Big changes.

decisions

A lot’s been going on in my life lately.    My daughter was supposed to get married last Monday, but the money they’d been saving (about $900) got stolen, and that included the money for her to register and get tags for her new vehicle (she had enough from the insurance to get a 2007 Nissan) and pay for their marriage registration at the courthouse.

She was devastated about the loss (of both the money and the “friend” who stole it from her) but is getting over it now.   Now the date has been changed to Monday the 28th, and they are going to get their marriage registration this week.   I’m as excited as she is.

She has been living with me off and on for…well, forever.   Since she’s become clean from drugs (it’s been a couple of years now) and she’s become more responsible and is working steadily, I actually like this arrangement.    It’s more affordable sharing the expenses with another adult, and I absolutely hate the idea of having to find a roommate (who I may not like) at my age.

My daughter and I are like best friends.   Sometimes our relationship is more like that of close friends than mother and daughter.  I think that’s good.   We just really like each other and I really like her fiance too, and the three of us have a good arrangement here in this two bedroom house in the North Carolina mountains just outside Asheville.

But frankly, the Asheville area, as much as I like it, is becoming ridiculously expensive as more people from other places discover its high quality of life, its natural beauty,  the many outdoor activities available, and its vibrant arts and music scene.  Even the outlying “suburbs” are more than we can reasonably afford.  And we need to move to a bigger place, with 3 bedrooms, not just two.

And why would that be?  Well…because my daughter and her soon to be husband have been stricken with baby fever and  I have a feeling one of the reasons they don’t want to wait any longer to marry is because they want to start a family sometime very soon.  She told me by the end of 2019 they want to start trying.   A few things need to be taken care of first before she can think about getting pregnant, and we definitely want to be in a bigger place first, so the baby has room to grow and we don’t all go insane!

The plan is for the three of us to look for a place together, because frankly, at my age, I don’t want to be living alone.    I’m not sure how much longer I can work full time, and if I cut back to part time hours, which I certainly will need to do at some point, I won’t be able to support myself.  As I don’t own my own home and would have to rent,  it just makes more sense for me to live with them.  Luckily, this is also what they want.  They adore the idea of a live in “Nana” once they start their family.   I rather like that idea myself.  It’s a throwback to the age of extended families, and in these uncertain, dark times, I think extended families may eventually be making a comeback, if they aren’t already.   Our families are going to need to be there for each other more than when Social Security and old age benefits were a certainty and life was just more affordable in general.

It’s funny, because I wasn’t at all excited about becoming someone’s grandma until my daughter started talking about babies all the time.   My first reaction was one of anxiety and near dread. Babies are scary!  They have so many needs.  They’re loud and messy.  So many things can go wrong.  They need so much STUFF:  all kinds of bulky contrivances that take up space and clutter up a small house, not to mention toys and lots and lots of attention.  I also worry about children being raised in such a toxic political environment as we have right now. If it were me contemplating having a child in the age of Trump, I’m not sure I would do it. But then again, I might! For many women, if not most, the urge to reproduce can be overwhelmingly strong, no matter what kind of political environment they live in or how bad things are.

As many mothers of young adult children probably do, I also kept thinking to myself, “She’s too young; she’s not ready.”  But that’s wrong.  She definitely is.  Yes, she’s been through a lot of adversity but has come through it beautifully.  It’s so easy to keep thinking of your child as a child, even when they’re fully grown and capable of making their own decisions.  She’s an almost 26 year old woman and it’s perfectly normal for her to want a family at her age.   And  the more I think about it, the more happy the thought of being someone’s “Nana” makes me.

We’d definitely need three bedrooms and two bathrooms though, and that would be a near impossibility for us if we stayed where we are.    I’m also tired of the ice and snow of winter and want to be somewhere just a little warmer.   The job market here also isn’t the best as it’s mostly service and/or seasonal work.

We briefly considered moving to the Tampa area, because my son lives there.  I do love the idea of the entire family being in the same general area.   But it’s just not practical or very affordable.  I also don’t want to have to deal with my fear of hurricanes every single year.  Even if we lived inland, there’s the risk of tornadoes or very high winds.  So, as much as I’d love living close to the beach, we decided to nix that idea.    Florida’s also way too far from my daughter’s dad, and much as I don’t personally care about that (I don’t speak to him), he lives all alone and she worries about him.  That’s just the kind of person she is, and she wants to live close enough to be able to check up on him frequently.

We also considered just moving to a different part of North Carolina, but other cities are just as expensive as Asheville (or more so), and I don’t want to live in the boondocks either,  where houses may be cheap but would be so far away from any city and we’d all still have to deal with the ice and snow and the long driving distances to and from a job every winter.

So I began to consider the idea of starting over in South Carolina.  But not too far into South Carolina.  We still want to be near the mountains, so we can come back here whenever we want, and my daughter can still visit her father here.   Codependent or not, she worries about him and loves him, and he has no one left but her.

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Scene from Boiling Springs, SC

So we began to look at Boiling Springs, SC.   It’s a suburb of Spartanburg, a fairly large city with many more employment opportunities than Asheville has.   Boiling Springs is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and you can actually see the mountains to the north.  The area isn’t completely flat like most of South Carolina.  It’s hilly, but doesn’t have the steep and sometimes scary almost vertical slopes you find farther north.   There are hiking trails and other things to do, and it’s also about an hour closer to the beach (one thing I hate about living here is being so far from any coastline).

Best of all, the school district has been rated #1 in South Carolina, and for my daughter and her soon to be husband, that’s important to them.   Boiling Springs is a little more expensive than neighboring areas in South Carolina, but it’s still a lot cheaper than where we are now, and it’s near everything we’d need or want:  she’s close enough to her dad to visit frequently, we’re still less than an hour away from Asheville and its environs, and we’d be living almost in Spartanburg.

