Do Narcissists Really Cooperate?

Most of the time, I have posts which I’m working on stacked in the background.  Information that would be helpful to others who are walking down this same path.  Might as well try to forge some value from the experience, right?

On occasion, I have to share the moment.  This is one.

Does someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder really coorperate?  I can only imagine the pie chart of those that read this …  % who are adamently shaking head no, % who are laughing loudly, and truly the % who are thinking “sometimes they do… or it least it seems like it”.

A person who deals with NPD has flawed thinking.  Truly – it’s flawed.  It doesn’t make sense.  I’m all for creating your own path in life or coming up with something new and amazing, or even creating ‘art’ in ways no one thinks is artful.  I love, literally love, diversity and originality.  But… a narcissist… well, it’s not original (they all do the same thing) and it just doesn’t rhyme.

Let me provide some examples to illustrate:

  • Last week, a friend of mine’s daughter was supposed to be returned from a week with her NPD dad for vacation.  Out of the blue, the dad said he wasn’t returning because the daughter was scheduled to go to a sleep away camp the next day, and he wanted to exercise “right of refusal”.  Right of refusal was the right to be able to care for the child in lieu of the other parent using someone else to babysit/care for the child.  It’s sleepaway camp, dude… not babysitting, and regardless – it doesn’t start until tomorrow and she’s legally due back today.  This is strange reasoning #1.
  • Same situation – reasoning #2 – after hours of not answering his phone, the dad finally speaks to my friend around 10pm (daughter was due back at noon).  They go back and forth on the phone, with the ex bringing up long ago issues.  He finally concedes that if my friend doesn’t send her to camp, he’ll return her the next day at 6pm.  He tries to bargain out something else, and finally my friend said “whatever… I’ll see you tomorrow at 6.”  Thirty minutes later, the daughter is knocking at the door. “Mom, I’m home”.  WTF?  Narcissists just want to win.  Especially this guy.  My friend has learned to ask her questions to him BACKWARDS because he’s that oppositionally defiant that she knows he’s fight her the other way.  Unfortunately, in this case, the daughter was caught in the middle for 10.5 hours.
  • Years and years ago, my ex owned a house in another state which he rented out.  The renter stopped paying rent.  My ex, who has an Ivy League MBA (go figure), decided that if he wouldn’t get paid rent, he won’t pay the mortgage company.  “If I’m not getting my money, the bank isn’t getting their’s”, he declared.  Really?  It was two months before I realized what he was doing, stared at him and said “WTF?  You are only hurting yourself”.  And that he did… for years his credit was a wreck.  Stupid me… because I made sure he fixed it.  Now I know better!
  • My ex wants me to compensate him for a three hour dinner evening missed 1.5 years ago because my dad was in intensive care our of town and I was there with the kids and him.  He also wants me to compensate for a recent weekend day where he was registered into a trade show on his weekend, and I kept the kids through the show time.  Lastly, he wants me to sign up our five year old for horseback riding lessons.  IF I do this, he will consent to a psychological evaluation (sorry for being repetitive if you’ve read the other posts).  Yesterday, he offered the following – “if you let me keep the kids until Saturday at 8pm, it will make up for both the 24 hour period you owe, and the dinner night”, he wrote. “Then all you need to do is write an email to the farms about the horseback riding and we can start the evaluation next week”.   I wrote to him that we were leaving to visit my sister and couldn’t extend the time.  Here’s the reply I get: “I think we know this is not the case. <Our daughter> is expecting to ride Sunday and the children weren’t expecting to leave. If you won’t cooperate, you can’t expect me to.

The thing is… even when they seem like they are cooperating, like the first email I got with all the nice tones to it, it’s really not.  There’s always a catch, always flawed thinking, and always something that they are trying to do to manipulate you.  The minute you don’t walk their walk, you’ll see the nasty comment or the lashing out that follows because they realize you aren’t being manipulated, and they can’t understand why it’s not working.

So… to answer my own rhetorical question… “NO”, narcissists cannot cooperate.  They can modify for their behavior for a portion of the time, but certainly when they are in conflict with someone or seeking revenge, I haven’t seen the genuine ability to cooperate.

A Look at Parental Alienation and Protective Parent Behaviors

Within the list of behaviors used to describe “parental alienation” (which is unfounded), there are some which resemble behaviors of a personality disordered individual, and others which may be contorted views of actions taken by a protective parent.  Parental alienation, however, is most often brought up by the abusive parent, accusing the protective parent of alienating the child from them.

Most certainly there are behaviors noted which a protective parent might do if trying protect the child from an abusive ex.

It is my opinion that the behaviors used to describe this “syndrome” are a mix of potential real, exhibited behaviors by protective parents, and behaviors which a personality disordered parent may do themselves and be projecting onto the healthier parent.

In many ways, it seems that the psychological labels get in the way of looking at the behaviors vs. looking at the label itself.

Here are some behaviors a protective parent may exhibit that could be swept up into a “parental alienation” accusation.

  • Seeking to reduce the amount of time a child spends with the other parent because the parent’s behaviors are harmful to the child
    • It’s easy to see the abusive parent saying “she doesn’t care about my relationship with them. She’s alienating me from them because she blocks me from spending time with them.”
  • Making comments about the other parent’s character or lifestyle, activities, etc
    • This may easily come about when trying to explain things to a child who has been hurt by the behaviors of an abusive parent, such as not showing up for visitation, having a revolving door of new romantic interests, etc.
  • Emphasizing the other parent’s flaws, such as temper or being unprepared for the child’s activities
    • This may also easily occur when talking with the child about how to handle scary situations with the other parent’s rages, or empathizing how the other parent doesn’t bring towels to the indoor pool even on 20 degree nights and your child has to dry off with their coat.
  • Discussing what’s going on in court with the child
    • I know parents who have explained to their children that the court insists that they go with their abusive parent – simply because they need that way out of explaining why they are sending them to do something which feels so awful to the child.  If the child explained of abusive behavior at school or at daycare, the parent could investigate and pull them out of the situation.  In the case of court ordered visitation, there’s no choice or ability to do anything about it. So, it helps to explain that portion.
    • For e.g., a friend of mine keeps her child posted because she wants him to know she’s asking the court for what he begs her for.
  • “Making the child think there’s a reason to fear the other parent”.
    • A list I’m looking at includes this item.  It frustrates me, because usually the abusive parent is creating the reason to fear themselves, but they say that the protective parent is creating an unfounded fear.  Truly, a sane parent wants their child to have two “good” parents and won’t create an unfounded fear.

