Monday, February 27, 2012

Isn't That Enough?

On August 22, 2011, I wrote a post on this forum for individuals dealing with, shall we say, "difficult" in-laws. I had joined the forum in the hopes that I might direct some traffic to my blog, but also because I thought I might find another support group, of sorts, with which to share my stories of having a narcissistic mother-in-law. In all honesty, I lost interest in the forum rather quickly, mostly due to time constraints, since I was more interested in writing posts for my own blog and responding to the rest of my Blogger friends.

At any rate, for the couple of days I was active on the forum, I created a long post in which I copied (almost entirely and with only a few minor edits) my Ketchup post straight off of my blog. I thought that post provided the most amount of information about my situation, in the most succinct way possible. After a couple of days and a few brief comments from the forum moderators (who seemed rather sympathetic, even though they didn't have much to say) I lost interest in the forum and went on my merry way.

I forgot about the forum, and my post, until yesterday. When I logged back in, out of the sake of curiosity, I found one very interesting response to what I had written. Rather than go back and respond directly to the woman who addressed my post, (like me, she didn't seem to be an active member of the forum) I thought I would share and dissect it for you here.

On October 29, 2011, just over three months after I published my post, "been there" wrote:

My dear Jonsi. Let my point out something that you, yourself have pointed out to the readers of this blog innumerable times; you've married into a disfunctional family.

OK, now that THAT is established, what do you do about it? I don't know. I do know one thing you don't do. Don't expect that just because you have married into the family that THEY are going to change. Judging by the amount of research you have put into your post, you surely know that the narcisistic personality does not respond well to counseling and is the least likely personality disorder to ever change for the positive.

Yes, it would be nice if all was warm and fuzzy, but according to you, it is not. I am quite curious as to how the other side of the story would go, but we don't have that, so I will base my response on what you have said.

Many of the things listed in your deposition may have been offensive, yes, but some of these slights are not anything to hold on to and let fester. This will only harm you, not the one your anger is directed at. I get the impression you feel your MIL is trying to usurp your power. Is this a power struggle? It is if you make it so.

For example, you asked your MIL not to post pictures of your DD on Facebook, in order to respect your privacy. Good Lord. Really? You have every right to do so, but why would you? Are you hiding something? If you had a brand new grandchild, would you not be bursting with pride and want to share those pictures with your friends? Or is this one way for you to draw a line in the sand and see if MIL crosses that line, then you can say, "my MIL doesn't respect my wishes"? MIL wearing white to your wedding, bad judgement, poor taste, yes, so what? Did you wear white to your own wedding even though you were pregnant? Either way, so what? You get my point.

I would also like to point out, right now you hold all the cards. Your husband is willing to separate completely from his FOO for you!!! Isn't that enough? Yes, you can continue to drive a wedge between your husband and his FOO, whom he was probably quite content with, until someone else came along and decided to keep track of every slight and insult, as evidenced by the degree of your note taking over the past 2 years OR you can let go of your expectations that his family will ever treat you the way you feel you deserve to be treated. Hopefully, this family is only one small aspect of your life and you have other areas where you get your support and nurturing.

Hold your head up high and rise above all this petty rivalry. What is important here, is that you know your DH loves you, if his family doesn't, so be it. Drop those expectations right now and you won't be disappointed the next time DH FOO, behaves in their usual manner. When they succeed at hurting you, they win. Don't let your bruised ego dictate your behavior.

Right now you are probably thinking, "What? Didn't this person read a word I wrote?" Well, I did read every word and some twice. I too have had a MIL from hell. Yes, it was a real bummer, but at the same time there is no way I am going to accept the responsibility of tearing apart a family that LOVES. Yes, it may be a very disfunctional way of showing it, but that is all they know. Penalizing these people for not conforming to your own idea of what a family is, will change nothing.

Are you using your list of slights as evidence to justify tearing this family apart? I'm sorry you have to endure the behavior of a sick individual, but life is tough. Did you think it would always be bliss?

By being hell bent on cutting your DH from the herd, so that you are his only focal point, you are putting yourself in the same category as your MIL, "control freak". Trust me, your MIL could be alot worse. You don't have to love or respect your DH FOO, but respect your DH enough not to demand he choose between you and them, you will win in the short term, but the real looser would be your DH.

Remember, you too, are a mother. Karma is a boomerang. I pray that you will never be in a position, when your son marries, that your own DIL will deem you unfit to have contact with your own DS and subsequent grandchildren. This would rip your heart out. I am sure your own MIL is no different. Please, I implore you, as one who has been there, choose the path of love. Be the change.

Good luck to you and your family. I hope it can remain a family.


So, dear readers, away we go:

I first want to say I was well aware that, in posting anything on this forum, my assertions and opinions could be met with hostility and would probably see some disagreement. Putting my story out on the internet, even anonymously, has proven to elicit some very strong reactions in people who are dealing with severe dysfunction - either their own, or that of others. With such an understanding in place, I was not surprised by the manner in which "been there" attacked me.

My dear Jonsi. Let my point out something that you, yourself have pointed out to the readers of this blog innumerable times; you've married into a disfunctional family.

This woman's patronizing tone starts off from the first three words in her opening statement, although it could initially be mistaken for empathy. When I first began reading, my flags were raised at the opening line, "My dear Jonsi" because I wasn't sure whether the sympathy she presented was sincere or not. By the time I got past the first few paragraphs, it became clear that her sincerity was merely thinly veiled disdain. But the first paragraph alone couldn't have convinced me of that on it's own, at least not for me. By pointing out that I've married into a dysfunctional family, she managed to make it seem that maybe, just maybe, she had some reasonable grasp of just how extensively dysfunctional my husband's FOO is.

OK, now that THAT is established, what do you do about it? I don't know. I do know one thing you don't do. Don't expect that just because you have married into the family that THEY are going to change. Judging by the amount of research you have put into your post, you surely know that the narcisistic personality does not respond well to counseling and is the least likely personality disorder to ever change for the positive.

I read this paragraph twice before moving on. What bothered me about it? First, I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and I thought, "Maybe she thinks I was looking for advice? I didn't ask for advice specifically, but I could understand why someone might think I was seeking it, given the medium in which I had chosen to share my story." But then I realized that there was something else she was oh-so-subtly insinuating with her unsolicited advice that was getting under my skin: that my expectations of the narcissistic family I had married into were somehow the root cause of why my relationship with them had gone so terribly wrong. She was insinuating that I was in the wrong for having expectations about how I should be treated by my husband's family, while simultaneously calling me a fool. The language in this second paragraph is actually rather condescending. After reading through it a second time, my opinion was solidified: "been there" wasn't writing to me out of sympathy, she was writing to me out of anger: it was her own disillusions she was pawning off on me. I did not, anywhere in my post, indicate that I expected my in-laws to change, nor that I thought my MIL would respond well to therapy. "Been there" offers no real solutions to the question she seemed to think I was asking; instead, she begins an attack against me for, in her opinion, expecting too much.

Yes, it would be nice if all was warm and fuzzy, but according to you, it is not. I am quite curious as to how the other side of the story would go, but we don't have that, so I will base my response on what you have said.

