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.

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.”

Radical Acceptance

Notes from here

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.  (Deuteronomy 30:19)

“…If you were a more sensitive soul, you may have been injured by the numerous selfish people that you met along the way; and they are everywhere (welcome to the human condition). Some of these wounds can last a lifetime, leaving you feeling stupid, unwanted, second best and so on…”

“…We must accept what happens to us. That doesn’t mean that we like it or that it is fair. Life is not fair… We all want to rage at the world, or crawl into a depressed spot when we feel the injustice and randomness of our pain.

“Or perhaps you were traumatized by an accident, an illness, a corrupt business deal, a rapist, the death of a child, Mother Nature. All this happens in this world and it may happen to any of us… When injured by others or by circumstance, I encourage you to feel it all; the outrage, the hurt…  This is grief work and it is a necessary part of healing… Grief brings you through pain to disbelief, to anger, to “only ifs” to profound sadness, to loss – and then to acceptance. It gets triggered again and again, like tsunamis of anguish that take you over when you least expect it. But, over time grief does get worked through. The wound heals, even if imperfectly. We are left with acceptance…

“You can stay mired in your sense of injustice and self righteousness. You can develop an entire personality around your victimhood. But what purpose does it provide?… Very often, it was an injured soul or group that hurt you in the first place. A cycle of victims and oppressors does our species little good.

We must accept. Not in the classic Buddhist sense of non attachment. We should be attached. A wrong is a wrong; and it needs to be righted if possible. But we must start with the understanding that what happened to us is part of the quixotic human condition… Radically accept your [relatives’] stupid (but human) mistake. It cost you. No question. You are angry and perhaps have a chip on your shoulder… This kind of acceptance is the end stage of healthy grief…

“To accept means to see things clearly. It reinforces the notion not to give a second chance to someone who doesn’t deserve it…”

© Mark R Banschick, MD

Second Chances

Another good post from Dr. Cloud:

“…the reality is, if we are going to give someone a second chance, change needs to happen.  A second chance is the opportunity to move forward to something newThere must be something new and different in order to move forward than move backward. Only when everything is the same, you are repeating what already has been, and there is no reason for the outcome to be different… you must be able to see tangible fruit to know change is real.

Dr. Cloud also mentions, “Remember that just because someone is sorry, it doesn’t mean they have changed.”

So there’s that missing – sincere apologies – even before any change can occur.  And it’s clear that a sincere “I’m sorry” is too much for me to hope for.  My siblings are simply too proud and arrogant to take responsibility for their actions towards me, to admit they were wrong in how they’ve treated me.

For the protagonist, that is something that should be automatic, when someone you love says that you hurt them.

And for everyone else, there should be anger on behalf of the person you love, when someone else hurts them:

“When confronted with injustice, cruelty and harm, a lack of anger is a sign that you are subconsciously failing to love those who are suffering from that injustice, cruelty and harm. If you love them, then you ought to be angry — and that anger ought to compel you to act on their behalf.”

You got kids?  If not, how about a kid sister or a kid brother?  No?  Then how about a dog, you got a dog?  Or a cat?  A spouse?  Everybody loves someone or something.  I’m going to go with kids here, but if you don’t have kids, just think of your little sister or your cat or whoever it is you love.

Say you see somebody hurting your kids — deliberately, cruelly inflicting harm on them.  That will make you angry.  Such anger is right and proper and just.  You will be angry because you love your kids, and that anger and that love will compel you to act on their behalf — to stop this cruel somebody from harming them.

Now, if you saw this happening and you did not get angry or try to put a stop to this cruelty, what do you suppose the rest of us would think?  We wouldn’t be congratulating you on your saintly calm demeanor.  Nor would we be admiring you as an exemplar of Christian civility.

No, we would be angry with you over your lack of anger.  Then, after we acted in your stead to stop the harm being done… that anger would compel us to confront you with your evident lack of love…

Well.  What part is missing?  The part where I say that I was hurt?  No, that’s been amply communicated.

What’s missing is the concern for the person who got hurt and the anger over it.  In other words, what’s missing is love for their little sister.

I won’t pretend that line up above doesn’t sting to read:  “just think of your little sister or your cat or whoever it is you love.

It’s used by the author because a little sister is such a ubiquitous example of someone that normal, healthy people love and want to protect.

It’s been very hard to accept that my siblings don’t really love me.  Especially after all the time and effort and money I spent doing what one is supposed to do for “family”, trying to earn what should have been freely and automatically given.

But it’s clear as day that they don’t.  It’s sad that they don’t; it’s dysfunctional, it’s even explicable, given the whole sordid history — but the one thing above all is that it’s true.