We can definitely afford to do this, but change is hard.   I’ve been living in this area since 1993 and have grown attached to it.  I also hate the idea of having to get things like my car registration changed.   Then there’s dealing with the movers.  And the expense.  And the credit checks.  And the deciding what to throw away, give away, sell, and keep.  All those things are a pain and they can be frustrating.  No doubt about it, moving is always stressful, even if you’re only moving next door!

But I think the time has come, and I think all  three of us will be happy and I think it will be a good place for my possible future “grandbaby” to grow up.   SO in a few weeks, we’re taking a short drive down to Boiling Springs to get a better idea of what living there would actually be like, and how affordable it really is.   Maybe we’ll even look at some houses and apartments.

There’s one more good reason to move. My landlord is selling this property (though I’ve been assured there’s no need to worry about moving right away), so I think it’s best we just find a new place, in a brand new environment that will be a positive one and less expensive for all of us.

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Narcissistic mothers never really change.

I started this blog over four years ago partly because of my discovery that I had been spending more than five decades of my life trying to please and win the unconditional love of a mother who simply wasn’t capable of giving me that kind of healthy love a normal parent has for a child.    Emotionally, I was still a child trying desperately to please a parent who could never be pleased, and in fact, resented me because of who I was.

I went No Contact with her at the same time I went No Contact with my malignant narcissist ex husband.  During the first two years of starting this blog, I wrote extensively about both of them, and learned so much about myself and also how to heal from the narcissistic abuse both of them had inflicted on me.

Distance made me think over a few things.    I also came to understand exactly what a malignant narcissist is, and after some time, I realized my mother is not one.    Malignant narcissism is a mixture of NPD and Antisocial Personality Disorder with paranoid or sadistic traits.   My mother, while highly narcissistic, is not at all antisocial or sadistic, but she does check off most of the criteria for NPD (narcissistic personality disorder).  She also fits much of the criteria for Histrionic Personality Disorder.

Unlike a malignant narcissist, my mother does have a conscience and knows the difference between right and wrong.  She doesn’t “think like a criminal” and would never do anything illegal.  She has a sense of ethics.   She’s not sadistic and doesn’t enjoy seeing people suffer.  She likes animals and children.  She doesn’t have much empathy, even for her loved ones, but she isn’t the sort of person who enjoys watching others suffer or tries to cause them suffering;  she is mainly just cold and indifferent to the troubles of others, and fails to take responsibility when she has emotionally hurt someone.

Even so, as a parent, she was still very damaging.   Along with my borderline/narcissistic dad, who also was an active alcoholic during most of my childhood and adolescence (addictive disorders and alcoholism tend to exacerbate Cluster B personality types), there was lots and lots of drama, instability, fighting, screaming, accusations, gaslighting, hiding the truth from others, and abuse both physical and emotional while I was growing up, and it was mostly directed at me.  Needless to say, my growing up years were painful and traumatic.  As the only child in their marriage, I was constantly scapegoated and gaslighted and held to impossible standards, the implication being that I was never good enough and could never measure up.

Things could have been worse, but the damage was done.   I never felt like a full adult, and my self esteem took a beating.  I came to believe I wasn’t capable of very much in life.  My high sensitivity was used against me, treated like a defect or a weakness, instead of something that would ultimately become one of my greatest strengths.  I never really found my niche career wise, and I married an abusive, sociopathic husband who in many ways mirrored the emotional abuse I had suffered at the hands of both my parents as a child.

I felt especially uncomfortable, impotent, and childlike whenever I was with my mother, and this lasted into my fifties.  I’m not sure why this was so.  Perhaps because of my parents, she was the more narcissistic one, the one who seemed to always disapprove of me no matter what I said or did.   She would constantly gaslight me, give me “left handed” compliments that were really criticisms, find ways to embarrass or shame me in front of others (and then say I was being too sensitive or “imagining things” when I objected to this treatment), or blame me for things that weren’t actually my fault.   She never seemed to empathize whenever I was victimized at work or bullied at school and would instead tell me why I was bringing those things upon myself.

Going No Contact with her was necessary and freeing, and as I wrote about our relationship, I discovered many things about myself I never knew.   I discovered that I was not the failure and loser she’d always led me to believe I was, but my emotional growth had been stunted.   Anger followed but that passed.  Once it passed, I started to realize she was who she was because of the abuse she had suffered as a child.    I didn’t want to resume contact, but the more I read about narcissism, the more I realized she was simply a garden variety narcissist (which in a parent, is still very bad!) and did not meet the criteria for Malignant Narcissism.

For four years I avoided her phone calls (after awhile she stopped calling) and only sent cards on her birthday and Christmas.   But one day a few months ago, I took a phone call from her.   I figured it must be important since she rarely tried to call me anymore.  After all, she’s in her late 80s and it could be an emergency I needed to know about.   So I took the call (it turned out to be something pretty unimportant, though I can’t remember the specific reason she called).  She might have just been love bombing me, though there’s no way to know for sure.

Rather than tell her I had to get off the phone (as I would have earlier in my recovery), I decided to find a neutral subject that wouldn’t lead to an argument and we might be able to find some common ground on (a kind of grey rocking).  Since I was so caught up in (and disturbed by) the Trump presidency, I sent this up as a trial balloon and asked her what she thought about the latest debacle (which at the time was the cruel child separation policy at the border).   Politically,  we’re on the same side, and like me, she is horrified by Trump and what’s happening to this country (this is another way I can tell she’s not a sociopathic or malignant narcissist).   So for about half an hour, we actually had a pleasant (well, if you can call a conversation about the current political situation pleasant) conversation without any arguments or putdowns or gaslighting.    For once, I didn’t feel like a defective five year old.  For perhaps the first time, I felt like she was treating me like a fellow adult capable of thinking for myself.  It felt good!   We spoke for almost an hour, and right before we hung up, she said something she had never said to me before.

She said, “I have really missed you.  I love you so much.  You are such a good person.”

