narcissists, politicians, Trump

“Life is just one damned thing after another…”

A little mood music for this post… it seems kind of trite today, but I like the attitude.

Years ago, my older sister Becky played the above song for me. It’s called “Excuse Me”, and it was written and performed by Amy Arena, whose personality seems to be a lot like Becky’s. Much like Amy Arena, Becky is physically very small (much smaller than me), but she has a big personality… and an artistic temperament that people seem to love or hate. She has issues with authority figures. So do I, for that matter, but my authority issues aren’t as acute as hers are. I remember I was newly home from Armenia, and Becky told me she had this CD, which came out in 1995. We shared a hearty laugh over “Excuse Me”, which was enough of a hit that it actually has an official video. I was going to share the video, but only one person on YouTube uploaded it and it’s not of very good quality. But if you want to see it, you can search YouTube and there it is… and Amy Arena is there in all of her brash, bitter glory.

I liked “Excuse Me” enough that I went on Amazon and searched for Amy Arena’s album, which someone was selling used. I bought it and listened to the whole thing, which Becky had played for me when she first exposed me to “Excuse Me”. There’s another song on there called “Cheeseburger”. It reveals Amy Arena’s lack of singing prowess… although the lyrics are clever and funny. Becky doesn’t eat a lot of meat, so I know she relates to this song as it describes a vulgar cheeseburger in nauseating detail. Amy Arena is making a statement about how gross and out of control some people are… and how gross meat is if you don’t like meat. And frankly, I wish I weren’t a meat eater, because it is pretty gross. Maybe I’ll be a vegan in the next life. This bit doesn’t have anything to do with the theme of this post, other than to get the musically inclined to listen to Amy Arena’s cynical wit.

My sister is very petite and, if you don’t know her, you might think she’s cute, quiet, and shy. But get her going, and you’ll soon find out that there is a lot more than pussy in those “tight fittin’ jeans”. Bwahahahha… I’m kidding. Quoting my pervy friend, Weird Wilbur, whom I “met” on YouTube. Wilbur remade Conway Twitty’s song, “Tight Fittin’ Jeans” and turned it into a song about a man who gets more than he bargained for when he had casual sex with a woman he met at a bar. Becky doesn’t have any diseases that I know of, but she does have a quick wit and sharp mind, and she can be fierce if you tangle with her. I know this from experience. She’s tiny, but mighty, and you don’t want to fuck with her.

No, Becky isn’t like the “gal” in this song, except that she’s not what she seems… I can relate. I’m not what I seem to be, either. I’m sharing this song because I think it’s funny… but the truth is, there is always more than pussy in those tight fittin’ jeans. Not that I wear tight fittin’ jeans these days…

I suspect yesterday’s blog post, which I titled “We wish you would just leave”, might be considered “click bait” for some people. I can see by the stats that some people clicked it just because they wanted to know why I titled the post, “We wish you would just leave”. It’s a title that sounds dramatic, and I know I have some readers out there who imagine that I’m the type of person who gets asked to leave a lot of places. I suspect I have some readers who were even salivating at the idea, because some of them seem to think that I’m always the source of trouble. Some of them might even be hoping I’ll be asked to leave Germany. And here’s a hint… if that ever does happen, I’m probably not going to be telling you about it. Here’s another hint. You clearly don’t know me as well as you think you do, but I probably know you better than you realize.

The only time I remember specifically being asked to leave somewhere was back in the early 1990s, when I was about to be interviewed for a job with United Consumers Club. I was newly graduated from college and had no idea what UCC, as it was called back then, actually was. I watched the presentation given by the proprietor and was kind of shocked and horrified by it. Basically, the job entailed cozying up to people at events and trying to talk them into joining an incredibly overpriced building materials and furniture “club” under the guise of saving money by being allowed to buy things “wholesale”.

UCC might have been an okay deal if you’re doing many thousands of dollars worth of remodeling and buying a lot of furniture. For most people, though, it was a complete waste of money that came with a contract that was extremely expensive and difficult to get out of. If I had successfully gotten hired for this job, it would have been my duty to convince people to join up and waste their money. I think I’d rather clean up roadkill.

