“Don’t Bug People”

“Don’t Bug People”

This came into my head today after a kind of weird day with a new-ish friend, in which I ended up feeling all wrong-footed and even though we apologized and talked it out, I still feel uncomfortable.

We text each other more-or-less daily, although if there is a pattern to who “starts” I don’t know what it is.  So today I was kind of on the bubble as to whether I should text her.

This came into my head:  “Don’t bug people.”  The underlying idea was that if I texted her, or maybe texted her the wrong thing, she might get annoyed.

I tossed this around for a while and then settled on texting her about something “safe”:  her mom had some medical testing done the day before, so I sent the message that I hoped everything was OK.  That seems to have been acceptable, because I got a text back saying thanks for the concern.

I’m not convinced everything is OK yet, but in my gut I’m not intending to push my luck and text her anything else, probably until I hear more from her.

I am pretty sure this self-effacing concept of self is rooted in a mother who was basically uninterested in being a mom, at least by the time she got to me.

Mom didn’t have time for me.  I was not important to her.

There is a theory that Mom had me in order to “fix” the marriage, which is offered as kind of an excuse or explanation — although as an explanation for what, exactly, was not made clear — but, I suspect it is for the obvious disinterest in me from Mom.

It’s also a tacit admission that a sixth baby was not really something anyone wanted just as a person, as another welcomed member of the family — but rather that baby #6 was viewed from the very beginning as a thing, not as a person — her conception was intended as a tool to be used as a means to an end, and her very existence depended on what that existence could potentially do for someone else.

In reality of course it is a fucking stupid idea, not to say manipulative — having more kids so the man will be forced to stay and provide.  What a great plan.

I was supposed to buy her time, not take it up.  And of course if I didn’t “do my job” — if in fact the idea backfired, and saving me from her became Dad’s reason for The Divorce — well, of course someone who comes up with that as a plan will have no problem holding that failure against me when the stupid idea doesn’t work.

When I got glasses in kindergarten, she would wash them every morning and dry the lenses, but then hand them to me with the earpieces still wet.  I hated that.  It is probably part of the reason I still hate wearing glasses.  I remember I asked her to dry them off too, and she wouldn’t bother.  I had to put up with wet earpieces until I became old enough to dry them off myself.

That’s not normal maternal love.  That’s a person who doesn’t want to take care of you and make you happy.  Who can’t even take an extra five seconds to at least not make you unhappy.

Actually, at 5 I was probably physically capable of drying them myself.  What I eventually learned was more subtle and more important:  I figured out that I could dry them off for myself.  I didn’t have to put up with what she handed me — I could do something about it.  I didn’t internalize completely the message she was sending, that I was entirely not worth caring about.  I could care about myself.

Lesson learned.  Take care of yourself, that’s the only person you can depend on.  But you also don’t have to put up with someone else’s shitty, uncaring treatment.  It’s a poor substitute for a mother’s love, but it’s something.

I have zero memories of us doing anything fun together in my childhood.  There were very few hugs, hardly any physical affection from mother to daughter.  In fact, she used to get me to brush her hair, because she enjoyed it — but I can’t remember a single time when she brushed mine for my pleasure.


So.  Put that together with another thing my mother used to tell me regularly, which is this:

“You have a lot of advantages:  you’re smart, you’re thin, you’re pretty, your family is well-off, and because of that, people aren’t going to like you and you’re going to have to be twice as nice to them to make up for it.”

Well.  Apparently just existing as I am is enough to bug some people by making them jealous (obviously my mom is one of them).

So I guess I just shouldn’t be me?  Shouldn’t be as good as I can be?

This is not an uncommon outcome for those who are victims of narcissism.

Another underlying message here is that having people like you is IMPORTANT.  Everyone.  As many as possible.  Quantity counts, not quality.

And it becomes your job to placate them, to take on the responsibility for their feelings about you.  Um.  Scapegoating, in a word.  If you “make” someone else feel bad about themselves — jealous or guilty or ashamed or angry — they dump that onto you, and then of course they have to keep you at a distance.  Awesome.

“Don’t bug people” becomes “Don’t bug ME”.  “Don’t bug US”, specifically.  Don’t be so needy.  Don’t be needy AT ALL.

Don’t ask for anything, because that would be bugging us because we won’t want to do it because we don’t care about you, we don’t love you.

But we will feel guilty and shameful about that, because family is supposed to be a certain way and we aren’t, so just don’t ask — don’t you dare make us feel guilty, it will be your fault for asking and making us either say yes and be angry, or say no and feel guilty or ashamed, so just don’t even ask.  We will blame you for our bad feelings if you ask.

Sometimes you don’t even have to ask for anything.  It happened with the very fact of my existence.  My mother was so embarrassed at how old she was when she had me, that for years she would not put her birth date on my school registration card.  For years I did not know how old she was, in case I told someone.  Every year they would ask me about it, and every year I would have to tell them I didn’t know.

This is how scapegoating works.

She was embarrassed about the results of HER OWN ACTIONS.  I certainly had fuck all to do with how or why she ended up having a child at 48, or how she felt about it.  That was a result of her own choices, her own actions, for good or ill.

And the feelings of shame originated with her — they didn’t come from me.  But she associated them with me.  And instead of dealing with those feelings of shame by herself, working through them on her own, considering her own actions and her own responsibility and, just possibly, learning from it — she simply decided that *I* was the cause of those bad feelings.

