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.

8 comments:

  1. I remember when, after a lengthy period of estrangement with my NPs, the sudden and tragic death of my aunt brought me face to face with my them. I was there to support my beloved uncle, NF's twin.

    NF burst through the door, brushed past his grieving brother, embraced me, and shouted, "I got my (mulderfan) back!"

    In hindsight I realize it was exactly what he might have said upon finding his lost wallet. That's all I was and ever will be to NF, a chattel, not a living breathing human being entitled to a life of her own.

    The mum in this post wants her daughter back and she clearly views her as a "thing" not a person.

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  2. Just a few thoughts in addition to your observations which sound spot-on to me: Agreed, it sounds like the classic "form letter." I see NO "specifics" in that correspondence regarding behaviors for which "amends" are required. (It's waay too general.) Clearly this AC is viewed as a prisoner of her DH and the usual blame-the-spouse is a classic NP "excuse." Instead of complaining about the length of time the "response" took she should be grateful she received ANY response to the form letter. (NPs have demonstrated repeatedly they DEMAND instant compliance with their agendas.) As far as "fuming" over the word, "Proof": The concept that an AC-or anyone who is in such a position- should require EVIDENCE of changes of a substantial nature is exactly what IS required. Words are cheap (as we see/have experienced); it's BEHAVIOR as observed/experienced OVER TIME that needs to change. (I agree with your observation regarding this concept as an NP typical tactic as well.)
    The "Counselor:" This leaves me VERY uncomfortable in more ways than there's room to respond: Typically, if a MH Professional agrees to work with two (or more) parties, individual sessions for ALL participants are arranged FIRST. (You don't want to end up with a "Jerry Springer" situation at the session.) The other party needs to feel comfortable with the T, the T needs to understand the other's POV thoroughly AND make very clear to ALL parties their function in this situation DOES NOT include in any manner "Taking Sides." Note: This dynamic has already been set up by utilizing the NPs "counselor" and the failure on the part of the "counselor" to arrange the required individual session(s) FIRST. Minimally their role is to facilitate communication among the parties; unquestionably, the T's primary responsibility is to protect ALL parties. Unfortunately where I reside anyone can hang out a shingle pronouncing themselves a "counselor" even if they have a two yr. degree in basket-weaving. "Christian Counselors" are scarier yet. (No offense, just experience with such.) I have repeatedly seen ACs who have agreed to a session of "Family Therapy" and eagerly anticipate the opportunity....only to be devastated while the "counselor" (who may even proclaim to be "very knowledgeable" about Personality Disorders) sits there and allows the AC to be verbally eviscerated by the NP. The AC has now moved from eager anticipation/HOPE to a session of typical NP tactics; gaslighting/denial/"selective amnesia," verbal abuse and the oh-so-familiar NP family dynamics. The AC is now feels hopeless-and duped. (They in fact were "set up.") As painful as it is, on the other hand it does help reinforce their decision to terminate the relationship. I do hope this AC brings her DH with her to the session so they are seen as a "Unit" leaving much less wiggle room for the whole NP "divide and conquer" tactics.
    I do not see a relationship on the mend either: I see a trap and some very questionable Professional behavior. And I've seen this many, many times with AC's. Accepting an invite does NOT in any way, shape, manner or form indicate "mend." I'd love to see this in a positive light, truly. Estrangements ARE very, very painful. And if they can be reconciled, that's GREAT! However, the decision to terminate a relationship with a NP/other Personality Disordered Parent(s) reflects deep-seated and long-standing problems. NO AC just willy-nilly walks away: That decision is absolutely the last option.
    I'm really, really hoping I'm wrong about this particular situation but there are far too many screaming red flags here for me. (There's more, but I don't want to be a thread hog.)
    TW

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  3. When I got to the part where the daughter says "I need my mom" I felt a sad twinge - like a voice inside me from upsis-past, the voice of the compliant daughter who cannot sit with the idea that her needs are not being addressed and the pain of that alone is motivating this betrayal of herself.

    This is not a happy story. It reminds me of the Alice Miller piece "Diary of a Mother" where the daughter says she used to feel dead inside before she started facing her life history. The mother says she misses that person. The one who she just learned felt dead. There is a stagnant air around that dynamic, one person having to feel DEAD inside for the other to be happy.

    To mend what has been broken in our relationships takes more than a form letter. More than a clever ruse. More than a manufactured crisis. It takes humility and humanity, it takes courage and vulnerability. It requires the things that have never been there to begin with, transformation of the patterns which created the estrangement to begin with.

    It takes serious soul searching. And anybody who would write a form letter ain't searchin shit.

    xo
    upsi

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    Replies
    1. Narcs see humility as humiliation and vulnerability as weakness. Lacking empathy (a mature emotion), they have no interest in whether they hurt us. Even if they are capable of recognizing our pain, they have no interest in making amends by changing.

      Upsi, I think we all need out mom, but folks like us know that we probably never had a real mom in the 1st place!

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    2. Upsi, this statement is chilling. It's exactly it! "There is a stagnant air around that dynamic, one person having to feel DEAD inside for the other to be happy." My NMIL's favorite statement as of late about "her love" for DH is that she loves him as only another mother can understand. It's peculiar phrasing meant,I guess, in one way to put me - her DIL - down somehow. But it hasn't been lost on DH that her actions are far from loving and show not an ounce of understanding or soul searching - only placing blame elsewhere. And yet she expects him to welcome her with open arms when she stalks and harasses him. I don't see how she could think that he's happy with the dysfunction in his FOO after he worked so hard to move us away from it and left no way to contact us. That leaves me with the distinct impression that she doesn't care how unhappy he was, she wants things back the way they were no matter how dead he is inside. It's of no consequence to her. These parents are vampires! They are soul-sucking, life-draining vampires.
      -J

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  4. "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!"

    I strongly suspect she is lying about this, that it didn't even happen. It sure is what she would like to happen, especially getting to claim a miracle.

    Even if the poor daughter was sucker enough to drop in and say "I need my Mom!", probably trying to get her mom to recognize that she isn't acting like a mom, look at the response her mom claims she gave her daughter; her poor daughter got the non response of "I need my daughter!", meaning, I need you to act like my dependent child instead of like an independent adult. --quartz

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  5. She is fuming because she has been asked to prove her words by walking the walk. It's easy to throw out barely amended form letters and cliched platitudes. But because she is being asked for something generated from within, she knows she is being asked for something she can not deliver. Probably would if she could. But all they know is superficial bullshit.
    So the instant she is asked for something real. She must resort to the defense mechanisms and diversion tactics that got them to where they are now.

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  6. My god, Ising's daughter is setting herself up to be destroyed again by this woman. What a lie it was that mommy dearest was open to hearing whatever her daughter had to say. Her response to her daughter's need for proof that she had changed was REJECTION. I'm swearing up a storm here.

    Jonsi, I like what you wrote about the woman basically calling her daughter a moron controlled by her spouse. For the sake of argument, let's say that's true: who does Ising suppose is responsible for her daughter being susceptible to that sort of abuse? These are the same parents who claim everything they like about their children is fully due to their wonderful parenting and everything they dislike is either a genetic defect or caused by sources outside themselves.

    Bullshit.

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