homosexuality, music, psychology, YouTube

Phil Donahue inadvertently introduces me to a virtuoso…

Monday, after I had finished my usual chores, I was trying to decide what to do with the afternoon. Suddenly, I remembered the old talk show, Donahue, which aired the whole time I was growing up in the 80s. Hosted by the follicle blessed Phil Donahue, husband of actress, Marlo Thomas, this was a show I heard a lot about in those days, but never watched. It was a precursor to Maury Povich and Geraldo Rivera, and even Oprah Winfrey and her protege, Dr. Phil. But, as I was a child in the early 80s, I wasn’t interested in watching talk shows. I do remember the theme music, though, because I think my mom was a fan, even though Donahue was pretty liberal for those days.

Anyway, I went searching on YouTube, and sure enough, someone had posted episodes of Donahue that dated to the early 80s. The first episode I watched was particularly engrossing, as it aired on November 17, 1982. I was ten years old, and AIDS was becoming the latest public health terror. Prior to that year, AIDS existed, but rank and file Americans didn’t hear about it, because people mainly got it in Africa. On that November 1982 episode of Donahue, there were several fascinating guests. There was, Dr. Dan William, a doctor who was one of the pioneers in treating AIDS. Phillip Lanzaratta, man who had Kaposi’s sarcoma was there to talk about the then rare cancerous lesion he had because of AIDS. And there was also, Larry Kramer, a leader of a gay men’s crisis organization. All three of these guests are now dead, although Larry Kramer died fairly recently– in 2020, I believe.

If you have time and are interested, this is a fascinating episode.

What really struck me about the AIDS episode of Donahue is just how new and terrifying the disease was, and just how little we knew about it. I grew up in the time when kids who were unlucky enough to get HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, were not allowed to go to school. Ryan White was one of my contemporaries; he was six months older than me. Years later, I also read the heartbreaking story of Ariel Glaser, daughter of actor Paul Michael Glaser (Starsky and Hutch) and his late white, Elizabeth Glaser, who started hemorrhaging when she was giving birth in 1981. She was given a blood transfusion that, sadly, was contaminated with the virus. She breastfed Ariel, who contracted the virus that way. Elizabeth didn’t know she had the virus until 1985, when she and Ariel both mysteriously got sick. Ariel died in 1988, and her mother helped found the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Elizabeth, who died in 1994, also had a son with Paul Michael Glaser, Jake. Jake was born with HIV, but has survived into adulthood. Before she died, Elizabeth wrote a book called In the Absence of Angels, which is a great read. I read the paperback version years ago. Maybe I should try to read it again.

Joshua Bell’s dad!

Since I had nothing better to do, I watched the next episode of Donahue that came up on YouTube. That episode, which aired October 14, 1981, had to do with homosexuality. The episode’s title was “Are Gays Born This Way?” I don’t think Lady Gaga was yet born when this show aired. 😉 The guests were Alan Bell, Ph.D. (author of “Sexual Preference”) and Lawrence Hatterer, M.D. (Professor of Psychiatry at Cornell University), each of whom came to their respective conclusions in different ways. I was particularly interested in Dr. Bell’s comments. He was very emphatic about his conclusions. He also reminded me of an old soap opera actor I used to enjoy on Guiding Light, Ron Raines, who played Alan Spaulding in the later years of the show. Interestingly enough, he took over a role that was played by the late Christopher Bernau, who was gay and died in 1988 of a heart attack that was brought on by AIDS. Bernau was only 49 years old when he passed– same age I am now.

Are Gays Born This Way? Yes… but it would take many years before Lady Gaga gave us the news.

I got caught up in the commercials, too, which were very different back then. They were longer, involved actual acting, and often starred people who went on to big fame. For instance, during the Donahue show, the actor Ian Ziering (of the original 90210 fame and a former Guiding Light alum) is in an ad for Scott paper towels. I’m pretty sure I saw Shelley Long, before her film and Cheers days, hawking furniture in another ad.

I looked up Alan Bell, and learned that his son, Joshua, is an incredibly gifted violinist. Much to my shame, I had no idea. He’s a few years older than I am, and very cute. Joshua Bell’s mother, Shirley Bell, worked as a therapist, and his father, Alan Bell, was a highly regarded psychologist at Indiana University. Shirley Bell’s mother was from Minsk, in Belarus, and her father was from Palestine; hence, she was Jewish. Bell was of Scottish descent. No wonder Joshua Bell had such great musical chops. 😉 The story goes that when Joshua was very young, he used rubber bands to make strings across the nine knobs on his dresser. His mother caught him plucking out music he’d heard her playing on the piano. Being a savvy sort of mom, Shirley Bell found her son a violin teacher. Now, Joshua Bell plays a Stradivarius and makes absolutely beautiful music. Seriously, I’m listening to him play as I write this… he really is extraordinary, and he doesn’t just play the classics.

