Saturday, December 22, 2012


I put my armor on when I was still a baby or a toddler and never again took it off at home.

Maybe I first put it on when I was left to cry it out as a baby or when I was spanked for crying after they woke me up from naps as a one-year-old. Maybe when I was spanked for expressing my desires or feelings, so I'd know I couldn't always get what I wanted. Or when I was thrown all alone into a closed room to cry until I passed out when I dared to cry as a toddler.

These may have been things that I felt. Things that made me cry and hurt my feelings back when my parents were still able to make me cry and hurt my feelings.

But I don't remember these events. I only learned about them from things my father said.

And after that, all my memories of my parents are emotional blanks, save for some anger, frustration, and fear.

They made me angry, but they never made me cry, not that I remember. I'm a warrior, not a wimp.

Where can I start? What can I go back to? Where can I dig, when feelings are so far into the past, before I even started remembering?

Good little girl

This will sound kind of pathetic, but it's a memory that makes me sad for the little girl I once was.

I was supposed to make no sound and never cry when I got shots as a kid. My father was very proud of this. I had no problem with it when I was as young as 2.

But this time, I was 6, and sick, and had to get penicillin shots twice a day, I think. And my parents took me together that afternoon and the nurse obviously had no idea what she was doing because it really hurt a lot, for a long time.

I was fighting tears and getting ready to pronounce the obligatory "Thank you" to the nurse. I thought "If I just get out of here soon enough, I'll be OK. But will I be able to say 'Thank you' when the moment comes that anyone even looks at me?"

But my parents were chatting with the nurse, flattering her, charming her, impressing her, I don't remember which it was this time. And it went on and on. No one looked at me once.

When it was finally over, I managed to squeeze out "Thank you." I hadn't cried, but was worried someone would know I was close. Thankfully, we could get home soon after that.

I remember feeling angry and invisible and embarrassed and ashamed of myself and wanting to be even more invisible, all at the same time.

It makes me sad because I have a girl who's almost 6 now. I'm trying to imagine her in such a situation and, mercifully, I'm failing. But the exercise is kind of sad.

Brave New Kitty - On Numbness

I just found this post on Brave New Kitty (great blog, by the way) and I'm sharing it mostly for selfish reasons - so I'll be able to revisit it any time I want. Because it describes my issues perfectly.

Here's the part that basically describes me:

"Numbness protected us as children by allowing us to tune out our parents fighting, or not question their shame and ridicule, or feel nothing but the physical pain when we were backhanded, slapped, or worse. Numbness allowed us to pretend the experiences didn’t happen or that they happened for reasons that were valid, but beyond us. These are the only choices a child has. She is not capable of the complex thought required to sort out, and emotionally separate from, abuse and cruelty at the hands of the people who are supposed to be nurturing her and protecting her from such things. Numbness offered a much-needed escape. In an environment where a child’s emotional needs are not being met, numbness is necessary.

According to every definition I’ve read of post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional numbing is a key factor in dealing with stress and trauma. But other than as a way to function during traumatic events, numbness is not necessary for adults, and if it fits certain patterns, it can be indicative of disowned feelings. Often, precisely because of the numbness, people can have trouble determining if this applies to them; people who’ve learned to numb out are often in the position of guessing at what they’re feeling. If you think you might be in this category, but aren’t sure, here are some indicators to look for:
  • feeling tired and drained around relatives
  • feeling out of control of your emotions
  • feeling powerless over your life or clueless about what you want
  • depression
  • compulsive behavior/addiction
  • unsatisfying relationships, wanting to feel closer to people but not knowing how to
  • confusion about what you feel or guessing at what you’re “supposed” to feel
  • having “emotional amnesia” about past events; having no feelings about something you know was painful
  • inappropriate emotions: laughing about something that was painful
  • blanking out chunks of your childhood
  • feeling like something’s missing from your life but not being able to identify what it is."

I hope she won't mind.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Defending myself from love

I've used defense mechanisms against people in my life that could have been close to me.

I don't hide stuff, or lie, or refuse to engage. But it's like I enter every relationship with the idea that I can't be really close, that I can't expect anything from another person, and that I could easily be rejected at any moment.

Still, I've felt hurt and pain over some relationships with people who were not my parents. Boyfriends, friends. But I deny and minimize that too. I wasn't really all that attached. I don't need anyone. He never really loved me, so what's the difference?

Or, if someone is ready to end a friendship with no explanation for what later turns out to have been a stupid, stupid misunderstanding, then, you know, good riddance.

No, I don't mean that. This one hurts. It's fucking sad. And I feel a lot of shame surrounding it because I've been so stupid and lacked social skills and somehow it all led to losing a good friend over a fucking smiley in a fucking text.

So I'm telling the story.

I had a good friend. A female friend who was actually female and feminine and was into talking and sharing and not only drinking beer and discussing politics. Then we both fell in love with the same guy for a while, while we both had boyfriends. We were all friends. It was a crazy situation. They eventually got together. There were secrets involved. They broke up a lot. Somehow, I ended up talking to both of them about their relationship and listening to what the other did. There were inconsistencies and I'd point them out and this sometimes led to them getting back together. I somehow found myself in the middle. Acting as some sort of peace-maker, go-between, intermediary. It was stupid, but I never said "I'm not interested" to either one of them when they wanted to pour their hearts out. They were both good friends and people I felt things for. Basically decent people. I still feel that.

Then, they definitely broke up and it was nasty and the guy didn't want to talk to the girl at that moment and called me and begged me to simply inform her where she could leave his stuff, as she'd asked him that when they last spoke.

I didn't want to do this. He begged me and said "If I call her now, I might lose my temper and say nasty things I don't mean to her. This will be easier on her."

It was a stupid idea to begin with. I had no business doing that. But I didn't know any better at the time and trusted everyone's social skills were better than mine, and he knew what he was doing when he asked me to do this. 

I sent a stupid short text to her with just the information. And then it sounded too unfeeling, too curt, too formal.

So I added a smiley.


That was it. It was supposed to be short for "I'm sorry and I love you" or something. Things I was unable to actually say, even in writing.

"You don't have to gloat," she responded. I didn't understand why she'd say that. By no means was I gloating. Really. I wrote back "Sorry, I'm just transferring information." See the lack of social skills? I felt something here, but could only function like a machine.

Then she called me and asked if she could bring his stuff to my place, instead of where he wanted it. I said "OK" and hoped that we were now fine. I still didn't quite understand what I'd done wrong.

When she dropped the stuff off, I asked her if she wanted to have coffee with me. She replied "Our coffee-drinking days are over," turned around and walked away. I didn't ask why. I didn't understand. I just said "All right then."

If she hadn't been so vulnerable, insecure, and dramatic, she might have explained; if I hadn't been so eager to defend myself by easily letting people go and writing them off, I would have demanded an explanation. But we were both too messed up to talk about the issue.

I only learned what the issue was from her ex, years later, recently, in fact.

Her phone had translated my "<:-)" into "he he."


And I was suddenly hurt. Because I understood and could no longer write her off. I could no longer rationalize that "I don't really need a friend who was willing to end it just because I sent a stupid message that may have been misguided, but certainly not malicious."

I wrote my parents off decades ago on some unconscious level. I don't know what it would take for me to be able to feel hurt by them.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


I'm now irritated and angry that my therapist expects me to cry and express my hurt over what my parents did and who they were. That he sees my laughing and smiling over my discoveries and memories as a defense from my feelings.

I mean, yes, there's truth to that. But it's also a very real and sincere and only natural way to react.

I don't feel pain when I remember how I've seen the mask slip and the look of pure hatred and disgust in my father's eyes. I don't feel hurt when I remember the gloating glint in my father's eyes when he thought he had the power to frighten and hurt me.

The feeling I have is a pleasant one.

"See?" It tells me. "It's not your fault you feel nothing but fear, anger, disgust, and frustration for this man. He's a sadistic destructive malignant narcissist."

You can't be hurt by someone you have no relationship with, no love or respect for, nothing at all, less than nothing. I mean, you can get angry, or you can laugh at how crazy and bizarre a person is, but you're not going to have your feelings hurt and cry about it.

If a crazy person who clearly hates you for no apparent reason says something critical to you or looks at you in a nasty way, are you going to cry over your hurt feelings? No. You're more probably going to laugh about how bizarre it is.

This is a defense, that's true. We defend ourselves against crazy people who are never going to have a relationship with us and are only interested in hurting us. We don't let them near.

I've had that defense against my father for as long as I can remember. There was probably a time when I loved and trusted him, but I can't access that - this probably ended when I was a baby.

Since then, I've known one thing well, albeit not consciously: if I give him the pleasure of knowing he's hurt me, he'll hurt me more. If I am tough and show no reaction at all, he'll leave me alone. That's the only defense a powerless child has. And that's my power. The only thing I truly know as strength.

