I don't usually post links to articles that are of a certain hostile and angry spirit. Today I am making an exception for the link posted below. I was surprised to find this article. In the comments in response, I can see that there are a lot of people who related to it. Me not so much but then I don't tend to "go for the throat" at people at whom I feel angry.
I had many years of issues with my mother who was mentally ill. Being in a relationship with her was challenging. I did feel anger, even rage, towards her many times. There were times that we were estranged. I have said the Serenity Prayer a whole lot of times in regard to my reaction to things she's done. So I can relate to how some others feel about their mothers who were not there for their them, who abused them, who never did love them, who were manipulative, irrational and self destructive. Or who did love their kids but were too flawed in serious ways to be good enough at being a mother.
So I post the following link specifically for those who had mothers who failed them with a disclaimer that regardless of my mother's behavior, I did not think of her as badly as these women think of their mothers and I have not ever referred to her as toxic. Mentally ill and irrational, yes. I considered her a tragic figure rather than someone whom I would call toxic.
For those of you who consider your mother toxic (and with apologies to mothers who have been undeservingly called toxic and who are grieving the loss of relationships with their kids), I post the following link:
A Toast to All the Brave Kids Who Broke Up With Their Toxic Mothers by Natasha Vargas-Cooper, posted May 8, 2015 on Jezebel.
After writing the previous post I went back and read Katie Naum's post on Mother's Day Cards again. Noticing the subject tags listed with the post, I clicked one of them, the "Estrangement" one. That brought up a list of posts on the subject, including two written in 2014 by Katie Naum that gave some background to her estrangement from her mother. Which explains a lot about her post on Mother's Day Cards.
I understand more now. In fact, under the circumstances that she describes, perhaps she was too kind. I don't know. But I still would want to suggest thinking of her Card suggestions as if they were written by a mother rather than a daughter. Because I look for opportunities to think of situations in different ways. That was what I tried to do previously in talking about the baggage that we all carry and how wrong we can be sometimes.
Here are the links to Katie Naum's posts written in 2014 about her decision to estrange her mother:
Motherless by Choice by Katie Naum, writer, blogger, memoirist. June 2, 2014 (plus a video below the text of the article)
Why Did This Happen? Estranging Myself From My Mother by Katie Naum, writer, blogger, memoirist. June 30, 2014 on Huffington Post.
The following link is a search link that brings up posts on Huffington Post, including those linked above, on the subject of Estrangement:
Search of Huffington Post for posts on the subject of Estrangement
The following four links are the result of an internet search using keywords: "Mother's Day" and "Estrangement". The links are to articles recently posted and to articles that didn't have those annoying popups that appear all too often these days.
Note: To get a different perspective on Katie Naum's “Cards”, try the following changes and then read them again while imagining that they were written by a mother. I have numbered Naum’s “Cards” from 1 to 11.
In #1 change the wording to:
“Thank You For Living In My Womb and Being Born. (inside) That Part Went Pretty Well From My Perspective.”
Read #s 2 through 9 unchanged but as if written by a mother.
In #10 substitute the word “Mother” in the place of “Daughter”.
In #11 substitute the word “Daughter” in the place of “Mother”.
My request to look at the “Cards” as though written by a mother instead of a daughter is to bring a different perspective to what was written. I am not making a judgement. I am asking the question: If a mother had written those “Cards”, what would that say about the Mother? If the answer is different from what it says to you about the daughter who wrote them, why would that be so?
A common experience that is talked about in a lot of groups where family estrangement is discussed is the one of being labeled with a pathological condition by the person from whom you are estranged. With their only qualifications being that they are related to you and that they knew you once upon a time, they diagnose you as being something that is generally thought to be pretty horrible. While there are people who do deserve those labels, there are a whole lot of people who do not.
I am not going to argue with anyone about the fact that there are people who are not objective about their relatives and who don't know what they are talking about when they malign them. It happens far too often. When the person maligned does not deserve what is being said about them, this behavior is abusive.