I’d like to see family courts and mental health professionals look at the behaviors listed by the “parental alienation syndrome”  and notice that if they are coming up in their court room or with their patients/patient’s parents, it warrants a closer look.  It would be great to determine where the behaviors are coming from and who’s accusing who of them.  It would be my guess that most likely… one or both of the parents are dealing with a personality disorder of some sort.  Perhaps the disordered is displaying some of these behaviors or accusing the other of these behaviors, or perhaps the protective parent is doing things which are for their and their children’s safety.  Nonetheless, it’s not likely that it is just “two warring parents” who are actually mentally and emotionally stable.

References and related links:

Parental Alienation & Narcissistic Personality Disorder

It only takes a few minutes of googling (a verified verb) to learn about the invalidation of “PAS” and “Parental Alienation Syndrome”.

There are some out there that still want to vehemently argue that there is such a thing.  Personally, I can’t disagree that there are behaviors which are meant to denigrate or negatively impact the child’s relationship with the other parent – certainly that part is true.

It is also true, in my opinion, that Richard Gardner, the creator of “PAS” was off his rocker himself.  This is the mental health “professional” who coined the term and forced far too many children (one is too many) to live with potentially abusive parents and denied contact with the parent who was accused of alienation.  This was his form of “therapeutic intervention”, and if you ask me, it should’ve been called “therapeutic abuse”.  While the American Psychiatric Association has discredited the theory and there is no medical or professional association that supports it … its basis and his interventions still have influence in the courtrooms of the world today.

What I find interesting is the corollary between behaviors of a parent who is alienating their child from their other parent, and behaviors of an abusive, personality disordered parent (likely narcissistic).

Behaviors commonly displayed by narcissistic parents, which are meant to alienate the other parent include:

  • Talking with the child/children about the marital relationship and reasons for divorce.
    • For e.g.,  saying that it is the ex’s fault that the children have to go back and forth between houses – if that ex-spouse just wanted to stay married, then the kids wouldn’t have to endure divorce like this
  • Limiting contact with the other parent while they are with them.
    • I have heard too many healthy non-NPD parents talk about the NPD parent limiting phone calls, screening phone calls, or monitoring them
  • Denying the child to have personal property, and not allowing them to move possessions between homes.  The items don’t belong to the child, they belong with the house in which they are staying at the time.  This typically includes any cell phone the child has with them, so the child cannot have open contact, as noted above
  • Limiting information provided to the other parent about the child, even if the child is sick or ill while with them.
    • This is also a behavior which a protective parent eventually adopts, especially if they are practicing “low contact” and/or have come to the realization that information is almost always used against them
  • Blaming the other parent for any problems that exist, like lack of financial resources or opportunities in life because the family is “divorced”
  • Acting in a way which pretends the other parent doesn’t exist. Not allowing the child to mention the other parent’s name or refusing to acknowledge the child has fun with the other parent
  • Attacking the other parent’s character or lifestyle, such as job, living arrangements, activities, clothing and friends
    • Narcissists often put down their spouse while married – it’s a means of lowering their spouses self esteem and weakening the spouse against their emotional abuse
  • Dismissing or being condescending of the other parent’s opinions or parenting style, telling the child to disregard safety rules that are at the other house because they are “stupid” or “ridiculous”
  • Putting the child in the middle by encouraging the child to spy on the other parent or take messages back and forth
    • Or sending the child support check by way of the child….
  • Telling the child that the other parent is keeping them from seeing the child

References and related links:

Responding to Ludicrous Narcissistic Requests

There are serious considerations to how I may want to respond to my ex’s request of horseback riding lessons in exchange for a psychological evaluation for our son, however, at the moment, I have to infuse a little light hearted perspective with serious considerations.

Possible options on how I may respond to my ex’s email:

1. Dearest beloved ex,  are you kidding me?  Who in their right mind would even send such an email?  Do you remember when you were holding our daughter and she was about 1 years old, it was raining and you were holding the umbrella over your head only and leaving her in the rain?  Well… this is the same thing.  The umbrella needs to be rightfully placed over our son’s head, and you need to be left in the rain.  Best of luck.

  • (okay, clearly this is a facetious, although delightfully desired response). 

2. Dear ex, I offered make up times to you already and you didn’t take them.  I am delaying horse back riding until our son is eight.  He is 5 and weighs a mere 42 pounds.  Even a pony weighs a good 8-12x what he weighs.  I feel that he needs to conquer attending kindergarten before learning how to ride a horse.  ABCs and 123s first.   Heck, let’s just try to get him to get himself dressed every morning before we ask him to control the behavior of a 500 pound beast with a small brain.  

  • (Slightly facetious, yes …. but also – this is defending myself against his accusations, which puts me directly into his camp and lands me right into his hand… seriously… that’s where he wants me to land.  He’s trying to distract me to unrelated issues and succeeding).

3.Dear ex, the only thing I am “required” to do is to follow the court order and ask for your cooperation.  Our parenting agreement says we need to have the other’s approval for non-emergency medical care, and that it should not be unreasonably withheld.  Since you are withholding such, I am now required to file yet another motion with the court to ask them to assign the therapist, since you won’t cooparent cooperatively. 

  • (again… find the chinese finger trap and do not locate the send button.  While this is closer, it’s emotion filled and threatening, and after all, my kids are in his care this week, so I need to keep him as calm as possible for their sake.)

4. Dear ex, I understand that you have concerns about the items on your list, and will address them separately.  Since the requests are unrelated to a psychological evaluation for our son to determine what is going on with him emotionally, we can decouple them from each other.  I sincerely hope that you will work with me to support our son’s needs and move forward with the evaluation asap. 

  • (okay, this is closer, and possible the right general approach.  It doesn’t put me in ‘defense’ mode by defending my actions which he is asking me to change, but it does display empathy and consideration for him, which he craves.  Narcissists, particularly pathological level NPDs, are very apt at pointing the finger at you and making you defend yourself, when in fact the finger should be firmly pointed at him.  It’s also a way of creating chaotic confusion, which is another tactic of emotional abuse / verbal abuse – a component of ‘gaslighting”.  By staying focused only on the issues at hand, it helps to keep him from diverting attention to other issues which he is stating is more important.

5.  No response.

  • Due to the fact that my kids are in his care – I seriously will wait to talk with my attorney and potentially not respond at all or until Friday of this week.  This is just as strong of a response in that it sends the message to him that he can’t to me.  He is acting out of desperation to keep the evaluation from occurring, so he is likely internally looking for my response and when there isn’t one, it will bother him.   Regardless of how it makes him feel.. it makes me feel great.  I am in control, the power of how I respond to him BELONGS TO ME.  Yippee!