The only clear memory I have of childhood spankings is the realization that they're not going to happen again because I've won by not showing any pain or fear.

He almost admitted to me that he could never break me when I was a child, recently. In a roundabout way, and, of course, talking about my mother spanking me, not him, but it was there. An admiring sort of anger in his eyes as he recounted how stubborn I was as a child. How they couldn't break my will.

This went on with words as weapons. 

It's a battle, a war, a concentration camp. If you've been in a war, yes, you're likely to have been hurt and messed up in different ways. But you're not expected to cry because the enemy soldiers hurt your feelings, are you? If you've been in a concentration camp, there surely are many horrible things to recount. But you're not likely going to weep over how the guards didn't like you or how the Kommandant hurt your feelings. You wouldn't be open to having your feelings hurt in the first place. Because you're in the kind of situation where you're trying to survive against a powerful enemy. There's no time or place for having your feelings hurt by that enemy and wanting to cry over that.

So, yes, it's a defense. And it's a damned good one, one that works with sadistic narcissists. And it's one I've had in place since I was tiny. And I'm not hiding anything or even really holding anything back - I don't remember the last time there was anything there.


Sunday, December 16, 2012


The tissues on the desk in my therapist's office annoy me. You think I'm gonna cry? No way. I'm tough.

When he says I had a very difficult childhood and many painful events in my past, I don't trust him to mean it. I'm wondering if he's being sarcastic, as in "Oh, poor you. You whiny brat." (I brought it up at the end of the session and he was able to convince me he definitely means it; that almost made me cry.)

Being vulnerable in front of others is dangerous and stupid. If you admit to any hurt feelings, ever, you will be attacked where it hurts AND you will be called ungrateful, whiny, and weak.

When you're hurt by someone, what you do is grit your teeth, clench your whole body, and bear it and just wait for it to be over. You don't even admit it hurts. You don't give them that pleasure.

My therapist asked me if I was aware of an interesting defense I had: whenever I talk about painful experiences, I smile and laugh. I wasn't aware of it. And I didn't mind I had it. I kind of thought that was cool. I'm aware, rationally, that this is messed up and actually weak, but I don't think I can help feeling this way. I don't even remember talking about painful experiences - just things my parents did. I didn't feel any pain.

I would loathe and disgust myself if I were to break down and cry before this father figure - not that I'm tempted to.

My husband is the only one I can cry in front of - and I loathe and disgust myself for that, too. 

Engulfing to Ignoring

I think I pinpointed the moment my father went from engulfing to ignoring.

To begin with, he never managed to be truly engulfing, just overly controlling on the outside. There never was classical enmeshment in my family. But he was always there, a cold, silent, towering dictator.

This was when I was a little doll, then a stubborn little kid, then a preteen who was involved in and successful at many activities - the piano, ballet, gymnastics, choir, acting - all of which he took me to and talked to the teachers and boasted about it all to others and proved he was an involved father of a gifted child to everyone who'd listen.

Then I dropped all these activities, one by one. I took to reading and listening to music in my room. He was upset and tried to talk me out of it. When this failed, I basically dropped off his radar. There was nothing public left for him to "do with" me - and that was all that existed before, anyway.

Really, when I think about it, he never was engulfing, it just felt that way. He wasn't capable of that. He was just around a lot, getting narcissistic supply from public figures.

And his narcissistic parents, to whom all the diplomas and awards were dutifully and ceremoniously presented for approval.

When that was gone, there was nothing left.


People who never had real parents tend to parentify their children. This doesn't just mean that they want their children to take care of them emotionally (and sometimes physically) the way their parents should have.

This is common, but there are other ways to parentify and mess up your kids.

You can treat them like your messed up parents wanted to be treated, thinking misguidedly that this is simply the best way to treat human beings.

You can try to do anything not to upset them. You can try to leave every decision up to them. You can  allow them to walk all over you (sometimes literally) thinking it's your duty to just bear it. You can fail to have any boundaries. You can treat their every wish as your command.

I've been guilty of this. And then I've sometimes snapped and said "What do you want from me?"

Authoritarianism and permissiveness are two sides of the same coin - a parent who doesn't instinctively feel where sane boundaries lie because his or hers were violated in childhood.

Sometimes even infantilization is actually a form of parentification. My father did many age-inappropriate things for me and sometimes behaved as if I were a princess and he were my servant (but there was sarcasm involved). For instance, he'd ask me if I wanted something to eat in my room, I'd say "OK", he'd bring it to me and I'd finish it and then go on reading or whatever. He'd come in, see the empty plate, and sardonically say "May I remove Your plate now, your Majesty?" or something like that. There was no right response. He was resentful about doing something I never asked him to do. I'd mumble "Yes" or try to take the plate back myself - he'd never let me.

He and his sister had to serve their narcissistic mother as the Queen she was. So he did the same for me, because I represented her somehow. She demanded this sort of treatment, I never did, I was deeply embarrassed by it.

I'm a bit down now and feel like whatever I do with my kids, it will somehow be wrong because I'm broken and can't get it just right. I'll just do the opposite of what my parents did, and the cycle will go on.

The Black Hole Swallows Me Whole

After I learned that I had messed both my children up, my husband was annoyed that I wouldn't stop biting my nails and cuticles, which were swollen and bloody.

So I screamed that biting my nails is just a defense from what I'd really like to do, and that's cut myself, stab myself, kill myself, really hurt myself. Then I slapped myself and punched myself in the face.

Then I shut myself in the bathroom and sobbed uncontrollably for two hours because no one has ever loved me and no one could, because if they feel something for me it's because they don't know the darkness in me, and my husband will never truly understand me and if he does he'll be disgusted at how weak and evil and empty I am, and yes, my children love me, because they're naive and innocent, but they shouldn't, they'd be better off without me.

I know none of this is true. But I feel it now and don't know what to do about it. Telling myself it isn't true doesn't really help.

I'm not sure where to go from here. Now I'm just down. Maybe up is next, maybe what's next is digging downwards through rock bottom.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Still shaking after a whole day

Here's something that still has me shaking after a whole day. I couldn't fall asleep last night. I am trying to figure out why exactly that is - because I'm so terrified of government institutions because I'm an ACoN and my NF was so much into doctors and teachers and all these authority figures; or because I'm so vulnerable and defensive about my parenting because I know at a deep level that I can never be an adequate parent. Anyway, feel free to point out my craziness out to me. This is what I wrote about it on a parenting forum:

So, I live in a post-Communist country. Public schools and certain medical check-ups for children are mandatory (and free, by the way; but still mandatory).

Today I had the pleasure of taking my 2.5 yo daughter for a first check-up with a speech therapist and defectologist AND getting information from them about my 5 yo's check-up that was conducted in her preschool class.

It was a real treat.

I was told my (wonderful, sweet, smart, almost bilingual, introverted) 5 yo is "socially impaired" (because she's shy in large groups and with strangers), "behind" (because she apparently didn't know all the arbitrary things expected from her at that age), and needs help from them.

The (pretty mean-looking, intimidating, crabby) lady told me it was obvious my daughter wasn't used to a "collective" - she'd been at home with us all her life before preschool and never went to daycare, something they obviously saw as neglectful and somehow evil - and she needed institutional help so she'd catch up with other, "socialized" children.

When I asked exactly what techniques and methods she thought she could use to help my daughter adjust to a school setting with more ease, the woman frowned at me and said "That's for me to know!" I replied: "I can't give my consent unless I have information on what you propose to do to my child" and she still wouldn't tell me! So I declined - the lady was giving me, a grown woman, the creeps, I certainly don't want to expose my sensitive child to her!

She said my child had cognitive issues. When I asked for examples, this is what I got:

- "She couldn't name all the body parts"
"I find that hard to believe," I replied. "Which ones couldn't she name?" I asked and got NO REPLY. My kid knows how to name body parts in two different languages and this was absurd.

- "She couldn't count to ten"
"She can count to one hundred," I replied. Perhaps she was terrified of this lady.

- "She couldn't name the days of the week."
OK, this one is true. My kid doesn't know the names of the days of the week. Those are seven words that she can cram by heart in two minutes, but what's the point of it in a 5 yo's life? She's just never been interested. She can tell time, though, but that doesn't matter, because the guidelines say that a 5 yo must know the days of the week or be deemed cognitively impaired. (Added: I actually taught her those seven words yesterday and it took all of 90 seconds.)

I said my child was fluent in two languages, and she reprimanded me for that, as it is bad for a child to be bilingual - a child must first learn her own language well before she's exposed to another one. I immediately got scared and defensive and said I couldn't prevent her - she just picks up languages effortlessly!

