Couldn’t Possibly Have Been A Psychotic Break

Well, this story makes my blood run cold.

“Catherine Hoggle, the 30-year-old Maryland mother suspected in the 2014 disappearance of her two young children, was charged Thursday with killing them, a major development in a case long enveloped by Hoggle’s mental illness.

“Hoggle was charged with two counts of murder, after a grand jury indictment, and was being held without bond Thursday night in the Montgomery County jail, according to officials familiar with the case and jail records.

“Hoggle has spent the last three years locked in a state psychiatric hospital, refusing to tell detectives and family members what might have happened to 2-year-old Jacob and 3-year-old Sarah Hoggle.”

Two things about this story disturb me.

She is smart:  an IQ once tested at 135

She is also mentally ill:  she has earlier been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia

Well, three really, the third being that she probably killed her own children.

Three Strikes

“…I talk a lot about fighting back in The Asshole Survival Guide. There are three factors that especially predict how successful you will be at stopping or bringing down a bully. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is whether you—or them— have more formal power (the more powerful they are, the tougher it will be to win). The second is whether you are fighting back alone or with others, the more allies you have, the more likely you are to win because it is harder to portray you as a lone nut and you also have more power (even against a boss or other powerful person). The third is documentation; keep notes, emails, and social media posts, anything that provides objective evidence that you and your colleagues are in fact being bullied.”

I found out I have no formal power in my own family of origin.

I also found out I was alone in that “family”.

I am the “lone nut”, the scapegoat, the outsider, and as such I am not to be believed, let alone defended.  In some eyes, I am not even supposed to exist, not supposed to take up physical space, be noticed, be cared about.  (With the notable exception of being noticed for what I fail to do correctly, i.e. being criticized.)

And there was no documentation – the incident that started the whole thing, or rather brought it into the light, was deliberately engineered to have no witnesses, other than my husband and a brother who also has little formal power.

No wonder it all turned out the way it has.

A related article shows that there weren’t too many other options.

The powerful bully

Who they are: The engineer with hard-to-replace skills whose creepy overtures get overlooked. The rainmaking dealmaker whose boorish behavior goes unpunished. Whether they’re explicitly in charge or simply influential, too many organizations look the other way when top performers or top bosses behave badly. Sutton points to Roger Ailes — the powerful Fox News chief who left the media empire amid a swirl of sexual harassment allegations. “Going to HR didn’t seem to help anyone for years,” he says.

What to do: Tread carefully. “You’re fighting the cool kids,” Sutton says. In such cases, getting out is really often the best advice — especially if the behavior goes beyond milder incivilities. “This is one when you often leave, or when you hide, or when you lie in wait until their power diminishes,” Sutton said.

Gratitude

A fascinating article on neuroscience here.  I found a few things in it that I’ve already learned:

Suppressing emotions doesn’t work and can backfire on you.

Gross found that people who tried to suppress a negative emotional experience failed to do so. While they thought they looked fine outwardly, inwardly their limbic system was just as aroused as without suppression, and in some cases, even more aroused. Kevin Ochsner, at Columbia, repeated these findings using an fMRI. Trying not to feel something doesn’t work, and in some cases even backfires.

So much for “just get over it.”


we need to feel love and acceptance from others. When we don’t it’s painful. And I don’t mean “awkward” or “disappointing.” I mean actually painful.  Rejection doesn’t just hurt like a broken heart; your brain feels it like a broken leg.  In fact, as demonstrated in an fMRI experiment, social exclusion activates the same circuitry as physical pain

When you put people in a stressful situation and then let them visit loved ones or talk to them on the phone, they felt better.

And just what do you suppose happens when those same loved ones turn hostile to you in the most stressful situation of your entire life?

And later, when you find out that those loved ones don’t really love you?  That they see you as a problem, and they feel all superior for “not holding against you” the perfectly normal things you did?

