memories, musings, psychology, true crime

Repost: “Cootie Kids”

And here’s another repost from January 26, 2018, shared today because I just wrote fresh content about the Turpin case.

Every once in awhile, I read something that really makes me stop and think.  Jennifer Turpin is one of the thirteen “kids” who were discovered living in a “house of horrors” in Perris, California a couple of weeks ago.  Authorities found her and her siblings living in filth.  Some of them were shackled to their beds, completely removed from the outside world.  I have been following the horrifying story of the Turpin family.  The more that comes out about them, the more bizarre and insane their story is.

This morning, I ran across a very poignant Facebook post written by Taha Muntajibuddin, a man who knew Jennifer Turpin when they were both kids. At one time, Jennifer Turpin had been allowed to attend school, and she and Muntajibuddin were third grade classmates at Meadowcreek Elementary School. Evidently, in those days, Jennifer Turpin was thought of as one of the “cootie kids”. No one wanted to be friends with her because she was dirty and smelled bad.

Muntajibuddin remembers that after that year, Jennifer moved away and he lost track of her.  There had been times when he’d tried to track her down through Facebook.  He wondered how she’d turned out and hoped she’d turned into someone totally different than who she was when they were eight years old.  But he never was able to find her and imagined that maybe she was one of the few people in the world who hadn’t succumbed to the lure of social media.  Naturally, like so many people who recently discovered the Turpin family, he was horrified when her real story came to light.     

In his very reflective Facebook post, Muntajibuddin reminds people how important it is to be kind.  Better yet, they should teach their children to be kind.  Every elementary school has a “cootie kid” who gets picked on.  Sometimes those kids are able to rise above that moniker.  Sometimes being harassed and bullied leads them down a dark road in which they turn to violence or substance abuse.  Sometimes, it turns out the “cootie kid” is a survivor of a hell that no one else knows about or understands.

My own class had a “cootie kid”.  I have written about her on this blog (ETA: Maybe I’ll repost about her, too).  Like Muntajibuddin, I went Googling to see how she turned out.  Unlike Muntajibuddin, I actually found our old “cootie kid”.  I was gratified to see that it looks like she turned out alright.  She’s one of the ostracized kids who had enough resilience to rise above being picked on and bullied in school.  Just as Muntajibuddin describes Jennifer Turpin as “pleasant” and having a “whimsical optimism”, the “cootie kid” girl I knew was very plucky and friendly, despite her challenges.  She had some really good qualities, in spite of being made the odd girl out.  She was worth the effort of kindness and consideration, as most people ultimately are.

I don’t have kids of my own, of course, so I have never had the responsibility of trying to teach anyone right from wrong.  I’d like to think that if I’d had children, I’d try to teach them to be nice to others.  I’d like to hope I’d encourage them to befriend kids who need friends.  On the other hand, I’m also a realist and a human.  The reality is, as lofty as those goals are, they often fall flat.  Humans are horribly flawed and fallible.  You can have the best of intentions and still be a total failure in some areas.  You can try to be an excellent example and still not manage to sway anyone to follow your lead.

If there’s anything to be learned from kids like Jennifer Turpin, it’s that everyone is fighting battles that aren’t readily apparent to the naked eye.  Kids make fun of other kids when they are different somehow.  I was made fun of when I was in school.  So were a lot of my friends.  We didn’t have the misfortune of being total outcasts, but we took our share of licks.  I remember how that felt and how it still feels today.  Life is hard for most people, but it costs nothing to be kind.

And yet, as I write that, I know there are times that I’ll fail to be kind because I’m human and fallible.  Perhaps if I can take anything from Muntajibuddin’s Facebook post, it’s the reminder that sometimes the reality of another person’s situation is much more horrible than you can ever know.  If it weren’t for Jennifer Turpin’s sister’s bravery, there’s no telling how much longer she and her siblings would be living the miserable life they were living. 

You never know how you will affect other people.  Jennifer Turpin surely doesn’t know how she affected her classmate and how her classmate is, in turn, affecting everyone who reads his poignant thoughts about her.  Just by existing, she’s already changed the world.

Hindsight is 20/20 and I’m sure those who had contact with the Turpin kids now regret not speaking up and calling the authorities.  There’s a fine line in knowing when it’s right to call for help for someone else’s kids.  Some people do it at the drop of a hat.  I think most people would rather not get involved when they see someone like Jennifer Turpin.  I can admit to feeling that way myself, even though I have a degree in social work and would likely have been one of the people who got called when a situation like this is discovered.  It’s hard to stand up for other people.  It’s even harder to know when a situation warrants making a call to the authorities.

The Turpin kids needed a lot more than friends.  In fact, it sounds to me like they weren’t really allowed to have any friends.  But the ones who went to school no doubt interacted with others.  We should teach kids– really each other– to simply be kind… and Muntajibuddin’s post is an excellent reminder to do so.

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narcissists, overly helpful people, psychology

“Spanx” for the psyche– when your friends and family members don psychological shapewear…

Almost a month ago, I wrote a blog post about manipulators who insist that they’re straightforward and honest. In that post, I wrote about how I’d seen a meme on social media that really spoke to me. I saved it, and three days later, was presented with a real life situation that pretty much described the wisdom of that truism someone shared on Facebook. I will repost it below for those who don’t want to read the older post.