I found a very good discussion on this experience that I am linking to here:
How to deal with exaggerated claims by EC (thread begun on March 20, 2015)
It is rare to see an account of the experience of Parental Alienation Syndrome given from the perspective of the child. This link is to an online memoir by the child, now grown up, and writing about her experience. Her descriptions of events as she remembers them are riveting.
If you’re new to being estranged and to online discussions of the condition, you might not have experienced the word Narcissistic (with a capital N in the context of Narcissistic Personality Disorder) occurring frequently in discussions of family estrangement. If you are a longtime survivor of family estrangements, it would be hard to imagine that you have not encountered those two conditions, Narcissism and Estrangement, being mentioned as related to each other. Parents are labeled as having (or being) NPD. Kids are labeled as having (or being) NPD. It seems some days that just about anyone who gets up in the morning and thinks or says anything positive or negative about themselves must have NPD according to someone who has estranged them or is estranged by them.
Parents and adult kids in online discussion groups report being accused of pathological narcissism. Parents and adult kids regularly diagnose their respective adult kids and parents as having NPD. There are groups set up just to discuss the narcissism of parents. Oddly, since it seems that the condition of pathological narcissism would not be restricted only to those who see themselves as offspring but could be suffered by anyone, parent or adult child, there are no groups set up by and for parents specifically to discuss their experience of having offspring who are pathologically narcissistic. The reasons for that are open to speculation.
Anyway, what brings me to my blog this morning is an article that I read online about NPD by Slate staff writer Katy Waldman that I thought was worth adding a link here. She mentions a number of points that have occurred to me over the years of reading about the personality disorder of NPD and she includes links to other references on the subject too. Considering this subject is one that comes up so very frequently in relation to the condition of family estrangement, I thought it was a very appropriate and worthwhile link to share here.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the baggage that people carry and how people interpret who and what other people are. The series of posts I wrote about Being Wrong were motivated by my desire to get through to those who believe they are right no matter what, no matter if there is evidence that they may not be as right as they think they are. I've addressed this issue of baggage in years past and have made a permanent page link, to one post (written in May 2007) titled "On Baggage" in the left side bar.
I think that we all carry baggage but I think that when we are aware of our own baggage and our own limitations and history, we might become less likely to be so sure that we are right all of the time. If we are wrong less of the time, I can't help but think that would be a good thing. However, I am aware of my own limitations in getting this point across to strangers. So I have to accept that -- my limitations.
I have seen that there are some who have not figured out what I was trying to communicate with my posts on Being Wrong. I was trying to write on the topic without being more specific as to who or what inspired me to write as what I wanted to communicate was meant for many, not for a specific person or persons, even if the topic was motivated by the actions of a small number of people. I did not want them to feel singled out. And they are not the only ones who do the kinds of things they have done. I accept that I may not get through to anyone who believes that they are always right and that they always do the right thing even while they are being abusive.
As a result of what I have been seeing and thinking about lately, I offer the following links to the wisdom of others. I am posting the links and my reasons for offering each link.
1. I offer this link to the Shrinking Woman video because the poet addresses the issues of how women so often feel as though they must be smaller and smaller and smaller, both physically and in terms of behavior, rather than be large and make waves or complain or argue or do anything that men do. When men talk about what concerns them and make waves and stand up for themselves and share their experiences, they are seen as strong and brave. Women who do the same things are typically criticized, insulted, demeaned and called names. They are treated this way not only by men but also by women, especially by women.
2. I offer this link to a post on a blog that belongs to Danielle LaPorte because I have been told that it would be better for me to delete my blog. That I would be a happier healthier person if I deleted my blog. The reason why I have this blog is because I thought it would be appreciated by others who were experiencing estrangement to know that they were not alone in this experience. I shared my experience, not because I enjoy talking about being estranged and need to put myself out there, but because I believe that there are others like me and that they may feel alone in having this experience. When I started the website and blog there weren't the number of places online where there was information about family estrangement and there were no blogs where anyone was talking about the experience.