It was almost as though she were saying that she'd settle for my account of what happened, but only because that of my husband's FOO hasn't been made publicly available. I got the feeling that, if she had my account and their account laid out in front of her side-by-side, theirs would trump mine in an instant simply because it came from them. What I see here is a very subtle dismissal of my entire story as laid out in my post. She implies that I suggested that things should have been all "warm and fuzzy" with my in-laws. I never suggested that. She says, "Yes..." as though she's answering some inquiry I laid out. The way in which she says, "according to you" reads as a dismissal in and of itself. I didn't enjoy her implication that, if only we had the "other side of the story" then she could go about more easily proving how wrong I am. Overall, the fuzzy picture comes in much clearer by the end of this paragraph, and we're not even into the heaviest part of it yet. And something else of note: There is yet another subtle insulting insinuation: that I am not at all interested in "hearing the other side of things." The funniest thing to me about that notion is that I am actually quite curious about what, precisely, my in-laws think. I so wish I could be a fly on the wall, hearing what it is they REALLY say about me when I'm not around. The problem is that DH's FOO is not capable of honest and genuine communication, so not only have they NEVER discussed their needs/concerns/thoughts about the conflicts that have arisen (indeed, they have only ever ignored the concepts) but even if they had, they would not have been speaking honestly.

Many of the things listed in your deposition may have been offensive, yes, but some of these slights are not anything to hold on to and let fester. This will only harm you, not the one your anger is directed at. I get the impression you feel your MIL is trying to usurp your power. Is this a power struggle? It is if you make it so.

Again, she plays the psuedo-sympathy card, albeit not well to the trained eye. "Don't let it fester" she advises. "It will only harm you" she says. But if you can look just a little bit deeper, Dear Reader, you might see something rotting here, just under the surface. She says that many of the things I listed were merely "slights." That's not an accurate observation of the events I was writing about, it's a criticism of me. In a more classical error, she points out her opinion that not only must I have anger-issues, but that my anger is aimed at my MIL for the sole-purpose of harming her and keep all the "power" for myself. I know ACoNs, in particular, are familiar with that old "anger is toxic" argument coming from abusive family members and nosy outsiders, so I wouldn't be surprised if they pick up on that right off the bat. In addition, I find her sly assertion that NMIL is nothing more than an innocent victim and her accusation that I have single-handedly engaged NMIL in a power-struggle to be a strong indication that she herself is suffering from a delusional mind-set. By the end of this paragraph, I am left with the thought, "Maybe 'been there' is someone else's NMIL."

For example, you asked your MIL not to post pictures of your DD on Facebook, in order to respect your privacy. Good Lord. Really? You have every right to do so, but why would you? Are you hiding something? If you had a brand new grandchild, would you not be bursting with pride and want to share those pictures with your friends? Or is this one way for you to draw a line in the sand and see if MIL crosses that line, then you can say, "my MIL doesn't respect my wishes"? MIL wearing white to your wedding, bad judgement, poor taste, yes, so what? Did you wear white to your own wedding even though you were pregnant? Either way, so what? You get my point.

I don't find it at all coincidental that, in the extensive list I offered up as evidence of how I had been mistreated by NMIL, this woman would zero in on two of the most indicative examples of abuse and disrespect as being unquestionable testimonial about MY short-comings. This paragraph reads as an accusation on my character, a dispute of my rights, and a criticism of my moral values. She calls me worthless, she attacks my character, and then, in one fail swoop, tells me to get over it. This woman, who immediately refutes my right to privacy, strikes me as an abusive, narcissistic, and dishonest person - one who, more-than-likely, has destroyed relationships in her own life by maintaining the same philosophies she so-foolishly shares with me here. She picked the wrong woman to belittle, that's for sure: I smelled her shit coming a mile away.

Her exclamations against the fact that I had the nerve to ask anyone, let alone my MIL, to respect my privacy, is a huge indication that this woman is narcissistic herself. Then, she blatantly accuses me of hiding something, simply because I desired privacy.

Does anyone else see the narcissism at work here? Her's is a mentality that says: There is no such thing as privacy; only secrecy. She's barking up the wrong tree when she directs the following question at me: "If you had a brand new grandchild, would you not be bursting with pride and want to share those pictures with your friends?" What were NMIL's exact words when we asked her to remove those photos from her Facebook page? "I was only being a proud grandma!" I will say again what I said to DH that day, and many times after: You can be proud and not spew your entire stash of photos to the rest of the world. Truly being proud is a feeling you get deep within yourself that does not require outside validation or a need to be heard. I don't need anyone else to know I'm proud of my babies. I don't need to prove it to anyone either. Pride doesn't require proof. Love doesn't require a stage.

Would I share pictures of my grandchildren with my friends? Not without permission. Not on a public forum, where potentially hundreds of other people could see them too. Not if they were pictures of their private moments, which they might feel uncomfortable sharing at a later date. Never in secrecy. Never to people who would exploit them. Never so that I could exploit them myself. And certainly not so that I could put on an act, for the rest of the world, in order to make it easier to abuse them behind closed doors. No, those are not the circumstances under which I would share photos of my children or grandchildren with friends.

Or is this one way for you to draw a line in the sand and see if MIL crosses that line, then you can say, "my MIL doesn't respect my wishes"? This is projection, pure and simple. Here, 'been there' merely projects her own (and, oddly enough, my narcissistic mother-in-law's) manipulative plays for power onto me. *I* don't play the "say one thing and do another" game. *I* don't give lip-service and little to no follow-through. *I* don't make attempts at setting people up for failure. What I do is straight-forward, honest, and fair: I present my needs and communicate my intentions. I do not "draw lines in the sand" until or unless I am provoked or have reason to believe that my needs will not be met by the person I am communicating them to. Even then, the drawing of that line is not an indication that I am going to fight a duel, it's a confirmation that the person on the other side is not safe enough to be a member of my inner-circle.

Besides all of that, this was never about "MIL not respecting my wishes." It was about MIL exploiting those I love, disrespecting our privacy, and disregarding even our most basic needs. I have a feeling none of this is new to "been there."

MIL wearing white to your wedding, bad judgement, poor taste, yes, so what? Did you wear white to your own wedding even though you were pregnant? Either way, so what? You get my point. Again, it's so funny to me that she would pick this example out of my list, because to me (and other emotionally healthy individuals) it's a pretty clear example of just how far NMIL was willing to go to cross any and all boundaries, which is a major and legitimate concern in any relationship. In a Dr. Phil episode I watched not too long ago, (courtesy of Disturbed Angel over at Diary of a Scapegoat) a clearly-narcissistic mother was put in the spotlight by her two adult daughters, one of whom still felt deeply hurt because her mother had worn white to her wedding. When the NM pretended that she had "no idea" she wasn't supposed to wear white, Dr. Phil laughed and said, "Oh come on. Even I know a woman is never supposed to wear white to another woman's wedding." Leave it to a narcissist to down-play the fact that NMIL wore white to my wedding.