So true…

Bill and I were talking about this subject again this morning over breakfast. It’s Veteran’s Day, and he’s a veteran, so he’s at home. I asked him if, looking back on his experiences with people who turned out to be toxic and manipulative, if they had started off trying to look like they were “above reproach.” He said they mostly had… and in fact, thought of a few people in my life who had acted that way at first, and then turned out to be controlling, manipulative, deceptive, and underhanded. It’s as if someone designed Spanx for the psyche, put them on, and then tried to sell it to the unsure.

You know what Spanx are, right? Spanx are foundation garments designed to make people appear to be thinner and more shapely than they actually are. While Spanx may make a person look more attractive by compressing and smoothing out those trouble spots, people who wear them are basically hiding their true selves. Just as today’s featured photo implies, that’s all well and good until it’s time to get more intimate. Then, the truth comes out, and you find out if your partner only loves you for the illusion of your “perfect” body instead of your personality.

I don’t think shapewear can help me. I am who I am, like it or not. Have you ever noticed that the people who model shapewear don’t actually need to wear it? I think they should get someone who looks like me to model their products. But I don’t want to do it myself… love me, love my fat rolls.

To be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a person covering up their physical flaws if it makes them feel more comfortable with themselves. I do, however, think trouble starts when a person hides their authentic selves with “shapewear for the psyche”. That’s when a person behaves like someone they’re not for the purpose of shaping or manipulating your opinion of them. Then, when you realize who they really are, you find out you were duped. It’s like the person wore psychological Spanx to hide their unsightly ego bulges, sagging virtue, and flabby morals. The next thing you know, you’re wondering if you’re crazy or stupid. Surely this person is as good as they first seemed. You wonder if you’re the problem. But nope… they were just hiding their true selves in psychological shapewear, designed to trick people with an illusion.

This type of behavior is a form of “gaslighting“. According to Medical News Today:

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. People experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust themselves.

A person who comes on strong, and tries hard to make a great first impression on you, is trying to shape your opinion of them. Then, when the behavior changes for the worse, as it always does, you will think back to that initial strong and positive first impression and be more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. You will wonder if they’re just having a bad day. You will assume that someday, they’ll be that person with the warm, winsome personality who insisted that they are above reproach, and would never lie, cheat, steal, or do anything that isn’t for someone other than themselves. The reality is, they were never that person. They just wanted you to think they were. They want you to second guess yourself as you start to realize that they deceived you.

These folks are the ones who take it upon themselves to set a good example for others to follow. To give a recent and relevant example, there’s a woman I know casually who, when the pandemic was first in the news, made a point of posting pictures of herself wearing face masks while she was hanging out with her friends. She added a “PSA” of sorts about how important face masks are and– oh look!– she’s wearing one! Obviously, she was putting it out there that she’s a “caring” person, and you should try to emulate her. She sacrificed wearing lipstick so we could see her taking one for the team, dutifully wearing her face mask and being an example to all.

Later, I noticed that she deviated somewhat from that initial caring for the masses message she put out on her Facebook page. I got a taste of her control issues and the underhanded ways she tries to rope people in to doing her bidding. I realized that the first impression I got of her was just a facade. The reality is, she was wearing “Spanx for the psyche” and I had bought into that initial false image of her. I don’t think she’s a bad person, per se. I just think she tries to put forth an image that isn’t quite authentic or accurate. I find myself being more careful in my dealings with her.

Looking back, I can think of other people who made dynamite first impressions on me. I came away from meeting them thinking they were amazing. They were cordial, witty, charming, funny, and entertaining. Then, after awhile, the mask slipped, and I realized the first impression was just their version of a sales pitch. They were just trying to sell a false version of themselves so that when their real personality inevitably came out, I might cut them more of a break.

This phenomenon reminds me of that old joke about the man who visited Heaven and Hell to see where he’d like to spend eternity. Heaven is quiet, serene, beautiful, and comfortable. Hell looks like a raucous party, with sexy people having a blast with endless games. The man likes how Heaven looks, but ultimately chooses Hell, because it looks like it would be more fun. Then, when he shows up on this first day of eternity, he sees how miserable and awful Hell really is. He asks the demon who is showing him around what happened to the fun version of Hell he’d seen. The demon says, “Yesterday, we were recruiting you. Today, you’re committed.”

It’s easier in hindsight to acknowledge that sometimes people cover up who they really are. When you’re actually meeting them for the first time, it may not occur to you that they would be deceptive about their real selves. Most of us want to give people a chance, and try to see at least some good in others, especially when we first meet them. That’s kind of what our culture teaches us. If we let a negative impression cross our minds, we might hear the stern reproaches of someone from the past, chastising us for being “prejudicial”. However, I have found that that initial gut impression is often correct. There have been many times when I’ve regretted not heeding that impression. Because, once the more “intimate” part of a relationship begins, and the “Spanx for the psyche” is peeled off, the real ugliness sets in… and the person tries to sell that fake version of themselves again. I’m left wondering if I’m crazy or they’re just lying to me.