“You are such a good person.”   Whoa!  That’s simply not something a narcissistic mother would say to her child.   Nothing about my external appearance or my financial status, social class, worldly “success” or lack thereof.    Not only that, she sounded sincere, almost on the verge of tears.  I began to think that perhaps, I had misjudged her, and she wasn’t actually a narcissist at all.  Maybe she was just a borderline or maybe she had changed with age and was no longer a narcissist.

I didn’t speak to her again for another few months, but I began to toy with the idea of cautiously breaking my No Contact rule and going Low Contact.    It took me a long time to call her again, but the night before last week’s election, I finally shored up the courage to give her a call.

I decided to use the impending election as a way to start the conversation, since politics had worked the last time.    And it’s true we agreed about who we wished to see win the midterms and how much we both hated Trump and the GOP.   But this time the conversation wasn’t the same.   It felt forced and tense.   She kept interrupting me to say I was being too negative and dwelling on negative things too much, just like the old days before I went No Contact.   She seemed to want to change the subject, and kept asking me personal questions about myself.  I talked to her a little about the kids (her grandchildren) but when she asked me about myself, I clammed up.  I felt like she was prying and I didn’t want to tell her about myself (not that there’s much to tell).    Then she started saying she wanted to come visit me in the spring.  I don’t want her to come visit in the spring, or at all.   Just like in the old days, I felt diminished, put down, like a defective five year old again.   I realized nothing had really changed at all.

But that begs the question, what had made her say, with tears evident in her voice no less, that  I was a ‘good person’?  That’s just not something you hear someone with NPD say.   She seemed to mean it; I don’t think it was love bombing (though it could have been).    Perhaps for a fairly low level narcissist who isn’t malignant (but is still dangerous to others due to their disorder), the clouds occasionally part and they can actually see things clearly, the way they really are, without lying to themselves or others about what they see.     Perhaps she envies the fact I care about others, and am politically involved, and while normally such qualities might make her resent me,  at that particular moment, her guard was down and she realized she actually admired those qualities in me.

I’m pretty sure that on some level, my mother does love me.  At least I know she means me no harm.  And I love her too; she is my mother, so how can I not?    But the truth is, she is still a narcissist, and I simply can’t have any kind of serious relationship with anyone on the narcissism spectrum, especially someone I have so much unresolved childhood baggage with.   So it looks like it’s going to be just us exchanging cards on birthdays and Christmas, and we’ll see what happens as far as any future conversations go.  I just know for my own mental health, staying Very Low Contact is best.

 

Learning to become the mother I wish I’d had

Amazing and insightful post written by a diagnosed NPD (non-malignant) who has been working hard to stop the generational transfer of NPD and raise an emotionally healthy and empathic son, while she works on herself. They are learning together, and she may have prevented her child from developing a personality disorder by using the techniques discussed in this post.

I sure wish my mother had become self aware enough to do this with me.

Family estrangement.

 

scapegoating

Psychology Today has an interesting article about why family members become estranged.  In most cases, it’s an adult child between the ages of 25 and 35 who initiates the severing of the parent-child relationship.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/domestic-intelligence/201512/the-persistent-pain-family-estrangement.

“A difficult parent is that which the daughter or son experiences as being at the cusp of rejecting the child, or casting them out as a result of disapproval, disgust, or disappointment. When a daughter or son made the difficult decision to sever the relationship, it was usually because they felt that maintaining it was too emotionally costly, that they had to distort their soul into shapes that did not feel right to them in order to please or pacify a parent.”

In other words, No Contact.   I think most cases of an adult child severing their relationship with their parent(s) are due to feeling as if they have already been rejected or emotionally abandoned by the parent, so there isn’t as much guilt over severing contact as there might otherwise be.   But there is still sadness and grief involved, especially during holidays and possibly on birthdays.  The grief isn’t over what was lost so much as what never was or what could have been.

Tragically and unfairly, there is stigma against adults who lack family support or relationships.  Most people don’t really sympathize with you if you are estranged from your family, because they don’t understand it.  Most people think family will always be there for you through thick and thin, and in an ideal world, that is how it should be.  We are tribal creatures, wired for attachment, even as adults.

So when things go wrong and your family has cast you out of their midst, either because you became the scapegoat, or your values or lifestyle are disapproved of by the rest of the family, people from normal, loving families think the problem must be with YOU.  They can’t imagine that any family would cast out or reject one of their own, so you must be the one at fault.    If you have gone No Contact, they think that is a cruel and unusual thing for any adult child to do to the people who gave them life.   But because they weren’t the children of narcissistic parents, and have no clue what being the family scapegoat is like, they cannot understand the pain of staying involved with people who cannot love you unconditionally and are rejecting and abusive toward you even if they haven’t outright cast you out.

Many estranged ACONs are financially vulnerable due to having dismally low self esteem that kept them from acquiring the confidence and drive to be successful in a career or the self esteem to build satisfying, healthy relationships.  Many ACONs are divorced (often from other cold and rejecting abusive or narcissistic types much like their parents), unmarried, impoverished, and lonely.  Many also find it difficult if not impossible to build a surrogate family of close friends, because of their difficulties making friends for the same reasons their other close relationships don’t last.  They simply don’t have the self esteem or social skills needed for that.   A rejecting family who then turns around and blames you for your “failures” (due to not having given you the tools that most children got from their families to do well in life)  is like salt rubbed in an already gaping and infected wound.   It’s beyond unfair.  Add to that the sad fact that scapegoated adult children are usually left out of any will, if there is one.