After all, if I didn’t exist, she wouldn’t have those bad feelings, right?  Must be my fault.

You certainly don’t have to follow the train of thought any further than that — it’s a comfortable place to stop.  Much more comfortable than continuing on to the part where my existence — and therefore those bad feelings — is still her responsibility.

After reaching that easy first conclusion, all you have to do is keep the scapegoat away, or somehow contained, distant, separated — pretend they don’t exist — so you don’t have to deal with those bad feelings.  Problem solved.  Relationship fucked, but hey.  As long as the narcissist is OK, that’s a win.

I suspect something much like this is what my MIL and my sister did to me, too.

My MIL had an alcoholic mother, and I don’t know much more than that.  So while I can understand why she had her own bullshit to deal with, I am angry with her for not having dealt with it herself.

Then again, she was of a generation that just buttoned that shit up and put it away.  And she was young when it happened.  But she still prevented or affected 3 relationships by her refusal to face up to her own shit.

And my sister, too, was only 17, so I don’t hold the initial choice against her.  After all, she had a bad example right in front of her, teaching her to blame the baby, to put those bad feelings there.  She made the best decisions she could make at that age, with all that was going on, and the example that she had to follow.

As with my MIL, I do hold it against her that she refuses to revisit those decisions as an adult, refuses to talk or listen to me, or let anyone else talk or listen to me.  Way to be a grown-up, Sis.  Way to ruin a bunch of relationships.  But I guess if you’re OK, that’s all that matters.  Stay selfish and true to Mom, because that’s the important shit.  And it’s easy.


Mom went away when I was just a baby, twice, once around 8 months and then again around 12 months.  She came back physically, but whether she never cared about me, or whether what happened in hospital changed her, she never really came back.

Then my other caretakers, my older siblings, went away to college — but I didn’t understand that.  The first was the one I depended on most, my sister, who went away when I was about 18 months old.  Then my two older brothers.

Dad went away when he died, when I was barely 30.  My best caretaker was gone forever.

I was immediately attacked for asking for something, from people who were supposed to be my family and my support, at the worst moment of my life.  And when I needed protection from that attack, everyone I had known my whole life abandoned me.

Eventually the whole bullshit edifice that is “our family history” began to unravel, because someone had finally gone too far.

Treat me like a second-class citizen up to that point, I guess that was fine.  At least, it was expected and accepted.  Because I was young, I guess, I accepted it.

But Susan tried to fuck with me and Dad, and put herself ahead of me when it came to my dad — and that was going too fucking far.

In a way, that was the last gift that Dad had to give me:  the ability to stand up for myself on this one thing at least, and start down the long, sorry road of recovering from a lifetime of being the one at fault.

I started asking questions and pulling on the loose ends.  And the more truth I found, the more sense my alternate viewpoint made.  And that is very threatening to certain people — the sister who is so angry she won’t even read what I write, and won’t let anyone else talk to me any more.  Or the brother who does read it, and then insists that what I write isn’t true.

Because when the scapegoat starts asking why everything is her fault, why she doesn’t get fair and equal treatment in her own “family” — that’s a problem.  It’s a HUGE problem for the people who hate the idea of having to treat her decently — especially when that comes at the expense of dealing with Susan, who will throw a holy fucking fit about being held accountable for her actions.

And of course, they rationalize that it’s the SCAPEGOAT who is “the problem”. Not them and the mountain of bullshit they hide behind.


Over and over I read that “no contact” is the only thing for me to do, to save myself and heal.  It’s what Dad did, too, for himself and for me, to the best of his ability.

I am sure they say, and believe, that I have rejected them.  That is how they would be forced to frame it, to make it fit into their fucked-up infrastructure.  To say otherwise is like pushing over the first domino.  To say that I might be right about anything is to admit that they might be wrong about something — and that opens the door to that whole mountain of bullshit falling on you like a ton of bricks.

Instead of accepting the testimony of experts, professionals, and myself — instead of being glad that I am doing what’s best for me — instead of offering loving acceptance if I should ever choose to return.  Which of course, would be the loving, decent thing to do for me.  And of which they are not capable, when it comes to me.

Fortunately, it is working.  It doesn’t hurt much any more.  Time and distance really do work.

Capture

More on Blind Tribalism

The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce

“But the Us in blind tribalism is creepy. In blind tribalism, the tribe’s guiding dogma doubles as the identity of the tribe members, and the Us factor enforces that concept. Conscious tribe members reach conclusions—blind tribe members are conclusions. With a blind Us, if the way you are as an individual happens to contain opinions, traits, or principles that fall outside the outer edges of the dogma walls, they will need to be shed—or things will get ugly. By challenging the dogma of your tribe, you’re challenging both the sense of certainty the tribe members gain their strength from and the clear lines of identity they rely on.

“The best friend of a blind Us is a nemesis Us—Them. Nothing unites Us like a collectively hated anti-Us, and the blind tribe is usually defined almost as much by hating the dogma of Them as it is by abiding by the dogma of Us.

And if there isn’t a Them around anymore — perhaps because he has just died — they will find a new Them to attack.  The one that was associated most strongly with the old one, perhaps.

“Whatever element of rigid, identity-encompassing blindness is present in your own tribal life will reveal itself when you dare to validate any part of the rival Them dogma.