I’ve often discovered that people who need “psychological Spanx” also tend to be surface acquaintances. They aren’t interested in getting to know other people as much as they want some dirt on them so they can use it to their advantage at some point. Most of the fake people I’ve known are much more concerned about their reputations and images than they are in forming solid and honest relationships with other people. They’re more worried about how they look to others than they are in caring for friends and loved ones who have already committed to them. They don’t value deep relationships; they just want people to submit to their control tactics. Once someone is on the hook as a supporter, they aren’t going to go to the effort of covering up their flaws anymore. And if that’s not acceptable to you, the person who was duped, they’ll make it painful for you to object.

It’s kind of like when we first met our ex landlady. She tried hard to present herself as caring, understanding, and decent. But there were a number of signs that she was being deceptive. We chose to ignore them, even though I know I picked up on the signals from the first meeting. Her words and actions weren’t congruent. And later, after we heard many assurances from her about what a good and responsible person she is, she became the worst landlady we’ve ever had the displeasure of dealing with. Over the course of our relationship with her, she made a number of external improvements to the house, but they were mostly cosmetic and meant to make the house more appealing to people on the street. She couldn’t have cared less about the comfort and convenience of the people who actually lived in the house and paid rent to her. That’s why she replaced the driveway and put up a flimsy fence instead of replacing the weird toilet that repeatedly backed up and required her husband to give me a tutorial. That’s also why she didn’t get rid of the disgusting carpet that reeked of cat piss. People on the street can’t see those things and don’t have to deal with them. But tenants have a contract, and are subjected to seeing her as she really is when things go wrong.

I have also seen how these types of people, when they have a commitment with others in their lives, feel free to mistreat them. I always pity people who are born to manipulative liars. It’s much easier to get away from someone who is a not a close blood relative. When it’s your parent or sibling, the stakes are much higher, and people tend to tolerate their bad behavior for longer. Then, when they can’t take it anymore, other people judge them for escaping the clutches of their tormentors. More often than not, the judgmental folks have only seen the charming, appealing, “psychological Spanx” wearing versions of the relative who is being abusive. They haven’t see them when the Spanx come off and the person lets everything unattractive about their true selves hang out.

Now… I’m not saying that it’s wrong for a person to try to make a good first impression. To some extent, most of us try to do that. What I am saying is that when a person tries too hard, or, when you first meet them, they insist that they’re “good, honest people” who never have problems with others, that’s a red flag. Nine times out of ten, they’re going to turn out to be the opposite of what they claimed to be. Or, at the very least, you’re going to find out that they aren’t authentic.

Authentic people don’t have to tell you how good they are. It shows in the honest way they behave and how they relate to other people. They don’t need “psychological Spanx”, because their personalities are naturally attractive. It’s possible to meet someone who is lovely and that’s who they really are. Usually, those types of people don’t give you a bad feeling. You don’t have that little voice in your head, warning you. The authentically good people don’t need to bowl you over with charm. They have no need to impress. They’re just good people who are real. No psychological Spanx or shapewear required.

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memories, mental health, music, psychology, sex, videos, YouTube

“Magazine pages”, and drinking and downloading…

Today’s post may be triggering for some readers. At the end of the post, I discuss Josh Duggar, which could trigger anyone decent. Proceed at your own risk.

I have a huge collection of music on iTunes, and I usually set my HomePod to stream whatever’s in my collection of many thousands of songs. Consequently, there’s no telling what we’ll hear on a given evening. Sometimes, we hear classical music. Sometimes we hear country or bluegrass or rock… or really shitty songs from the 70s and 80s. I also have a pretty good collection of indie artists, or even just people I’ve heard on YouTube and liked. I have a habit of drinking and downloading music, but I sometimes also hear something on TV and get so impressed that I’ll seek out the song online and download the whole album it came from, never previously heard. I have found some great stuff using that method. Oftentimes, it leads to me buying a whole catalog from an artist. Then I share my finds with my other music geek friends, like Andrew.

A couple of nights ago, Bill and I were sitting in the living room, listening to music. A song came on the HomePod that made me stop in my tracks. Those of you who hang out on Facebook might be familiar with this artist, whose video went viral a couple of years ago. Check this out.

A most entertaining song. I liked it enough to buy the album.

The song above is called “I’ve No More… to Give”. It’s by Thomas Benjamin Wild, Esq. and features Damian Clark. Naturally, I related to the song and enjoyed the lyrics. I thought the melody was catchy and well played. I enjoyed the performance enough that off I went to iTunes and downloaded Mr. Wild’s album. Since then, a few other songs have played, including the one below…

I can relate to this song… although my dogs don’t attract weirdos. Maybe it’s because I’m a weirdo myself.

This song cracks me up because I relate on many levels. I’m a wino… and I’m a weirdo… and I’ve had some awkward encounters while walking the dogs. What’s really awkward is when I have a dog who either wants to hump another dog or another dog tries to hump him. I used to have a very tiny but alpha beagle who would hump anything. I couldn’t take him to events involving other dogs, because I’d invariably get dirty looks from other dog owners as Flea tried to have his way… Likewise, now I have Arran, who isn’t a humper, but other dogs have tried to hump him. On occasion, humping dogs come away from their encounter nursing a bite. No means no. But as far as awkward human encounters, I would say we don’t have that many. I try to maintain a resting bitch face when I’m walking the dogs, so I don’t have to show off my poor German skills or listen to someone yell at me.

