ethics, Ex, narcissists, social media

The most excellent empress of excessive effrontery and extravagance…

All week, I’ve wondered if or when there will be a jubilant announcement from Ex regarding the latest addition to the family. So far, not a peep has emanated from Ex’s fingers to her keyboard about her new grandson. I find this to be unusual behavior for her. However, there is one thing she has been doing this week that is not unusual or unexpected at all…

A few days ago, I wrote a post about how Ex was, once again, begging for money from celebrities and strangers, ostensibly to pay for a new fence for her son, who has severe autism and apparently needs to be confined when he goes outside. She publicly posted a link on Twitter to a crowdfunding attempt, her second since early spring. In her pitch for funds, she wrote this:

Sounds like a pretty desperate situation, right? I know my heart is breaking.

It seems to me that if a crowdfund is necessary to raise thousands of dollars to erect a secure fence, one might also think that there isn’t room in the budget for extraneous stuff, like autographed books written by actors. And if one who begs for money does feel the need to make a purchase that might seem like an unnecessary extravagance to other people, one might hope they’d want to keep that purchase under their hat, so to speak. I mean, it’s in pretty poor taste to beg for money for a fence, but then gleefully cheer about the prospect of buying something that isn’t essential for living. But Ex isn’t like most people. Basic consideration and rules that might apply to other people, don’t apply to her. I should not have been surprised when I saw this on her Twitter feed…

According to her crowdfunding pitch, Ex’s household subsists on just one stream of income. She claims that she lives “paycheck to paycheck”, and is begging strangers to contribute $6000 for a fence… yet she has about $50 to spend on an autographed book. What should we conclude about this?

Actually, I don’t have to draw any new conclusions. I know that Ex will stoop to incredibly low levels to get her endless wants and needs satisfied at other people’s expense. She is not above shaming people, either, even when they are her own minor children who genuinely need something from her. For example, we have heard about how, when Bill’s younger daughter needed an orthopedic device for a condition affecting her feet, Ex would endlessly complain about how expensive it was. She would make a huge deal about having to spend money on her oldest three children, even though Bill was giving her $2550 a month in child support, and the children could have had full medical coverage through the military. Meanwhile, she also did things like force them to give up things they needed so that she would look kind and generous to other people– strangers, even.

As I was telling Bill about this discovery yesterday, he said he was reminded about something that happened soon after their divorce. Bill had gone to Arizona to see his kids. This was before she launched her extreme parental alienation campaign that would keep them apart for over fifteen years. At the time, Bill lived on about $600 a month, because he was giving Ex $2550 a month, plus paying the mortgage on their house in Arkansas, which she eventually let go into foreclosure after tenants stole the toilet out of it.

Ex had asked Bill about palm pilots, which were all the rage at the time. She said she might get one for her eldest son, a product of her first marriage. Bill happened to own an inexpensive Handspring Visor. He showed it to her, and said it cost about $125. He used it for work purposes.

Ex said, “So you can spend $125 on gadgets, but you can’t send more money for your children?”

I know I shouldn’t have been surprised or outraged. This is very normal behavior for her. Still, when I remember that back in those days, Bill lived alone in a drafty, sparsely furnished apartment… his main source of entertainment was nightly chats with me on Yahoo! Messenger and reading the stories I used to write. His one saving grace was that his job required him to travel a lot, so he would get per diem money. He never used all of the money he was given for food, so he was able to use that for extra things, like a cheap palm pilot. But that wasn’t enough for Ex. She wanted EVERYTHING. And yes, it does outrage me that she has the nerve to demand everything, as she simultaneously claims to be kind, generous, and wonderful… but only to strangers.

It would have been one thing if Ex actually spent the money on the children, but years of experience and observation tell us that she rarely did that. When they had needs, she would shame them. Or she would use them to prop up her own image. In fact, we heard a story about how she once made Bill’s daughters give up one of their beds to a family in their church. She wanted the family–strangers to her– to think of her as a good, generous person. Meanwhile, her daughters were the ones making the actual sacrifice. Because God knows, she wouldn’t be giving up her bed.

The other day, I happened to listen to Dr. Les Carter’s recent video about what happens when a narcissist realizes their target has lost interest. I like most of his videos about narcissism, but this one really resonated with me. I could practically hear the alarm bells going off. I would recommend his channel to anyone dealing with a self-centered, narcissistic, dishonest asshole in their lives. But this video is particularly good.

A great video… very revelatory and insightful.

As for Ex and her shenanigans… I know it’s not my business, and while I would love to call her out directly, I won’t be doing that. There’s no point in doing that, because she won’t stop. All that calling her out might accomplish is to potentially drive her behavior a bit further underground for awhile. Naturally, she would eventually reappear, because she thrives on attention and notoriety. She wants strangers to think highly of her. Those who really know her and can see through her bullshit can go pound sand.

As long as Ex doesn’t approach Bill’s family again, I guess it doesn’t matter if other people fall for her bullshit. Thankfully, at this point, it doesn’t appear that anyone has taken the bait. The crowdfund is still sitting at zero. When her efforts to grift inevitably fail again, she’ll probably engage in another familiar behavior– that of blame shifting. Les Carter talked about that, too…

It’s always someone else’s fault.