Well, the United Consumers Club proposal sounded a lot like bullshit to me, even though I was only 22 years old. So, being kind of blunt and feeling legitimately aghast, I asked the interviewer, who was also the owner of the franchise, if this was a “hard sell” operation. He immediately became offended and asked me to leave the interview. That reaction, of course, told me all I needed to know… I didn’t need his piss ant $22,000 a year job, anyway. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It was clear he was expecting his prospective employee to kiss his ass and accept any abuse he threw at them as he swindled decent people out of their hard earned money. The fact that I boldly asked him if he was running a hard sell operation made him realize that I probably wouldn’t take his crap. He moved on to the next person, knowing that someone in the group would eagerly accept his shit for a few crumbs.

Yeah… bunch of bullshit, this is…

Years later, I was watching TV at home in northern Virginia, and an ad came on for an outfit called DirectBuy. I had never heard of DirectBuy, but the concept sounded familiar. I did some digging and discovered that DirectBuy was, in fact, the old UCC… and that until about 2007, UCC had prided itself on never advertising and only picking up members entirely by word of mouth. A lot of people fell for the hype and wound up locked in iron clad contracts that ripped them off for years. I began writing a bunch of articles about DirectBuy and got some nasty comments from people who didn’t want me to expose their business for what it really is.

Notice on the actual video at YouTube, a franchise owner tries to do damage control. He doesn’t like the light being shined on his sleazy business.
“It’s a hard sell pitch…” That was exactly what I asked the franchise owner in Richmond. His response was not to answer me, but to ask me to leave. I was “bad” for recognizing what he was up to and calling him on it.

There are a lot of bullies in the world who think they can get away with shit by being threatening, confrontational, accusatory, and shaming. In fact, there’s even an acronym for this type of behavior. It’s called DARVO. DARVO stands for deny, attack, reverse victim, and offender. I’ve seen it in action a lot of times. I suspect most of us have. When you run into a certain type of person and it becomes clear that you’re catching on to who they are and what they’re really about, they vehemently try to thwart your attempts to reveal them. They deny that they’re the problem, start attacking you, claim victim status, and suddenly you’re the bad guy. Most people are left bewildered and shocked after such a vicious reversal. Decent people will start to question themselves, wondering if they really did get it so wrong. But after awhile, it becomes even clearer that you’re not the asshole stinking things up here…

Even South Park has addressed DARVO.

If you want to see DARVO on a global scale, just watch the way Donald Trump behaves. He gets called on his egregious shit all the time. Not once have I ever heard him take responsibility for what was legitimately his mess to clean up. Instead, he blames someone else. Right now, according to Trump, it seems to be Barack Obama’s fault that the coronavirus crisis is so out of control in the United States. Trump is just a “victim” who inherited Obama’s mess. Yeah, right. Unfortunately, a lot of very stupid people believe wholeheartedly in Donald Trump and will defend him until their last gasps of breath… unaided by the ventilator that isn’t available to them because they listened to Donald Trump and conspiracy theorists instead of scientists and people who know something about medicine.

I guess this is still a thing… or at least it was before the coronavirus struck.

I’m suddenly reminded of something else that happened in college. A hypnotist came to campus to entertain everyone. Sure enough, he was very good at his job. He called up people to the stage and proceeded to put them under… but not everyone fell under his hypnotic spell. A few students were stage assistants to the hypnotist and if they noticed someone wasn’t falling for the act, the unmoved students were escorted off stage. That was done so that they didn’t ruin the show. In fact, the hypnotist did get one guy I knew to dance like a crazy person in front of all of his classmates. It was hysterical, and he was completely unaware of what he was doing at the time. Later, when people kidded him about it, he was pissed off and annoyed. But he’d volunteered to be hypnotized and he fell under the spell… and put on a hell of a show for his friends.

I think bullies of all kinds are sort of like hypnotists. They use their overbearing personalities and willingness to throw people under the bus to get what they want. They “hypnotize” people into thinking they’re stronger and more powerful than they really are. They rewrite history, and try to inflict guilt on decent people who attempt to hold them accountable, and reveal what and who they truly are by simply being themselves.

I make for a convenient scapegoat for some bullies, because a lot of people find me too outspoken and obnoxious. On my old blog, it was usually because I wrote frankly about my husband’s ex wife. On this one, it’s because I write about Donald Trump… and other bullies and abusers. Because I’m not a fan of “call out culture”, I don’t usually name names. But the guilty among us still don’t like it when I write about my honest impressions of things. I figure, the guiltier they are, the more vociferously they object and protest… and the more obsessively they stalk, rewrite history, and cover things up to make sure the narrative is to their liking.

