Do you notice themes happening in your life?
By theme I mean something which keeps coming up in conversation, in your browsing online, in what you watch or listen to, as though it’s trying to get your attention… or maybe you’re already focused upon it and information rushes in like results when you pop a subject into a search engine.
I’m asking because I noticed one yesterday.
Someone mentioned – Nature versus Nurture – in a comment on my last post.
I find that debate fascinating.
The first time I remember coming across it was in a psychology book about a study – Sanity, Madness and the Family by R.D. Laing and A. Esterson – which was considered to be groundbreaking and controversial at the time of its publication in 1964.
One of the controversial aspects of the study was that it went against the conventional thinking of the psychiatric community, the prevailing and accepted theory as fact that nature was solely to blame for a person having mental problems.
It profiled and studied several families of schizophrenic patients and noticed that some of the patients’ symptoms and problems improved when they were removed from the influence of their families. In some instances the person seemed fine as long as they didn’t interact with their family members. The moment they were exposed to their family, the symptoms and problems returned.
It dared to suggest that family, that nurture, might be to blame for a person having mental problems.
It even went as far as to say that in certain families a member is chosen to be the ‘crazy’ one so that all the other members can be ‘sane’ by comparison, and when that is the case the family is invested in keeping the ‘crazy’ one crazy and can’t allow them to get better.
“What is particularly important to note, in this and other passages [of the recorded interview between the researchers and their patient’s mother], is that the mother expressly states that she pleaded with the boy to finish with Ruth [her daughter, the patient], and yet she expressly tells Ruth, and sometimes us, that she did not. Ruth does not know definitely the part her mother played in ending her love affair. Nor does her mother fully realise what she did. When Ruth accuses her mother of stage-managing its conclusion, she is simply told that she is ill.”excerpt from The Golds – Sanity, Madness, and the Family by R.D. Laing and A. Esterson
That excerpt is random – I opened the book at a page and there it was. It’s better that way sometimes.
When I met my partner, my mother set out to get rid of him using a variety of tactics including having a tantrum because he had not requested a private tete-a-tete with her to ask the ‘expert’ on me (her apparently) about me.
He was very obliging and agreed to go out to dinner with her alone, without me.
The entire dinner conversation was her telling him what a terrible monster I was, and he should run away, never look back. My partner refused to tell me most of what she said about me, he was too incensed to do it at the time, he didn’t want to repeat it, he didn’t want to hurt me, and he wanted to forget the horrible experience.
I didn’t need him to tell me what she’d said – I’d heard it all before. I knew the sort of things she said about people, and about me.
The one thing he did mention was that she had warned him of my ‘black moods’. I did have very dark moods… just after my mother had a tantrum in which she’d shared with me the awful truth about myself. But of course it never occurred to her that my moods were caused by being subjected to her emotional explosions and vicious diatribes. She always felt better after one of those, soon forgot about them, used to get annoyed that I seemed gloomy afterwards when she was suddenly really upbeat.
And of course she was doing all of that, trying to split us up, for our own good so we wouldn’t be hurt by love – she was a saint!
Introducing my partner to my father (yes, I was sort of testing him, but also he needed to know where I came from) was like that scene at the end of Apocalypse Now when we finally get to meet Marlon Brando/Colonel Kurtz.
My father spent most of the meeting refusing to talk, watching CNN and turning the volume up to 11 when we were talking with his mistress, who was a wonderful hostess under intense strain, when he finally decided to say something it was to announce that he was immortal… yup… and he explained why.
It’s a funny story, especially if viewed in retrospective isolation. But it’s also not funny.
My partner passed that test too. He was politely disinterested. He didn’t take the bait.
However someone else did take the bait. We told this story of my partner meeting my father to one of my partner’s friends (a guy who claimed he’d been recruited by the CIA… I don’t know if that was true or not, but it was his way of stating how clever his was, what a high IQ he had) and his reaction was – I want to meet your father to engage him in a battle of wits! – because he was certain he could win.
I just smiled and nodded and did not share what I thought since that scenario was never going to happen. What I thought was – my father will make mincemeat of you, turn your brain into mush, because that’s his expertise, that’s what he does to people, has been at it for decades, and all your weak spots are flashing loudly and obviously, he has no problem using those, your ego, and getting you to dismantle yourself and feed yourself bit by bit into the grinder.
