Silence Is Not Golden

My friend told me about spending a birthday with her granddaughter on her 16th birthday. She told me that the girl told her of her mother’s betrayal, telling the girl’s Tai Kwando teacher, the mother’s co-teacher and secret lover, that the girl said his teaching technique was faulty. The mother told her boyfriend and the boyfriend then attacked the daughter for a variety of unrelated things. Clearly to the girl, it was punishment following the mother’s betrayal.

As a result, the girl was not speaking to her mother except for necessary directives and the mother seemed not to notice. The girl, an adoptee, asked by her mother years ago if she as regarded as her mother, answered one half. Mom immediately said that they could hunt down the girl’s mother in Guatemala if she wanted. Mom was totally unthinking, probably unconsciously and deliberately so, that the girl found her to be one half a parent because she acted in a half-parent way. Telling her boyfriend what her daughter said about him was a perfect example.

I asked my friend what did she say to her granddaughter when she heard the story. She said, “I was silent.” I heard a warning note in her voice, a “don’t go there” and wondered why. She was being half a grandmother the way her daughter was half a mother.

I dared to ask why she said nothing in return to her granddaughter’s disclosure. She said I don’t want to say bad things about my daughter. She said it in a haughty way, part of her Buddhist training to only support love. I wanted to say more but she clearly did not want to hear it. So, I will say what I did not say to her and then some, here.

She had a vituperative demanding mother who required worship. She was designated the caretaker of her younger brothers. No one thanked her for it and she quickly learned to keep her mouth shut, particularly since her father was even worse and had no interest in her at all. Keep an A average and get out of my way when I leave to be with my friends at the airport (he had a tiny plane) bought from his teacher’s and minister’s salary. Family came last if at all.

Fear underlay her silence although she painted it with the color of goodness. Sometimes, what we tell ourselves about how wonderful we are is merely a cover up. She exemplified the silence that her granddaughter was using towards her mother, a kind of unstated non-endorsement. She was supporting the same kind of alienation she had from Mom and Dad in childhood. She was covering up her own overly indulgent behavior she always had toward her daughter, giving her the support no matter what she never got from her Mother and creating a self-centered spoiled brat. It is this brat part of the girl’s mother who did not think to ask what makes me only one half a mother to you, my daughter.

My friend needs to tell her granddaughter to tell her mother about her hurt feelings at the mother’s passing on the girl’s secret to her lover. Yes, the mother’s feelings might be hurt. It might be hard for her to consider that something she is doing is causing a problem. But do remember that the mother’s upset and subsequent (hopeful) examination of her motivation as well as thoughtless if not ill-intentioned doing, feeling sorry and apologizing will bring mother and daughter closer.

It is always better to air grievances so that trust is reestablished. There is nothing better than knowing you can always talk about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Torn Heart and the Bad Child

I’m in New Delhi, visiting with my Indian friends, Ansh and Pooja, to their friends. We’re sitting in their small front room. I’m sitting in front of the heating unit, warding off unexpected frostbite. It is winter here in houses that lack heating. I’m wearing a heavy sweater, buttoned.  Dad is sitting cross-legged on the floor fanning a layer of coal briquettes on a metal grill, wanting to cook some chicken. He is having a hard time getting it started. After a bunch of unsuccessful minutes, he and my friend Ansh exited to the front yard where they could stimulate the flames without endangering our feet. Cooking the food here, is a social engagement, all of us cheering the chef with a certain amount of teasing.

There was something wonderful about it, so unlike what I have so often experienced in which there is food delivered and a hired person to cook and serve it. The delivered food is bland but looks good. It lacks a collective spirit. The New Delhi group later spoke about arranged marriages and why there are so few of them. I said the problem is the bride price. Ansh said that they had to pay the girl’s family of the bride to get her to marry him. We all laughed at this, including the cook. No hurt feelings here.

On the couch next to me is a rumpled tan blanket. When I see it move, I think my eyes are fooling me. Then I learn that their son, a 6-year old who had not been feeling well lay beneath. I thought he was in his bedroom at the far end of the house but no, he wanted to be part of the crowd. He lay there like a butterfly in its cocoon.

