Duggars, narcissists, psychology

“You’re not disloyal when you change…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

politics, Trump

I feel like someone poured water on the Wicked Warlock of the White House…

“Who would have thought a little girl like you would destroy my beautiful wickedness?”

Well, it’s been four days since the U.S. election and we’re still waiting for the winner to be announced. It’s beginning to look more and more like we’re about to say goodbye to the Trump era. If Trump does, in fact, lose the election, and it looks an awful lot like he will, there will be a long recovery from his disastrous stint in the White House. But it does sort of inject some hope into a year that has been very strange at best, completely heartbreaking at worst.

I’ve experienced a wide range of emotions this week. I was disgusted on Tuesday, as Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham were both re-elected. I was especially disgusted to see that Mitch got another term. I think he’s worse than Lindsey Graham, even though I met Mitch’s wife once. Back in the 1990s, Elaine Chao was briefly the director of the Peace Corps, and she visited Yerevan (after she’d left the post) when I was a Volunteer. Because I lived in Yerevan, I was invited to visit the Ambassador’s house and talk to her about what we were doing. I didn’t know who she was, nor did I know who Mitch McConnell was. I didn’t care about politics in those days. What a blissful time… I remember her to be pleasant enough, although I find her husband’s politics completely disgusting.

I was also disgusted to see just how many Americans apparently don’t care about Trump’s incredibly bad behavior. They don’t care about his constant tantrums and lies, nor do they care about the way he blatantly cheats as he bleats about having his power stripped. He’s just another one of those people who thinks the rules apply to everyone but him. But still, many people I thought were basically decent, caring, kind, and fair people are willing to give Trump a pass for this obvious disrespect for the American people and the world at large. Check out this post my German friend shared:

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted his father should open an “all-out war” around the election. Even Goebbels was more polite and at least asked.

The comments on the original post by Germans are very interesting. I’m glad to see that a lot of them realize that not all Americans are for Trump. And although many more Americans still accept Trump’s disastrous behavior and catastrophic failures as a leader than I expected, in the end, it does look like the better man will prevail (not that it’s hard to be better than Donald Trump is). I truly hope Joe Biden will help mend all of the relationships Trump has done his best to destroy. Especially with Germany.

Then, someone was mean to me. It’s always upsetting to me when someone is deliberately mean. I don’t react to mean people the way I used to. Now, when someone is really blatantly rude to me, I just cut them off. It makes me sad to do that, but I don’t have time for unapologetic assholes. If someone feels emboldened enough to be blatantly horrible to me without any reason or remorse, that’s a sign that we don’t need to be in touch. So, while I’m a little sad and disappointed to say goodbye to this person, I’ve resolved to come away from that experience a better person. In this case, I also hope to become a better guitar player. I doubt he’ll even notice, anyway.

At least Kanye was gracious enough to concede.

As the week wore on, things improved. I became reacquainted with an old college friend. And then the mail in ballots were counted and it became clear that Biden got more votes, even as Trump continued to wail, threaten, and complain about corruption. If anyone knows about corruption, it’s Donald Trump… and now it’s time for him to pay the piper. But he is determined to make the process as painful, complicated, and expensive as he can, and he’s going about it all in the least dignified way possible. Really, it’s pathetic. He’s talking about calling in favors to the Supreme Court, which is now stacked with justices he selected. There’s no doubt that they will be pressured to do what he wants them to do. Hopefully, they will uphold their responsibility to be fair and impartial and follow the law. No matter what, I anticipate many weeks of a shitshow as Trump and Biden duke it out over who will lead the country.

Now it’s Saturday, and Bill is cooking our usual Saturday breakfast. Looks like the weather will be nice, although thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown lite, we probably won’t do anything. We did have a fire last night– first one of this side of 2020. The weather is finally chilly, too… Winter is coming.

It’s disturbing to watch a world leader melt down the way Trump is, kinda like the Wicked Witch of the West did. But it’s more disturbing that people with supposedly normal intelligence can’t grasp why he so badly needs to go. If he doesn’t go, I have grave concerns for the future. Everybody says that. I know many Trumpers feel the same about Biden. But in this case, we’ve already had four years of life under Trump. He may not have directly made my life worse, but his seagull leadership style has definitely affected many people who aren’t as privileged as I am. Below is a copy and paste job shared by my cousin’s ex wife… She’s obviously out to lunch on this.

