Thursday, May 22, 2014

Kill them ALL

My mother sent this cartoon to me when I was having an extremely difficult time my first year away at college. I still look at it and get that bullet between the eyes, gobsmacked feeling. Thirty five years later, I comprehend it better, but I still got nothing.

In case your parenting skills are still developing, do not send this to your self esteem damaged daughter who is thinking of killing herself like her softball playing, tomboy sister did. The term for this is "gaslighting."

Yeah, I just said that out loud.

Sooo, I've been learning all about gaslighting for the past few days . Yay me. I've seen more pompous videos made by "authorities on the subject," but these two are much more practical and contain some key phrases and examples that I identified with readily. ("You just don't understand...", "make you doubt your perception of reality...", "constant chaos.") Gaslighting is the sort of thing where you could show the person the video of it happening and they would still brow beat you until you let them have the last word that it wasn't so.

Unless you've been systematically and deliberately made to doubt what you've seen with your own eyes and heard with your own ears is true, it's a very difficult thing to explain. No wonder survivors of NPD parents don't know who they are, they haven't even been able to rely on reality being what it is!  

 Know Your Emotional Abuser: The Gaslighter

 Know Your Emotional Abuser: Unpredictable Responses and Constant Chaos/Creating Crisis

I've been on vacation for two weeks, and as usual, I had more things planned, but somewhere in the first week I started opening boxes of things I had just scooped up from Mother's houses - mostly bank statements and any sort of business paperwork that might be important, but I didn't need to deal with right then.  I had thought I might be able at some point to straighten everything out neat and tidy, make sure her finances were in proper order in every direction, and possibly draw out a more lucid timeline of family history and "where it all went wrong." The number of those boxes just grew and grew, so they got stacked up all over the house -  basement, garage, closets, wherever out of the way.

However God's grace works, this time when I opened the first one I started throwing things away. When I started throwing photographs in the trash pile, the brakes came off and the decisions just kept getting made. I decided on what I needed to save for Estate records, what was proof of my stewardship as Power of Attorney, what was family history that could be passed on to the grandkids, and what nobody really gave a damn about and needed to get out of my life. I filled - FILLED - my green city garbage bin up with things that could go to the dump. I took another 50 lbs of old bank statements and junk to a secured shredding service - GONE, never to be seen again. I have three small boxes of documentation of my actions as Executor and POA - to save in the basement until it's time to shred that. Five boxes of family objects are going to the grandkids this afternoon, plus one box of extremely old paperwork that's going back to Dad for him to remember, and one box of memories to my brother. That still leaves a half dozen boxes of photographs to scan (that would be maybe a thousand actual images?), several boxes and a hope chest of items that I'm saving for the grandkids for "later when they can appreciate them and not lose them." 

Getting rid of all this stuff is nothing short of a miracle. I have given myself a rule in dealing with all of Mother's trash thru the years - Never go back into a garbage pile and second guess what I threw in there. Trust the decision I made when I looked at it and pitched in there the first time. Coming back from the shredder last night, I was really experiencing some sort of strange exhausted euphoria. I had all kinds of muscle aches and pains and whatnots, not unlike having been in a major car wreck and a hormone rush all at the same time. Whatever it takes, kids, whatever it takes.

It looks like I get to stop at the boundaries issue for awhile. It came up in counseling years ago, and I tried to do what I could with it, but time passes and now I can do more. I've found the blog (now in hiatus) of Eugenia Berg in the videos above and paged thru until I got to her boundaries series, and I got stopped here. I'm sure I've had that book before, it may be somewhere in the house still. Walls, windows, doors, and fences. It's time to evaluate and start doing things better, with everyone. 

 If my writing any of this bothers someone, just don't read it. I have to be able to say out loud what is true somewhere so I can deal with it. Calling it out for What It Was is a form of mental sorting - if I can see it, I can do something about it - and I am so damned tired of carrying her shite around. It's like living with a rat infestation, and the ONLY cure for rats is to kill them all.  I'm tired and disgusted of living with someone else's filth, I want it cleaned out and gone. The only people I want to live with are the living, and the only thoughts I want running around in my head are the truth - living, beautiful, life giving, kind, gracious, humble truth.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The glory of freedom

"The icon does not make clear which side of the fence Christ is on. 
Is he imprisoned or are we?"

Sometimes we carry our prisons around with us. The barbed wire in that icon always reminded me of the barbed words and the ripping pain of trying to live free while still bound to being responsible in a very painful situation. Not free to leave, but free to know that if I did not stay, who would bring help? And who would I be if I left to comfort myself?

I'm still watching therapy videos online, last weekend was intense and cathartic. It is very rough, almost like some sort of deep tissue massage, to listen to a stranger speak of phenomena that always disturbed me, but I could not place. Why would she say that? How is it that these things happened, yet we were supposed to be a very average family? Why did this one respond this way, but he went that way?

No one therapist has my family framed, no pat answers are forthcoming, but the festering wounds are being relieved of their mystery as the patterns of abuse are uncovered and filth of deception is washed away. I was always, Always asking myself why did things have to be this way, how did they get this way, and why can't it just get better? No matter what anyone did, nothing ever got better. Well, the spring of bitterness has to stop contaminating everyone else - either by becoming sweet or drying up.