Yes, I could take the blog down. I have been tempted to do that but I have not given in to the temptation. I still think that the information here including my sharing of my own experience could be of help to someone. It costs me little to let it stay up. I do let my living my life take priority these days and rarely have anything to add.
3. I offer this link, Karma - Insults, which is from the blog, Quotes About Living from Doe Zantamata's "Happiness in your life" book series. I offer this link because of the baggage that causes others to do things like offer their amateur diagnoses of the people from whom they are estranged. Not everyone does this. Some people do have the opinions of mental health professionals as to what is wrong with their relative. For example, my mother really was mentally ill. She saw psychiatrists for almost sixty years and was in and out of psych wards.
4. I offer this link, Karma - Allowing change, from the same series because I believe that Zantamata offers a great truth in that quote.
5. I offer this link, Karma - Expectations, also from the Zantamata Quotes About Living, because it gives an explanation why some people find it so hard to trust that someone else doesn't have some evil agenda for why they do anything nice. Not all estranged parents and not all estranged children are people with personality disorders.
Many estranged parents and many estranged adult children are pretty much nice normal people who would be kicked out of any therapist's office in short order because they don't have anything sufficiently wrong with them for the therapist to help to resolve. And many of those who wouldn't be kicked out of a therapist's office don't have a whole lot seriously wrong with them either.
If someone can't believe that someone is a nice person no matter how nice they are, then it says more about the person who wants to believe bad things than it does about the person who is being maligned. It might not say bad things about the person who is believing untrue things but it does say something about them.
Someone can be a good person and still believe untruths. This is what inspired me to write about Being Wrong. Because I believe that many good people believe bad things about other good people who don't deserve being so maligned. After all, it is said that you have to demonize someone before you can hate them. It's a lot harder to dislike and hate someone who really is a nice enough person. So, to estrange them successfully, it helps to demonize, demonize, demonize!!
I recognize that I likely have not made much headway in making that point about baggage. I hope that somewhere out there my point is clear to someone. Or if not now, some day perhaps.
When does recovery occur? When do you get over a serious loss?
Some things you never "get over" but you can heal. It is possible for life to go on. You know you're getting better when you make better choices. As described in the poem below.
The poem is from There's a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery by Portia Nelson.
Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit ... but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.
I woke up this morning and realized that I was not finished yet in talking about Being Wrong. There is another important question that we can ask ourselves as we examine our ability to be wrong and how our errors impact ourselves and others. Going back to the description of what occurred between Carol and Tim in Part Five of this series, what if we are Tim? What if we are wrong about someone? What if we are seeing someone through some very dark filter?
I don't know why Tim saw Carol the way that he saw her. I doubt that Tim could give me a good reason if I asked him. I suspect that Tim doesn't know the answer. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if Tim always sees Carol that way and never changes his mind. But I do know that sometimes the Tims of the world go through a transformation and lose that dark filter through which they had been seeing someone that they had spent years disliking, fearing, and even hating. Claiborne Paul Ellis did it. I've done it myself when I've gone from having a deep dislike of someone to becoming very good friends with them.
That sure was a long seven days since I last posted an entry on this topic of being wrong! That delay occurred despite my best intentions to do what I said that I was going to do. It has been difficult for me to finish this piece. My goal is to make a point but I want to make the point in a particular way. I want to make a point about us all as humans and about our human nature. I am not saying that I am somehow free from being wrong as I am not. That is part of the point too.
I was inspired to write on the subject of being wrong by several things. They are as follows: the book: Being Wrong, Adventures in the Margin of Error, my reading of numerous blogs and discussion groups on the experience of family estrangement, my personal experience with being wrong, and my observations of events in the lives and relationships of friends and acquaintances and in my own life.
