Sanctuary for the Abused
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Con Artist = Abuser
The compulsion to scam is so strong that a con artist will produce a scam even if he/she gains no money out of it. Con artists even scam each other!
An unusually sick group
Quoting a studies by Richard Blum (Deceivers and Deceived: Observations on Confidence Men and Their Victims, Informants and Their Quarry, Political and Industrial Spies and Ordinary Citizens), Chuck Whitlock points out that most con artists are:
Individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder lack empathy and tend to be callous, cynical, and contemptuous of the feelings, rights, and sufferings of others."
From FRAUD AID
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Narcissistic Mothers' Characteristics
1. Everything she does is deniable.
There is always a facile excuse or an explanation. Cruelties are couched in loving terms. Aggressive and hostile acts are paraded as thoughtfulness. Selfish manipulations are presented as gifts. Criticism and slander is slyly disguised as concern. She only wants what is best for you. She only wants to "help" you.
She rarely says right out that she thinks you’re inadequate. Instead, any time that you tell her you’ve done something good, she counters with something your sibling did that was better or she simply ignores you or she hears you out without saying anything, then in a short time does something cruel to you so you understand not to get above yourself. She will carefully separate cause (your joy in your accomplishment) from effect (refusing to let you borrow the car to go to the awards ceremony) by enough time that someone who didn’t live through her abuse would never believe the connection.
Many of her putdowns are simply by comparison. She’ll talk about how wonderful someone else is or what a wonderful job they did on something you’ve also done or how highly she thinks of them. The contrast is left up to you. She has let you know that you’re no good without saying a word. She’ll spoil your pleasure in something by simply congratulating you for it in an angry, envious voice that conveys how unhappy she is, again, completely deniably. It is impossible to confront someone over their tone of voice, their demeanor or they way they look at you, but once your narcissistic mother has you trained, she can promise terrible punishment without a word. As a result, you’re always afraid, always in the wrong, and can never exactly put your finger on why.
Because her abusiveness is part of a lifelong campaign of control and because she is careful to rationalize her abuse, it is extremely difficult to explain to other people what is so bad about her. She’s also careful about when and how she engages in her abuses. She’s very secretive, a characteristic of almost all abusers (“Don’t wash our dirty laundry in public!”) and will punish you for telling anyone else what she’s done. The times and locations of her worst abuses are carefully chosen so that no one who might intervene will hear or see her bad behavior, and she will seem like a completely different person in public. She’ll slam you to other people, but will always embed her devaluing nuggets of snide gossip in protestations of concern, love and understanding (“I feel so sorry for poor Cynthia. She always seems to have such a hard time, but I just don’t know what I can do for her!”)
As a consequence the children of narcissists universally report that no one believes them (“I have to tell you that she always talks about YOU in the most caring way!"). Unfortunately therapists, given the deniable actions of the narcissist and eager to defend a fellow parent, will often jump to the narcissist’s defense as well, reinforcing your sense of isolation and helplessness (“I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that!”)
2. She violates your boundaries.
You feel like an extension of her. Your property is given away without your consent, sometimes in front of you. Your food is eaten off your plate or given to others off your plate. Your property may be repossessed and no reason given other than that it was never yours. Your time is committed without consulting you, and opinions purported to be yours are expressed for you. (She LOVES going to the fair! He would never want anything like that. She wouldn’t like kumquats.) You are discussed in your presence as though you are not there.
She keeps tabs on your bodily functions and humiliates you by divulging the information she gleans, especially when it can be used to demonstrate her devotion and highlight her martyrdom to your needs (“Mike had that problem with frequent urination too, only his was much worse. I was so worried about him!”) You have never known what it is like to have privacy in the bathroom or in your bedroom, and she goes through your things regularly. She asks nosy questions, snoops into your email/letters/diary/conversations. She will want to dig into your feelings, particularly painful ones and is always looking for negative information on you which can be used against you. She does things against your expressed wishes frequently. All of this is done without seeming embarrassment or thought.
Any attempt at autonomy on your part is strongly resisted. Normal rites of passage (learning to shave, wearing makeup, dating) are grudgingly allowed only if you insist, and you’re punished for your insistence (“Since you’re old enough to date, I think you’re old enough to pay for your own clothes!”) If you demand age-appropriate clothing, grooming, control over your own life, or rights, you are difficult and she ridicules your “independence.”
3. She favoritizes.
Narcissistic mothers commonly choose one (sometimes more) child to be the golden child and one (sometimes more) to be the scapegoat. The narcissist identifies with the golden child and provides privileges to him or her as long as the golden child does just as she wants. The golden child has to be cared for assiduously by everyone in the family. The scapegoat has no needs and instead gets to do the caring. The golden child can do nothing wrong. The scapegoat is always at fault. This creates divisions between the children, one of whom has a large investment in the mother being wise and wonderful, and the other(s) who hate her. That division will be fostered by the narcissist with lies and with blatantly unfair and favoritizing behavior. The golden child will defend the mother and indirectly perpetuate the abuse by finding reasons to blame the scapegoat for the mother’s actions. The golden child may also directly take on the narcissistic mother’s tasks by physically abusing the scapegoat so the narcissistic mother doesn’t have to do that herself.
4. She undermines.
Your accomplishments are acknowledged only to the extent that she can take credit for them. Any success or accomplishment for which she cannot take credit is ignored or diminished. Any time you are to be center stage and there is no opportunity for her to be the center of attention, she will try to prevent the occasion altogether, or she doesn’t come, or she leaves early, or she acts like it’s no big deal, or she steals the spotlight or she slips in little wounding comments about how much better someone else did or how what you did wasn’t as much as you could have done or as you think it is. She undermines you by picking fights with you or being especially unpleasant just before you have to make a major effort. She acts put out if she has to do anything to support your opportunities or will outright refuse to do even small things in support of you. She will be nasty to you about things that are peripherally connected with your successes so that you find your joy in what you’ve done is tarnished, without her ever saying anything directly about it. No matter what your success, she has to take you down a peg about it.
5. She demeans, criticizes and denigrates.
She lets you know in all sorts of little ways that she thinks less of you than she does of your siblings or of other people in general. If you complain about mistreatment by someone else, she will take that person’s side even if she doesn’t know them at all. She doesn’t care about those people or the justice of your complaints. She just wants to let you know that you’re never right.
She will deliver generalized barbs that are almost impossible to rebut (always in a loving, caring tone): “You were always difficult” “You can be very difficult to love” “You never seemed to be able to finish anything” “You were very hard to live with” “You’re always causing trouble” “No one could put up with the things you do.”
She will deliver slams in a sidelong way - for example she’ll complain about how “no one” loves her, does anything f1or her, or cares about her, or she’ll complain that “everyone” is so selfish, when you’re the only person in the room. As always, this combines criticism with deniability.
She will slip little comments into conversation that she really enjoyed something she did with someone else - something she did with you too, but didn’t like as much. She’ll let you know that her relationship with some other person you both know is wonderful in a way your relationship with her isn’t - the carefully unspoken message being that you don’t matter much to her.
She minimizes, discounts or ignores your opinions and experiences. Your insights are met with condescension, denials and accusations (“I think you read too much!”) and she will brush off your information even on subjects on which you are an acknowledged expert. Whatever you say is met with smirks and amused sounding or exaggerated exclamations (“Uh hunh!” “You don’t say!” “Really!”). She’ll then make it clear that she didn’t listen to a word you said.
6. She makes you look crazy.
If you try to confront her about something she’s done, she’ll tell you that you have “a very vivid imagination” or that you "made it all up" (this is a phrase commonly used by abusers of all sorts to invalidate your experience of their abuse) that you don’t know what you’re talking about, or that she has no idea what you’re talking about. She will claim not to remember even very memorable events, flatly denying they ever happened, nor will she ever acknowledge any possibility that she might have forgotten.
This is an extremely aggressive and exceptionally infuriating tactic called “gaslighting,” common to abusers of all kinds. Your perceptions of reality are continually undermined so that you end up without any confidence in your intuition, your memory or your powers of reasoning. This makes you a much better victim for the abuser.
Narcissists gaslight routinely. The narcissist will either insinuate or will tell you and others outright that you’re unstable, otherwise you wouldn’t believe such ridiculous things or be so uncooperative.
You’re imagining things.
You’re completely unreasonable.
You’re over-reacting, like you always do.
She’ll talk to you when you’ve calmed down and aren’t so irrational.
She may even characterize you as being neurotic or psychotic.
Once she’s constructed these fantasies of your emotional pathologies, she’ll tell others about them, as always, presenting her smears as expressions of concern and declaring her own helpless victimhood.
She didn’t do anything.
She has no idea why you’re so irrationally angry with her.
You’ve hurt her terribly.
She thinks you may need psychotherapy.
She loves you very much and would do anything to make you happy, but she just doesn’t know what to do.
You keep pushing her away when all she wants to do is help you.
She has simultaneously absolved herself of any responsibility for your obvious antipathy towards her, implied that it’s something fundamentally wrong with you that makes you angry with her, and undermined your credibility with her listeners. She plays the role of the doting mother so perfectly that no one will believe you.
7. She’s envious.
Any time you get something nice she’s angry and envious and her envy will be apparent when she admires whatever it is. She’ll try to get it from you, spoil it for you, or get the same or better for herself. She’s always working on ways to get what other people have. The envy of narcissistic mothers often includes competing sexually with their daughters or daughters-in-law. They’ll attempt to forbid their daughters to wear makeup, to groom themselves in an age-appropriate way or to date. They will criticize the appearance of their daughters and daughters-in-law. This envy extends to relationships. Narcissistic mothers infamously attempt to damage their children’s marriages and interfere in the upbringing of their grandchildren.