“Give it a try. The next time you’re with a member of a tribe you’re a part of, express a change of heart that aligns you on a certain topic with whoever your tribe considers to be Them. If you’re a religious Christian, tell people at church you’re not sure anymore that there’s a God. If you’re an artist in Boulder, explain at the next dinner party that you think global warming might actually be a liberal hoax. If you’re an Iraqi, tell your family that you’re feeling pro-Israel lately. If you and your husband are staunch Republicans, tell him you’re coming around on Obamacare. If you’re from Boston, tell your friends you’re pulling for the Yankees this year because you like their current group of players.

If you’re me, try saying that your reality is that Mom was selfish, lazy, neglectful, and disinterested, but Dad really loved you.  That Joe & Susan were shitty, and they should feel bad about what they did, and apologize.  Try saying that you don’t want kids to your family and your MIL.

“If you’re in a tribe with a blind mentality of total certainty, you’ll probably see a look of horror. It won’t just seem wrong, it’ll seem like heresy. They might get angry, they might passionately try to convince you otherwise, they might cut off the conversation—but there will be no open-minded conversation. And because identity is so intertwined with beliefs in blind tribalism, the person actually might feel less close to you afterwards. Because for rigidly tribal people, a shared dogma plays a more important role in their close relationships than they might recognize…

“As far as society is concerned, when you give something a try—on the values front, the fashion front, the religious front, the career front—you’ve branded yourself. And since people like to simplify people in order to make sense of things in their own head, the tribe around you reinforces your brand by putting you in a clearly-labeled, oversimplified box.

“What this all amounts to is that it becomes very painful to change. Changing is icky for someone whose identity will have to change along with it. And others don’t make things any easier. Blind tribe members don’t like when other tribe members change—it confuses them, it forces them to readjust the info in their heads, and it threatens the simplicity of their tribal certainty. So attempts to evolve are often met with opposition or mockery or anger.

But without change there is no possible growth, personal or otherwise.

“…when you are the experiment, negative feedback isn’t a piece of new, helpful information—it’s an insult. And it hurts. And it makes you mad. And because changing feels impossible, there’s not much good that feedback can do anyway—it’s like giving parents negative feedback on the name of their one-month-old child.

Which basically explains why nothing I’ve ever said has been taken on board by anyone.

“…they were “trapped in their own history.

“…Being trapped in your history means you don’t know how to change, you’ve forgotten how to innovate, and you’re stuck in the identity box the world has put you in.

More confirmation that mostly, I’ve made the right choices:  to be myself, to speak what I believe to be the truth, and to rid myself of a whole litany of dogmas:  Catholicism, mother-worship, career choices, patriarchal thinking.  Phew.

The price has been what it was always going to be.  It’s a steep price tag, but it’s been worth it.

Capture

Helpless, Angry, Hopeless, Healthy

From this article about a very old book, “I’m OK, You’re OK”:

…Transactional Analysis can be linked to ‘blame’, for which Jim Davis TSTA developed this simple and helpful model. Commonly when emotions are triggered people adopt one of three attitudes relating to blame:

  • I’m to blame (You are okay and I’m not okay – ‘helpless’)
  • You are to blame (I’m okay and you are not okay – ‘angry’)
  • We are both to blame (I’m not okay and you are not okay – ‘hopeless’)

None of these is a healthy position.

Instead the healthy position is, and the mindset should be: “It’s no-one’s fault, blame isn’t the issue – what matters is how we go forward and sort things out.” (I’m okay and you are okay – ‘happy’)


Wouldn’t that have been nice?

They want to blame me, be angry at me, and for me to be helpless — to be the scapegoat, the youngest, bottom of the totem pole.

I refused to stay in that helpless position — and got angry myself.

I don’t know that blame isn’t the issue, though.  We’ve gone past the idea of who caused the initial problem (or I have, anyway) and we are now on to the much MUCH larger problem of, why is blame so important in this family?  They started with the idea of who is supposed to be at fault (me) and worked their way backwards, creating a story that fits their pre-determined ending.  How on earth is that fair or useful or even smart?

Why does everyone else get a pass but I get blamed?  Why am I not an equal member of this family?  Why do I not get respect and the benefit of the doubt?  Why does no one care about my side of this story?

Why is everyone too chicken to think about these questions, and answer them honestly?

The answer is, this family isn’t healthy enough to do that.  And I don’t want to be a part of this family badly enough to stay that unhealthy.

Yet Another Article…

…that proves my point. Find the whole thing about manipulation tactics here (part 1) and here (part 2).  Looks like a lot of good stuff on this professional’s blog.

“Let’s talk first about the tactic of rationalization. Actually, a better term for this tactic would be “excuse-making” or “justifying.”

“…When disturbed characters make excuses for their behavior, they know what they’re doing. They have a clear purpose in mind when they’re seeking to justify themselves. They use this tactic only when they know full well they’ve done something or plan to do something most everyone would regard as wrong. But even knowing it’s wrong, and knowing how negatively the action reflects on them, they remain determined to do it.

[I’ll add that this is exactly the definition of a mortal sin.]

They might feel “entitled” to do it… they’re actively fighting against a principle they know society wants them to adopt. And more importantly, they’re also trying to get you to go along with it.

…Why are the elaborate “explanations” and justifications necessary if the person doesn’t realize how most people would judge their actions?

“It’s not that they don’t know most folks would regard their behavior as wrong. And it’s also not that they truly believe in their hearts that what they’ve done is okay. Rather, they simply don’t want you to negatively appraise their character and possibly be done with them. And, more importantly, they don’t want to accept and internalize the notion that such behavior should not be done again.