I actually find Ex to be a fascinating person. Although I have run into some pretty obnoxious, self-serving, narcissistic individuals in my time, she is one of the most extreme examples. I continue to be stunned by her complete lack of shame and endless gall. It really amazes me. For the longest time, I went to great lengths not to look at what she was doing, because I didn’t want to get angry or have her antics upset me in any way. But now that I do pay attention to her, I’ve genuinely found myself intrigued by her nerve. At the same time, I’m so glad Bill is no longer married to her, and I’m glad at least younger daughter got away from her, and hopefully, she’ll keep her kids away from Ex, too.

I suspect the reason Ex hasn’t boasted about her newest grandson is because she hasn’t yet been told about him. And honestly, I don’t blame younger daughter for that, if that’s the situation.

Standard
disasters, Duggars, modern problems, politics, YouTube

Careful, guy… your “Q” is showing.

It’s quite understandable that a lot of people are still expressing outrage and grief over the most recent school shootings in Uvalde, Texas. I have a lot of friends who are teachers, and every day, they face the reality of school shootings in the United States. I also come from Gloucester, Virginia, a rural, southern, down home kind of town, which means that I’m affiliated with a lot of southern, conservative, White people. Some of them are still my friends, even though I departed the Republican mindset a long time ago. Some are my relatives. And some are friends of friends.

A couple of years ago, a woman with whom I went to high school died. Her death was during the thick of the pandemic, although she did not die because of COVID. The way I understand it, a few years ago, she had been in a car accident that caused significant injuries. Infection somehow set in as she was healing, and it never completely went away. The infection eventually got out of control, and she went septic, which caused her death.

I remember this woman in high school, as we ran in peripheral circles. The last thing I remember of her when I knew her, was when she sang a song called “Love Will Be Our Home” at a talent show. At the time, I wasn’t a singer myself. I remember her telling everyone that she was nervous, just before she sang her song in what I thought was a pretty soprano voice. Years later, I was surprised when I heard of her death. Then I noticed where she was living. Her husband, who also went to our high school, evidently was originally from Lexington, Virginia, which is about ten miles from where my parents grew up. It’s also the town where Bill and I got married in 2002.

My high school classmate and her husband, also apparently a classmate, though I don’t remember him, were making their home in tiny Natural Bridge, Virginia, which was where my dad grew up, and where I still have lots of relatives. I never knew we had this connection. I remember that when my classmate died, there wasn’t enough money for her funeral. I donated a couple hundred bucks to her family’s GoFundMe to help bury her, even though we weren’t really friends. No one ever said “Thanks” or anything, which is no big deal, I guess. I’m sure they were overwhelmed by the sudden and tragic loss, and the fact that they weren’t able to be with her when she died, thanks to COVID precautions.

And what has this got to do with my opening paragraph? Bear with me.

One of my friends from my hometown, now a schoolteacher in North Carolina, is absolutely devastated by the school shootings in Uvalde. Even as someone who isn’t a teacher, and doesn’t have children, I am sickened and horrified by the details coming out about this terrifying event. What makes an 18 year old teenager so consumed with rage, hatred, and contempt for others that he storms into a school and kills innocent children and teachers? The colossal mistakes, made by law enforcement who failed to act decisively, are especially egregious. The more I hear about what went wrong, the angrier I feel for the victims, and the sadder I feel for the people who were left behind. This shit has been going on for over 20 years! When is it going to stop? When are we going to learn from these dreadful events and do something that STOPS angry boys from getting access to weapons and killing innocent people?

My friend, the teacher, posted the photo below.

No kidding!

A couple of her like minded friends added their agreement to the above sentiment. I’ve been saying this myself. How can our government presume to force people to have babies when they don’t want to be pregnant? But then, we do NOTHING to make sure those babies grow up into functioning adults? It makes no sense. And then I saw this beaut of a comment, made by the husband of our classmate, who died a couple of years ago… this guy, living in my father’s hometown, who needed GoFundMe to pay for his wife’s burial. This is the exchange they had:

Careful, guy… your Q is showing.

Wow… First off, what he wrote is kind of hard to decipher. I think what he’s saying is that he thinks having access to weapons keeps people “free”. But how free are you, if you constantly have to worry about your child being blown up by a crazed, angry, 18 year old kid with a semiautomatic rifle? How free are you, if you only feel safe when you’re packing heat, even if you’re at church or shopping for groceries?

He also seems to think that we should just accept that people are going to be violently killed, because “people have been killing people forever”. So, he thinks that we should all be able to arm ourselves, so that when some nut with a gun comes at us, which is, according to him, “the way of the world”, we might have a prayer of killing them before they kill us. Next, he seems to think that the fact that more people are realizing that violent discipline methods, such as “whopping ass” (as he puts it), aren’t very effective and cause children to suffer psychological damage, is actually making people more violent. Because what we really need, when we’re much younger and smaller than the adults in our lives, is someone to knock the hell out of us. That, according to this mental giant, is the way to “instill respect”. Jesus Christ.

I really felt like responding to him. I wanted to say, “Careful, guy… your ‘Q’ is showing…” But I didn’t want to get into an argument on my friend’s page. I also didn’t think it would accomplish anything, other than make a few people laugh. As we have all found out with heartbreaking clarity this week, life is SHORT. It’s a lot shorter for some people, than it is for others of us. And I don’t have time to argue with idiots who can’t or won’t be convinced that their logic is seriously flawed.