8. She’s a liar in too many ways to count.
Any time she talks about something that has emotional significance for her, it’s a fair bet that she’s lying. Lying is one way that she creates conflict in the relationships and lives of those around her - she’ll lie to them about what other people have said, what they’ve done, or how they feel. She’ll lie about her relationship with them, about your behavior or about your situation in order to inflate herself and to undermine your credibility.
The narcissist is very careful about how she lies. To outsiders she’ll lie thoughtfully and deliberately, always in a way that can be covered up if she’s confronted with her lie. She spins what you said rather than makes something up wholesale. She puts dishonest interpretations on things you actually did. If she’s recently done something particularly egregious she may engage in preventative lying: she lies in advance to discount what you might say before you even say it. Then when you talk to anyone about what she did you’ll be cut off with “I already know all about it…your mother told me… (self-justifications and lies).” Because she is so careful about her deniability, it may be very hard to catch her in her lies and the more gullible of her friends may never realize how dishonest she is.
To you, she’ll lie blatantly. She will claim to be unable to remember bad things she has done, even if she did one of them recently and even if it was something very memorable. Of course, if you try to jog her memory by recounting the circumstances “You have a very vivid imagination” or “That was so long ago. Why do you have to dredge up your old grudges?” Your conversations with her are full of casual brush-offs and diversionary lies and she doesn’t respect you enough to bother making it sound good. For example she’ll start with a self-serving lie: “If I don’t take you as a dependent on my taxes I’ll lose three thousand dollars!” You refute her lie with an obvious truth: “No, three thousand dollars is the amount of the dependent exemption. You’ll only lose about eight hundred dollars.” Her response: “Isn’t that what I said?” You are now in a game with only one rule: You can’t win.
On the rare occasions she is forced to acknowledge some bad behavior, she will couch the admission deniably. She “guesses” that “maybe” she “might have” done something wrong. The wrongdoing is always heavily spun and trimmed to make it sound better. The words “I guess,” “maybe,” and “might have” are in and of themselves lies because she knows exactly what she did - no guessing, no might haves, no maybes.
9. She has to be the center of attention all the time.
This need is a defining trait of narcissists and particularly of narcissistic mothers for whom their children exist to be sources of attention and adoration. Narcissistic mothers love to be waited on and often pepper their children with little requests. “While you’re up…” or its equivalent is one of their favorite phrases. You couldn’t just be assigned a chore at the beginning of the week or of the day, instead, you had to do it on demand, preferably at a time that was inconvenient for you, or you had to “help” her do it, fetching and carrying for her while she made up to herself for the menial work she had to do as your mother by glorying in your attentions.
A narcissistic mother may create odd occasions at which she can be the center of attention, such as memorials for someone close to her who died long ago, or major celebrations of small personal milestones. She may love to entertain so she can be the life of her own party. She will try to steal the spotlight or will try to spoil any occasion where someone else is the center of attention, particularly the child she has cast as the scapegoat. She often invites herself along where she isn’t welcome. If she visits you or you visit her, you are required to spend all your time with her. Entertaining herself is unthinkable. She has always pouted, manipulated or raged if you tried to do anything without her, didn’t want to entertain her, refused to wait on her, stymied her plans for a drama or otherwise deprived her of attention.
Older narcissistic mothers often use the natural limitations of aging to manipulate dramas, often by neglecting their health or by doing things they know will make them ill. This gives them the opportunity to cash in on the investment they made when they trained you to wait on them as a child. Then they call you (or better still, get the neighbor or the nursing home administrator to call you) demanding your immediate attendance. You are to rush to her side, pat her hand, weep over her pain and listen sympathetically to her unending complaints about how hard and awful it is. (“Never get old!”) It’s almost never the case that you can actually do anything useful, and the causes of her disability may have been completely avoidable, but you’ve been put in an extremely difficult position. If you don’t provide the audience and attention she’s manipulating to get, you look extremely bad to everyone else and may even have legal culpability. (Narcissistic behaviors commonly accompany Alzheimer’s disease, so this behavior may also occur in perfectly normal mothers as they age.)
10. She manipulates your emotions in order to feed on your pain.
This exceptionally sick and bizarre behavior is so common among narcissistic mothers that their children often call them “emotional vampires.” Some of this emotional feeding comes in the form of pure sadism. She does and says things just to be wounding or she engages in tormenting teasing or she needles you about things you’re sensitive about, all the while a smile plays over her lips. She may have taken you to scary movies or told you horrifying stories, then mocked you for being a baby when you cried, She will slip a wounding comment into conversation and smile delightedly into your hurt face. You can hear the laughter in her voice as she pressures you or says distressing things to you. Later she’ll gloat over how much she upset you, gaily telling other people that you’re so much fun to tease, and recruiting others to share in her amusement. . She enjoys her cruelties and makes no effort to disguise that. She wants you to know that your pain entertains her. She may bring up subjects that are painful for you and probe you about them, all the while watching you carefully. This is emotional vampirism in its purest form. She’s feeding emotionally off your pain.
A peculiar form of this emotional vampirism combines attention-seeking behavior with a demand that the audience suffer. Since narcissistic mothers often play the martyr this may take the form of wrenching, self-pitying dramas which she carefully produces, and in which she is the star performer. She sobs and wails that no one loves her and everyone is so selfish, and she doesn’t want to live, she wants to die! She wants to die! She will not seem to care how much the manipulation of their emotions and the self-pity repels other people. One weird behavior that is very common to narcissists: her dramas may also center around the tragedies of other people, often relating how much she suffered by association and trying to distress her listeners, as she cries over the horrible murder of someone she wouldn’t recognize if they had passed her on the street.
11. She’s selfish and willful.
She always makes sure she has the best of everything. She insists on having her own way all the time and she will ruthlessly, manipulatively pursue it, even if what she wants isn’t worth all the effort she’s putting into it and even if that effort goes far beyond normal behavior. She will make a huge effort to get something you denied her, even if it was entirely your right to do so and even if her demand was selfish and unreasonable. If you tell her she cannot bring her friends to your party she will show up with them anyway, and she will have told them that they were invited so that you either have to give in, or be the bad guy to these poor dupes on your doorstep. If you tell her she can’t come over to your house tonight she’ll call your spouse and try get him or her to agree that she can, and to not say anything to you about it because it’s a “surprise.” She has to show you that you can’t tell her “no.”
One near-universal characteristic of narcissists: because they are so selfish and self-centered, they are very bad gift givers. They’ll give you hand-me-downs or market things for themselves as gifts for you (“I thought I’d give you my old bicycle and buy myself a new one!” “I know how much you love Italian food, so I’m going to take you to my favorite restaurant for your birthday!”) New gifts are often obviously cheap and are usually things that don’t suit you or that you can’t use or are a quid pro quo: if you buy her the gift she wants, she will buy you an item of your choice. She’ll make it clear that it pains her to give you anything. She may buy you a gift and get the identical item for herself, or take you shopping for a gift and get herself something nice at the same time to make herself feel better.
12. She’s self-absorbed. Her feelings, needs and wants are very important; yours are insignificant to the point that her least whim takes precedence over your most basic needs.
Her problems deserve your immediate and full attention; yours are brushed aside. Her wishes always take precedence; if she does something for you, she reminds you constantly of her munificence in doing so and will often try to extract some sort of payment. She will complain constantly, even though your situation may be much worse than hers. If you point that out, she will effortlessly, thoughtlessly brush it aside as of no importance ("It’s easy for you…/It’s different for you…/You aren't as sick as I am").
13. She is insanely defensive and is extremely sensitive to any criticism.
If you criticize her or defy her she will explode with fury, threaten, storm, rage, destroy and may become violent, beating, confining, putting her child outdoors in bad weather or otherwise engaging in classic physical abuse.
14. She terrorized. For all abusers, fear is a powerful means of control of the victim, and your narcissistic mother used it ruthlessly to train you.
Narcissists teach you to beware their wrath even when they aren’t present. The only alternative is constant placation. If you give her everything she wants all the time, you might be spared. If you don’t, the punishments will come. Even adult children of narcissists still feel that carefully inculcated fear. Your narcissistic mother can turn it on with a silence or a look that tells the child in you she’s thinking about how she’s going to get even.
Not all narcissists abuse physically, but most do, often in subtle, deniable ways. It allows them to vent their rage at your failure to be the solution to their internal havoc and simultaneously to teach you to fear them. You may not have been beaten, but you were almost certainly left to endure physical pain when a normal mother would have made an effort to relieve your misery. This deniable form of battery allows her to store up her rage and dole out the punishment at a later time when she’s worked out an airtight rationale for her abuse, so she never risks exposure.
You were left hungry because “you eat too much.” (Someone asked her if she was pregnant. She isn’t).
You always went to school with stomach flu because “you don’t have a fever. You’re just trying to get out of school.” (She resents having to take care of you. You have a lot of nerve getting sick and adding to her burdens.)
She refuses to look at your bloody heels and instead the shoes that wore those blisters on your heels are put back on your feet and you’re sent to the store in them because “You wanted those shoes. Now you can wear them.” (You said the ones she wanted to get you were ugly. She liked them because they were just like what she wore 30 years ago).
The dentist was told not to give you Novocaine when he drilled your tooth because “he has to learn to take better care of his teeth.” (She has to pay for a filling and she’s furious at having to spend money on you.)