(And, only after writing this, I actually find the courage to say that this is baloney! I studied language development in uni and there's nothing wrong with being bilingual!)

Then it was my baby's turn. She was, to begin with, speech impaired - yes, she develops verbally a bit slower, but she's got a good ear and is catching up quickly. She just started showing an interest in learning words later. She's more interested in her motor development. (She speaks more than 200 words at age 2.5, and is learning new ones every day.)

They were concerned and seemed to blame me for not "working with her" enough. See, I have to actively teach my child speech, not just talk to her in a normal way.

One horrible oversight on my part is not teaching my children onomatopoeic words. You see, a child will never learn how to speak and will forever lag behind if you don't drill into her when she's two years old that a doggie says "woof" and a cow says "moo" and a sheep says "baa". Or whatever. I told them I wasn't sure I knew them all and I am a language and literature teacher at a university.

(I just remembered - she does know that a mouse says "click" )

It was problematic that my 2.5 yo was still not "part of a collective" - i.e. at daycare 8 hours a day. (I have no reason or desire to put my child in daycare).

And it was shocking to them when my toddler asked to nurse. They asked me why on Earth I was still nursing her. I answered "Because the WHO encourages it until at least the age of 2, and then further if both mother and child are happy with it," to which I was given a lecture about the bad quality of my milk.

My milk has great quality, by the way. It has just been used to cure conjunctivitis in my toddler and myself, and has warded off strep throat for my toddler.

Then she said I was attaching my toddler to myself by nursing so long, and she won't be able to be a part of a collective and learn well in the future because of it!

I asked her what research she has to back that claim up and mentioned that experiments in attachment psychology (Harlow, Ainswhorth, Bowlby and others) have demonstrated that securely attached children actually do a better job exploring and learning.

To which she replied that I can have my theories, but it was her job to tell me what the consequences of my actions were.

All this time, they were talking to me and asking me questions, never even looking at my toddler. The poor kid noticed toys in a box and tried to get them, which I attempted to bring to their attention, but they ignored it, and she gave up and headed towards the soap on the sink. I got up and took the soap away from her, as it looked yucky, and the speech therapist had the nerve to reprimand me for not listening to her, but paying attention to my child instead!

I've been sad, angry, crushed, all day long. My husband told me we should just ignore it all and keep doing our thing. But I can't help feeling both reprimanded as a bad mother AND afraid for my child in the future, if people like this ever get to her. Trying to turn her from an introvert into an extrovert. Trying to make her into a neat case with all the right boxes ticked. Knows days of the week? Check. Detached from parents and adjusted to the collective? Check. Fully "socialized", i.e. institutionalized? Check.

Really, feel free to comment honestly. Am I being overly narcissistic and defensive? Part of me believes I truly am an inadequate and neglectful mother and that my children really are better off with anyone else; and part of me wants to protect them from these people; then the other part of me tells me that's because I'm trying to keep them for myself and from the people who'd love them more and do better by them because I'm a neglectful narcissist; then I go insane.

Friday, December 7, 2012

For Quercus Garryana - The Black Hole

I owe you several posts, but I really wanted to do this one that I never even promised. :)

It's my list of reasons why I love the discovery of the black hole. The one caused by the absence of parental love that will never be filled.

1) I've always known it was there. I was just never allowed to feel it, acknowledge it, know about it. See, my life and family and everything was perfect. But now I consciously know the black hole is part of who I am.

2) I finally have a right to who I am and what I feel. I've been angsty, dark, cynical, depressed, black, at different points in my life. I was not just being an ungrateful poser. It was me.

3) Pain, sadness, loneliness, anything, feels better than the empty denial of it. Much better.

4) We're all different and have different crosses to bear. We don't have to be happy or fulfilled or fucking perfect. That's what the narcs demanded from us. That's not what being human is all about. I never have to be happy or whole or perfectly content. Just truly honest and human, thank you.

5) Everybody hurts.

It's OK to hurt and feel sad and incomplete and like you're missing something. It's part of being human. I feel like I need to make this point again, even after 4)

Even people from wonderful families have thorns in their sides. It's what being human entails. It's kind of beautiful, really.

6) Finally seeing that black hole face to face, being broken and vulnerable - leaves you open to the really good things in life. You're a Christian, right? Leonard Cohen has some of my favorite lyrics about Christ:

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

only drowning men could see him

he himself was broken

It makes me shiver, every time.

7) My favorite insight: the real me doesn't need or want perfect, non-messed-up parents now. No, they wouldn't truly get the real me. Nor would my actual dysfunctional still-messed-up parents.

What the real me now wants and needs and gets is other ACoNs - the ones who've been there and understand and offer support and empathy.

How I got myself to finally cry: I imagined asking my therapist if he'd been loved by his parents; I imagined him replying, calmly, slightly sadly, but mostly with empathy: "No". And I felt like someone could understand the hell inside and not judge me. Know it's real and I'm not a wimpy liar making it up. That gave me the permission to feel it and own it.

And that's me and that's really OK.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Bad Heart

I recently realized what the "bad heart" my father's family suffered from meant.

I'd worried I'd inherit their cardiology issues - my N Grandma, SG aunt, and NF all had "bad hearts."

Except that my N Grandma spent several decades trying to fill the black hole in her heart with junk food, alcohol, and cigarettes and died of a fourth heart attack, after she had used her "bad heart" to manipulate her husband and children into quivering obedience.

Except that my aunt never had heart issues - when she claimed she did, she was just blind drunk. When she claimed she couldn't have kids because of her "bad heart," she just meant that her evil mother had forbidden her to have any other children to care for but her and that she had made her abort the child she'd conceived with the man she loved but wasn't allowed to marry. She died of cirrhosis of the liver after several decades of trying to fill the black hole in her heart with alcohol and cigarettes on an empty stomach.

Except that my NF just suffers from manageable high blood pressure after several decades of trying to fill the black hole in his heart with junk food, alcohol, and cigarettes. He's actually surprisingly healthy for his age, activity level, and diet.

The bad heart transmitted in my family is a metaphor. It's the heartlessness of the parents and the broken hearts of the children. None acknowledged, none made conscious, none properly mourned.  


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Almost Alive

After being able to cry and feel about my childhood a bit - nothing too dramatic, but still a huge step for me - I spent the next several days very happily doing my job and thinking I'm good at it and then spontaneously singing and playing the guitar at a party - in front of people, unabashedly well. And I felt so happy and alive.

My first reaction: I must be running away from feeling the bad stuff.

When I thought about it: I'm living life, actually. Enjoying the good stuff freely and without shame and guilt. I wasn't looking for it, it just happened.

Both feeling sad about the bad stuff and feeling free to enjoy the good stuff were forbidden in my home. I mistrust both.

I'm now slowly starting to allow myself both - any they come in a package, or so it seems.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Poor Little NF

I have my father's childhood photo album. He is not interested in having it, I am.

One of the first pictures shows him as a chubby, happy, smiling baby. In the next picture, he's pouting. In the last, he's weeping.

The cute story behind it? He was such a happy baby and always smiled. They had no photos of him crying. So they shouted and yelled at him and told him he was a bad boy until he broke into tears.

So cute, right?

In the next several pictures, his smiling grandpa is letting Little NF ride him. When I asked NF about his grandpa, looking at these photos, all he had to say was, darkly, "He was a strict man." It sounded eery. Wasn't he a darling, playful, sweet old guy? I mean, look at the pictures! Apparently, far from it.

He had lots of people to teach him how to stage a perfect family photo shoot. How to manipulate reality and emotions. They started when he was an innocent little baby.

He was sweet then, you know. I feel perfect love and empathy for that poor little baby in that old photo.

Revisiting Mother. Again.

When I first started this blog, I had a black-and-white world in my mind. I was horrified at what I'd discovered about my father, and idealized my poor dead mother - although I could feel and remember very little about her.

Then I started remembering some things slowly. Now I feel the need to reassess some of the things I'd written before.

I remembered that, contrary to what I said in The Torture Chamber for Babies, my mother never took that incriminating comic - in which babies were being brutally beaten and whipped to teach them not to cry - to her colleagues. My poor brain imagined that one.

This is what happened: I drew it while I was at her work. I remember that distinctly now. I suppose I felt safe enough, at a public place full of psychologists, to create a cry for help, however veiled. The scene that I remembered came after this: slightly concerned looks, and complimenting my drawing abilities - and that was that. I'd given my mother too much credit. Of course she wouldn't have shown this voluntarily to anyone.

When my father slapped me repeatedly for "offending" him when I was 8 - and the physical part of it was actually minimal: the look of disgust, hatred, and contempt that was behind the dropped mask was the scary part - I told my mother "Now I love you more." I guess it was a plea: "Please accept me, please be on my side, I realize he's insane, won't you show to me that you do too?" She rejected this plea. She looked scared, anxious, guilty. Later, I heard her feebly say to him "You may have gone too far," and he just told her to shut up. And that was that.