I already annoy enough people on Facebook, particularly when I disagree with them or point out logic failures. One lady named Miriam got annoyed with me last night, because I disagreed with her comparison of ultra pious people, like the Duggars, to kids in high school who take harder classes. She wrote that she gets a kick out of seeing religious people get knocked off their high horses. I can see that. It is kind of satisfying when people like Josh Duggar, who presume to try to tell other people how to live, and preach to them about family values and so-called “high Christian lifestyle standards”, turn out to be lying hypocrites.

But I disagreed with the analogy she made– and she specifically stated that this was her analogy. She likened upstanding Christian types, like Josh Duggar, holding themselves out to be above reproach as needing to adhere to higher standards. Like high school students taking AP courses. The work is harder, so smarmy religious people who think their shit doesn’t stink need to “step up”. When they fail, it’s kind of satisfying to see. But do we like to see brave high school students fail when they try something harder? I hope not.

That comparison struck me as nonsensical. Hardworking high school students should be encouraged to take harder classes. They should be commended for challenging themselves, and trying to get a better education, especially if they are blessed with a fine intellect. Yes, the work is more difficult, and the expectations are higher, but there are rewards for that kind of hard work.

Besides, most people I know with keen intellects are not ultra religious or pious; that is the opposite of being logical, right? On the other hand, it doesn’t take a great brain to accept some of the batshit religious dogma peddled by fundie Christians and their ilk. A lot of weak people, looking for a blueprint to Heaven, will swallow all kinds of ridiculous bullshit to achieve what they think will be that end. So to me, comparing ultra pious people to high school students taking harder classes is a poor analogy, and I dared to say so.

Her snippy reply to me was, “It was an analogy, Jenny.”

To which I responded, “Okay, Miriam.” Because I didn’t feel the need to argue with her. I thought her analogy made little sense. Maybe I could have couched my comment in some nice, flabby language to comfort her ego more, but as I just wrote a few paragraphs ago, LIFE IS SHORT. It’s much too short for that mess.

In light of that exchange with Miriam, and knowing how I tend to get carried away with overthinking when I engage in those kinds of discussions, I decided to exercise some self-discipline. I didn’t engage the Q guy from my hometown, who now lives in my dad’s hometown, and is pretty much EXACTLY like the people I know from both places… including people in my own family. I know, by this point, that trying to discuss these things with them is pointless, and will only lead to pain and frustration.

I can understand why a lot of conservative people don’t like liberals. Liberals can be condescending and rude, and some of them lack any understanding for what the “salt of the earth” types live with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, a lot of conservative people, who are also sometimes lacking tact, have poor or absent critical thinking skills. They mostly just think about what affects them. They don’t often consider how thinking about all people can make things better, and safer, for everyone.

Like, for instance, the “Q” guy quoted above, who needed a GoFundMe campaign to pay for his wife’s burial, and didn’t even think to say “Thank you” to those who donated. That guy is probably against welfare. He probably doesn’t like the idea of universal healthcare. He’s probably pro-life, and he’s definitely pro-gun. He sees these ideas as just and moral… we should all be responsible for ourselves. The government needs to stay out of it. Except public safety is certainly within the domain of the government. Especially if the government expects to force women to stay pregnant and birth babies. I wonder if the government is going to force women to take care of themselves while they’re pregnant… or even capable of being pregnant. It makes little sense to me that some people will do ANYTHING to stop women from accessing abortion services, but once that baby is born, they don’t want to do ANYTHING to make sure the baby turns into a beloved child, a happy teenager, and a healthy adult, who is ready to have a career and a family.

Nope… I think a lot of these Q types are interested mostly in controlling women, and making more babies for fundies to indoctrinate into religion and conservatism. It’s disgusting, and it’s quite frankly, deadly. I will end today’s post by encouraging everybody to have a look at the video below, posted by Fundie Fridays.

She pretty much says what I think… and also offers some interesting backstory on Roe v. Wade.

I wanted to also include an excellent video made by Dr. Les Carter of Surviving Narcissism. I watched it yesterday, and I thought it was very insightful. He talked about his frustration as a mental health professional, watching how our system emboldens people like Salvador Ramos. Unfortunately, Dr. Carter made the video private. I guess he got some heated comments, or maybe YouTube flagged it. It’s a shame. I really appreciated his thoughts on this crisis we’re all experiencing. Maybe he’ll repost it at some point. Or maybe not. I’m glad I watched it, though. Since that video isn’t available anymore, here’s one Mr. Atheist did. I think he did a good job with his video about the school shootings.

I wish I knew.

Other than that, I wish you a pleasant and safe Saturday… may God protect you and yours from the likes of gun toting whack jobs and perverts.

Standard
Ex, narcissists, YouTube

How to effectively handle the “creators of misery” in the world…

This morning, I was watching Les Carter’s most recent video, and I had a flash of insight. Les Carter, for those who don’t know, is a psychologist in Texas who makes excellent videos about narcissists. And in the video I posted below, he describes narcissists as “creators of misery”. He says upfront that narcissists are not healthy people, and they don’t function on a rational plane. And unfortunately, narcissists “create misery” with maddening efficiency. They don’t seem to care at all about how awful they are. I think the worst thing about narcissists is that their behavior can be contagious. They infect people with their miserable behavior, and that makes people want to react in kind. Pretty soon, non-narcissistic people find themselves being dragged down to the narcissist’s level.