Social service agencies and charities don’t help much.  They are temporary measures at best, and have limited resources.  They don’t love you unconditionally like a family would; in fact, they don’t really care.   So scapegoated and marginalized adult children often have no resources to which they can turn when things are rough (and they usually are).  They are vulnerable in every way it is possible to be vulnerable, due to poor mental and often physical health and without the means or the tools or the friends and family to give them support when they most need it.   Then, much like their own families did, society blames them for their failures and poverty, telling them it’s their own fault they have so few resources and insults them by calling them worthless drains on society.  It wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out that most homeless people were the scapegoated children of narcissistic families.  Having been dealt such a lousy hand in life’s lottery, you’d think there’d be more suicides among estranged adult children.   But the survival instinct is strong with us.   It had to be, or we wouldn’t still be here.

The price of being the most emotionally honest member in a narcissistic family is a high one.

Thanksgiving 2015 (with pictures!)

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Mr. Biggles and his Thanksgiving greeting.

I look back on last Thanksgiving and realize now how weird and sad it was. My daughter was in jail for 30 days for DUI (she has improved IMMENSELY since that experience)–I don’t recommend jail time for anyone, but it actually was a wake up call for her and she’s been making lots of positive changes this year. Now she’s engaged to a great guy, has a house, and is working full time and looking into going to college (finally!), possibly working with troubled kids or in the substance abuse field.

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I made myself sick eating these while making them. 😛

Last Thanksgiving was very strange. I had dinner with her then-boyfriend, a charmer named Paul who seemed too good to be true (and was!) He was financially stable, seemingly successful, very polite and seemed to really love my daughter, but he was actually a sociopath who in short order showed his true, evil colors, but I won’t repeat that story again (I already wrote about him early this year). My daughter, who was in jail last Thanksgiving, couldn’t join us and so it was a lonely Thanksgiving dinner with just me, Paul and my roommate Stacey who tagged along because she had nowhere else to go. The food was excellent (Paul is a very good cook and of course he was love bombing us and trying to brainwash us all with how perfect he was before the demon inside him began to come out and wreak havoc on our lives).  He had us all fooled, but that story (which I’ve told already) doesn’t belong in this post.

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Dexter all ready for the holidays in his “Ho Ho Ho” collar.

This Thanksgiving was much better–much more of a normal-family Thanksgiving.   The food was great (I brought 2 pies–which no one ate–and deviled eggs I had made this morning. While I was making them, I probably ate about 8, and the only downside to my Thanksgiving was I spent most of the time at my daughter and her fiance Ryan’s house in the bathroom, LOL! So I wasn’t very hungry, although I did pick at the delicious turkey and stuffing my ex had made.

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It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas!

Speaking of my ex, he was there, mostly staying in the kitchen cooking and washing dishes (he was probably trying to avoid me, LOL). We actually got along very well and he was on his best behavior. We even had a pleasant conversation with each other. I’m still very low contact with him (and intend to remain so) but today there was no antagonism, fighting, or drama of any kind. He even showed concern over how sick I was feeling (probably fake, but was still nice).

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I just thought this looked pretty.

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Dinner is served!

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Enjoying the food.

My daughter’s best friend was there (they seem more like sisters than friends and they look alike too) with her 1 1/2 year old son Weston. Also there was the friend’s sister and her 6 year old son Clayton. My daughter is great with the kids, especially Weston (who she babysits a lot for); I definitely think she’ll make a good mom someday.

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Ryan teasing Weston with his “glowstick” gloves.

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Soon to be newlyweds.

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Weston again.

When I arrived my daughter and her friend were putting up the Christmas decoration, my ex had started a fire, and they finally have some furniture in their lovely 3 bedroom, 2 bath house, so it looks like home now.

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They look so much in love.

After we ate (no one actually sat down to eat, as most of us just nibbled from the plates laid out on every flat surface), we went out in the backyard because it was pretty warm (60’s) and took more pictures. When it stared to get dark, I headed back to my house because I have trouble seeing on the road after dark.

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Weston and Clayton.

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Are you listening to me???

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Going for a ride!

Random thoughts on family.
I was also thinking about how my immediate family is splintered into at least 4 or 5 discrete groups located in various parts of the country. There’s my enclave of our splintered family (me, my daughter and her husband-to-be here in North Carolina, and all our pets); then there’s my son in Florida with his “adopted” family of close friends and his partner’s immediate family who almost think of him as a second son, and their 2 dogs; then there’s my 80-something mother and her extended family in the upper-middle class Chicago suburbs; and finally my aging father and his caretaker-wife in Texas, who in recent years have been celebrating the holidays by themselves or sometimes with their neighbors (since he hasn’t been well and Parkinson’s has compromised his ability to walk or speak normally).

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My son (the family empath) has this dream of organizing a huge family reunion one day when he can afford it; of anyone in the family, it means the most to him to bring everyone together at some point. He’s even made friends with distant cousins, second cousins, and other relatives I’ve never even met through Facebook and other social media and is closer to all of them than either me or his sister is, because he has reached out to them and we have not.  I think that’s beautiful but I don’t know if the family reunion idea will ever work. There’s just too much baggage, drama, and too many of us not speaking to other family members. It sucks and is very sad but that’s how it is. I think it’s commendable though that he’s the only one who actually cares about wanting to heal this family and bring us ALL together, even if his ideas are too idealistic and unrealistic and unlikely to come to fruition (half of our relatives probably wouldn’t attend anyway).

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Resting after stuffing ourselves. That’s my ex back there in the kitchen.  

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Yours truly.

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I’m not sure what she was doing here but I don’t appear to like it! 😀

I feel very thankful our little corner of the family appears to be finally healing, and for once we enjoyed a holiday with NO drama, NO stress (other than my poor stomach), good food, fun, and lots of hugs and love to go around. And I’m thankful my ex opted to stay out of the way in the kitchen most of the time. :mrgreen:

“Inside Out”: a touching and funny story about the way emotions work.

inside_out_poster

Yesterday I decided to take myself to the movies for a change, and chose to see “Inside Out,” the Disney Pixar animated summer fantasy blockbuster.

