Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Big Bang Theory

I've been thinking recently that there really is no such thing as a coincidence whenever you might find yourself treading in the realm of a narcissist. Chances are good that, if you find yourself wondering about the likelihood that a certain event or behavior is a coincidence, it's actually just a carefully laid plan in disguise. Your coincidental circumstance is their premeditated calculation. And, at the risk that this might sound like some crazy conspiracy theory, I kind of believe that literally ALL of their premeditated calculations are meant to culminate in some final Big Bang. It's as though, if you were to add up all of those bizarre little coincidences, you would end up with a picture of what the narcissist is really after: and the sum of all those seemingly insignificant parts has everything to do with power and control.

NMIL is not unlike a pedophile, in that she grooms her victims, starting at a young age if possible, until they are too afraid, naive, and dependent to escape her abuses. Her current victim and supplier of her biggest cash-out in NS is, of course, her mini-me daughter. I had this thought recently, while talking with a dear friend of mine, that coincidences are few and far between when it comes to narcissists, and then BAM! out jumped another one of those very coincidences I was referring to:

During my cyber-sleuthing, I found out where NSIL decided to go to college. And then I put two-and-two together and realized that she'll be attending her NM's alma mater. Then, I took that one step further and remembered what DH said about his own choice of where he'd attend college: he'd always felt that somehow, the choice of where he'd be going to school had been made for him. Granted, he didn't go to his NM's alma mater, but that's not really the creepy part in his story, the creepy part lies just in the fact that his mother somehow made that decision for him and then tricked him into believing, at least superficially, that he had made the decision himself. What does the fact that NSIL will be attending her NM's alma mater have to do with narcissism? In the big picture, I see it just being another grain of rice filling the jar - eventually, literally every bit of the NSIL-that-could-have-been will be replaced with NMIL, and there will be nothing left of NSIL to save. Her attending NMIL's alma mater is just one more of those coincidences-that-probably-isn't-a-coincidence that will culminate in the Big Bang that NMIL is hoping for: a truly dependent daughter who will never...ever...EVER leave her.

Creepy, isn't it?

What about you, Dear Readers. Can you recall any times when the "coincidences" with your narcs seemed way too contrived to be truly coincidental?

The Itch

We recently learned that DS has several rather serious food allergies, which ultimately resulted in a very uncomfortable and extensive rash all over his body that recently became infected. He's had eczema since he was about six months old, and I've tried every possible external remedy I could before taking him to be tested for allergies. The poor kid has had itchy skin for months now, and I finally decided, after it took a turn for the worse, that no amount of lotions, ointments, or oatmeal baths was going to fix this particular problem. As it turns out, he's allergic to dairy, wheat/gluten, and tree nuts (on the food side) and cats and dogs (on the environmental side). Needless to say, such extensive allergies make it difficult to find foods that he can eat, and we've had to find a home for our cat. (To that end, she's gone to live with my aunt, who happens to be quite the cat-lover and only lives down the street from us, so we can visit her any time).

Anyway, the reason I'm sharing this with you is because the situation got me thinking about how DH's FOO might have treated our son's allergies, if we were still in contact with them. The conclusion I came to is that they probably would have treated his allergies the same way they treated everything else in life: inappropriately. I had this vision in my mind, of going to visit EFIL and L, and seeing them carelessly trying to give DS a food that he couldn't have. How NMIL might have handled it, I'm really not sure. The subject of FOOD always seemed to be her THING, if you know what I mean, and I'm fairly certain that she'd have felt stuck between her natural state of emptiness (in which no one's well-being came before her own) and her ever-present desire to keep up appearances. Her dilemma would have been in reconciling her lack of caring for our son with her desire to make it look like she does. Neither of DH's parents were close enough to us to know anything about DS's state of health, so it's likely that the only way they'd have found out about his allergies would be when we showed up to either of their houses with already-prepared specialty foods for our kids.

And what really got me pondering the whole "What Would DH's Parents Do?" [WWDHPD] thing was the reality of how my own family reacted.  In my FOO, there is no way that everyone wouldn't know about how our children are doing: mentally, physically or emotionally. My mother called everyday after we got DS's diagnosis to find out how he was doing and if he was feeling any better. Right now, he's in the middle of his antibiotic-rations that are helping to clear up the infection, and my mother and I have already discussed the situation, including what kinds of foods she can keep at her house that are safe for our children to eat. I also expressed to her that it was important to me that we try not to eat foods in front of him that he can't have (although we all know that isn't always possible, we are going to give it a try). She agreed, as I knew she would, and we discussed alternatives to favorite meals that we could have or bring whenever we go over for dinner (which is often). Between DH and I, we're already stocking our pantry with safe foods and re-thinking our daily diet so that everyone's nutritional needs are met without anyone feeling left out.