Funny how things change. In that first post on Being Wrong that I wrote in May 2011, I talked about a couple that I knew, "Bob" and "Janice" and how I had gone from initially disliking them a lot to becoming good friends with them. I was using that transformation as an example of how I felt I had been wrong about them and that I thought I had been unfair. Since I wrote that post, Bob and Janice both did things that felt so unfair that I made some important decisions later in 2011 due to their actions. I make a brief reference to what the wife did in my New Year's Resolutions post of January 5, 2012.
Over a year ago I wrote two posts on the subject of "Being Wrong" inspired by a book titled "Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error" by Kathryn Schulz. I said that I would write more on the subject of being wrong but till now, I hadn't written another word. However, I continue to think about the subject a lot.
I hadn't written more since then for several reasons. One was that I felt that the topic was so important that I felt overwhelmed by it, afraid that I wouldn't be able to express my thoughts well enough to give it justice. I have been so busy with the usual sorts of things that go into living a life that I haven't felt as though I had the time to sit down, look through the book again, gather the threads of my thoughts on the subject, and put it all together in a coherent post. I've been so busy that when I had down time, I didn't want to spend it on putting together my thoughts on why that book had impressed me so much. Impressed is not the right word but it is the best one that I can come up with at this moment. I have thought about the subject of "being wrong" again and again. Things that happen in my life remind me of what I read in this book. The things that I see myself and other people doing remind me of this book.
Late last year for example I began hearing about the movie Hugo. I heard about the plot line and I thought that it was odd that nowhere was it mentioned that there had been an animated movie that was based on the very same plot line. That seemed unfair. Every time I heard about the movie Hugo, I had these images in my head from the animated movie. I could see the scenes, remember what the characters looked like. I could remember what they did and said. I thought it was outrageous that no one was mentioning that fantastic animated movie. I spoke about it with my husband and he said that he remembered the movie too. Although he might have recalled seeing the movie after I had kept talking about it for a while. He did not remember the movie's name or where we had seen it.
I thought that Scorsese had ripped off the plot lines, character and story of the animated movie that I remembered and I was so puzzled that no one else was mentioning this obvious ripoff. I did online searches for the animation version and could not find it. It was such a cool movie that I couldn't imagine that it wouldn't be in the online databases of movies.
Then I had an epiphany! It was not a movie that I had seen. Even though I remembered the scenes of the animation vividly in my mind, it was not a movie that I was remembering! It was the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret that I had read and was remembering as though it was an animated movie! There had never been an animated movie that existed before the movie Hugo! My memory was entirely incorrect! I had seen the book on which the movie was based before the movie was made. That person who had the book had recommended it to me and had lent it to me. I had read it and returned the book to them. All the pictures in the book and the story line had combined together in my memory so that I was remembering it as a movie!
I was stunned to realize how deceived I had been by my memory. Not only stunned by that but also stunned to realize that my own account of having seen a movie that didn't exist had influenced my husband to believe that he had seen the movie too! He hadn't even read the book!
It was a perfect example of feeling "right" but being wrong about something. Absolutely unarguably wrong. Both of us were wrong. When I recognized the untruthfulness of my memory, I thought back on Schulz's book, Being Wrong, and how this experience of remembering something that had never happened fit so perfectly with what is talked about in the book. People do this all the time. They believe that they are right even when they are absolutely wrong. It happens all the time. We don't like to think that we are capable of being 100% wrong but sometimes we are, no matter how much we'd like think that it doesn't happen.
I've been collecting examples of that experience in my own life. There are a lot more than one. It teaches me humility among other things. It teaches me how others can do the same things as I do. That book talks about these kinds of experiences.
Generally we don't go around thinking about the times that we are wrong, whether we are wrong now, whether we've been wrong in the past, why we are sometimes so wrong, and what might we do so that we can be less wrong.