But neither of these songs are what has inspired today’s windy Thursday morning post. Today’s post is inspired by Thomas Benjamin Wild’s song, “Magazine Pages.” Here’s the video…

As Bill and I were listening to this song the other night, we both realized that we had this experience in common…

This song is about how, as young lads, Mr. Wild and his friends found “magazine pages” discarded in the woods. As I listened to this song, I was suddenly reminded that I had a similar experience when I was about twelve. The year was 1984, and I was riding home from the barn on my ten speed bike. As I sped past an area I traveled back and forth on many times as a pre-teen, I noticed a stack of magazines. Being a curious sort, I picked them up and brought them home to look at them. They were… “men’s magazines”.

Now, this was not the first time I’d seen such material, thanks to the neighborhood pervert, who lived across the dirt road from us. From the ages of nine or ten, this man was sharing his treasure trove of Playboys, Hustlers, and Penthouses with me as I hung out with him in his apartment. You might wonder what I was doing hanging out with this guy. As an adult, I wonder, too. All I can come up with is that he paid attention to me and was nice. He was a friend of my parents’, went to our church, and let me help him in his garden, which always put out tons of produce. He taught me about golf and softball and took me to games, the movies, and even the beach once. He never did anything forbidden to me or showed me anything private on his own body, but he did share his magazines and books with me and he made lewd comments.

I didn’t realize until I was much older, and in therapy, that what he did was abusive. In fact, my therapist said he thought our neighbor probably should have been in prison. I don’t know about that… I never told anyone at the time. I do know that he also used to hang out with my neighbor, who was a year older than me, blonde, and lacking a father figure, since her dad had Huntington’s Disease and was hospitalized. He paid a lot of attention to her, but it would not surprise me if he also exposed her to the same things he exposed me to. In her case, it might have been even worse. But I can’t ask her about that now, because she went on to develop Huntington’s Disease herself, and died about ten years ago.

Anyway, because of that experience, and because I had free license to watch anything I wanted to on cable TV, I wasn’t completely shocked when I found the pile of magazines. But when I heard the above song, I wondered if this was something a lot of kids go through. Or, at least, I wondered if people my age had this experience. So I asked Bill. He laughed and said that yes, he had , in fact, had a similar experience. It involved an uncle of his who had lent his car to Bill’s mom. The car got a flat tire, so they had to get the spare out of the trunk. That’s where Bill found his uncle’s stash of magazines. It made an immediate… uh… impression on him.

I probably shouldn’t say that I had “free license” to watch what I wanted on TV. I know my dad, for instance, would occasionally catch me watching George Carlin or Richard Pryor, and he’d lecture me. One time, he caught me watching what would probably be considered a soft porn film on The Movie Channel. Should I have been watching it? Probably not, although it was on cable and my parents didn’t monitor what I viewed on cable TV. I was their fourth kid and I think they were just really tired of raising kids by the time I came along.

I got away with all kinds of stuff I probably shouldn’t have, and I was exposed to a lot of things that would probably get CPS called on the parents of today. My mom was a lot more lenient about what I was allowed to watch and read, but the truth is, neither of my parents paid much attention to what I was doing. And so, as a young girl, I was exposed to “magazine pages” in the woods, just as Thomas Benjamin Wild, Esq. was… and just as Bill was. The 1970s and 80s were a weird time to be a kid, although I think I would prefer that time to this time. I do not envy the children of today at all.

So I went and looked at the comments on the above YouTube video and noticed that, apparently, finding random porn in the woods is a common experience, especially for boys. I notice that many of the commenters say that this was common, twenty or thirty years ago. Clearly, it happened to Bill and me… and I seem to remember my sister telling me that one time, she found a porn stash kept by one of our male relatives. My sister said finding that stash forever changed her image of him. I didn’t care about it so much when she told me, but then years later, I learned that he cheated on his wife… and then I realized that his son, who was two years older than I was, engaged in some inappropriate stuff that might have been influenced by his dad’s stash. Also… he and the neighborhood pervert both had very respectable jobs. My relative, for instance, was so well-regarded that he has a stadium named after him.

I’ll tell you what else brings up this topic today… I’m listening to Katie Joy’s latest live stream, and she mentioned that Josh Duggar was exposed to “magazine pages” when he was about eight years old. At about the 9 minute mark of the below video, Katie Joy explains that when he was eight, Josh was helping his dad clean out a car. Jim Bob was, at the time, selling used cars (figures). In the car they were cleaning out, there was a box of “adult magazines”. Naturally, Josh saw it, and it was stuff he definitely shouldn’t have seen as an eight year old. And according to Katie Joy’s “source”, this exposure to “adult material” really left an impression on him.

At the nine minute mark, we learn that Josh Duggar might have been exposed to “magazine pages” as an 8 year old.

