The Answer

One of the long-standing questions I’ve always had is:  what exactly happened that made Dad check Mom into the hospital when I was about 6 months old?

No one seems to know, or if they know, they aren’t telling.  I asked my sister once, and that was a disaster.

But I recently had a FB convo with some of my online friends, and in the course of that, the significance of something I’ve known forever finally, FINALLY struck me.

Here’s something I wrote 2 years ago:

The family had been limping along for months, if not years, in denial, trying to function as best they could with a mother running the home who was increasingly nonfunctional. My dad never talked much about it, but he referred a couple of times to things such as, “soiled clothing being put back in drawers,” instead of being washed, and that I “had diaper rash so bad that [my] butt was bleeding”.

I think I missed one super-important thing about these statements.

These are the ONLY two specific things that I can remember my dad ever saying to me about this period.

And I finally realize that there’s a good chance my dad was actually telling me what the crucial incident was.

If these two discoveries happened simultaneously, wouldn’t that be enough to make you realize that something was seriously wrong?


Mom had a lifelong habit of putting things off, and also hoarding things.  Her apartment was home to stacks of newspapers and old magazines, “waiting for the boy scout paper drive”.  Her kitchen counter always had dirty dishes on it, along with old vitamin bottles.  I can’t tell you what it was like cleaning out her fridge (well obviously I can, I did it many times, but it would take too long and that’s not the point).  So the idea that she would have stuffed shit-soiled clothing in a drawer to be “taken care of later” is not out of character.

I was the first infant she had dealt with in this particular house.  My next oldest brother was about 2YO when they moved in, and about 3YO when I was born.  So if he wasn’t toilet trained by the time they moved in, he was probably on the way — and at any rate, a toddler doesn’t require as many diaper changes as an infant.

There were three floors between the bedrooms and the basement, where the laundry was.  There was a laundry chute, but you wouldn’t throw soiled clothing down it to sit with relatively clean clothing.

I have to do a LOT of guessing from here on out, but –

I am assuming cloth diapers – disposable diapers were invented in 1948, so they’d been around for 20 years, but I suspect they would have been seen as an extravagance.  I also have to assume there was a diaper pail in the bedroom or bathroom somewhere.

The simplest thing to do would be to put such clothing in with the cloth diapers, maybe?  But diapers get bleached, I am guessing, so that wouldn’t work, in my mother’s mind.  Clothes just don’t go in with diapers.  (Or if disposables were being used, then clothes to be washed would not go in with trash.)

The next obvious thing to do would be to have a second diaper pail or other container for soiled clothing.  This was not the kind of solution that would come easily to my mother.  And if one wasn’t already there — and she couldn’t just go out to buy one, because she didn’t drive — and if she had asked Dad about it, he probably would have said something like, “You don’t need a second diaper pail, just take care of it right away” — the groundwork was already well-laid by now that my mother didn’t hold up her side of the deal — anyway, if the solution wasn’t right there when she needed it, I can totally see her deciding that a dresser drawer was a good enough “container”, and stuffing it in there to somehow deal with it later.  Only “later” never comes.

It’s unclear to me from the words my father used whether his discovery was an ongoing thing, or a one-time thing.  My gut feeling is that he discovered something that had been going on for a while, enough to be shocking.

Now, throw in the fact that whatever happened, happened sometime in the fall:  after all the older kids, including my sister, had gone back to school after the summer.  So now my mom didn’t have my sister around all day to do her work.  It would have been more-or-less the first time since my birth that she was on her own with all the housework and chores.

It’s even possible that it could have been my sister’s job to deal with the soiled clothing in the drawer:  and maybe that worked over the summer, but once school started, maybe she forgot, or maybe my dad found it before she could get to it one day.

Finally, for Dad to be home, it would have had to happen on a weekend, during the evening/night, or at lunchtime.  The fact that my sister was apparently present would rule out lunchtime.  So it was probably outside of normal office hours.


So you’ve got Mom’s established habit of putting things off.  And whether it was because of postpartum depression, or a lack of interest in having yet another baby, it’s clear that Mom was neglecting me and my diaper changes.

So maybe I needed a diaper change.  Maybe Mom refused to do it, or said she’d do it later.  Maybe Dad tried to make her do her job.  Maybe she couldn’t or wouldn’t.  Maybe Dad finally took care of me, or watched Mom while she did it, and found that I was bleeding.  Maybe that’s also when he found the soiled clothing, and found out whatever the rigmarole was around that.

So I can easily see where that would have led to a fight.  But they fought all the time, in my memory, so what would make this one different?