The Quest for a Psychological Evaluation

This is a great example of narcissism, if I’ve ever seen one.  I honestly read an email from my ex and laughed aloud. 

Here’s the scoop – I am trying to have our 5.5 year old son psychologically evaluated for regressive behaviors.  My ex has been in “do not consent” mode for years now on this.  It finally came to a ‘necessity’ to get it done when our 8 year old daughter reported to her therapist that she allows our son to suck on her nipples to try to soothe him when they are at their father’s house.  My ex isn’t aware of this part, as her therapist wants to maintain client confidentiality.  However, ex has been told that by daughter’s therapist that she recommends an evaluation be done, and was recently provided with a name of who she recommends do the evaluation.  I wrote another post on this meeting that she had with him, where he relayed all the issues that he has with me to our daughter’s therapist:  http://wp.me/p1wdn3-a0

Yesterday, I let him know that I contacted the doctor, and sent the forms that the doctor wants us to both fill out.  Seems simple, right? After all, he told our daughter’s therapist (“DT”) that he would agree to an evaluation if we use the person which DT recommends.

However, here is the email I received, written to me and my daughter’s therapist (with names removed):

“I feel my request has not been properly addressed. I DO NOT consent to <son> being seen or you speaking with any Doctor about this. I was clear with <DT> about this.
If you want to proceed, I was clear that I have requests that must be met prior to proceeding.
1. <Son> resumes horse lessons. You will be required to write a letter to <the horse farm> authorizing them to proceed.
2. I get the Thursday evening back from when you went to see your father a year ago. *
3. I get the overnight 24 hour period from the weekend of my custody we split in June. Somehow you think I’m a fool and won’t remember what you promised. **

These three terms are non-negotiable. Until they are satisfied, I DO NOT CONSENT to anyone speaking to anyone about <son>.
<DT>, I’m disappointed. I was very clear with you when we met that these minimal requirements had to be met. Apparently no one cares about my needs.”

* My father was in intensive care in the hospital and we missed a dinner visitation to be there with him out of town.  I offered “make up times”, but he found these unsuitable. 

** I offered a make up time for this one too, which he agreed to.  However, he returned them at their regular time anyway and didn’t use the make up time.

That phrase, “apparently no one cares about my needs”, is perfectly synonymous with my definition of NPD : a black hole of needs.

Humor and compassion… God help me to use these to give me strength to get through this stuff with my ex!

 

Visitation Transitions, Narcissism and Lack of Empathy

Today, my kids transferred to their dad’s for the last of their three separate weeks of summer vacation with him.  My daughter didn’t realize it was today, and sobbed the minute she heard it earlier in the day.  When he came to pick her up, she was refusing to go.  She didn’t want to walk out of the house, she wouldn’t look at him, she cried and cried.  I told her I didn’t have a choice at this point, that she has to go.  I can’t risk the issues that come out of her refusal.  I flat out told her (she’s age 8) that her dad says she refuses to go only when she’s with me and doesn’t do so when she leaves Westgate, so therefore the problem is with me.  I told her I need her to go.

It is so incredibly heart wrenching to watch your child look you in the eyes and see the sadness run through every ounce of her body as she says “I don’t want to go with daddy”, crying.

It’s also bewildering how a parent can hear this and show absolutely no empathy or caring.  Her dad never once asked “why?”, “what’s the matter?”, “what can I do to help you?” or anything.  When our son looked in his eyes and said “-My sister- doesn’t to go with you”, he said “yeah, she likes it with her mom”.  The only consoling words he offered his daughter were “you can talk to your mom again in two hours”.  Otherwise, he just stood there – “patiently” for once, and he only occasionally interjected that our daughter needed to get in the car.  Usually he has far more negative words to say and shows more anger.  At least this time, he was more patient.  It took 45 minutes for me to get them in the car, and she left grasping the ipod I gave her, trying to convince her to stare at it instead of thinking about where she was.

My daughter doesn’t do this with other things.  She’s not the kind that just plays you – she acts out of real emotion, and I’m sure that is what this is.  Last week, when I took her to her therapy, she had reverted back to not speaking whatsoever to the therapist.  Her therapist was stunned.

I asked my daughter in the middle of this ‘what happened last time you were with him?”  She said ‘mean, yelling, kicking, screaming, ugly daddy”.   It’s the kicking part that scares me.  I told her – ‘you have a cell phone, if it happens again, you call 911 and tell them you need help.  Take your brother and go away from him.  You can do it.’

Now… where was our five year old in this?  He was focused on a perceived promise.  He thinks his dad promised him a new beyblade, and he has been entirely focused on getting it.  He told his sister just after their dad arrived that “Daddy’s a nice guy, when you first meet him.”  he paused, then added “but when you really look at his spirit, he’s mean”.

Truth… from the mouth of a babe.

Coparenting with a Narcissist Requires a (slightly sick) Sense of Humor

There are many aspects of someone who has narcissist traits that can be particularly funny, if you can distance yourself from it all.

Given that my ex is refusing to let me speak with my kids tonight, I will see if I can err on the side of amusing myself by laughing about some of the strange things he does.  It’s either laugh or cry….

So here’s a list of interesting narcissistic behavior:

1. My ex once posted an ad on Craig’s List offering his services as a professional property manager for multi-residential units (aka apartments).  He has absolutely no experience in this realm whatsoever.

2.  My ex went to visit a buddy from b-school, who lives on a farm in Utah.  Dear ex calls it a “gentleman’s ranch”.  I’m guessing it makes him feel important and superior to vacation on a ‘gentleman’s ranch’.

3.  I should have recognized it as a warning sign when I first met him around the holidays, and everyone else had a ‘Christmas Tree’, but he had a ‘Living Conifer’

4. When my kids visit with him, they are dressed to the nine’s for a day where they are simply going to the playground…  It was a hot, hot day in the summer, but yet my five year old son was dressed in a long sleeve button up dress shirt.  Well, maybe it was because the kids had no other clothes clean…. that’s definitely a possibility too!

5. My ex and I purchased furniture together.  One of the pieces was an armoire for our bedroom.  At the store, there was no mention of whether it would be him or me that used it.  Once it was home, it was decidedly his… as he declared that it was (drum roll, please)…. you guessed it… a “gentleman’s armoire”.  He said it is meant to hold the men’s suits.