The song I was just listening to… SIGH!!!!
And Joshua Bell playing “live”.

I also learned that Joshua Bell had a touch of his dad in him. Some years ago, he conducted an experiment for the Washington Post, donning a New York Yankees baseball cap and playing 45 minutes for free in the Washington, DC metro station. He earned $32.17 from passersby, not counting the $20 someone who recognized him gave him. Three days prior to his “free” concert in the metro station, Bell earned a whole lot more money playing for paying customers at a concert. Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for his article about the experiment.

Fascinating! You just never know who’s busking.

As an aside, I always make a point of giving money to buskers. I know how much goes into learning how to play music, and I appreciate the ambiance they contribute, especially in Europe. There have been a few occasions when I’ve even cried listening to some of the more talented street players. Like, for instance, a certain Polish guitarist Bill and I met last time we visited Florence (in 2013). We will be going back to Florence at the end of this month. I hope I run into Piotr again… and I’m so glad we bought his beautiful CD.

My friend Donna used to work at a classical radio station when she was a teenager. She said she had a huge crush on Joshua Bell back then. I’m ashamed to say that I simply hadn’t heard of him until two days ago, but last night, I bought several of his albums not having heard them before. I am listening to them now, and I’m not sorry I bought them. And to think I have Phil Donahue to thank for this! Who says you can’t learn from TV? Or from YouTube, for that matter?

Speaking of YouTube… about a month ago, some people on RfM who had endured some of my videos told me that I should try singing on camera. I don’t typically do that, because I get very self-conscious about my appearance. Also, I don’t put on makeup or regular clothes unless I’m going out in public, which I don’t do very often these days. But one poster was pretty adamant that I should try it. He also looks forward to seeing me play guitar and sing at the same time on video. I decided to buy a mic stand after that discussion, but only got around to making an on camera video yesterday. No, I’m not quite ready to play and sing at the same time, but yesterday I decided to record my version of an Alison Krauss cover of “Dreaming My Dreams With You”. I got notified by my favorite karaoke track vendor that the recording was available, so I downloaded it… and since yesterday, it was chilly and cloudy and I wanted to stall walking the dogs, I decided to try it on camera. I kind of cringe watching it, but the music turned out nicely, I think.

No makeup, no bra, and in fact, that is one of my nightgowns I am wearing… But it was well-received, anyway. I shocked a few people who knew me in high school, when I didn’t sing.

I don’t know what today will hold. Wednesday isn’t a big household chore day for me, so I’ll probably watch more Donahue. He does seem to be pretty interested in homosexuality… or at least he was in the 80s. But what really blows me away are some of the comments from the audience members. Listening to some of these folks is a reminder of how different society was in the early 80s. It’s a poignant look at what people who weren’t (or aren’t) straight had to deal with in the days before many people started to accept that not everyone is cisgendered. I generally have a lot of compassion for people who are different, but I am especially compassionate towards people who grew up at a time when it was especially difficult to be who they really are without risking huge consequences. And listening to some of the callers and audience members talk about homosexuality really just drives home what a challenge that must have been for so many people. My heart goes out to them.

Well, so ends another blog post. I’m going to practice guitar and maybe walk the dogs… and then I might look for another rabbit hole to fall into. Later, y’all!

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celebrities, lessons learned, music, musings, obits, YouTube

The first day of 2022…

I hope everyone enjoyed their New Year’s Eve 2021. Bill and I had a nice evening, marred only by the news that the great Betty White passed away. A lot of people reacted to the news of Betty’s New Year’s Eve demise with great sadness. She was a remarkable woman who was blessed with so much talent, beauty, and humor. When I think of how many people were touched by her, it almost overwhelms me. This was a lady whose career spanned many decades and generations, and she did it all– singing, dancing, acting, sales pitching, and especially comedy. She was the oldest Golden Girl, and the last one to leave us.

She was such an adorable and hilarious pro! God bless her, wherever she is… I hope she and her beloved husband, Allen Ludden, have finally reunited.