She betrayed me. She showed me I could never count on her, I was always to be on my own.

And when I was 20 or so, and she said to me "You're growing up to be a really decent person" - well, that wasn't the whole scene. I censored it the first time I wrote it down. She said: "I was so worried for you, but you're actually growing up to be a really decent person after all." I had no idea what that meant, but it made me uncomfortable at the time. Why was she worried? Because she knew I was growing up amid dysfunction? Or because I drank a lot as a teen - she complained about this to my aunt at the time, worried about me? And how did she know I was becoming a decent person? That also made me uncomfortable at that moment. What did she know about me, apart from the fact that my grade average was good and I was the student representative? Nothing.

Right now, I'm angrier at her than at my father. She Saw something was wrong, but was too weak to protect me. Instead, she sacrificed me and used me as a shield.

She told a colleague I'd "saved" her from having to visit her awful MIL every night, and she was happy my father, her husband, now finally seemed more interested in his FOC.

I wasn't born to save anyone or any marriage.

I wasn't born to live silently on a shelf at home and perform for others in public as the happy, vivacious, spoiled rotten child. No wonder I was sometimes too loud and sometimes too shy - I had no idea what was expected of me and how to accomplish just that.

I was born to live.

My doll and me

This is the four-year-old me, holding my poor Nameless Doll.

It is one of the rare photos my father took in which I'm not posing for him with a dutiful happy smile. I'm being me, unaware of being photographed. I wonder why he took this picture and why he scanned it and gave it to me. Perhaps to prove how happy I was with the doll he'd bought for me.

This is the doll I hated for being so dull and needy. The one I brutally spanked but then held in sorrow and despair. I remembered her again and wrote this:

A sad doll
Plastic, cloth, and dullness
Too hard, too soft
Stuck up and cold
Weepy and needy
Whipped, beaten, kicked
Then thrown away
She stays there all alone

Picked up again

Because I have no one else
To hold

If I could have that doll again

I remembered, in the past several days, the delicious solace of hugging an inanimate object. It is a comfort I don't remember being able to get from my parents.

I finally made a real connection between the doll and myself. I used to feel so sorry for what she had to go through, but felt nothing for the child - who probably went through the same - because the child was boring, annoying, whiny, needy, unlovable (and had it coming) and she was also cold and tough (and could easily endure it).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Connecting the dots. And finding my way.

I did it. I'm in.

I've been able to feel and cry for two days now. I have cried for the little girl who was never loved and was never allowed to even understand and feel that simple fact. I have cried for the frightened, terrorized, and abused child who had to play the role of the happy, grateful daughter, even to herself. I have cried for the adult who is still largely living in this hell and will forever be left with this black hole. 

I was able to do this after I connected all the dots of why I didn't allow myself to feel my feelings.

I realized it wasn't fear of pain, or mere detachment, or simple protection of myself. We ACoNs can take pain. We're not wimps. It really was not about that.

It was the opposite. It was the compulsion to be strong.

It was fear and obligation and guilt. The terror of betraying my parents by proving, through my feelings, that they hurt me. What I was never allowed to do as a child.

I remember being told "You're so ugly when you cry" and "Don't cry or I'll give you something to cry about" and I remember that the moral of the comic I drew - described in The Torture Chamber For Babies - was that if you severely beat your children because they cry, they will cry more. Crying was forbidden because it made them look bad and because it annoyed them.

The only moral defense I ever had was not reacting to any way they hurt me at all.

Crying and feeling hurt by them is the ultimate betrayal. It proves it was real. And once I realized this, I wanted to rebel more than ever.

And I feel real now. I've taken a huge step that cannot be undone. I've felt more for everything and everyone, too.

I even feel more empathy for my parents - like feeling truly sorry for them as children, too. And it's the opposite of excusing anything. They excused and idealized and obeyed their parents.

It didn't drown me and the world didn't come crashing down. There's pain, but I've never been afraid of that, and it feels much better than being dead. It's everything I'd hoped it would be.

It's a first step of many, and I know I have a long way to go still, but it feels like the most important breakthrough for me yet.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What I didn't have

More homework I got: list the things you never had as a child. And try to feel it, too.

1) I didn't have a strong, supportive, gentle mother. I didn't have a mother who really loved me or liked me or seemed interested in me or talked to me or supported me emotionally in any way.  Instead, I had an absence, a weak woman who might have had some feelings for me at some point, but I'll never know because she betrayed me and sacrificed me to her extremely narcissistic husband for the sake of peace.

I didn't have a mother I could trust or feel safe around or look up to or feel warm about.

I can now imagine people like my aunt or Ruth or Tundra Woman in this role and tear up at the recognized difference. Now I don't have a mother who might talk to me and offer advice, wisdom, support; who might be a good grandmother to my kids and babysit and help out sometimes. I don't know if this would have happened had she stayed alive, but somehow I just can't really imagine it.

2) I didn't have a kind, understanding, wise father. I didn't have a father who really loved me for who I was or was interested in finding out who that might be. Instead, first I had an insanely controlling father who demanded nothing short of worship from me while appropriating all my achievements, and then I had a totally rejecting father who had had enough of me and couldn't show me off any more and discarded me before I could reject him. Now I don't have a father I can count on to want me good and not harm me or my family if it should happen to suit him. He will sometimes give us money or material things.

I didn't have a father I could trust to love and protect me and be proud of me and one I could be proud of.

I now allow myself to imagine all the older men I've liked and respected over the years in the role of my father. Crazily enough, I sometimes even "accused" myself of having a crush on them - although it wasn't actually true - because that was safer than realizing I was looking for a good father figure because the original sucked.

3) I didn't have unconditional love from my parents - the safe knowledge that whoever I was and whatever I did, my parents wouldn't stop loving me. In fact, withholding love was my father's favorite weapon, and I never even thought my mother loved me. My mother had many problems with how different and unladylike and awkward I was, while my father had problems whenever I wasn't interesting, original, or smart enough to impress the commoners all around us. Either way, I couldn't win and the pressure was high, but I still chose my father's rules because it meant I could be dark and eccentric and drink.

4) I didn't have ownership over my own body and possessions. And no right to privacy, if they didn't feel like it. My diaries were read, my room searched. If they felt like it, however, I could be alone in my room reading for hours every day. Or out until 5AM drinking. Bliss. It depended on their current mood.

5) I didn't have permission to express or even feel my own feelings. I was forbidden to cry as a child because it a) showed their parenting in a bad light and b) bothered and irritated them. If I cried, I'd be given something to cry for, and then I a) again wasn't allowed to cry and b) realized the only way to "win" and find a semblance of peace and freedom would be to never react to anything in any emotional or "weak" way. I believe my father stopped beating me with a belt when I stopped showing any reaction to it.

6) I didn't have unconditional support for any good thing I might choose to do with my life. I had lots of open "support" in public places where my father could show off (taking me to classes, being at recitals, school board, thesis defense) and little outside of that.

7) I didn't have permission to attach to other, sane people. My father, who was utterly incapable of even faking closeness and love, was insanely jealous of me loving anyone else. Luckily, while he was at work, my mother's stepfather often took me out to tag along with him, at the behest of my grandma, who was the one officially babysitting me - but she was also quite narcissistic and grew tired of me quickly. He didn't. He kind of liked me. And I adored him. I even had the courage to list him as the person I loved best when people asked that silly question. I seem to recall my father shooting a look of hatred at my grandpa on one such occasion.

8) I didn't have warmth growing up. From anyone. Those who could have given it to me weren't allowed to.

9) I didn't have permission to share anything negative about my family with anyone. Including myself. This made me detach from myself. This prevented forming actual honest relationships with others.

10) I didn't have the right to be myself. Not only were they unable to love me for who I was, but, as they had no idea who I really was, I was constantly treated and talked to as someone else - weird, inexplicable characters accused of weird, inexplicable flaws, thoughts, and feelings. I remember constantly feeling shocked at who they seemed to think I was - and this changed in a matter of seconds.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Stuff that always made me cry

I was given this homework assignment by my therapist as I can only afford therapy once a month: think about the music/films/books that make you cry and connect that with what you never had as a child.

(I had admitted that I can cry at music and films, but not about my own life)

These are the first few things that come to mind:

The Cranberries: Ode to my family

Why: The lyrics "My mother ... she'd hold me ... My father ... he liked me"

What it has to do with what I never had: My mother wasn't allowed to hold me - at least once I was old enough to remember. This part leaves me cold, to be honest; anything pertaining to mothers tends to; but "my father ... liked me" just blows me away. It's so beautiful and simple and real. No one liked me. They doted on me, loooved me, did so much for me, but it was so damn obvious they didn't like me.