If the story Katie Joy is telling is true, then it makes sense that Josh grew up with some warped ideas about sex and women. Because I highly doubt his parents took the time to talk to Josh about those “magazine pages”. I’m sure if he was caught with them, he got a good ass tanning in the prayer closet and hard labor, rather than a calm and rational discussion about looking at “magazine pages”. Couple that with Josh Duggar growing up in a very restrictive and punitive religious cult, and the constant shaming, emphasis on avoiding sin and temptation, and warnings about Hell that he no doubt heard, and it kind of makes sense that Josh would be pretty fucked up. Also couple that with the idea that Josh, as the oldest child in a huge family, was probably expected to do a lot of things that weren’t appropriate for his age.

NONE OF THAT, IN ANY WAY, EXCUSES HIM FOR BEING A PERVERT, nor does it mean that he’s not a danger to other people– especially children– today. Especially since it’s clear that a lot of us also saw that kind of stuff when we were children and most of us didn’t turn into abusive perverts. But if what Katie Joy says is true, it could offer an explanation of sorts. I think in Josh’s case, there was a perfect storm of fuckery that may have led him to where he is in 2021… and where he’s very likely to be in 2022, and for years beyond.

I do think Josh Duggar is going to go to prison, and I think he will probably be there for a long time. And I don’t think that would be a bad thing, since Josh has repeatedly shown the world that he has some pretty serious problems that he’s never dealt with. He definitely puts vulnerable people at risk. But… at the same time, I do think that the adults in his life failed him when he was growing up. He obviously needed competent help from a mental health professional when he was a boy, and he never got that. And that’s on his parents, even though I don’t usually think that parents necessarily should be blamed for everything bad their children do. I think there were many red flags and signs that Josh needed some help. His parents, evidently, either ignored the signs or addressed them in inappropriate ways.

Of course, I am speculating, and I could be totally wrong about this. Josh might have simply been a bad seed who would have turned out this way regardless. There’s no way to know. But I do think that finding a box of “magazine pages” as an eight year old, looking at that stuff, and then having to keep it totally secret, or risk serious reprisals involving threats of spending eternity in a lake of fire, could have done some severe damage to Josh’s psyche.

It will be interesting to see what happens when this trial starts at the end of next month. I don’t think Josh was smart to reject the plea deal. I suspect he will really regret taking this chance. But he probably believes it’s in God’s hands… and he’s always gotten away with his perversions with no real consequences up until now. He may even think he’s one of God’s chosen and all he has to do is pray a lot. Who the hell knows?

I feel sad for Josh’s children. No matter what happens, they have to live with the fact that their father is a well-known “sex pest”. And despite the shiny image that was put out by the Duggar Family for many years, the truth is, the family is pretty fucked up… and it’s all on a worldwide stage for everyone to see and judge. I think Josh’s kids, especially the boys, are going to face a difficult future. Much of this is because of Jim Bob Duggar’s need to be in the spotlight, lust for power and money, and lack of responsibility for taking care of his children and seeing to their mental health. And, of course, Michelle Duggar bears responsibility for not doing her part to take care of Josh… or her other children, for that matter.

Anyway… this was supposed to be a lighter post than it turned out to be. I was going to keep it funny… but I started to listening to Katie Joy’s live stream, and it occurred to me that Josh’s issues are relevant. Maybe I should feel fortunate that those “magazine pages” didn’t do more harm to me. I’ll be very surprised if Josh isn’t behind bars very soon.

For those who also like Thomas Benjamin Wild Esq.’s music… As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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mental health, poor judgment, psychology

When manipulators INSIST they’re being straightforward and honest…

A few days ago, I saw today’s featured photo on my social media feed. I decided to share it myself, mainly because I wanted to write a blog post about this phenomenon manipulative people use when they’re trying to get their way. Manipulative people try to frame your impression of them before they engage in manipulative behavior.

When I think about the people in my life who have turned out to be manipulative, I realize that they all seem to follow a pattern. At first, they’re super nice and flattering. Then, often at the beginning of a relationship, they tell you how “honest” they are. I remember very clearly, early on in a business relationship Bill and I had, our former associate told us how they didn’t care about money and wouldn’t look for money until at least a couple of days had passed the due date. This person tried to play themselves off as unconcerned about money. Instead, they stressed to us that they wanted us to be “happy”. I also remember hearing a pretty speech from them about how important “trust” is…

Later, when we had an issue that required bills to be paid, the person put all of the responsibility on us, even though the responsibility was actually not ours. I remember being told that they’d “never had a problem” like the one we were experiencing. I was invited to call other people and hear it from them. Something tells me that if I’d actually requested to make those phone calls, the manipulator would have been insulted… and they would have ultimately refused to give me the information, or had me call someone I suspect was a “flying monkey” type who was in cahoots with them.

As time went on, it became obvious that this person we were doing business with was neither trusting nor honest. I was blamed, personally, for everything that went wrong, and they went to great lengths to pass all responsibility to me, personally. We were subjected to guilt trips, insults, and devaluation. I remember it to be a very uncomfortable situation. Sadly, it ended with a lengthy legal battle that ultimately ended in our favor, but only after a lot of psychic pain and inconvenience.

That’s just one example. There have been others. In fact, just this morning, someone tried to manipulate me into doing something with which I’m uncomfortable. I don’t want to get into specifics because, frankly, I’m still a bit pissed about it. Long story short, this young guy sent me a PM late last night, asking me for help with a “fundraiser”. I don’t know this guy personally; he lives in another country, and he doesn’t speak English very well. I know of him because he’s the one who rescued Noyzi.