Over the past five years I have come to understand that they don’t like me, and I don’t really like them either.  They aren’t happy or fun or accepting people, at least not to me.  We dislike each others’ values.  They don’t want to listen, or understand — they don’t let me speak my mind or offer my opinions.  They criticize my life choices, and I don’t like their superior attitudes — but they were my family, once upon a time.  They were people I had known my entire life.  And that rejection hurt.


Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life… I know, sometimes life lands a really mean punch in the gut and it feels like there’s nothing to be grateful for. Guess what?  Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to find anything. It’s the searching that counts.

There are ways in which I am grateful for this family rift, and even for eventually being forced to go no-contact with them.

It is a relief to finally understand some of the things I was always told, or which were “understood”, but which never made any sense.  And not just about our parents — it now makes sense to me why the reunions were the symptom of the problem, and why they would ALWAYS have to be on my sister’s turf, under her control.

Finding out about narcissism explains why I never really had a mother, why my father was so important to me, and even why the rest of them have to believe the opposite; and why I never really liked Susan.  And it feels good to know that my instincts were healthy.

It’s comforting to deconstruct situations which had always been presented in black and white, Mom=right and Dad=wrong, to find that they were really so much more complicated, and to know that there really weren’t any other better options than the one my father chose — perhaps mostly for my benefit.

And it’s great to no longer be obligated to spend time and money to be around people who have, in the past, been SURPRISED to find out that they could enjoy my company and conversation, or when they found out I wasn’t “just a spoiled brat”.  People who I now know have always seen me and treated me as a second class family member, as a problem, as some kind of “wrong” person — simply because I was born, for the very fact of my existence; and because I experienced a different father, and mother, than the rest of them did.

I do miss some of them:  my sister’s husband and kids, in particular.  I lost my past that day five years ago, but I also lost the future.  Not having kids myself, I have always cared about my sister’s kids.  Now I am cut off from them, and I don’t know their spouses or kids or anything about their lives.

That’s been a heavy price to pay, but for my own self-preservation I’ve had to pay it.  It’s difficult, if not impossible, to have a relationship with them that doesn’t continually include painful reminders of the people to whom I am not a beloved little sister, but instead a convenient scapegoat, to be punished for things that were never in my control.

The New Emangelization

This is the internet after all.  All sorts of trash exists out there.

Including this site with this interview, in which Cardinal Burke discusses how today’s lack of priestly vocations and even pedophile priests are the fault of women!

To quote the article that led me to the full interview, “the rampant crisis of pedophile priests was brought on by women who “feminized” the church and discouraged “manly” men from participating in clerical life… It should come as no surprise, given the extreme lengths the Church has gone to to cover up the abuse that has gone on at their hands for decades, that they are so ready to blame anyone apart from themselves.”

I expect there are a few people I’m related to who will eat up this idea of manly superiority and feminine inferiority, with regard to themselves.

But having gotten there, I read most of the original interview, and I’d like to draw attention to a different bit:

“…it was a long tradition in the Church, especially through the devotion of St. Joseph, to stress the manly character of the man who sacrifices his life for the sake of the home, who prepares with chivalry to defend his wife and his children and who works to provide the livelihood for the family.”

So if you’re going to agree with the Cardinal on all the other garbage, you ought to agree with him on this.

And Dad did this.  So why isn’t he considered a hero of the family?  Hell, why isn’t his contribution to the family even acknowledged?

I suppose I know the answer I would get:  the sin of The Divorce completely obliterates and overshadows 40 years of parenting and providing, of course.

That answer is fallacious, not to mention judgy — because AFAIK, no one on earth gets to rank another’s sins and virtues.  But they do anyway.

Mistakes

“Mistakes, no matter how terrible, don’t have to define us so long as we don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over.” ~~ Jim Wright

It’s been just about five years since that awful reunion, the second-worst-weekend of my life. The day when I found out just exactly how my siblings see me, what they believe about me, and how that manifests in how they treat me.

I have a sister who wishes I was never born and that I didn’t exist (and now can pretend that I don’t).

Because, you know, everything that happened, back in 1969 and after, is my fault, for being born.