The physical neglect of a baby, to the point of injury?

The shock of finding shit-soiled clothing in a drawer?  Maybe in multiple drawers?  Who knows, maybe there wasn’t a clean item of clothing left for me to be put into.

Either or both of those together might do the trick in a normal household.  But this one had been coping with dysfunction, jumping over the missing stair, for quite some time.  People were adept at making excuses for behavior that was outside the realm of normal.  I don’t know if those two things would have been enough, or not.  My gut is, maybe not.

I think there’s probably one more ingredient missing:  which would be the clue from my sister, that my mother didn’t seem to know what was happening.

I still think this indicates a psychotic break or other acute episode.  Maybe Mom was just out of it, or maybe during the fight she said the kind of bizarre things that people say in a psychotic break, or maybe she even tried to harm me.  Maybe she got angry at actually having to take care of me (!) and tried to do something violent to me — shaking me or something.

I think something like that would have been required to get Dad to realize that he had to get actual medical help, get her out of the house, maybe just get her away from me for my safety — even during an evening or night or weekend.


ETA:  a few days after I wrote this post, I remembered one other fact I was told by my dad.

On at least one occasion, Mom was out wandering around at night, in the park that was across from our house, in just her nightgown.

Remember this all happened somewhere around October or November, so it would have been too cold to simply be out for a breath of fresh air or a walk, without a coat or footwear.

Maybe this fact completes the puzzle.  Maybe I was crying and I woke Dad up.  At first he didn’t know where Mom was.  Maybe he went looking for her first, or maybe he took care of me first – hard to say.  If he thought she was just in the bathroom or something, maybe he went looking for her and then found out she had left the house.  Or maybe he took care of me and found me bleeding and the soiled clothing, then went looking for Mom.

Either way, I’m assuming that when he found her, she wasn’t particularly lucid.  And I’m guessing that this would have been enough of a jolt for him to realize that she wasn’t well, and needed care outside of what could be done in the home.

Today, one would call 911 in this situation.  But in 1969, 911 was still in its infancy.  So Dad would have had the choice of calling the police, the ambulance, or the fire department.  Obviously nothing was on fire.  Presumably no crime had been committed.  So it would have been an ambulance — but no bones were broken, no one was bleeding (except me and my diaper rash).  And an ambulance in the middle of the night attracts attention, too.

I can see where Dad would have not called an emergency service, but would have taken her to the hospital himself.  He might possibly even have gotten Mom back home and into bed, with the intention of calling her doctor in the morning, and when he did so the doctor told him to take Mom to the hospital.


There’s one more tiny piece of evidence that what my father told me was significant:  which is that diaper changes for us younger kids have always been voiced by my older siblings as a source of contention and resentment.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “We changed your diapers!” from my older siblings.  And changing a diaper is unpleasant enough, sure.  But the way they say it, I think it means more than just an unpleasant task done by unwilling teenagers.

If it was known to my older siblings that the incident that led to my mother’s hospitalization, which led to her psychological analysis, and finally to the breakdown of the marriage, “started” with me and my diapers — which is a huge oversimplification, of course, but one that isn’t hard to conclude —  then it isn’t hard to imagine that those diaper changes, and therefore me, is where the blame would go.

And “We changed your diapers!” becomes not only an accusation against the person who needed the diaper changes– “It was YOUR fault!”– but also a defense — “It wasn’t OUR fault!”

Modern ECT

Notes from here

“Today, ECT is administered to an estimated 100,000 people a year, primarily in general hospital psychiatric units and in psychiatric hospitals. It is generally used in treating patients with severe depression, acute mania, and certain schizophrenic syndromes. ECT is also used with some suicidal patients, who cannot wait for antidepressant medication to take effect… This treatment is usually repeated three times a week for approximately one month. The number of treatments varies from six to twelve.”

Might explain why Mom was hospitalized for a month each time.

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.)

Old Home is Good Bread

It’s funny what can trigger a memory.  A friend on FB today posted a few lyrics from the song “Convoy”, and I was immediately taken back 40 years.

Listen, you wanna put that Microbus in behind that suicide jockey? Yeah, he’s haulin’ dynamite, and he needs all the help he can get.

The singer of “Convoy”, C. W. McCall, is a man named Bill Fries in real life.  He did commercials for Old Home bread, which is what actually launched his recording career.  (I also found out today that they must have licensed the concept out — another friend saw slightly altered versions as commercials for “Kern’s Bread” in Kentucky.)