Seeing “Inside Out” was a serendipitous choice, because I just happened to have enough money to afford a ticket (which is a rarity for me), and also because, although I didn’t know it right away, this movie has a beautiful message about the way Sadness and Joy, though seemingly polar opposites, when working together make human connection and unconditional love possible. Just as the light can’t exist without darkness, or good without evil, joy cannot exist without sadness. When working in sync with each other, these two emotions create a beautiful life affirming thing called Empathy, and that’s what connects us to each other and keeps the human race from becoming extinct.


Official Trailer


Sneak Preview–Teaser Clips

Riley Andersen is a young girl of 11 who becomes severely depressed after her parents’ decision to move from Minnesota to San Francisco. The movie begins at the moment of Riley’s birth in Minnesota, shown from Riley’s point of view. Her first Emotions (depicted as loveable anthropomorphized characters) are Joy (feeling secure in her parent’s love) and Sadness (when she needs something or feels ignored or in pain). As Riley grows into early toddlerhood, sometimes her needs and desires are thwarted and Anger takes over and she throws a tantrum. Around the same time she is also capable of feeling Fear or Disgust (both necessary for her survival), and it’s at those times those characters become dominant in Riley’s growing mind.

When the five Emotions work together in harmony, not overstepping each other’s boundaries and only doing the jobs assigned to them, this teamwork manifests in Riley as a well-adjusted little girl able to feel all her emotions at the appropriate times.

The five Emotions work in Headquarters, which is the conscious part of Riley’s young mind. Joy is responsible for making sure Riley’s short term memories are sent to Long Term Memory deep in Riley’s subconscious. Her memories are depicted as glowing colored orbs containing a ghostly image of the actual memory. The color of the orbs represent the dominant Emotion Riley felt at the time of the event. Transporting Short Term memories into Long Term Memory happens during Dream Production as Riley sleeps, and sometimes the other Emotions are needed to help Joy do her job getting the memories there (and sometimes discarding certain irrelevant or painful ones.) Occasionally the other Emotions (as well as Riley’s imaginary childhood friend, Bing Bong, who is a jokester) like to play little jokes–and certain irrelevant memories like an annoying gum commercial jingle are sent to Long Term Memory along with the important memories, which causes Riley to occasionally hear the gum jingle in her head at random times years later.

rileys_emotions

At the center of Headquarters is the vault which contains Riley’s Core Memories–important but happy long term memories that are responsible for Riley’s happy go lucky personality. The orbs that represent these are colored gold (Joy’s color) and for Riley’s continued mental health, these core memories must not be contaminated by the other Emotions, which is why they are kept locked in a vault. Each of the Core Memories has a long glowing tube that leads to one of Riley’s Five Islands of Personality: Family, Goofiness, Hockey (which she loves to play), Friendship, and Honesty. Maintaining these islands is necessary for Riley’s continued normal psychological development.

The crisis in Riley’s mind is set off when her family moves from her beloved Minnesota to San Francisco. Moving away is always a traumatic event for even the most loved child. Feeling isolated from her old friends and lonely in a place she doesn’t know, Riley’s Emotions begin to make mistakes and not work in sync. Joy and the other Emotions have never been sure of Sadness’s purpose because she just seems to be a Debbie Downer who is always in the way and always making mistakes. It’s Joy’s job to keep Riley’s happiness intact, but one day shortly after the traumatic move, Sadness goes around touching Riley’s happy memories, turning them blue (sad). Joy frantically tries to undo the damage but the memories already touched cannot be repaired. Desperate, Joy tries to isolate Sadness to prevent her from doing any more damage.

On Riley’s first day at her new school, Sadness takes over and Riley begins to cry in class, which creates a new but painful core memory. Joy frantically tries to keep this new core memory from reaching the central vault, but in her struggle with Sadness, who seems to keep contaminating more memories, she accidentally knocks out some of Riley’s untouched happy core memories, which fall off into the abyss. These memories are almost impossible to retrieve once lost to Riley’s Unconscious. Worse yet, both Joy and Sadness are sucked through the Long Term Memory Tube themselves, and are both lost deep in Riley’s vast and labyrinthine Unconscious.

During Joy and Sadness’s absence, Anger, Fear and Disgust attempt to run Headquarters in their place and make a holy mess of things. They attempt to provide “joy” but of course it’s faked now, rather than genuine. Sadness too is absent, so Riley can no longer longer cry or even feel grief over her loss. Anger, Fear and Disgust manifest in Riley’s new insolent and angry attitude toward her parents and loss of interest in the things she used to love. With the core memories now missing or contaminated, one by one the Five Islands of Personality crumble and fall into the abyss of the Memory Dump, a place deep in Riley’s mind where old memories are forgotten. The first Island to crumble into oblivion is Goofiness (Riley’s sense of humor), followed by Hockey (which she quits), and then Friendship (she no longer has any desire to make new friends).

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Joy and Sadness find themselves adrift after falling through the Long Term Memory tube deep into Riley’s unconscious mind.

Desperate, Anger decides to insert in Riley’s mind the idea to run back to Minnesota. He plugs this into the Control Console, in the belief this can produce new happy memories. This requires Riley to steal money from her mother’s purse in order to fund her trip back to Minnesota, and then she lies about the theft. As a result, the second to last Island left, Honesty, falls away in ruins into the Memory Dump.

Back in the abyss of Riley’s deep Unconscious, Joy and Sadness run into Bing Bong, Riley’s long forgotten childhood imaginary friend. Bing Bong wants to reconnect with Riley, so he tells Joy and Sadness they can all get back to Headquarters by riding the Train of Thought. After a series of failed attempts, they eventually catch the train, but it becomes derailed when the last personality island, Family, falls into the Dump.

At this point, giving any more away would be spoiling the plot, but gradually Joy and Sadness, who have always been at odds with each other, realize that in order for Riley to return to her normal happy state of mind, they must work together as a team and Sadness has the biggest job of all. Riley must be able to experience–and receive–empathy and love (which comprise both joy and sadness) to heal from her near-catatonic depression.