Why is it important to know if we are right or wrong? Why give the subject any space in our minds? I know I am stating the obvious when I say that being right or wrong can have serious consequences in our personal lives and in our culture. If the worst thing that I've ever been wrong about was whether I'd seen a movie or not, I'd be fortunate. More serious consequences involve decisions that we make in our lives regarding relationships, politics, guilt or innocence, issues of fairness, whether our decisions and acts are perpetrating good or evil. It is entirely possible to be on the wrong side of a line while believing that we are entirely in the right. It is possible to commit abuse and believe that we are doing the right thing. That is what struck me about the writings in that book. How abuse is committed in the name of doing the right thing.
I will write more on this subject and I promise that I won't procrastinate for over a year before writing that next post. I have too many thoughts on the subject of Being Wrong to express them in two or three posts. I intend to write another post on the subject within the next week. Stating a timeline might help me to get this next post written.
Wishing you all less of being wrong and more of being right and if you've made errors, please know that we all make them!
Happy Mother's Day!
(Or as one dear friend calls it: Stupid F'ing Mother's Day! -- SFMD! for short)
As the new year begins, some of us make resolutions. I visited Fiona McColl's E-stranged blog this week and found two superb posts that she wrote that resonate with me and that I am linking below along with the thoughts that those posts inspire. The first linked post is on her New Year's resolution. The second is on the pursuit of happiness.
Emotions being what they are (in other words difficult creatures to control) the goal of caring less may seem daunting. It might make it easier if you can give yourself permission to care less. Many of us feel as though caring less would be a terrible thing to do but when you are in the habit of caring more than is good for you, caring less can be freeing. It is okay to care less. Unless you are the sort of person who never cared at all and then, if you are, the concept of caring less is not something you are going to be making any New Year's resolutions about and you are probably wondering why someone would even write such a post!
This post resonated with me as I found myself in a situation as a volunteer where I had misplaced my priorities and was putting an organization's needs as a higher priority than my own personal, family and business needs. I knew this but was having a hard time figuring out what to do about it. And then someone who is inextricably involved in that organization treated me badly. She chose a day that was particularly awful to do that to me as it was a day that I and others had worked really hard to make successful.
The last thing that I or anyone involved needed on that day was to be treated badly. After that, I had the choice of continuing to keep that organization at the top of my priority list or let them find someone else to take over my volunteer work. If I stayed, I would be forced to interact with the person who had treated me horribly. If I stayed, I would be continuing to put the organization's needs higher than my own. If I stayed, I would be in a situation that was getting worse despite the input and warnings from myself and others. Or I could let it go, choose to be happier doing more of the things I needed to do for myself and my husband, and let them find another volunteer. I am choosing happiness. I resigned. That was a bit of a shock to them but my friends are still my friends and it may all work out for the best in the long run anyway. It wasn't reasonable to expect someone to do as much work as I was doing as a volunteer. Organizations will take whatever you offer, even if it is more than you can afford to give.
I am giving them some opportunity to find someone else before I am completely out of there. So I am still doing work for them but not giving it my all any more. I am looking forward to being out.
I am a little bit worried that I won't have the strength to get myself completely out. It will be one more learning experience for me to extricate myself. I guess the worst that can happen as far as I am concerned is that I might continue to do some things for them that I particularly enjoy doing. And do those things at a pace and time frame that doesn't conflict with other things that are more important.
Going back to Fiona's "Care Less" post, I wish that I could care a lot less when I put myself in this kind of situation. For the future, I know myself better now and I intend to be far more cautious when offering my services as a volunteer. It is not happiness when I have no time for my own things but only time for others. Volunteering is a good thing which I like to do but, like so many things, it can take up 100% of my time if I let it.