Well… as Amy Arena sings, “Just excuse me. Excuse ME!” for being someone that not everyone likes. And excuse me for disappointing some of you because no one actually has justifiably asked me to “just leave”. You know why? Because I’m not the enemy. The people that Donald Trump blames for his daily failures and moral shortcomings aren’t the enemies, either. A lot of them are very decent people just trying to do the right thing. It’s not good to let greedy, arrogant, dishonest people get away with ripping off others. It’s easy to let things slide and not upset the apple cart. It’s a lot harder to call bullshit… and sometimes people act badly not because someone else deserves it, but because they’re greedy bullies who throw tantrums when they get held accountable.

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rants

There is no “we” in he…

One of my greatest pet peeves is when people include themselves in another person’s singular event. For example, I can’t stand it when people say, “We got pregnant.” Um… biological males do not get pregnant. It’s impossible. A man deposits his sperm into a fertile woman and she gets pregnant. Once she’s pregnant, his part of babymaking is over until the baby is born.

I know people say “we got pregnant” so that the man feels like he is a part of the pregnancy. But until that fetus is dancing on his bladder from the inside, he has no idea. Until his nether regions are ripped up or his abdomen is cut open to get the baby out, pregnancy is not an experience he can relate to. Hey… until he has a positive pregnancy test, and it’s not because he has a disease (testicular cancer), he’s never been pregnant and, therefore, is not a part of “we” in “we got pregnant”. Fuck that. Incidentally, a man doesn’t “deposit his seed”, either. Sperm is fertilizer, not seed. If one is going to use the euphemism “seed”, it makes more sense for it to refer to the woman’s egg. Fertilizer isn’t the same thing as seed.

But I realize that’s just me… and I am a lot more uptight about language than most people are. I am also an irritable person, especially as I get older. This morning, I encountered yet another annoyance. This time, it was in the Duggar Family News group. Someone had posted a screenshot of Sierra Dominguez and her baby, who was just diagnosed with RSV bronchiolitis. Sierra, who despite having been helicoptered with her baby boy to Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas, had the time and composure to write a lengthy Instagram post complete with several pictures regarding her son’s medical condition. Behold:

“We were diagnosed”? Is she sick, too?

I have to admit, I stopped reading when I read “we were diagnosed”. Yes, I’m that uptight about language. I get that momma Sierra is concerned about her baby, but unless she’s also coughing, wheezing, and feeling horrible, there is no “we” in this case of RSV bronchiolitis. The baby is sick. You’re not, Sierra… at least not yet. Hang around the hospital for awhile, and that could change. Unless she actually is sick… which maybe she is.

Anyway, that’s just me and my pet peeves. I do hope baby Merrick recovers quickly and no one else gets sick. I’m sure Sierra is scared, and posting on Instagram is one way she gets moral support. Still, while she’s understandably very worried about her son, he’s the one who’s sick. She doesn’t have a diagnosis of RSV; he does. Correct pronoun use is essential.

Moving on…

Looking at the photos from Sierra’s Instagram post just reminded me of another unpleasant memory. It’s unrelated to Sierra’s situation or the fact that I hate it when people include themselves in someone’s individual experiences (ie: “How are WE doing today?”). Sierra has included a photo of her baby boy, wrapped up in blankets and hooked up to machines. And that reminded me of the summer of 2014, when my father was dying after he’d had emergency gallbladder surgery.

I have three sisters. They’re all significantly older than I am. They were 13, 11, and 8 years old when I was born. Because of the age gap, sometimes my sisters treat me like I don’t have any sense. They become manipulative to the point of insulting my intelligence and my character. This has happened so much in my life that I have become exquisitely sensitive to it, to the point at which I get really angry when it happens. I think being manipulative, rather than being straightforward, is the height of disrespect.

In the summer of 2014, Bill had just left the Army and was job hunting. Just before my dad’s gallbladder attack, he was in talks to join Cubic, a government contractor, on an assignment in Stuttgart, Germany. We were living in San Antonio, Texas at the time, while my parents were in Hampton, Virginia. We didn’t have a lot of money to spare, nor was it the greatest time for us to drop everything and fly to Virginia. We had just a few weeks to plan our international move.