“Let’s look at another tactic: denial… Refusing to acknowledge the truth is not the same thing as neurotic denial. It’s simply lying…

“Manipulators will often couple denial with other tactics such as feigning innocence. This is when the person you’ve confronted acts like they have no idea what you’re talking about or pretends in a self-righteous manner that they’ve done absolutely nothing to be ashamed of or guilty for. Sometimes they can use denial and feigning innocence with such intensity and seeming conviction that you begin questioning your perceptions…

“One of the more common responsibility-avoidance behaviors and a frequent manipulation tactic is minimization. This is when the disturbed character attempts to trivialize a wrong or harmful behavior. It’s their attempt to make a mole hill out of a mountain. You might confront them on something serious, but they try to get you to believe that you’re over-reacting…

“…disturbed characters make a habit of trivializing really important things – things that reflect most strongly on their character. Maintaining a favorable social image is important to them, even when they know their character is deeply flawed. And their minimizations are frequently paired with other responsibility-avoidance behaviors and tactics such as excuse-making, blaming others, denial, feigning innocence…

“Disturbed characters, most especially the aggressive personalities, hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see… they can focus like a laser beam when it comes to something they want… they simply don’t want to pay attention to it because if they took it seriously and with an attitude of acceptance, it would mean two things:

1) the way they prefer to do things is erroneous and in need of change; and

2) they would have to work at changing, which would also mean paying some deference to you, and to the generally accepted rules, etc.

“And that’s way too much like respecting someone else’s needs… More importantly, it’s far too much like subordinating themselves – something narcissists feel no need to do and the aggressive personalities abhor.

“The fact that so many times neurotics in relationships with disturbed characters waste their breaths expounding on things that simply fall on deaf ears is one of the main reasons I advocate simply taking action over trying to reason or persuade…

“Lastly, there’s lying – the responsibility-avoidance behavior and manipulation tactic that disturbed characters have turned into a virtual art form… One of the most effective ways to lie undetected is to recite a litany of true things but leave out a crucial detail or two that would change the whole picture. It’s a way to give yourself credibility while simultaneously taking advantage through deceit.”

A perfect example of this is when Joe and Susan told the rest of the family about the fight that occurred, but conveniently minimized/denied the part where it was they who started it.

April Fools!

2015-11-09 08.43.56So, tomorrow is my birthday.

And, anticipating that my oldest brother would once again ignore what I have asked for, and decide to do what he wants to do instead, while including some clever remarks that indicate that he KNOWS exactly what he is doing and why it’s “not REALLY a problem” — a few weeks ago, we decided to be proactive and try to avert this shit for once.

So my husband wrote him an email well in advance, repeating the request, asking him politely not to ignore it this time, and explaining that whatever his little reasons are, they don’t matter to us — in the same way, obviously, that what I want doesn’t matter to him.

Yesterday we got a response that is breathtaking in its arrogance.

He says he will “consider your idea” — how gracious!  but that our view is “disordered”.  His intentions are good, and therefore his actions are totally not disrespectful.  My wishes are not “wise” or “appropriate” and besides, I can just ignore what he sends — it’s easy for me to do that!

Never mind that it’s even EASIER for him to just NOT FUCKING DO IT.

Just for fun, let’s look at the pattern yet again:

  1.  I make a request to someone in my family of origin to change a behavior that causes me pain.
  2. They tell me how wrong I am and how my request is “unwise” or unnecessary.
  3. Having justified themselves, they refuse to change said behavior and go on with it.
  4. I call them out on that rudeness and unwillingness to acknowledge my rights and/or wishes.
  5. They get pissed off and defensive and yell at me for daring to call them out, or stick up for myself.

Over and over.

(Interestingly, I am also finding another pattern.  In steps 4-5, whenever my husband gets involved, speaks up, tries to protect me, my siblings accuse him of having some nefarious motivation.  I guess that’s because it can’t be possible that someone just loves me for being me, and wants to protect me, because that’s what love does.  Shades of my mother twisting my father’s genuine love for me into something sexual.)

Of course I already have my brother’s email blocked, along with almost everyone else’s, at the ISP level.  Of course I know how to do that — I run my own fucking websites.  I’ve done everything I can think of to protect myself, and I’m not stupid nor incapable.

But you can’t block snail mail.  And I tried setting up a call block on our home phone — which oh-so-easily took me over an hour of being on hold with Verizon/Frontier, and 4 different reps before one was found who knew how the hell to do it  — only to find that for some unknown reason, it won’t work on their phone number.

(UPDATE 4/14:  I am now up to FIVE separate calls to Frontier and over THREE HOURS of my time, because when it didn’t work I asked them to remove it, and they instead removed our voicemail entirely, which I didn’t even know for almost two weeks, so who knows what fell in the cracks while it was off.  GOOD THING THIS IS SOOOOO EASY FOR ME TO DO.

God, it must be sweet to be able to just blithely write off other people’s time and resources like that in order to get your own way.  Yes, there are days I wish I could do that too, but then I remind myself that I choose not to treat others as if they don’t matter in comparison to myself.)

Of course, we will be screening calls, as we always do — but it’s still an effort that WE have to make because SOMEONE ELSE is too inconsiderate, not to mention fucking self-important, to simply do what he is asked to do.

Because he wants what he wants, and nothing and no one else matters.  Like a little kid.