“One of the major reasons I became interested in family systems theory, tribalism, family myths, social psychology, and other manifestations of collectivism was because I noticed a big problem with the major forms of psychotherapy practiced on individuals: All of these forms of individual therapies pay way too much attention to the way patients are reacting, and not nearly enough attention to what it is they are reacting to. If someone had personally witnessed their entire family being beheaded by terrorists, we would not conclude that he or she has “poor distress tolerance coping skills.
For instance, a subject with BPD may seem to a casual observer to be over-reacting if he or she were to explode at what seems to the experimenter like a minor criticism from a mother. What this observer may not know, however, is that said subject believes that they never seem to be able to do anything right in the mother’s eyes, and the latest criticism was just the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back.
Words and behaviors during family interactions take on additional shades of meanings within the context of all prior interactions, and these meanings can significantly add to the stress level of the involved parties. In fact, without knowing the entire history of the patient’s family interactions, the experimenter’s judgments about the severity of the stress would by necessity be extremely flawed.”excerpt from False Assumptions in Personality Disorder Research, Part I by David M. Allen
I bought the Sanity, Madness and the Family book in a second hand shop many years ago (a few years after those parental and partner incidents), and still own it because reading it helped me to stop playing the role my family had given me, and it encouraged me to see clearly the part my family had played in making me view myself as a worthless, useless, hopeless failure who was born defective.
My parents regularly wondered how two perfect people like them could give birth to such a terribly imperfect child like me – I know they wondered that because they shared that with me every time they told me the awful truth about myself for my own good.
At the time of reading that book I had yet to give a name to what my parents were – narcissists. This was years before Narcissistic Personality Disorder became a hot trending topic online. Awareness of Narcissistic Abuse and the effect of having Narcissists as parents, of being an ACoN (Adult Child of Narcissists), was not widespread and easily available.
I did read a couple of books about Narcissism but they focused on the narcissists rather than those affected by the narcissist, and while that was interesting it didn’t really help me figure myself out. It didn’t explain the family dynamic of which I had been a part and was still a part of even though I’d gone No Contact from my family (before No Contact was called that and became a must for your own health, safety and sanity).
I kept quiet about having cut myself off from my family of origin because I learned the hard way that when I did mention it other people reacted as though that was a crime for a child to commit. I was lectured, and made to feel ashamed for doing it… often by people who did not know nor care to know why. I think they were afraid what I had done was infectious. Once again the view of myself as a worthless, useless, hopeless failure who was born defective was affirmed.
Yesterday while browsing one of my favourite Korean drama news sites I spotted a post discussing their Theme of the Month: Villains – Dramabeans: [Villains] Pure evil and the actors who play them by Ally – and in it the writer said that their psychiatrist husband had remarked that – some people are just evil.
That reminded me of the theory that – people are born evil.
In other words – it’s nature, and not nurture, thus nurture had nothing to do with why they are the way they are.
You hear that theory often spouted and touted as fact by narcissists, especially narcissist parents whose child (most likely the one who was designated by them to be the scapegoat) has decided to cut them out of their life, go No Contact, rebel and escape.
Both of my parents have told others that I’m evil and told me that I’m evil – and it’s nothing to do with them and their treatment of me, their story always has them as good parents who just don’t know how they ended up with an evil child.
Their reasons for telling others that their child is evil is to control the narrative, to get sympathy from others, and to instigate others to ‘protect’ the narcissist and ‘attack’ their child by going to the child and telling it that it’s evil and should stop being evil.
Their reasons for telling their child it’s evil is to get the child to attack itself to protect the narcissist parent.
“We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love.”
― R.D. Laing
The goal is to shame the child into being and doing what the narcissist parent wants since the most common reason for being labeled ‘evil’ by a narcissist is because you refused to be used and abused by them.
You said ‘No’ to one of their requests… and ‘No’ is an answer they cannot accept, you must be convinced to say ‘Yes’ (like Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast battering Ray Winstone with “Yes, Yes, Yes!” every time he says “No!”). You will be relentlessly assaulted and never allowed a moment of peace until you give them the answer they want.