Narcissistic mothers also abuse by loosing others on you or by failing to protect you when a normal mother would have. Sometimes the narcissist’s golden child will be encouraged to abuse the scapegoat. Narcissists also abuse by exposing you to violence. If one of your siblings got beaten, she made sure you saw. She effortlessly put the fear of Mom into you, without raising a hand.
15. She’s infantile and petty.
Narcissistic mothers are often simply childish. If you refuse to let her manipulate you into doing something, she will cry that you don’t love her because if you loved her you would do as she wanted. If you hurt her feelings she will aggressively whine to you that you’ll be sorry when she’s dead that you didn’t treat her better. These babyish complaints and responses may sound laughable, but the narcissist is dead serious about them. When you were a child, if you ask her to stop some bad behavior, she would justify it by pointing out something that you did that she feels is comparable, as though the childish behavior of a child is justification for the childish behavior of an adult. “Getting even” is a large part of her dealings with you. Anytime you fail to give her the deference, attention or service she feels she deserves, or you thwart her wishes, she has to show you.
16. She’s aggressive and shameless. She doesn’t ask. She demands.
She makes outrageous requests and she’ll take anything she wants if she thinks she can get away with it. Her demands of her children are posed in a very aggressive way, as are her criticisms. She won’t take no for an answer, pushing and arm-twisting and manipulating to get you to give in.
17. She “parentifies.”
She shed her responsibilities to you as soon as she was able, leaving you to take care of yourself as best you could (i.e. covert incest). She denied you medical care, necessary transportation or basic comforts that she would never have considered giving up for herself. She never gave you a birthday party or let you have sleepovers. Your friends were never welcome in her house. She didn’t like to drive you anywhere, so you turned down invitations because you had no way to get there. She wouldn’t buy your school pictures even if she could easily have afforded it. As soon as you got a job, every request for school supplies, clothing or toiletries was met with “Now that you’re making money, why don’t you pay for that yourself?” You worked three jobs to pay for that cheap college and when you finally got mononucleosis she chirped at you that she was “so happy you could take care of yourself.”
She also gave you tasks that were rightfully hers and should not have been placed on a child. You may have been a primary caregiver for young siblings or an incapacitated parent. You may have had responsibility for excessive household tasks. Above all, you were always her emotional caregiver which is one reason any defection from that role caused such enormous eruptions of rage. You were never allowed to be needy or have bad feelings or problems. Those experiences were only for her, and you were responsible for making it right for her. From the time you were very young she would randomly lash out at you any time she was stressed or angry with your father or felt that life was unfair to her, because it made her feel better to hurt you. You were often punished out of the blue, for manufactured offenses. As you got older she directly placed responsibility for her welfare and her emotions on you, weeping on your shoulder and unloading on you any time something went awry for her.
18. She’s exploitative.
She will manipulate to get work, money, or objects she envies out of other people for nothing. This includes her children, of course. If she set up a bank account for you, she was trustee on the account with the right to withdraw money. As you put money into it, she took it out. She may have stolen your identity. She took you as a dependent on her income taxes so you couldn’t file independently without exposing her to criminal penalties. If she made an agreement with you, it was violated the minute it no longer served her needs. If you brought it up demanding she adhere to the agreement, she brushed you off and later punished you so you would know not to defy her again.
Sometimes the narcissist will exploit a child to absorb punishment that would have been hers from an abusive partner. The husband comes home in a drunken rage, and the mother immediately complains about the child’s bad behavior so the rage is vented on to the child. Sometimes the narcissistic mother simply uses the child to keep a sick marriage intact because the alternative is being divorced or having to go to work. The child is sexually molested but the mother never notices, or worse, calls the child a liar when she tells the mother about the molestation.
19. She projects.
This sounds a little like psycho-babble, but it is something that narcissists all do. Projection means that she will put her own bad behavior, character and traits on you so she can deny them in herself and punish you. This can be very difficult to see if you have traits that she can project on to.
An eating-disordered woman who obsesses over her daughter’s weight is projecting. The daughter may not realize it because she has probably internalized an absurdly thin vision of women’s weight and so accepts her mother’s projection. When the narcissist tells the daughter that she eats too much, needs to exercise more, or has to wear extra-large size clothes, the daughter believes it, even if it isn’t true.
However, she will sometimes project even though it makes no sense at all. This happens when she feels shamed and needs to put it on her scapegoat child and the projection therefore comes across as being an attack out of the blue. For example: She makes an outrageous request, and you casually refuse to let her have her way. She’s enraged by your refusal and snarls at you that you’ll talk about it when you’ve calmed down and are no longer hysterical.
You aren’t hysterical at all; she is, but your refusal has made her feel the shame that should have stopped her from making shameless demands in the first place. That’s intolerable. She can transfer that shame to you and rationalize away your response: you only refused her because you’re so unreasonable. Having done that she can reassert her shamelessness and indulge her childish willfulness by turning an unequivocal refusal into a subject for further discussion. You’ll talk about it again “later” - probably when she’s worn you down with histrionics, pouting and the silent treatment so you’re more inclined to do what she wants.
20. She is never wrong about anything. No matter what she’s done, she won’t ever genuinely apologize for anything.
Instead, any time she feels she is being made to apologize she will sulk and pout, issue an insulting apology or negate the apology she has just made with justifications, qualifications or self pity: “I’m sorry you felt that I humiliated you” “I’m sorry if I made you feel bad” “If I did that it was wrong” “I’m sorry, but I there’s nothing I can do about it” “I’m sorry I made you feel clumsy, stupid and disgusting” “I’m sorry but it was just a joke. You’re so over-sensitive” “I’m sorry that my own child feels she has to upset me and make me feel bad.” The last insulting apology is also an example of projection.
21. She seems to have no awareness that other people even have feelings.
She’ll occasionally slip and say something jaw-droppingly callous because of this lack of empathy. It isn’t that she doesn’t care at all about other people’s feelings, though she doesn’t. It would simply never occur to her to think about their feelings.
An absence of empathy is the defining trait of a narcissist and underlies most of the other traits I have described. Unlike psychopaths, narcissists do understand right, wrong, and consequences, so they are not ordinarily criminal.
She beat you, but not to the point where you went to the hospital.
She left you standing out in the cold until you were miserable, but not until you had hypothermia.
She put you in the basement in the dark with no clothes on, but she only left you there for two hours.
22. She blames. She’ll blame you for everything that isn’t right in her life or for what other people do or for whatever has happened.
Always, she’ll blame you for her abuse. You made her do it. If only you weren’t so difficult. You upset her so much that she can’t think straight. Things were hard for her and your backtalk pushed her over the brink. This blaming is often so subtle that all you know is that you thought you were wronged and now you feel guilty.
Your brother beats you and her response is to bemoan how uncivilized children are.
Your boyfriend dumped you, but she can understand - after all, she herself has seen how difficult you are to love.
She’ll do something egregiously exploitative to you, and when confronted will screech at you that she can’t believe you were so selfish as to upset her over such a trivial thing.
She’ll also blame you for your reaction to her selfish, cruel and exploitative behavior. She can’t believe you are so petty, so small, and so childish as to object to her giving your favorite dress to her friend. She thought you would be happy to let her do something nice for someone else.
Narcissists are masters of multitasking as this example shows. Simultaneously your narcissistic mother is:
1) Lying. She knows what she did was wrong and she knows your reaction is reasonable.
2) Manipulating. She’s making you look like the bad guy for objecting to her cruelties.
3) Being selfish. She doesn’t mind making you feel horrible as long as she gets her own way.
4) Blaming. She did something wrong, but it’s all your fault.
5) Projecting. Her petty, small and childish behavior has become yours.
6) Putting on a self-pitying drama. She’s a martyr who believed the best of you, and you’ve let her down.
7) Parentifying. You’re responsible for her feelings, she has no responsibility for yours.
23. She destroys your relationships.
Narcissistic mothers are like tornadoes: wherever they touch down families are torn apart and wounds are inflicted. Unless the father has control over the narcissist and holds the family together, adult siblings in families with narcissistic mothers characteristically have painful relationships. Typically all communication between siblings is superficial and driven by duty, or they may never talk to each other at all. In part, these women foster dissension between their children because they enjoy the control it gives them. If those children don’t communicate except through the mother, she can decide what everyone hears. Narcissists also love the excitement and drama they create by interfering in their children’s lives. Watching people’s lives explode is better than soap operas, especially when you don’t have any empathy for their misery.
The narcissist nurtures anger, contempt and envy - the most corrosive emotions - to drive her children apart. While her children are still living at home, any child who stands up to the narcissist guarantees punishment for the rest. In her zest for revenge, the narcissist purposefully turns the siblings’ anger on the dissenter by including everyone in her retaliation. (“I can see that nobody here loves me! Well I’ll just take these Christmas presents back to the store. None of you would want anything I got you anyway!”) The other children, long trained by the narcissist to give in, are furious with the troublemaking child, instead of with the narcissist who actually deserves their anger.
The narcissist also uses favoritism and gossip to poison her childrens’ relationships. The scapegoat sees the mother as a creature of caprice and cruelty. As is typical of the privileged, the other children don’t see her unfairness and they excuse her abuses. Indeed, they are often recruited by the narcissist to adopt her contemptuous and entitled attitude towards the scapegoat and with her tacit or explicit permission, will inflict further abuse. The scapegoat predictably responds with fury and equal contempt. After her children move on with adult lives, the narcissist makes sure to keep each apprised of the doings of the others, passing on the most discreditable and juicy gossip (as always, disguised as “concern”) about the other children, again, in a way that engenders contempt rather than compassion.