I think my mother's stepfather liked me. I still cry when I remember him. I also think another distant relative did - the one I thought was my biological father. This idea of him as my biological father moved me emotionally too. These two older men liked me and seemed interested in me and seemed to have been able to have a conversation or two with me. This in itself is incredible.

Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah

Why: There's a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken hallelujah


I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah

What it has to do with what I never had: I was never allowed to be ordinary, imperfect, human, or just wrong. It's amazing to me that God doesn't require perfection or holiness - brokenness and truth are all I have right now, too. And that's fine.

Schindler's list

Why: Pretty much anything involving concentration camps deeply moves me on a seemingly too personal level. I'm not just talking about the general human reaction to other humans being inhumanly treated - it's more than that and it's personal.

What it has to do with what I never had: It may sound crazy, but I'm sure other ACoNs will understand: a narcissistic family is a bit like a concentration camp. The golden children are the capos, the scapegoats are all the others. You are afraid and insecure and vulnerable all the time. You are someone's property. Your basic humanity is denied. You are (often) physically deprived and hurt. Your owners get to define reality in which you're somehow to blame and they're just defending themselves. And there's no way out.


Why: From Schindler's list to a Disney cartoon... yeah, I know. The scene where Rapunzel's hair is cut off and she is liberated from being loved for what she can do for others is incredibly cathartic to me. It made me sob the first time I saw it.

What it has to do with what I never had: I still don't have the guts to trust my family of choice to love me for who I am instead of what I do. If I don't make enough money and buy everyone's favorite food, I'm afraid I just won't be worthwhile to them. This is not always true and I'm working on it, but I sure wish someone could just fix me in one fell swoop like this.

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

Why: Maggie invests a great deal of time and energy into suppressing her immoral feelings, while still not managing to avoid the wrath of everyone she loves without really ever having done anything wrong. Finally, the river Floss floods and she drowns rescuing her brother.

What it has to do with what I never had: Wow, I sobbed while reading this book ages ago and never made any connections with anything at all - I just saw myself as a sentimental girl. I still wasn't sure what it had to do with anything until I wrote the above description.

I suppress my immoral feelings towards my parents too, and still, just by virtue of not thinking about them as wonderful and perfect, I constantly risk incurring wrath. It's easy to forget that I have never done anything wrong to my parents - really, truly, I haven't. I have merely questioned their actions and mindsets and have felt a few fleeting negative feelings towards them - much less than most normal kids do.

Water will not be put down. The river will flood. My feelings will not be suppressed forever. I hope they don't drown me.

Buried feelings

I had the first session with the new therapist last night and I noticed an interesting thing.

When I talked about my parents and my childhood, my throat sometimes squeezed and my voice wouldn't come out. It's like I knew there was an emotion under there somewhere, but I couldn't really feel it or express it or even identify it.

It felt like wading through murky waters and tripping over something without knowing what it is.

Did I feel anything back then, when I was 4, or 6, or 8? Or was I already burying everything? Are these grief, anger, pain that I felt or normally would have felt if I hadn't emotionally detached from myself?

My therapist encouraged me to express my feelings freely and I just couldn't. I tried going back to the words that I had trouble pronouncing, but it was already gone. I did have several thoughts, though (these are always easier) on why I can't express my emotions:

"I can't be weak. When you express hurt and pain and anger, you're weak. If you cry, you're very weak and you're admitting someone can hurt you and thus has power over you." (my therapist said the opposite is true - you exorcise your parents' power over you when you acknowledge what you needed from them but never got. I like the sound of this, but can't make the leap to applying it)

"I can't be needy. If I'm needy, I'm boring and inconvenient, not only to my parents, but to everyone else too." (my therapist said the need of a child to be loved is a very real and legitimate need. I like the sound of this, but can't make the leap to applying it)

"I can't be emotional. This is not me. I'm not one of those emotional people." (not necessarily true, as I have no idea who I really am, and most likely a result of projection, but still the word "emotional" sounds dirty to me)

These are the things I said in session. Later, I tried more to release my feelings, and I started feeling increasingly anxious.

Then I had one of the worst anxiety nightmares ever in which all the possible catastrophes I could imagine happened (from war and destruction and the bombing of our neighborhood to being late to pick up my kid at preschool and having to buy her neeew shooooes before the next paycheck and crying about it and being gossiped about because of it).

It's like I'm deadly afraid of expressing my real feelings about my parents and my childhood, so I'm stuck at "numb." There's a scab on my heart and I wonder what's underneath, but am afraid to pick at it. Perhaps for good reason. Perhaps not.

If I express my buried feelings,

it will be real. it can't be undone. they hurt me and were bad parents and I had a bad childhood.

I will have really betrayed them. really disobeyed them. horrible punishment will ensue.

I somehow know, feel it, that this was the ultimate betrayal when I was a child. To show to them or anyone else that they were less than perfect parents. I showed it by crying, being emotional, being sad, being hurt, being angry in reaction to their actions. I distinctly remember being told I'd be given something to cry for if I don't stop and feel it in my bones that this really wasn't just an empty threat.

Crying and feeling the proper reaction to their treatment is the ultimate treason and that's probably why I still can't do it.

But I might if I start thinking about it as the ultimate rebellion as well.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"It must be"... but it isn't, and that's my biggest problem

One thing I don't quite know what to do with in my communication here is receiving normal, empathetic reactions from normal, empathetic people out there. Very often, when I share something my parents did or said or just a fact concerning my FOO, like that they have never loved me, people say things like "It must be hard" or "That must be so painful" and I freeze, because, frankly, yes, I know, it must be, but it's really not. And that's a problem.

I don't really feel these insights and memories concerning my parents. I'm intellectually aware of them - much like I had to be intellectually aware of the fact that my parents were perfect and absolutely above reproach, but all I felt was just the need to be far, far away from them.

In a way, I feel fake not replying to every decent person offering empathy that no, actually, I don't really have those feelings of sadness, grief, whatever, concerning my parents. It's not painful to know they never loved me - it's liberating. It's not hard for me to know I can never have an authentic relationship with my father - it's a relief to know it's not my fault I've not wanted one since I was tiny.

I do have some emotions towards some people in my life - notably, my FOC - but the emotional part of me that had anything to do with my parents is dead, lost, blocked - search me, I don't know what happened to it. My main reason for going into therapy is trying to discover it - or at least its corpse or ghost. I can't seem to do this on my own.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Halloween Special

On Halloween, I saw my NF for the first time again after over 6 months of Extremely Low Contact. How appropriate.

He goes away for 6 months out of each year with his girlfriend. During the time they're away, we might exchange a short, meaningless text message every couple of weeks or so. Thankfully, he very obviously doesn't care about (fully controlling) me or my family per se. It might be because he found a new victim, or because my husband frightens him, or because we're not really giving him what he wants.

When he's in town, however, he's all over the map. Sometimes, he'll call almost every day. Then he won't call for a long time. (I never call him.) He'll often call when I'm away and question DH about my work schedule - we're both deliberately vague about it, just because he seems so obsessed with knowing it (I now believe he has some OCPD traits along with serious NPD ones).  When his girlfriend doesn't have her language lessons near our home, they barely ever visit, and have invited us to their place exactly twice. When she has her lessons is the only time our lives get disturbed, as he jealously has to drive her to and from these classes, just so she doesn't cheat on her way home. So he waits in our home. He just calls and informs us he'll come later "to see us," or he just drops by. It hasn't come to that yet this year. Last year, she only had these classes for a couple of months anyway, so we saw him perhaps a dozen times in those 6 months.

Every year, I react to his return and his potential droppings-in differently. Two years ago, after I'd just discovered NPD, I was still both scared of him and very argumentative around him. A year ago, when I thought he wasn't my biological father, I allowed myself to also feel physically revolted by him, and found it draining to even be in the same room with him.

This year, I find so much has changed. I feel merely amused around him. Like Jane Goodall around the chimps - or insert a less offensive analogy here depicting a person interested in others' behavior on a detached, scientific basis.

Earlier, I wouldn't accept anything from him. I didn't want to owe him anything. This year, he bought us all expensive shoes. I don't know why - possibly the rush of being able to tell the shop assistant "It's all on me. Don't worry about the price." I said "Thank you" and that was it. It's his choice, his idea, it has little to do with me and I don't owe him anything. I feel like I'm doing him a favor - I'm allowing him to express in the only way possible to him what he mistakenly believes is love.

Of course, I also believe I'm a cold, cruel bitch, who still can't find it in herself to feel anything for this man or his late wife, my mother. Maybe a twinge of sadness, a bit of irritation, a touch of nausea, at best. This is what I'll be seeking therapy for. There's got to be REAL sadness and anger there, right? REAL grief at love not received that I must have felt at least as a child? Love for one's parents that I hope I felt as a child - or I'm a psychopath/sociopath.