One of my sisters, who is worse about being manipulative than the other two, went to Virginia and took a picture of my father lying in his hospital bed, tethered to machines and covered with a huge CPAP mask (he’d had severe sleep apnea). She sent me the photo with a very shitty two line email about how I needed to come to Virginia to see him. Naturally, I was extremely pissed off at her for taking that photo and sending it to me as if I needed convincing that the situation was serious. I didn’t need her to send me a picture of my dad in that condition, nor was I taking orders from her. I was in touch with our mom, who had been keeping me apprised of the situation. I didn’t need her input or “help”. However, because we were already stressed out and I knew ripping my sister a new one would make things much worse, I simply replied with “Thanks for the update.”

I don’t know why my sister felt it was necessary to take a picture of our father on the brink of death as a means of convincing me to come to Virginia. I found it very hurtful that she’d assume that I needed that kind of “proof” that he was that ill. She basically sold me short, assuming that I’m that much of a selfish asshole that I needed to see a photo of him on his deathbed. By sending that picture, she implied that I didn’t care about our dad. I did care about him. In fact, I loved him. I didn’t always like him very much, but I had good reasons for feeling that way. It was neither appropriate for her to send that picture of him to me to try to convince me to visit, nor was it even really her business.

My sister is a controlling person, and I think she has trouble trusting that people will do the right thing. I don’t understand why she feels so free to be such an asshole to me, since I’m sure she doesn’t do this shit to everyone she encounters. In retrospect, maybe I should have sent her the seething, scathing email I had composed in my mind and in a blog post that I later deleted, because I was so hot with fury when I wrote it. Maybe she would have gotten the point that I’m now a grown woman and she would get a lot further with me if she’d simply make respectful requests or suggestions rather than manipulative demands. I can’t stand manipulators. They really piss me off.

Incidentally, I don’t remember if I told our mother that my sister took the photo. I don’t think I did, because I knew it would upset her. I’m sure she would NOT have approved of it. It was unnecessary, disrespectful, and just plain RUDE— and more to him, than to me.

But then, as if the tasteless photo of our dad wasn’t enough, when it became clear that my dad was going to die very soon, this same sister sent me instructions on how to speak to our mother! She wrote, “If you call Mom, please be kind…” As if I wouldn’t have been kind to our mother under these circumstances. She seems to forget that speaking to people in crisis was to be my career. I actually have professional training in it. Aside from that, I’m not such an asshole that I would deliberately pick a fight with our mom, especially as her husband of 56 years is on his deathbed.

Once again, I resisted the strong urge to tell my sister, in no uncertain terms, to go fuck herself. However, I ultimately responded, once again, with โ€œThanks for the update.” That’s all that really needed to be said, although the temptation to escalate the situation was definitely there. I was really pissed. What sucks is that the situation doesn’t escalate when I respond calmly, but I’m still left furious that, once again, I’m being forced to interact with an asshole… because I assure all of my readers, I don’t start this shit. I do my very best to avoid people who piss me off. They contact me, and usually with ill-conceived emails, unexpected visits, private messages, or public comments on Facebook or my blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

I had actually forgotten about that incident involving my sister sending our dad’s photo… but Sierra’s Instagram picture of her baby in the hospital brought it all roaring back to me. I think if my sister does something like that when it’s time for our mom to pass, I will give in to the urge to tell her that it’s not appropriate to send pictures of people who are on their deathbeds as a means of getting other people to do your bidding. I think I will also tell her that if she thinks so little of me that she feels the need to be manipulative, she can count herself minus a sister. Life is much too short to have to deal with that crap.

Ah well… it’s Sunday, foggy, and chilly. Guess I’ll quit writing this post and go work on a puzzle.

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psychology

“Do what I want, or I’ll kill myself!” Sounds rational… NOT!

Or… the sad tale of the reluctant Mormon missionary…

This morning, Bill and I were having breakfast and I read him a post that recently showed up on the Recovery from Mormonism message board. You can read it here.

For those who don’t want to click the link, here’s a brief synopsis. A poster writes that his or her brother is currently serving a Mormon mission in England. The missionary is very depressed and wants to come home, but his mother has insisted that he must stay on the job. The young man’s mission president also refuses to let him leave, and says that the missionary will be prescribed antidepressants.