Once again, Les Carter shares wise counsel to those of us who are confronted by “creators of misery”…

Dr. Carter rationally explains why it’s best not to try to get “revenge” on the narcissist. They don’t care about your misery, and if you treat them the way they treat you, they’ll just ratchet up their usual tactics and continue to smear you. The best thing to do is to go “no contact”, or if that’s not possible, “grey rock” them– that is, be totally bland and boring, like a rock. It doesn’t seem fair to have to do that, though. I know that I, for one, don’t have the personality of a “grey rock”. It’s really hard for me to act like one.

Fortunately, the narcissist in my life doesn’t affect me personally. Instead, Ex visits her misery on people Bill and I care about. We are legitimately worried about people in Bill’s family who may fall prey to Ex and her usual grifting tactics. She’s grifting for money, sure, but she’s also looking for supply. It would be bad enough if she was just after money, but she also spreads misery and toxicity when she comes around. She causes pain. So this time, something does need to be done, rather than just ignoring her. But how can we effectively handle the “creator of misery” that is Ex?

I’ve mentioned more than once that my husband is a bit of a “white knight”. He tends to take responsibility for things that aren’t his responsibility. He tries to save people who don’t appreciate or deserve his efforts to save them. When he was married to Ex, he got dragged down to her level, not in terms of behaving like her, but in terms of enabling her toxicity. When she decided she wanted to conduct “ye olde surprise visit”, he went along with it. When she demanded that he allow her to handle the bills and manage the money, he let her do it, even though she created a huge financial hole that took him years to recover from. When she alienated the children and tried to sever his ties with his family of origin, he protested only slightly more. He didn’t avail himself of the law, or document her abuse. He simply sucked it up and drove on, which left her free to continue her misery creating fuckery with other innocent people.

While I can see that stooping to the narcissist’s level is ineffective and pointless, I do think there’s a difference between getting even with someone and holding them accountable when they do harm. Ex has done a LOT of harm over the years, not just to Bill, but to people connected to him. In fact, I have mentioned before that some of the things she does have “ripple effects”. I even wrote a blog post about that– calling it “Ripple eff-Ex” (see what I did there?). I don’t think I reposted the original blog post, but I did write a sequel. Since today is a light chore day, I think I’ll repost the original incarnation of that post. I think it was a pretty juicy one.

Les Carter’s video is the second one I’ve seen this week about how it’s important not to try to “get revenge” on a narcissist. The video directly below was done about a month ago by Jess Stanley, who has a great channel that is based on her experiences dating a narcissist. Jess reminded her viewers that narcissists don’t care about your feelings, and they don’t “learn lessons” when you try to “show them”. Really, all trying to get revenge does is bring you down to their level and give them narcissistic supply/attention. Always remember that attention– good or bad– is what the narcissist needs for survival.

To a narcissist, you are just a list of goods and services. No form of revenge is effective against a narcissist.

The below video was posted in February. It’s very similar to the one above, which was posted this week. Basically, Jess says that in order to hurt a narcissist, you have to just go on with your life. And even that isn’t going to hurt them much, because they can always find someone to replace whatever you brought to them. And she’s right about that… however, I don’t think that should mean not holding them accountable when they do things that are illegal or egregiously outside the boundaries of morality.

“You cannot win…”

I think there’s a big difference between holding someone accountable and exacting revenge. There’s a difference between aggressively fighting against someone or something, trying to “smear” them the way they smeared you, and being assertive and setting boundaries. We think it’s time Ex left Bill’s family alone. She has her own family, as well as her own in-laws. She should focus on them. And while Bill’s older daughter does have a legitimate claim to Bill’s family, she’s only a family member because of Bill.

Of course, just because we have these feelings, that doesn’t mean other people agree with us. And as they are supposedly competent adults, there’s nothing we can do to force Ex to leave them alone, or stop them from talking. The only thing we can control about this situation is how we react to it. So what do we do?

I’m not going to be specific about what our plans are, because I’m not stupid. I know Ex has stalked me online, and she probably still looks in. That’s kind of why I’m unabashedly writing about her now. I hope she reads this and gets super upset and …miserable. But we do have a plan, and what I’ll say about it is that the plan involves making Bill feel better about himself. He does have an action planned, but it’s not meant to hurt Ex or even protect anyone against Ex’s shenanigans. Ultimately, we accept that whatever happens will depend on what the other adults decide to do. We will simply do what we can to avoid the fallout and the guilt associated with her continual attacks.

Like I said… she’s like a bad case of herpes. Just like herpes, she pops up whenever she senses weakness in the immune system. In this case, it’s Bill’s dad’s death, the COVID nightmare, and perhaps feeling isolated and lonely for reasons other than the pandemic. Ex obviously smelled blood and came running.

Elton John has a really good song about this… Given Ex’s love of movies, I think the lyrics are especially appropriate.