As I have quoted before:  ‘No Contact’ is not a welcome choice that scapegoats make to push family away, but rather a decision of last resorts they are driven to in order to protect themselves from ongoing abuse by family members who refuse to respect healthy limits or behavior.

Also, as I have written beforeif it is acknowledged that I have good reasons for my no-contact choice, then it also has to be acknowledged that people in this family have done shitty things to me.  And then — GASP — they would have to take some responsibility, and deal with their guilt, for their actions and/or lack thereof.


The real pisser, though, is where he says that he intends to “keep his door open” and continue to “ping” me once in a while to “let me know he cares about me.”

KEEP HIS DOOR OPEN.

BECAUSE WHAT IS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN IS FOR ME TO COME CRAWLING BACK.

In some fantasy world of his — probably the one he prays about — he still hopes that I will turn back into a good little doormat, and accept all the blame so Susan and everyone else isn’t upset, and I’ll go back to the family that I’m only a second class member of, so he can stop feeling bad about it all, especially his own complete lack of action and power, and my sister can go back to having the whole group under her control, but still ignore me and treat me like shit.  GOT IT.

OK, here’s the deal.  I would have to be insane to do that.  That is not going to happen.

In fact, this one sentence illustrates exactly how little effect anything I’ve ever said has had. It shows that there is still absolutely no responsibility taken on by anyone else for their actions, or lack thereof. It clearly shows that no one has any intention of doing anything except sitting around with their thumbs up their asses, excuse me PRAYING, waiting for me to capitulate and for things to go back to how they were. Except that probably they get to treat me even worse, given all the trouble “I” have caused.

If anything is going to change — as I’ve said from absolutely the very beginning — that change will have to come from THEM.  I’ve already done my share of the work.  It’s all right here on this blog for anyone to read.

  • It will have to include an agreement that when I ask for things, I will get them, with no argument; and that if this doesn’t happen, and I or my husband call anyone out on such behavior, my word has to be accepted, the behavior has to stop right then and there, and an apology immediately issued.
  • It also needs to include some kind of recognition that criticism of basic truths about who I am will not be tolerated.  Atheism, childlessness, feminism, and progressive political opinions are beliefs I hold or choices I’ve made that make me happier — they are to be accepted, and not to be looked upon as personal flaws or mistakes I’ve made.  I’m happy to discuss them, but only in a respectful atmosphere.  I won’t be put on trial for them.
  • And, of course, a pony.  Because what the hell, none of the rest of it is going to happen either.

So here it is, clear and unequivocal:

Any communication, in any form, from any of my siblings except CEH, or from Susan, to me or my husband, that does not include the above elements (well, ok, not the pony) is unwanted and constitutes harassment.  If such communication persists, we will get legal protection.  I’ll spend Mom’s money to do it, too.  It will be a pleasure.

This is not a joke.  I’m done with this shit.


ETA:  after all that, I find this hilarious.

CaptureI don’t write this blog as a direct address to my siblings, but in this case I’ll make an exception.

Seriously, you went to the trouble of setting up an anonymous email just so you could, in effect, go, “nyah nyah, I’ll show you!”  LOL.

I know that on some level, probably the only conscious one, you will claim that you are “just wishing me happy birthday!”

Here’s a hint:  genuine, sincere birthday greetings are not sent from behind a wall of anonymity, and do not include “damn”.  No, what this is is one-upmanship, and cowardly one-upmanship at that.  It’s still harassment, and you’re still an asshole for doing it, even (especially) without attaching your own name to it and having the guts to own it.

Frankly, I’d love to see you admit to and be proud of that act in front of an actual adult — say for instance, a peer, or a boss, or even a mental health professional — instead of the family echo chamber that you all immediately turn to in order to validate each other.

It’s also cute to note that this actually circumvents all those reasons he gave that made it OK for him to do because it’s “easy” for me to ignore it:  I could block his email, right?  Except that he didn’t use it, so I can’t.

But the very best part of this is that this is the brother who once upon a time sent me an email that said that he was “happy to converse with me on almost any other subject”, but that he “refused to further discuss the family break” with me any more.

In case you missed it, that would be a boundary which he set and which he fully expects me to honor.

I wonder how pissed he’d be if I ignored his wishes, decided I KNEW BETTER, and emailed or called him up a couple of times a year and INSISTED on bringing up the subject?

His boundaries are absolutely supposed to be honored, but not mine.

This is why I’m gone.  Call me when you grow up a little and you can act as respectfully towards me as you expect me to act towards you.

Believe me, I’m not holding my breath.

Scapegoat Notes

Full article here: “No Contact – The Scapegoat’s Last Resort”

I still find it incredible that a group of well-educated people who consider themselves intelligent can be aware of the existence of articles like this, written by a professional, that EXACTLY describe my family situation and how it came about, yet can deny that I am right about it.

Then again, “Narcissistic family members lack insight” so maybe it’s not that surprising.


‘No Contact’ is not a welcome choice that scapegoats make to push family away, but rather a decision of last resorts they are driven to in order to protect themselves from ongoing abuse by family members who refuse to respect healthy relationships, limits or behavior.

…More typically amongst scapegoats, ‘No Contact’ is open ended, meaning it will be retracted if their abusers acknowledge mistreatment and make a commitment to not engage in abusive behavior again. Unfortunately this is rare and unlikely, but demonstrates the hopefulness, desire and mental health on the part of the scapegoat to improve and hold onto family relationships. The fact that scapegoating families are willing to deny the truth about abusive behavior is a statement about the psychological dysfunction of the family system as a whole.