A couple of months ago, he asked me to help him share information about his dog rescue. I told him I would, once he had a Web site set up. I didn’t hear from him for weeks and forgot all about it.

Now, he seems to be saying that he wants me to set up a fundraiser for him. When I replied that I wasn’t comfortable doing that, he basically tried to guilt me using insults. He accused me of “playing games” with him and scolded me for saying I would help him and then declining to help. He insists that he’s not asking me to do anything dishonest, even though warning bells are going off in my head.

I explained to him that I had donated a lot of money when I adopted Noyzi. I gave money to help with vet care and food. I didn’t mind doing that, and I thought he was asking me to share information. But I don’t want to be in charge of setting up a fundraiser, collecting money, and sending it to him. I’m just not comfortable with that. Aside from that, it’s now Sunday, and I don’t want to spend my day setting up a fundraiser for a person I’ve never met in the flesh.

What’s more, before I realized he wanted me to set up a fundraiser for him, he sent me some screenshots of the Web site he has prepared, but hasn’t launched. I noticed a couple of typos. I asked him to fix them. He said he doesn’t have the password to the program he used to make the Web site. Then he told me to just share it as it is– very directive. He’s insistent that this must be done right now. When I demurred, he tried to make me feel bad, and implied that I wasn’t being fair and was reneging on a promise. This statement was meant to put me on the defensive. I don’t remember promising anything. I said I would help, but I never promised– and I certainly never agreed to do what he seems to be proposing.

Of course I want to be kind and helpful. I always prefer to be nice when I can. But I just became aware of all of this twelve hours ago. Now he’s pressuring me to help him with what seems like a sketchy proposal… just a little while ago, he brings up using Western Union. I finally decided to mute the conversation, because I just don’t feel comfortable with it. I quite clearly and firmly said “no”, but he’s still insisting, and has engaged in several manipulative tactics to get me to do what he wants, along with implying that I’m being “shady” because I am questioning what he’s asked me to do (which is still not altogether clear). It’s definitely not something I want to deal with on a Sunday morning… especially when the only thing I would get out of it is feeling like I did someone I don’t know very well a favor.

I am very grateful that he rescued Noyzi and has helped so many dogs. I would like to help him. But he’s come to me with a mess, and has insulted me to boot. Even if what he’s proposing is totally above board, I’m just not comfortable with it. Getting involved in these kinds of things can lead to big trouble if one isn’t careful. Or, at the very least, it can become a real hassle.

It’s interesting that this situation came up last night. I saved today’s featured photo two or three days ago, with no idea that this morning, I would be reading it and realizing that I’d be dealing with manipulative tactics this morning. I think most of us are manipulative sometimes… it’s part of being human. Some people take it to an art form. I don’t know this person well enough to know if he’s a manipulator or not, but I didn’t like his tactics this morning.

I just read a great article about characteristics of manipulators. Many of the signs in that list are familiar. Follow the link to have a look for yourself.

Maybe now he thinks I’m a bitch. He wouldn’t be the first. This is just one more reason why I hate Facebook Messenger… it’s so often the source of angst.

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Ex, lessons learned, mental health, narcissists, psychology

On not being alone at the narcissist’s chasm…

You might say that today’s post is a continuation of the one I wrote on Sunday. In that post, I wrote about how a new and mind blowing insight hit me as I listened to a very familiar story Bill told me about how his narcissistic ex wife made him feel. If you haven’t read that post, this post may make less sense than it could. On the other hand, maybe it will make perfect sense. The first post has some of the backstory that led to the revelation that is spawning this morning’s post… which I don’t expect everyone to care about. It just helps me to write these things down, both for reference, and because it’s kind of fascinating to me.

Next month, Bill and I will celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. Throughout the course of our marriage, I’ve repeatedly heard the story about how Bill decided that he would agree to his ex wife’s demand for a divorce. He realized that she’d drawn a metaphorical line in the sand. She wanted him to cross it. But if Bill crossed that line, he would lose part of himself. It also would not have taken long before he was back on the wrong side of the line. Somehow, he realized that it was pointless to keep trying to appease his ex wife’s demands. He agreed to the divorce, even though it wasn’t actually what she’d wanted. What she wanted was to regain control.

Bill is a kind and sensitive man. He tries very hard to make other people happy. His ex wife was never an exception. He wanted to love her and care about her. She couldn’t, and didn’t, return the sentiment. She wasn’t driven by love. She simply wanted security and control.

In Ex’s defense, I suspect that the reason she wasn’t “driven by love” is because she grew up in a chaotic home, where she was taught lies and forced to accept abuse. Somehow, as she came of age in that home where she was never valued, she never quite matured beyond adolescence. She probably never had time to grow up, since she was probably focused on survival– or perhaps that was just the perception she had. Somehow, she never got the message that real love isn’t supposed to be a contest. It also goes both ways.