It all started to come out when Dad died.  Of course, that lack of action aka love all got explained away pretty quickly by people saying that they didn’t do anything wrong and hoping I’d just forget about what happened.

But, that’s not how HEALTHY human relationships work.

“When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.”

“…if someone tells you that you’ve hurt them, the least you owe them is your respect and acknowledgment of their pain. The worst thing that you can do is… make them feel like they’re the one who did something wrong, or tell them that you didn’t actually hurt them. You don’t know their feelings. If they’re telling you that you hurt them, then you hurt them. Accept this and apologize.”

That’s how you start fixing what’s broken.  But they aren’t interested in a second chance.  They aren’t interested in reparations — partly because what’s broken is them.  They don’t miss this relationship enough to do anything about it.  They simply don’t love me.  Or maybe it’s more accurate to say they love their relationships with each other, their dysfunctional ideas, and their father-hating identity, more than they love me.

It ends up looking the same from here, anyway.  And I’m still better off without it, than with it, if there’s no real change possible in their hearts.

The People of the Lie

M. Scott Peck ‘The People of the Lie’

I picked up this book a while ago and have not started reading it yet, but I came across this fascinating passage today:

“There really are people…who respond with hatred in the presence of goodness and would destroy the good insofar as it is in their power to do so. They do this not with conscious malice but blindly, lacking awareness of their own evil — indeed, seeking to avoid any such awareness.

“…Evil people hate the light because it reveals themselves to themselves. They hate goodness because it reveals their badness; they hate love because it reveals their laziness. They will destroy the light, the goodness, the love in order to avoid the pain of such self-awareness…

“Truly evil people, on the other hand, actively rather than passively avoid extending themselves. They will take any action in their power to protect their own laziness, to preserve the integrity of their sick self. Rather than nurturing others, they will actually destroy others in this cause… to escape the pain of their own spiritual growth. As the integrity of their sick self is threatened by the spiritual health of those around them, they will seek by all manner of means to crush and demolish the spiritual health that may exist near them.”

Lean In

Excerpt from here

When you first begin to exercise, it’s somewhat painful. Not wildly painful, like touching a hot stove, but enough that if your only goal was to avoid pain, you certainly would stop doing it. But if you keep exercising… in the long run, the pain will make us stronger. Next time we’ll be able to run harder and lift more before the pain starts… that’s just a sign that you’re getting stronger.

Few people realize it, but psychological pain works the same way. Most people treat psychological pain like the hot stove — if starting to think about something scares them or stresses them out, they quickly stop thinking about it and change the subject.

The problem is that the topics that are most painful also tend to be the topics that are most important for us: they’re the projects we most want to do, the relationships we care most about, the decisions that have the biggest consequences for our future, the most dangerous risks that we run. We’re scared of them because we know the stakes are so high. But if we never think about them, then we can never do anything about them.

Ray Dalio writes:

It is a fundamental law of nature that to evolve one has to push one’s limits, which is painful, in order to gain strength—whether it’s in the form of lifting weights, facing problems head-on, or in any other way. Nature gave us pain as a messaging device to tell us that we are approaching, or that we have exceeded, our limits in some way. At the same time, nature made the process of getting stronger require us to push our limits. Gaining strength is the adaptation process of the body and the mind to encountering one’s limits, which is painful. In other words, both pain and strength typically result from encountering one’s barriers. When we encounter pain, we are at an important juncture in our decision-making process.1

What “You’re too sensitive” really means

What “You’re too sensitive” really means.

My mother used to tell me the version that goes, “You take everything too personally.”

What it really means is:

“You noticed something that I didn’t want you to notice.”

And, all too often for us, it means that what a narcissist is REALLY saying is: “I wanted to do (or say) something to make you feel bad, but I didn’t want you to notice what was really going on, because that makes it harder for me to innocently deny that I did what I did.”

My Allies

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, who is married to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is taking heat over an International Women’s Day post.

She asked people to “celebrate the boys and men in our lives who encourage us to be who we truly are, who treat girls & women with respect” on 8 March.

Ms Gregoire Trudeau urged followers to post images with their “male ally”.

I for one greatly appreciate the original post. I had an uninvolved / neglectful mother, a parentified older sister who hates the fact that I was born (more work for her?), and a MIL who resented me because HER SON and I (mutually) chose not to have children.

The older women in my life, the ones who should have been my guides and role models, have not often supported me.

The people who DID support me unconditionally were my equality-minded father and my wonderful progressive husband. They are the ones who have helped me the most to get to where I am today.
So here’s to you two.  <3