An Optical Delusion – The Mouse who was a Leaf
Ever have one of those moments where your eyes lie to you, but you believe them, perhaps just for a fraction of time before your mind analyses the data and realises a mistake has been made.
Why are your eyes lying to you, don’t they know that you don’t like being lied to. Can you ever trust them again after such a breach.
If your eyes were a person, you’d probably hold this against them. They’d have to win your trust back if such a thing is possible. And you might, just might, use this incident to manipulate them, although you’d be likely to tell yourself that you are not the one being manipulative, that it was the other person who was manipulative and your behaviour is a reaction to theirs. They have revealed themselves to be the sort of person against whom you have to protect yourself.
The other night my eyes told me that a leaf blown by a rather strong wind was a mouse. It didn’t really matter if it was a leaf or a mouse, so I did not get angry with my eyes lying to me. And besides I could explain the mistake away very easily. There is a field mouse who lives and operates in the general area where the leaf was blown. It’s an easy mistake to make, especially when what is seen occurs in peripheral vision.
This insignificant incident reminded me of other times I have mistaken leaves for creatures. Which then reminded me of the times I have mistaken the actions or words of another for something which they were not. The leaf always reveals itself to be a leaf, however the actions and words of another don’t always reveal themselves to be what they are rather than what they are not as clearly. This is in part due to the abstract nature of actions and words, and the complications which go on in our minds, spiralling like leaves caught up in a whirlwind.
Someone does or says something, or both, and we’re off, reacting before we know we’re doing it. Then we act or speak, or both, in replying reaction. Our reaction causes a reaction in them and their subsequent reaction causes another subsequent reaction in us.
Sometimes… if only we could pause, and perhaps rewind. But even if we do, our eyes may still lie because so much of what we see in our mind’s eye is influenced by our hopes, fears, our past, present, and all the other ghosts, friendly and unfriendly moving around our inner labyrinth.
We tend to hear what we want to hear and see what we want to see, even if it is not what we want to hear or see.
The mouse who was a leaf… also reminded me of something which I had come across earlier that day. Words spoken by a victim of abuse, who, to my ears, sounded more like the words of an abuser. The sound was one heard not by my actual ears, but by the ears of my gut, how their words made me feel, which was not dissimilar to how I felt during all the years that I lived under my mother’s thumb. It was one of those – you remind me of my mother – moments, which reminds me of the advice given regularly by Miss Marple – if someone unfamiliar reminds you of someone familiar, chances are there is a connection between the two.
When someone reminds me of my mother (and sometimes that can be me) then I see this:
She always portrayed herself as a victim. I believed her, why would she lie, especially as she never allowed me to lie as lying was a very bad thing according to her and her lectures on the topic. Surely she would not say one thing but do the opposite. Yet that is exactly what she did, something which I came to realise as my perspective matured and grew less afraid to see what I did not want to see.
From a very early age, she regaled me with endless stories of her victimhood. Tales of her terrible childhood and all the awful monsters who populated it. Tales of her life before I was born, before she met my father, and after she met and married my father. She was a beautiful damsel in distress throughout, and nothing which happened to her was ever her fault. Even her stories about me, about her as a mother to me, were filled with the theme of being a victim.
Because of me, she could not escape from my father and all the horrible things he inflicted upon her. I felt a permanent guilt for existing, if only I could die then she would be free at last to live that live for which she longed so much but I was an obstacle blocking her path. Yet she had had me deliberately, very much so or so she told me repeatedly. She had planned her pregnancy, hidden it from my father until it was too late to abort the mission. I was supposed to be the saviour of a relationship which had crashed on perilous rocks. She actually said that she thought having a baby would make her and my father less selfish (it’s very hard not to laugh at that with the revelatory irony of hindsight).
This morning I came across this article – Six Questions to Ask Your Partner Before You Get Married – to which I thought – bollocks! It’s not really bollocks, that was just my way of expressing my experience of how well tidy formulas like this actually work in practice. This may be the sort of thing which you wish you had done at the time viewed form the perspective of how things turned out once the passion of love, which is rarely as business-like as this, turned into a resentful simmering, bubbling and boiling cauldron of trouble.
