At Least I’m Not ENTIRELY Alone

Q: Loving the hater

My older sister, now in her early 50s, just doesn’t like me. I have spent many years trying to build a relationship with her and return her hate with kindness, but no matter what I do, things don’t change. She often hosts family gatherings and doesn’t invite me, or when she does, it’s at the very last minute and through my mom. When we are both at the same gathering, sometimes things go well, and once every year or two, she’ll start screaming at me for no apparent reason except for “you think you’re better than everyone else,” which I don’t, though it is true I have always been very different from the rest of my family, which is very conservative politically and socially (and I’m not). Another sister said that my siblings are uncomfortable with me and keep their distance because I had been in a same-sex relationship in my 20s and am now married to a man. My son is an only child, and he longs to have close relationships with his cousins. And I would like to know my nephews better. I keep trying to initiate get-togethers, and she either doesn’t answer or is noncommittal. A few weeks ago I called and she didn’t call back, though she did look up my LinkedIn profile, which was very strange and hurtful to me. My son keeps asking me why he can’t see his cousins (who live 1.5 hours away). I’m trying to figure out how much to keep trying to amend the relationship with my sister, and if so, how. Or maybe I should stop trying, for it causes me so much pain, especially this time of year.

A:

I am sorry. I think this time of year can be so ironically cruel for anyone who doesn’t have a picturesque family experience (even the decorations at Target are screaming at us to “BE MERRY! BE BRIGHT!” Good grief!) that it makes it worse, when you start to imagine what families are “supposed” to be like, and how warm and welcoming and communal everyone is supposed to be feeling all the time. But unfortunately, that warm and loving family relationship that you wish for—and that you may very well have done your part to try to achieve for years and yearssimply might not be possible with your sister. I get why you want to give the gift of close cousin relationships to your son, but honestly, for him to see his Mom treated this way, and to associate family gatherings with potential explosive behavior is not anywhere near the fun frolic that good childhood memories are made of. I think it might be time to give yourself some peace by understanding that your sister—for whatever reasons, but all her own—is incapable of building a truly sisterly relationship with you. And that you have to take what you choose to embrace of the rest of your family relationships. They may be your allies or not, intervene on your behalf or do nothing of the sort, but that is almost beside the point – right now, you’ve been spending years trying to move a boulder that not only won’t budge, but somehow manages to spit on you as well.  As for your son, you can reveal more and more to him over the years as he is old enough to understand, but for now, a simple “I wish we could be closer to them too. Sometimes, though, families can’t always spend time together” can start a conversation, seeing where he goes from there, and following his lead. And over time, you can put some of that no-longer-wasted energy into building an extended “family” of friends and neighbors who actually are capable of providing the connections that you’re longing for.

Power

Quote from this article:

“I was at a well-known university about nine months ago when I was in office and I asked an audience of 400 faculty and students the following question:

‘How many of you look at emotions as a source of weakness versus a source of power?’

And nearly every hand went up. This is the paradigm we have to flip in this country.”

Couldn’t Possibly Have Been A Psychotic Break

Well, this story makes my blood run cold.

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

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

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

Two things about this story disturb me. Continue reading “Couldn’t Possibly Have Been A Psychotic Break”

It Takes New Words

Notes from here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working Backwards

A male friend’s question on Facebook:

“I don’t know how a person gets to the conclusion that understanding others’ emotions is a childish thing one is supposed to grow out of and be less understanding of others… How does anyone think that becoming less understanding of the world is maturing???”

My response:

“Because to a patriarchal mindset, emotions themselves are childish, or at best, effeminate — crying when sad or throwing a tantrum when angry are things that babies and children do, and they equate the outward show of emotion with having the emotion itself. Adults don’t do those things (unless they are manipulative women who cry to get their way). “Real men don’t get mad (e.g. throw a fit), they get even.”

“And empathizing with adults who are acting childishly makes you also childish.

“Seriously, this is what all my siblings think of me being upset about my SIL being so rude to me when my dad died. I was “over-reacting” and just need to “get over it”. Being “too emotional” was another accusation. My husband later observed that this was because I cried openly and without shame, and they just couldn’t handle me grieving like that.

“Oh, and as for “how they get to that conclusion” — it’s easy. You work backwards.

“In this case, you start with the incontrovertible “conclusion” that you are morally superior to the person whose behavior you don’t like. Then you find a way to “logically” support that “conclusion”. He does it [referring to the author of the article that was the subject of the OP] by heaping scorn on her for being empathetic.

“In other cases, such as mine, you start with whoever you know is supposed to be at fault — I am the youngest and the scapegoat and cannot possibly be in the right over an older sibling’s wife — and then you find “reasons” why. So instead of asking, “Who was really wronged here?” they ask, “What has she done that we can say is the reason she’s at fault?”

“It doesn’t actually have to make sense — to borrow words from Terry Pratchett, it just has to have the “right shape”. If it kind of “sounds good” it will be accepted by everyone who also wants to reach that same conclusion.

“I don’t say it’s a healthy way to operate but I’m very very familiar with it. It sure must be comfortable. No chance of running into anything that would cause you to do any soul-searching.”

I Dare You

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/believe

P.S.  I met Matt Inman once.  I was smart enough to bring a decent pen and some nice paper, and I have a few original drawings as a result of that foresight.  One went to my online friend Becky, who loves Inman but couldn’t attend the event.  A couple went to the son of one of my other friends.  This is the one I kept for myself.  Thanks, Matt, for all your great work.

Happiness is Choice

Notes from here

“…most of us grew up in a culture that places great value on “fairness” and “playing by the rules.”  There’s just one problem with this noble ideal: the world simply doesn’t work that way.

…If someone assaults you, steals from you, or cheats on you, you have every right to feel upset or angry—so, too, if you have suffered verbal or emotional abuse… You will almost certainly need time to grieve… And, depending on how [someone] has behaved, you may also need time to work through feelings of anger, betrayal, and the downright “unfairness” of it all… but past a certain point, they may do you more harm than good.

“…we need to accept the world for what it is. The Thai Buddhist Master, Ajahn Chah, put the idea this way: “If you want the duck to be a chicken and the chicken to be a duck, you are really going to suffer!” Indeed, part of accepting life for what it is means accepting—not liking!—that there are many “bad actors” out there who sometimes try to hurt us.  [but boy does it suck when these people turn out to be part of your family, which we are told we can always count on, blood is thicker than water, etc, etc]

are the Stoics saying we should simply “turn the other cheek” and put up with injustice or shabby treatment at the hands of abusers? Certainly not!”

“Seek refuge in yourself. The knowledge of having acted justly is all your reasoning inner self needs to be fully content and at peace with itself.”