“Keep your auditions for somebody who hasn’t got so much to lose…”

Lyrics

I can see by your eyes you must be lying
When you think I don’t have a clue
Baby, you’re crazy
If you think that you can fool me
Because I’ve seen that movie too

The one where the players are acting surprised
Saying love’s just a four letter word
Between forcing smiles, with the knives in their eyes
Well their actions become so absurd

So keep you auditions for somebody
Who hasn’t got so much to lose
‘Cause you can tell by the lines I’m reciting
That I’ve seen that movie too

So keep you auditions for somebody
Who hasn’t got so much to lose
‘Cause you can tell by the lines I’m reciting
That I’ve seen that movie too

It’s a habit I have, I don’t get pushed around
Stop twinkling your star like you do
I’m not the blueprint
For all of your B films
Because I’ve seen that movie too

The one where the players are acting surprised
Saying love’s just a four letter word
Between forcing smiles, with the knives in their eyes
Well their actions become so absurd

So keep you auditions for somebody
Who hasn’t got so much to lose
‘Cause you can tell by the lines I’m reciting
That I’ve seen that movie too

So keep you auditions for somebody
Who hasn’t got so much to lose
‘Cause you can tell by the lines I’m reciting
That I’ve seen that movie too

So keep you auditions for somebody
Who hasn’t got so much to lose
‘Cause you can tell by the lines I’m reciting
That I’ve seen that movie too

So keep you auditions for somebody
Who hasn’t got so much to lose
‘Cause you can tell by the lines I’m reciting
That I’ve seen that movie too

Standard
Duggars, Ex, narcissists, psychology

“You’re not disloyal when you change…”

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might know that I’m a big fan of Dr. Les Carter’s excellent YouTube channel, Surviving Narcissism. This channel, which he runs with narcissistic abuse survivor, Laura Charanza, is all about healing from narcissistic abuse. I’ve read and reviewed several of Les Carter’s books, and Bill and I have both gained insight from watching his videos. Dr. Carter has a calm, friendly, reassuring demeanor, and while I don’t know if he’s still engaged in private practice in Texas, I do know that he’s helped so many people by being available on YouTube.

All of the recent drama involving the Duggar family has really caused me to reflect on the real damage that narcissistic parents do to their children. While it’s impossible to know when Josh Duggar really started going off the rails, or whether or not his deviant attraction to harming children is something natural or nurtured, what is very clear to me is that Josh and his siblings no doubt suffered abuse from their parents. It’s easy to see that Jim Bob Duggar has narcissistic proclivities. He clearly runs that family like his own mini cult, and there are a lot of conditions set upon the children. The ones who don’t toe Jim Bob’s line are pretty much cast out of the family.

Jim Bob has a public persona that is carefully crafted to fool people. He comes off as “nice”, albeit very much in charge. But behind closed doors, there is no doubt in my mind that he’s got a very different personality. And children who grow up under the control of someone as controlling as Jim Bob clearly is, will definitely struggle as they become adults. The public can see this phenomenon in action as the oldest Duggar children are breaking free of Jim Bob’s mini cult. I noticed that Joy Anna Forsyth appeared to be extremely distraught last week during Josh’s trial. It was as if she was finally learning some truths that she found overwhelming and upsetting. But I think it’s important to understand that she grew up in a family system in which information was tightly controlled and filtered. And now, she’s realizing that she’s been kept in the dark and fed a lot of shit for years.

Dr. Carter explains how narcissists who are parents can hurt their children by sharing their pain in abusive ways.

Yesterday, Dr. Carter visited an interesting topic on his channel. The video, titled “How Narcissists Transfer Their Pain Onto Their Children” really hit home for me as I watched it this morning. All of the familiar tactics narcissistic parents use to desperately maintain control of their children were spelled out in Dr. Carter’s video. Then, he explains, in a comforting and kind way, that adult children have the power to make changes. They can make their own choices, even if it feels like they can’t. They just need to find the courage to do it. It’s not unlike the discovery Dorothy makes in The Wizard of Oz, when she’s told that all she has to do to go home again is click her heels three times. She always had the power. She just had to find the courage to use it.

Of course, making adult choices means living like an adult. And that can be extremely hard to do when you’re an adult child of a narcissist. First off, children who are raised by narcissists are never taught healthy ways to enforce boundaries. They are subjected to abuse, which can encompass everything from verbal rages to physical blows, as well as mind games, threats, and using other people to promote agendas. I would imagine that in a family like the Duggars, there were plenty of mind games played– tactics meant to keep everyone off balance and unsure of their place. Children who grow up with that kind of a family system never learn to trust themselves, and after awhile, they become numb to the abuse, which only sets them up for more of the same treatment.

Secondly, children who are raised by narcissists are taught that if they try to go their own way, they’re “disloyal”. Narcissistic parents are in a lot of pain, and misery loves company. So the narcissistic parent will do all they can to make the children feel like they can’t leave that system. They will try to make their children feel incompetent. If that doesn’t work, they will call into question their children’s love and loyalty. Children raised by narcissists who don’t become narcissistic themselves will feel guilty if they move away from that system. Their parent(s) may accuse them of abandoning them or being disloyal. But one of the first things every child should learn is that they should always be loyal to themselves, first. And if changing is a healthy thing to do, they should be able to do it without being made to feel guilty.

Jim Bob Duggar controls his children– especially the adults– by holding things like money and housing over their heads. In the wake of Josh Duggar’s conviction, we’ve seen several of the children make statements. It’s very telling which of Jim Bob’s adult children are free of his financial constraints. They are the ones who are making it clear that they condemn Josh’s actions. The children who are still depending on Jim Bob have to be publicly loyal to him. They aren’t allowed to criticize their brother or their father. I am sure the most important Commandment to Jim Bob is “Honor thy Father and they Mother”– especially thy father. Katie Joy, of Without a Crystal Ball, covers this topic regarding the Duggars.