Kids usually like to be in the middle of things. A sad and anxious kid who fears to be abandoned stays close to the crowd in order to keep an eye on Mom and Dad. A kid who feels close to his parents, liking to share their collective vibe. I remember seeing this boy come up to his mother and kiss her cheek. She then gently took his arm and kissed his hand. No words were spoken. Love does not need words to be received.

He further established his good kid position with me after all the English speakers had said hello and made one or two comments, then returning to their comfortable and colloquial Hindi. He came over and sat next to me. With a smiling face, he asked, “beautiful lady, can we speak English?” “Absolutely,” I said. I loved my 6-year old (A+ student) swain who saved me from my designated social isolation. It’s funny how people comfortable in their language.

The kid knew that he was generally welcomed. His mother put out the welcome mat to him, no and or buts about it. He did not need to surrender to his parent’s desires and opinions, an attitude which contains inherent ambivalence. Later, he joined us at the table for what was a second meal, this time one of mutton. I couldn’t believe how much and how often we were eating. I took smaller portions even though as a guest, I was requested to take more. Mom brought over a plate of mutton to her son. He said no to it and she said some more words to convince him but the kid asserted “no.” She walked away with the dish. No bad feelings. Life went on.

What makes it hard for the parent to accommodate a child’s not acceding to their wishes often happens with parents whose own parents were punishing and rejecting. The now grown child has a conflicted identity, that of a helpless failing child and of an attacking parent. Parental hatred travels through the generations.

In each generation, the child who does not feel welcomed grows up to become an ambivalent parent. Take my good friend in the Southern United States who was mostly used, rejected, punished, put-down and ignored by Mom and Dad who hated each other as well. They demanded perfection in all she did without appreciation it. Only the child’s failures were noticed. Her parents had been similarly rejected by their parents.

My friend was an angry and guilt-ridden parent, swinging from one extreme to the other. She spent a lot of time smoking pot and retreating into the fun of partying. Her child looked on her emotionally absent parent and felt rejected. She learned to get attention by being faulty, careless, greedy. She lied and demanded money. She did not do her homework. She did not keep her word. Her room was a mess. When she came to a party her mother was giving, she drew the plug from the wall which silenced the music. Her mother flew at her in a fury. Being scolded, hit, rejected was the parent’s language which the child learned to speak.  She was a bad child. Had no choice but that.

To further harden the bad child stance, her attacking Mom became guilty. She remembered her own early rejection and gave unreasonable gifts and privileges. Mom’s post rejecting catering gave her child a sense of power. She became a lawless and destructive, acting bad to justify her mother’s abuse. The child’s behavior makes the parent seem ok. The child enacts her parent-assigned position as a lawless loser. The parent’s hate is justified by the bad child’s deliberate failures.

Love and hate are emotional rivers. Were you raised in a river of hate or love? Either river will determine how you treat your children, then how they will treat their spouse and child. Can you jump from a river of hate into one of love? Yes. But first, you must know the river you are in and come to know that you don’t need it. Most difficult of all,  you must leave the river of hate which connects you to your hating parent. This separation is hurtful and frightening to the inner child. Know your experience as a loss which leads to gain. The bad child is contained by hate. The good child is free to love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signs that Your Parents Were Narcissistic and Unloving

If this discussion interests you, please read my book Unloved Again.

Your narcissist does not feel empathy. If anything helps you decide whether your parent is a narcissist, this is guidepost number one. Although many of our cultural values are narcissistic: “look at me… at my car… my possessions… where I vacation, etc., these are superficial attention getters. The heart of the show-off may still beat in tune with yours.

The narcissist suffers from a far more serious mental absence. Their attention is encased in a psychological hall of mirrors, wrapped up  in “it’s all about me.” As a result, the narcissistic parent cannot know you, their child (or friend or lover).  One has to feel the “other” person to know them. The narcissist may speak words of caring if they have caught onto saying these as a required social image but their heart is not in it.

You, their child feel that emptiness until you start pulling the wool over your own eyes. The child of a narcissist usually falls in line with their parent illusory need to be seen as loving. The child does this in hope of one day receiving the parent’s real love. The child imagines the parent is capable of feeling love but is withholding it because, you, their child are faulty. The child cannot stand the grief of knowing they have a  forever love-deficient parent. Instead, they take the blame. The notion of courting a love-withholding person guides their love-life ever after.