6.  My ex liked to shop at Brooks Brothers.  I suppose it felt upscale to him.  He went in there countless times just looking.  One particular day, he visited the store with the intention of purchasing a suit.  He was irate when there wasn’t anyone that greeted him at the front of the store, or within minutes of being there.  He looked through the suits, and no one was waiting on him.  I said “why don’t you ask them to help you?”.  He was nothing short of pissed.  “I’m here to spend $2000 on a new suit, they need to be here to wait on me.”,  he replied.  So I asked: “How would they know that?  Did you carry a sign that said so?”  He grumped, I laughed inside.  “Better yet,” I continued, “maybe, just maybe, their customer research results said that most customers want to be left alone to browse and hate to be pestered… but yet they are supposed to know that you are the ONE customer that prefers something different?”  Ha!

7.  I believe that this is a common narcissistic trait: that they are lazy and want to have someone else who does life’s mundane tasks for them.  Laundry is below them, as is cleaning the house.  My ex’s mom refers to him as her “prince” and that he doesn’t have to lift a finger (hmmm… where did he get his issues from?).  Once upon a time, I found a note from my ex’s old girlfriend before me, which must have been stuffed for years in an old bag.  She wrote in it a complaint about how he needed to lug his old <curse> laundry from NY to SC next time, and this was the last time she was doing it for him (they were commuting between the two cities).  I know – this isn’t really funny – because we all know what it’s like and how the NPD individual wants to have us do this all for them.  But maybe, just maybe, there’s a little humor in how they repeat, repeat, and repeat patterns in their lives over and over again.

8.  Speaking of laundry… after we were married, he made his expectations known:  I was expected to hand launder his dress shirts and press them myself.  It would keep care of his custom made shirts for longer.  Do you want to know how many times I actually did this?  ZERO.  I laughed at his ass and told him that he could do it himself if he wanted his shirts to last longer.  His response?  “Why did I get married then?”

9.  There are glorious moments in time when things happen in such a wonderful way.  He is lazy in other ways too – and one of them is automotive care and maintenance.  Once, the daycare called him by mistake when our daughter was sick.  He heroically left work to pick her up and save the day.  (ha! If I had asked him, he would’ve responded with curse words).  However, in this case, God intervened.  He arrived to pick up our daughter, and upon trying to drive away – he couldn’t 🙂  Why?  Because his car wouldnt’ restart!  Whoo-hoo! I love you, God!

10.  To that end, he has had three cars die on the side of the road:  a jeep which he owned when I met him, a Mazda 626 (his credit history sucked at these times and he couldn’t afford anything fancy), and an Audi (which I told him had bad reviews for that style/year).   Two of these time correspond to when he should have been picking up our kids from me.  Again… whoo-hoo! I love you, God!

11.  A few weeks ago, I have to admit the saddened yet glorious feeling I had when my daughter called and said she threw up … in her dad’s car…

Ok, Ok… that’s enough for now… I’ll work on my list to make it into a really good top 10 and send it into David Letterman.

** JUST REMEMBERED A GOOD ONE:  My ex used to get soooo mad if I called him while he was on the toilet.  Seriously?? How in the *(&^ am I supposed to know? and why did he even answer the phone?

Cannibal or Cannon Ball?

This is way off my beaten path..but it cracked me up so I thought I would jot it down.

I’m at my kids’ daycare. There’s a seven year old here, he’s running around saying “I’m going to eat you!!”, and “I’m a Cannon Ball!” In a frantic manner, repeatedly.

He runs up to an eleven year old, arms waving, repeating again “I’m a cannon ball!!”

The older kid looks at him and says “it’s CANNIBAL, not CANNON BALL!”

Awesome!

Healing from Narcissistic Abuse – Optimism vs. Realism

I had another thought regarding thinking through the lessons I’ve learned from my ex.

The other night, in speaking with my ever-loving, eternally optimistic father, he told me that “maybe <your ex> is finally learning to give and take”.  Surprisingly, out of my mouth I heard “No, Dad… that’s not true at all.  There wasn’t give and take.  He took… he got all that he wanted and needed… he was able to have someone take care of the kids both days while he did his show, he maintained looking like a loving father because he “allowed” his kids to go to their friend’s party which he hates having to take them to, and he was able to keep the kids past his normal time so he looked like someone who cares about seeing them.  He “gave” nothing.”

That’s a good realization for me.

I have my Dad’s traits:

–  Always look on the bright side (duh… this blog).

– Forgive and forget (duh… years in an abusive relationship)

– Look for the good in everyone

From  my mom, I get the trait of “being naive and that’s okay”, as well as the “co-dependent, give up my life for you” trait.

What I didn’t learn was to really see people for who they really are.  I never wanted to believe there were truly evil people in the world.   From that, I oftentimes could make friends with the grumpiest person in the room.  But why in the world did I even want to make friends with the grumpiest person in the room?  If he’s grumpy… then let him sit and rot in his own grumpiness, right?  But I never approached life like that.

As a matter of fact, I often wondered why people were cynical towards other people.  Why doubt what they tell you?  Innocent until proven guilty, and even then there had to be good in them.  I was nice to everything … even the worms that I put on my hook when fishing with my dad as a kid.  Just before I cut them I told them how sorry I was about it!

So now I learn… it’s not my job to save the grumpiest.  It’s my job to learn to see the truth for the truth.  Don’t sugar-coat it, accept it.  It is what it is, and no… not everyone has good in them, and that’s okay.  I just need to accept my gut feel about them and steer clear.

 

Healing from Narcissistic Abuse

I have spent and will continue to spend a great deal of time focused on myself and the healing that I need to do to recover from being around an husband/ex-husband with narcissitic & sociopathic traits.  I’ve written on this before, so forgive me if I cover something twice or from a different perspective.

There are various aspects of myself that needed help after I left him, and then dealt with the long court battle.  The first level which I addressed included:

1-Facing the facts that it was an abusive relationship (abolishing denial)

2- Rebuilding my self confidence .. I am worthy of a good, fulfilling life and a great relationship – just like you!

3- Self-compassion and care .. it’s okay to take care of myself as well as my kids

4- Stopping the voices in my head 🙂  Mainly… his voice and his critical comments.  I noticed that for years I would still hear his criticisms of me even without him present.  I can only imagine what an adult child of a narcissist parent has to do to stop negative self talk!  It was difficult enough from only 12 years of knowing this person.  What would a life time do?

5- Acknowledging that like many women leaving abusive relationships, many of my symptoms were related to or similar to PTSD – and that it was OKAY.  It wasn’t a sign that I was weak and he had beat me down.  It was a sign that I was normal and could only withstand a reasonable amount of abusive behavior.

