Potential applications of high-damping and high-stiffness composites have motivated extensive research on the effects of negative-stiffness inclusions on the overall properties of composites. Recent theoretical advances have been based on the Hashin-Shtrikman composite models, one-dimensional discrete viscoelastic systems and a two-dimensional nested triangular viscoelastic network. In this paper, we further analyze the two-dimensional triangular structure containing pre-selected negative-stiffness components to study its underlying deformation mechanisms and stability. Major new findings are structure-deformation evolution with respect to the magnitude of negative stiffness under shear loading and the phenomena related to dissipation-induced destabilization and inertia-induced stabilization, according to Lyapunov stability analysis. The evolution shows strong correlations between stiffness anomalies and deformation modes. Our stability results reveal that stable damping peaks, i.e. stably extreme effective damping properties, are achievable under hydrostatic loading when the inertia is greater than a critical value. Moreover, destabilization induced by elemental damping is observed with the critical inertia. Regardless of elemental damping, when the inertia is less than the critical value, a weaker system instability is identified.