Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Crab Mentality

Mulderfan recently did a re-post on one of Rev. Renee Pitelli's articles. Mulderfan gave me permission to post it here as well, though I had to ask first as I didn't want to steal her thunder. I've decided that this blog is a good place for me to "store" information; as in, I can always come back here and reread things that are really important, and this particular post is one that I think I'll read often. I just really like it; and I have hope that my DH will be the crab that makes it out of that damn pot, and together, we'll repopulate the whole damn ocean, one strong, healthy baby crab at a time. 

Posted on Facebook by Rev. Renee Pitelli of Luke Ministries :

The Miracle Of the Crab Pot
B Y S U S A N C. R A I N E S - B R I D G E S 

Crab fisherman have odd customs at sea. Living and working in the sea gives them a unique perspective and understanding of our oceans and their conditions.

When these fishermen dump a load of crabs into the holding 'pot' on board, the majority of the crabs will fight and wrestle and try to kill each other to get to the top of the heap of crabs. It does no good to get to the top, because the crabs still can't get out - they're too far from the sides of the pot. But they don't know that; they are frantically driven by primal instinct.

Other, instinctively smarter crabs, attempt to scale the walls themselves. Due to the wear and tear on the metal or wooden sides of the 'pot' from the nets and the loads themselves, large and minute dings, scratches or ridges develop on the walls. These dings provide essential handholds for the freedom-seeking crabs.

These crabs attempt to climb up the sides of the pot, clinging to precarious hold after hold, but always headed up. The crabs on the edges of the center heap notice these climbing crabs. They then come to the wall, grab hold of the climber, and haul he/she/it back down to the bottom where all crabs are 'supposed' to be.

Psychologists have called this type of behavior in nuclear families 'the crab pot mentality'. When one member of a deeply dysfunctional family realizes that they and their family have emotional/psychological problems and earnestly seeks help, the dysfunctional family circle becomes threatened. The dysfunctional nuclear family lives and functions only within the complete denial of the true family dynamics. The stigma of the very words 'mental illness' unleashes a firestorm of fear within the family. As the causation of the change, you become the focal point of the pathological anger/fear driving the family psychological engine.

The nuclear family turns on the one seeking help, assuring themselves that 'they' are fine, that 'you' are the crazy one because you had to finally admit that you were 'mentally ill' and had to seek help. That means, to the rest of the dysfunctional family, that they have no problems, 'because they never had to get help'!

You become a threat to the functioning of the dysfunctional family. By your beliefs and actions, you are, in effect, upsetting the dysfunctional 'norm' they so desperately try to maintain. You are in a process of personal change, and a nuclear family locked into a pattern of denial, abuse and maintaining the 'status quo' has to discredit you and the work you are undertaking in order to feel 'safe'. When you change, you change the family dynamics, and that is devastatingly threatening to the ingrained order of the family.

They try to discourage you in every way they can, with anger, verbal attacks, or replaying the family myths, with their completely re-written family history. Their version of the past is so twisted and so far from the truth that you sometimes react with horror at the depth of their delusions. Nothing in the past actually happened as it really happened. Nothing you do in the present is accepted as reality. Your accomplishments are ignored, downplayed and/or given a negative spin that must, by dysfunctional family necessity, reflect badly on you and positively on them. You must be kept in your place.

Unable to understand you on any level, the nuclear family ignores you, chastises you, tries to 'talk some sense into you' and uses every emotional and psychological weapon they can muster to bring you 'back in line' with the dysfunctional family norm. The more progress you make, the further you draw away from the discord, the more the family gets upset and frustrated by your 'selfishness' . Their biggest fear is disclosure in any form of the twisted, demented and unstable family structure. "What will people think?" or "What happens in the family stays in the family!" are familiar formulas for the secrecy practiced by abusive and dysfunctional families. For the rest of the family, even the slightest hint of exposure of the warped family dynamics is unbearable and cannot be tolerated.

As you continue your personal journey, seeking to understand the truth about yourself and your family, their attacks become progressively more personal and increasingly vicious. They may constantly belittle you verbally or ply you with obviously false, passive-aggressive compliments designed as a 'back-hand' slap at who you are becoming. You are never given the benefit of a doubt. Every act and action you undertake is denied and downplayed to reassure the nuclear family that who you are and what you do is not important and as such, is in no way is a reflection on their inadequacy.

If, for example, you are overweight, they try to push food on you that you don't want. You are the 'jolly fat clown' and your assigned role is that of the 'family buffoon'. God forbid that you should lose weight and regain your health. Discarding or trying to redefine your role in the family is a psychological sin. This the family cannot allow.