I feel sure that my life experiences had a lot to do with how I ended up doing too much of a good thing for a good cause to the point that it was not good for me. I am aware of that. I know it is up to me to make decisions that are healthier so that I don't find myself in that same kind of situation again. Now I see "red flags" in certain situations that I might have jumped into too quickly. I see other people putting themselves into tough situations. I don't try to talk them out of what they are doing because it isn't any of my business and they would not appreciate my butting in but seeing them do the same kinds of things that I have done makes me realize that it isn't just me who does these things. A lot of us do them and then eventually we figure out where we've gotten out of balance with what we're doing and how to get back on track. And then allow ourselves to make decisions that let us live happier lives.
Happy New Year everyone!
This week I found a post that was about something that can make or break a relationship: the need to be right. The post is at: The Wrong Stuff: Those Three Little Words: ("Honey, You're right!"): Harville Hendrix on Being Wrong. On Slate, August 9, 2010.
Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want, is interviewed by writer & blogger Kathryn Schulz on her blog, The Wrong Stuff. Hendrix talks about couples in romantic relationships but his ideas can be extrapolated to cover many other kinds of relationships.
Being able to admit when we're wrong can be a strength for anyone in a relationship but especially in our relationships with the people for whom we feel affection and love. Relationships between parents and children, between siblings, between friends. So often relationships break apart when one or both people feel that they are right and that backing down or seeing things from a different perspective feels like giving in or being put in a bad position.
Blogger Kathryn Schulz is the author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. (I am going to order this book!) On her blog, The Wrong Stuff, she features Q&As in which notable people discuss their relationship with being wrong.
As I wrote this post, I remembered with great pleasure a segment of the TV series, Mad About You, where the characters played by Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser got to wear virtual reality headpieces and to see the virtual reality of their choosing. Helen Hunt's character chose a virtual reality where her husband tells her over and over again, "You are right!" "You are right!" "You are right!" "You are right!" I laughed until I cried!
The link below goes to a story by a son on the death of his father from whom he was estranged. They were estranged because of the father's deterioration due to Alzheimer's. It is a poignant story that is accompanied below on that page by links to the stories of others who were estranged from their fathers.
Dealing with the death of an estranged father by S. C. Kleinhans
After Dr. Barker's article last week that touched on estrangement, she received so many responses that she continued on that topic today:
December 20, 2010: Learning to Love from Afar by Dr. Cara Barker
(I particularly liked what one of her readers said: "Don't trip on what's behind you.")
Thanksgiving is in the subject title but Gould writes about the entire holiday season, not only Thanksgiving, in this article that touches on the more difficult situations that we deal with at this time of year. Including estrangement:
November 23, 2010: Thanksgiving - - Sink or Swim by Roger Gould, author of Shrink Yourself: End Emotional Eating
Put away the feelings of victimization. Read what Fiona has to say about feeling like a victim:
December 20, 2010 Have Yourself a Very Merry, Victim Free, Christmas by Fiona McColl
Fiona McColl has been writing excellent posts on family estrangement and the holidays on her blog E-stranged. I am linking the posts below by dates and subject titles so that these posts can be found easily in the future since what she writes will remain true for future holidays as well as the current one.
December 17, 2010 Theme of the Week: Christmas
December 18, 2010 - Holiday State of Mind . . .
December 19, 2010 The Etiquette of Christmas Estrangement
December 20, 2010 Estranged at Christmas? Love the One You're With.
Are you looking for advice on how to cope through the holidays despite being estranged? I found an excellent article today on that topic on the Huffington Post. The title is misleading. It is more about how to heal and cope despite being estranged rather than how to mend bridges. Be sure not to miss the Comments section which you find by scrolling way down below the article. The link is as follows:
How to Mend Bridges with Estranged Family Members During the Holidays by Dr. Cara Barker
Dr. Barker makes a reference to a poem by Howard Thurman. The link to the poem online is as follows:
I will light candles this Christmas, a poem by Howard Thurman
I didn't know who Howard Thurman was. So I looked him up. Links are as follows:
Howard Thurman on Wikipedia
Wishing you Peace in the holiday season,