Having been raised by a narcissist, her children are predisposed to be envious, and she takes full advantage of the opportunity that presents. While she may never praise you to your face, she will likely crow about your victories to the very sibling who is not doing well. She’ll tell you about the generosity she displayed towards that child, leaving you wondering why you got left out and irrationally angry at the favored child rather than at the narcissist who told you about it.
The end result is a family in which almost all communication is triangular. The narcissist, the spider in the middle of the family web, sensitively monitors all the children for information she can use to retain her unchallenged control over the family. She then passes that on to the others, creating the resentments that prevent them from communicating directly and freely with each other. The result is that the only communication between the children is through the narcissist, exactly the way she wants it.
24. As a last resort she goes pathetic.
When she’s confronted with unavoidable consequences for her own bad behavior, including your anger, she will melt into a soggy puddle of weepy helplessness. It’s all her fault. She can’t do anything right. She feels so bad. What she doesn’t do: own the responsibility for her bad conduct and make it right. Instead, as always, it’s all about her, and her helpless self-pitying weepiness dumps the responsibility for her consequences AND for her unhappiness about it on you.
As so often with narcissists, it is also a manipulative behavior. If you fail to excuse her bad behavior and make her feel better, YOU are the bad person for being cold, heartless and unfeeling when your poor mother feels so awful.
FACEBOOK GROUP FOR DAUGHTERS OF NARCISSISTIC MOTHERS: DoNM FREEDOM! (closed group - you must apply to join via Facebook and be 100% No Contact)
Monday, February 26, 2018
Narcissism Victim Syndrome
A new diagnosis?
Do you see a preponderance of middle aged women in your practices with no particular physical disease process, yet a variety of physical and/or emotional complaints, including: insomnia, weight loss or gain, depression, anxiety, phobias, (sometimes but not always, also: broken bones, lacerations, or bruises)? Some may report an overwhelming feeling of emptiness, self-hate or doom. Others may talk about or attempt suicide.
These patients are frequently rather nervous, with a guilt-ridden, anxious look and effect. They may appear restless, worried, and/or demonstrate a fake laugh that seems to hide something else.
In extreme cases they may describe sudden outbursts of rage with accompanying violence. They may have even been arrested for assault on their spouse. A few of them are men.
Who are these patients and how did they get this way? While there may be many situations with similar symptoms, it is important to recognize these may be "Victims of Narcissists" and they need your help. While narcissism itself has been a diagnosis in the DSM - IV, psychiatry's complete reference, little to nothing has been written in the medical literature surrounding those who live with the narcissist … and the torturous lives they live. And there are many of them out there.
Narcissism is a broad spectrum of behaviors. On a scale of 1 - 10, Healthy Narcissism is a one, and Pathological Narcissism, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder, (NPD) is a 10.
Healthy Narcissism is something we all can use. It's having a healthy self-esteem. It's what makes us pick ourselves up after experiencing failure and going on towards the next goal. It's what gives us the ability to help each other, and to love someone - as we already know how to love ourselves.
Yet, Pathological Narcissism is an ironic twist of this healthy state. Outwardly, it appears that these people love themselves too much - to the exclusion of anyone else. It is as if they are God himself and those around them must recognize their omnipotence, supreme knowledge, and absolute entitlement and power. Rules don't apply to them. They have an unrealistic and overblown sense of self, often without the credentials to match, as well as fantasies of unlimited power, success, and/or brilliance. They are interpersonally exploitive and have absolutely no understanding of empathy or compassion.
They are neither kind nor benevolent gods. And those who live with them end up paying the price.
While there is a range of narcissistic behaviors lying between level 1 and 10 on this scale, one doesn't need to have full-blown NPD to do incredible damage to those in the inner circle.
While victims of Narcissists are generally codependents, most have no idea how they got in this situation, because in the early stages of the relationship the Narcissistic person can be the most charming, Academy Award winning actor or actress (according to the DSM-IV, 50-75% of narcissists are men), of the century.
The early days of the dating is fast, furious, and vastly romantic. Oftentimes marriage proposals come within a few weeks. The "victim" sees the narcissist as the "Perfect Partner". She's never met someone so wonderful in her lifetime and falls head-over-heels in love. The two go on to live happily ever after - or so she thinks - until the "real" partner surfaces. The once wonderful Dr. Jekyll turns into the dangerous Mr. Hyde who quickly instills fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and total confusion to the relationship.
The change can be quick and powerful or slow and insidious.
We are all way too familiar with overt narcissists: those abusive husbands who send thousands of battered women to the emergency room each year. They feel it is their God-given right to beat, abuse, and otherwise threat their partner in whatever method they deem necessary and no one can tell them otherwise.
Then there is the verbally abusive and controlling narcissist … the one who uses emotional abuse as his weapon of choice. He tells his victim who she can see, what time she needs to be home, and when she can go to bed. Or in the case of Jamie, whose husband makes her recite every day, "I'm only worth 29 cents - the price of a bullet," he erodes her self-worth to nothing to keep her under his control.
Who else could possible want such a worthless woman as she? With that belief, she will never leave him for good, although she makes many brief attempts to do so. She always returns. The brainwashing that continues day after day is emotionally exhausting, draining, and vastly unhealthy.
Yet almost worse is the "Stealth Narcissist," so sinister and silent in his ability to drive his partner crazy that she doesn't suspect anything bad is happening until it's too late. He is the master of the little digs … "Honey, why on earth would you cook eggs in butter? NO ONE does it that way. What's wrong with you?" Or, "If you'd only do what I say then we'd both be happy."
He issues the "silent treatment" when he is slighted, punishing his family by ignoring them for hours, leaving them wondering what they did "wrong" to make him act this way. He may "forget" birthday or Christmas presents, year after year. He may show up hours late and his partner is just supposed to understand, with no explanation even offered. He may have another woman on the side and feel quite entitled to do so.
Yet, to those outside his inner kingdom he looks like a saint. He probably is president of the Rotary, volunteers at a food bank, and contributes regularly to charity … all to attain the image of being the admired Superman of his community.
No matter which type of narcissist he is, the end result is the same … a slow, insidious, breaking down of the self-esteem of his victims until there's next to nothing left, at which point, the narcissist will frequently throw his partner out in order to look for someone new and full of life to make his next target. Leaving his victim an emotional wreck wondering what she did to destroy their once "perfect" relationship.
The Narcissist himself rarely changes. After all, if you believe you're God-like, you must be perfect. Why should you change your behavior for anyone else? Yet the biggest secret is that deep inside, he loathes himself, and is desperate that no one find out who the "real" person is inside his tough, outer shell.
Victims are not only spouses. They can be coworkers, employees, children, or friends of narcissists. When the narcissist is the victim's mother, it's a difficult spot to be in, as most children (even grown children) find it almost impossible to leave the relationship. And the abuse continues for years.
However, when the narcissist is your patient's boss, coworker, or friend, it may be wise to counsel the victim to seek a new situation elsewhere to best avoid an emotional roller coaster ride that could lead to extreme health issues down the road.
How can you help those with Narcissism Victim Syndrome? First, by asking questions to determine what is going on in their environment. Health care professionals already know the effect that stress has on so many of us, but the added stress of living with a narcissist is rarely understood or recognized by the victims themselves. Knowledge is power and by asking the right questions about their situation, you might be able to help them begin to better recognize their problem and seek help.
You can help them quit being victims, quit blaming themselves for all that's wrong in their relationships, gain knowledge of this disorder, and regain their personal power. Help them to seek counseling from a therapist knowledgeable about narcissism, (not all are, and few fully understand victim issues at all - see www.helpfromsurvivors.com), in order to rebuild their shattered self-esteem and stop looking and acting like a caged animal.
Help them find hope, before years of stuffing their anger due to this abusive treatment, leads them to venting in unhealthy ways, sometimes leading to domestic violence and police intervention. Help them to stop looking like the sick one in the relationship and to start down the road of being a survivor and no longer a victim. Help them escape symptoms of depression that may, in some cases, lead to suicide.
Learn all you can about the "Narcissism Victim Syndrome". You might light a glimmer of hope for someone who's just barely hanging on for dear life.
Mary Jo Fay, RN, MSN is a national speaker, author, columnist and survivor of several narcissistic relationships. Her new book, "When Your Perfect Partner Goes Perfectly Wrong - Loving or Leaving the Narcissist in Your Life" is available at http://www.helpfromsurvivors.com or http://www.outoftheboxx.com. She can be reached at 303-841-7691.
Copyright by Mary Jo Fay, RN, MSN
Sticks & Stones Can Break My Bones...
by Mary Jo Fay, RN, MSN
We all remember that age-old adage "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Well, I beg to disagree.
As a writer I know the power of words. At the same time, as a facilitator of two support groups and consultant to women (and a few men) who lived in households and relationships where words were used as weapons, let me tell you, those words have held on to many of these people like heat-seeking missiles -- only they're still seeking out their targets even after many, many years.
Try some of these on for size:
"I should have had that abortion instead of having you."In working with many of my clients, they all struggle with the same thing -- those powerful words that they have been psychologically "brainwashed" with have sent some of them on a self-limiting and/or self-destructive path. Even years after the person who originally uttered the emotionally abusive message is gone, the victim may still hear those exact words and phrases in their head, playing on as if the attacker is still in front of them, reciting the mantra every day.
"You are the worst mother on the face of the earth." (From a grandmother to her daughter, in front of her grandchild.)
"Why don't you quit being who you are and grow up?"
"With your grades you'll be lucky if the Army will take you."
"Why can't you be thin like your sister?"
"Why can't you ever do anything right?"
"You're not worth a plug nickel."