As a blogger about narcissism and personality disorders, I see Riley at this point in grave danger of suicide or developing a personality disorder, even NPD or BPD. Her trauma-induced depression has caused her to become apathetic and unable to feel anything at all. What happens next is so magical and touched me so deeply I sat there in the darkened theater with tears running unchecked down my face and my nose running. I wasn’t alone–I heard sniffles and nose blowing all over the theater, and there’s a safety and sense of connection with total strangers that comes from that, and that’s why going to see a good movie never gets old. There’s something wonderfully liberating about being able to cry in a public place yet unseen by others and unjudged for it because everyone else is crying too. I think that’s why “heartstring tugging” movies are so popular. But the emotions elicited in “Inside Out” feel real–there’s no sappiness or fake sentimentality in this film that make you feel manipulated by the producers.

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The five Islands of Personality.

But for all its poignancy, “Inside Out” has plenty of humor too, and all the jokes are clever and well timed. At times during the movie I was both laughing and crying at the same time. The Five Emotions are all funny characters with their own unique charm. Even Anger is loveable and hilarious in his own irascible way, and the Tinker-Bell like Joy, who could have been incredibly annoying for all her upbeat perkiness, has a depth you don’t expect and over time you realize she is the only Emotion who can feel all the other Emotions. I pictured Joy and Sadness as really being the same person–the two sides of Riley’s True Self–and when they were lost in Riley’s memory dump, Riley’s behavior became quite narcissistic. It wasn’t lost on me that both Joy’s hair color and her “aura” are colored blue–Sadness’ color.

Pete Doctor, the film’s director and screenwriter, was inspired to develop “Inside Out” while trying to come to terms with his own daughter’s psychological changes and mood swings as she approached adolescence. To give the complex psychological concepts presented credibility, well-known developmental psychologists were consulted during pre-production. It’s obvious that a deep knowledge of the way the human mind works fueled both the story and the landscape of Riley’s mind. Kids will adore “Inside Out” because of its lovable characters, fantastic animation, humor, its engaging story about a regular girl, and impressive special effects. In the theater I saw it in, there were plenty of children there, and all of them were rapt in the story.

But adults will love it just as much because of the movie’s deep message of Empathy being born from pain and loss, and the necessity of “negative” emotions to exist in a healthy person’s psyche, working in tandem with “positive” ones. Understanding the movie at this level requires an ability to think in an abstract way about the mechanisms behind personality development and psychological disorders. “Inside Out” is a rare movie that celebrates the human ability to feel, and to love, cry, connect, and laugh. It tells kids that all their emotions are okay, and experiencing them is normal and just part of growing up.

Parents, if you have children ages 4 to early teens, please take them to see “Inside Out.” Both you and they will leave the theater feeling great, and the ideas presented in the story can open up honest discussion about emotions between parents and their children. I’d even go so far as to suggest teachers show this movie to their students, and engage them in discussion afterwards.

I find it encouraging and heartening that such an honest and touching movie with a positive message about genuine emotions and empathy has become the hit of the summer, instead of the usual mindless dreck that passes for summer blockbusters.

“Inside Out” is rated PG. I would not recommend it for children age 3 and younger, due to several quite scary moments that could give a young child nightmares.

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Riley with her concerned parents at the dinner table.

My rating: Five Stars! *****

Facts about “Inside Out”:
via Wikipedia

“Inside Out” is a 2015 American 3D computer-animated comedy-drama film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Directed and co-written by Pete Docter, the film is set in the mind of a young girl, Riley Andersen (Kaitlyn Dias), where five personified emotions—Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith)—try to lead her through life as she moves with her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) to a new city. The film was co-directed and co-written by Ronnie del Carmen and produced by Jonas Rivera, with music composed by Michael Giacchino.

Docter first began developing Inside Out in 2009 after noticing changes in his daughter’s personality as she grew older. The film’s producers consulted numerous psychologists, including Dacher Keltner[6] from the University of California, Berkeley, who helped revise the story emphasizing the neuropsychological findings that human emotions are mirrored in interpersonal relationships and can be significantly moderated by them.

After premiering at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in May, Inside Out was released on June 19, 2015. It received universal critical acclaim, with many film critics praising the voice performances (particularly for Poehler, Smith, and Richard Kind), its concept and poignant subject matter. The film grossed $90.4 million in its first weekend—the highest opening for an original title, besting Avatar‍ ’​s previous record.

Depressed.

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My daughter moved out last night with her current boyfriend. This was of course the plan, but I’m really in the dumps today because we fought last night. It ended with me telling her to pack up and get out last night, which she did. For a couple of months she has been sleeping on the couch (my roommate–yes, she’s still here but has been a bit better–has the other bedroom) and just got a job last month. She had paid nothing toward the rent because she was saving to move out. I had told her this was okay.

We are usually best friends but because we also both have diagnosed BPD, things can get heated between us sometimes. There can be drama. I hate drama. There was plenty of it last night though. Two things happened that made us fight.

1. When I was in the shower, she stole $10 from my purse. I wasn’t so much upset because this was all the money I had until Friday (which is bad enough–go ahead and try to make $10 last three days), but because I’d started to believe I could trust her again. (She used to steal from me a lot). I confronted her about it and she admitted she took it but called it “borrowing.” This led to a fight, because what she did was STEAL, not BORROW. I told her she didn’t seem that remorseful and that worried me. Later on she did admit she was wrong and admitted it was stealing, but that didn’t happen until several hours later, after she was gone, and it didn’t help my mood at all.

2. My father called her and asked if she had received a gift card and birthday check (her birthday was last week) because he hadn’t heard anything. She never did receive anything in the mail. Now she believes I took it when I got the mail (apparently the check was made out to me) and cashed it and used the gift card without letting her know. I don’t collect the mail (my roommate does, which makes me wonder if SHE took it). I have never stolen from my daughter and never even entertained the thought, but due to the circumstances I could actually understand why she would think along these lines. I’m also afraid my father will believe her over me, if she tells him she thinks I stole from her. I don’t know why I’m worried about this but I just am.