Then, she takes her defense of NMIL (and indeed, of herself, since she so obviously perceived narcissistic injury after reading my deposition) one step further by excusing NMIL's behaviors and insinuating that I deserved the abuse. She said, "so what?" and I read "get over it." NMIL wearing white to my wedding was not simply a moment of bad judgement, and to say so means that the person making such an assertion believes it possible that NMIL wore white accidentally. I have no doubts that NMIL wore white on purpose, that she knew exactly what she was doing, and that her every intention was to show up the bride, have a laugh with her friends, and continue to prove to her son that she could trample all over him and those he loves. She wanted everyone to know, including her son, that she could abuse whomever she wanted, and that she honestly believed her victims would keep crawling back for more. Wearing white to our wedding was much, much more than just "tacky." It was downright disgusting. And I'll tell you something, Dear Reader: I have seen NMIL in pictures at other people's weddings. I saw her in person at Pig's wedding. And out of the all the weddings I have seen her attend, the only one she wore white to was mine. It says a lot to me that she "knew enough" not to wear white to her son's friend's weddings, or her friend's daughter's weddings, or her own friend's weddings, but that she "didn't know" enough not to wear white to her own son's wedding.

And what it says is this: She knew exactly what she was doing when she showed up to our wedding wearing white.

"been there" probably wore white to her own DIL's wedding.

That is, if she was even invited.

Did you wear white to your own wedding even though you were pregnant? I'll chalk this up to a miss-read on "been there's" part. I did not indicate in my post that I was pregnant at the time of our wedding. For a brief second, I entertained the thought that "been there" was actually NMIL, since in reality I WAS in the very early stages of my second pregnancy when we got married and NMIL could have done the math at some point to have figured that out. But then I realized that "been there" was simply making a leap in logic (which, by sheer coincidence happened to be right) as a reason to justify excusing NMIL's behaviors.

The thing is, even if someone thinks it "wrong" for a pregnant woman to wear white to her own wedding, that doesn't give her the right to blatantly disrespect that same woman. Even if NMIL had known that I was pregnant, and supposing that she thought it wrong for me to wear white to my own wedding under that circumstance, and also supposing that she knew what color dress I was wearing to begin with, that still would not have made it okay for her to wear white to my wedding. Nice try "been there."

I would also like to point out, right now you hold all the cards. Your husband is willing to separate completely from his FOO for you!!! Isn't that enough? Yes, you can continue to drive a wedge between your husband and his FOO, whom he was probably quite content with, until someone else came along and decided to keep track of every slight and insult, as evidenced by the degree of your note taking over the past 2 years OR you can let go of your expectations that his family will ever treat you the way you feel you deserve to be treated. Hopefully, this family is only one small aspect of your life and you have other areas where you get your support and nurturing.

Pointing out that "I have all the cards" says more about this observer's own struggles with power than it does about my circumstances. Sharing her opinion that my husband is separating himself from his FOO for me offers serious insight into the driving motivation behind "been there's" relentless attack on me. Furthermore, I see here the same subtle accusation that I saw earlier: that the situation we are in (being cut-off from DH's FOO) is a bad one, and that it is entirely my fault. Seeming to not being able to suffer any more of her own narcissistic injury, she lets the more direct accusations fly: "You are driving a wedge between your husband and his family" and "He was probably content with his family, until YOU showed up" and "All your note-taking and record-keeping of every little slight has caused him to cut himself off from them." This woman is seriously off her rocker. Like, way off. She pegs her inaccurate perception of what I have done to my husband and his poor FOO against what she sees as my only option:

Either continue "driving the wedge" between my husband and his family

OR

Forget about ever being treated the way I feel I deserve to be treated by them

Woman, what in the hell are you smoking? That's a serious case of narcissism you've got going on there. You might want to see a doctor and get that shit checked out. Not only does this interpretation of my post not take into account that I am a human being with natural rights and needs that have to be respected, but it also paints my husband as being one heck of a wimpy dude. Again, not the first time I have seen that argument played out: DH has gotten this from his FOO from day one. "Be a man" they demanded of him, as though he somehow lost his manhood when he met me. "Don't be a pussy" they challenge, when he decided to cut them off because he saw such an unwillingness for them change. "She's controlling you" they insinuated, when he refused to do what they wanted. Again, it's an old argument and we've seen it before.

Hopefully, this family is only one small aspect of your life and you have other areas where you get your support and nurturing. I can so clearly see her separation here: the distinction between "my family" which is comprised of myself, DH, and our children, and the other (in her eyes) more important family which is comprised of DH, his mother, father, and siblings. And this is what she's really saying: Jonsi, separate yourself from that other family. They must only be a small part of your life, so ignore whatever nastiness they throw in your direction, accept that your husband should be okay with them treating you that way, and get the "support and nurturing" you need somewhere else.

Why would one hope that my in-laws only be a small aspect of my life? Doesn't it stand without reason that if someone is a big part of my husband's life, they will also be a big part of mine? Why should I not expect to be supported and nurtured by the people who claim to have supported and nurtured my husband his whole life? And why in hell should I ever let go of those expectations - whether for myself, for my husband, for my children...or even OF myself, and OF my husband? After all, I don't hold anyone to higher standards than I would hold myself.

And for the record, referring to me as "someone else" is a gnarly indication of "been there's" disregard for my humanity.

Hold your head up high and rise above all this petty rivalry. What is important here, is that you know your DH loves you, if his family doesn't, so be it. Drop those expectations right now and you won't be disappointed the next time DH FOO, behaves in their usual manner. When they succeed at hurting you, they win. Don't let your bruised ego dictate your behavior.

And, we're back to the "see how much I care about you" tactic. Except that the person she is calling "petty" is me. And the only feelings she has labeled "important" are her own. And she shows no empathy for Jonsi, who she herself acknowledges has not been shown love by her husband's FOO. And she thinks I should drop my standards so that I won't be disappointed by people shitting all over me. And she thinks those people have a right to shit all over me. And she indicates that MY behaviors are somehow bad.

I'm not even sure how she could possibly know what my behaviors have been, given that ninety percent of the list I offered were direct examples of NMIL's behaviors, rather than mine.

All the while this woman is pretending to have concerns for my well-being, she's actually just brushing off my needs and dismissing my feelings. She tells me that I'm the one with the bruised ego.

Ah. Well, you know, that's always fresh...coming from a narcissist.

Right now you are probably thinking, "What? Didn't this person read a word I wrote?" Well, I did read every word and some twice. I too have had a MIL from hell. Yes, it was a real bummer, but at the same time there is no way I am going to accept the responsibility of tearing apart a family that LOVES. Yes, it may be a very disfunctional way of showing it, but that is all they know. Penalizing these people for not conforming to your own idea of what a family is, will change nothing.

This person who is purporting to understand how I feel because she also had a "MIL from hell" is contradicting herself now. She says SHE won't be responsible for tearing apart a family that LOVES, meaning of course, that I am responsible for doing just that. She downplays her own supposed misfortune by saying that "having a MIL from hell" is just a "bummer" and one should just suck it up and live with it. But, the way I see it, having a "MIL from hell" is truly devastating - and not because of what that fact means for me. I am more saddened by my MIL's behaviors for what it means for my husband, than I am saddened or angry for myself. Because having a "MIL from hell" means that my husband has a MOTHER from hell. And no child or adult child should ever have to be faced with such an unfortunate and unfair circumstance.