If you persist in speaking the truth, they can even get to the point of taking your picture off their walls, thereby cutting you out of their lives until you 'see the light'. Although their walls are plastered with pictures of the entire nuclear and extended families, there will not be one single picture of you. This perverted attempt to 'cut you out of the family circle' physically, emotionally and psychologically is another desperate attempt to pressure you back into your 'place'. You are no longer invited to traditional family get-togethers, no one calls, no one visits you, because you make them uncomfortable by seeking and living your own personal truths.

The dysfunctional family functions exactly like the crabs in the above mentioned crab pot. They see you trying to get out, they see you reassessing your role, and they do their damndest to pull you right back down there in the pot of dysfunctional family dynamics, where your reward is that you get to assume your assigned role again.

You keep trying, braving their displeasure, ignoring their comments, and they pull out all the stops. They tell their friends, their children and even your friends, spouse and your children that 'you' obviously have 'mental problems' in whispered asides, as if the subject is much too taboo to talk about, except, of course, as how it applies to only you.

You try to share what you are learning with them, but, locked in a mental/psychologica l cage of denial, their brains refuse to accept in any way, how, form, shape or choice of words the self-knowledge and the understanding of the family functionality you are gaining. They absolutely, passionately refuse to acknowledge how you are changing. To them, your 'assigned' role in the family dynamics is cast in stone. Talk about an exercise in futility! 


Finally, the abuse becomes so toxic that you are forced to make a choice - re-enter the family dynamics and assume once again the crippled role they assigned you, go along with all the re-written family myths, and 'know your place' once again; Or, you can finally get to the uppermost point in your life (the top of the crab pot) and decide to fall outside the pot. Even the fear of the unknown is finally preferable to the abusive family dynamics. Letting go is the hardest part of the entire process.

You let go and fall outside the pot. You cut off contact with your toxic family because you realize that there is no way they will ever accept you as you are now. Their rage at you has been built to massive proportions because you have escaped their clutches. The family applecart is upset big time. You have committed the sin of choosing sanity over myth, of putting yourself and your mental health before the unity of family dysfunction. How dare you?

Ah, but here's the nice part.

When the rare crab finally does manage to climb up the sides of the crab pot, and fall out onto the deck below, what do you think happens? Does the crab fisherman, realizing that every ounce of crab is worth money, toss that crab back down into the maelstrom of crab pot?

No.

He picks up the crab, and tosses it over the side of the ship, back into the ocean, from whence it came. He sets it free, because he knows that the genes for survival, instinct, intelligence, whatever you choose to call it, are very strong in that particular crab. That crab, left to breed, will produce stronger crabs, crabs that are better able to survive in the ocean and to perpetuate the crab species.

So, what happens to the human being who finally manages to get to the top of their personal 'crab pot' full of dysfunctional people?

If they decide to let go and fall onto the deck of reality, then the miracle really begins.

The Hand of God picks them up, and gently sets them free in the Sea of Life.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..."

11 comments:

  1. This is awesome. If it's all right Jonsi, I want to post this link over at The Project, next week. I want to read it again, and remind myself on a regular basis.

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    1. Of course Judy! That's what this is all about - keep it going!

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  2. Isn't it nice to know that being crabby can sometimes be the right thing?

    Of course, real crabs don't get survivor's guilt.

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    1. A good point. I suppose feeling guilty wouldn't help them do as well once they got back to the ocean, right? It's more instinctual for them I suppose; they make it out of the pot, get thrown back in the ocean, and just go on living. That's what we've got to try to do to, I think.

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  3. All groups have certain common norms that they base their existence on. It does not matter that the norms differ from the so-called "normal" behavior or functions, it is still something to be followed. And if you break the rules, they try to pull you back in, or push you away. It is not easy to try to belong to a group (family, nation, whatever) and not follow their norms.

    To be honest, tears of relief started forming in my eyes, when I have reached the part when the fisherman set the crab free.

    This is such an uplifting analogy.

    Thank you!

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    1. It really is, Scatha. You can make it out alive, and you can FLOURISH on the outside.

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  4. Jonsi, The only time I have thunder is when I eat beans and no one would want to steal that!

    Your DH will definitely make it out of the pot, he has you helping him!

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    1. You're hysterical, Mulderfan. And awesome.

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  5. I have to show this to my dh. You just described his dysfunctional family to a T! So glad I found this.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that. I hope it helps.

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  6. Excellent Blog! Excellent!

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