Even so, I was hurt that she would think I would steal from her. I told her I didn’t want to live with someone who not only stole from me, but would accuse me of stealing from them when I didn’t. I can’t convince her it might have been lost in the mail. She isn’t mad anymore but still believes I stole her money. There is nothing I can do to make her think otherwise.

It’s for the best she’s out. She is 22 and too old to be living with mom. I can’t help feeling a little sad though. I’ll miss her, even though I’ll be seeing her almost every day probably. I’m used to having her around.

I have more space now and can actually use the living room again, but because the fight happened late last night, I was so upset and wound up I didn’t sleep at all. I had to call in sick to work today (which always makes me feel guilty). It’s a pretty day and I may go outside for awhile and work in the garden or just sit on the porch and read. But right now I just want to lie on my bed and sleep the day away. I know that will only make things worse. I just want to cry right now.

ETA: I called my father and he said he never sent her anything (he doesn’t trust her and is sort of No Contact with her, so I thought it was odd he would even be sending her money). So she is lying to me though I can’t fathom why she would do that. I am going to confront her with this information and see what she has to say for herself. She doesn’t have NPD but is good at playing some of the Narc games that she learned from her father. BPD’s can be almost as manipulative sometimes.

My daughter just made me cry.

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Molly and me in the car in April 2014. I was 2 months No Contact with my MN ex by then.

My daughter Molly got home from visiting some friends, and admitted that she had come across my blog back in December and read the article about her where I said I thought she was a malignant narcissist (I think I was mistaken about that).

I thought she’d be angry, but instead she told me that although it hurt her feelings, it was a wake up call too, and because of that article, she started to rethink some of her past behaviors. She had time to do that during her 30 day stint in jail too.

Then she actually thanked me. She said, “Mom, even though I was so hurt you thought I was a narcissist, I started to think you were right and realized I do act very narcissistic sometimes, especially when I was doing pain pills (she hasn’t done pills in over a month). I want to say thank you, because I know you would never have written that if you didn’t love me.”

It gets even better.

She continued, “You’re different now, Mom. You seem so much happier now. I’ve read some of your other blog posts and I have to say I really admire you, Mom, for being so honest about everything. I think you’re so brave to be doing that and it’s doing good things for you. I could never do what you’re doing. I really want to change, Mom. I want you to be as proud of me as I am right now of you.”

me_chatting
She took this with her phone while we were talking. I wasn’t crying yet lol.

And then she came over to hug me and we were both crying.

For the record, the article I linked to describes something that wasn’t true. She had a brief relationship with a narc who lied to me about her doing hard drugs and because he gave such a good impression (this guy was a skilled psychopath who could sell ice to a penguin), had me believing him. It turned out everything he said to me was a lie. I wrote about that too, but it isn’t a long post (and actually replaced another one which I deleted).

Targets and Victims

victim

I found another blog today written by a survivor of a sick family of psychopaths and sociopaths (I’ve added the site to my list of resources under the “Info and Support” tab in the green bar in the header. I know I’ve written about this before, but this is one of the best lists of the traits of potential targets and victims of psychopaths I have seen yet. I have just about every single one of these traits, unfortunately. From an early age, I was trained to be a doormat. I learned that lesson too well.

BEFORE: TRAITS of a Potential TARGET

Below are the traits most commonly attributed to a sociopath’s target. Every person is inherently different, and that includes each target and the traits that are most pronounced in the individual. An individual would definitely not need any of these traits to be preyed upon.

This is not an attempt to diagnose anyone.

Shyness
Difficulty communicating
A lack of self confidence
Wanting to please
A belief that if you love enough the person will change
A belief that if you love enough the relationship will succeed
Difficulty establishing and maintaining boundaries
Not being able to say no
Being easily influenced by others
Wanting to be rescued from your life situation
Wanting to rescue others from their distress
Being over nurturing particularly when not asked
Feelings of shame and self doubt
Low self-esteem
A lack of memories about childhood or periods of adulthood
A lack of motivation from within and being motivated by others

AFTER: SYMPTOMS of a Relentlessly Abused VICTIM

This is a very accurate list of symptoms experienced by someone who has had their psyche brutally victimized by a sociopath. With that said, this list is not all-inclusive, nor is it intended to be part of any diagnostic function, whatsoever. These symptoms can also be triggered by many other conditions or events.

The source of this data is from ongoing research, but the majority of the data is derived and confirmed from personal experience … the key word being “majority” There are some symptoms listed here that I have not experienced at all, though they have been mentioned enough for me to accept them as potentially common.

If you, or someone you know, has experienced even a few of these symptoms, seek professional help. Keep in mind, though, that not all “help” is equal. If the professional you choose does not seem to relate to your needs as you would expect or desire, keep looking.

Emotional paralysis
PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Suicidal thoughts or actions (indirect homicide)
Loss of interest in life
Loss of energy
Insomnia
Anxiety
Depression or Severe Depression
Numbing of feelings
Disinterest in having a relationship
Panic attacks
Irritability
Increased anxiety from being alone
Increased anxiety from being in crowds
Mood swings
Source: sociopathicstyle.com [confirmed by personal experience (50+ years)]

How my mother became a narcissist.

housework

I’ve said a lot of negative things about my mother, but I don’t hate her. Today I was thinking about how she got to be the way she is. While most narcissistic psychopaths are probably genetically predisposed to this condition and are missing the part of the brain that causes them to have empathy and compassion for others (actually it’s just not functioning properly), in most cases there are also psychological factors. Many psychopaths and narcissists were abused or neglected children, whose own parents failed to mirror them adequately as young children. So as unpleasant as they may be, their condition is not their fault. It was done to them.