Old Home was a brand name for Metz Baking Company, which is where my dad worked.  It was around 1974, so I was only 5 or so, but I can remember Dad and us younger kids going to watch a commercial being filmed once.  It was summer, and hot, so we were out of school.  I think I already had my glasses, so it was probably the summer after kindergarten for me.

My memories are bolstered by later seeing the pictures we had in the photo album:  we got to sit in the cab of the truck, and we met C.W. McCall and Mavis, and the mother, and the dog Sloan.

I do remember I got a really nice, warm, cushy hug from the mother, and she held me on her lap for a while.  I’m guessing I remember that because it was a rare thing for me to get such physical affection from a motherly figure.

I can also remember that Sloan the dog was supposed to eat a whole package of buns and try as they might, he wouldn’t finish the whole thing.  After two or three packages of buns it became clear that this was a losing battle, as the dog was getting more full with each attempt.

You can view all 12 original commercials here.  None of these spots seem to exactly fit what I remember.  There isn’t one that has the mother AND the dog at the cafe.  #10 is the closest one – at least the dog is eating a bun – but I don’t remember the poodle being there, and the mother isn’t in it.

But they could have been shooting footage for more than one commercial.  I think the cafe itself was real — or at least the disused building was real — and out in the middle of nowhere.  I also read one comment on youtube that said the two main actors were from Dallas.  So it would make sense to film as much as possible in one day, for later use.  By commercial #10 it was clear that the series was a winner, so the whole story arc would probably have been fleshed out by then, and they would have had an idea what scenes they would be needing.

Just a funny little part of my childhood with my dad.  Part of my reality, my history.  This was my Dad being a parent as well as an executive, taking his kids along to something fun because he had the chance to, like any normal parent would do.  Giving Mom a break, a day away from the kids, even.

The Triumvirate version says Dad was “brainwashing” us younger kids with fun things, so we would take his side in The Divorce.

It takes a special kind of bitter vitriol to twist normal parenting into a brainwashing campaign, but you can’t say it’s not creative.

Tattletale

This morning at about 5:30 am, the cat woke me up because his timed feeder failed to open.  So I took care of that and then went back to bed. At which point a memory surfaced.

I felt an ache in my left leg, and the term “charley horse” came to my mind.  What followed that was an immediate association with my two youngest brothers.

And from there came this forgotten memory, of going to my mother, possibly crying, because one of my brothers had given me a “charley horse” when we were “playing”.  There could have been a trick played on me, as in, “Do you want a charley horse?” when I didn’t know what one was, so I would say yes.

So if my mother was in the house, I would have been younger than 6.  My gut feeling is that I was around 4, which would put my brothers at 7 and 11.  And my sense is that this happened in the afternoon, maybe after school for them.  I want to say that it happened outside, and I don’t remember a coat, so it was probably warm weather.

Anyway, I went looking for my mother and found her, lying in bed, and my view is that of being about level with her back, which was turned towards me as she lay on her side.  I can see her aqua colored housecoat.  She doesn’t turn over to look at me, let alone hug me or show concern.  She doesn’t even move.

And when I complain to her uncaring back about the physical harm my bigger, older, stronger brother did to me, what I was told may not have been in these exact words — but the meaning I clearly get, the words in my head now are,

“No one likes a tattletale.”

This is how my mother apparently dealt with me being deliberately physically harmed, at the age of around 4 or 5.

It puts the blame on me for having bothered her with my problem, my pain and distress.

It makes it clear that she isn’t going to do anything about it.

It contains the threat that “people aren’t going to like you” (which she continued to use on me throughout high school).

I now know that what was meant in all those cases — what she was really saying, but couldn’t say aloud — was “I don’t like you.”

And finally, it fits the familiar pattern:  I ask for help of some kind, and I get told in no uncertain terms that I’m not going to get what I ask for.

(Of course, you mustn’t think that this shows my mother being NEGLECTFUL.  I have it on good authority that she’d have had to be going to a BAR and leaving the kids in the CAR, for it to be NEGLECT.)


So.  My recourse at that age is going to be one of two things:

  • go and tell Dad, and try to get some help – although I am certain he wasn’t home, or I would have gone to him in the first place;
  • or, with the threat of not being liked hanging over my head, which maybe also prevents me from going to Dad, because of the fear of losing the one person I can trust and count on in the entire world — (which would expose her complete lack of care and concern to him, the one person she has most to fear from if she is found out) — I can retreat and stay away from my brothers.

This works for the narcissist on quite a few levels.  They like to keep their audience from communicating with each other — it makes it so much easier for them not to be found out.

My mother’s reaction makes me wonder if there is also an association with the incident at my kindergarten Open House, in the fall of ’74, when I became the “big mouth” — blamed by my mother for having spoken truthfully about my family when I was asked.