The missionary’s sibling explains that their family is very dysfunctional. Their parents are divorced, and while dad is “healthy” and lives in Utah, their Montana based mother is extremely toxic and manipulative. When she doesn’t get her way, Mom threatens suicide. This causes everyone to get concerned and do her bidding so that she doesn’t follow through on her threats. Because of Mom’s dramatic bullshit, everyone is kept in line, even though it’s not in their best interests. No one wants to be responsible for Mom’s early death by suicide, so they give in to her manipulative demands.

As I read this post to Bill, I asked him if it sounded familiar. Sure enough, it did. My husband’s ex wife is not the woman in this story, although she certainly could be. Ex has never been above resorting to extremely dramatic threats to get her way. She never threatened or attempted suicide when she was married to Bill, but now that her eldest children are grown, she has since gone there more than once. When younger daughter decided to leave home, Ex reportedly attempted suicide and actually wound up in the hospital. Supposedly, she did this because she “loves” her children and can’t bear to have them leave her. Because she “loves” them so much, she tried to off herself when they decided to claim healthy self-determination. Very logical, isn’t it?

I don’t know much more about the details of this suicide incident, and don’t really care to know. The point is, Ex is a very manipulative person who will stop at nothing to get what she wants… even to the point of threatening self-destruction. As we can see from the RfM post and certain other situations we’ve been in, this kind of dramatic reaction is not uncommon when you’re dealing with a toxic person and co-dependents ensnared in their emotionally manipulative traps.

The one story Bill does remember about his ex wife’s manipulative habits is about how she broached the subject of their divorce. I’ve written about this a few times on my old blog, but I know I have some new readers and the old blog is currently closed. So here’s the brief backstory…

Back in 2000, Ex unilaterally decided that her relationship with Bill needed to change, and her manner of forcing Bill to “rock bottom” was the only way to change it. She was convinced she was entirely correct, and there was absolutely no room for compromise or discussion. It was her way or the highway, and she was completely inflexible about her position. So, Ex presented Bill with divorce papers and said, “I’m serious. You do what I demand, or our marriage is over”.

Bill was totally blindsided. He knew they were going to have a discussion about the future of their marriage, but he didn’t realize his ex wife had made all of the preparations to try to force him to sudden action. That weekend, they happened to be celebrating Easter at Bill’s father’s house. Ex’s three eldest children were there, although Bill’s dad and stepmom had taken them out for ice cream.

Ex, who had planned everything in advance, cooly presented Bill with an ultimatum– “Either admit you’re a “sick” person who hates women, go into counseling with the LDS bishop, and change into the man I think you should be, or we’ll get a divorce and your life will be over“. She was reportedly very confident that this threat would set things in motion. It never occurred to her that he might actually call her bluff. And because she was so “dead serious” about what she claimed she wanted, she’d even gone to the trouble of lining up a notary public who was available on a major holiday, and she’d drawn up the divorce agreement herself. She let Bill know in no uncertain terms that he must give in to her high pressure tactics, or there would be hell to pay.

Well, Ex was right about one thing. Their marriage needed to end. But she was wrong about everything else. Most importantly, Bill’s life definitely didn’t end when he accepted her proposal to divorce. And my husband certainly does not hate women. He’s also not “sick”. In fact, he’s a very level-headed, kind-hearted, reliable, decent person who goes to work, pays his bills, and does his very best to do the right things. He’s generous to a fault, and very quick to acquiesce in a confrontation and admit when he’s wrong. The fact that he’s like this sometimes makes him attractive to narcissistic, manipulative, abusive people. However, he does have a red line, and if you cross it, he will deal with you. In Ex’s case, he broke down in tears. Then, when she suggested divorce, he asked, “Where do I sign?”

Ex’s next reaction made it clear that this was not the result she had anticipated. She grabbed the divorce papers and retreated to the guest room at my in-laws’ house. There, she spent hours locked away, crying, raging, and generally making a huge scene. When she finally emerged from the guest room, Bill forced her to follow through on her threat. They went to the notary public Ex had arranged. It was Easter Sunday, when most people would be celebrating Christ’s resurrection. Bill was about to start celebrating resurrection of his life.