I'm discovering things like "no contact," which is a technique all of us tried in our own way, and "observe, don't absorb," which was my primary technique for the last 30 years. The basic NPD character and motivation of things like objectification, complete lack of compassion, and the NPD thinking of him/herself in the third person like watching a movie - all these things I knew, but I had no framework in which to place them. It takes time and review to pull this stuff up and work it out - going over the memories and making personal history rational instead of chaotic.

There's a response video to one SpartanLifeCoach put out, the response video being in favor of more therapy being required even after a root cause of trauma is discovered, that knowing why isn't enough. For someone dealing with Complex PTSD, (resulting from a lifetime of abuse at the hands of someone with a personality disorder versus short term or single event PTSD,) long term recovery, compassion, and deliberately cultivating new growth in your soul in all those areas that were stunted by the abuse is really the only way. Long term abuse takes up the years of your life, the world you could have had in the short term is gone, never to be seen again. It isn't enough to know what happened, you have to find new ways of living. 

I was talking to my Dad on the phone about my brother, who is Very Much like my mother, and is trying his bullying, accusatory best to cause legal trouble in regards to the Estate. The thing I found myself saying, in trying to reassure Dad that this would all turn out alright eventually and please don't worry, is that in having to go thru all the difficulties with Mother and then again having delays and unpleasantness in closing that portion of my life, I've become a different person. I would not be learning who I really am and what I can do and what kind of relationships I deserve if I did not go thru the terrific workout that is closing these relationships with kindness, forbearance, and with respect to the kind of effort God requires of His own.

If I had run off to Florida, I would still be the woman I was when I ran away.  If I shot my mouth off and responded in kind to my brother, I would take a step towards becoming like him. If I stay and persist, then I am still in the fire and can be changed into someone I've never been before...and perhaps have been seeking to be for a very long time.

Years ago, I received a word from a prayer ministry about God restoring the joy that was taken away from me. It spoke about a little girl in red shoes that was just happy and joyful, without burdens. Of course we all are that way to some extent as children, but the only place I could think of with red shoes was here.

A few months after this picture was taken, things happened. Offenses, pride, confusion, stupidity, separation, grudges, a whole host of bad decisions - all things precipitated out of a narcissistic wound - and really, our family never recovered. I became a parentified child immediately, charged with taking care of my mother. 

Now that's over and I'm free to be again. Just free. To be. To trust my own heart again, openly this time. To follow my own heart, without the endless second guessing that NPDs and their codependents layer on top to maintain control and satisfy their own interests.  Free to be happy, which is an extremely weird feeling after all this time! I mean, I question myself every time I feel "happy" lest I've forgotten something important I'm supposed to be doing instead. It's just ...odd. But I really like it!

The best bit is trusting my own heart, not just about life decisions or such, but trusting that the things I hear in my heart and the desires that flow out of my heart are true and trustworthy. I still have to consciously turn to listen and accept as is what is going on in there, and NOT layer it over with second guessing in my brain. That isn't to say my brain or my flesh aren't always chiming in with their own opinions on HOW I should follow my heart! They are still quite perky, thank you very much, and I rather expect them to stay that way, but I'm relaxing into letting my heart go first, feeding it more, and letting it set the agenda for where I'm going altogether.

That brings us back around full circle to being set free - thru the image of Christ. Second Corinthians 3:17-18 puts it this way: 
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom). And all of us as with unveiled face, because we continued to behold in the Word of God as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another: for this comes from the Lord, Who is the Spirit." 

I was lead back yesterday directly from the secular therapists' discussion on long term recovery to a teaching tape by Lynne Hammond that I've listened to over and over again for probably 20 years now. It's the first in this series, called the Mirror of the Word. If you are secular, that's alright, there's quite a bit of very good observation in it about how our thoughts multiply like mice and get out of control, and then we don't want to be honest with ourselves and even look at what we've been thinking - we just close the door and pretend that stuff isn't in there. But we have to come back to the Truth and take every thought captive, exposing it in the full light of day, and then do something about every lie that wants to hang around by demolishing it with the Truth and our own words - spoken out loud.

You'll never win a battle with a thought by trying to think about something else, you have to talk back to it. 

If you are a Christian, as I am, then you might have caught on to the linkage in my being free to trust my heart without interference and the joy of a rediscovering fresh again a teaching series on prayer. If you are born again, the Holy Spirit and your spirit are joined, He has come to make His home in you, never to depart. If your mind can be corralled to let your heart have His way in you, then you are free to ask for whatsoever you want, and be confident that He is moving in that request. For you, for your friends and loved ones, for the nations, for the world, for anyone anywhere anytime. 

It's wonderful. 