I've been thinking about No Contact again, and how, in my case, I can't even see how it could ever come to that. There's no honesty, no sharing, no openness, no confrontation, no drama, no ACTUAL contact between us. Cold civilities for the last decade or so. (He's not even capable of pretending there's more - he doesn't know the language required for this pretense.) Much, much less since I found out about NPD and stopped getting angry and defensive and argumentative around him.

I no longer feel guilty for not going NC. This ACON blogging thing is NOT about satisfying the criteria for an elite social club. It's about expressing my reality and knowing there might be BS in there, but still exposing it to everyone out there.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Heart of Darkness

I don't blog to gather a supportive crowd of people. I don't blog to complain about my childhood. Though both these have their good sides, it's not what this is about for me. I blog to expose to the light the heart of darkness that gets passed on in my family from generation to generation. I want to continue growing into a more authentic, honest, real, and truly loving and vital human being.

Communicating honestly with other people who get this and want the same thing is an excellent way to do this. There are people in this community that I have grown to deeply love and respect, although I've never met them. I don't want to name any, simply because I'm afraid I'll forget someone. You know who you are.

I don't want to feel safe here. I don't want to never be questioned, analyzed, reacted negatively to. If you point out my narcissistic defenses to me, I'll thank you for it. If you call me out on any BS, you'll be helping me achieve my goals. (If you, however, just tell me that I'm an asshole belonging to a pack of evil bullies, I won't be able to do anything constructive with this information.) 

My last post really wasn't meant to be about taking sides - I wrote about my emotional and cognitive processes and reactions to different people. There were potentially negative things there about several persons involved in the conflict.

Here's, however, another interesting observation of a couple of facts, that does in itself differentiate between individuals, or, even, if you will, "sides":

Jonsi's here self-reflecting in an awesomely brave post.

Caliban's Sister is gone.

(Was I the last straw? Would she have stayed if I had continued to talk to her in a nice way, pretending not to have noticed anything I found disturbing in her comments and posts? Would she have wanted me to? I'll never know. But I know, if the shoe was on the other foot, I wouldn't have wanted that. From her or anyone else.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

It's Personal

I've had an epiphany. I don't actually need to stay out of any personal confrontation - I just need to not be unfair and not pass general judgments and not take sides in any black-and-white ideological schism. What I can and in fact want to do is express my personal feelings, impressions, and thoughts on certain bloggers and their actions. I don't have to do this. But, by coming out honestly with my feelings, I hope I can ensure that I'm not fake in any online conversation from now on. If people take offense, they can challenge my reactions, or refuse to engage me in conversation again, or shout curses at me. That's perfectly acceptable in my book. My biggest fear right now is being fake.

These are the people I've had emotional reactions to:

Charity: I was horrified as I read her original offending comment. It sounded exactly like the evil narcissistic voice inside my own head, which is usually directed at myself. When she came out as one of our own, I was terrified. I thought it somehow meant I could, as an ACoN, one day do something horrible like this, and, during this initial shock, anger directed at Charity felt like it could possibly be directed at me. At this point, the comments made by Caliban's sister, although they weren't worded as I would have liked to see them worded, placated something inside me.

But I later grew and realized I'm never going to do something like this simply because I don't have any desire to, and if I ever did anything so hurtful I would certainly NOT want others to offer me instant forgiveness and welcome back and we love you and let bygones be bygones and let's forget all about it. I would want anyone I hurt to express all the anger they felt like expressing, so I knew exactly where we stood. I certainly encourage my children to do this, so why not my friends?

upsi: My respect for upsi has been growing exponentially throughout this thing. I have gone through her writing on this entire big topic several times, and each time I end up admiring her more. Authentically expressing her feelings, period. No judgment, no writing people off, no instant forgiveness. Just being herself, really. I want to be upsi when I grow up.

Jonsi: I'm just going to come out and say it: Jonsi sometimes scares the hell out of me! Her occasionally snarky, incisive, cursing posts and comments are often way out of my comfort zone. Sometimes I feel she accuses people of infractions too easily - for instance, Caliban's Sister really could have deleted those replies by mistake - it's conceivable. I've tested it on my blog. We can never know what was in her mind when those comments disappeared.

But I have grown to trust Jonsi's honesty and her instincts. If I needed someone to assess whether a person was trustworthy, honest, and real, I'd take her as my personal investigator and buy her a beer or three for her trouble.

And if I translate what she says into more polite discourse, I get very useful and trustworthy information. For instance, "narc" or "bitch," translated into "this person is narcissistically defended to the point where it might not be wise to trust him/her, or impossible to engage them in authentic conversation" are helpful and usually rather accurate.

Caliban's Sister: As I said, CS's calls for peace initially really placated something inside me. And I've always enjoyed her clear, intellectual style, and her insights about her family. I usually tend to feel comfortable around polite, civilized, calm people. I was still very unclear on the whole mess when I left a couple of neutral comments on her Nobody's Straw Man. The first was to the effect that I still saw us as a community, and communities of adults, unlike narcissistic families, don't have to present a united front, and can fight. It was meant to apply generally to the whole fight in the whole community, but she responded by maintaining that she didn't demand anyone to present a united front. I hadn't implied she had, so I retorted, briefly, that she was among my favorite voices out there, to which she replied in a way that made me personally feel like it was understood that this meant I had now taken her side. This was the main reason I deleted my comments.

I also deleted them to see what would happen to the rest of the thread, and I tested this on my blog, too. When the author of a blog decides to delete a comment, the replies to this comment disappear as well, and the author is only informed of this in small letters at the bottom of the page. It is conceivable that CS's deletion of Jonsi's comments was an accident.

I didn't enjoy the feeling that I got from CS's subsequent comments and posts, in which she seemed eager to gather polite and civilized followers who were offered protection from the nasties. It could be my own fleas feeling this, as CS has already inferred once - in my family, we had to be nice and polite all the time. No anger or any other expressed emotion. We were better than other families who fought. We were civilized. Some people, I suppose, felt their parents' rages when they read Jonsi's aggressive comments. Quite honestly, Jonsi's comments shocked me too. But I felt my family's stifling atmosphere in CS's long, sweet, nice ones.

I didn't like that CS removed upsi's and Jonsi's blogs from her blog list right in the middle of the fight, it seemed to me. It seemed sudden and rash and so easy. I didn't like what I read between the lines of her next posts: In ACoNS Blog for Different Reasons, she basically implied (with "Some people blog to find new bonds with others--friends who will leap to their defense whenever they've received insults, genuine or imagined") that upsi and Jonsi and possibly Q (or who did she mean? who else could she have meant?) blog to rally a herd of blind supporters, which, frankly, I haven't noticed. If any of these people have "blind supporters," it's not because they went out of their way to collect them, and to claim that this is anyone's primary motivation for blogging is unfair at best and a projection at worst.

When Jonsi posted her scathing, swearing, brutal, but analytical, honest, and open attack on her, Caliban's Sister posted What Makes Me Feel Stronger, in which she allegedly writes about her NM: "She wrote me a letter that was over-the-top full of projections and crap that was really about her, and not about me at all. I had changed the game on her, and she went ballistic. I finally saw her for what she was. My reply to her horrible letter, which was full of fabrications, slander, hypocrisy and twisted thinking, was simply this: I could not disagree with you more. But you're entitled to your opinion. Instead of "rebutting" her point by point, I told her I completely disagreed with her construction of me, but that she could think what she liked."

Translation: Jonsi is just like my mean, projecting, narcissistic mother. She can write her long lists of lies, but I won't even dignify them with an answer.

This is still engaging in the fight, only in a covert way. It only seems safer, nicer, and more polite.

I sometimes have behaviors like these, and don't like them, and want to change them. In many ways I'm similar to CS. I'm not writing CS off, like I'm not writing myself off, but in order to remain honest and open, I need to point these things out. Otherwise, I can't continue to engage CS in conversation without feeling like a fake hypocrite.

Q1605: Q is a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped... no, wait. Right now, he seems to me like a cute bunny wrapped in dynamite and heavy armor and barbed wire. Or something.

Ready To Kill

I'm actually not afraid of conflict as such. Either I have changed in the last day or so or I had misinterpreted my feelings or I had temporarily regressed to an earlier stage of development.

I was afraid of being asked to "pick a side" in a black-and-white, should-always-and-shouldn't-ever, right-or-wrong-behavior ideological conflict. I was never asked to do this, of course. I wonder why I always ask myself to do this - perhaps it's safer to think in ideological terms than in personal ones.