One of the questions is:
1. Do you want children? How many? Are you willing to try other ways of having children (IVF or adoption)?
Does your partner prefer to just have one child, or does he or she feel that it is important for a child to have siblings? Would you and your partner be willing to try in vitro fertilization (IVF) or adopt if you have fertility issues? Would you like to adopt instead of having biological children?
(Sounds like a job interview, doesn’t it)
My mother knew from the get-go of her relationship with my father that he did not want children – something which she told me more than once. He had been forced to play father to his siblings since he was in his early teens, as far as he was concerned it was a role for which he was still responsible, and he did not get much joy out of it because his sibling-children were needy and greedy and never grateful for anything which he did for them, it was never enough even when it could have been viewed (by outside eyes) as too much.
He didn’t want children of his own. He was clear about it. My mother agreed with him, she didn’t want children either. Then she changed her mind, but only because a baby in her eyes looked like a miracle cure for a problem. A quick-fix which ended up not only not fixing the problem it was designed to solve, but made everything worse, which, of course, was the baby’s fault for being defective rather than effective.
My father saw my mother’s pregnancy as a betrayal of trust. She had lied to him in so many ways that perhaps everything about her was a lie. This suspicion was confirmed over and over again. When my father died he had finally managed to obtain a divorce from my mother, which wasn’t easy for many reasons, one of which was that she had been absent from his life for decades and he had to locate her so she could argue her side of the issue in front of a court and get her fair say and share. He died thinking the matter had been resolved. My mother waited until his death, then she managed to overturn the divorce using rather sneaky tactics, but, of course, nothing she did was manipulative or deceptive at all. She was the victim righting a wrong which had been done to her.
Research and clinical experience clearly indicates that abusers are likely to:
• Underreport, hide, minimize, or justify their abusive behavior
• Describe themselves as victims
• Feel abused when their partners disagree with them or don’t do what they want
• Label their partners’ behavior as abusive
• Attribute malevolent intent to their partners’ positive behavior (manipulative, deceptive)
• Pathologize their partners (emotional or personality disorder, incompetence)
• Use negative labels (nag, irrational, hysterical, lazy, unreliable)
• Have great difficulty describing their partners’ perspectives
• Show little or no compassion
• Exhibit self-righteousness
– via The Line between Victims and Abusers by Steven Stosny, Ph.D. in Anger in the Age of Entitlement
Someone who knows me well, has known me for a long time, knows about my background, my family, my story, recently said to me – When you mention your father, your eyes light up and you can recall happy memories, you never do that with your mother, your eyes cloud over at the slightest thought of her.
I wanted to argue, but when this person asked me – Can you recall any happy memories which include your mother? – I couldn’t. I tried, squeezed my brain like a tube of toothpaste. I know there must be some, I did laugh and smile as a child. But all the happy memories which include her aren’t about happy moments. My laughter and smiles were pretend in an effort to alleviate the heavy pall of negativity. An antidote to poison, toxicity levels rising hour after hour, day after day, without reprieve, or at least a way to deal with it as it kept trying to kill me or convince me to kill myself.
Research and clinical evidence traditionally has shown that victims were likely to:
• Underreport or hide their partners’ abusive behavior
• Not label obviously abusive behavior as abuse
• Blame themselves in part for the abuse they reveal
• Make excuses for the abuser’s behavior
• Bend over backwards to see the abuser’s perspective
• Describe the abuser at least partially in sympathetic terms
• Exhibit self-doubt
– via The Line between Victims and Abusers by Steven Stosny, Ph.D. in Anger in the Age of Entitlement
That was one of my jobs as a child. I was my mother’s victim support system, her only victim support system. She played a different role around other people, that of the brave victim who refuses to be a victim (but first she has to let you know she is a victim so that you can admire that she is not one), the crusader, activist and strong woman, martyr, saint, fighting against the injustices of the world. She would have made a great feminist (in the negative sense of the word), but she hated women as much as she hated men. She hated both sexes, everyone, equally. However she saw her hatred as anything but that, it was a positive power… so why did it attract so much negativity to her. She was wonderful… so why was everyone else utterly crap.