"You're the laziest child I've ever met."
Sticks and stones? Many feel that they would have rather been hit than attacked with the nebulous weaponry of brainwashing words. At least a broken arm or a black eye is evidence of wrong doing. But the destructive, stealth behavior of emotional brainwashing is so nebulous that it goes unnoticed until the damage is already done.
Want some specifics I see?
A 50 something-year-old woman who is terrified that her 91 year old mother thinks she's incapable of anything, and, as such -- has considered herself a failure all her life.
Two 50 something-year old twin men whose mother tells them she should have gone dancing instead the night she conceived them -- leaving them still afraid of her after all these years and blaming themselves for all their mother's problems.
A 30-something young gal -- Teri, whose sister Gail attacks her constantly and threatens that God will send her to hell because she is "unpure." (She doesn't worship the way Teri does.)
A 40 something gay guy named Jack, who feels that he'll never find love because for years his father told him God would punish Jack for being gay.
A 40 year old married woman who mourns the loss of never having a child after her first husband told her that "no one in their right mind would ever have a child with you," and he has since had a child with another woman. She, of course, is devastated.
Even teasing is powerful stuff. Saying things like, "Of course, I love you, honey. I don't care what anyone else says," has huge implications that everyone else thinks "honey" isn't up to her dear husband's standards.
Most of us can probably remember the childhood chant the fat kids often got -- "Fattie, fattie, two by four. Can't get through the kitchen door." How would you like to have been an overweight child and listened to that growing up? Words like those stick like glue to the very metal of our soul.
So what's my point? Be careful what you tell your children, your friends, and your family. Yes, even as grown ups we can still be affected by words -- especially if they have any resemblance to those we heard as kids.
Watch your teasing. Watch what you say when you punish your children for their mistakes. Watch your words as you compare your children's skills and weaknesses. "Why can't you be more like your brother? He really tries and you just pretend to work hard."
All are weapons that we may not even be aware of as incredibly destructive. Because if you believe the old adage -- "Sticks and stones -- you know the rest -- you may actually believe that what you say really can't hurt you.
But you'd be so terribly, terribly wrong.
Sunday, February 25, 2018
"Time to Break Free"
Before I can begin my process of breaking free, I must admit to myself that I have been abused. Perhaps one person has abused me, or perhaps many. There may be reasons why this happened, but I don't have to think about the details and circumstances now. All I have to do today is admit to myself, "I have been abused".
If my spouse or former spouse, the person I live with or used to live with, the parent of my child(ren), the person I am dating or have dated, or any person related to me has physically injured me or made me afraid of physical injury, I have experienced domestic violence. If I have been degraded, humiliated, controlled, threatened, or forced to do something I didn't want to do, I have been abused. For today all I have to know is that I don't want to be abused anymore. I want it to stop. I will think of this as many times as I can for the next twenty four hours.
All I have to know today is that I'm willing to have my life be different. *Willingness* is the key to my freedom. When I'm open minded, when I'm ready to listen to ideas and suggestions, I'm already changing my life for the better.
If my abuser tries to get me back or wants to see me, he may promise all sorts of things. He may promise to attend Twelve Step meetings, go to counseling, cut down or quit drinking, cut down or quit using drugs, or never hurt me again. He may swear that he's sorry, say what he did was wrong, or blame it on something or someone else. He may act loving and apologetic, remorseful and emotional, or he may try to get me to feel sorry for him. His actions may turn angry, and he may threaten me, call me names, or yell at me. He may tell me I can't make it without him, no one will believe me, I'm crazy, or I'm being selfish. He may say many things to me, but one thing I can count on: He will say anything he can think of to get what he wants. I need to know that all of these claims are typical of abusers. He may use different words, but the fact that he says them is typical of any abuser. The best thing I can do is not put myself in the position of having to listen to any of it. I do not have to listen to his excuses or promises anymore. And for today, I won't.
Today I will make a promise to have no contact with my abuser. I need this time to heal, and I can't do it the right way if I'm still seeing, talking to, or spending time with my abuser. Even if I don't understand this way of thinking, I promise to try it. Often, when we're in the middle of a situation, we need to step back in order to see it clearly. The most important thing for me to do during this difficult time is to refrain from having any contact wth my abuser, to step back so I can see clearly.
Today I will begin keeping a journal of all my thoughts and feelings. I may resist doing this at first, but I will make a commitment to writing at least one thought at the end of each day. By putting my thoughts down on paper, I see things more clearly. I can also go back and read them at a later date, to see how I have been able to change over time. Even if I have to force myself to write one sentence each day, I will do so. I know it's for my own good, and I can use all the *good* I can get.Day 7
While being abused I learned to ignore or not notice those things that were painful. Today I will start practicing *Focus*. Taking care of my own or my childrens needs, whatever they may be, requires my total attention. When I have a hard time staying focused on important things, I can practice by paying attention to little things. When I'm involved in a task, I will pay total attention to what I'm doing at the time, whether it be cooking, sewing, watching a television show, raking leaves, gardening, reading, cleaning house, or doing laundry. I can learn to be aware of my actions, my surroundings, and my task plan, and I can perform each task to the best of my ability. I will try not to let my mind wander with negative thoughts about myself or my life. I may have to keep pulling my thoughts back, time and time again, but it will get easier.
Today I will do one more thing than I think I can do. If I'm too tired or depressed to get out of bed, I will not only get up, but also take a shower. If I don't have the energy to go to work, I will get dressed and drive to the parking lot of my job. If I just can't face the world, I will walk to the end of the street and back. I will reach a little further than what I believe my limitations to be. Usually, when I take that little extra step, it seems easier than I thought it would, and I feel better, too.
I do not have to feel ashamed if I choose to stay with a friend or move into a shelter for battered women. I do not have to make excuses for my abuser anymore. I do not have to hide, or lie about the bruises and wounds. I do not have to pretend that nothing is wrong, because something is wrong....VERY wrong. I have been treated badly, terribly, and illegally. It is not my fault and I have done nothing to deserve being abused. Today I will know in my heart that I am doing the best I can to take care of myself, and, if I have children, that I am taking care of all of us. I will keep reminding myself that I am doing the best I can to keep myself and my children safe.
If I'm still involved in some way with my abuser, it's important for me to have a safety plan. The plan may be for me to have an emergency bag packed, in case I have to leave quickly. It should contain money, keys, clothing, important phone numbers, and whatever else I may need. My plan may be to have an extra set of car keys hidden somewhere or to have a secret bank account. I may also need to talk to my children about my plan. Hopefully, my plan will be more than just a safe deposit box for my family to find in the event of my death. Domestic violence is serious, and I will take protecting myself seriously.
There will be days when my mind is full of painful thoughts. I may be remembering all the details of abusive incidents. I may be thinking about every word that was said, how I could have acted differently, or how I could have prevented what happened. These are not good thoughts for me to have because they can hurt me more than help me. Today I will imagine that these thoughts are in a giant bank vault and that I can close the heavy door on them. They will still be there to look at later, but I don't have to think of them today. I will choose to wait until I'm stronger. It may be hard to close the door at first, but I will begin to practice doing it today.
It's not okay to be hit. I don't like being hit, and I don't want it to happen again. Today I will realize that there's help for me and I don't have to be ashamed of being hurt by someone. Domestic violence is against the law. I do not have to feel embarrassed about what someone else has done to me. Making the choice to get help takes courage, and I will find that courage within myself.
Today I will remember that there are many women who are going through the same experience as I am, and I'm not alone. I can reach out to others when I'm ready; I will find other women who will understand. I can attend a support group, call a hot line, or keep telling myself, "I'm not alone. I'm not alone". Just knowing this makes me feel better. But if I break the silence and tell someone I trust, I feel even better.
I am willing to ask for help, even if I feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty. In spite of what I'm feeling, I can ask for help. There are many other places I can go, and today I will find out what my options are. One of the hardest things to let go of is how ashamed I feel. I might feel that the abuse was my fault because I didn't leave earlier, or that people might think I stayed because being hurt was okay with me. I might feel guilty for exposing my children to such a terrible situation, or that I did not protect them the way I *should* have. Feeling such shame can stop many women from seeking the help they need, but not me. All I have to do today is be willing to ask for help from someone I trust. This is a big step in my life and I'm proud of my decision and the strength I have found. I do not have to go by myself through the pain of being abused. I will ask for help because I do not have to be alone anymore.
In these first days after leaving my abuser, I am very vulnerable, and I need to remember that decisions I make during this time might not be in the best interest of me or my children. Today I promise myself that I will listen to other people who know about domestic violence. I will listen to what they have to say, their suggestions, and their ideas. I may not agree with them now, but I will listen. Whether I seek out a counselor, a therapist, a group facilitator, or a combination of these, I will listen to their experiences and honor their knowledge. My situation is much like those of all the people they have helped before I came along.
Some days, every aspect of my life seems overwhelming and crazy, and I feel so confused. On these days I need to remember that I only have to do what needs to be done today. I do not have to worry about next week, next month, or next year....only what needs to be done today. I can make a list of things to do. When I finish something on my list, I can cross it off and feel proud of what I've accomplished, even if it's as simple as doing the dishes or making a phone call. When I accomplish something, I can be proud of myself.
Unless I or my children are in immediate danger, I do not have to make spur-of-the-moment decisions. I don't have to decide today what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. I can take time to look at my options and then make informed choices. I can seek the advice of a trusted friend or acquaintance, read appropriate materials, call agencies that might be of assistance, or simply take the time to think about what I really want. Where do I want to live? What kind of job would I like to have? I may feel more comfortable deciding on a simple thing, like what to make for dinner tonight. I don't have to feel rushed in my plans or decisions. I can take my time, and that's exactly what it is; *My* time.