Scapegoats have usually tried repeatedly – often over years or decades – to maintain and improve relationships with difficult family members, only to be continuously put down, lied about, shamed, blamed… if they try to stop scapegoating behavior, they tend to be punished repeatedly for attempting to break free of their role as the ‘family problem’. Scapegoats are frequently told they are creating family problems… many scapegoats choose ‘No Contact’ as a last resort to distance themselves from ongoing mistreatment… targets are considered to have few or no human rights by family members who mistreat them…‘No Contact’ is an act of desperate self preservation by scapegoats who want healthy relationships with their family, but desire more to flee the humiliation, hurt and craziness of ongoing mistreatment.

By saying ‘No’ to scapegoating, targets are escaping the nightmare of never being allowed to be right – especially when they are.

…escaping the repetitive nightmare of never being allowed to be seen as loveable or worthy members of a family that frames them as the bad guy… targets are resigning from toxic patterns of abusive family dynamics… In the end they are choosing basic sanity and peace of mind.

Scapegoaters become defensive when their abusive behavior is being openly identified… A ‘No Contact’ stance tends to elicit angry denunciation of the target’s decision by scapegoaters, and becomes fuel for more false outrage, blaming and framing the target’s choice as further evidence of their ‘badness’.

Loss:  ‘No Contact’ can be one of the most heart wrenching choices a scapegoat can make. In spite of a legitimate decision to move away from abuse, ‘No Contact’ represents a break from and, sometimes, the permanent loss of family. As most scapegoats are mentally well, they experience normal, healthy grief in the face of this loss.

Scapegoats have been deprived of the one thing they come into this world deserving – to be wanted and loved by family…

extended family relationships are damaged or lost due to buying into the scapegoat myth. This creates a greater sense of loneliness for scapegoats, especially at traditional family times such as Christmas…

Many scapegoats come from family systems that are character disordered –often narcissistic – meaning controlling, self centered, unloving, unsupportive, discontented, mentally unhealthy people are at the helm.

…narcissists have unconscious fears of inadequacy which break through when they are not being put on a pedestal, they are being criticized or asked to take accountability for negative behavior. When this happens, narcissistic rage arises, and the scapegoat is made responsible for this unhappiness.

Denial and minimization of personal responsibility, blaming others, and rage are the main defenses of narcissistic people.


It’s a shock to the system to separate from your nuclear family, and requires a process of grieving and adjustment.

Family should be made up of people whom you trust and who care about you, and vice versa.

Expect to feel sad sometimes. You did not ask to be born into a family that does not value you or respect you for who you are. You have lost a lot in being cheated of a loving family. But you are also a survivor who has chosen to break the silence and end the cycle of abuse. It takes courage and self awareness to break free from the toxic legacy of scapegoating. For that huge reason alone, you deserve to feel good about yourself.

Texas Instruments and the Myers-Briggs Hostess

In my final position at Texas Instruments one of the things we did was take a Myers Briggs Personality Test. I worked for a guy who had 20 direct reports, & I was the only woman engineer. Looking back, I suppose I should have seen this for the red flag that it was. This was the early 90’s, and I suspect that he had probably been told he needed more diversity in his work group, and that was why he took me on. But I was trying to get away from a woman manager who was a complete sociopath, so maybe he was the lesser of two evils. At any rate he apparently didn’t think much of women.

We took the MBPT and HR made a big deal out of the fact that we didn’t have to reveal what our type was if we didn’t want to. However, at the meeting where we got our results, for the first time I could ever remember, my boss deliberately sat next to me — which meant I could not hide my type from him. I could not keep my information private, even had I wanted to.

It turns out that the description for my Type was “hosts and hostesses of the world“, a description that my boss found hilarious and I therefore found humiliating.

Looking back, I can see that I was conditioned to accept this as hilarious, to accept the judgment of my boss, and not to speak up and say hey, these are strengths, and just because they are different from what you value doesn’t mean they are valueless.  To accept someone else’s decision that who I was was a source of amusement, not value.

Over the next few weeks, my boss repeatedly made fun of me in front of my peers, mocking me by calling me the “hostess”. At one point in one of our morning meetings — in front of all the other (male) engineers and the technicians — he asked me if I had “brought refreshments”.

When I pushed back against these insults I was told that I wasn’t actually being insulted, because “the hostesses at Chili’s get to wear nicer clothes and cuter shoes than the waitresses.”

When he continued to insult me and I continued to push back, and eventually told him to get bent, I’m sure that was a problem, because women probably weren’t supposed to talk to him like that.

I’m surprised the old “don’t you have a sense of humor” card didn’t get played, but it was probably only a matter of time.

After that memorable meeting at which I told him to get bent, I wrote an email to HR complaining about the treatment of me by my manager. I detailed the fact that we were supposed to be able to keep our information private, and mine had been made public against my will, in a very humiliating way, by the authority figure.

Later that day an ally told me he saw our boss in his boss’s office, and it looked like he was getting yelled at.

And the way my manager decided to solve that problem was to get rid of me. Scapegoat!

Soon after, I made an appointment with him to talk about the quality of the assignments I was getting, which was basically nil. The male engineers were getting important things to do, and I was given the unimportant, crap assignments.

I was astute enough to have figured this out at least, so I did what you were supposed to do in that situation:  I went to my boss and asked to talk about it. He agreed immediately and said how about next Tuesday at 2 o clock, which surprised me, but I said fine.