If today was her yesterday, then she would be one of those seeing narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths, narcopaths, everywhere in everyone else except her – she would be the exception to her rule of judgment. She might, because it is trendy to do so (and narcissists always keep tabs on trends), ask others if perhaps, maybe, not in a million years but let her just ask it anyway to show how self-reflective she is (self-reflection is a sign of not a narcissist and narcissists make sure to know these things) and humble (an audience appreciates humility – Charisma 101 – Charisma: What It Is and How to Grow It – and narcissists appreciate that they need an audience or else they are nothing), ask others if they think she is a narcissist but she just doesn’t know it (poor her). She’s not really asking you for your opinion, even if it appears that way your gut will tell you otherwise and prompt you to answer with a white lie of the telling-someone-what-they-want-to-hear variety.
Dear mouse, of course you’re not a leaf! And you’ll say this with sincerity because the mouse asked you the question in a way which made you feel needed and appreciated your support.
“Second, you must not only recognize that gaining the support of others is important, you must also communicate that you genuinely value those others whose support you desire. Even the most charismatic individuals will be left standing alone if they ignore the importance of drawing in their supporters. Charisma exists in the “between” space, it cannot stand on its own.
Third, you must be able to communicate to your audience/followers just how much they mean to you and how much you value the support they offer. This cannot be overemphasized – charismatic leaders emit an energy that draws us in, because they make us feel valued. When a charismatic musician catches your eye while he’s playing, you feel that you are intimately connected to that person at that moment. You are made to feel worthy of the gift of the music.”
– via Charisma: What It Is and How to Grow It by Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D. in Lifetime Connections
It can be confusing and conflicting for me sometimes to read the writings, listen to the words, observe the actions of those who are victims of abuse at the hands of a narcissist, because of my experience of my mother. Sometimes I hear her voice in theirs, a crying victim who is victimising with their victimhood. I try to shake off that optical delusion, which sometimes works, but if my gut reacts, then shaking off the feeling is not going to happen.
Being able to shake it off relies partly on whether I feel that the victim genuinely wants to figure things out. Of course the lines get blurred there too, but there is an undercurrent which is clear even in those who are very raw in their pain.
“All I remember is howling. Just howling in pain like a wounded animal. My partner, God Bless him, just held me, and loved me. (this part still chokes me up). I howled all night long, from 9 PM until 5 AM the next morning, I just sat, and sobbed, and raged, and howled. All night long, my partner held me, supported me, and stuck by me.
The next day, when I was rational, he talked to me about getting some help. I rebelled against that, as no one from my family ever got help, only those who sought therapy were “weak”. I was at the lowest point in my life. I agreed, I felt defeated. But I went.
I met this very kind, no nonsense, loving individual who took my complete history. After she was through asking me many questions, she smiled, and said, “Well Marietta, you are a late bloomer, but with hard work, you can fly again”. I will never forget that.
That’s was four years ago. This very angry young lady, is now a pretty functional, responsible human being, who is in touch with her emotions. Who understands, and supports healthy relationship styles, and models herself after them. It was so hard for me to recognize the fact that I was an abuser. I think because my father abused me, I just knew I’d never do that to another person, when in truth, I should have seen it coming, and recognized, that I would do that to another person, as that’s all I knew and had learned as a kid.”
– via The Former Victim Is The Abuser – this is an incredibly insightful, poignant and healing story shared of a willingness to heal no matter what, and of true support. Kudos.
I see both my parents as being narcissists, having NPD rather than being very narcissistic yet not having NPD. I realise that this is just my perception of them. I don’t doubt this particular perception. I don’t mind if others disagree with me, it does not rock my boat. Not anymore. I have learned to trust myself even when I pull myself apart with self-doubt.