Yesterday I also browsed The Atlantic Magazine, and read an article about a Docufilm by Dave Adams and watched the trailer – The Atlantic Selects: An Unflinching Look at Parenting Undiagnosed Special-Needs Kids by Emily Buder
Dave Adams said about his filming experience: “Filming with Heath and Mariel was a master class in how to be a good parent—patience, empathy, kindness, and unconditional love.”
Viewing the trailer, observing the family and the supportive community around them was breathtaking, fascinating, inspiring.
It’s a very different version of reality of family and community from the one you experience when your parents are narcissists and their social circle is mainly made up of other narcissistic people.
Narcissist parents talk a lot about love, about patience, about empathy, about kindness, about being good parents… it’s all talk, talk which creates an image, a facade, a persona living a status – they are who they say they are, but they’re not at all who they say they are.
Narcissists often isolate their family from the outside world – to control the narrative, to maintain their reality. If you grow up in that environment, it may take ages before you become aware that this isn’t what all families are like, this isn’t the reality of everyone.
Sometimes it’s not until you witness a very different kind of family and community that you realise there is a very different version of family, of love, of life out there.
Children of narcissists may suspect that… but it’s dangerous to think those kind of thoughts as a child of narcissists. If the narcissist parents find out about those suspicions… you, the child, become a threat, a danger, to the narcissist and their reality.
And when you’re underage… even if the suspicions are proved to be true, what can you do about it?
“So why don’t people just say to heck with their families and go and do what they please, as long as no one really gets hurt other than through emotional bruises?”an interesting question plus some possible answers from David M. Allen in Groupthink, Family Dynamics, and the Meaning of Life
The world out there only sees your family as your family wants the world out there to see it – the perfect family facade – aren’t you lucky to have such wonderful parents who love you so much… you’re not grateful, thankful, appreciative enough, you brat!
By the time you’re of age to get the heck out of there… the damage has been done, again and again, and is hard to undo. It can be undone, you can totally do it, but it takes a lot of work and determination, and other things. You need to have a bit of Bruce Willis in Die Hard attitude about it. And you need to be the parent you never had to yourself, giving yourself – patience, empathy, kindness, and unconditional love.
Yesterday I also browsed Psychology Today and ended up on David M. Allen’s PT blog – A Matter of Personality: From Borderline to Narcissism, then later on I explored his blogspot blog – Family Dysfunction and Mental Health Blog – wherein he also has guest posts written by people who share their stories of their families and how their families affected their mental health.
I enjoyed meeting his mind online, through his writing, and reading his series on False Assumptions in Personality Disorder Research (an insightful look at how scientific conclusions are reached), his take on the Nature vs. Nurture debate, and his article about the latest psychological trending hot topic – Resilience.
In his article – The Idea of “Resilience” Can Marginalize Family Stress Level – he says the following:
“I have also discussed one of the major reasons this sleight-of-hand is employed: to avoid holding parents responsible for their problematic parenting and chaotic family interactions.
It’s just not popular to discuss the role of dysfunctional parenting in creating psychological problems in their offspring. Everyone seems to worry that they might be traumatized. They are not, I guess, very resilient? Better to blame the victim.
Of course, it is also true that bashing parents and making them feel guiltier, more defensive or angrier than they already do is counterproductive, as doing so often causes them to double down on whatever dysfunctional interactions they had been routinely engaging in previously. Nonetheless, pretending that their behavior has nothing at all to do with their child’s problems is just a huge, ugly lie.”excerpt from The Idea of “Resilience” Can Marginalize Family Stress Level by David M. Allen
And he links to a great post – Aces Too High: Putting Resilience and Resilience Surveys Under a Microscope by Christine Cissy White
One of the parts I loved about the Aces Too High post was in the intro:
“Sounds fantastic. But what exactly does resilience mean?
Resilience generally describes the bounce-back ability of individuals who return to the similar shape, form and condition after misfortune, harm or injury.
But how does resilience work?
Is resilience something one can ingest, like Popeye’s spinach, to become stronger whenever out sized by stress? Can it be put on like Wonder Woman’s bracelets to protect against threat? Can it be given, taken or shared?
Is resilience an internal trait, an external circumstance or some mysterious blend of both?”excerpt from Aces Too High: Putting Resilience and Resilience Surveys Under a Microscope by Christine Cissy White
Every time there’s a new ‘In’ thing in psychology and mental health it seems to go through a miracle magical cure phase – One simple thing to do to make all the bad stuff go away, get rid of what you don’t want, and become perfect!