Turns out that was when he had the surprise appointment already made with HR for them to offer me a buyout package.  I knew nothing about it until I showed up at his office, ready to talk about what more I could be doing, and the first thing he said was, “Let’s go to HR.”

I was offered a buyout package.  A bribe.  Six months’ salary if I would leave quietly and sign a paper saying I wouldn’t sue them.

As we walked out of that HR meeting and headed back to the office area, my boss FINALLY attempted to talk to me — sort of.  Once again, he started to explain to me why I shouldn’t be angry, why his actions were perfectly legit, etc etc.

I think I told him not to speak to me. He never spoke to me again.

I worked there for another couple of weeks, and I hauled my belongings out of the building on the weekend, because I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about the buyout package. I just disappeared.

Somewhere I still have my security badge, because my boss was too chicken to walk me out the door. Too chicken to stand by what he had done to me.

But it’s all part of the pattern right? Here’s a person who has been trained as a scapegoat, trained to minimize herself, not make problems, be a nice token female.

Except that I wasn’t fully trained. I will put up with a lot of shit, but at some point I won’t anymore.

And that’s when it becomes a big surprise for the toxic abuser: they’ve treated someone like shit for years and gotten away with it, but when they finally cross some line, and the target finally gets fed up and fights back, particularly in some unexpected way — well, of course they will continue to shift blame onto them and say it’s all their fault, I had nothing to do with it.  They will never, ever choose instead to be humble, to learn, to change, to grow.

And a Pony

What do I want?  I want them to OWN THEIR SHIT.

I’ve asked them to be adults, take responsibility for their actions, and do the morally right and healthy things.

And they’ve never done anything else I ever asked them to do before, either.

Maybe I have been looking at this the wrong way.  I’ve asked them to take back their shit.  They won’t do it, so I’ve been flinging it at them.  That has helped, but it’s slow going.

What I need to do is find a way to abandon the shit, to process it, to get it off my plate, and that has to be a way that doesn’t depend on them doing anything.

I had a dream a while ago, which I already wrote about before.

In it, I was carrying around a wooden box, not heavy in itself as such but I could tell the contents were very heavy.  And it seemed like I’d been carrying it for a long time.  I finally put it down, and there was the suggestion that I was putting it down for the very last time, and that I was challenging, daring my sister to PICK IT UP.

It seems that every time I think I’m “done” with this shit, sooner or later it comes bubbling back up again.  Closure never really happens.

Maybe it just takes a long, long time to process everyone else’s bullshit.  A thankless damned job if ever there was one, but it seems like it’s one I am determined to do, if this blog is any indication.

Of course, if they don’t like the way I’m doing it, they are free to take it off my hands!

Fighting Back

All the events, and stories, and jealousy and anger and manipulation and blaming and lies that got us where we are today, were set in motion 40 years ago or more.

I was a kid.  I was a helpless baby at more-or-less the start of it, when my mother was hospitalized.  I was only 6YO when it culminated in The Divorce.

It was a horrible, stressful time for the whole family.  Mom and the kids hated actually living with Dad day-to-day.  They all missed their previous location.  Dad had a new job, an important job.  And there was a new baby.  These three things alone would cause a great deal of stress.

If you look at the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory there are a few more things to add to the list:

  • Change in health of family member
  • Pregnancy / Gain of new family member
  • Sex difficulties (I’m going to lump “being a teenager” in with this one)
  • Change in financial state
  • Change to a different line of work
  • Change in number of arguments with spouse
  • A large mortgage or loan
  • Change in living conditions
  • Change in work hours or conditions
  • Change in residence
  • Change in school/college
  • Change in recreation
  • Change in church activities
  • Change in social activities

I’ve kind of lumped these all together — for instance, Dad had the job change, while the kids changed schools — but no matter whose point of view you take, they total well over 300, which is the lower limit of the high-risk category.

OVER 300 POINTS: This score indicates a major life crisis and is highly predictive (80%) of serious physical illness within the next 2 years.

Frankly, it isn’t surprising that someone got sick, although Mom’s illness wasn’t physical, but mental.  And you might be able to count my sister’s suicide attempt as “serious physical illness”.

What did the teenagers have to cope with?  New schools, no friends, no teachers or mentors to confide in — just a bunch of nuns and priests who would probably advise them to “pray about it” and “be obedient” if they were consulted.  I think you could just about count on being invalidated if you went to them for help and understanding.

Mom is too sick to talk to, and she can’t be held responsible for any of this anyway.  They hate Dad and are used to blaming him, but that’s no longer safe because now they are dependent on him for everything, not just money.  And of course they are not allowed to be mad at God or blame him for anything — remember, “He doesn’t send you any more than you can handle!!”  😀

It’s bad enough that they are already feeling like outsiders at school:  now they have to take turns staying home from school to run the house while Mom is sick.  But it can’t be Mom’s fault she is sick…

…it’s the baby who “made Mom sick”.

Side note:  You know, I’ve always kind of accepted the responsibility for that part.  I always accepted it was the fact of my birth that made Mom go crazy (although obviously still not my responsibility).

It’s only recently that I found out it probably wasn’t — Mom was probably schizophrenic all along, and was at high risk for post-partum psychosis.