Yesterday, I realized that I could actually respond to this conflict in personal terms, if I chose to. I could write a long post expressing my thoughts, reactions, and feelings about every action of every blogger in this entire conflict. And I could be wrong, as I often am. But those would be my personal errors in judgment that I could take responsibility for and own.

I wouldn't be afraid to do this and I'd be willing to accept that I might easily be wrong. Because it would be just me speaking personally for myself, and not taking an ideological stance - which used to be safer.

I almost wrote that post. I might still do it, if I choose to. No one's asking me to, for sure.

Part of the reason the whole conflict upset me was that I still wasn't ready to kill narcissistic parts of my personality. I was afraid someone would disturb them in me. But now I realize this is precisely what I need and precisely why I'm here.

I'm ready to kill now. Really. To kill my own inner narcissist.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Staying Out

The post-Charity-earthquake-tremors have shown me just how far away I am from healthy in my healing journey.

Today, I did something I'm ashamed of. Something I don't remember ever doing. I deleted some of my comments on a blog where a long argument has developed, an argument that has me feeling scared and sad and anxious. I deleted my comments primarily because I am still not in a place where I can say something that can be seen as taking a side in an interpersonal conflict.

I have liked different people in that conflict for sometimes similar and sometimes different reasons. But that's not the only reason I feel I must Stay Out.

I always Stay Out. Still. Whenever anything personal transpires that even smells of potential conflict. I can only debate and discuss general ideas. Never have anything even remotely to do with any confrontation about anything personal. I have no idea if this will ever change.

In my family, conflict was simply forbidden. We were to be nice, polite, and civil to each other at all times, even in the privacy of our home. Of course, the only way to do this in a family is to completely keep its members from being emotionally involved with each other. I'm still somewhat trapped there. I feel safer in my FOC, and can now even sometimes have a bit of a fight with my husband. Friends, family, others? No way.

I used to deal by not being emotionally involved. Now I've changed that. I've somewhat unblocked the ability to have feelings for people. I "even" have feelings for people in this community. It only makes my problem worse. I used to think, while I was still largely narcissistically defended, that I was somehow "above" personal conflicts. I realize now I'm still much, much "below" them. I feel like a child whose parents are fighting - helpless, sad, unable to do anything but hope it'll be over soon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hard Work vs. Easy Work

There are two ways to break the cycle of narcissistic abuse in your family.

You can do the hard work - realize your parents were abusive in some ways, understand how this has affected you, take a long deep hard look at yourself, your thinking, your feelings, your relationships, change, stop defending, start truly loving. It takes years of being bare, exposed, helpless, lost. You're likely to carry some problems and some fleas forever, but you're determined to be open and honest and vulnerable about this.

Or you can do the easy work - realize your parents were abusive in some ways, do things differently because you're better, feel good about yourself as a great parent because you don't even do x to your kids, and your parents did xyz to you. You're still largely narcissistic, although not as abusive as your parents.

Only today did I realize that I didn't have to think of these two "options" in black-and-white terms.

Both actually deserve credit - to differing degrees.

My parents consciously refused to engage in some forms of abuse, manipulation, and parentifying that their parents used liberally. I remember this. I picked up on it. I can now give them some credit for this.

Which doesn't mean they weren't narcissistic enough to majorly screw me up. But I'm still happy I didn't have to be raised by exact carbon copies of my extremely narcissistic grandparents.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

(Still) Tangled

Disney's Tangled reaaally hit a nerve. I cried throughout the first time I watched it. It doesn't really matter which personality disorder mother Gothel can be diagnosed with (although, of course, I believe it's NPD), the important thing is that she symbolizes the parent who is not "real" because she is unable to love her child unconditionally.

She keeps Rapunzel trapped solely because her magical hair provides her with an ever-fresh source of youth and energy and narcissistic supply. Rapunzel has learned well that she is only needed and loved for her hair and the services it provides.

Which is why Eugene cutting her hair off is such a cathartic moment. He refuses to use her magical hair to save his life and cuts it off, setting her free.

Although "love will save you" and waiting for a prince on a white horse to rescue you are dangerous concepts because a person or a relationship will not do your hard work for you, I do believe we ACoNs need someone - a spouse, a friend, a relative, a therapist - to show us that unconditional love and acceptance exist and what kind of work we need to do. Someone who won't leave us when we say "no."

Someone who'll cut our magical hair off.

My husband is here to do that for me. I just don't seem to completely be able to let him. I still hold on to it. I don't want to upset him. I want to do stuff for him. I want to be useful to him. We're both aware of this problem in our relationship and his current method of fighting it is gentle humor.

Here's to cutting our magical hair off!

My only session (so far)

I feel like writing down a few snippets from the introductory session with the therapist I'm not going to see any more, not only because she just got a desk opposite mine at work. The therapist is young, ambitious, optimistic. She was happy about the blogging and the support we give each other, but said something kind of silly:

T: You can also see on those blogs that people with similar backgrounds to yours become all sorts of successful professionals and that's a positive example.

PA: (thinking WTF?!) Many of us indeed are quite successful outwardly, some only too successful, but...

T: So people can overcome bad childhoods!

Another annoying snippet:

T: What you need to do is accept yourself unconditionally.

PA: Sounds good, but how does one who was never accepted unconditionally for the first couple of decades of her life learn to accept herself unconditionally?

T: Don't give me that excuse!

PA: It's not an excuse. (Thinking later: A sentence beginning with "how" is, at least officially, a question. It may be a rhetorical question, but it is not automatically an excuse.) It's my reality. I don't know what you mean by your words. Imagine being born in Plato's cave, and being told you just need to go live in the sun. You don't even know what the sun is. You don't know which way to go.

T: But you can't use this as an excuse not to be moving out.

PA: I'm moving out. I've been slowly moving out for a couple of years now. But it's not going to just happen if you say it should.

(Thinking much later of the perfect analogy: You tell me you can see I'm hungry so I should just go to the restaurant across the street. I tell you I was raised in this room in absolute darkness and have never ventured out. You tell me that's an excuse - all I need to do is get out, go down the stairs, cross the street and enter the restaurant. I tell you I've heard these words before, but I don't know how to recognize "stairs," "street" and "restaurant," I might fall down the stairs, or a car might hit me, or I might get lost. So you have to show me, not tell me I need to get there or even how to get there. Telling me I just need to accept myself is cute, but won't produce any results.)

REBT is really not for me. The main technique seems to be constantly challenging the client's views, feelings, and perceptions. ACoNs DON'T need more of that, even if our constructs need changing. I noticed myself acting in a narcissistically defensive way and/or resorting to JADE a lot during the session - behaviors I thought were somewhat behind me.

Incredibly, I found a great therapist with a lot of training and experience online. He even has a blog, in which he reveals himself as empathetic, intuitive, extremely flexible, only too ready to admit he'd been thinking too rigidly about something before, but a client or a trainee challenges that and he accepts this... and also, he recommends Alice Miller's books. I wrote to him and he accepted me as a client, even with the condition that I can only afford one session per month.

I was so happy with the exchange, especially because I'd written to 4-5 other therapists and they all replied in manners which had red flags all over them ("What do you mean if I've worked with children or the personality disordered? I don't know, my clients don't have the expertise to diagnose their parents." "I'd ask you what it means to you that your parent is disordered, how you have accepted and interpreted and constructed that in your life" etc.)

Just the fact that there is a therapist in my country who's very much into Alice Miller and seems extremely open to understanding and validating and helping me truly experience my insights has had a huge positive effect. I've felt more in the last few days. I've relived some moments from my childhood, actually feeling them this time around. I felt betrayal, anger, and sadness. I have a pretty good feeling about this - I hope I've developed enough intuition and gut feeling by now. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blame and Anger

Here's a confession I'm NOT ashamed to make: I blame my parents and I'm angry at them.

I realize these are negative emotions that are not entirely healthy, constructive, or productive. So what? They still represent great progress for me that I'm not prepared to relinquish.

If I'm angry at my parents, then great. It's the first authentic emotion I've had in decades. If something more vital, healthy, and fulfilling should arise and take the place of anger, I'm not averse to that. But I'm not suppressing my one authentic emotion for my parents just because it might make someone uncomfortable or "it is not constructive." I've been functional and constructive for too long.

If I blame my parents for my problems, it is only because I'm still drowning in the blame game. I was born in it. Only, I used to blame myself for all my deficiencies, problems, and failings. For being cold, selfish, and reserved. Now I plucked the knife out of my own heart and am pointing it at my parents - not even stabbing them with it, just pointing in their general direction. Perhaps at some point I'll use the knife to chop veggies for a nice, healthy salad full of vitamins. I'm not there yet. I don't know what it means not to blame one's parents and assume responsibility for one's actions and emotions - to me, it sounds like I should just go back to blaming myself. As I've no intention of placing the knife back into my heart, this is where I am right now.

Blaming and angry.