If she decided that I was to blame then for speaking the truth, it is not a stretch from there to being called a “tattletale” for speaking up about physical abuse from my brothers.


There were other incidents of physical harm that revolve around them.

Once I was playing with my brothers in the back yard, and for whatever reason was running behind the garage.  I tripped (or was tripped?) and fell on some glass from a broken window.  My wrist was slashed open vertically — the way you’re supposed to do it if you’re serious about bleeding out — and I ended up with 9 stitches and three still-visible scars.

Another time, my second-youngest brother was cleaning a BB gun in the basement, on a big old metal desk we had down there.  I think all three of us younger kids were there.  I was drawing or writing on one end of the desk, and my brother was cleaning the gun at the other end — with it pointed at me.  At some point the gun went off, and I have a middle finger that I still can’t feel the tip of.  My brother claimed he thought it was unloaded, and that it went off when he opened it.  I have my doubts that that is how a BB gun works.

My youngest brother had a definite streak of cruelty.  After the divorce, when we had babysitters in the summer months, we had one who had a 5YO daughter whom she brought with her every day (with red hair, too).  I had no interest in playing with her, so I must have been several years older than 5; the divorce was finalized when I was 7.5 so I had to be older than 8, which puts my brother at older than 11.  Certainly old enough to know that you aren’t supposed to deliberately hurt other people.

He concocted this “game” where he would call her by name, and she would come running into the living room, and then he would hit her with a pillow hard enough to knock her down.

After a while she got smart enough to not respond to his call, so he invited me into the game and got ME to call her name, in order to prolong his fun.  I think I only did it once or twice and then refused to “play” any more.  That poor little girl was crying and she went to tell her mother, but I don’t think she was able to explain what was happening and besides, I am sure my brother said we were just playing with the pillows and she fell down, or something.

Funnily enough, once I stopped trying to play with my older brothers, I can’t remember any similar incidents that involved physical injury.

I’m sure this will be called paranoia by those who have a vested interest in making sure it is seen that way.

Or is it the willful inflicting of pain on another person — one who is already known to be the scapegoat, at least when Mom is home — by a couple of boys who are in pain themselves, and don’t have any other way to express it?  Because of course boys don’t get sad and cry.  Boys get angry, and then physically violent.  And the scapegoat gets the brunt of it.

Honoring Sadness

One of several good articles from Dr. Cloud that I found today:

“Sadness… tells us about hurt and loss. We live in a world where we get hurt and lose things. We need it to help us grieve and let go. If we repress and deny sadness, there is inevitable depression. Unresolved sadness always leads to depression and often other symptoms.

“…sadness says that there is a hurt of some kind that needs to be processed, and usually it involves a loss.

“When people deny their sad feelings, they “harden” the heart, and that is to lose touch with tender grace-giving aspects of who they are. They become unable to love and be tender, and to feel grief over their wrongdoings. This state leads then to become insensitive persons. In addition, it leads to all sort of symptoms – depressions, physiological problems, substance abuse, eating disorders, and the inability to get close to others.

“Whenever trauma is not worked through, the development stage present at that age gets affected.

In particular, I think this speaks to the trauma of The Divorce — or in my case, the trauma of my parents’ adversarial relationship during my first few years.  For me, The Divorce was an end to THAT trauma, of living with a mother who didn’t give much of a shit about me, and of my parents fighting and yelling at each other all the time.

“When we lose our ability to feel sad, we lose our tenderness. It is a major aspect of ourselves that must be protected at all costs. If we can’t feel sad, we get coldhearted. Sadness does not equal weakness. Rather, processing sadness leads to strength.”

Yet Again, There’s A Name For It

Notes from here about “functional dependency” and “relational dependency”.

“Two kinds of dependency… Functional dependency relates to the child’s resistance to doing the tasks and jobs in life that are his responsibility. This means he wants others to take care of things he should… Don’t enable functional dependency.”

Relational dependency is our need for connectedness to others… when we are loved by others in this state of need, we are filled up inside. Because they need so much, children are especially relationally dependent. Over time, as they internalize important nurturing relationships, they need less; the love they have internalized from Mom and Dad and others sustains them. Yet, to our dying day we will always need regular and deep connection with emotionally healthy people who care about us.

“You need to promote and encourage relational dependency in your child to teach him that mature, healthy people need other people; they don’t isolate themselves… Help him see that needing love isn’t being immature. Rather, it gives us the energy we need to go out and slay our dragons.