The narcissistic parent may utter words of sympathy when their child has suffered some kind of injury, for which they congratulate themselves on acting caring but words said do not mean that they feel your pain. Every word uttered reflects on their need for glory. In like manner, they attack their child for failing to be perfect at something because it casts a negative light on them or, even after they scold the child, are secretly exulted since their child’s failure puts them on a higher plane. I am above you because I lack that fault. Whether praising or attacking, all felt and done is self-referential. You do not exist for them in your own right.

Narcissistic parents are fakes who make their child into a fake.  They put a false image onto themselves with which the child must fit. The child initially knows that it is only a “pretense” like pretending to be a ghost at Halloween, but over time, the child loses awareness of it as an act, forgets how to find/be/know their own true self. A feeling of emptiness follows. A child needs its parent’s accurate (and loving reflection) to develop a sense of self.

Your narcissistic parent revels in vanity as do all children in their early years. All children need to be seen as great at least during the terrible two’s until reality cuts it down to an acceptable self-image.  The narcissist never leaves this stage of self-adulation. It is his shelter and defense against knowing himself to be a hollow man or woman.

The narcissist’s feelings are easily wounded. You, their child are expected to applaud, to build them up and support them. Once grown, the only way out of this un-loved affair is to leave it. You will be met with a barrage of objections, called selfish and self-centered after all “I have done for you.’ You need to take a gigantic step of not accepting the parent’s accusation that you are abandoning them since in the narcissistic parent’s unconscious mind, they remain your child.

The “sponge self” you developed under their barrage of projection and need has to be recognized and discarded. A sponge cannot say here I am and here I am not, regardless of what you say about me. The sponge self automatically agrees with the narcissist’s idealization or denigration. The narcissistic parent will never stop asking you for more. Do not fight with them to see you as you are since they can’t do it. Fighting is a form of attachment. It is a demand the parent set you free rather than you freeing yourself. Gracefully as possible move into the wonderful confusion of owning your own life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do We Like to Be Hurt by Our Lovers?

No. For those who choose hurtful lovers and friends, pain is neither pleasurable nor the end point of what the seek. Seeking abuse is associated with being hurt in childhood and regarding the pain inflicted as the payment for the hoped-for love…. even if the love does not come, now. There always is a future loving in their mind. Accepting hurt as payment for love makes suffering reasonable. It puts love in your hands if you only finally do “it’ right, whatever the parent’s seemed for focus even if ever-changing. You can blame yourself for failing at achieving it forever.

Our sense of love is shaped by childhood experience.

if our parents often made us afraid of them by words or deeds or both, we tend to feel fear. The odor of fear we exude is a kind of perfume that we wear. Our scent of fear turns the bully on.

Sometimes, fear is so great we are afraid to try to gain love from the negative figure we would adore since punishment comes soon after. Such people may lead a reclusive life. Some seek therapy to help them leave the compulsion to regard pain as the price of love.

It is frequently misunderstood by us and those who observe it, why we chase people who make us afraid. We are drawn to those who will make us victims but rarely or never  admit it. Our adult mind has a blind spot when it has to do with the domination of our childhood. It is the “frozen child” that the adult cannot know or even admit that draws it. Our weak adult mind lets the child take over and conceal its pathological motivation.

Some people are afraid when there is no cause, just a cold wind blowing from childhood. These are the lucky ones since once the relationship is established they find that there was nothing to fear. Some of these people will work like hell to make the person act abusive in order to establish the necessity of their being afraid. If it is not possible to arouse and turn the lover into a victimizer, their emotions will turn off and they will leave that person as not “right” for them. They need to be with someone who bullies and mistreats although they do not say it.

Then there is the second group which will seek and find someone of whom they should be afraid and stay. Their fear is totally called-for even though they spend eons of time telling themselves and even their friends that they should not be afraid of this person, that the abuse is not so bad and they probably deserve it, They announce that they love him/her anyway no matter what.

People who choose an abusive partner may remain otherwise functional but many do not. Take the story of  Hedda Nussbaum who gave up her job as a magazine editor, abandoned her friends, became unable to leave her apartment especially after her appearance fell apart with breaks and bruises, who hid there with her young children who  witnessed her abuse. She was supported by her lawyer boyfriend. She focused on whether he’d be nice to her this day, dreaming helped along by smoking the marijuana he provided.