I loved Betty White as an entertainer. I admired her a great deal. However, I don’t feel particularly sad that she died, nor do I think of it as a tragic event. I think, as living and dying go, Betty White did it in grand fashion. As far as I know, she wasn’t seriously ill when she passed. In fact, she was even featured on People magazine’s cover this week, as she planned to celebrate her 100th birthday on January 17th. She was still “with it”, and not bed bound. Yes, it would have been wonderful if she could have celebrated one last birthday, but 99 years is still a hell of a good run. What happened to her eventually happens to us all… and she had the good fortune to do it on relatively favorable terms.

I think this one was my favorite! Betty’s dusty muffins could not be matched.

So no, I’m not totally saddened by Betty White’s death. She died the same year as several of her co-stars on the Mary Tyler Moore show, as we also lost Gavin McLeod, Ed Asner, and Cloris Leachman in 2021. And all of them lived to ripe old ages, having been able to work, play, and be in the world pretty much the entire time. We should all be so lucky… and in fact, I think we’re all lucky that we were alive at the same time she was.

*Giggle* She was so funny!

MOVING ON…

A lot of people were also mentioning how much 2021 sucked. I’m sure it really did suck for a lot of folks. COVID-19 has really screwed up normal living for so many. However, one good thing I have noticed about the COVID era is that some people are reprioritizing their lives. Yesterday, I read an awesome Reddit thread called “Twas the night before my resignation”, about a guy who decided some years ago that he no longer wanted to prioritize his career over his family. He started taking off the week between Christmas and New Year’s. In 2021, as usual, he scheduled that week off.

At the end of the year, a work emergency came up. It wasn’t something that should have affected his time off, and he did what he could to warn his employers that he would be taking that week off. But, as it happens, the company dragged its feet and the emergency, quite predictably, became dire as the guy’s week off approached… For best results, you really should read it for yourself. Suffice to say, the guy pretty much told his boss to pound sand, and was richly rewarded for his moxie. And to that, I say, “Kudos, and fuck those people!” I hate it when employers treat their employees like they own them. It’s nice to see that some workers have been able to claim some control over their work environments. I hope this is a trend that lasts, so that working conditions will improve for everyone.

I know… maybe it’s too much to hope for that there will be less greed and corruption in the American workplace. But I can dream, can’t I? Hell… if I were in the USA now, maybe someone would even hire me!

Bill and I actually had a fairly good 2021, in spite of COVID’s suck factor. We finally resolved our lawsuit, and it mostly went in our favor. I know it may seem like a small thing, but holding our former landlady accountable for her egregiously illegal actions, outright lies, and the really crappy way she treated us, was very satisfying. I think we learned a lesson from it, too. Hopefully, that lesson will carry over the next time someone tries to screw with us and shame us into automatically allowing them to have their way.

In 2021, Bill finally started working with a Jungian analyst, which is something he’s been wanting to do for a long time… and something I’ve felt he’s needed to do the whole time I’ve known him. The sessions have been very healing for him, but they’ve also been immensely rewarding and interesting. I didn’t know anything about Carl G. Jung when Bill and I met, despite my background. Social workers do study psychology, but it’s not really the bulk of what we learn, since social work is not psychology, per se. It’s been fascinating to learn more about Jung, and help Bill learn more. He’s been so intrigued by the process that he even started taking classes at the Jung Institute in Zurich. So far, the classes have been online, but we did get a chance to visit Zurich for the first time last summer. If we manage to stay here awhile, he may get to do some serious work.

As for my own successes… I’ve watched my relaunched blog explode. In 2021, I had over 560 times the hits I had in 2020, which was much more successful than 2019, when I moved my blog to WordPress. It really is picking up, and that’s been exciting to see, even though it took some time.

I felt pretty much forced to relocate the blog from Blogspot, although I had kind of wanted to do it for a long time. It was difficult and a bit depressing to start over in February 2019. I had a decent following on the original blog, even though it was a bit rawer than this one is. Moving the blog meant losing followers, as well as ad revenue. It’s not that I make a lot of money at all through ads, but it was kind of a nice thing to occasionally get paid by Google.

Well… that pretty much ended with a thud when I moved the blog, and for quite some time, I felt really constrained and nervous about writing. I know some people don’t think I have any talent… and some people think writing is a waste of my time, so they think nothing about messing with what I do… and some people just plain don’t like me, and want to cause trouble for me for selfish and dishonest reasons. This blog is NOT my life, but it is something I enjoy creating, and it gives me a purpose. So it was hard for me in 2019, when I experienced the setback that caused me to have to start over.