For the life of me, I just can't see DH's FOO approaching this situation, which doesn't have to be a big deal as long as everyone is willing to respect our son's needs, with the same amount of diligence or respect. Instead, I think they would have chosen to remain annoyingly ignorant (EFIL and L) and superficially considerate (NMIL). I'm basing this vision on the reality of our relationship with DH's FOO in early-to-mid 2010, when we were still in contact with them but didn't see them more than once every month or so. There isn't much standing in the way of my conviction that they'd have handled DS's condition inappropriately. I could see EFIL and L saying things like, "It's just ONE peanut, it's not going to hurt him!" I could see them offering ice cream to their guests, with little to no consideration that such an action would be rather cruel to a little boy who can't touch the stuff. I could see them offering up such insights as, "Well, he had a sip of milk one time and nothing happened, why couldn't he have some now?" They are the type of people who wouldn't have understood, wouldn't have respected our requests, and wouldn't have tried to, beyond a very superficial attempt. NMIL, on the other hand, probably would have run out to the local health food store any time we came for a visit, bought out the entire allergen-free section so that she could tell her friends just how much she cared, and then sent it home with us when we left, since we wouldn't be seeing her for another three months anyway.

When you compare that to the way my family behaves, it's like a whole other world entirely. I think the moment that really got me was when my mom asked my permission to give something to DS. There she was, having been a parent of young children herself, having dealt with very serious food allergies in the kids she watched at her daycare, and she was asking for my permission to give something to her grandson. It didn't hurt her feelings or belittle her self-worth to do so. It was just matter of fact: she trusted that DH and I are the experts and respected our requests for his new dietary needs. And beyond that, she cares. She just does.  As it is NMIL's nature to be empty, it is my mother's to be loving and empathetic. She genuinely cares about the well-being of her children and grandchildren. It was this defining moment, this presentation of her love, that got me thinking about NMIL and EFIL's lack thereof.

As for DS, his skin has never looked so good, and he scratches less and less everyday. It always bothered me that no matter what I did before, he was always scratching his exposed skin with little apparent relief. It seems now that between the current antibiotics and our new diet, his skin is clearing up and he's experiencing some long-awaited relief.

Friday, May 11, 2012

How Dare I Be So Beautiful?

Give NSIL a little time and she'll be as adept at narcissistic games as her mother. She suffers from severely depleted levels of self-esteem.  Like her brother, she's likely suffered at the hands of her NM all her life - having been constantly attacked with underhanded jokes at her expense has left her feeling ugly, worthless, and empty - a feeling that will probably follow her around until the day she dies. My guess is that her weight has always been an issue, because her evil mother has always made it so. She will likely continue the legacy by believing her mother's lies and accepting her mother's torments. She has allowed her mother's "reality" to perpetuate her own system of beliefs. Her twitter account is [currently] private, which means most people don't actually have access to these pictures, except for the people she has given permission to view photos such as these. I did some cyber-sleuthing to find [a self-portrait of NSIL, which she took in her bathroom mirror, captioned: Cuz I feel skinny today. HI Haterz], which means that the "haterz" she is addressing are actually people she has given permission to view her tweets/photos. Narcissists must have coined the term "frenemies," cause I sure as hell don't know anyone who would give their "haterz" access to photos like [the ones I see of her]. The ever-obnoxious Exhibit A left the following comment on one of her photos, "Girl, you sexy mama!" Hint: "Today" she feels beautiful. Yesterday, she did not, and tomorrow, she'll go back to hating herself. If her mother ever sees this photograph, she'll probably be jealous because her daughter will always have something that she herself can not have: youth. Even when this girl is fifty, she'll still be younger and "prettier" than her mother. Let the evidence stand - this girl is "in love" with her own reflection. NSIL "will live to a ripe old age, as long as [she] never knows [herself]." She's basing the fact that people "hate" her solely on her looks; superficial is as superficial does. There are many photos to be found  (at least until she sets this particular account to "private "as well) - nearly every photo is the same: a projection of how she wants the world to see her. The internet is truly today's version of Narcissus' lake in the classic Narcissus Myth.  She's no more a "sister-in-law" than she ever was a "sister." As with her mother, I would not be the "mirror" she wanted me to be. I refused to accept the projected image she wanted me to see.
**Credit for title of post: "Supper's Ready" by Genesis

Friday, May 4, 2012

False Pretenses

I don't think that I will ever fully understand the heartlessness behind the actions of a narcissist. I can't understand it because to truly understand would mean that I would have to experience some of what they experience on a daily basis. And, unlike a narcissist, I have empathy. Unlike a narcissist, I am able to feel for others. Because of my ability to empathize, an ability that is the very essence of humanity, I will never be able to fully wrap my mind around the fact that some people are not capable of exuding that which separates the good guys from the bad guys; good from evil; dark from light.