Many years later, when Ex’s eldest kids were finally ready to fly the coop, she went there with similar drama. But this time, she couldn’t threaten divorce. Instead, she went there with a suicide threat and subsequent attempt. Fortunately, two of her three adult children were smart enough to save themselves and get out of that trap of manipulation. They’re on their own. The third child is still kind of stuck, but reportedly has a clue that her mother has “issues”. With any luck, one day she’ll accept the life ring that has been tossed to her by family members who understand her predicament and want to help. She doesn’t have to stay mired in the quicksand.

A few days ago, I wrote about Dr. Les Carter, a psychologist who makes very useful YouTube videos about narcissistic, manipulative people. Another psychologist I’ve written a lot about is Dr. Tara Palmatier, who helps men who are victims of abusive women. Both of these mental health professionals are well worth exploring, since they offer assertive solutions on how to deal with manipulative women. I would also encourage that missionary’s sibling to explore these two psychologists for ideas on the mindset behind narcissists. “Dr. T”, as she’s nicknamed, tends to take a harsher, more cynical view of narcissists than Dr. Carter does. Dr. Carter is very rational and compassionate, while Dr. T is much more “no nonsense”. Dr. T has often advised that when a manipulator threatens suicide, the thing to do is call the authorities and let them handle it. I am inclined to agree with her.

A person who threatens suicide when they lose control of a situation is engaging in the height of manipulative behavior. It’s pathetic, but more importantly, it’s potentially dangerous. I liken it to a child who holds his or her breath when he or she doesn’t get their way. Often, the threat turns out to be empty, but sometimes the manipulative person will take action out of spite or simply because he or she really has reached that level of frustration. Regardless of why a person makes a suicide threat, the point is you’ve now entered a situation that could result in injury or loss of life. That requires professional assistance.

Someone who is driven to make a suicide threat is obviously on the verge of losing control. So, if the mom in the RfM story says, “If you come home from your mission early, I’ll kill myself”, take that threat seriously. Call for help. Get it documented. At least you’ll know you took steps to help her, even if she’s just trying to force your hand. She won’t like being hauled off to the hospital, sure. It will be expensive, embarrassing, and probably humiliating. But maybe it will also give her pause the next time she decides to make a suicidal threat when someone makes a decision she doesn’t like… or, if she really does need help, she’ll actually get it.

As for the young man on his mission, perhaps he needs a reminder that, first and foremost, he’s a volunteer. He doesn’t have to stay on a mission if he doesn’t want to. He has a say in his own life. He’s very fortunate, too, since he has loving family members who are willing to help him escape. A lot of people in his situation don’t have that. When I was in the Peace Corps, my mom told me not to come home early, but at least I knew I could leave if I wanted to. Ultimately, it wasn’t her decision. I think, when it comes to religious missions, particularly in cultures where it’s considered a rite of passage as it is in the LDS church, members are conned into believing they don’t have a choice. They DO have a choice. Anyone over 18 is a legal adult and can make decisions regarding their own lives.

It’s possible that his mission president has the missionary’s passport. Maybe he doesn’t have any money for a plane ticket. Fortunately, he has friends and family who can help him. I certainly hope they will, especially since the original poster writes that he’s depressed. I know firsthand how paralyzing depression is. It makes you feel helpless, hopeless, worthless, and like there are no alternatives other than the way things are right now.

Antidepressants certainly can be helpful. They helped me immensely. However, taking them is a personal choice, and should not be forced… particularly not by a mission president who likely does not have the expertise to determine if that is what is required. Many people can get over depression just by getting out of a toxic situation. It’s possible that the missionary simply needs to be with people who love him. Or, maybe he does need medication. But that is not for a mission president with an obvious agenda to decide. It’s not his life and it’s not his choice.

Someone who is so on the edge that they’d actually kill themselves over your decisions is not someone whose orders you need to be following. Obviously, this person is not thinking clearly about their own issues, let alone yours. If you saw a mental health counselor who said, “Take my advice, or I’ll kill myself,” would you think that person was competent? I would hope you wouldn’t. If your lawyer said, “I’ll kill myself if you don’t plead guilty (or not guilty),” you’d probably think he or she was batshit nuts, and certainly isn’t offering advice based on your interests. The same goes for a family member or friend who threatens self-harm if you don’t do what they want. That person doesn’t even have his or her own best interests in mind. They sure as HELL aren’t thinking of yours!