Two years later, I think my blog is better than it ever was. And I’ve been rewarded with new followers, and yes, more ad revenue. I only monetized the blog a few months ago, but pretty soon, I’ll be eligible to be paid. And I can only expect that this blog will be more successful than the original blog was, in terms of money, and quality content. The travel blog is a bit down in views lately, but hopefully COVID-19 will eventually be tamed enough so we can travel again. And really, I mainly write this stuff for myself, anyway, so anyone who reads and enjoys it is just icing on the cake.

I also found a new person with whom I can do music collaborations. In fact, I even uploaded our latest effort this morning! Music is something I do for fun and relaxation, so this is a rewarding development, too…

He lives in the States. We’ve never met, but we have similar musical tastes.

Another great thing that happened in 2021 was that Bill and I finally got to visit Croatia, and pay another visit to Slovenia. I already knew Slovenia was beautiful, but Croatia was magical. Although we didn’t have an “action packed” vacation in the fall, it was still probably one of my favorite trips yet. Just the sheer beauty of Croatia and Slovenia, as well as the time we spent in Austria (another favorite destination) was so awesome. I guess COVID has also made me a lot more grateful for ANY travel. Thank God for vaccines, too. I will be boosted in a few days, which may cause temporary discomfort, but will likely make my chances of dying from COVID lower.

We got to see a few friends, and make a few new friends… and the old friends who are real friends are still with us. We also didn’t lose any loved ones in 2021. In fact, in 2022, Bill will presumably gain another grandchild. And… our beloved Arran and Noyzi are still alive. Noyzi has even become a real part of the family, right down to loving on me when he wants something and showing up fashionably late to dinner! So that’s a blessing.

I have high hopes for 2022… I hope you do, too. To those of you who have been part of this blog, thank you so much! I especially want to thank my friends who have been here since the beginning. You are all a big part of the success, too!

2021 didn’t suck for us… but I know some people are really struggling right now. I don’t know what words of wisdom or comfort I can share. One friend mentioned how bad 2021 was, and I mentioned that I thought 2016 was worse– at least in terms of lost legends. She responded that she’d had a rough time of it in 2021, and compared 2021 to a few other horrible years she’d experienced.

I knew she’s been having a hard time, so I acknowledged that. And then I remembered one of my worst years ever– 1998. If I’m honest, there were a few times during that year that I seriously contemplated suicide. I was dealing with moderately severe depression, and I didn’t see how I was ever going to escape the situation I was in. It was NOT a hopeless situation by any means– which I clearly proved. But at the time, it felt hopeless… and my perspective was so blurred by depression and anxiety that I couldn’t see beyond the fog of despair and despondency.

But some very good things also happened that year. Yes, I was working in a restaurant job where I was abused daily, and I lived with my parents, who were kind of hostile and disappointed in me. I was young and basically healthy, but felt unattractive and unsuccessful. That year, I backed into some lady’s car in our driveway, because I was so upset… and that accident led me to finally seeing a therapist. Dr. Coe helped me so much, and I was eventually put on antidepressants that changed my life. To this day, I no longer feel as horrible as I did for most of my young life.

I eventually got pretty good at the restaurant job, and was able to make enough money to pay for the therapy and save up for an apartment. I bought a car. I had a terrible setback in November 1998– in fact, that was probably one of the worst months of my life. And yet, two months later, the medication was finally correct, and I started getting my shit together… and by November 1999, I was in a dual degree master’s program, proving to myself that I wasn’t as stupid or worthless as I had felt a year prior. That was also the month I “met” Bill online. By November 2002, we were married! And now, 19 years later, here we are… In 2022, I’ll presumably turn 50, and we will celebrate 20 years married.

So it’s good that I didn’t give in to my urges to off myself back in 1998. That would have meant missing out on some really wonderful things. That “abusive” job also led to meeting some truly great friends and learning valuable life and survival skills. In the long run, that turned out to be a good thing, too, despite the suffering that happened when I was still in that situation.

My point is, sometimes what seems like the shittiest times can lead to some pretty wonderful recoveries. So if you are struggling right now, I urge you to hang on as best you can. It can, and probably will, get better. But I also know that those words ring hollow when a person is really suffering. So just know, there are people who really do care, and have been through it, too… You’re probably more like them than you know… unless, of course, you’re Josh Duggar or Ghislaine Maxwell. Those two probably won’t be enjoying life for awhile.