Narcissists seem to believe their own lies. Since they are able to walk the earth merely feigning what is reality for the rest of us, they quite literally live on a different plane entirely. Their reality is not our reality. Fortunately, the fact that they believe the tales they spin does not mean that those tales are truth.

I have stumbled upon yet another estranged parent's "letter of amends," a letter that I know my regular readers will likely recognize right away. What strikes me most about it is that the parents using it don't seem to realize that it doesn't even come close to appearing genuine. The very act of using a form letter in an attempt to "make amends" with their estranged offspring does nothing but further prove that they live in a fantasy world: where power and control is the name of the game and manipulation is the key to achieving it. How empty, how dead, how uncaring must a person be to not only use a form letter to communicate with their adult child, but to actually believe that they can take credit for the message? This letter, which I have seen several times now from a couple of different sources, is nothing but a lie; a farce; a message designed by one person that is being used by countless others to convey a message that they are incapable of creating on their own or believing under any circumstances. And it makes me wonder, if all the estranged adult children out there that have received it knew that it was nothing but a form letter, would that make them be any less likely to reconcile with the heartless person who sent it to them?

The following are several short posts (with some analysis from me between each entry) from one estranged parent on one of our favorite EP stomping grounds. Italicized text represents the EP's text:

Title of Post: My message to ED (with help from counselor)
by: Isinsoprano
Posted on: April 5, 2012
Posted at: DailyStrength - Christian Parents With Estranged Adult Children

Dear (Ed) -

You are my one and only daughter and I love you dearly. I know our severed relationship must be as painful for you as it has been for me.

It's heartbreaking as your mom to not be able to see or talk to you. I miss you, XXXX, XXXX and XXXX every single day. A close relationship with my children is the most important thing in the world to me.

Your dad and I want to make amends and are willing to talk about whatever is important to you, and we hope talking will move us closer together. We do want to hear what you feel and would always be open to a letter, a phone call or meeting with a family counselor if that would be helpful.

I pray that we will hear from you soon.

Love, Mom

So friends as you can see it's very brief, but as the counselor said it shows affection, appreciation, affirmation and and opening for reconciliation. I can't begin to tell you all how much I agonized over this before sending it out. But, I can't express the relief I've felt since sending it as our correspondence during our estrangement has been angry and bitter...on both sides.

I feel blessed that my EO aren't involved in drugs or alcohol and consider themselves to be Christians so I know my circumstances haven't been as painful as many of you. But no matter the reason for the estrangement, the pain of separation from loved ones is identical. 

The counselor asked us what we considered the greatest obstacle for our daughter in reconciling with us and we told him our E-SIL who is very much the "victim" and plays on our ED sympathies. (In our opinion, his way of controlling her.) 

Now we wait to see if she has the courage to reply and move forward. All in God's timing.

The problem with this letter isn't necessarily that it started out as a form letter; the problem is that it was not modified enough to apply to whatever this woman's situation is with her estranged adult child. The details that would separate this estrangement from any other are oddly absent; and, like NMIL, Isingsoprano fails to realize that the "personal touch" of adding a few names to the form falls far short of creating a genuine-sounding letter. This is not the "real deal," insofar as true reconciliation-driven communication is concerned. A person who was truly interested in reconciling would add details to this devoid-of-emotion piece of writing. The idea of a form is that it is meant to be personalized - think about when you go to the doctor's office and they hand you a form to fill out - it's not made personal until you add your name, birth date, medical history, contact information, etc. Without that information, the doctor and staff would have a hard time differentiating between all of their patients. The idea is similar with these ridiculous form letters being sent out by estranged parents everywhere - a form letter is a form letter is a form letter, unless more information is given. The fact of the matter is that these "letters of amends" are as empty of meaning as the people who wrote them.

With this particular form letter, we are lucky enough to have some further insight from this estranged parent, because she so kindly thought to write about her situation on a public forum. And the information presented immediately after the letter (which her daughter is obviously not privy to) proves to be very interesting indeed. She says that her counselor told her that the letter "shows affection, appreciation, affirmation and and opening for reconciliation." If her counselor is indeed the creator of the original form letter, than I hold even more disdain for him than I originally thought, for no caring doctor would ever send a parent out into the world with such a potential weapon as this form letter. If her counselor is someone other than Dr. Coleman, than I find myself wondering how uninformed he or she might be. Even before I knew that NMIL's letter of amends was a form letter, I found it to be disingenuous and robotic. To see this letter as a show of affection is just absurd.