Sometimes the evening started out OK but that usually did not last. He was driven to brutally beat and damage her. Her children watched the man break her nose, her ribs, tear this part of her body and dismember that. Smoking helped her live in the fantasy of a better night. It helped her disconnect this night right now from yesterday’s abuse and the coming abuse tomorrow.

When the abuse is physical, it often is progressive, first bad words, then starvation, then a slap in the face then broken nose, then shattered bones, then a failing heart due to injury, fear and grief, and eventually death.  One of Nussbaum’s children was killed by her abuser, lying ignored in the bath tub while she existed in her beaten marijuana haze. How people hated her when all of this came to light. For a while, the legal system blamed and jailed her. It was only after they began to understand the deep meaning of  chronic “abuse” that she was seen as its victim rather than the perpetrator.

All who find and cling to an abusive partner are living in the past. They remain the futile and frightened child attempting to win their cruel parent’s love. To recover from this, their childhood view of love must be surrendered. If they think they cannot do it, they need to seek professional help. A therapist will help them develop an adult self. They need to free themselves of reliving their masochistic “frozen child’s” struggle to win the abusive parent’s love.

It is a struggle for a once abused person to become an adult. A woman said after reading my book Unloved Again, that she has to learn to deal with her inner child in a reasonable way, to help and get along with it. I answered “no.”  You cannot make a deal with the past. You cannot cure the past. You should not experience yourself as half past and half present. “Past- is- past and…ne’er the twain shall meet” as the Scottish folk song says it.

We are not to deal with the traumatized “frozen child” as if a now- existing part of self.  To dedicate self to helping the inner child is to surrender to the past as you have always done. Your adult needs to separate from your “frozen child” and “freezing parent,”  to treat them as memories. You need to learn from the past but you cannot learn if you are living in it. Then the experience is all “now.”

Get my book Unloved Again today! Email me directly at elangolomb@gmail.com in order to get your signed copy. Hardcover ($25 including shipping) and Paperback ($16 including shipping) versions available. Payment collected via PayPal.

 

 

 

Texting Can Be an Addiction

We see texting all around us, reacting with shock, amazement, disgust and fear. We feel panic when someone driving has their eyes focused on their lap sending a message. What if they miss the light? what if their foot goes to brake instead of gas and we ram them? We see signs that say no texting while driving. The issue is being noticed by those in charge of safety. Many do not listen. The urge is far too strong.

Admittedly, especially city people have a youth population which has fads in which many  get on board. I remember the slinky, a toy consisting of a flexible helical spring that can be made to somersault down steps. It had an aura of magic since children  did not understand the pull of gravity. Many had to have one.

Would I call this need addictive? No. Wanting to have one had nothing to do with its being a cover-up. An addiction has to do with covering up personal misery, keeping it from yourself. The more we cover up early and severe misery the larger it grows. Only direct experience and understanding is the cure. You have to mourn a loss to recover.

Texting is entirely something else. If it has to do with the early misery of disconnection, its  pain is ever growing due to our need to deny. Children adapt to what they must but adaptation can have serious flaws. Adaptation to something unpleasant which means “forget it” is no solution.  Our money-needy culture has a great deal of early disconnection as its by-product. The child’s loss is accepted and even rationalized as a good thing by the parent’s and by society. What else are they to do? Being with a variety of strangers is said to help the young child learn to socialize when the opposite is true. Clinging to a friend who clings to you is not a sign of early development. Clinging to the parent who happily embraces you is entirely something else.

Both parents working outside the home is common now. The kid sees its parents, at bedtime, a little more on the weekends although many parents go to a second-weekend job. The child has babysitters, often different ones each week rather the same one for childhood; the absent parents put their child into play groups for children as young as two. Sometimes they are refused until they can use a toilet.

The child is cared for by parent-substitutes who do it for a wage and often are changed by the parents for one who is “better” or by the worker who seeks better pay. The idea of constant care is not considered. This series of caretakers undermines growing the security of attachment. The child does not learn to trust. The world is insecure.

For children subjected to a series of caretakers develop an experiential hole which is never filled. This is the space of secure attachment. To anthropomorphize the experience, the hole is always crying out the pain of its disconnection. The older child cannot call to the Mommy of childhood. Her memory does not exist. Her absence is written in their nerves. They go to second best, which is no solution because a true cure removes our ills.  Texting is a cover-up. The person has to constantly text (and call) and text again. Texting is like putting noise into a system so as to not hear its roar of emptiness.