People are so scared. Anyway, wasn’t it Republican George W. Bush who got us into those “endless wars with the Middle East”? And aren’t Republicans more interested in making money than treating their workers fairly? This thing confuses me.

Sigh… and the final thing that has happened this week is that an elderly close family member is very ill and on a ventilator, although not because of COVID-19. We’re a bit concerned about that, especially since it’s not so easy to get back to the United States. But with any luck, the ventilator will help more than it harms. Unfortunately, when it comes to the elderly and serious illnesses, sometimes these situations can go south rather quickly. In 2014, my dad went to the hospital with an inflamed gallbladder. Most people think of gallbladder removal as pretty straightforward. The gallbladder was successfully removed, but my dad was unable to recover from the anesthesia. That was his exit. I kind of knew it was going to happen, too, but at least I was able to see him one last time before he passed. I’m not sure that can happen this time, if it comes down to that.

Bill will be back to teleworking next week. COVID-19 is getting worse here. Fortunately, Germany is led by people who mostly care more about people than money. And although Bill works for the United States, we’re obliged to follow the host country’s rules. And that suits me fine. Germans enjoy a better lifestyle anyway.


When monkeys fly…

Not long ago, I watched the 1976 version of the film, Carrie. It’s one of my favorite movies from the 1970s. I’m not sure why I like it so much, but I do. I haven’t seen the remake and don’t really care to because, to me, Sissy Spacek is the only Carrie. She played the part of a terrorized “freak” with special powers like no one else can.

There’s a scene in Carrie that comes to mind as I write this morning. It’s right before Carrie and Tommy get crowned Prom King and Queen. We can see Tommy’s girlfriend, Sue Snell, realizing what’s about to happen to Carrie and Tommy as they smile for the camera. Sue sees a rope leading to under the stage where Tommy and Carrie are standing, listening to applause. Her eyes follow the rope up the side of the stage, where it is eventually connected with a pail filled with pig’s blood. She can see Carrie’s tormentors under the stage, getting ready to pull the rope.

Sue tries to stop them from succeeding in their prank. If she had managed to stop them, the film would have probably had a much happier and less interesting ending. But the gym teacher, Miss Collins, catches Sue before she can do anything, throws her out of the gym, and saves Sue’s life… or, at least her physical life. She will be haunted by the horrors of prom night for the rest of her existence on Earth.

In January 2018, I wrote a post on my original blog about “flying monkeys” versus “abuser groupies”. Flying monkeys is a term frequently used in pop psychology to describe people who get co-opted into doing “dirty work” for narcissists and other personality disordered people. “Abuser groupies” is a term I made up to describe people who hang around abusers, admiring them, and not seeing them for who they really are, but they don’t necessarily do any “dirty work” on their behalf.

This is where “flying monkeys” come from… and they are scary as hell!

I can’t help but draw some parallels between what Bill and I have experienced in the last week to that scene in Carrie. Although thinking about it some more, I’m sure people will have differing perspectives.

I found out that the woman who lived in our former landlady’s house was monitoring my blogs and, perhaps, sharing them with the landlady and her daughter. I made no secret of my idea to start a fiction blog as a place for me to vent using fiction. To me, it seems like a good idea. I can express myself without involving “real” people. No one has to read what I write and, in fact, most people don’t read my fiction posts. I will admit sometimes I get kind of snarky and vindictive in my fiction, but I don’t get that way offline. It’s a harmless way for me to exorcise my demons. The worst that can happen is that someone’s feelings might get hurt.

I suppose if you’re obsessively reading what someone writes and you have an ego, then maybe the fiction blog idea seems cruel. Maybe, in the previous tenant’s eyes, I’m like Chris Hargenson on Carrie, the hateful bitch who fixes the prom so that Carrie wins the title of prom queen, and then, when the moment is right, plans to humiliate Carrie in front of the whole school. I guess in her eyes, my idea to write a fiction story that might include elements of my experiences with our ex landlady is a “mean” thing to do, especially since she knows the landlady’s daughter reads my blogs. She worries that the landlady’s daughter’s feelings will be “hurt” if she sees herself in one or more of my characters. Meanwhile, she has no empathy for how I might be feeling after dealing with our ex landlady’s abusive behavior for four years and then having her unfairly withhold our deposit. In fact, she doesn’t even know that’s what’s happened, at least not from my perspective. I didn’t explain it to her. Why not? Because it’s none of her damned business.