Encourage him to express his wants, needs and opinions to those with whom he is close. This is true especially in his relationship with you. He didn’t choose to be in your family; that was your decision… don’t abandon him when he needs more intimacy…”


I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that my mother had functional dependency that was enabled by her use of her children, especially her oldest child, to take on her responsibilities.

“…resistance to doing the tasks and jobs in life that are his responsibility. This means he wants others to take care of things he should.”

I don’t know how her unhealthy functional dependency got started – maybe because she came from a large family of sisters and she didn’t have too much responsibility.  But that’s just a guess.

I certainly didn’t choose to be born — no one does.  My mom chose not to use birth control, instead putting faith in god and a lack of sex to prevent further children.  That failed, and she got saddled with yet another burden, a workload that she had no interest in.

As a child, I had normal relational dependency.  I didn’t get “filled up” by Mom.  I got some of this love from Dad, but it didn’t completely fill up the hole left by my mother’s neglect and rejection.

In fact, as children we generally learn… our first independent steps, and our first identity moves from none other than mom.

So I probably looked for it from the other adults in my life:  my older siblings.  One more of my mother’s jobs for them to assume, in fact.  No wonder my sister resents my very existence.  But that resentment is misdirected.

It’s normal for me to want or miss the connection with the people who once filled this need.  But they are no longer “emotionally healthy people who care about [me]”.

ideology

  1. the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group.

“…the problem with any ideology is that it gives the answer before you look at the evidence. So you have to mold the evidence to get the answer that you’ve already decided you’ve got to have.”

~~ Bill Clinton

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Our Little Sister

This is the title of a Chinese movie.  It’s not something I’ve ever been called by my FOO.

The movie is about three older siblings who, upon the death of their estranged father, find out that they have a much younger half-sister.

The older siblings have a shared history, lots of memories, which leave the half-sister out entirely.

She is the daughter of the woman who “ruined their family” – the woman their father left their mother for.

The older siblings are still angry and resentful towards the father — whereas the half-sister clearly loved her father.

An older woman in the film suggests that this is a good reason not to take her in, not to accept her, not to love her.

The half-sister understands the situation and internalizes this scapegoating:  “Someone is always hurt, just because I exist.”

But these sisters can see the truth:  “It had nothing to do with you!”  And they invite her to live with them, to become part of their family.

The movie could have been over in the first 15 minutes.  They could have gone to the funeral, met the half-sister, decided to be angry at her too, to blame her, and to push her away.

Instead they make the healthy, positive decision to love her, to include her, and not blame her for things she didn’t do.

And one of the older sisters says:  “Maybe father was a kind man… He left us such a lovely little sister.”

Such a different ending to the story.

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An Open Letter To Donald Trump From A Social Worker

Well, after yesterday’s post, this open letter hits home (heavily edited for length here).

I’ve hated the patriarchy for a long time, for what it did to my career.  More recently, I’ve come to hate it for what it’s done to my family.


Dear Mr. Trump:

…I’m a social worker.

when someone got angry, I got curious. “Why are they angry?” I’d think. Sure, maybe I was annoying, but where did that anger come from?

…I’m much more concerned about the kid who’s being “bad.” I’m wondering what the message is behind his taunting, her racial slurs, his homophobia, her violence, his haughtiness.

I’ve learned, and it hasn’t always been easy, to look for the message behind the behavior, no matter how horrendous that behavior is to others (or to me).

See, I told you social work is a weird profession.

So when I hear you mock Marco Rubio (“little Marco”), or when I hear you talk about women as if they’re reduced to their biological cycle, or when I hear you be dismissive of other people (“You’re fired!”) I admit, I’m curious.

I want to know why you feel the need to say things in such an inflammatory, divisive, dismissive way.

What is behind this need to do that to others?

And let me say, this isn’t just you that I’m curious about, Mr. Trump.
I know a lot of your supporters. I’m related to several of them.

I’m really, really curious as to what happened to you and to them.

I want to know why you feel the need to say things in such an inflammatory, divisive, dismissive way.

Especially dismissive. Why don’t you have a conversation where you respect the other person talking?

What are you covering up?

…I really don’t understand why, with all your money, with all your power, with all your status you, you, you of all people need to humiliate others. To, for lack of a better word, “bully” them.

I know that if I’m in a conversation or an argument with someone, and I’m feeling the desire to say something cutting or shaming, it’s because I’ve usually run out of logical argument strands.

…But I know that when I do it always means I “lost.”

…You can be you without having to prove to everyone how you-ish you are.


… except when your mother, your culture, your religion, and everything else around you is telling you that you can’t.

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