And, with that bit of “wisdom”, I’m signing off for today… Got a few chores to take care of, and then it’s time to watch movies and concerts.

Happy New Year, everybody!

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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!

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mental health, poor judgment, psychology

When manipulators INSIST they’re being straightforward and honest…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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narcissists, psychology, royals, videos, YouTube

The Body Language Guy takes on Meghan Markle…

Some time ago, I ran across some entertaining videos by a heavily accented man named Jesus Enrique Rosas, otherwise known as “The Body Language Guy”. Rosas regularly makes videos about celebrities and analyzes their body language. I get a kick out of him, because he’s got great energy and charisma. I must admit that his accent is also interesting. I probably listen to him longer than I might someone with a less exotic (to me, anyway) accent.

I don’t know much about Rosas. I have no idea what his qualifications are. But I have noticed that he has an awful lot to say about Meghan Markle, and most of it isn’t very complimentary. He’s also kind of witty, which I definitely appreciate. It’s not hard to make me laugh, but if you manage to do so with style, you get extra points from me!

The below video was the first one I saw Rosas make about Meghan Markle. He thinks he has her pegged as a narcissist. Behold…

Is he onto something? This is a fascinating video.

Certainly, Rosas isn’t the only one who’s noticed that something seems a little off kilter about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. He’s focused on their body language, but I focus more on what she says and does. I watched the Apple+ series Meghan and Harry did with Oprah Winfrey. I thought it was very interesting. But I was mainly more interested in hearing from Harry, than Meghan. He comes off as very generous. Meghan comes off as less so… at least to me, anyway. I think I’m pretty sensitive to narcissistic types, mainly because I’ve unfortunately had a lot of exposure to them.

Harry has always struck me as a sensitive, kind, and decent person. I know he was legitimately devastated by his mother’s death in 1997, when he was just 12 years old. I also think he’s a protective person. Meghan, by contrast, is very much a go-getter. I remember reading about how she wrote to an advertiser about sexist language used in promoting their products.

Meghan probably doesn’t need Harry’s protection, but if she is a narcissist, she might exploit those tendencies to keep him doing her bidding. Also, check out today’s featured photo. Some years ago, I used to follow Dr. Tara Palmatier’s blog, Shrink4Men. “Dr. T”, as she went by, frequently mentioned how high conflict, narcissistic typed women were hung up on being “princesses”. She refers to it as a “princess mentality”. The quote above came from Markle’s now defunct blog. She obviously watched William and Kate get married on television… and yet she says she never Googled Harry? Seriously?

But it seems that being in the British family was more than Meghan bargained for. I won’t dispute that the British tabloids can be brutal. They certainly can! And I won’t dispute that racism is a real problem, even in 2021. It certainly is! But I don’t believe that Meghan was treated as egregiously badly as she claims.

In fact… thinking about Harry’s and Meghan’s great exodus from England last year, it reminds me of how Bill’s ex wife pressured Bill into getting out of the Army. The Army provided Bill with an identity, and she had to live by the Army’s influence. She didn’t like that, so she pressured Bill into quitting. That action deprived Bill of his livelihood. She also separated him from people outside of their sphere who might influence Bill, or threaten her power over him.

I see a similar dynamic between Harry and Meghan. Obviously, staying in England would mean the Queen, Prince Charles, and Prince William would have MUCH more influence over Harry than they would in the United States. So Meghan says the British press was too “hard” on her. Harry, being sensitive to mental health issues because of his mother’s difficulties, is quick to acquiesce. Before you know it, the couple has left royal life. But… they still complain about being “cut off” from the British family’s riches. Apparently, Meghan didn’t realize that being married to a high ranking British royal entailed doing some work. And she was quite firm about doing things her own way, British tradition and expectations be damned!

A video Rosas made in August about Meghan Markle… He pays very close attention to what Meghan says, how she dresses, and her behavior.

In the above video, Rosas says he’s “not a Meghan hater”. But minutes before he says that, Rosas calls her a narcissist. Later, he says she’s fake. Aside from that, he admits that Meghan has good public speaking skills. But then he reiterates that she’s a fake narcissist and a snob. He ends the above video with the hilarious quip, “At least Harry found his balls and he’s allowed to play with them.” Bwahahaahaha.