And do you see the contradiction? Let me spell it out, in case you missed it:

you know your DH loves you, if his family doesn't [love you], so be it

accept the responsibility of tearing apart a family that LOVES

So my question is, in this black and white world, which is it? According to "been there," they either love, or they don't. First, she allows that DH's family probably doesn't love me. Then, she offers this blanket statement that they LOVE. Not that they love specifically, but that they have the capability of loving generally.

If the second assertion were accurate, then they would certainly be able to love me.

And I'll say again what I've said before: Conditional love is not love. And showing love under the "condition" of dysfunction is not showing love...it's showing dysfunction. Let's call a spade a spade here. Dysfunction and love are not even related, they are two separate themes within the dynamic of any relationship. One really doesn't have much to do with the other, except that they happen to co-exist together. But "love" is not something that can be shown in a "dysfunctional way." Love is just shown as love - it is pure and elegant and easy.

Are you using your list of slights as evidence to justify tearing this family apart? I'm sorry you have to endure the behavior of a sick individual, but life is tough. Did you think it would always be bliss?

This is not the first time I have been accused of "nitpicking" when it comes to how I have been treated by DH's FOO. (Right, right - NOTHING that I have listed could be seen as a major fuck-up on NMIL's part, I've just managed to over-react to every little slight that has occurred). It's also not the first time I have been accused of "tearing" his FOO apart. What I find interesting in these lines is the continued reference to "this family" which is creepy because it's almost as though "been there" has stopped talking about me and my story and is now talking about her own. It's also creepy because it's rather nauseating to me that so many people seem to want to separate me and my husband by splitting him down the emotional center and having one half belong to me and the other half belong to his parents. That's a concept that needs to be refuted in and of itself! My husband makes his own choices, now more than ever. It was not me that forced him to choose between his FOC and his FOO, nor was it me that demanded he strive to make everyone happy at the expense of himself.

Furthermore, I don't HAVE to endure the behavior of a sick individual, even if "been there" and others like her would have me do so. I am not obligated to "endure" anything. And that's precisely why I have chosen not to.

By being hell bent on cutting your DH from the herd, so that you are his only focal point, you are putting yourself in the same category as your MIL, "control freak". Trust me, your MIL could be alot worse. You don't have to love or respect your DH FOO, but respect your DH enough not to demand he choose between you and them, you will win in the short term, but the real looser would be your DH.

The phrase "cutting your DH from the herd," gives me the willies. Not only does it make me out to be the bad guy (see: imagery of a hungry lion separating an innocent baby deer from it's herd) but it also implies that DH suffers from some sort of wimpy pack-mentality.
Then she just comes right out and calls me a "control freak."

And THEN she trots out the old, "She could be worse" card. That falls right in with the "If she's not a genocidal dictator..." line.

And finally, she accuses me, once again, of demanding that my husband choose between "them" and "me."

On that last point: I never demanded that. And when "they" did, I'm glad he picked me.

Remember, you too, are a mother. Karma is a boomerang. I pray that you will never be in a position, when your son marries, that your own DIL will deem you unfit to have contact with your own DS and subsequent grandchildren. This would rip your heart out. I am sure your own MIL is no different. Please, I implore you, as one who has been there, choose the path of love. Be the change.

Unlike SOME people, I have never forgotten that I am a mother.

I know what karma is. I also know what condescension looks like. 

I also pray that I am never in a position where my DIL feels I am unfit to have contact with her husband or their children. Because if I make her feel that way, and she feels I am not safe to maintain a relationship with, then I will have failed in some very terrible way and I will be devastated for having hurt them.

My own MIL is very different. She has no heart.

I have chosen love. All along, and passionately so.

Good luck to you and your family. I hope it can remain a family.

What a way to end it, with all that contempt dripping off the end there. 

I don't have to hope that my family will remain a family. DH and I will nurture the bonds we have created. We will work at solving our problems and fixing our dysfunctions. We will be honest with each other and with the world around us. We will struggle together, live together, and love together for the rest of our days. We will keep our promises and we will do all we can to ensure that our children grow up with the best possible chance at succeeding in life. Our family will continue to change and grow. Our love and respect for each other will not flounder, it will not fester, and it will not stagnate.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Perfect Timing

I just posted a piece about justice today, and after doing so, happened to notice the following article in my blogroll: An Eye for an Eye: Reciprocal Justice or Perpetual Injustice? The article touched on a concept that I left out of my previous post, but it's something I feel fits in well with the subject of seeking justice. For your convenience, I have pulled out the excerpts I found most fitting (highlighting for emphasis mine):

As long as people continue to seek retribution and revenge they will perpetrate injustice. But it is widely recognized that peace will come only when participants in conflict respect each other’s needs and aspirations...The question of how best to secure justice and respond to injury is as old as time. And despite the more esoteric, intellectual thinking to the contrary that might occur in college classrooms or in dinner table discussions, the stark reality is that the old “eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth” axiom still dominates the mentalities of most aggrieved parties and their national representatives. This prescription for addressing injustice has been with us even since the days of Hammurabi’s Code and the early Torah. But its primary intention seems to have been...to ensure that victims were not deprived of fair and adequate compensation for losses they might have suffered. So the principle is really about a measured approach to seeking and meting out justice. But the more common mentality arising from this perspective has too often been a “you have smitten me so now I shall smite you” approach to settling scores. And history tells us that this approach does little to balance competing interests while doing a lot to perpetuate or even escalate conflict...

 Just about everyone seems to agree on what it would take for things in the region to be better and peace and justice to finally reign. So why aren’t those things happening? Perhaps the answer to that lies in the vested interests that would likely lose influence and power if true justice ever prevailed. The power-seekers among us aren’t of a mind to give it up easily once they’ve managed to secure it. And because the eye-for-an-eye mentality is so pervasive among them, one might be tempted to give up hope. But the cause of peace has a big if not yet fully appreciated ally in the information age. No longer can power-hungry despots and self-serving interests keep their true agendas and nefarious ways of advancing those agendas secret for long...Even the most carefully crafted propaganda campaigns eventually become exposed these days...The power mongers among us will eventually have to reckon with the fact that knowledge is power, too. And it’s perhaps just the power we all need to reckon much more effectively with the dominance-seekers among us.

Now, while the article as a whole was focused on the conflicts in the Middle East, I found the above quoted sections to be particularly relevant to some of the points I have been trying to make about whether or not narcissists ever experience justice. If you apply the ideas stated above to your own relationships with narcissists, you just might see some answers in your own quest for physical and emotional freedom from them. I think the key, according to the article, lies in finding solace in knowing that all narcissists will eventually reveal themselves for what they really are, and that YOU, Dear Reader, can not be the one to mete out whatever punishment they more-than-likely deserve for their crimes. 

Where Is The Justice?

It is not often that I am specifically asked my opinion by readers of my blog, so I am deeply honored when one does so. I have one such Faithful Reader who has asked my opinion on a subject that is particularly difficult for her. After reading this post, my Dear Reader (I will call her Faithful, as she refers to herself) asked:

I have meant to write you as I would like to ask you when possible if you could please write a post about something I have been struggling lately with, I would love your perspective on it as you and your blog have been the main thing giving me any hope of recovery.