I have a sister-in-law and a brother who see nothing wrong with screaming in my face the day after our father died: I’m talking feeling her spittle hit my face, I’m talking both of them screaming so loudly that another brother in the basement heard what was going on and came up for a look-see.

But, you see, I MADE them do it.

They had charitably decided to overlook “my behavior” of the night before, when I politely asked her to stop LAUGHING as I sat by my father’s still-warm body, less than half an hour after he had died — and she chose to completely ignore that simple request, ignored what I asked her to do at a time of deep grief and stress — the first time I’d ever seen anyone die, and it was my beloved father, but she refused to do that one simple thing for my sake.

When I brought up this disgustingly callous behavior the next day, I “made” them yell at me.

Said sister, and youngest brother, and probably oldest brother, don’t want to believe that happened — at least not the way I tell it. And brother and SIL made it easy for them by telling them all that I PICKED THE FIGHT that day. Which is easy – it goes right along with me “making” them yell at me like that. And everyone swallowed it, because it was the easy thing to do, and it went along with their preconceived notions of what kind of person I was — the person at fault for everything.

It’s been a long, difficult, sometimes lonely, 5 years.  It’s tough to break those patterns, of believing the same old lies, giving the same old responses, and getting the same old results.

But it’s worth it, to have figured out the truth, and not be hostage to someone else’s view.

Frankly, they should try it for themselves.

No one else has changed one bit, not in five years.  Zero reparations, zero understanding, zero empathy, and eventually zero communication (which is a choice I ended up having to make, not one I wanted).  A refusal to even read what I write.

I’m certain that me writing this blog is seen as FAR FAR WORSE than what Joe and Susan did to me.  Of course it is!

They only turned on me, yelled at me, at the lowest point of my entire life.  When at the age of only 31 I had just lost my only parent, my father.  At the moment when you are supposed to be able to count on “family”.  After days of hearing how we were going to “cut each other slack”.  And then they deliberately, strategically, and openly turned the rest of that “family” against me.

But me writing this blog — well, I’m pretty sure that’s unforgivable.  After all, the internet is forever!

Yes, it is.  And what they did to me is forever too.

Missing Stairs

The metaphor of the Missing Stair came from The Pervocracy.  It’s a very useful metaphor for a toxic person.

The basic idea is this:

“Have you ever been in a house that had something just egregiously wrong with it?  Something massively unsafe and uncomfortable and against code, but everyone in the house had been there a long time and was used to it?  “Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you, there’s a missing step on the unlit staircase with no railings.  But it’s okay because we all just remember to jump over it.”

“Some people are like that missing stair…  Like something you’re so used to working around, you never stop to ask “what if we actually fixed this?”  Eventually you take it for granted that working around this person is just a fact of life, and if they hurt someone, that’s the fault of whoever didn’t apply the workarounds correctly.

“…Just about every workplace has that one person who doesn’t do their job, but everyone’s grown accustomed to picking up their slack.  A lot of social groups and families have that one person.  The person whose tip you quietly add a couple bucks to.  (Maybe more than a couple, after how they talked to the server.)  The person you don’t bother arguing with when they get off on one of their rants.  The person you try really, really hard not to make angry, because they’re perfectly nice so long as no one makes them angry.

“I know not all these people can be fixed, and sometimes they can’t be escaped either.  But the least you can do is recognize them, and that they are the problem.  Stop thinking that your inability to accommodate them is the problem.”


You know Racist Christmas Uncle? He’s a Missing Stair. It’s a person with whom you have to socialise who damages other people. They make racist/sexist/homophobic statements, or inappropriately sexual comments. They tell rape jokes. They talk about your weight, and whether you should really be eating that. A Missing Stair enjoys upsetting people to some degree, even if they’re not deliberately baiting you.