I don’t think Ex even really knows what actual love is, beyond the most primal passions and urges. Her version of love doesn’t include respect, kindness, or gentleness. It doesn’t include trust, or the ability to relax and enjoy another person for who they are. She is constantly testing people, keeping them on their toes to prove their loyalty to her. But it’s not a two-way street. She expects people to fight for her, but she won’t do the same for them, except in a bid to own them somehow.

When Ex’s victims inevitably quit trying to please her, she accuses them of abandonment… when really, they are simply exhausted and defeated. They get tired of trying to win a contest that can’t be won. In essence, they realize that they can’t cross the chasm and shouldn’t want to cross it. Crossing the chasm means losing themselves and becoming someone who isn’t authentic. They become a shell of who they are.

Last night, Bill and his younger daughter Skyped for the first time in awhile. During the discussion, Bill decided to test my theory that he was not alone at the “chasm” he had frequently described to me over the course of our relationship. He asked his daughter if she ‘dever felt like she was standing on one side of a chasm, while everyone else important to her was on the other side with Ex. Sure enough, she identified.

They talked some more, and Bill pointed out that, in Ex’s world, no one is supposed to talk to anyone else. This is especially true when there’s trouble or someone is being shunned.

It occurred to me that people in Ex’s realm are like spokes on a wheel. If you look at spokes on a wheel, you see that they all connect to the middle, but they don’t touch each other. Imagine the narcissist as the middle of the wheel and the spokes as all of the people in the narcissist’s realm. They all support the narcissist and keep the wheel turning. But if they ever touch each other, that means they’ve broken, and the narcissist gets less support, just as a wheel does. What do you do with a broken spoke in a wheel? You repair or replace it.

I have learned that no one in a narcissist’s life is indispensable. They are always looking for someone to support them. It doesn’t matter who it is, as long as they’re up to the job. A spoke in a narcissist’s wheel has to be willing to focus all of its attention to the narcissist. It’s a thankless job, but crucial to the narcissist’s existence. And when the spoke inevitably bends or breaks from the pressure, it has to be replaced– discarded… or maybe repaired– punished and “re-educated”.

That’s where the nonsense about coming across the chasm comes in. The narcissist looks at the victim and says, “You don’t have be alone. All of these other people are here with me. Just do what I want you to do, and you can partake of the feast with us.”

But there is no feast… it’s all an illusion. It’s a mirage. Moreover, those people who seem to be on the narcissist’s side, are really on your side of the chasm. It’s as if you all wear blinders, forcing you to look directly across the abyss. You don’t see each other. You’re all focused on the narcissist– the center of the wheel. Somehow, the narcissist makes you think the center is where you really want to be. But the only person who can be in the center of the wheel is the narcissist. Everyone else is a spoke, and necessary to keep the narcissist’s wheel spinning. When one of you breaks, the wheel falters. Swift action must be taken to keep the wheel spinning. Otherwise, the whole thing falls apart. There is no time for a party on the other side of the chasm. There’s too much work to be done.

A good song for this… and I wish I still had this album. It’s out of print.

Why did it take me twenty years to see this? I think it’s because for so long, we didn’t have other perspectives. Many of the people in Ex’s wheel weren’t speaking to us, so we didn’t realize that she was treating them just as badly. It really did seem like Bill was being singled out as someone who wasn’t able to cross the chasm because of his perceived (and falsely attributed) character defects. I think we eventually assumed others were being mistreated, but we didn’t know for sure, because no one was communicating with us, except Bill’s mom. And Bill’s mom was probably the first one to get to the edge of the chasm, because she was the first one to threaten Ex’s perceived position of authority. Ex did her very best to separate Bill from his mother. When that didn’t work, she cast out Bill, too, and led them both to believe that they were awful people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is, in Ex’s world, everyone is defective. She, on the other hand, can do no wrong. Or, if she does do wrong, it’s only because people mistreated her. She’s “owed” the right to be an asshole, because other people were assholes to her. By that logic, being a narcissistic asshole is like a contagious disease– maybe we could even call it “narcissistic COVID”. Of course, Ex would never agree that other people have the right to mistreat her, even though she mistreats them.

Actually, the wheel metaphor isn’t new to me. That thought occurred to me at least ten years ago. I realized that Ex had all of these people working so hard to do her bidding. I wondered why people were so concerned with keeping her satisfied. Of course, now I know that I was on the outside of the wheel. I wasn’t a spoke. She tried to make me one of her spokes when she invited me to my own in-laws’ house for Christmas in 2004. I refused, which made me too dangerous to interact with the family. So she did what she could to lessen my influence and make me out to be a “bad person”. She told egregious lies about me and Bill, and she compelled Bill’s daughters, ex stepson, and even tried to compel his parents to cast him out.

Not long after I started thinking of Ex’s world as a wheel, I realized that everyone in her system was triangulated. She filtered and spun all of the information among everyone in the wheel; like spokes, they didn’t touch or speak to each other. She kept them all distrusting each other, focused solely on her, and competing for her attention. She also misrepresented the thoughts and opinions of other people.

For instance, Ex told my mother-in-law things like, “Bill and I don’t think you’re an appropriate grandmother figure for the kids.” Of course, Bill never thought or said anything of the sort. But by including Bill in that comment, she made it seem like he was on the other side of the chasm with her, when he was really standing right next to his mother, hearing things like “The kids don’t think you know them well enough to buy them presents they actually want.”