My father fits into the Overt category of narcissist. In many ways he was honest about who he was, really overt about it, he would give you a heads-up about his manipulations on a regular basis (partly because it amused him to do so and watch the self-denial of others cover his made-obvious tracks), because he was more aware of being manipulative. It was a more conscious act. That leaf is a mouse, I can convince you of it too if I present it to you in a manner that tells you what you want to hear, you can see through the lie at any time if you want to, do you want to. The tactic used by successful salesmen – get the buyer to do all the selling to themselves, then if they find out what they bought later was a crock of lies, they’ll only have themselves to blame and they may be too embarrassed to admit it happened.
A large portion of the anger people feel towards narcissists and others of that ilk is due to how much they loved them before the love was revealed to be a deception. No one likes to feel that they have been a fool, and the more they played a part in it, the angrier they are… at themselves for falling for an optical delusion and believing it was not just real but a dream come true. We can’t live with that kind of anger directed at ourselves, so we channel it at the person who started all of this. They did this to us, they made us this way. Yes, partly they did, so part of that anger directed at them is going in the right direction, but there is a tipping point. If it is all their fault… then so is all the power because you’re just a puppet with no hand, who always needs a hand to animate it.
Or you’re the greatest puppet-master of them all, the one who believes itself to be a puppet and blames others for being the puppet-master, absolving it of all responsibility and accountability for anything which it does.
My mother is a Covert narcissist, which basically means she believes her own lies so thoroughly that she is unaware of her own manipulations and it is all going on subconsciously. She has no clue whatsoever (and she is not pretending very expertly either) that she is a manipulator using you to serve her purpose. She has often said that she is incapable of being deceptive, and she has often said this to people as a barbed compliment (a favourite of all narcissists, but particularly vicious in the hands of a covert narc) – I wish I was able to deceive people as well as you do, but I’m too honest for that, too naive and innocent, and can’t tell a lie convincingly. I really admire you for being such an adept liar (she says telling a lie so convincingly she believes it utterly). That leaf is a mouse. There is no leaf just a mouse, a big mouse. A mouse. That’s that.
I know a lot of people find this – How conscious is a narcissist about what they are saying and doing – a point of debate, often very heated, which may never be resolved. Some people are so adamant about their view of this that they are prepared to annihilate anyone who disagrees with them, as a difference of opinion based on a difference of perspective based on a different experience just can’t be allowed to exist. Sometimes people need to have only one reality, one size fitting all, for order to be brought to the chaos of living and being. That’s that. Narcissists having empathy is another point of often very hostile contention.
While exploring all these thoughts brought on by a leaf pretending to be a mouse, I came across a few intriguing articles. They are connected yet also disconnected, I tend to roam a lot and separate things get connected while doing so.
This one is one of those which had me Hmmmm-ing a lot, as it’s something which can be applied not just to things like blogging, but also to things like being (especially if you are on the radar of a narcissist).
How did I end up there, and was I looking to do this. No, I wasn’t looking to do this. I ended up there while searching and researching something for someone else who didn’t like my answer of – It’s the internet, you can copyright yourself and your stuff up the wazoo, but your stuff may still get ‘borrowed’ and you won’t get credit for it, especially if someone is doing it deliberately… and even if they are not doing it deliberately it’s the nature of the beast.
I also came across a couple of other interesting articles on the subject, which basically said – Just be yourself, share yourself uncensored (by concerns of having your self stolen which can end up inhibiting you and therefore reducing the impact of your individual style) if someone tries to steal you, does steal your style… all they get is an optical delusion. They can’t be you, they can try to mimic you, your style, etc, may even do it rather well, better than you (maybe) but they are themselves not you. So, they haven’t stolen anything from you, it just sometimes feels that way and seems very much to be what has happened, especially where idea theft or identity theft is concerned, which are very serious issues.
The issue was not at the serious level, it was at the preventative measures level due to this having happened to others and not wanting it to happen to themselves.
I know that want rather well… I grew up with narcissists, having your self stolen is a constant. The only preventative measure I found to deal with it was by hiding my real self and offering a false self to be stolen. That’s a rather crap solution, but it worked as a quick-fix… the consequences of it caused other problems, some of which had a long-term effect.
Sometimes the leaf is a mouse, and the mouse is a leaf, neither of which is what it is. Why is being what it is so difficult?