I’ve already described my mother as a vain, self-centered, image conscious woman who almost always put her own needs ahead of those of her children and husbands, and chose me (as the youngest) to be her scapegoat. At times I was also her golden child, especially prior to my teen years when I started to rebel, and she loved to make me in her own image, dressing me up like I was a little doll. She expected me to act like one too, and flew into a rage if I ever had an opinion of my own or dared to challenge her.

The story I’m going to tell is gleaned from the scant bits and pieces I heard over the years, most of it described by people other than my mother. Like most narcissists, my mother is stunningly lacking in introspection. She almost never talked about her past or her childhood, and the few times she did, it was negative. Most of her anger seemed to be directed toward her mother, who she spoke of with contempt the few times she did mention her.

Ginny was a beautiful child with big blue eyes and light red hair. Somewhere in my mother’s home there’s a photo of her at about age two, and she is dressed in a pink and white dress with a Peter Pan collar, her bright hair is done in a 1930s bob, and she’s sitting in an oversized chair holding a large teddy bear on her lap. On her feet are brown high top shoes, and her little feet are sticking straight out toward the camera. Ginny’s expression is solemn, almost sad. In fact, she looks close to tears. I will probably never see that photo again, as I am not in contact with my mother and she’s in her 80s and probably won’t be here too much longer, even though she’s in good health for her age and still looks younger than her years. I wonder if at the time that photo was taken, Ginny’s narcissism was already ingrained, or if she could have still become a normal, loving woman had her circumstances been different. The sadness in her face tells me she was hurting. It’s the most vulnerable I’ve ever seen my mother.

Ginny was the fourth and youngest child born to a naval academy officer and second generation Irishwoman. The family was middle class, lived in a nice house in a safe neighborhood outside Annapolis, Maryland, and raised all their children as Roman Catholics. Because Ginny’s father was in the military, when the Depression hit, the family didn’t suffer too much financial hardship and his job remained secure. But Theodore (her father) was a heavy drinker, probably an alcoholic, and started drinking almost the moment he got home from work. Anna Marie (Ginny’s mother) suffered from melancholia (what we now know as major depression) and after Ginny was born, took to her bed and stayed there for most of her childhood and teen years. She may have been suffering from postpartum depression, but in those days, no one knew about such a thing. Anna Marie started to neglect her duties as a housewife and mother, saying she was “too sick” and had to lie down.

Ginny was the most attractive of the four children, and the only one with blue eyes. She was obviously Theodore’s favorite child, and he constantly told her how beautiful and special she was. Anna Marie began to resent all the attention he showered on his favorite child, and became even more depressed (she may have been a narcissist herself). Theodore was a faithful husband (from all accounts) but his wife’s demands were wearing him down and he began to drink even more. Sometimes he came home from work already drunk and often he would pass out after eating dinner, so that no one was running the household but the children.

By this time Ginny was about six, and her older sisters (who were in their teens) and brother (who was about 11) weren’t interested in keeping the house clean or taking care of their exhausted, drunk father and depressed, ill mother. Ginny hated dirt and disorder, and took it upon herself to keep the house clean and cook the family meals (Anna Marie was a bad cook). Her sisters were always out at parties or on dates and of course her brother was a boy so he wasn’t interested in keeping up the home or taking care of the family. Soon Ginny was the sole caretaker and became her father’s young surrogate wife. (I don’t know whether or not she was sexually abused, but it would not surprise me and I assume she probably was). Anna Marie developed a hatred for Ginny, who seemed to be everything she was not and also got all her husband’s attention. Theodore’s adoration of Ginny increased, and he began to depend on her for everything, including confiding his problems in his marriage. Ginny seemed sympathetic, but was already plotting to leave the home.

At age 15, Ginny had become a drop dead gorgeous young woman. She left her family and dropped out of high school to marry a young man from the naval academy who was studying to be a Methodist minister. She took a job modeling for the local newspaper to help makes ends meet. By 18 she was pregnant and gave birth to her first daughter, and a few years later she had her second child, also a girl. But Ginny was tired of the church dinners and the drudgery of family life. She was bored and longed for excitement that her two young daughters and minister husband couldn’t provide. So when her daughters were just 7 and 2, she left them to marry my father. It was the late 1950s, and a woman leaving her husband and children just wasn’t done, but she did it without a second thought.

Although her older daughter had abandonment issues and hated Ginny for years for leaving, today my mother lives in her home and my sister’s become Ginny’s most loyal flying monkey. I barely ever knew my sister, but I was told several years ago that I was not welcome in her home because my sister didn’t want me there. Either my mother didn’t want me there and blamed it on my sister, or my sister is a sheep who believed all Ginny’s lies about me. Ironically, my sisters were much better off than if she hadn’t left them because the woman who married her jilted husband and raised them was a kind, nurturing woman, almost the polar opposite of my mother.

Another irony is that even though my mother, as a malignant narcissist, is completely lacking in compassion, both her father and my father were taken in by Ginny’s fake “sympathy.” Ginny listened to her dad talk about his marital problems when she was a teenager and offered him kind words and a ready ear; and recently my son told me how my father fell in love with Ginny (my father never told me this story but he told him): my father’s 3 year old son from his first marriage had been hit by a train and died, and my mother offered him a shoulder to cry on and a sympathetic ear and soon he was madly in love with her.

I clearly remember when my grandmother suffered a major stroke at age 57 when I was only 7, my mother’s comments after seeing her in the hospital. All she could talk about was how helpless and disgusting she was (the stroke had left her paralyzed from the waist down and incontinent) and how she couldn’t wait to get out of there. Even at that young age, I was horrified by my mother’s callous remarks about her own mother.

Even though I don’t use my real name or their real names, sometimes I think it’s just a matter of time until she discovers this blog. I had to go inactive on Facebook because of her extended family all finding me there.