The thing I have been struggling so much with is "Justice" do we children or spouses of ACONs ever get justice for what was done to us by the Ns????? Does the karma bus ever stop on their street? Either from the religious perspective or not there is any hopes of justice being made????

DH and I have suffered horrors at the hands of his NParents, vicious stalking for three years that included PI searching for us, restraining order, lawyer fees, court hearings, let down by law enforcement and the courts, constant moves and fear for our lives, financial loss to the point of poverty, isolation, loss of friends, loss of professional goals and career, character assassination, identity theft, I been struggling with depression and PTSD because of all this and cant even afford counseling, our marriage is deeply wounded and as I speak I don't know if we will make it, while all this is going on NMIL/ NFIL and the rest of the N on DH NFOO keep their status in their communities living a lavish lifestyle with everyone thinking they are this wonderful people who love to do charity and help others while their ungrateful son and daughter in law refuse to have anything to do with them! One book wouldn't be enough to write everything this sick people have done to us and where is justice?????? How can I get any sense of peace or closure???? Will the karma bus/God/justice ever catch up with them???? How we spouses and ACON find justice in the all that we go though? There's justice at all? I would love to hear your take on this.


Faithful, the questions you posed have proven to be one of the most difficult topics I've written about to date. I have been pondering your questions, and my answer to them, for weeks now. I wanted to give as thorough and thought-out a response as I could muster, while still doing justice to the questions you have asked. But before I begin my analysis, I want to first disclose a few things: I know exactly where you are coming from. In fact, I think I've asked the the same sort of rhetorical question, "Where is the justice?" here on my blog before. I feel an intense need to tell you that I don't have all the answers, and that the suggestions I will offer you here are nothing more than my opinions. In some cases, I know I won't have answers that are any more tangible than your own. I will offer them anyway, in the hopes that you (and others out there who may be asking the same questions) may have at least a little peace-of-mind.

But before I can discuss the ever-elusive answer to the question about whether or not our narcissists will ever experience justice for the wrongs they have committed, I'd like to first take a look at the meaning behind the word "justice." According to Dictionary.com, the meaning of the word "justice" is as follows:

1. The quality of being just; righteousness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.
2. Rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.
3. The moral principle determining just conduct.
4. Conformity to this principle, as manifested in conduct; just conduct, dealing, or treatment.
5. The administering of deserved punishment or reward.
a. the principle of fairness that like cases should be treated alike
b. a particular distribution of benefits and burdens fairly in accordance with a particular conception of what are to count as like cases
c. the principle that punishment should be proportionate to the offense
...is rendering to every one that which is his due. It has been distinguished from equity in this respect, that while justice means merely the doing what positive law demands, equity means the doing of what is fair and right in every separate case.

Etymology:

mid-12c., "the exercise of authority in vindication of right by assigning reward or punishment," from O.Fr. justise, from L. justitia "righteousness, equity," from justus "upright, just" (see just (adj.)). The O.Fr. word had widespread senses, including "uprightness, equity, vindication of right, court of justice, judge." The word began to be used in English c.1200 as a title for a judicial officer. Meaning "the administration of law" is from c.1300.


I think it is really important at this point to discuss what we mean when we're talking about the concept of "justice." Unfortunately, it is a difficult concept to easily define because, though there is a universal understanding of what the word means, it seems to be subject to discrepancy in what it signifies for us as individuals. For the sake of clarity, let's assume that the kind of "justice" we are talking about is one that pertains to the following two definitions:

1) Conformity to [the moral principle determining just conduct] as manifested in [the principle of fairness that like cases should be treated alike].
2) The administering of deserved punishment or reward.

What does the first point really mean, in layman's terms? There is this notion that all human beings are deserving of fair and equal treatment. We expect that our fellow humans will treat us kindly and with respect. The sense of indignity we feel when someone has been cruel to us is a result of the idea that we all have the right to be seen as equals; with valid thoughts and feelings of our own. In essence, we are supposed to conform to the principle which states that there should be as much dignity in treating others kindly as there is in being treated kindly by others. The way I see it, regardless of where we come from or the dysfunctions we face, we all have an innate duty to be virtuous insofar as how we conduct ourselves. We have a duty to ourselves and we have a duty to others. In the words of Immanuel Kant from his Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, "Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end."

In essence, what we're talking about is the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. Or, according to Wikipedia, "This concept describes a "reciprocal" or "two-way" relationship between one's self and others that involves both sides equally and in a mutual fashion. This concept can be studied from the perspective of psychology, philosophy, sociology, religion, etc. [In] psychologically it involves a person empathizing with others. Philosophically it involves a person perceiving their neighbor as also "an I" or "self." Sociologically, this principle is applicable between individuals, between groups, and between individuals and groups. (For example, a person living by this rule treats all people with consideration, not just members of his or her in-group.) Religion is an integral part of the history of this concept." The idea of reciprocity has been around for thousands of years, it is not new.

In terms of this first definition, I am sad to say that I do not believe it is a form of justice that narcissists will ever experience. Here's why: The key component that is missing from all narcissist's psyches is empathy. Narcissists do not feel for others, they are only capable of feeling for themselves. They do not view others as having worth or value, they do not perceive "their neighbor" (or children, or siblings, or friends, or in-laws) as also having 'an I' or 'self'" and therefore will never live according to the principles of reciprocity. They do not care about justice, because they live on a one-way street, in a house with a door that only swings one way. They will never treat you with kindness, dignity, and respect because they don't believe that you deserve it. The fact of the matter is, when a person truly believes that the rest of the world is only out there to serve him and fulfill his needs, he will never believe in or even understand the concept of justice.

However, all hope is not lost: Just because THEY don't understand the concept of justice, doesn't mean that it does not still affect them.

And here is where the second definition of justice, as outlined above, comes into effect: The administering of deserved punishment or reward. Here, Faithful, I can say that I believe the narcissists in our lives will experience justice. Though I can not say how that justice will get administered, or by whom the punishment will be served, I do believe that justice is a natural consequence for their actions; just as it is a natural consequence for our actions. Again, just because a narcissist does not believe in consequences, does not mean that they get to escape the natural outcome of their behaviors in life.

In my own personal experience dealing with narcissists, I have found justice in the following:

1. Finding and developing my own self-esteem. This was a crucial key for me in dealing with my own long-term relationship with a narcissist. I believe it is one of the first steps a person must take in order to disengage from an unhealthy relationship and see fully her own value and worth as being completely separate from that of any person who wishes to do her harm. When you realize your own self-worth, it becomes meaningless what ANY person (your significant other, parent, sibling, friend) thinks of you. When you stop allowing others to define who you are, it will no longer matter when they say, "You are worthless." How does this translate in my relationship with NMIL? Having already done the hard work years ago, by defining myself and assigning value to my person without outside interference, it was not hard for me to ignore the value she attempted to assign to me. I am the only person who has that right, no one else. So for me, the very first thing that comes to mind when I am looking for justice is the knowledge that, even if I have allowed my self-esteem to be damaged in the process of dealing with a cruel or manipulative person, it is not gone entirely and can be repaired. The only people who have hurt me in this life are the ones that I have allowed to hurt me. Though I can not control their behaviors, I can certainly control mine: And my self-esteem demands that I be treated with respect and kindness: I deserve nothing less. Faithful? My dear readers? I believe the same of you.