Joy Anna is not dependent on Jim Bob anymore.
But Jessa still is…

As many readers also know, my husband was married to a woman whom I very strongly suspect is a narcissist, and she has five children who have been subjected to her abuse. For years, my husband was prevented from speaking to his daughters. One of the daughters broke free from her mother’s grip and moved clear across the country from her. They are still on speaking terms, but it’s pretty obvious that she’s learning the truth about what happened. Likewise, Bill is also learning about what happened during the time he wasn’t in contact.

My husband’s older daughter still chooses to live with her mother. My guess is that she does it because she feels like she must. I think she’s been led to believe that she can’t survive on her own. But she also takes care of her profoundly autistic younger brother, because Ex doesn’t do it. I suspect that she might speak to Bill if circumstances were different. I met her, and she struck me as a very loving person. I think she mainly doesn’t connect with Bill because she knows that Bill is strong enough to survive. He isn’t alone. He’s got me, his mother, and his younger daughter. I think she might also fear facing up to the fact that she and her siblings have been controlled, lied to, and abused by their mother. I know from personal experience that recognizing that someone has abused you can lead to anger and depression. It’s not a nice feeling to realize that you’ve been victimized. I suspect that older daughter might wish to spare herself that pain.

Also, if older daughter was to leave her situation, her brother could suffer the consequences. It would legitimately cause serious problems for him, and for Ex, because older daughter reportedly does all of the work. It’s possible that she can’t live with the potential guilt of forcing her mother to take care of her own son. I think she also legitimately feels for her mother, too, even though she really should be focused on living her own life on her own terms. She’s an adult, though, and that is her choice to make. I just wish she understood that all she has to do is click her heels– pick up the phone– and there are people who would gladly help her get out of her predicament. Bill would be at the front of the line. Again– she should be loyal to herself before all others, because she is the only one who has to live with herself and her decisions.

I highly recommend Dr. Carter’s video to anyone who has known the pain of growing up with a narcissistic parent. Adult children of narcissists have been raised to believe that they aren’t their own people. They have been raised to act as objects– tools to be manipulated and used by their narcissistic parents. Children lack the ability to control what happens to them, but adults can deviate from the paths they are set upon. It just takes courage and some planning, and the knowledge that choosing one’s own path can be painful. I’m sure that Jim Bob’s adult children who aren’t kowtowing to him anymore are denied access to their younger siblings, who are still trapped in the Tinkertoy Mansion. With every passing day, total freedom is closer– because eventually narcissists lose their psychic fiefdoms. Either it crumbles very publicly, as it is for Jim Bob right now, or it ends because the narcissist eventually becomes incapacitated or dies.

No one should have to wait until the death of a narcissist to reclaim control of their lives. I would love to see some of the independent Duggar siblings completely break free and start their own family traditions, perhaps even with each other. There’s nothing to say that they have to tolerate control from their parents– or really, their dad. They’re adults, and those of them who don’t rely on Jim Bob’s money can do whatever they want, within legal boundaries, anyway. It doesn’t make them bad people to live their lives on their own terms, either. It makes them healthy adults.

Standard
book reviews, mental health, psychology, YouTube

A review of When Pleasing You Is Killing Me, by Les Carter…

It may surprise some readers that my posts over the past couple of days have led up to today’s review of Les Carter’s 2018 self-help book, When Pleasing You Is Killing Me. Les Carter Ph.D. is a psychologist based out of the Dallas, Texas area. He has an excellent YouTube channel about how to deal with narcissists and other “high conflict” people. I discovered his channel a couple of years ago, when Bill and I were dealing with the after-effects of our dealings with our former landlady. At the time I discovered Dr. Carter’s channel, I was feeling quite burdened and distressed about the situation we were in, which I didn’t feel comfortable writing much about publicly.

Three years have since passed, and as promised, and probably expected, I am dishing about that situation a bit more. In spite of what some people might think, that issue caused a lot of problems for Bill and me. A lot of the problems stemmed from an ongoing personality quirk that affects Bill, in particular. He is a classic “people pleaser”. He will often bend over backwards to keep the peace and avoid disappointing people. The end result is that he often attracts people with a high need for control, to include his ex wife, a former boss who tormented him in a war zone, and our ex landlady. All three of these folks quickly recognized that Bill has a tendency to acquiesce and go with the flow. And all three of them caused him, and me, significant angst.

And what about me? What am I doing in Bill’s life? Am I a “people pleaser”, or am I yet another “high control” person in Bill’s world? Actually, most of the time, I don’t think I fit either description, at least not at this point in my life. Therapy did a lot for me. Bill is welcome to offer his opinion of what he thinks about that. Other people have told me they think I’m pretty assertive, which is what I strive to be as much as possible. But, because I am married to a guy who hates to disappoint people and strives to give his all to everything, I sometimes catch some of the aftermath of his “people pleasing” ways. That means, sometimes, I get trapped in dilemmas like the living situation we were in a few years ago.

I really like Dr. Carter’s videos. I think he’s a very wise man, and I like his calm, gentle, but firm, approaches to situations that can arise with people who have a strong need to call all the shots. Bill has watched the videos with me, and he also likes Dr. Carter.