Perhaps the most intriguing and disturbing aspect of Ising's clarification following her letter is this: "The counselor asked us what we considered the greatest obstacle for our daughter in reconciling with us and we told him our E-SIL who is very much the "victim" and plays on our ED sympathies. (In our opinion, his way of controlling her.)" Why is it that the responsibility for this estrangement lies entirely on her daughter and son-in-law's shoulders, and why is Ising so incapable of delving into even the shallows of her own psyche? What I am much more interested in than her appreciation of a good blame-game is Ising's opinion of what she considers her OWN greatest obstacle for reconciling with her estranged daughter and son-in-law. My thought is that she believes the one greatest obstacle she has towards reconciling with her daughter is...her daughter. What she fails to realize is the truth: that her greatest obstacle to reconciliation is herself.

But, as with the omission from NMIL's letter, there is perhaps one very telling line, not in the original form letter, that gives away more than Ising probably intended: A close relationship with my children is the most important thing in the world to me. My thoughts? What should be more important to this woman than having a close relationship with her children is her children's happiness. It is unnatural for any mother, for any parent, to have a close relationship with her children beyond what is healthy, and it sounds to me like this woman's relationship with her daughter is a co-dependent one, rather than a healthy one.

This mother can talk the talk but she can't walk the walk. She doesn't believe in the meaning behind the words she has written, and that is apparent when she calls her daughter a coward: "Now we wait to see if she has the courage to reply and move forward." Her oh-so-kind, carefully copied letter tries to convey a message that she does not actually feel: that she respects and loves her daughter unconditionally. In reality though, she sits here calling her daughter a coward and an easily-controlled moron. In my opinion, it often takes more courage for an estranged adult child to ignore her parent's tactics of manipulation and guilt-peddling, than it does to respond to them. 

Title of Post: FINALLY heard from ED re: the "amends" letter I wrote
by: Isinsoprano
Posted on: April 23, 2012
Posted at: DailyStrength - Christian Parents With Estranged Adult Children 

Yes friends, you read that correctly. We did hear back from our ED answering the amends letter I mailed her. After waiting 2-1/2 weeks I was told I had to "prove" to her that I had changed and I was "right" with God!

Haven't responded yet, and won't until I talk to our counselor. I AM FUMING!!!!!

Advice, anyone?

This woman couldn't have proven my point any better than with these words. Any person who is claiming to be "willing to talk," under the guise of wanting to reconcile, and who has truly acknowledged her own responsibility for the estrangement has no business being impatient when her child decides to respond at her own pace. A mother who truly recognized her fault would not be pumping her fist angrily in the air yelling, "I AM FUMING" because her estranged daughter took a mere two weeks to respond, and that her response was one asking for proof that her mother has changed. Here's something I've noticed about narcissists: They never want to offer proof, and in fact get angry when asked for it, because they don't have any real proof to give. They haven't changed. They get angry because they want their chosen favorites and scapegoats to fall back into line without having to offer up any proof that things will be any different than they were before. I've noticed that, when a person truly feels remorse for her behaviors, she is not only willing to offer up proof that she has learned from them, but often will do so without being asked.

How much are you willing to bet that none of the parents writing copying these letters have done that? 

Title of Post: WE SERVE A GOD OF MIRACLES! Hallelujah!
by: Isinsoprano
Posted on: April 24, 2012
Posted at: DailyStrength - Christian Parents With Estranged Adult Children 

Friends ~ miracles STILL happen!

My ED actually dropped unannounced by my office today and we had a tearful, albeit, short reunion.
The first thing out of her mouth was "I need my Mom!" to which I answered "I need my daughter!"

She has even agreed to go with me to my counselor on Thursday evening to start ironing out our differences. I can't tell you how my heart is leaping for joy.

I know it's going to take time and many baby steps but I wanted you all to know there is hope in this painful situation. Your heartfelt encouragment, responses and prayers have helped me endure this painful separation.

I'll be back to share how our counseling goes together. One estranged relationship on the mend....and one to go. HALLELUJAH!!!!

And, after all is said and done, this just makes me sad. Not the fact that a mother and daughter are on the path towards reconciliation, no. But that the estranged daughter may be on the path towards reconciliation, having been led there under false pretenses. I wonder if she would have reacted differently to her mother's letter if she had known that my husband got that very same letter from his estranged mother last year. I wonder if the pressure for her to conform to her mother's unhealthy demands was too great. I wonder if her marriage will last under such pressure, and if she'll eventually come to realize that she'll never make it on her own if she truly feels that she "needs" her mother. I wonder if her mother's needs will always come before her own, and if she'll live the rest of her life trying to escape but not knowing how.

I don't see this woman's story as one of success. Instead, I see a story that is marked by sadness, ignorance, and despair. I don't believe that this represents a "relationship on the mend." I think it is only a continuation of what it always was: the pretense of a loving mother-daughter relationship.