I do not have to share everything I'm feeling with my children. Children in domestic violence situations often take on the role of the parent, believing it's their job to take care of their Mother or Father. I will not put my children in that position. I am the parent, and they are the children. They might have been feeling responsible for me for a long time, and it may be hard for us to *relearn* how to act with each other. Today I will begin trying. Children should be able to enjoy being children, and today I promise to give them that gift.
If I'm feeling lost and confused, I will remind myself that going back to my abuser is not going to change the way I feel. Going back is just that... going backward. Today I choose to go forward, and I make a promise to myself to take each day as it comes. Going back is not an option.
My abuser may have had a hard life. The stories of his childhood may be sad, and I wish I could help him. But I have tried to help him for a long time now. It didn't work. Today it's time to start helping me. Saying good-bye to helping him and saying hello to helping me does not make me a selfish person. It makes me a capable, courageous, intelligent person, despite what anyone else thinks or says. I did not cause his problems, and I can't save him from them. The person I choose to help is me. The life I choose to save is my own.
When others tell me that my being hurt *wasn't that bad*, they are wrong. When they tell me I'm *too sensitive* or *making a big deal out of nothing*, they are wrong. When most people do something wrong, they take responsibility for their actions. Abusers want to blame others, believe there is a good reason for what they've done, or make it seem less important than it really is. Spousal abuse is when any person physically injures--whether it's minor or serious -- their spouse or any person they are living with, used to live with, or the parent of their child. Spousal abuse is a felony, and it is not okay with me.
Sometimes I may think that my experience is different from anyone else's or that no one knows my abuser the way I do. It is during these times that I remind myself I'm not the only person this has happened to. I am willing to admit that there are other women who know more about this than I do, and I can ask their opinion of what I'm thinking or planning. In my first weeks of healing, I may have listened to the stories or advice of other abused people. I may have thought my abuser was different, but I must understand that he's not. I will pay attention to the similarities of abusers instead of the differences between them, and I will open up to asking the opinions of people who have been able to break free.
A restraining order is a legal document issued by a court that says my abuser cannot see me, talk to me, bother me, call me, threaten me, or hurt me. The thought of getting a restraining order can be scary. I may be terrified of what my abuser will do if I get one. But a restraining order can protect me from my abuser and from my own indecision. I can't let my abuser come over one day and not the next. I must respect the restraining order just as I want my abuser to. If I do decide to get one, I will have to fill out papers and have a judge sign them. Some counties have restraining order *clinics* and volunteers to help with the paperwork. Today I will call a women's center or shelter and find out how to get a restraining order in my county so I can get one now or in the future. If I've already decided to get one, I will take a good friend, or someone from an agency that helps women, with me for support. I will not wait until the last minute to find out how this process works.
Today I realize I don't have to answer the phone. I can let it ring, unplug it, take it off the hook, get an answering machine, or change my phone number. Even if I feel confused about my abuser and might even miss hearing his voice or talking to him, I do not *have* to talk to him, or to anyone I don't want to talk to. Deciding what I want is new for me, and this includes discovering who I like talking to and who I don't. While I'm healing, it's better not to talk to my abuser or to people who don't emotionally support me. I have the right to talk to people whom I like, people that treat me the way I really want to be treated.
In order to make someone else happy or convince myself that someday my life would, as if by magic, get better, I have put my life on hold. I know now that didn't work. The magic day never came, and I was waiting and hoping for happiness that was never going to come. I am worthy of being happy, of having people love me the way I want to be loved, and of making my own choices about what happens to me. It's my life. Today I take it back.
I don't always get to know why things happen. I may spend hours, even days, trying to figure out why bad things have happened to me. I may get caught up in trying to understand other people, situations, and even my own thoughts. Today I will accept that I don't have to know why things are the way they are. Instead I can pay attention to healing, growing, and learning.
*Acceptance* does not mean that I have to like what has happened to me or that it was ok with me, nor does it mean forgetting or forgiving. It means that I accept the fact that it is happening or has happened. I accept the fact that some people hurt others, but I don't have to like it, and I don't have to be a part of it. Today I will accept the fact that I have been hurt, and I accept the fact that I didn't like it.
Each day I feel stronger and stronger. I am learning how to make decisions that feel right. I can decide for myself what outfit to wear, what to cook for dinner, what movie to watch, or where I will go on vacation. I can do things on my own that I didn't know I could do. I will take a moment now to think of my accomplishments, even of the simplest tasks. I might even write them down so I can read them later.
Domestic violence is more than physical abuse. I used to think that, if I didn't have a black eye or bruises, I wasn't in an abusive relationship. But abuse comes in different forms. It is not okay to hit, push, shove, kick, punch, stab, shoot, cut, rape, throw things at, or bruise your partner. It's also not okay to name call, belittle, threaten, degrade, humiliate, brainwash, coerce, lie to or criticize your partner. Even though the items on the second list do not include acts of physical violence, they are still considered abusive. Today I will realize that any person who has lived with abuse, whether it was physical, verbal, or emotional, has been through a war zone. I can have compassion for all of them, including myself.
Today I celebrate thirty days of taking care of myself. I plan to do something special for myself, something that I will truly enjoy, something nurturing. While my life still has ups and downs, there are fewer downs than there used to be. I know I have a ways to go, but I'm grateful for coming this far and for finding self acceptance and courage in a surprising place.....inside myself.
Today I will try to understand that abuse is not my fault, and that it's not me that's crazy when others treat me badly. Even when they tell me it's my fault or that I'm crazy, I will keep telling myself it's not true. I will keep telling myself I'm not at fault, again and again, until I believe it because it's the truth. The hurt others have caused me is not my fault. I'm not crazy.
Because of all I have gone and am going through, there may be times when I feel like I have little or no energy. During these times I will be gentle with myself. I have been through a lot. I need time to recover. I will remember that having an abuser removed is major surgery of the soul. I need time to heal, and I need rest. It is okay for me to let myself take it easy.
I will hug my children at least two times a day, no matter what. Even when my children are being disruptive and disobedient, I will keep reminding myself that they are in need of my attention and might not know how to ask for it. To the best of my ability, I will show my children I love them by talking to them, listening to them, and being emotionally available to them. I believe that we will get through this......together.
Although he may ask, and although I may be tempted to, I do not have to tell my abuser what is happening in my life. I do not have to tell him where I am, what I'm doing, or how I'm feeling. I don't even have to talk to my abuser at all. I can take time to think about my choices and talk to other women who understand what I'm going through. I do not have to share anything about myself with someone who has a history of abusing others.
Sometimes I feel so guilty that the pain is almost more than I can bear. I might be thinking of how I've exposed myself and my children to the nightmare of violence and abuse. I might be thinking of how I stayed too long before I left. What I have to learn and become comfortable with is the fact that I did the best I could under the circumstances. I was caught in a trap and didn't know how to get out. That was then, and this is now. Today is different, and I can now make better choices. I will keep telling myself that I did the best I could. I did the best I could. I did the best I could.
Some days my life feels so confusing and overwhelming that I think I'll scream. Sometimes life is like moving from one place to another. Whenever I move into a new house, it is unorganized and chaotic until everything gets put in the right place. In life, my emotions and thoughts are often like the new house full of boxes. I am learning how to unpack one emotional *box* at a time, throw out what I no longer need, and put what I do need in its proper place. It's a hard job, but it's all part of the process of taking back my life. When my emotional work gets too hectic, I will remember to keep things simple, to deal with one *box* at a time. Eventually, I'll get through the craziness, and everything will be in its rightful place.
In matters of divorce that involve child custody and visitation rights, there might be times when I have no choice but to see my abuser, talk while he's in the room, or talk directly to him. During these times, I will ask someone I trust to go with me to the appointment. There are agencies that have volunteers available for situations like mine. I don't have to see my abuser alone, and I don't have to talk to him alone. Many agencies or legal officials will hold seperate custody or investigation interviews if I request one. All I have to do is call and make the request by explaining that this is a domestic violence situation. I will plan ahead when I know I will have to see my abuser and not wait until the last minute to ask for help.
People may have said about my abuser, "But he's such a nice guy." It's probably true because one thing that most batterers have in common is the ability to be charming. Many batterers are attentive, sensitive, exciting, and affectionate to their partners when they're not battering them. Batterers can also be of any age, any race, any religion, or any occupation. They may have high or low intelligence, be social or anti social, and often appear kind and loving to those who aren't living with them. Others may think I've been in love with the abuse, but that's not true. I was in love, or may still be in love, with the charming side of my abuser, and it was one of the biggest reasons I stayed. But now I know the truth. All parts of my abuser come in the same package. I can't have the good without the bad. I want a better life now, and I'm going to have it.
Today I promise myself to stay free. Even if I take one or ten steps backward, I will continue with what I've learned. If I call, engage in intimate conversation, or make plans with my abuser, I realize these are choices that are not good for me. If I find myself fantasizing about my abuser, I will bring myself back to the reality of my situation. If I'm unhappy with the progress of my healing, or I can't see any positive results, I trust that someday I will. Like a mountain climber, if I just keep climbing up, eventually I will get to the top.
"Boundaries" are limits I set in my life to let others know what is okay and not okay with me. I probably haven't had any boundaries for a long time, or if I did, I changed them to make other people happy. One of my boundaries is that it's not okay for anyone to hit me. Another boundary is that it's not okay for anyone to call me names or belittle me. These boundaries might have been violated, and I might not have done anything about it. Because I have been abused and my boundaries were ignored for so long, what I will allow and won't allow in my life has become vague and clouded. I will practice setting simple boundaries with myself first. "I don't want to watch this television show", or "I don't want to eat at that restaurant" are good places to start. If I learn to acknowledge and tell myself what I want, telling other people will get easier.