Friday, October 12, 2012


All the questions I got from you, all the things I've thought about after the first session, all the weighing I've done trying to figure out whether the therapist I saw on Wednesday was a good fit? Moot.

The colleague who referred me did so because I told her I wouldn't mind talking to her personally, only because we worked together it might be awkward. That's WHY she referred me.

Right now, my new therapist is sitting a desk away from me at work. She just started teaching at my university as a TA for the colleague who referred her because we were working together and it would be awkward... etc. You get the picture.

This is MORE awkward. I feel betrayed. This is insane! At least the teacher who gave me the reference would have been spending most of the time in her own office, but now I have to sit here much of the time right opposite a person I've spent over 2 hours exposing all my problems, deficiencies and vulnerabilities to.

It sucks. I feel so exposed and ashamed and anxious that I think I might go straight into narcissistic mode.

EDIT: I just had the opportunity to talk to her in private. It was a coincidence. She was offered the job AFTER our session. We had a conversation about the awkward feelings and now I feel much better.

Still. Back to square one or even less than that. Venturing out again and trusting sounds scarier now.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Questions for a potential therapist?

Fellow ACoNs who've been to therapy: how did you choose your therapist? How did you interview? What did you look for in a therapist? What did you see as red flags?

What was your explicit therapy goal? How did you phrase it to the therapist? If I had to phrase mine, it would be to truly emotionally go through the insights I've had  - facing negative feelings (grief, lack of parental love, fear) - and thus somehow unblock "normal" positive feelings (love).

One of the reasons I'm considering therapy is that I feel I've hit a wall - rationally, I've had some important insights, but emotionally, I just can't catch up with them and maybe I never will on my own. I know my parents never loved me and I don't remember ever loving them. I have no emotions related to them apart from a bit of anger. I have few emotions in everyday life apart from anxiety, some depression, some anger and drops of very simple love and joy.

What questions would you ask? What questions should I ask? Any advice at all?

I'm no longer scared of therapy - if I don't like this person I'm seeing tomorrow, I'll just pass. I won't let anyone manipulate me or abuse me - I don't have the time or the patience for that anymore. But, in order to avoid this waste of time and money, I need a plan.

Now I'm just rambling. I have an appointment in exactly 22 hours. Any advice is appreciated. Thank you!

A Short Dictionary of ACoNese

One of the things that worry me about therapy is the tendency I've observed in some therapists to push forgiveness on clients. First forgive your parents, and after this amazing breakthrough we can start making real progress. This is especially dangerous for ACoNs, because we seem to have different definitions of this and other key terms, more toxic to us.

I had fun writing A Short Dictionary of Narcissese. This one, not so much. I'll try to find out what insane definitions I've made for key emotional terms. While Ns are eerily similar, ACoNs differ in ways we react to them, so I'll really be grateful for your own contributions to the dictionary!

For some words, I have more than one definition, depending on the situation:

Anger: The unforgivable sin.

Courage: Withstanding torture without a complaint is ideal courage. Some people defend themselves and can still be considered brave, but it would not be moral for me to ever stand up for myself.

Empathy: 1. Understanding and excusing others.

2. Weakness.

3. Fake.

Family: A cold prison.

Father: 1. Doting, loving, involved, constantly worrying warden.

2. Controlling, engulfing, easily offended dangerous tyrant.

Forgiveness: 1. Understanding and excusing someone's hurtful behavior, fully expecting it to be repeated.

2. Absolving someone from all blame and admitting they're perfect and you adore them.

3. Not caring what someone has done to you because you have no feelings about it, or them, or anything anyway.

Independence: 1. According to my parents, being lonely, cold, stuck-up.

2. Something I must achieve at all costs, though, of course, it will make me lonely, cold, stuck-up.

Involved: Enmeshed, engulfing.

Love: 1. What is used to control me. Both the carrot and the stick. What entitles them to do with me as they please. What can be taken away instantly, at the slightest provocation.

2. A fake, invented emotion. No one truly feels it, everyone's just dependent on each other and pretends that's love, when it's really weakness and fear of loneliness.

3. Allowing someone to hurt you and bravely withstanding the torture without a complaint. If that's not love, what is?

Mother: 1. Cheerful, loud, interested in appearances, fake.

2. Depressed, cowardly, weak mass of formless goo.

Respect: 1. Being an adoring slave.

2. Fear.

Success: 1. Something real and tangible I have to achieve to prove I'm not worthless.

2. Something real and tangible I must never achieve or I'll be destroyed for it.

Supportive: 1. Enmeshed, engulfing.

2. Criticizing.

Worry: 1. What they do all the time about you, so you constantly need to report to them and listen to criticism.

2. What I have to do all the time. Will they be angry? Will someone be angry? Am I doing enough? Am I fulfilling my potentials? Am I wasting my life?

Do you have other definitions? Do you have other words? Add to the dictionary!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Plato's cave

Charity's original hurtful comment made me realize what we're really all doing here.

Born to narcissistic parents, we grew up without love. We didn't even know what it was or that we lacked it. Just like prisoners in Plato's cave, all we knew were shackles and shadows. We were lied to and told that was all there was, and the fire that created the shadows was the only light that existed.

Then we either realized we were in shackles looking at shadows (if we learned about NPD) or we caught a glimpse of the sun (if we had a real human relationship with someone real) and we decided we wanted to live outside in the sun. So we started our journey out, helping each other on the way and sharing directions. Supporting each other out as the sun hurts our unaccustomed eyes.

And then, someone will say "Stop whining! My shackles are tight and I have to lie on the cold floor starving and I'm being tortured, and you're shackled to a soft bed and have plenty to eat! I wish I could be that lucky! You should be grateful! Get back in here!"

And it makes me at least feel guilty and ashamed. I shouldn't be whining. I shouldn't be blaming. I shouldn't be angry. I should be grateful my parents didn't torture me, starve me, rape me, or try to kill me. I am.

But that's completely beside the point. It's not about listing abuses, or complaining, or blaming. Narcissists do those things in order to control others by making them feel guilty. I'm not interested in doing that.

I'm just interested in telling my truth: I was born in a dark cave, and I'm getting out into the sun.

charity and Charity

I couldn't bring myself to comment on any Charity-related posts. I've been sad, scared, and confused about the whole thing, unable to articulate quite what was so disturbing about it.

I'm sad and angry that upsi has to deal with even more invalidating, hurtful shit. It's not fair.

I'm sad and scared that someone is so damaged and disturbed as to pull something like this.

But, ultimately, it boils down to me. I'm terrified because I've been living in a black-and-white world. Us, ACoN bloggers, we're the good guys, right? We have understood our legacy and our insights are helping us to break free, right? Our narcissistic parents are the bad guys because they'd never even start doing the hard work that is necessary to undo years of conditioning, right?

So, when a fellow blogger who has obviously been doing some hard work in therapy and blogging does something like this and basically exhibits malignant narcissistic behavior, asking where she fits now in this black-and-white ACoN world, what does it mean for us?

Aren't we all damaged? Weren't our parents also ACoNs? Weren't some of them also scapegoats who were AWARE of their own narcissistic parents' abuse? How much hope is there for us really?

I keep wondering how much charity (i.e. love) there really is in me, and how much Charity (i.e. narcissistically conditioned damaged hurtful behavior) lurks below the surface.

How much do we really love each other? Charity seemed nice and supportive. Are we sometimes nice for narcissistic reasons in our public personas, so we are not rejected? I'm honestly asking this of myself, because I'm not sure I'll ever know for certain what my most real feelings and motivations are and what "love" truly is. I'm afraid of myself. I've had "cold," "selfish," and "unloving" projected on me for too long to ever trust myself with being truly loving and supportive.

I'm seeing a therapist for the first time on Wednesday. I'm sure this incident had something to do with prompting it. Blogging, awareness, insights, DIY might just not be sufficient.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

motherless daughters

She lost it again. She was in her daughter’s face, having a toddler-like temper tantrum. Except that she was thirty and a mother and should be able to control herself. And should be able to control her daughter’s behavior, at least a little bit. This was all she had left after about three hours of reasoning, begging, and sternly, but unpersuasively saying “Calm down. Now.” Three hours of threatening, pleading, and even hitting her. Twice.

The little girl was angry. Or scared. Or both.

“You’re not my mother. You stole me from my real parents. Admit the truth!”

Poor little Rapunzel. Seeing mother Gothel for who she is. At last.


Later, at night, her dead mother pays her a visit.

“You know,” she says, “You thought your father was sterile and we used a sperm donor to make you.”

“We did have a donor. We used donor eggs. I’m not your real mother.”

She’s smirking cruelly as she says that.


I don’t remember that cruel smirk from when she was alive.

I do realize this now makes three generations of motherless daughters. The sins of the mothers.