What actually made Mom sick, if you have to assign the cause to a chain of events, was her refusal to have a medically advised hysterectomy, coupled with her refusal to accept sex as a normal part of marriage.  I’m pretty certain she thought the jeopardy to her health that would be caused by additional pregnancies could be easily eliminated by simply eliminating sex altogether.  Her insistence on following church doctrine became her excuse:  can’t have a hysterectomy + can’t use birth control + can’t risk another pregnancy = Voilà!  A “get out of sex free” card!

This is similar to what I believe was her real reason for not learning how to drive:  that too was a “get out of doing something for other people” card.

But that bastard husband of hers, who was supporting her, still wanted some.  A pregnancy resulted.  “Look what your father did to me.”

What’s comical about this to me is, isn’t avoiding sex in a marriage just as much going against god’s will as using birth control?  I mean, it IS birth control.  Yet somehow abstinence is considered an OK method of birth control to use, even within a marriage.  SMH.

…it’s the baby who “made Mom sick”.

This stupid baby with diapers to change, who is just a bunch more work, and really, really easy to label and blame as the cause of all their problems.

It makes sense that my sister is the one who holds this grudge the most deeply, because obviously she was the one most affected.

As a girl, and the oldest, she would have been expected to do the bulk of the mothering chores.  It was her senior year, yet here she was living the life of a teenage mom, without even having the benefit of having had the sex to go with it.  And if she attempted suicide, obviously she was deeply affected.

I wonder if my sister looks at me and thinks, “Look what my father did to me.”

A friend once pointed out to me that if things had been normal, if my mom had been healthy and done her job and not enmeshed and parentified my sister, if she had been free to be a normal teenage girl, my 17YO sister would likely have loved me to pieces.  If you don’t think that realization broke my heart, think again.

To all this injury, add the insult that Dad and I went on to have a loving relationship, and instead you probably have a recipe for the kind of relationship my sister and I have failed to have.

A helpless baby who couldn’t fight back was the only safe place to dump all that shit.  I became the scapegoat for them, as my dad was for my mom.  They had her example to learn from, after all.

I know of one other family who had a similar situation.  A knitting friend told me once about a family she knew — they were cousins or some such — with a lot of children, spread out over a lot of years, such that the oldest children were almost adults when the youngest child was born.

The youngest sibling was a woman who was now estranged from the rest of the family, because she was universally considered by the rest of them to be the cause of the mother’s death.

The woman who told me the story said that nobody ever talked about what had actually happened, so for a long time she had assumed the mother had died in childbirth, or shortly after.

At some point she found out that the truth was that the mother actually died SIX YEARS LATER.

It had nothing to do with the youngest child at all.  Yet the rest of the family somehow found a way to make it her fault.  It was probably their way of coping with the senselessness of what was happening to them.

Their scapegoat was only 6YO, and she couldn’t have fought back against the blame that got heaped on her.  She was a safe place to put their psychological garbage, their difficult-to-deal-with anger and grief, because she was too young to do anything but accept it.

No wonder they never talked about what actually happened, because the truth would destroy the warped story that they concocted to make themselves feel better.  And no one would then want to admit how unfair it was that they blamed this child her whole life for things that weren’t her fault.

And no wonder that poor little kid is estranged from the rest of them now.  That’s what happens when the helpless baby finally starts fighting back against the injustice of what has been heaped on her.

All that shit, years and years of tiny little things said and done, or not said and done.  Hugs not given.  Phone calls not made.  Letters unanswered.  Outreach ignored.  Happiness for another’s accomplishments eclipsed and snuffed out by jealousy.  Criticisms made, trust betrayed, snide remarks, bullshit apologies or none at all, excuses made for the fucked-up behavior of everyone else but me and Dad — we two who never, ever get defended.

Love not given.

Acceptance in the family withheld, always out of reach.  Just being born wasn’t enough –in fact, being born was my original sin, and keeping me out of the family is probably my well-earned punishment for that.

It all comes back in one big wave of shit, sparked by one unforgiveable-because-still-unapologized-for incident (which conveniently allows people to easily invalidate it all, and me, by saying, “Geez, is she STILL upset about that?”)

And you get this blog to go with this fucked-up family, these broken relationships.  That’s the only part I’m responsible for.  If they hadn’t done what they did, and failed to do what they failed to do, I wouldn’t have anything to write about.

The rest of these things are entirely the result of other people dumping 40 years’ worth of pain, trauma, and emotional garbage on someone else, instead of working through their own shit like responsible adults.  And now it’s come back home to roost.

It’s a shame for them that their target grew up to be wise enough and strong enough to figure out everyone’s bullshit.  And I know it won’t truly change anything with my siblings, but I’ll be damned if I don’t fight back somehow, and put all this shit right squarely back where it belongs.

They have admitted that they were angry.  They never asked themselves what they did with that anger.  They transferred it to me and never, ever looked back.  It is a high, stinking pile now, but that’s what happens when you don’t go back and clean up after yourself.

I know my writing won’t change my siblings, but it is changing me, and healing me, and that’s worth doing.

Avoiding Responsibility 101

Seth Godin nails it again.

Instead of saying “we” when you’re avoiding responsibility, try “I.”

It’s no coincidence that the fauxpology I got from Susan starts off with “I’m sorry WE…”

Most of it is an attempt to spread the blame — for something that is conveniently never quite named — equally between us, along with an attempt to claim she didn’t understand what I had asked for.

Never once does she take responsibility for what she did.  Never once does she say, “I’m sorry I did this to you”.

And Joe never apologized at all.