In other words it becomes a narcissistic magical thinking portal – step through here to be transformed into your ideal self.
But what happens if it doesn’t work for you? That’s okay as long as it doesn’t work for others either, but what if everyone else seems to be claiming that it worked for them, their life instantly changed and now they’re “rich, famous and airbrushed”.
I borrowed “rich, famous and airbrushed” from an astrology post about transiting Venus in Leo by Ruby Slipper Astrology.
It creates such a vivid image, captures one of the goals of narcissists when they’re creating their facade, public image status, and reminded me of an article I read about the misuse of the #nofilter on Instagram – Psychology Today: The #nofilter Lie by Renee Engeln.
In the #nofilter article the author links to an article on an Art News site about a stunning photography project by Rankin – For a Project Called ‘Selfie Harm,’ the Photographer Rankin Asked Teens to Photoshop Their Own Portraits. What They Did Was Scary by Sarah Cascone for ArtNet
It bugged me that the Artnet article needed to tell us what to think about what the teens did to their own portraits in its title, but… clickbaiting is hard to resist online when you want to be noticed, get traffic, provoke a reaction, increase your stats.
I don’t think what the teens did was scary. They’re teenagers = not set in their ways yet. Able to rebel in the blink of an eye, and change direction. Exploring who they are and what it all means.
They were asked to do it as part of a project, and it was an opportunity to experiment.
I’ve played with pics of myself in Photoshop and done stuff like they did. And just like most of them I preferred the before pic more than the after I’ve messed with it result, but I didn’t know that until I’d allowed myself to do it.
When you get given the opportunity to do something like that, it’s worth trying it out to find out what happens when you do it, to discover for yourself what you think, feel, experience, and get personalised results.
Scary is when someone makes a statement like – What They Did Was Scary – and that assumption, that personal opinion which is likely to have been inspired by a possibly traumatic personal experience, gets propagated as fact, becomes groupthink which then gets used to shame others who don’t think alike, don’t align with the group, don’t agree with it, who think differently, who might want to investigate further for themselves, try that experiment out but can’t because of how others will react to them.
Scary is when:
“So where do today’s people in developed countries learn what it is they are supposed to do and what rules they are supposed to follow? They first learn this in their families of origin growing up. They try to follow the family rules (even when the family members are saying one thing and doing something else entirely), and the rules remain powerful. They continue to spout what systems therapists call family myths – sort of akin to the theology of a church group – and argue vociferously for them even when they are transparently preposterous. The latter phenomenon is called willful blindness.
Taken together, this is a good description of what is now called groupthink. People will sacrifice their own ideas, urges, likes, and dislikes in order to fit in with their groups. They will die for their families or for their country in wars like the proverbial lambs to the slaughter.”excerpt from David M. Allen in Groupthink, Family Dynamics, and the Meaning of Life
Scary is when…
You let someone who presents themselves as an expert on life, living, being human tell you what to think, what to feel, what to be, how to be, sells you a version of reality which doesn’t suit you and isn’t yours… but they’re the expert and thus you must take their faulty logic postulated on imperfect data as gospel.
Alice Morgan: Are you trying to beguile me?
DCI Luther: [chuckles] No, I wouldn’t be so foolish. But I will tell you this, Alice. You can revel in your brilliance for as long as you like, but people slip up. Happens time and time again.
Alice Morgan: Well that’s just faulty logic postulated on imperfect data collection. What if you only catch people who make mistakes? That would skew the figures, wouldn’t it?
DCI Luther: Yes, it would. But criminals aren’t as smart as they think they are.
Alice Morgan: Oh, that must get monotonous for someone as brilliant as you.quote from Luther, the UK TV series via Wikiquote
Scary is when…
someone who appears to be “rich, famous, and airbrushed” asks you for a simple favour,
they’ll love you if you do it,
and you end up getting sucked into a reality bending and stretching labyrinth, chased by a minotaur (which may be your own conscience trying to rescue you but the other person is a narcissist and they’ve made you view your own mind, your own thinking, yourself as evil), aiding and abetting a crime…
I’m ending this post here.