The door may have always been open, but the crappy bit is that we don't always know that in our heads. Living this life here is messy, but freedom in Christ Jesus is glorious!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Role Assigned

Clearing out old web bookmarks this morning because I wanted to add new and there was no good place to put them. All the accumulated categories of things I was interested in, but not so much anymore, were just taking up valuable toolbar space - such as old high school classmates found on the internet but I don't really want to contact, great blogs that just turned into other directions that I don't read after, and project collections that I probably won't do again. It's a little bit like looking thru boxes of college coursework and interests, isn't it? It was great at the time, but you just don't need to hold on to it forever. Eventually you become a different person altogether and you can only wave goodbye to the old you as she sails back to her place in time.

I did find one old blog by a woman who was So angry and So bitter about narcissists and NPD that she quite frightened me, but she alerted me to the fact that you can neither understand a true NPD, and you can't cure one.  She died unexpectedly before I ever read her blog and I have since found where her ebook is hosted free online. She was NOT a health professional, she was a tennis pro, the book and the blog are strictly her opinion and her response to whoever the narcissist was in her life and how it affected her. However, if you have had an NPD individual in your life wreak havoc AND you are on still on the fence about it, reading her stuff might stir up enough in you to clarify what your deal is a little bit more.

Anyway, in a related vein, I also found a link to this article, You Carry the Cure in Your Own Heart, by Andrew Vachss in Parade magazine in 1994. The quote in a sidebar reads, 

"When your self-concept has been shredded, when you have been deeply injured and made to feel the injury was all your fault, when you look for approval to those who can not or will not provide it—you play the role assigned to you by your abusers. It's time to stop playing that role."

Awhile back here I spoke of  "not knowing what it is we are like."  I didn't finish my college degree because I had completely lost sight of why I was doing any of it to begin with.  I've had opportunities to go back, or to train in some other field, if only I could decide which one I wanted - but I still can't look around and pick one because I have no idea what I'm like. I can't give you an assessment of my own personality because it is so heavily overlaid with what other people required me to be or to do. I had a role assigned to me in my family from a very young age, I mean like 5 years old or younger, and I've been doing that role all this time. I have only inklings and clues to things I might have preferred to do or ways I might have expressed myself - if ever my self hadn't been obliterated in favor of taking care of other people so the adults in the room wouldn't have to.

From the article:
"A particularly pernicious myth is that "healing requires forgiveness" of the abuser. For the victim of emotional abuse, the most viable form of help is self-help—and a victim handicapped by the need to "forgive" the abuser is a handicapped helper indeed. The most damaging mistake an emotional-abuse victim can make is to invest in the "rehabilitation" of the abuser. Too often this becomes still another wish that didn't come true—and emotionally abused children will conclude that they deserve no better result.

The costs of emotional abuse cannot be measured by visible scars, but each victim loses some percentage of capacity. And that capacity remains lost so long as the victim is stuck in the cycle of "understanding" and "forgiveness." The abuser has no "right" to forgiveness—such blessings can only be earned. And although the damage was done with words, true forgiveness can only be earned with deeds.

For those with an idealized notion of "family," the task of refusing to accept the blame for their own victimization is even more difficult. For such searchers, the key to freedom is always truth—the real truth, not the distorted, self-serving version served by the abuser."

This is probably where I began in counseling, trying to find some middle ground to understand and forgive, because although most preachers and Bible based counselors know their Christian doctrine well, they do not know mental illness or even the face of genuine evil in humans hardly at all.  No one does until they've been around it for a good, long while. In other words, I've preemptively forgiven those who've given me poor advice while meaning well. Even the most secular trained psychiatrist can completely screw up the advice giving business. We all have to live the lives given to us, advice is just a shot at help, not a guarantee. 

But, now I've heard the door in my soul lock when it comes to being emotionally abused and manipulated, and that has left some people on the other side who still have no clue that they have been left behind. I was always an easy mark, ever letting a relative or a friend remain self absorbed at my expense. Now, my time is a great deal more valuable to me and I don't want to meet you for dinner because you "can't find anyone else to go out with tonight." And it may be that the other heir to my mother's estate is not happy and thinks he can improve his lot by bullying and threatening me again, after all, it's always worked before. 


I'm not interested in his needs, wants, or feelings. I'm interested in mine now, and I will not be care taking anyone else anymore. It's over.

So then, with things cleared out and a new bookmark folder called "Arts," I found a site called Smarthistory, hosted by the Khan Academy, via Art is a Way.  Perhaps I can still learn the things I was so enjoying in art class in middle school, but had to give up because I had to do the college track and doing algebra a year early was just so much more important. Right? Right for who?

And why the ugly Jackson Pollack painting at the top? I took that photo last fall at the National Gallery in Washington, DC.  I never understood in the least the attraction to "modern art," it always seemed to be childish at best, and most definitely over priced. Then I dropped in for a 45 minute quickie tour of the modern wing of the gallery - and ended up staying for two whole days. I just Could Not leave, I was learning and fascinated at every turn. It wasn't until I got to this painting that I finally relented on why it was really "art" and why perhaps it might be worth that much money. I can't explain to you why it's so,
but there is really something amazing and priceless in that modern wing as well. You'll have to go experience the work for yourself.

There is inestimable value in experiencing  for yourself.