6- Learning to be assertive and set boundaries, for me and my children.

The second layer of areas of self reflection had to do with looking more within myself at items like:

7- What the *(&^% happened?  Why did I get into a relationship like this?

8- How do I avoid a relationship like this in the future?  How do I recognize someone with issues sooner?

9- How do I turn my focus to the future?  How do I release anger and resentment from the past?   How do I find forgiveness of my ex’s abuse of me and my children?  How do I accept my situation, when I find it unacceptable?

Here are some patterns in my life that I noticed, and some ways that I addressed the above questions:

* I had previous relationships or people who bully in my life.  With reflection, I could date it all the way back to a girl in the second grade who bullied our class to a level that caused me to have nighmares and stomachaches about school.   In  my opinion, this behavior was something I needed to learn how to deal with it, and when I didn’t – it continued to reappear throughout my life.  It’s like God giving me the test over and over again until I could pass it.

* I had to release the need to ‘overfunction’ for others.  If they don’t do their part, then that is a consequence and a lesson that they have to deal with, not me.  I do not need to save them.  This is a part of codependency (in western terms), and it’s also listed as an attribute of being an empath (in new age, metaphysical terms).  Whatever it’s called… it was me.

* I had to learn to feel and have emotions, and that it’s okay to have those emotions.  In order to cope, I bottled everything deep inside.  If I stopped to feel or to acknowledge how deeply angry I was… I felt I might fail at defending me and my children.  Instead, it’s left there in my body to eat away at my body.  I remember a day when I was out walking and saw someone who resembled my ex from behind.  Out of no-where, I had this image of in my head of running towards him with my arm up over my head and then hitting him repeatedly over and ove, in anger over how much he had/has hurt me and my children.  I had no idea I still harbored so much anger in me, and that image was a wake up call.

* I had to find me again.  I had to love me for me.  This is somewhat related to building back my self confidence, but somewhat taking it to a different level.  My ex criticized all sorts of stuff about me – mostly the same as he does with my kids – but a lot to do with being too heavy (I am thin), not dressing sexy enough, not wearing Chanel or MAC or some other fancy makeup all the time, not bleaching my hair blonde (I am dark skin, dark hair, dark eyes… think mediterranean…. why would I do that?).

* Trusting others:  My parents always told me growing up how I was too trusting of others. This came to play so many times… again, a pattern.  I saw it in relationship to the issues with my ex in that I trusted him. Then I trusted that when he said he was sorry, he meant it.  I trusted that when he boasted that he knew about something that he really did (ha! I later learned it was only a reiteration of something he heard once from someone else and when asked… there was no actually substantive knowledge).  I also trusted, and believed that psychologists and social workers would act in the best interest of the child.  I thought that mental health professionals would have their poop together and understand / be able to recognize disorders.  I learned later that their degree and licensure is by no means an endorsement of their own  mental and emotional well being.  I trusted that the court system would act in the best interest of the child… and was dismayed to find out it doesn’t.

* Being naive and being happy being naive.  I also realized that I spent a lot of time after the relationship regretting what I had learned or saw in life as a result of my ex.  I learned about non-monogomous sexual relations, I learned about “swinging sex”, I learned about how he would lie and continually justify it as not actually lying.  I learned about personality disorders, abusive relationships, child abuse, child sexual abuse, the family court system, abuse through legal motion, controlling behaviors, adult oppositional disorder, etc., etc., etc.  I wanted to stay naive in the sense that I wished I didn’t ever have experiences that led me to learn otherwise.  Why can’t the world just be peaches and cream?

* I accepted that maybe, just maybe… God has other plans for me than getting an MBA & leading large projects and change in big corporations.  And maybe these life experiences are things which should not only help me grow, but lead me in new directions!

The end, for now.

The Impact of Family Violence on Boys – an example

Last month I was dismayed how my ex slapped my daughter’s face because she was upset at the haunted house in Disney.

Last week, I was dismayed further as I watched the ripple effect of that. My daughter was upset because a yellow jacket was staying right next to her and her sugary italian ice treat at the pool.  She ran around in panic.  She sat down between me and my son, trying to hide behind my arm.  My son yells at her “Stop your stupid screaming!” and proceeds to bite her hard enough to leave marks.

For my ex, I know that those behaviors occur because he is simply unable to empathize with someone and gets angry when someone is upset in his presence or when he can’t control what is happening around him (he would get angry when I was sick).

For my son, I know he has the capacity to understand others and how they feel, and I know that at this point – he is simply mimicking behavior that he sees from his father on how his father deals with his sister.  I’ve watched this transpire before in other ways – but this particular day when he hurt her for being upset… it really struck home.

 

Left “alone” by Narcissist Father

What constitutes leaving your children alone?  What is okay, and what isn’t?  My neighbor, who I consider to be a great mom, used to leave her youngest son inside the house as she walked up and around the corner of the street to pick up her older kids from the bus stop.  I could never do that.   There’s too many times where things happen in a split second even when I’m home with my kids – where I’m glad I was right there to help.

Technically, by the laws in our county, leaving a child of that age alone for any amount of time is child neglect.

Today, my kids, 5 and 8, were left “alone” for what I’m guessing may have been about 10 minutes.    My ex has them and took them with him to a trade show.  It was located in a gymnasium at the community college.  There were plenty of tables of exhibitors, and it was pretty busy when I arrived to pick them up to take them to the party (he ‘let’ me do that).  They said that he went to get them donuts to eat, and he left the gymnasium to go somewhere to get them (I am hoping he didn’t leave and drive away, but I do not know).

Notice how my ex didn’t want to leave the booth, full of valuable inventory, alone.  So he left his kids there in charge of it, telling our 8 year old that she is old enough to handle it.

My kids said “but at least we were there together”.  I said “Okay, but let’s practice stranger-danger a little.”  I’ve practice this before with them, making sure to cover the “I lost my puppy, can you help me find him?” routine – the phrase that would probably get them to follow the person trying to take them the fastest.  This time, I asked them:

“What if someone comes up to you while you are there waiting for Daddy to come back, and they said to you..

‘Your dad has been hurt, and I need you to come with me to go to him’.”

They sat looking at me in stunned silence.  I said “Look… here’s what you do… you don’t leave. You refuse to leave.  You are NOT to leave the booth without a police officer who is wearing a uniform…. or a firefighter.”   My son said “or daddy’s friends, if it’s daddy’s friends, we can go with them.”   Knowing that my ex doesn’t have friends, I said “no.. not daddy’s friend’s either”.