2. Knowing that a narcissist is a narcissist, in part, because their self-esteem has been so damaged (in most cases, I believe, irreparably). What does this mean? It means that you have something they don't: The strength to not allow anyone else to define you; the courage to find your own self-worth and build a strong-hold around it, that even the most persistent and cunning enemy can not crumble; the intellect and willingness to seek the truth, even when it hurts. What are narcissists, when you peel away their outer layer? They are cowards and wimps. They are ignorant and small. They are hopelessly pathetic and unabashedly villainous. The only "friends" they have in their inner-circle are those who share a similar plight: those who are equally weak, selfish, and ignorant. On a personal level, I find this knowledge to be refreshing. In the narcissist's delusional world, you are nothing but a prop, a puppet, or a tool. But in reality, it is they who are the pathetic ones.

3. Beating them at their own game. In terms of NMIL, I have beaten her at her own game. Hers was not a game I invented, or even one that I wanted to play. And yet, I still won. I was not the person who set up our relationship to be a win/lose dichotomy: she was. I was not the person who set up our relationship for inevitable failure: she was. I was not the one who forced her to lose her son and his FOC: she was. I am simply a person who expects that she and her loved ones be treated with kindness and consideration. I am a woman who believes that no one has the right to hurt me, my husband, or my children. She started this game and I finished it, simply by choosing not to participate. On top of that, I have the confidence to know that whatever daggers she throws in our direction will never reach their intended targets, for their is nothing she can do that will hurt us. The same can be said of EFIL and L, and any other narcissists who cross our paths. They have no power over me:

Source: Labyrinth (1986)

Jareth: Sarah, beware. I have been generous up 'til now. I can be very cruel.
Sarah
: Generous? What have you done that's generous?
Jareth
: Everything! Everything that you wanted I have done. You asked that the child be taken. I took him. You cowered before me, I was frightening. I have reordered time. I have turned the world upside down, and I have done it all for you! I am exhausted from living up to your expectations of me. Isn't that generous?
Sarah: Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great...You have no power over me. 

As in the clip from the movie shown above, where Sarah makes the revelation that her narcissist only has power over her if she allows it, so I have had to make similar realizations in dealing with the narcissists in my life. And again, once you realize they have no power over you, then the jig is up and they have lost: their world crumbles, they are rendered powerless. It does not matter that the goblins they are surrounded by will continue to worship them. It does not matter that they have used up all of their resources trying to attack and belittle you. It does not matter that they have not and will not change - whether you are in their life or not. What matters is that YOU have defined your own value and have stopped allowing them space inside your head. For me, there is a great sense of justice in knowing that I have what they want: I have happiness, I have DH, I have surrounded myself with truly loving and loyal family and friends. Yes Dear Reader, I have what they want, and what they want, they will never have.

4. They are miserable people. For me, there is also a great sense of justice in the fact that NMIL, EFIL and L, and other narcissists I have had the misfortune of knowing are not really happy people. There is justice in the fact that the closest they come to knowing the same happiness that I have known comes only in the form of seeing others experience it. No amount of money or power will ever help the narcissists achieve what I have achieved. I don't believe that justice will eventually come to the narcissists, because I think they are living it everyday. I don't see justice as being something that sneaks up on us in time, it's something that is always present. In my opinion, they won't have to wait until they are on their death bed to experience the kind of misery I think they deserve - every day is a new opportunity for those people to change the outcome of their own lives, and to become better, more enlightened, more honest people; and every day they choose NOT to, which means that they don't deserve to have my husband in their lives, they don't deserve to have my children in their lives, and they don't deserve to have me in their lives.

Don't be mistaken into believing they are happy and satisfied in their lives simply because they are on the receiving end of so much lavish praise and attention: for there is no true justice in being adored by fools. Don't be mistaken into believing they get everything that they want: for as long as they are in want of you, then they haven't won. Don't be mistaken into believing that they are not miserable in spite of their jubilant facade: for they are empty inside and will never know true happiness. While they are busy pretending that they have it all, you have to allow that it's just another of their lies. The narcissist doesn't have it all and, as long as you are not willing to be their victim, they never will.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What Betrayal Looks Like

The following is an excerpt from Luke Ministries. It's a must-read, in my opinion, and represents some of the many ways a person might betray you. To see the article in it's entirety, click here. This checklist represents a fantastic means to help yourself identify whether a person in your life is worth keeping around or whether they need to be thrown away with the rest of the garbage.

I would love to add to this list, if anyone has suggestions. [My additions in brackets] Suggestions from others in red.

What Betrayal Looks Like:

BADMOUTHING YOU OR GOSSIPING ABOUT YOU TO OTHERS

LYING ABOUT YOU

LYING TO YOU, DECEIVING YOU, MISLEADING YOU

REVEALING A SECRET

ONE PARENT NOT PROTECTING YOU FROM THE ABUSE OF THE OTHER PARENT

ONE SIBLING HAVING AN AFFAIR WITH THE OTHER SIBLING’S SPOUSE

TURNING SOMEONE AGAINST YOU, OR TRYING TO TURN SOMEONE AGAINST YOU

SABOTAGING A JOB OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU

[SABOTAGING A JOB YOU ALREADY HAVE]

SABOTAGING ANOTHER RELATIONSHIP FOR YOU

TAKING AN ENEMY’S SIDE AGAINST YOU

USING SOMETHING SHE KNOWS ABOUT YOU, OR A PAST HURT YOU HAVE TOLD HER ABOUT, AGAINST YOU

REVEALING PERSONAL INFORMATION [ABOUT YOU]

STEALING FROM YOU (MONEY OR MATERIAL POSSESSIONS, BUT ALSO FRIENDS, HUSBANDS, BOYFRIENDS, ETC.)

DELIBERATELY HURTING YOU

COMPLAINING ABOUT YOU TO OTHERS

GIVING INFORMATION ABOUT YOU TO A RIVAL OR AN ENEMY, PASSING ON ANY INFORMATION TO ANYONE THAT SHE KNOWS DOES NOT GET ALONG WITH YOU

SNEAKING BEHIND YOUR BACK TO DO ANYTHING EXCEPT THROW YOU A SURPRISE PARTY

ANY KIND OF EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL, SUCH AS SHUNNING OR DISOWNING YOU, OR THREATENING TO, BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT DOING WHAT SHE WANTS YOU TO DO

MEDDLING IN ANY SITUATION IN YOUR LIFE WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION - OR WORSE, WITHOUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE

TRYING TO INFLUENCE YOU TO DO ANYTHING THAT WOULD BE TO YOUR DETRIMENT

TRYING TO FORCE, PRESSURE, OR MANIPULATE YOU TO DO ANYTHING YOU DON’T WANT TO DO, OR ARE UNCOMFORTABLE ABOUT

INSTIGATING YOU TO FIGHT WITH OR LEAVE SOMEONE YOU LOVE, OR TO LEAVE A JOB YOU LOVE, A CAREER YOU LOVE, A HOME YOU LOVE, ETC

EXPECTING YOU TO LIE, COVER-UP, OR GO AGAINST YOUR CONSCIENCE

DISCREDITING YOU WHEN YOU SPEAK THE TRUTH ABOUT ANYTHING, INCLUDING SOMEONE ELSE’S EVIL OR ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR

DISRESPECTING YOUR PRIVACY, SNOOPING, ETC


HIRING THIRD PARTIES, SUCH AS PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS TO FIND/HARASS/STALK YOU (Tundra Woman)

SPYING ON YOU FOR SOMEONE ELSE, PROBING FOR INFORMATION WHICH SHE WILL THEN PASS ALONG

PRESSURING YOU OR EXPECTING YOU TO TOLERATE ABUSE

BEHAVING IN ANY WAY THAT IS AGAINST YOUR BEST INTERESTS

ENDANGERING YOU, YOUR CHILDREN, OR YOUR LOVED ONES, OR EXPOSING ANY OF YOU TO AN EVIL PERSON

BEING DISHONEST WITH YOU

HIDING SOMETHING FROM YOU


FALSELY ACCUSING YOU

EXPLOITING OR USING YOU

BEFRIENDING YOUR ENEMIES, OR MAKING A POINT OF BEFRIENDING YOUR EX-FRIENDS OR EX-LOVERS

INSISTING ON KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE NO LONGER SPEAKING TO YOU, AND WITH WHOM SHE HAS NO CONNECTION OTHER THAN KNOWING THEM THROUGH YOU

SACRIFICING YOU FOR HER OWN SELFISH PURPOSES, SUCH AS EXPOSING YOU TO AN ABUSIVE PERSON SHE CHOOSES TO STAY WITH. WE KNOW SEVERAL CASES OF MOTHERS WHO ARE STILL MARRIED, DECADES LATER, TO HUSBANDS WHO RAPED THEIR CHILDREN

DEFENDING ONE WHO HAS DONE HARM TO YOU

MINIMIZING YOUR FEELINGS OR CRITICIZING YOU FOR NOT “GETTING OVER IT” IMMEDIATELY WHEN SHE OR SOMEONE ELSE HAS HURT YOU

NOT SUPPORTING YOU WHEN A WRONG HAS BEEN DONE TO YOU

COPYING EVERYTHING YOU DO, INCLUDING FLIRTING WITH YOUR BOYFRIEND, OR TRYING TO MAKE YOUR FRIENDS HER FRIENDS BY CALLING THEM WITHOUT INCLUDING YOU - AS IF SHE WAS TRYING TO TAKE OVER YOUR WHOLE LIFE

A New Project

I had a brilliant idea last night. I am going to compile all the documentation that I've kept over the past few years and turn it into a book, of sorts. I want to collect all of my "evidence of narcissism," including the posts I've written here on my blog, any stuff and nonsense that has been sent to us that I've kept in a file, and DH's blog posts. I'll photocopy old cards that were sent to us and write up my analysis of them if I haven't already done so on my blog. Then, when I've gotten everything together, I'll start my book project.

Someday, when it's "done" and I've said all I wanted to say on the matter, I'll have it bound and keep it on our bookshelves as a history, so to speak. I believe it is important to document what has gone on these past few years concerning DH's FOO. I want it to be public knowledge that our children know what has happened and see the struggles their daddy has gone through. I want them to know where he came from and see how hard he has worked, and will continue working, to break the dysfunctional chains his parents wrapped so tightly around him. If our children so choose, they can share that history with their children as well.

I think it is crucial that we share with our descendents their history - all facets, good and bad. Doing so may not prevent such ugliness in their own lives, but it is, at least, a start. I hope I can help my children open their eyes, so that they are awake and aware.

I've also toyed with the idea of leaving a copy somewhere in the house the next time we do major construction, like behind a wall or under a loose floorboard. There is something very liberating to me about the idea that I can share this bit of history with others...that they can hold it in their hands and be enlightened, even if they only happen upon it accidentally. Through that piece of writing, they too can know of my husband's struggles and our fight to break free.

[Whispering] You want to know a secret? I'll let you in on it. What the narcissists hate most of all is to be revealed. They hate those they can not fool. They feel powerless when they are exposed. You want some of your power back, Dear Reader? Then expose them. In whatever way you can, with whatever courage you can muster (and I know you have it in you): Expose them. A little bit at a time, or all at once, it doesn't matter. If you keep fighting the good fight, the narcissists don't stand a chance. You can do it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dreams and Reality

I had some horrible dreams last night, all of them very in depth and detail-oriented, all of the about DH's parents. I'd wake up from one dream, think about it for a few minutes, and then doze into another restless sleep that was wrought with more of the same message from my subconscious: These evil people are after you and those you love. Beware.

All my life, I've had very vivid dreams, and I've always been a big believer in the idea that dreams are our subconscious brains' method of communicating to our conscious selves. Our dreams reveal our deepest fears, desires, and longings. They show us that which we may not want to deal with during our waking hours, and can often times force us to deal with issues we are afraid of. In my case, I don't think last night's dreams revealed any fears that I haven't already dealt with; but they did make me more aware of the fact that DH and I are not yet completely free of the anxieties that plagued us in years past.

The following are snippets of last night's dreams that I remember most vividly:

- In one dream, EFIL and L were having dinner at my parent's house. DH, our children, EFIL and L, and my parents were all seated around the dinner table and I felt increasingly hostile towards EFIL and L as the meal wore on. At times, I felt as though I were more an observer than a participant in the dream, and at one point, I was even floating over the table, as though I were there in spirit rather than in person. What I remember most clearly about this particular dream was the moment in which EFIL and L attempted to bribe us with money. I do not know what they wanted in return, but I do know that they were making subtle attempts to get us to capitulate with them by insinuating that they had a lot of money to give us, if only we did what they wanted. L commented that she had just won first prize in a gardening competition, and in my dreamscape, I understood that to mean that there was a lot of money involved. My mom made a sarcastic comment to me along the lines of, "Gee, I guess you better reconsider their offer." And the way she said it made me feel that she knew exactly what they were up to and she was letting me know that I wasn't wrong in my unspoken assessment.

- In that same dream, EFIL and L began making comments about how "Science isn't real" which greatly angered me. I felt that they were insinuating that our reality wasn't real because it didn't jive with theirs. I also knew that they were presenting their "side" of things (ie Christianity, or more specifically, their version of it) as being superior to ours. In my dream world, the juxtaposition between "us" and "them" was represented in the very obvious and age-old argument of science vs. religion. In the real world, those two "sides" have been fighting each other since the dawn of time, neither side ever really being able to coincide in harmony with the other. At one point, I muttered, "Well, there is science in gardening" as a way to try and show them how absurd it was to say that "Science isn't real" and perhaps as an attempt to show them that our world (as represented by science) and their world (as represented by L's gardening) CAN exist together.

- In another dream, I heard noises in our bathroom and when I went to investigate, I discovered a naked man standing in the landing of our attic. I knew that he wasn't the real threat, and that he was hiding something or someone who meant me harm. I accosted him, asking why he was there and what he wanted. He revealed to me that NMIL was up in our attic, that she had had sex with him there, and that she had also been sleeping with all of my ex-boyfriends. He then hurriedly got dressed and left. When I looked up the attic stairs, it was very dark and I could see NMIL's shape outlined by the faintest bit of light. She was also naked and she began throwing things from the attic at me. I quickly closed the door.

- I woke up from that dream, but when I went back to sleep, I could not shake the images from my brain and felt as though I had tumbled back into the same exact dream. I stood outside the attic door and tried to figure out how to get her out of there. This time, in the dream, I understood her to be a witch, even though I hadn't seen her true form to know what she looked like.

- What I suppose can be called a "battle" ensued. In my dream, NMIL was always shrouded in darkness and she hurled curses at me and my children. Her "curses" were nothing more than chants and words, but I could see them so I could evade them. I remember at one point I began reading from a pile of books in an attempt to find counter-curses and a means to destroy NMIL.

- I don't know if she ended up hitting me with a curse, but in the same dream, for a while I was incapacitated and lying in a bed. I was paralyzed. I could not move or speak, but I could think. I kept thinking.

- The worst part of the dream for me was when NMIL hit DD with some kind of curse and for a while she was paralyzed as well. In the dream, I felt as though she were somehow possessed. Eventually, when I was able to resuscitate her (an endeavor I carried on for what felt like hours and hours because I refused to give up) she bore a strange mark, etched into her skin, on the back of her shoulder. I couldn't read the word because it only looked like a jumble of letters to me, but it bothered me terribly because I knew NMIL put it there and that it wouldn't go away.

DH and I talked about these dreams this morning and came up with a couple of thoughts about them: NMIL's presence in our attic, as well as her promiscuous behaviors with my exes, represents her clear and continued attempts to cross my boundaries, as well as her often-times heinous intrusion on my privacy. In real life, our attic represents a special place in the house - it's where I keep some of our most treasured memories. For instance, each of my baby's has a bucket, where I put their keepsakes and most special things. As other examples, DH and I keep our wedding mementos in the attic: pictures, invitations, my dress. And, I even have a box of my old journals up there, all of which obviously contain very personal information about me - some of them even contain entries that I wrote while I was dating. If there is any room in our house where NMIL's presence would feel like a real invasion, it's definitely our attic; thus that was prime location in my dream.

Something I think is interesting: In both the dream, and in the real world, I did not have any sense of shame or embarrassment in knowing that NMIL had slept with my exes, nor over the knowledge that she was probably going through our memories in the attic. Actually, I wasn't angry about it either. It was just kind of matter-of-fact, much like it would be if I knew we had an infestation of vermin up there. "Yup. Evil NMIL is up there, naked, in my attic. Now how do I get her out of there?" Perhaps this is because I know that I have nothing to hide. Perhaps it is because she could literally sleep with my exes in real life and I really wouldn't care (several of them were schmucks anyway - and one, in particular, would be a perfect match for her as he was also a narcissist). But either way, I didn't feel uneasy about the fact that NMIL was apparently trying to "dig up" information about my past.

I believe her nudity in my dream was actually a symbol of her powerlessness. She is fully exposed. Even when I can't see her because she is shrouded in darkness or because she is not "present" in our lives, I can and will always be able to See her.

I think that the act of NMIL throwing things from our attic at me, was a further representation of my feeling that NMIL would use anything, including information she may think is out there about me, to try and hurt us. In other words, she is exactly the kind of person who might attempt to stick her nose in the pasts of her enemies, in order to attempt to maim them with whatever information she might possibly dig up. She'll throw your own shit at you if she can get her hands on it.

NMIL's only "power" in my dream was in her words. That's all she has in real life and so that is all she was allowed in my dream. Her constant attempts to hurt me and my babies was obvious in her relentless attacks. The word etched into my daughter's back represents my greatest fear: that any harm will come to my babies - to those I am sworn to protect - and that I will not be able to erase it. In dreams where NMIL is present, I am ALWAYS the barrier between her and my babies (and often my husband too). They are always there, and I am always fighting to protect them from her.

She is ALWAYS a hag or a witch of some sort, and her only and constant companion is darkness. That is true in both dreams and in reality.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Rigged Game

The following is dialog from the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975) starring Jack Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy and Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched. For anyone who has never seen the film, I would highly recommend it, though not for the sake of "enjoyment" per se. Word to the wise, it's a difficult film to watch due to the intense subject matter, and I think it might be even more difficult for ACoNs. The following dialog is a conversation that takes place between McMurphy and the head doctor of the mental institution:

Dr. Spivey: Do you like it here?
McMurphy: Well...that fucking nurse man...
Dr. Spivey: What do you mean, sir?
McMurphy: She uh, she ain't honest.
Dr. Spivey: Now look, Miss Ratched's one of the finest nurses we've got in this institution.
McMurphy: Laughs. Well I don't wanna break up the meeting or nothing, but she's something of a cunt, aint she doc?
Dr. Spivey: How do you mean that?
McMurphy: She likes a rigged game, if you know what I mean.


Some background information on Nurse Ratched, for those who have not seen the movie or read the book (according to SparkNotes - I found their analysis of her character to be accurate):

Nurse Ratched - The head of the hospital ward. Nurse Ratched, the novel’s antagonist, is a middle-aged former army nurse. She rules her ward with an iron hand and masks her humanity and femininity behind a stiff, patronizing facade. She selects her staff for their submissiveness, and she weakens her patients through a psychologically manipulative program designed to destroy their self-esteem. Ratched’s emasculating, mechanical ways slowly drain all traces of humanity from her patients...She enters the novel, and the ward, “with a gust of cold.” Ratched has complete control over every aspect of the ward, as well as almost complete control over her own emotions. In the first few pages we see her show her “hideous self” to Bromden and the aides, only to regain her doll-like composure before any of the patients catch a glimpse. Her ability to present a false self suggests that the mechanistic and oppressive forces in society gain ascendance through the dishonesty of the powerful. Without being aware of the oppression, the quiet and docile slowly become weakened and gradually are subsumed...She is able to act like “an angel of mercy” while at the same time shaming the patients into submission; she knows their weak spots and exactly where to peck. The patients try to please her during the Group Meetings by airing their dirtiest, darkest secrets, and then they feel deeply ashamed for how she made them act, even though they have done nothing. She maintains her power by the strategic use of shame and guilt, as well as by a determination to “divide and conquer” her patients...McMurphy manages to ruffle Ratched...he is not taken in by her thin facade of compassion or her falsely therapeutic tactics.

Whether or not you have seen the movie or read the book, I believe that Nurse Ratched is the perfect representation of a Narcissistic mother, right down to her use of manipulation and shame/guilt tactics to control her "children." One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest also illustrates what ACoNs are up against when dealing with their attempts to prove that they have been abused. The abuses Nurse Ratched inflicts on her "children" are often so subtle, and her ability to deceive even the most intelligent of doctors she works with, is evidence of precisely what ACoN's and my fellow-Jonsies of the world find themselves up against. After watching the film recently (the last time I had seen it was several years ago) I was really struck by the precise poignancy of the short dialog I just shared with you. R.P. McMurphy gets it - he Sees exactly what Nurse Ratched is, even though she's got so many people fooled by her elaborate facade. And doesn't he sum it up well? "She's something of a cunt." And "She ain't honest." And "She likes a rigged game."

My advice? Keep fighting the good fight. There ain't gonna be no fucking lobotomies here.