One of the most common questions people ask me is, "Why didn't you leave?" There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, but I don't have to explain them to people who don't understand domestic violence. I may choose to say, "I don't really know, but I am working on it with my counselor" or "It's really very personal, and I'd rather not talk about it." I don't have to feel ashamed of what other people don't understand. No one can make me feel embarrassed about my life because of how *they* see it. What's important is how I see it and what I'm doing about it.
There may be times when I still feel sorry for my abuser. He may remind me of the things that happened in his life that hurt him, or he may blame others in his life for his abusive behavior. He may cry or feel sorry for what he's done. He may beg my forgiveness and ask me to come back. But today I realize that, even though someone or something hurt him, he does not have the right to hurt me or my children.
My family may be difficult to handle after I've left my abuser, especially if they never knew our relationship was abusive. My family, with all their good intentions, may tell me what to do, ask questions, or become critical of my past. They may behave this way because they are abusive too, or perhaps they just don't understand. It's confusing at times, especially when I need my family's support or financial help. I'm not emotionally strong enough to listen to their negative comments. This is the perfect time to find a support group or begin counseling, so I can begin to share my feelings and heal in a safe place. My family may love me in their own way, but I need to be able to talk to people who don't want anything from me. Getting outside help doesn't mean I don't love or need my family; it means I am doing all I can to help myself.
No one has the right to tell me who my friends can be, where I can go, or what I can do. I have the right to make decisions for myself. I am not the property of anyone. Today I will start thinking about things I would like to do, places I would like to go, and people I would like to see. I might not even know what these things will be.....I may never have thought I could dream of such things......but today I will start thinking about them.
There is a *Higher Power* that is greater and stronger than I am. It may be God or any spiritual figure or belief. I do not necessarily have to go to church or be a religious person to believe in a Higher Power. All I have to know is this Higher Power is available to help me. This may be hard to believe because of all the hurtful things that have happened to me. I may feel that I've been ignored, betrayed, or punished for something I did wrong. But I realize these are normal feelings for anyone who has been through a trauma. I feel better knowing that my feelings are normal, but I feel even better knowing I am willing to believe in this Higher Power that loves me.
Today I will believe my children. When they express their feelings I will believe them and won't try to minimize their feelings. If they tell me they're afraid, I will believe them. If they want a light on during the night, I'll allow it. If they have a nightmare, I'll comfort them. If they don't want to go to certain places that feel scary, I'll respect their wishes. I will also respect my own feelings, and I won't try to minimize them. If I want to sleep with the light on, I will. If I feel like crying, I'll cry. We all may be suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, a condition that occurs after a severe trauma or after a long period of unbearable circumstances. If I want to learn more about this syndrome, I will. When my children trust me enough to share their feelings, I will value their trust by listening. Listening doesn't mean I have to fix their problems, it means simply being there emotionally for my children. Today I promise to listen to my children and believe their feelings to be true, because they are.
There may be times when I consider going back to my abuser. It may be because of money, shelter, the kids, loneliness, sex, or jealousy. Maybe I want to help him, maybe I believe his promises. Before I consider *trying again*, I will commit to having no contact with my abuser for two weeks. No letters, no phone calls, no visits. During these two weeks I promise to attend a support group for abused women or begin counseling with a woman who is experienced in the area of domestic violence. Two weeks to make a major decision isn't very long, and I will, at the very least, take this time for myself and my children. If my abuser is pressuring me to hurry and move back in, I will tell him I need two weeks without talking to him in order to decide. I do not promise in two weeks I'll come back... I promise in two weeks I'll make my decision.
Today I will make a list of things I like about myself. I will write about my good qualities and the things I feel I do well. I'll put a date on the list so that in the future, when I read it, I will remember how I'm feeling now. I'll make a new list every 30 days because, even if it seems silly, I realize this is part of learning how to like and appreciate myself.
I have become quite good at blocking out what I don't want to hear or notice. Right in the middle of hearing someone scream, or during a crisis, I can zone out and not hear or see a thing. I have become such an expert at this that, even when not in crisis, I don't hear what other people are saying, including my children. I can be looking straight ahead at the television and not know what I'm watching. This is a survival skill that I acquired in order to protect myself from frightening or potentially dangerous situations. It has served me well in the past, but it no longer serves me. It is difficult to change this pattern, but now that I'm aware of my *zoning out* behavior, I can learn to consciously come back to the real world. Today I will practice paying attention and tuning in to the sounds and events around me.
When I realize that I don't want to be controlled anymore, I become more aware of friends or family members trying to control me. I may even become overly sensitive to their advice or opinions and feel like they're trying to tell me what to do. When this happens I can say, "Thank you for your opinion, but I'm trying to make my own decisions, and I need you to help me learn how." Hopefully, they will hear me and care for me enough to respect my request. If not, I can let them share their opinions, knowing that I don't have to live by their suggestions. If this is too difficult for me, perhaps I can spend less time with these people. Today I will begin to take control of my own life and my own decisions.
When I was with my abuser, I didn't know how common my situation was. I didn't know I was caught in the *cycle of violence*. For the next three days, I will learn all I can about this cycle and try to understand how it occured in my life. The cycle begins with the tension building phase. During this phase I may have a feeling that something is going to happen, or I may notice certain behavior in my abuser. He may be in a bad mood, act more jealous than usual, slam doors or want to be alone, be short of sarcastic in his comments, give me dirty looks, or do something else that sends a message that something is wrong. I may try to comfort him, calm him, or find out what the problem is. I, or the children, may *walk on eggshells* so as not to aggrivate him further or cause any additional problems. We may avoid him or act especially nice, trying to initiate positive conversation as our tension and fear build. This phase can last for a few minutes or it can go on for days. Today I will recall the times when this phase occured in my life. I will write about what my abuser did or said, and how I felt when it was happening.
The second phase of the cycle of violence is known as the acute battering incident. In this phase the actual abuse occurs. The incident can involve abuse as minimal as accusing, name calling, or shouting. The incident can also involve abuse as damaging as intense verbal abuse, slapping, pushing, or throwing objects. In some cases the abuse can be as extreme as punching, kicking, raping, or using a weapon. To say the least this phase can cause severe emotional damage as well as temporary or permanent physical damage, and even death. The incident can happen in a few minutes, but often it lasts
anywhere from two to twenty four hours. Today I will write about the times this phase occured in my life. I will write about what my abuser did or said, and how I felt when it was happening. If this is too difficult for me to do alone, I can choose to work with a therapist or counselor. I do not have to do this all in one day, and I can take as much time as I need to heal. There are no right or wrong answers, nor can I work through my healing process too quickly or too slowly. I will heal at the pace that feels right for me. When my list is complete I can keep it and put it away. In the days to come, if I forget the truth about what happened to me, I can remind myself by taking it out and reading it.
The third phase of the cycle of violence is known as the honeymoon phase. In this phase the incident has ended, and there seems to be a calm after the storm. It can simply be the absence of yelling or hitting, or it can include apologies from the abuser as well as tears, remorse, gifts, promises, and sex. This is usually the time in which the battered woman tries to bargain with the abuser. If he is remorseful she will usually ask for something she wants. She may ask him to stop drinking, stop using drugs, go to counseling, or never abuse her again. The abuser may agree at this point, as he may feel that if he doesn't, she'll leave. The honeymoon phase is one of the biggest reasons why abused women don't leave. They cling to the hope that the relationship will get better, holding tight to the fantasy of a loving relationship as she pictures it in her mind. These women wish desperately to believe their abuser's promises, and most of the time they do, until the next incident occurs. The sad part is that, as the abusive reltionship continues, this phase becomes shorter, less pleasurable, and eventually may become nonexistent. When the abused woman continues to believe and stay with the abuser, he believes the chances of her leaving to be less. The abuse then becomes increasingly violent, and the incidents increase in severity. Today I will write or talk about the times this phase occured in my life. I will remember what my abuser did or said, and how I felt when it was happening. I will write about the promises that were made to me, which ones were kept, and which ones were not.
Today I will accept my circumstances, even if I don't know what's going to happen next or where I'm going from here. I accept the fact that I'm an abused woman, that I've left an abusive person, and that I might not have a clue as to why this has happened to me. I accept the fact that I might not know what to do next. I may not have all the answers, but I do know that I refuse to be abused any longer. I know I'm going in the right direction, and for now, that's all that matters.
Today I'll make a list of things that I would like to do, just for me and no one else. My list can contain things things I've always wanted to do: things that are fun, things that are relaxing, or things I've only dreamed of doing. I am beginning to realize what I want instead of what someone else tells me to want. I'm also beginning to realize that the things I dream of doing can be achieved.
I've learned a lot about domestic violence since I've left my abuser, and I feel excited about my newly found knowledge. I may find myself wanting to help other abused people by sharing my own story. It is very important that, before I do this, I first commit to my own healing. I must work through my own issues of abuse and get to a place of stability, contentment, and peace. When I have accomplished this, if I still have the desire to help other people, I can become involved with agencies or organizations that need my help. I can be a very important asset to other abused people when I do my own work first.
Today I will begin to learn how to love myself. I will begin by simply looking in the mirror and saying out loud, "I am lovable." It may sound silly and feel even sillier, but only because I don't believe it's true. I will practice doing this at least once every day. The more I practice, the more comfortable it will feel. Eventually, I will believe it to be true. I *AM* lovable.