We then had a conversation about Transformers.  Yes… the “more than meets the eye” automobiles and airplanes that turn into huge machine people looking things.  They are labeled – Autobots are “good”, Decepticons are “bad”.   People aren’t that easy to figure out – we don’t come with labels that simply put as “good/safe” or “bad/unsafe”.  We have to use our own knowledge, experience, discernment and intuition to figure out how safe a person might be for us.  Nonetheless, my 5 year old son still says that it’s “easy” to figure out who the good guys are in life too.  Again nonetheless, I reminded him – they are not to leave there with anyone other than their dad, me, a police officer or a firefighter.

Other than that – I’m not sure what to do.  My five year old is one of those kids that has never met a stranger and is completely unafraid to walk away and strike a conversation with whomever.  I was just thinking the other day about how I need to strengthen his understanding of strangers and when it’s okay to talk or go with someone else and when it isn’t.  This was a good reminder!

 

Boundaries with Narcissists – give a little room and they want to take a mile

This is a post which we all know well.  I am grappling this morning because I opened my own can of worms with my ex.  I looked ahead with our schedule, and thought that if I could have his normal Thursday evening prior to the next week vacation he has with our kids, that this would be better than taking the Thursday evening I have this week as a part of having my own “summer vacation week”.  So, I sent him a text and asked him if he would like to do that.  I also asked him about whether he had responded to a friend’s birthday party request in a seperate text.

This is why I am normally a proponent of sticking directly with whatever the court order or schedule says!

My question to him was “Would you like to do your normal Thurs dinner, in exchange for 8/9?”

His response yesterday was: “That’s fine thanks.  Can you drop thurs about 5 at the shop. What’s the deal with switching w 7/27 for the weekend we split? What are your expectation of hours? You can accept <friend’s> party if you want to take <son>. I have to work a trade show that day.  Any chance i can keep the children sunday evening and return to you monday am?”

Now let me share some points to explain:

1- He’s supposed to pick up the kids on Thursdays.  He immediately jumps into “here’s what you can do for me” mode.

2- I’m not entirely sure what he’s talking about with 7/27, but I think he’s mentioning the weekend of 6/28, when he wanted to do another trade show and asked if I would half the weekend so the kids didn’t have to sit through it.  I kept them through to Saturday evening that night to accommodate.  I specifically offered for him to keep the kids last Thursday evening through Friday to make up for it.  He said Yes, but then proceeded to return them at 8pm per the schedule (ok, he actually returned them 30 min late, at 8:30pm)

3- As for Sunday evening … I’ve posted my daughter’s pleading pictures … why do I want to volunteer that they have to deal with more time with him?  Plus, he moved 30 miles away, making it impossible for him to deliver her to the camp she’s registered for at 8:30am on Monday morning.

4- This is a test in his eyes – he wants to show the court how I never grant him extra time with the children – how I’m such a terrible person – and if I say no, it’s one more piece of evidence that I’m “withholding the children”, even when I have no obligation to do so.  Unfortunately, it’s also the catch 22 of the court system.. the “friendly parent provision”, which doesn’t make sense in the case of an abusive environment when a parent who needs to protect their children from the abusive parent… simply can’t be “friendly” in that way.

Now – the reason why I’m in a quandry makes this a longer post.  The quandry is that I can feel him loosening his grip on us overall.  He doesn’t really want to have all these child responsibilities and cheerfully take kids to their friend’s parties, etc. (note he gave permission to me to take our son to the party – which serves him in that he doesn’t have to watch our son at the tradeshow, and can look like he’s super nice to me at the same time).

What I really want to tell him is (a) you missed your chance for make up time, (b) you need to take the responsibility of coming to get your kids, and (c) you need to stop taking them to work with you – because that’s what taking them to a trade show where your sitting at a booth selling stuff for your business is.

BUT… that’s going to put him in fighting mode, rather than ‘releasing mode’.  If he thinks he can get a few things here and there for me, he may be more likely to start the route of cancelling visitation time and fading from our lives.  All in all, we are lucky because he does really stay out of our lives in regards to school and many other activities.  What I think he actually cares about is simply the narcissistic portion – to appear to be a good dad to others, to gain a source of supply from his kids occassionally, for this kids to fulfill his social needs in that he doesn’t keep up with any other friends, and to have them ride horses and pretend they are rich through the clothing they wear.

I’m honestly not sure how I’ll respond.  I’m praying for the answer and the patience to tread carefully and correctly with him so that I can acheive the best outcome for our kids.

 

 

My Narcissistic/Sociopathic Ex’s Current Complaints

My ex met with my daughter’s therapist.  The objective:  For the therapist to get my Ex to agree to having our son evaluated by a mental health professional because of his regressive behaviors (my son, not my ex’s regression 😉

Here’s the key points that he laid out to the therapist.  Given that he is threatening to take me back to court, this is great information that he’s laid out so clearly 🙂

1.  He would love to get back together with me and be a family again (see prior post).

2. If I would just give him a little more time here or there, he would be a different person with me.  (note – my children are complaining of his hitting them and raging at them.  Why would I ask him to take care of them MORE?)

3.  He is willing to have our son evaluated IF I WILL ALLOW OUR SON, WHO IS FIVE,  TO TAKE HORSE BACK RIDING LESSONS. (note – how messed up is that?)  He also said he MIGHT consider paying for it.  Another note – he owes about $3k to our daughter’s therapist which is written into the court order, but he refuses to pay for it.

4.  He has complaints about the way I dress our children.  He wants me to take our daughter to Nordstrom’s and have people wait on her to for personal shopping.   He thinks that our children are dressed as “hooligans”.  Apparently, clothes from Gymboree, Gap, Old Navy or Target is just not suitable.  (note – one of the typical characteristics of a sexual incest abuser is that they like to dress up and adore their children.)

5.  He also has complaints that I have been cutting our son’s hair.  Note – I get compliments on his haircuts when I do them from people who don’t realize I’m doing it myself.  I occassionally take him to get his hair cut so it can be officially done, but other than that – I like to do it so it’s not cut too short.

6.  He doesn’t think our daughter needs therapy.  He says it’s my “anxiety” about our daughter, and our daughter is fine.