You see, while I can understand why someone might equate me to the character of Chris Hargenson on Carrie for writing fiction stories about people who irritate me, I think the former tenant is a little like Chris, too. In fact, if you take a look at the way she’s been behaving, her behavior is very much like that of a “flying monkey”. First off, I wonder who turned the landlady’s daughter on to my blogs? I wonder why she turned her on to them? I wonder who really is the “mean” person? And secondly, is it worse to write a fictional story about someone who has inspired me– negatively or positively– that most people won’t read? Or is it worse to yell at someone in their own home, be inconsiderate, domineering, and insulting, and steal money from them, then giving them no right to defend themselves?

What do “flying monkeys” do? They abuse people on behalf of a personality disordered person. Now, I don’t actually know if our former landlady has a personality disorder. I don’t know her well enough to see how she relates to other people. I have, however, been on the receiving end of her verbal abuse. Bill has received nasty emails from her. I also heard from our insurance agent when she was not happy with the settlement she got from them. I gathered that her emails and letters were not pleasant. On the day Bill handed over the keys to her duplex, she behaved as though she was very angry with us. According to Bill, even her husband was telling her to calm down. While I can’t know for certain how the landlady behaves with other people, I do know that people who are verbally abusive are usually habitual about it. In fact, her husband’s body language often belied a man who walks on eggshells every day. I don’t know if he does or not. That’s just how it appeared to me.

The landlady’s passive aggressive and hostile behavior is despite the fact that for four years, she got her rent money in full and on time every month. She had tenants who were reliable and basically respectful, even if I evidently don’t clean to her standards (not that I even knew what they were). We weren’t doing anything illegal or immoral on her property. We didn’t throw parties or antagonize the neighbors. We didn’t call the landlords at all hours, nor did we demand that they make repairs. We simply dared to live in their house rather than flutter around it without making a single fingerprint. Oh… and I guess she was upset because I apparently didn’t humble myself to taking her abuse. In the 51 months of our time in that house, by my calculations, they got at least 88,230 euros from us in rent and “other costs”. I’m sure it went a long way toward paying their bills. And what’s another 2500 from our deposit so the old couple can get themselves a new awning at our expense? I’m sure they assume we can afford it. We can, but that’s beside the point.

According to the former tenant, though, this lady is nothing but sweet and kind– akin to an angel. For all I know, that’s the only side of her that she’s seen. She may very well feel like she needs to defend her against me, because she can’t imagine that the landlady would be passive aggressive, hostile, and unfair to other people. Or, maybe she does realize that the woman has this unsavory side and doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter why she engages in this behavior. She may not even know she’s doing it. However, you won’t convince me that there’s not some triangulation going on. I get the feeling that the “flying monkey” is somehow being encouraged to silence me. Former landlady isn’t going to talk to me directly. She talks to the former tenant, who then talks to me and appeals to my sense of shame and decency to continue to accept this crap. I’m supposed to simply behave gracefully and accept that for the first time ever, ex landlords are going to rip me off. I don’t understand how or why she thinks we’re going to let them get away with it. If she were in my shoes, would she simply let this bullshit go without a word?

I will admit, I probably seem a bit obsessed about this. I usually get this way when someone behaves in an abusive manner towards me. You might say I’m “saturated” when it comes to abuse and I don’t take it lying down. However, I can promise that I’ve never so much as “Googled” ex landlady or her friend, the ex tenant. Meanwhile, they’ve been enjoying my admittedly public postings and talking and probably laughing among themselves. And after they’ve enjoyed themselves, they expect me to treat them differently than I treat anyone who annoys or abuses me.

I see creating stories, whether or not they’re good, kind, or even entertaining, as a constructive way to deal with my angst. I don’t force anyone to read the things I write. It seems to me that these people can grow up and show some self-control. Or, better yet, they can simply behave in a way that doesn’t inspire me to write snarky fiction.