Meanwhile, Ex would tell Bill’s stepmother, who doesn’t like Bill’s mom, things like “Bill’s mom is smarter than you are…” or “Bill’s mom sends the children better gifts.” Or any number of other statements that are designed to isolate, alienate, or make the other person feel insecure, misunderstood, and not good enough. And Ex would slip in little comments that made it seem like other people shared her warped opinions, when, in fact, they didn’t.

Bill, his mom, and his stepmother, were on the same side of the chasm, looking over at Ex, who seemed to have everybody on her side. The reality was, no one was really on Ex’s side. Everyone was on the same side of the divide, thinking they were alone. But they weren’t alone at all… Ex had fooled them into thinking they were, and tricked them into focusing on pleasing her, when they should have been taking care of themselves and each other.

She would get people so spun up and angry that they wouldn’t speak to each other directly. They would just keep talking and listening to Ex, who would keep them agitated and misunderstanding each other. This was all done to keep her in charge. Got to keep the wheel spinning, you see… there’s no time for a party on the other side of the chasm. No time to build bridges to a place where everyone understands, respects, and simply LOVES each other. And Ex doesn’t want people to love each other. She wants them to admire and worship her. I don’t think even she wants to be loved. I think she simply wants to be adored. Maybe that’s what love is to her.

That was how Bill lost contact with his daughters. She told Bill they hated him. She told her daughters that Bill was an abusive bastard who cheated on her. Bill and his daughters never had the opportunity to speak to each other and learn the truth. Meanwhile, Ex did everything she could to remove Bill from their lives. He was a broken spoke who could no longer be trusted to do the work she required. She couldn’t risk him breaking the other spokes with the burden of the truth. She sure as hell didn’t want the kids to think of me as someone who might be “good” or could offer them love, or anything else. That was too threatening for her.

As I sit here thinking about this– all this crazy imagery– another image pops into my head. Did you ever see the 1976 movie, Carrie? It was based on Stephen King’s book about a teenager who has telekinetic powers. She’s a mousy girl, timid and shy, and raised by a weird mother who belongs to a religious cult. The other kids make fun of her. When Carrie gets angry, she turns into a demon from hell, whose rage kills.

In that film, just before Carrie’s final act of rage at the senior prom, a sympathetic character named Sue, who had tried to show Carrie kindness and understanding, shows up to watch Carrie and Sue’s boyfriend, Tommy, be crowned prom king and queen. Sue is initially happy for them… but then she notices a slender rope that runs under the stage. There are two mean kids there, waiting to pull the rope, which will dump pig’s blood all over Carrie. Sue has a perspective that no one else has. She’s not a part of the wheel. She tries to warn someone, but the others, thinking she’s just there to cause trouble, refuse to hear her warnings. So Sue is banished… much like I was. And then, the carnage begins.

Sue knows what’s going on… but no one will listen to her.

Brian DePalma does a masterful job showing all of those perspectives. He shows what Carrie imagines to be happening. He shows Sue realizing what is actually happening. And he shows all of the other doomed people at the prom, not realizing that they’re about to be slaughtered. In fact, DePalma even shows these perspectives in a wheel that spins.

Naturally, this situation with Ex isn’t just like Carrie. So far, Ex hasn’t killed anyone with her narcissistic impulses. In fact, I don’t think Carrie was a narcissist. She was enslaved by her rage, which caused her to be destructive. Maybe if she hadn’t died at the prom, she would have had something more in common with the Incredible Hulk– a mild mannered scientist who turns into a green monster when he gets angry. The point is, in Carrie, there’s someone who has the perspective of seeing what’s happening. She’s not in the wheel. She tries to speak up, but no one hears her. Sue ultimately escapes, but everyone else stays trapped… until Sue lets her guard down in a nightmare and tries to bestow one more act of kindness toward Carrie, who betrays her by trying to pull her into Hell.

There’s so much to this last scene…

Hmm… maybe being friends with a narcissist is kind of like being friends with Carrie, after all. I still don’t see Carrie as a narcissist, though. Maybe given time, and enough cruel treatment by others, she might have become a narcissist. She might have become hardened and cruel, rather than misunderstood and sheltered. Maybe when she was much younger, Ex was more like Carrie, and turned into who she is because of abuse, abandonment, and cruel mistreatment from other people. Somehow, she got to the point at which she turned into someone who is directed by her destructive rages. Anyone who upsets her, threatens her, or doesn’t follow her orders has to be figuratively destroyed.

Anyway… I suspect Bill will have a lot to talk about with his Jungian analyst tonight. But I know he felt better after talking to his daughter, and realizing that, yes– they’ve all been standing on the edge of the chasm, unable to cross, and looking over at the illusion of everybody else, standing with Ex. If they’d only thought to trust each other enough to talk amongst themselves… The healing could have started a long time ago. But I understand now why they couldn’t, and didn’t. They were too focused on keeping the wheel spinning. They were too convinced that if the wheel stopped spinning, disaster would strike. That’s how it works in the narcissist’s world. Somehow, they manage to trick people into thinking that there will be hell to pay if they aren’t satisfied.

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