Threatening self-destruction in the name of “love” is not at all a loving thing to do. So you should do what is best for you… and if someone threatens self-destruction, call for professional help. Let the pros deal with that person. You get on with your own life, and don’t let their craziness muddy reality any more than it already is. Figuring out life is tough enough without that shit.

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psychology

Putting on the brakes: not getting on the bus to Abilene…

A couple of nights ago, Bill had a Skype session with his daughter. She told him that not long ago, she got a phone call from her mother, beseeching her to jump in her car and drive to a hospital a few hours from where she lives. Evidently, younger daughter’s cousin had been in a car accident and Ex felt that someone from the family should go to her. Younger daughter, in her infinite wisdom, declined to drive to the hospital. She’s pregnant, and has a toddler aged son. The hospital was a few hours away from where she lives, and she’s not particularly close to her cousin. She also had no idea what condition her cousin was in. She could have loaded up her toddler in the car, driven several hours, wasted precious gas and spent money she didn’t have, only to find that her cousin had only gotten bumps and bruises and was released. She had the courage to say no, but was apparently feeling a little guilty about it.

I listened to Bill explain to his daughter that sometimes her mother gets these ideas that something has to be done no matter what. She doesn’t stop and think about logistics, costs, or practicality. She just jumps in the car and goes… or she manipulates someone else to go in her stead. She reacts, rather than thoughtfully responds. I’m sure these kinds of reactions make her feel better in the short term, even if they turn out to be disastrous decisions. She feels like she has to do something. If she can’t do it, she’ll get someone else to do it, and that will make her feel better about herself. She’ll even take all the credit, even if she’s not the one who actually did anything.

I was instantly reminded of a similar situation I experienced back in 2010. Bill and I were living in Georgia. My dad was still alive, and was being hospitalized in North Carolina, near where my eldest sister lives. I got an email from another sister who lives in the Midwest. This sister was feeling guilty that our oldest sister was exclusively taking care of our parents. She felt like I should be doing more, so she took it upon herself to try to convince me to drive to North Carolina to visit our dad.

I remember the conversation started in an underhanded, manipulative way. She asked me how long it takes to drive from Georgia to North Carolina. I responded that it would take a few hours. Then she delivered the pitch. She wanted me to drive to North Carolina, split a hotel room with another sister who lives in Virginia, and visit our dad. She said she couldn’t do it herself because plane tickets were too expensive and she had work. She assumed that I could go in her stead and “help out”, even though the people directly involved hadn’t asked me for my help and were fully capable of asking. They are also not the type of people who wouldn’t ask for help if it was necessary. My mom is direct to a fault. She doesn’t keep quiet to spare other people’s feelings. It’s one of her best, and worst, qualities.

It so happened that I had just talked to our mother, and she had expressly told me she didn’t want me to visit. I hadn’t wanted to visit, nor had I suggested it, but she said things were hectic enough as it was. So, since I had just talked to our mom and she’d asked me not to add to the stress of the situation by visiting, I told my sister out in the Midwest, who was probably feeling guilty and helpless, that Mom had asked me not to go up there. Moreover, even though I don’t work outside of the home, I had other responsibilities. For one thing, I had dogs to take care of. I couldn’t just hop in the car and go, just because she suggested it. I would have to do something with them, since Bill works long hours and they aren’t used to being alone.

It takes discipline to do this, but in the long run, it will spare you a lot of grief.

I sent a calm response to my sister, indicating that our mom had specifically asked me not to visit and that I had other things going on. My sister proceeded to send me a pissy email full of guilt trips, which, of course, really annoyed me. Still, I managed to stay calm in my next response. I explained that I wasn’t going to just jump in the car and go up there on her say so, but I would call Mom and ask her if there was anything I could do for her. My sister seemed alright with that. She responded with a gushing, appreciative email, and added that I should email her to let her know how our parents were doing. I never did do that, and she never said anything about it. So much for her concern. Really, though, she was just feeling helpless and wanted to feel helpful. She figured she could bully me in to acting, which would make her feel better about herself, even if it was disrespectful toward me.