7.  “Interference with custody”. This includes: HE DOESN’T WANT THE KIDS TO TALK WITH ME FOR THE ONE PHONE CALL PER DAY HE ALLOWS and MONITORS.  This is called interference in his mind.  This seems to be quite a common trait with those that are using children as pawns for further abuse to the parent.    This also includes times that he says I haven’t provided “make up time” for when he has missed visitation.  It also means that he expects our children to be at a daycare for him to pick up rather than at our house.  He says that I am not allowed contact with our children on the days that he “has custody”.  (this isn’t true)

8.  He says he worries that I am babying our son.  That our daughter rode horses at age 5 and our son should too.  Note – he signed up our daughter without telling me about it.  I didn’t stop the lessons so that I wouldn’t be the mean mom to our daughter.  I have stopped the same thing from happening with our son as I firmly believe that 5 years old is too young for a large animal and the skills of the person who is providing the lessons.

9.  Oh… back to clothing… my ex thinks I dress our daughter “too revealing”, and that since she is a beautiful girl, (who is 8), others will get the wrong idea.  This means that I allow her to wear tank tops or bikini’s.

10.  He wants information from the school.  He says he asked the school but didn’t receive it.  … how is that my problem?  If he wants to be involved… be involved.  It’s his legal right as a joint legal custodian.

11.  He wants medical information prior to going to the doctor’s.  This has to do with last year, when the pediatrician sent us to the hospital because they suspected sex abuse.  Really?  Do you think I’m going to call him BEFORE going to the hospital abuse team?

My daughter’s therapist said I need to consider what is my “bottom line”.  She said that she thinks that given his demeanor (less aggressive than in the past), that she can get him to work with me more smoothly.  I have a hard time with that – as I know he can pretend anything for a period of time but  he cannot change long term.  I also think that he should be held accountable.  If he wants to be involved as a parent – he needs to do it, with initiative, with the funding backing up his kids (I receive child support sporadically), and be held accountable.

On the flip side, he may be more likely to fade from our lives if he thinks he can come and go from time to time and doesn’t have to fight me to occassionally see our children.  My gut tells me he is tired of the responsibility that  he has – even though he barely does any of it.  I think he wants an excuse to be out of that aspect of it but still have the ability to call himself a father and bask in that narcissistic pride.

TBD what I do…still pondering.

 

Narcissist’s New Girlfriend, Part 2

Just a quick note to show how narcissists/borderlines cycle through relationships.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about meeting my ex’s most recent new girlfriend, who had been there with my children in “immersion” fashion – basically having moved into my ex’s house with her 3 cats, and several other pets.

It appears that she has left.  Pets are gone, kids spent another week of summer “vacation” with their dad, and there was no sign of this girlfriend.  They did, however, eat dinner together with their Dad’s PREVIOUS girlfriend (“remember Casey, mom?”) for a couple evenings.

Then the other day I met with my daughter’s therapist, who had met with my ex to review the need to have our son evaluated for regressive behaviors (more on this later, it’s really interesting).  The first words out of her mouth?

“He would still get back together with you, you know.”

I looked at her and said how exactly sick that was… and that it’s also terrifying.  It’s terrifying in and of itself, without even considering the other girlfriends that he currently has on tap and is involving our children with.

My daughter’s therapist said “he said he would sleep in your basement for the next ten years if he could just be back together with you.”

This is so incredibly WRONG.    I have prayed that he would move on to his next ‘victim’ – because personality disordered individuals (and even many of us so called ‘healthy’ folks) have a tendency to repeat patterns in their lives.  I know he’s had the same relationship / battle with someone prior to me.  It’s only time until he repeats this with someone else.  I hope and pray that when he does – the focus comes off of our children and onto his new life with this new person.

I should also add a few timeline notes to emphasize the magnitude of this.. We met in 1998.  Married in 2003.  Had daughter in 2004.  Pregnant with son in 2006… ASKED FOR DIVORCE THEN, 6 YEARS AGO.  He moved out a year later, and finally was granted divorce at the end of 2009.  We’ve been divorced officially for 2.5 years now.

Todays’ affirmation continues as:  “I release you, my dear EX.  I bless you with love, and I let you go”.

 

Daily Affirmations for Healing from Narcissistic Abuse

I like Louise Hay.  She is all about the power of positive thinking, and using affirmations to change our lives.  Regardless of whether it works or it doesn’t in terms of actually changing my life… it makes me FEEL better when I change my thoughts from those of despair, despise and resentment to ‘happy power thoughts’.

This is what is on my fridge now:

I release you, <my dear ex>, I bless you with love and I let you go

Today, I accept for myself the life I desire

I now chose to believe it is EASY to make POWERFUL, POSITIVE changes in my life and my children’s lives

Negative people dissolve (i.e. POOF, baby!) from my life and my children’s lives TODAY.

My children and I attract into our lives ONLY positive, loving, emotionally and mentally healthy people.

Influential professionals who support protecting my children from the abuse of their father through supervised visitation (or better solution), flow abundantly into our lives now.

 

In the courtroom, as a witness

I went to court today for a friend.  This woman has a son, who is the same age as my daughter.  When she found out she was pregnant, the guy told her to get an abortion.  He then left her life.  She obviously didn’t do the abortion… and neither did he all together leave her life.  He reappeared, five years later… in search of someone who would care for him as he grew old (he’s an older father).  She tried the relationship on for size again, then quickly remembered his faults and asked him to leave.

That’s what starts the narcissistic revenge cycle.  It’s that hurt that occurs when they are rejected.  I would place this guy in the narcissistic/sociopath realm.  Since that day, he’s been seeking revenge through visitation with his son.

This poor kid – who was happy and well adjusted until around the age of 5, now considers himself to be a “odd child”.  He’s “different’ than anyone else (his words), and has threatened numerous times to kill himself so he doesn’t have to go on visitation with his father.  Since when does an 8 year old know about suicide?

However, court hasn’t been the protective vehicle that it should have been for them.  In typical narcissistic style, the father has accused mom of parental alienation, as well as keeping the kid from him.  I’ve listened to tapes of this guy raging… I know that she’s not making up stories on his insanity.  I’ve also read emails he has sent.  It is my understanding that his own son from a prior marriage won’t even speak to him at all.

The court, for each visit so far, has ran the mom into the ground.  They’ve given dad what he’s asked for each time.

This time, she filed an emergency motion to stop overnights until such time as therapy between the son and the dad could be established and effectively improve relations.  The little boy says he feels “unprotected” when he is near his dad.  He’s scared, but doesn’t say more as to why.

At this time, I have no idea how it went for her.  I testified as to how her son acted when he returned home from two weeks with his dad (he was anxious, almost ‘ missing’ from his body in a sense).  I then had to leave, because as a witness I was not allowed to see the rest of the trial.