If you want to test my theory about texting, do an experiment. Do not text for a week. Watch your feelings during this time of restraint. See what ideas come to mind. If early deprivation is the source of your need to text, taking the lid of distraction off the Pandora’s box, memory and feeling may flood the mind with what part of you has been so strenuously ignored.

If nothing of this nature comes to mind, you still need to question what is driving you to text. It is good to investigate our motivation.

What Kind of Family Has the Healthiest Children

Hunter-gatherers have the most emotionally healthy kids. The family does everything together. The kids see how Dad puts together an igloo shaped home from scratch, branches, leaves, and twigs; see Mom gathering and preparing edibles including roots and, berries, fruit and nuts and seeds. The boys get a blow gun and go with Dad to hunt, practice with their blow gun all the time. It is part of being family. The hunter-gatherers leave a very light some say non-existent foot print on their environment. They are part of the living world around them, not above it looking down.

They do not turn its plants and animals, its store of minerals, into commodities, “things” to be harvested and eventually used up. They are not into acquiring wealth. They do not store and save. Meeting basic needs is quite enough. If one place is low on water, if their wildlife numbers are running low, this family will not exhaust them. They will move on, ever grateful for the care that Mother Earth gives them, the mother of us all.

In the evening after eating they sit in their igloo of made of leaf and twig and sing. Their voices are very beautiful as they sing together although sometimes one takes a solo. The baby, who is barely walking sings along. These are songs of joy, of celebration.

Their children are not on the internet or sprawled insensibly in front of a TV which gives them image, sound and action so that their brains can go to sleep. They have their parents within reach so there is no fear of being abandoned or forgotten. When they need direction, the parents are there to give it. The parents are behavioral models who answer questions. There is no empty internal space which happens to a child that lacks loving guidance. Hunter-gatherer children are not forced out of desperation to turn to each other for resources they as children, cannot provide.

Modern children focus attention on FaceBook as do their parents, on I-phones on which they are constantly text-ing. Directly talking on a phone is no longer fashionable. When out on a date, the parties keep looking at their internet devices as if they are not together. In a life filled with externally programmed imagery, they are essentially unrelated. The frantic compulsive to turn it on is a sign of tuning out.

Needing loving adults as models, helpers, educators, as purveyor of love, there are only other children. They have to hold onto one another instead of to caring adults. The internal sense of connection established by adult love, is empty. The empty-feeling child turns to mechanical instruments to deaden feelings; to the TV for endless hours; to texting friends who are empty too. He gets into antisocial behavior to vent the rage he feels over the emptiness of his world.

You Learn To Be Afraid

Love is our most natural state of mind, one with which we are born. The state of love, the I/thou experience is there from the start, probably felt inside the womb a warm and embracing place where everything is provided; sometimes jostled by Mom’s movement which stimulates the baby’s nervous system, hearing her familiar voice speak in loving tones, all of it blended into a protected haven.

Once born, if the parent(s) reject the baby’s need for loving care, a negative environment is instituted which uses fear as love’s eraser.  If the parent(s) are emotionally unavailable, do not touch and hold and kiss the child, do not swing it though the air which combines a sense of fear with exhilaration and laughter, which teaches the child to trust, an empty space develops inside the child where love should dwell. If the parents do not define the child’s space as warm and giving, it learns that the world is cold, withholding and threatening.

Love or fear are what we most deeply learn through the early experiences we have with our parents. The experience of fear is caused by parental mistreatment, whether subtle or clear. The parent’s urge to hurt or ignore the child comes from their own needy childhood,  emotions they deny by similarly hurting their child. By doing what was done to them, they deny the depth of their pain. They beat and scold the child for minor offenses, if you could call them that. They yank child’s arm and point to  what must be avoided with the protective aggression they define as love.

The child learns to walk a narrow path. Chosen friends are similarly fearful or rejecting of their children, using the same “I do this for you” aggression. Same with chosen mates. These once unloved children as adults, cleave to disinterested, unavailable, fearful or aggressive lovers. The now grown but unloved child is looking for their parent’s welcoming embrace. Past is present but they don’t know it. They seek what they never had from people who similarly can’t give it. Early fear stands in the way of knowing it.