted friends?

  • Sit back and so a cold assessment of the behaviours and how they make you feel.

  • Think about how you have changed since the relationship began?

  • Define where your confidence is. Is it sinking or soaring?

  • Do you have all the friends you had when you started the relationship?

If all the answers are negative, you need help.


Rhoberta Shaler’s book, Escaping The Hijackal Trap is a good place to start. You can get it from Amazon.

She has a series of books on how to escape from abusive relationships and also does consultation globally. You can read about her on https://www.forrelationshiphelp.com/

As for Sassista advice – life is a long time to waste on a hijackal!


Until next time.....Stay Sassy

Dr G

Women's Online Magazine Blogger

"The Online Magazine for strong women"



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