There are days when I feel impatient with the way my life is going. Maybe my emotional healing isn't happening fast enough for me, and I feel angry or frustrated. Maybe I'm having financial problems, or my job doesn't satisfy me. Maybe caring for my children is tiring, or I can't find time for myself. Today I will practice being patient. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to do nothing.....to wait for events to unfold in their own time. I can learn to relax and stop trying to force things to happen. I can't control everything in my life, and today I will stop trying. I don't have to achieve all my goals in one day or even one month. As hard as it may seem, for today, I will be a patient person.
Sometimes I don't feel that I'm getting enough information or personal help from my support group, friends, or family. At times like these I realize that I might need help from a professional counselor or therapist. Today I will find the courage to make a consultation appointment with a female therapist, and I will also remember that the purpose of a consultation is to see whether we can work together. One of the most important questions I will ask a therapist is whether she has experience in the area of domestic violence. If I don't like the first therapist I meet with, I can meet with others until I find one with whom I feel comfortable and safe.
Today I celebrate 60 days of my freedom. It feels so good, yet scary at the same time. The thought of being on my own was always so frightening, but I'm beginning to believe I can do it. My worst day now is better than my best day when I was being abused. If I can make it for sixty days, I know I can make it for more.
As much as I love my children, I cannot provide them with the same help as a counselor or support group of their peers can. My children have different needs for their emotional healing than I have for mine. Perhaps they would feel more comfortable talking to a therapist or support group than they would talking to me. Perhaps they have feelings about me that they won't tell me, but they would rather share with a professional. Today I will make time to look into finding help for my children. I will respect their need for privacy in their own healing. Being a good parent is alo being willing to let someone else help me with my children.
Today I will practice looking at situations and learning the difference between *taking action* and *letting go*. Many times I need to take care of things that seem difficult or overwhelming, and I have to push myself to get them done because I know they are necessary or good for me. This is called taking action. There are other times when I want things to get done a certain way or in a certain amount of time. These things may not be within my control, and I may feel frustrated that I can't change them when or how I want to. This is when it's important to learn the art of letting go, which is usually harder than taking action. I will practice taking action when I need to and letting go of the things I have no control over.
In the United States, over half of the entire female population will experience physical abuse at least once in their lifetime. Of those women, approximately one-third will be battered regularly. Domestic violence pays no attention to income, race, religion, education, age, sexual orientation, or lifestyle. If I feel I'm different from other abused women, I must remember we all experience the same feelings and share a common desire.....we don't want to be hurt anymore.
Today I accept the fact that I have made mistakes. I find comfort in knowing that, in the past, I did what I thought was right at the time. What makes my mistakes seem so bad is that I judge them by what I know today. I know more than I did then, and less than I will tomorrow. I trust that, in the future, I will not make the same mistakes. I have more information now, and I will be able to handle things differently and make wiser choices. I accept myself for who I was then and for who I am today.
I need not feel guilty when I have good feelings or when I feel happy. I may be so used to feeling bad that when I feel good about myself, it feels awkward and strange. Feeling good is okay, and feeling different is okay. When I begin to live without terror or crisis, it may be difficult at first, but after awhile, *different* becomes familiar. I've lived in pain for a long time now, and it's okay for me to like feeling good.
Balance is an important thing to have in my life. I need to have balance between work (any difficult task) and play. I need to know when it's time to stop working and enjoy myself, or when it's time to stop having fun and get down to business. As I learn balance, I may want to make a schedule for myself to see how I spend my time. Helpful tools like this will guide me toward achieving balance in my life.
Being alone has its benefits, but I also need to be aware of when it's time to be with or make new friends. I might be afraid to have a social life because of the betrayal I have experienced in the past. It's okay for me to want to be alone and enjoy being alone, but making new female friends is important, too. I can choose safe places to make friends, like a support group, Twelve Step meetings, church, or class. I can also make new friends without telling them all the details of my life. Today I will ask one woman, who's not living with an abuser, for her phone number.
There is a difference between privacy and keeping secrets. Fifty-seven percent of the women battered by their male partners never discuss their abuse with anyone. My secrets keep me from my personal healing and will continue to haunt me. It's important for me to know where I can share my secrets and feel safe. I don't have to share them with abusers or their friends. I can share in a support group or with a therapist and know these people will respect my privacy. I respect my own privacy by not telling people outside my support group about my past, especially when I first meet them. New relationships are just that... New. I can develop new memories and new experiences by not letting the past interfere. Healthy boundaries include giving the trust in new relationships time to grow by not sharing too much, too soon.
As hard as it may seem, as upset or alone as I may feel, as overwhelmed and confused as I may be, I promise myself not to abuse alcohol or other drugs during this time of healing. Substance abuse won't solve anything or help anyone. Besides, the feelings that I would be trying to get rid of would still be there when the bottle is empty. I can survive this healing process. Even if I don't believe it, I will act as if I believe it and keep telling myself I believe it. I promise myself to get through this healing process clean and sober. If I feel that I need to attend a Twelve Step meeting, I'll go to one. Some Twelve Step meetings are open to women only. I can call Twelve Step groups (their numbers are listed through information) and ask for a schedule of meetings. If I don't think I have a drug or alcohol problem, I will still promise myself a healing process without alcohol or drugs.
Domestic violence and abuse are progressive. Abusers always want more and more control; therefore, their behavior becomes more aggressive or abusive to achieve this. If a relationship is verbally abusive, there's a good chance that someday it will become physically abusive. If a relationship is already physically abusive, there's a good chance the abuse will occur more often and become more violent. Now that I know about the progressive nature of abuse, my belief that *it might be different next time* takes on a whole new meaning. If my abuser has hit me already, the next time he hits me could be worse or even fatal. No battered woman ever said, "My abuser pushed me for twenty years." Today I will look at domestic violence differently. It doesn't get better, it gets worse, and I won't let it happen to me.
Sometimes I feel like I'm competing with other abused women. I may hear or take part in conversations in which women are comparing situations or abusers; "If you think that's bad, listen to this", or "Your husband may have pushed you around, but mine treated me much worse!" This competition doesn't help anyone. We simply want others to know how much we've been hurt; we want to be heard, and we want compassion. There is a way to feel heard without comparing myself to others. Expressing my feelings about the abuse instead of the details of what happened helps me move forward in my healing process. "When he pushed me, I felt afriad, angry and alone" is a healing statement. When I learn to speak in this manner, I find that all abused women have shared the same types of feelings. This helps me better understand other people as well as myself.
Sometimes I feel sad or depressed and think I'm doing something wrong. With all the work I'm doing to change my life, shouldn't I feel happy all the time? NO. Sadness is just as much a part of life as happiness. Just as all the seasons are part of nature, all my feelings are part of me. Would I awaken on a rainy day and refuse to let it rain? Would I claim that I'm going to do everything I can to stop the rain? NO. When it rains, it rains. I accept the fact that there are times when I feel sad. I will let it be a part of being human.
Today I will practice saying no. There have been many times in my life when I have wanted to say it, but was afraid. Even now, I may still be afraid. But I will say it anyway, if no is what I really mean. When someone asks me a question or offers a suggestion, I will stop and think about what I want before I respond. I will practice saying no to myself first. Do I really want to do the favor being asked of me? Is it okay with me that friends come to dinner? Is it good for me to attend a party or event? When I learn to say no to myself in simple matters, it becomes easier to say no to others. There have been times I have went along with others to avoid conflict, or because I didn't know what I wanted. Today I will listen to myself and express myself. I have the right to say no.
It's okay to be compassionate and care about other people. But it's not okay to give up my needs to take care of someone else. When I do this, I am being *codependent*. Today I will learn about this word. I will buy a book about codependency, go to the library and read about it, or attend a support group for women who have this problem. Codependency made it difficult to leave my abuser. Today I promise myself to learn all I can about codependency, but I also realize I don't have to learn it in one day. If this new informations feels overwhelming, I can talk about it in my support group or with my
Today I will practice detachment by letting go of things I can't control. Detachment means standing back and looking at a situation without having a hand in it. Watching fireworks is practicing detachment. Flying a kite is not. Allowing friends the freedom to have their own opinion is practicing detachment. Feeling compelled to change their minds is not. Watching a child create her own drawing is practicing detachment. Holding her hand while she draws is not. I can't control other people, their actions, or their beliefs by forcing them to act or believe as I do. Detachment helps me see the big picture, since I can see things more clearly from a distance. Today, and from now on, I will practice taking care of myself by detaching from people or situations that aren't good for me. Today I will pay close attention to when I am trying to force the issue, and I'll remember that my time would be better spent leaving it alone.
Anger is very common in women who have been abused, especially when they stop blaming themselves and realize what they have endured. If I feel angry, I will allow myself that anger. During my abuse, many feelings stopped working, leaving me numb. Now that I'm recovering from the pain, my feelings are beginning to come back. For no apparent reason, I may feel angry or even start crying over little things. Even though my feelings may be painful or confusing, I'm glad they're returning.
Once I have learned to set my boundaries, others may try to ignore them or accuse me of being selfish. I know my boundaries have been crossed when I begin to feel uncomfortable inside, and I need to pay attention to this feeling. If others are used to relating to me in a certain way, and I'm changing, it usually means they have to change, too. They may resist this change, but I'm not here to make other people happy; I'm here to make myself happy. If I don't want to change my mind about a boundary I've set, I don't have to. Other people will have to learn to live with the *new me*. I recognize this new attitude as a sign that I'm getting stronger every day.