I’ve also read a couple of Dr. Carter’s other books– The Anger Trap and Enough About You, Let’s Talk About Me: How to Recognize and Manage the Narcissists in Your Life. They were both good books. And since I’ve had When Pleasing You Is Killing Me in my stack of “books to be read” for over two years, I figured now was a good time to read it. I just finished reading this morning, so now it’s time for a review.

What is “people pleasing” behavior, and why is it a bad thing?

“People pleasing” behavior is appeasing behavior that is intended to avoid conflict with others. People pleasers will often put a more controlling person’s needs ahead of their own. People pleasers will do anything they can to avoid the unpleasant confrontations that can arise when an overbearing person doesn’t get their way.

In the short term, “people pleasing” can seem like a good thing, since it will often keep a high conflict person from erupting into aggressiveness. Some people pleasers will even assume that engaging in people pleasing helps them avoid pain. However, as Dr. Carter points out in his book, “people pleasing” actually just postpones the pain, or causes a different kind of pain, which can also affect other people. When that pain is postponed or shared with other people, it can turn into compounded pain. Compounded pain is not a better solution, since all that happens is that it’s multiplied, and now affects more people. Misery loves company, right?

Here’s an extreme example of how appeasing people can only postpone, or even compound, pain. And before anyone drags me for writing this, let me assure everyone that this is something Bill and I have talked about extensively and agree upon. I’ve also already written about it a lot, so this rather personal explanation shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who reads my blog regularly.

My husband’s first wedding day was not a good day. He knew, deep down, that she wasn’t a good match for him. But he’d already committed to marrying her, and he didn’t want to disappoint her, or her son. Out of pity, he felt the need to try to rescue her. Deep down, he also feared she might be his only chance for a wife.

So Bill ignored the voices and went through with the wedding, and he and his ex wife did not have a happy marriage. The marriage was not based on love or mutual respect. Consequently, it ended in divorce, and extreme parental alienation. Bill also almost lost his military career.

When we met, Bill was living on about $600 a month. He was recovering from financial disaster and enduring abuse from his ex wife, who was extremely angry that he’d agreed to divorce her. She’d only meant the divorce demand as a way to humiliate him into getting back under her control.

When Bill agreed to the divorce, it caused a severe narcissistic injury. She’d expected him to fight for her. But their marriage was a disaster. Left in the aftermath was his former stepson, who had known him as his dad, and two young daughters.

Ex quickly married another man and forced his daughters to call the new man “dad”, while she did her best to destroy Bill’s connections with his kids, his parents, his church, his friends, and his career. He had been talked into paying an excessive amount of child support and alimony, and was covering the mortgage for a house he had never wanted and wasn’t living in, which Ex had awarded to herself but couldn’t afford. It eventually went into foreclosure which, coupled with an earlier bankruptcy, temporarily ruined Bill’s credit.

See what I mean about compounding the pain?

Then I came along, and while I adore Bill and will never regret marrying him, decisions he made to appease his ex wife have also affected me. Because he allowed her to control the money in their relationship, he was recovering from serious financial problems when we first met. Because he let her talk him into having a vasectomy, we were not able to conceive– at least not without medical intervention, which we could not afford when the time would have been optimal to have children. Ex, meanwhile, had two more children with her third husband. And because he allowed his ex wife sole custody of their daughters, they grew up without Bill or most of his family in their lives. He let her control the narrative, simply to avoid one of her epic blow ups. In the end, not only was he hurt, but so were many people he cares for very deeply– me, his parents, his stepmother, his sister, and the children, among others.

Fortunately, in our case, things improved dramatically after a few years passed. Working together, we eventually completely fixed the financial issues. Bill recovered his military career and thrived in it, leading him to be a highly sought after contractor after his successful retirement.

The girls and their older brother grew up, which helped with the finances, since child support ended. Bill voluntarily paid support for his stepson, which seems generous, but in many ways, caused more problems. Stepson has a father, who was also denied access to him, and his father should have been paying support and seeing his son. The money Bill paid was later turned into a bone of contention that eventually ruined their relationship. But, there was also an opportunity for Bill to be assertive with Ex’s son, which was ultimately a good thing, even if they no longer speak.

Bill’s younger daughter has reconnected with him, which is a great thing. Her sister is still estranged, but that’s her choice. While I would have liked to have had children of my own, now that I see how the world is going– I don’t think it’s a bad thing. But my point is that if he’d just been honest– and firm– with his ex wife on, or preferably way before that wedding day in August 1990, a lot of this shit would have been avoided. Of course, he might have also married someone else who treated him better, which might have meant we never would have met… but actually, I think we were probably destined to be together.

What might have seemed like a bad decision, made back in 1990, for Bill and Ex alone, eventually turned into a bad decision that still affects a lot of us in 2021.

Lest anyone think I’m letting myself off the hook, I will hasten to add that I’ve certainly made some past decisions that were “people pleasing” in nature, or at the very least, the path of what seemed to be the least resistance. Let me just state that taking the “easier” path really has the potential to postpone pain, rather than avoid it completely. Many times, it’s much better to cause a little anger and strife by being assertive. Allowing other people’s needs to override your own may avoid a blow up, but that practice will often end in heartache or, at the very least, inconvenience and unnecessary expense. Many people worry that being assertive will cause damage to a relationship, but as Dr. Carter points out below…

You deserve health and happiness, too.