The Missing Stair is someone you can’t just avoid. They’re a relative, or a co-worker. They’re the partner of a friend, or a friend of your partner. They belong to the Group that does your Thing: gaming, or wine club, or whatever else normal people do…

This isn’t just a person who’s a bit socially awkward. You know you have a Missing Stair when the thought of going to a social event you know they’re going to be at makes you feel sick. You really know you have a Missing Stair when you complain about their behaviour to a mutual friend and they say, “Oh come on, you know what he’s like. Don’t let him get to you.”

Because that’s the thing about the Missing Stair: everyone knows what they’re like. If you quietly say, “I don’t know, one of the guys there, he kind of creeps me out,” everyone knows who you mean. Everyone knows the stair is missing. Nobody fixes it. Everyone is expected to work around the Missing Stair. 

People will not handle you being rude to the Missing Stair. The Missing Stair has a free licence to be a jerk, that’s just the way they are, but you are socially obliged to not make a scene. The Missing Stair can tell you you’re raising your children wrong with no sanction at all. Yet if at any point you call them a fucking moron, somehow you’re the one starting a fight. You can be told you must support the Missing Stair because they are family, or a friend – as if you somehow magically aren’t.

If you ever do manage to get a Missing Stair out of your life – by moving city, for instance, or through a death – that’s when you really start to realise just how much energy you were putting into constantly working around it. The relief is amazing. I have, a couple of times, been rude enough to deal to a Missing Stair, and having other people come up and thank you afterwards is little compensation for the stress and adrenalized sickness of the confrontation they totally failed to back you during.


Talented and Gifted

Holy cow, do I identify with this article.  Even more the comments under it.

“…highly gifted children have an awareness and understanding of mortality at a much younger age than might be expected (some suggest that you can use the age at which a child understands mortality as a crude tool to approximate intelligence). Imagine then, for a moment, what it must be like for a child young enough to lack any significant autonomy and who relies on their parents for literally everything to understand that their parents are going to die in a way similar to how an adult might, but with the emotions of a young child. This can be an example of the asynchronous development experienced by many gifted children.”

Imaginary Friends

Why do kids create imaginary friends?
According to Kimberly Eckert, a registered psychologist in Calgary, children often create playmates just to engage in imaginative play (the way another child might play with action figures), but sometimes they do so when bored or lonely. An imaginary friend can also be used as a form of self-soothing during a big transition, such as adjusting to a new home or sibling.


According to Marjorie Taylor and her colleagues at the University of Oregon, by age seven, about 37% of children take imaginative play a step farther and create an invisible friend.

It seems logical that children who invent invisible friends might be lonely or have social problems, but research doesn’t support those assumptions. In fact, compared to those who don’t create them, children with imaginary companions (either invisible friends or personified objects) tend to be less shy, engage in more laughing and smiling with peers, and do better at tasks involving imagining how someone else might think.

Oldest children, only children, and children who don’t watch much television are more likely to create an imaginary friend. This probably reflects opportunity. Children need unstructured time alone to be able to invent imaginary friends.

Having an imaginary friend is not evidence that a child is troubled. However, imaginary friends can be a source of comfort when a child is experiencing difficulties. There are many case studies of children inventing imaginary friends to help them cope with traumatic experiences.


Imaginary friends used to be a cause for concern, but research is finding that kids with elaborate tales of friends who aren’t really there are getting ahead in learning and social development. So what makes children who dream up pretend playmates so advanced?

In the days of Dr. Spock, imaginary friends were seen as a symptom of social problems. If your child was spending her time talking to thin air, prevailing wisdom said she probably needed more attention and company. Seen as a way to deal with loneliness, stress, or conflict, imaginary friends had a bad rep for most of the 20th century.

But the tables have turned, with psychologists touting pretend friends as boosters for language and social skills. Last year a study from La Trobe University in Melbourne found that three to six-year-olds with imaginary friends were more creative and socially advanced. Earlier studies had shown that kids with imaginary pals use more complex sentence structure, have richer vocabularies, and get along better with classmates.


Imaginary companions are much more common than people might think. Up to two-thirds of children have them, typically between the ages of 3 and 8 (although there are accounts of teenagers who retain them from childhood or who first develop them as teens).