So then I wonder… where is the transparency in our family courts?  No recording devices allowed… court transcripts are over-the-top expensive, no one allowed in the court room but those who are involved (and only witnesses are allowed during testimony).   How do we know that overall decisions are made in the best interest of the child?

When it comes to other criminal trials – there’s a ton of coverage.  Not so in family court.  When it comes to corporations, there’s annual reports, sarbanes-oxley, auditing, and other means of tracing what happened.  Not so in family court.. or “JDR” aka “Juvenile and Domestic Relations” or even in “Circuit Court” where other cases appear.

We need this to change.  The children involved need this to change.

“One person can make a difference and every person should try.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy

 

Narcissist’s New Girlfriend

I met my ex’s new girlfriend a few weeks back.

I had been hearing about her lately from my kids – she has stayed the weekends that my kids are with their dad for the past 4 weekends.  They have been dating ~3 months from what I can tell.  3 months = ~12 weekends.  My kids see their dad every other weekend, so that means that they’ve seen her a considerable amount of the time since they first starting dating.

My ex is 42.  This new girlfriend is 28.  My kids love her.  When they are alone with their dad for the weekend, he wakes up hours and hours after they do and my 8 year old has to take care of her and her 5 year old brother.  Their dad is more prone to raging outbursts and physically hurting them when he is alone.  When the girlfriend is there, this isn’t so bad – and she is up taking care of them and making them breakfast.  I have heard them literally use it to rationalize not wanting to go with their dad, saying “but Ms. M will be there! It’s not as bad with Ms. M”.

I met her because I found out that my ex would be playing in a golf tournament with our daughter and our son was too young to play.  I offered to take care of our son during that time.  He said no, that his girlfriend could do it.  I said “really?  You’d rather have our son in the care of your new girlfriend than his mom?”  “Yes”, he replied.  I boldly told him that it wouldn’t look good from a court perspective.  He said “I’ll take my chances”.  This was, unfortunately, all in front of our children.  My daughter said to me “I hate how daddy treats you”.  (Sweet daughter – I, too, hate how daddy treats YOU).

Eventually, ex decided it would be okay for me to come by during the golf tournament and hang out with our son on the premises.  However, girlfriend would be there.

Here’s the funny thing (as in “odd”, not as in “ha ha”).  I like girlfriend.  However, I see traits in her that are completely as I was at that age:

– She’s sweet and innocent

– She loves children and bubbles when talking with and interacting with my kids

– She is falling prey to being immediately and quickly involved with my ex (I fended this off myself, but in the end, it didn’t make a difference).  She has moved all her pets to his house and is there constantly.

– She is already involved in working at my ex’s store, taking care of my kids, taking care of his house and cleaning up my kids toys when they leave.  I’ve even heard stories of her taking baths with my kids (?!) in my ex’s jacuzzi tub (supposedly still in their bathing suits).   She helped my kids get their dad a birthday and father’s day present.  She told me how she cleaned up, bathed and changed my 5 year old after he had a toileting accident everywhere.  Where is their dad in this??

– She actually apologized TO ME for not bringing food to the golf event so that MY KIDS would have something to eat.  THAT IS OVERFUNCTIONING and LACK OF BOUNDARIES.  I said to her that it wasn’t her responsibility – thank you for considering it, but it wasn’t something she should have to worry about.  I left out telling her that THEIR DAD should be doing that and doesn’t.

It pains me to see her involved with him and such gullible, perfect prey.  She is physically what my ex always wanted me to be – she bleaches her hair stark white, and was dressed to the nines to hang out at a golf course in summer heat for the morning, wearing high heels.  This is exactly what he wanted me to look like, and I said it wasn’t me.

But this is HER JOURNEY and I have to stay removed (even though I work for a domestic violence agency now and would love to point out the ‘red flags’).

I’ve also learned that my daughter has told her of the “things daddy does to us”, like “calls us assholes” and “hits us”.  My daughter asked GF to not tell anyone what she shared and not to tell their dad.  Gee… I wonder how that has worked out?

It’s interesting how personality disordered people REPEAT the same scenario over and over again in their lives.  Most likely, it would be great for me if he finds his next endeavor.  However, it most likely won’t be great for her.

 

He who angers you, controls you

Although “anger” is a warning sign that something isn’t right (not necessarily an emotion to be ignored)… I think that this sign is a great reminder to those of us who deal with a narcissist looking for revenge (who specifically does things to anger us / control us).

Do Children Need Love?

The other day during my daughter’s therapy appointment, my daughter’s therapist mentioned Harry Harlow and the wire monkey experiments.  I went home and looked it up to understand more about what she was telling me.

It’s interesting and puts into perspective today’s seemingly still antique views in the family court system.  Dr. Harlow’s experiments were controversial, focusing on the powerful effects of love on young rhesus monkeys.  He sought to reveal the importance of a mother’s love for healthy childhood development.  This seems to intuitive to me, it’s hard to grasp that it would actually be in question at all.  However, there are many aspects of society where it is easy to see that children are still dealt with callously.

The experiments consisted of removing the young monkey’s from their mother almost immediately after birth and giving them mother alternatives.  The monkey’s could chose between a wire mommy monkey with milk for them, or a terry cloth mommy without milk.  The baby monkey’s spent considerably more time with the terry cloth monkey – showing that contact comfort is important for the baby monkeys.

In a further experiment, Harlow created a strange situation similar to attachment researcher Mary Ainsworth.  Harlow allowed the young monkeys to explore a room either with the presence of their surrogate terry cloth mother or in her absence.  Monkeys used the mother as a secure base to explore the room (returning to her as they explored). When Harlow removed the surrogate mother from the room, the baby monkeys would often freeze up, crouch, rock, scream, and cry.

What startled me most is that these experiments took place in the 1960’s.  The 1960’s!  This is a mere 50 years ago.  It is my father’s generation – the same generation who raised the parents of today, and the same age as many judges who are still on the bench in family court.  It reminds me of my ex, raised by parents of this generation, who cannot see the world as different than when he was raised.  He lives and breathes the “it worked for me and I turned out fine” phenomena.

When I consider this, it makes sense that as a world society, we are still trying to grasp and consider how all the impacts of childhood come into play in our development.  It also makes sense that the term “children are resilient” is so wildly used — despite the fact ‘mental health’ is a huge industry and so much of it comes down to things that happened to us as a child.  Perhaps in 100 years, society will marvel at how rudimentary our thinking is now, and have a clear grasp of how we need consistent love, nurturing and empathy as children and adults.  I hope so…