Interesting… and I have my own opinions about Meghan Markle. I probably agree more with Rosas than disagree with him. I have noticed some discrepancies in some of the things Meghan has said, as opposed to her actions. I also notice that Meghan seems to have isolated Harry from the life he’s always known. I don’t know if Harry is truly happy in California. I have no idea how he and Meghan get along. But I do recognize that Harry and William, who were always very close, are not very close anymore. And this is perhaps evidenced by the somewhat chilly birthday greetings sent out to Harry via the Cambridges’ social media.

Yesterday, I happened to catch The Body Language Guy’s video about the recent Time Magazine cover of Meghan and Harry. I was oblivious to the cover until I saw the below video. Then, I noticed that a lot of people were talking about it, both on YouTube and Facebook.

I have to admit, Rosas brings up some very interesting points.

In the above video, Rosas points out how Harry is fading into Meghan’s shadow. She is presented as equal to or even larger than he is. She stands with her legs apart, wearing white, as he wears black and seems to “hide” behind her. She looks powerful, but he looks a bit cowardly. And we all know that Harry, who served the British military in Afghanistan, is no coward by any stretch of the imagination. At one point, Rosas says Meghan is “emasculating” Harry.

Honestly, if I had seen that cover without having watched Rosas’ video, I probably would not have noticed all of the weird stuff he points out. It would not have occurred to me to linger on the photograph, mainly because I’m not that interested in Harry and Meghan. I wouldn’t say I actively think about them much… I probably think a lot more about William and Kate, and especially their adorable children.

I’ve always liked Harry, though. He strikes me as a very kind, funny, and empathic person. And unfortunately, having married a man like that, I know he is fresh meat to narcissists. I don’t know if Meghan is a narcissist, but I do think she tells untruths. Like, for instance, I don’t believe that she didn’t know anything about Harry when she was growing up. Harry is the son of the most photographed woman in the world, the late Princess Diana. In the 1980s and 90s, Diana was everywhere. And, as Meghan is a modern woman living in the Internet age, as well as an actress, I don’t believe for a second she never Googled Harry.

When Meghan says “I never Googled Harry”, I’m reminded of a similar whopper Bill’s narcissistic ex wife told him. She said that she was accepted to several top flight universities, to include the United States Military Academy (AKA West Point) and Rice University in Texas. But… take a look at Ex, and you’ll quickly notice that she’s never been particularly physically fit or academically gifted. Then you realize that she wouldn’t last five minutes at West Point. It just doesn’t pass the smell test. Likewise, Ex dropped out of high school and got a GED. Bill went to high school with Ex and doesn’t remember her to be an academic superstar. Those types of students– the ones who go to colleges like Rice– don’t usually drop out, especially in the 1980s, before homeschooling was as popular as it is now.

Then I look at other things about Meghan that seem a bit “off”. Like, for instance, the stories about how she treated palace staffers… The awful drama involving Meghan’s father and half siblings from his side of her family, just before she married Harry… The way she and her first husband, actor Trevor Engelson, abruptly split up after just two years. I remember reading about how William was concerned about the speed at which Harry committed to Meghan. William took forever to marry Kate, and their marriage seems pretty solid. But Harry started dating Meghan in 2017, and was married to her in 2018. By 2020, he’d pretty much decided to quit being royal, and he and William, who once enjoyed a close relationship, now seemingly have very strained relations.

Another feature of narcissism is a lovebombing rush, and very quickly “hooking” the victim into permanent commitments like marriage and conception. My husband, for instance, was confronted by his ex wife when she traveled all the way to Germany from Texas with her eldest son in tow. She showed up on his doorstep and gave him a sob story. They very quickly married and, within two months of their wedding, she was pregnant with Bill’s older daughter. I noticed the same pattern when she married #3. Married within two months of Bill telling her he was going to propose to me. Pregnant within four. And… Meghan did have baby Archie less than a year after marrying Harry, although I might cut her some slack on that, since she’s an older woman.

And finally, how does Meghan really feel about Queen Elizabeth II?

Remember, though…. Meghan Markle is an actress. Maybe she’s not the best actress there ever was, but she was trained to convincingly portray someone she’s not. And so, it’s possible that her relationship with Harry is the biggest acting job she’s ever taken on. Or maybe not… but I can understand why people are concerned. At any rate, regardless of whether or not Harry and Meghan are really happy (and if she truly is a narcissist, I would guess not), I do hope that someday, Harry and William can repair their relationship. I think their difficulties are the saddest part of this situation.

Interestingly enough, I don’t see any videos about Donald Trump by the Body Language Guy. If he really knows anything about narcissists, he should be covering the orange turd. But then, maybe Rosas is a Trump fan. Or maybe politics bores him.

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