I called my mom, and she clarified that she wouldn’t be upset if I visited our dad, but that he was being transferred back to Virginia, so we might as well see him there. Then, she said she would like me to go to our house in Gloucester, which at that time she was trying to sell, and pick up the piano. I inherited my mom’s piano. It’s currently sitting in storage in Texas. It’s extremely heavy, and she needed it out of the house.

This situation happened to be going on over Memorial Day weekend, so Bill went to UHaul, got a tow bar put on our SUV, and we made the arrangements to board our dogs and go to Virginia to get the instrument. We drove up to Gloucester, got a UHaul, and picked up the piano. Then, we visited my Dad, who was in a physical rehab hospital.

My dad was not in his right mind. He called me by my sister’s name and complained that I’d gained weight (my sister has dark hair and is a size two, and I’m a blonde and… not a size two), then he completely ignored me and talked to Bill, who was just great with him. In my dad’s mind, he was still an officer in the Air Force. My dad was talking as if he was in a briefing. Bill caught on quickly and started speaking to my dad as if he was a general. Dad responded in the most uncanny way. He calmed down. Afterwards, Bill and I took my mom out for a drink. Just as we were about to get in the car to take Mom home, a nurse called and asked her to come back and sit with Dad, because he was agitated. Mom bitched out the nurse, which made me feel a little sorry for Dad’s caregivers. I remember her telling them that she didn’t have the stamina to sit with him all the time and it was their job to deal with him. I guess they were able to, since we left and Mom got to rest.

What would have happened if I had just done what my sister had demanded? I think it would have turned into a wild goose chase. If I had gone up to North Carolina, I probably would have missed seeing my dad. I would have wasted gas, and there’s no way I would have been able to do what my mom ultimately needed done, getting that heavy piano out of the house. I needed Bill to help with that. Maybe my sister would have been temporarily happy that I’d done as she demanded, but in the long run, doing her bidding wouldn’t have been very useful. She thought she knew better, though, and incorrectly assumed she could still order me around. News flash… I’m not eight years old anymore.

My sister wanted to do something, but wasn’t able to do it herself. She was feeling guilty and helpless. She figured I wasn’t busy, and decided to use manipulative tactics to try to spur me into action. When I demurred, she laid the guilt on even thicker and heavier. The end result is that she really pissed me off. I lost some respect for her when she resorted, yet again, to manipulation instead of making a respectful request of me. But then, this is something my sister has always done. Somehow, despite being raised by very direct and forthright parents, two of my sisters have learned that in order to get their way, they have to be manipulative. It’s a very common strategy. I no longer have much patience or tolerance for it. When people use fear, obligation, and guilt to try to get me to do something, I usually resist.

I think sometimes people who have grown up in abusive situations, or are surrounded by people who are manipulative and prone to employing guilt trips, are conditioned to do the bidding of others without ever questioning it. My husband calls this “getting on the bus to Abilene”, although I’m not sure he quite gets the euphemism right. Getting on the bus to Abilene suggests group think– people giving into a bad idea because they don’t want to be the person who resists, even though secretly, everyone is against the idea. The trip to Abilene is pointless and uncomfortable, but everyone goes along to get along and everyone suffers for it. And then it turns out no one wanted to go in the first place.

Maybe this anecdote isn’t helpful for everyone, but it’s helpful for me. There’s no reason why I can’t rely on my own good sense to make my own decisions. I don’t have to respond to people who use guilt tactics and manipulation to get me to do their bidding. In fact, it’s in my best interest to teach them NOT to approach me that way.

You’re not a marionette. You can dance to your own tune.

I did end up helping our mom, but I did it in a way that was doable for me and ultimately more helpful for her. I’m glad to hear that Bill’s daughter has similarly learned to say “no” to her mom when she pulls this kind of manipulative shit. If you’re an adult, and you’re functional, you don’t have to take manipulation from other people. Manipulation is, at its core, a kind of bullying. It’s unfair and disrespectful. It may seem easier to give in to manipulation, but in the long run, it only encourages more of the same behavior. Set boundaries and enforce them. If someone proposes a bad idea, you don’t have to go along with it. Do what works for you.

Back in 2010, I wrote about this incident as it was happening. I was unusually calm about it. I would have thought there would have been more ranting and swearing, but in 2010, I was more circumspect than I am now.

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