Historically, many researchers and parents thought that imaginary companions were harmful or evil, and were a sign of a social deficit, demonic possession, or mental illness.

Small, statistically significant differences between kids with and without imaginary companions do arise, however, and they tend to be positive, says Taylor. For example, children with these pretend pals tend to have a slightly larger vocabulary, are less shy, and are good at understanding the perspective of others.


The way researchers used to view imaginary friends has undergone a nearly complete reversal since the early 1990s. Until then, the consensus among child psychologists was that children with imaginary friends were troubled introverts who, the more they indulged their fantasies, were more likely to need professional help.

As a result of this work, a new profile of children with imaginary companions has emerged: They are more socially skilled, they perform better on tests of verbal skills and, perhaps not surprisingly, they are more creative than children who do not have imaginary friends. What’s more, these benefits do not end in childhood.

Take all the most creative people you know, says Jonathan Plucker, a creativity researcher at the University of Connecticut who is researching how people, especially students, communicate their creativity to others. It doesn’t matter if they are artists or engineers or entrepreneurs. Now look for common denominators among them. What you are most likely to find if you do some digging is that they had an imaginary friend in childhood.

“It pops up almost whenever it’s asked. Creative people say, ‘Oh yeah, that was me,’” Plucker says.

Today, they can say it with pride, not fear of stigma.

“They thought these children were weird,” says Taylor, head of the Imagination Research Lab at the University of Oregon. “Maybe smart, but socially troubled or shy or whatever. And all that is completely wrong.”

In was not until the 1990s that a new view emerged: that children with imaginary friends were actually exploring a form of play with a high degree of creativity.

In a study published in the Creativity Research Journal in 2005, researchers found that children who had imaginary companions were more creative than their imaginary-friendless peers.

And in 2010, Evan Kidd, a researcher at Australian National University, and colleagues found that adults who had imaginary friends as children scored higher on creativity tests than those who did not.


Children who have imaginary friends are not typically loners. They don’t have issues with making or keeping friends. Parents should see imaginary friends not as a replacement for real friends, but as a sign of a child’s resourcefulness. A child with an imaginary friend is a child who has found a way to cope with feelings and problems.

Children have two different ways of relating to imaginary friends. Children may have hierarchical relationships or egalitarian relationships with their imaginary friends. In a hierarchical relationship, one friend in the relationship is dominant, more powerful. In the egalitarian relationship, the imaginary friend and the child are on equal footing.

In the hierarchical relationship, an imaginary friend may boss the child around or direct him to a good hiding place. In other cases, the imaginary friend is under the child’s command, and must serve the child’s wishes. Imagine what a comfort this is to a child who is bossed around by her peers in real life! Finally, she gets to tell someone else what to do and get that friend to obey.

Children aged 3-6 with imaginary friends, are, in general, both more creative and more advanced in their social skills. They have larger vocabularies, use more complex sentence structures, and get along better with their real life friends.

We can use that imagination to think about the future or to solve problems. For children, an imaginary friend can be a guide or a comfort or a way to understand things. The imaginary friend is there by command when the child is bored or lonely, and has no one to play with. An imaginary friend can soften  a difficult or stress-filled time, for instance, when the child is adjusting to a new baby brother or even a new home.

One of the great things about imaginary friends is that they are always available. Big sister doesn’t want to play? Imaginary friend to the rescue.

The imaginary friend is forgiving. Children can yell at imaginary friends. They’ll still be your (imaginary) friends.

A child wants to imagine the sky to be green and the grass blue? The imaginary friend is right there with the child to imagine it and “live” it, and most of all, laugh about it. No one has to know about the color switch, which makes it safe. No one will laugh at the child for being creative at play.


I can remember one morning at breakfast telling my mom and my two older brothers about a dream I had the night before.  Since Mom was still in the house I must have been around 4 or 5YO, 6 at most.  In the dream there was a giant green pig with no legs running down the street.  I think it was the older brother who scoffed and said, “How could a pig with no legs be running?”

Of course my mother didn’t defend me, or chastise my brothers for laughing at me.  Narcissists don’t build family ties.  They prefer to divide and conquer.

After that, I stopped talking about my dreams because it felt so bad to be made fun of and laughed at.  Because of that incident, I also stopped talking about any scary dreams I had — instead of getting comforted by my family, I figured I’d just have to deal with them myself.

In fact, I tried to stop dreaming at all.  I changed my before-bedtime prayers to include these words:

“God, please don’t let me dream about anything stupid or scary or silly.”

I still don’t often remember my dreams.

Needless to say, I had an imaginary friend as a kid, and I got made fun of for that, too.


A list of some of the many things imaginary friends can do:

  • Provide companionship
  • Give the child a chance to try different ways of doing things
  • Allow the child to play in a more creative way
  • Offer a safe place to practice people skills
  • Permit children to test out strong emotions like anger and fear, in safety and in private
  • Let the child be the one in charge, the boss, when the child may be feeling powerless or vulnerable in real life
  • Empower the child to experience a rich internal private life that is safe from others’ eyes
  • Grant comfort when a child is stressed out by being there with unconditional (if imagined) love and acceptance

    http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/05/parents-relax-imaginary-friends-are-a-totally-normal-part-of-being-a-kid.html

In other words, for concerned parents who might want to see it spelled out: An imaginary friend is nothing to worry about. First of all, they’re incredibly common — by some estimates, 65 percent of kids have had an imaginary friend by age 7. And kids know they aren’t real; researchers today believe these made-up companions aren’t an indication of loneliness or a deficit of social skills so much as they are a normal way for kids to exercise their imaginations.

And past research has shown that kids who create imaginary friends may even enjoy some cognitive and emotional benefits. “In a lot of ways they’re really similar, but when we do find differences, they tend to show an advantage for kids who have imaginary friends,” says University of Oregon psychologist Marjorie Taylor, the author of Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them. “They’re sociable kids, they’re less shy than other children. There are some studies that show they have enhanced social understanding — they’re better able to take the perspective of someone else in real life.” (It bears noting that these links are correlations, not causations — scientists don’t know if kids who already have these traits are then more likely to create imaginary friends, or if the act of having an imaginary friend in turn spurs the development of certain skills.)

It Takes New Words

Notes from here

“I believe time heals almost no wounds,” said Dunn. “What heals a wound is good treatment. That doesn’t come from sitting there, waiting. … People 15 years later can recite with incredible accuracy the words that wounded them. The only way is to replace them with new words.”

No two people view any event exactly the same, even within a family. Coleman called this a “separate-reality phenomenon.” Differences in perspective depend on things like position in the family, age and relationships with parents or siblings. A parent might view an interaction as “conscientious,” while the child sees intrusion and control. “It helps to recognize we see our own lives typically from our own narrow perspectives,” he said.

Repairing relationships starts with listening.Take your adult [sibling]’s complaint seriously and listen for what’s true. You don’t have to agree with all of it. But be empathic; try not to be defensive or offensive or blame and criticize,” said Coleman.

Sometimes it’s not clear why family members don’t get along or are overlooked, which may make a situation harder to address. Julie Connor said at her family’s gatherings, certain individuals were sometimes left out of conversations and activities. She once asked why an uncle was ignored. Her mother said she didn’t know.

Charles Randall Paul, president of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, believes techniques that bring warring nations and religious rivals together can help families with seemingly unresolvable conflicts — including religious, philosophical or lifestyle differences where people “believe they cannot with integrity compromise.

“You can have a respectful and even friendly relationship with someone who is your opponent, your rival. So many think incorrectly that disagreement means it would be impossible or wasteful to engage that person,” he said.

Paul admires noted family therapist John Gottman’s ability to watch muted videos of couples and predict by looking at certain facial muscle movements whether couples were treating each other with contempt or respect. “Contempt is the death knell for any human relationship,” Paul said. “If they feel you disagree with them, that’s a different matter — especially if they feel you love and respect them.”