This isn’t to say that being assertive won’t cause issues sometimes. Some people don’t appreciate it when you stand your ground, even if you do it calmly. In the past few months I have twice been approached by people who were hoping to rope me into doing things I didn’t want to do. While I could have been more assertive in those situations, in the end, I didn’t end up being stuck with “assignments” I didn’t want. One person got mad and ditched me as a “Facebook friend”, which is regrettable, but ultimately fine, since he wasn’t actually a friend. The other one now knows that I’m not the “go to” person when she has a thankless task to unload on someone. That’s a win for me.

What makes Dr. Carter’s book a good choice for help with chronic “people pleasing” behavior?

Dr. Carter’s book outlines less extreme examples of how “people pleasing” can lead to problems, not just for the person who does the people pleasing, but also for anyone else who is connected with them. He includes an example of a woman whose mother is intrusive and overbearing. She inserts herself in their business and tells them how they should do everything from budgeting their money to doing the laundry. Yes, it causes grief for her daughter, but it also really upsets her son-in-law, who is not as much of a people pleaser as his wife is. So now, the daughter has to deal with the annoyance of her mother who ignores boundaries, and the massive resentment that causes her husband.

In another example, Dr. Carter writes of a dentist who bends over backwards to help his patients. He strives to give them the absolute BEST care at all times. But no one’s perfect, and you can’t please everybody, so the dentist would still get complaints from his patients. Instead of being calm and assertive in handling the complaints, the dentist took them personally and worked even harder to please. He ended up with an ulcer, and still got petty complaints from people.

This isn’t to mean that working to provide excellent care and good customer service are bad things. Of course the dentist is right to want to make his patients happy. But his desire to be the best dentist was leading to bad things for his health, and probably his personal relationships outside of work. It was also causing issues on the job, since he had a tendency to allow some of his pushier employees to walk all over him. That lack of assertiveness caused problems for him and his other employees. The end result was that his patients actually didn’t get the best care from their dentist, because he wasn’t at his best.

Dr. Carter uses a plain, reasonable, conversational style in his writing. That makes his book easy to read and understand. I also really appreciate the calm, rational, encouraging tone of his writing. So often, people who are experiencing psychological issues are riddled with self-doubt, anxiety, and poor self-image and esteem. Dr. Carter uses gentle, but assertive language, reassuring readers that they can and should make healthy choices that suit them, if not all of the time, then most of the time. The vast majority of hyper-controlling people won’t appreciate it when others bend over for them, anyway. They are usually too focused on themselves to realize that they’re causing trouble or grief for other people.

One thing I noticed about this particular title is that Dr. Carter does not refer to religious tenets– Christianity, in particular– like he does in the other books I’ve read by him. I was raised Christian myself, so I’m not necessarily offended by references to religion. However, I do think it was a good move not to include religious references in this book. I know my atheist friends probably appreciate not being told they are “children of God”.

When Pleasing You Is Killing Me also includes checklists to allow readers to do self-assessments. If you have a physical copy of the book, you can even write brief notes in the margins. Maybe you can do it with the Kindle version, too. I like the Kindle version if only because I can highlight meaningful passages and share them, as I’ve done in this review.

Below are a few other excellent thoughts from When Pleasing You Is Killing Me:

I’m proud to say that both Bill and I have become more assertive in our relationships today. And while being assertive can feel selfish, or even wrong, in the long run, it’s often the kinder way to be. I think about what might have happened if, four or five years ago, when our former landlady was being overly intrusive, controlling, and rude, I had firmly asked her to be quiet. I wonder what would have happened if Bill had not been so quick to apologize to her when there was a problem in the house. What if, instead of immediately allowing ex landlady to make a claim on our liability insurance, Bill had held her to task for not having the awning repaired by a licensed technician, instead of her husband? What if one or both of us told her that it was not acceptable to verbally abuse or harass me? What if I had insisted that we move out of her hovel or, better yet, listened to the gut feeling I had when we first met her and she seemed “off” and not rented that house in the first place?

Maybe we could have avoided the lawsuit. Don’t get me wrong. The lawsuit was educational and, in the end, we did prevail. But it wasn’t fun or cheap, and in terms of money, we simply broke even. It would have been better to have been able to avoid that experience altogether, especially in our host country.

What’s even more rewarding for us is seeing that Bill’s younger daughter has skills in assertiveness. She resolved to get out on her own, and does not let her mother dictate how she lives her life. So, instead of being stuck living in her mom’s house, taking care of her severely disabled brother, younger daughter lives life more on her own terms and makes her own decisions. She’s not going to be roped into anything, which is awesome. She’s got enough to do with her own life without being saddled with other people’s problems, many of which are of their own making.

Nobody likes to be on the receiving end of angry diatribes from high conflict, bullying, hyper-controlling people. I know from personal experience what that’s like, and why so many people are more likely to give in and be a “people pleaser” instead of being assertive. I like When Pleasing You Is Killing Me because Dr. Carter does such a good job explaining why, in the long run, it’s much less painful to be assertive. If you have issues with people pleasing behaviors, I would highly recommend reading this book, or at the very least, checking out Les Carter’s excellent YouTube channel, Surviving Narcissism, which he shares with collaborator, Laura Charanza. In closing, below is a link to just one of several videos he has posted about this topic.

One person commented that “you don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.” What an excellent observation!

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard