[NOTE: please read the second and third paragraphs from this post before continuing. Important–don’t skip reading them!]
As I explained in my post on flying monkeys, all children of narcissistic parents (including even golden children) suffer in one form or another; but the blatant emotional abuse that the family scapegoat suffers should be self-explanatory.
Now, there’s a variation on the scapegoat that is worthy of special attention: the identified patient (IP). When I first heard of this variation, my eyes widened, for it sounded perfectly applicable to my family situation. As I read more about it, I saw how correct I was to see myself as the identified patient in my family.
The IP is the ‘ill’ member of the family, as contrasted with the ‘healthy’ rest of the family. You see, the family is actually a ‘fully-functioning, loving, and responsible, upstanding pillar of the community’: they just have this one ‘problem’ family member (or members), who embarrass(es) or frustrate(s) the ‘virtuous’ relatives from time to time whenever he or she ‘acts up’. [Translation: narcissists can come together in groups, loving each other (and their leader) as extensions of their own glorified egos, and projecting their faults onto a chosen victim.]
Properly understood, though, the identified patient is not only good for the rest of the family, in giving them an emotional punching-bag that they can take out all their frustrations on; this scapegoat’s ‘sickness’ is crucial to the preservation of the family’s collective false self, for they need someone to project all their pathologies onto. If that one family member isn’t ill, they might have to confront their own collective illness, and that is far too scary to do.
What must be emphasized is that the family doesn’t want the IP to get better, even though they pay lip service all the time to wanting a cure for him or her. If he or she is ‘cured’, then they have no one to blame all their inadequacies on; to preserve the illusion that they love and care for their patient, however, they must always pretend they only want to help him or her.
II: I, the IP
When psychiatrists say ‘identified patient’, they don’t necessarily mean the troubled family member is literally ‘sick’, in some psychiatric sense, though I was quite literally called ‘ill’ by my mother when I was a child. This labelling of the scapegoat tends to be an unconscious act in most families, too; but my mother seemed to be not only conscious of what she was doing to me, but also calculating about it, pre-meditating it.
As a little kid, I went to grade school with other kids, perfectly normal ones who were my age. I read a lot at the time, picture books of dinosaurs, typically, but I was reading, learning the names of the dinosaurs by reading them in the books. There were a few I’d mispronounce (as any little kid might do), such as diplodocus (misread, or so I’ve thought, as diplodocus), but this was proof that I was picking all this up by reading, not having their names read to me.
This all demonstrated applied learning from an early age, yet my mother claimed, based on the results of a mythical IQ test, that a psychiatrist deemed me so mentally incompetent that I was recommended to be locked away “in an asylum and throw away the key!” (my mother’s actual words). Over the past five or six years, I’ve been kicking myself for having taken so long before it finally dawned on me that she was lying about an ‘autism’ diagnosis. (Traumatic bonding tends to cloud one’s judgement in such a way.)
My mother freely admitted that I, as a little kid, attempted to read passages from Time magazine; yet she’d also say, with a dramatic flourish that suggested she was lying, that it had been a “miracle from God” that I had pulled out of an extreme, debilitating form of autism to become a reasonably, mentally competent child! (Never mind that she’d never had a religious bone in her body.)
The alternative (and far likelier) explanation, that I haven’t an atom of autism in me (I scored a mere 13/50 on the Autism Spectrum Quotient), and that I’d never shown signs of mental incompetence, was never admitted to by my great deceiver mother, because I was playing a crucial role in her life, as well as that of my siblings: I had to be the IP, the ‘screw-up’, so none of them had to be.
The autism lie that my mother fabricated for me, and that was backed up by my flying monkey siblings, was something she altered over the years, adapting it to my changing, maturing behaviour. First, I’d come out of the worst of it through a “miracle from God”; then, in my teens, she claimed that people of above-average IQs can grow out of it (whether psychiatrists in the 1980s were actually speaking this way about autism is irrelevant–she was using this idea on me as part of her gaslighting), and she’d say, with an ear-to-ear grin–as if this were joyous news!–that “there are many levels of autism” (which, of course, is technically true, as autism is a spectrum, but what does that have to do with me?), meaning she was free to adapt her lie as necessary; and finally, in the 2000s, she learned about Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), and decided that I have it, with no need to consult a psychiatrist to make sure.
When I was a child, I simply assumed my mother was giving me the straight facts about ‘my autism’. I had no reason to doubt her until my mid-twenties, when I’d gone to see two psychotherapists for a deep depression. I’d been seeing each of these two men, one immediately after the other, over a period of several months. They were watching my body language, mannerisms, and facial expressions; they were hearing my verbal way of expressing myself, my choice of words. They were trained to interpret the meaning behind everything I said and did…unlike my mother.
They both told me they saw no autistic symptoms in me.
Their fallibility or infallibility is irrelevant: doubt–strong doubt–about ‘my autism’ was established.
Still, my mother insisted she was right. Their professional opinion was dismissed outright by my mother, who had no psychiatric expertise whatsoever.
Not only did she insist she was right, though, she persisted and persisted, requiring my absolute acceptance of her amateur opinion. That’s when I started to question her motives. (You see, the notion of ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ really applies to narcissistic abuse, because the nature of the abuse is more in its gradual, cumulative effect, rather than just one or two horrid instances of abuse, as can be the case with physical or sexual abuse.)
I was increasingly getting the creepy impression that she was insisting on the ‘correctness’ of her ‘diagnosis’ not out of her sense of conviction, but out of a wish to impose Asperger’s Syndrome on me. Surely, a reasonable mother, one who truly loved her adult son, would respect his right to have doubts, even if she personally was convinced that I have an autism spectrum disorder. Thus, instead of just arrogantly imposing her will on me (for that’s what she was really doing), she would have taken me, during one of my visits to Canada (I’ve been living in Taiwan since 1996), to a psychiatrist instead.
You see, her ‘diagnosis’ of AS for me was really just a fabrication; no proof had been provided by any independent source. She justified this fabrication by basing it on a TV documentary and a newspaper or magazine article or two (I wasn’t even in the country at the time she’d learned of AS!), doing a superficial comparison of AS sufferers with memories of my childhood behaviour, yet totally lacking the psychiatric training to interpret the meaning of AS symptoms to see if they really apply to me. She also based her ‘diagnosis’ on the one I’d supposedly received as a child.
But here’s the thing: if the AS ‘diagnosis’ was just a fabrication (and without testing me with a trained psychiatrist, it couldn’t have been anything other than fabricated), is it not possible that the childhood ‘diagnosis’ of classic autism was also a fabrication, all a product of her fertile imagination? Was the fabrication of mental disorders a habit of hers? (She imagined my youngest cousin, G., to have AS, too, as I discussed here, and his brother, S., as having schizophrenia.)
My suspicions are no mere fantasy. Those two psychotherapists established more than a reasonable doubt of that childhood ‘diagnosis’. Furthermore, no one other than my Mom (certainly no shrink) ever spoke of me as being autistic, as a child or young adult. I never received autism therapies of any kind. As a teen and young adult, I’d gone to several therapists; but none of the treatment had been for autism. I’d gone to them to help me with emotional problems in general (Gee, I wonder why I’d have had emotional problems back then!).
III: Even If She Was Right, She Still Did Me Wrong
The foundation of my mother’s claim that psychiatrists had diagnosed me with early infantile autism involved my supposedly having scored poorly on an IQ test (as if IQ tests have any kind of binding validity!). Then, she went into dramatics (in themselves suggesting dishonesty on her part, as mentioned above), telling me, a ten-year-old at the time, she didn’t know if I’d even make a good garbageman…as long as I was happy (even if a psychiatrist had actually made such extreme judgements of my intelligence in my early childhood–an absurdly unlikely thing, as I’ve already demonstrated–surely my mother, had she cared about my happiness as much as she claimed, would have had the tact and sensitivity not to tell me such a confidence-killing thing!) This is as dubious a basis for an autism diagnosis as it gets.
Now, here’s another thing: let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that my memories are all out of context and too selective; let’s assume I’ve misinterpreted her intentions; let’s assume the mythical psychiatrists of my childhood did exist, really did say the things she claimed they’d said, and that she’d lucked out about AS, and my score on that autism quiz was wrong. Let’s assume I really have AS, and she’d never lied about autism. I’d still be justified in saying she’d emotionally abused me. Here’s how.
People with autism spectrum disorders are vulnerable. They are easy prey for bullies, with their social awkwardness and eccentric mannerisms, especially in childhood. An autistic may seem self-absorbed and lacking in empathy (traits truer to people with NPD), but it’s not as if he or she enjoys annoying people, as a narc would; autistics simply don’t understand why their narrow, obsessive interests (what they’re truly absorbed in, not themselves) aren’t shared by most other people. An autistic tends to be deficient in cognitive empathy (he lacks theory of mind, and doesn’t understand what others think, though he often cares, or is remorseful if he’s bothered someone), but a narcissist lacks affective empathy (he knows how others feel, but doesn’t care). It is not only wrongheaded to confuse autism with narcissism; it’s also dangerous and hurtful to do so.
Autistics are vulnerable, but narcs prey on vulnerability. If my mother and siblings had truly loved and cared about me, as was so dubiously claimed by her and my sister J., they would have appreciated my ‘autistic’ challenges (assuming that was the true nature of my childhood problems), and they would have been patient with me. The opposite was true: often they would blow up at me over the most trivial things.
Instead of telling my brothers R. and F. and my sister J. to be patient with me, and to be understanding of how hard it is for an ‘autistic’ to relate to the world, Mom rationalized their abusive treatment of me, explaining (if not through shouting, through condescension) that I was such a ‘frustrating’ person that they ‘couldn’t help’ losing their temper with me so often. This was not merely “imperfect” parenting: at the very least, it was irresponsible parenting on a massive scale; at the most, it was emotional abuse.
IV: Rationalizing Irrational Behaviour
I’ll now give you a few examples of my siblings’ viciousness to me, and of how Mom tried to justify it all. Since I focused on R.’s and F.’s nastiness to me in my last post on this subject, I’ll be focusing on J.’s this time.
About 27 years ago, my maternal grandmother died. At the funeral, my sister, J., apart from asking me how I felt about Grandma’s death (it felt as if J. was testing me, to see if I had the ‘correct’ attitude about the family’s loss), and virtue signalling about how ‘hard’ it would be for her to deal with the death (J. had written an essay in university about Grandma’s Alzheimer’s Disease, which was like her dying twice, first mentally, then physically, an awful thing in itself, to be sure, but I suspect J.’s grief was more about impressing Mom and the family than about showing genuine sorrow), she had been nagging me ceaselessly about mostly trivial matters (Had I remembered to thank our uncle for buying us lunch? etc.–remember that I was a young adult at the time). She had no idea of how annoying she was being…nor did she care.
When the funeral was over, and everyone was saying goodbye to each other, J. noticed me daydreaming. She barked–and I do mean barked at me–audibly, so everyone in the area could hear, these words: “C’mon! Say goodbye to Grandpa! Get out of dreamland!” (Somehow, her grief precluded the possibility of gently whispering, ‘Don’t forget to say goodbye to Grandpa.’ I just don’t deserve such consideration.)
Fuming inside, I nonetheless went over to my grandfather and said goodbye to him. Then I went over to J. and said, “I said goodbye to Grandpa!” in a mockingly bragging, but also angry, tone.
She started up with the usual condescending rationalizing about my always being “in dreamland.”
There was no way her words could pacify me (why would they have?), of course, so I continued with my angry complaining about her attitude, which she further tried to justify by talking about how “rude” it is not to say goodbye to people, saying it as if I’d never even heard of the concept of rudeness. (Her barking at me, making me lose face in front of the family, wasn’t rude at all, of course: after all, I was just the idiot identified patient. My feelings didn’t matter one bit.)
When I persisted in my telling her off (something she’d elsewhere, in all hypocrisy, exhorted me to do whenever she or my brothers had taken things too far), she took on her usual, bullying, authoritarian attitude: “You don’t talk to me like that!” she hissed. (Sorry, J., but is there a kinder, gentler way of telling you what a narcissistic bitch you really are, under that fake ‘loving family woman’ mask you wear? I have my doubts.)
I continued with my defiant rage. Then she shouted, “I don’t want to hear it! Get in the fuckin’ car, asshole!”…and indeed, I got in the backseat of the car with her, my parents got in the front, and we drove off.
Here’s where things really get interesting. A little later, the car stopped somewhere, and my mother and I were alone in the car. She turned back and looked at me.
She asked (note her choice of words), “What did you say to your sister to get her so angry with you?”
I don’t know whether Mom came in during the middle of my row with J., or just at the tail end of it, but either way, she was clearly showing her bias in J.’s favour without even knowing what our fight was about.
Mom could have simply asked, “What were you two fighting about?” if she’d come in the middle; or, “Why was she being so verbally abusive to you?” if she’d heard only the end of it.
I tried to explain my side of the story, but of course, there was no hope of my gaining any sympathy from her (Mom who, recall, ‘gave me the most love’.) She then lectured me about why remembering to say goodbye to everyone is vitally important; while treating the IP like complete shit was understood to be perfectly defensible.
The fact that Grandpa–absorbed in his grief, not only from having lost his wife, but also from having endured her Alzheimer’s, and all the frustrations involved with that–probably wasn’t too occupied with whether or not I’d remembered to say goodbye to him, was of little import, it seems. In my family, who jealously guard the collective False Self that is their public image, one must always stand on ceremony, complying with every protocol, or else there will be hell to pay…especially if you’re a ‘lowly autistic’.
Of which I’m not even one, as I later learned.
On another occasion, at home, my mother tried to convince me that all three of my siblings loved me, in spite of the obvious contempt they’ve always held me in. I was about the same age as I was at Grandma’s funeral, twenty-ish. My mother said something to this effect: “Your brothers, with some reservations…”–reservations was said with a tone of exasperation that more than suggested, ‘Yes, we all have reservations about you, Mawr, and we should, because you really are a pain in the ass, and loving you is extremely difficult and trying for us Superior People.’–“…love you. And your sister, with some reservations, loves you. She really does love you, Mawr.” Having heard that speech, I was supposed to be reconciled with all of them, apparently.
Wow, I didn’t know that love is so easily proven: one just has to say the words, ‘We love you,’ and it doesn’t matter how abusive we are to you, physically, emotionally, or sexually, and our love is not even to be doubted!
The fact that, the great majority of the time, all I ever got were the reservations, is again, of little import, apparently.
In a previous post, I gave numerous examples of how mean and abusive my brothers were to me…the reservations. Would you, Dear Reader, like to know how many times R. and F. told me they loved me, over the course of four decades? ZERO.
Granted, I’ve never told them I loved them over those four decades, either, but that’s because I really don’t love them, and I don’t even pretend to. They don’t deserve my love, because they never were true brothers to me: they were and are bullies, and little more than that. Any good they ever did for me, to compensate for their far-too-frequent nastiness, was paltry and insignificant in comparison, at best.
Even when R. let me use his acoustic guitar to learn how to play, it was only because he wasn’t really using it anymore. To be fair to R., he showed me a few tricks, gave a little advice on how to play, but not much more. I’m largely self-taught, having got lessons here and there from people I’d paid for.
He actually once threatened to take the guitar back from me because I hadn’t responded to his clamorous calling from the basement TV room (I was upstairs in the kitchen) to make tea for him (recall that I’d been made, essentially, the family servant, justified by a paltry weekly allowance, so I was obviously getting sick and tired of being the family’s drudge). He’d claimed he wasn’t mad about my not wanting to make the tea, but because I hadn’t answered him: but if that were true, why did he explode into such a rage about it, as if I’d shown him a gross lack of respect? He clearly wanted to intimidate me into continuing to make it for him on future occasions, even as he stood there in the kitchen making it himself on that one occasion, all the while bawling me out for not having snapped to attention.
V: My Loving Sister
Still, I have some grudging respect for my brothers: at least they’re honest about not giving a shit whether I live or die. My mother and J. professed a phoney love for me, even as they played an endless series of mind games on me, assuming I’d never be on to them.
J. loved talking to me in a snotty, condescending tone, as if I were an idiot, without a clue about anything; she’d also hypocritically talk about how important it was to help me build self-confidence! If she and I disagreed about anything, I was assumed to be in the wrong; if I tried to defend my opinions for any stretch of time, I was not only ‘wrong’, but also ‘closed-minded’ and ‘opinionated’. As with narc Mother, the lady doth project too much, methinks. If you’re the IP, however, all of this arrogance towards you has a perfect rationale.
According to J., my grooming is wrong, my choice in clothes is wrong, my political opinions are absurdly wrong, and even my taste in music is wrong. She’d made an epic catalogue of my faults by the time I was a young adult, and that list has continued to grow to this day, no doubt. My strengths, in contrast, are given short shrift, if they’re even acknowledged at all…Still, she “really loves” me!
Yes, Mother Dear, I’ll never doubt your observations!
J. not only disagreed with my musical tastes: she on occasion flew into rages about them, mocked the music to my face (often), or otherwise spoke disparagingly of it in general, which was almost invariably, whenever she heard me listening to it. On at least two occasions, she either turned the music off herself or demanded that I do so, calling it “Shitty music!”
And what was this ‘insane’ music I was listening to? Progressive rock, typically: Yes, early Genesis, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, etc. She especially despises Yes, ignorantly calling their high, three-part vocal harmonies “choir music”; early Genesis “sounds like Yes” she once said with a scowl; King Crimson is “weird”, etc.
When I branched out and tried other musical genres, for example, 20th century classical composers, J. felt this was just a continuation of her aural ordeal. One evening, I was on the sofa in the living room, listening to a record of The Rite of Spring, my all-time favourite composition. I believe I was at the slow introduction of Part Two–The Sacrifice–when J. walked in.
“What the hell is this?” she hissed at me.
“Stravinsky!” I said with a proud smile.
Walking away in a huff, she growled, “Jesus Christ!”
It doesn’t matter if you’re a teenage musician trying to broaden his artistic horizons. When you’re the IP, any musical tastes venturing beyond trendy Top 40 commercial pop is evidence of your growing mental illness.
In all honesty, there are some legitimate criticisms to be made of prog rock, jazz-rock fusion, and other avant-garde, boundary-pushing musical forms. Much of the music of these genres is pretentious, self-indulgent egotism run rampant: musicians showing off how well they can play. On the other hand, much of it is brilliant, too. Whatever one’s views are of this kind of music, though, IT IS JUST MUSIC! If you don’t like it, leave the room, J. If you love your brother half as much as you boast that you love me, J., don’t spoil my enjoyment of this “strange” music just because it isn’t your cup of tea.
Without any feeling that she needed to restrain herself out of consideration for those ant-sized trivialities known as my feelings, J. felt free to insult me to my face, often within earshot of other people, about how my sideburns “looked ridiculous”, or about my “terrible jeans” (i.e., they were dirty), when I’d grown a beard without a moustache (I was 18), she felt an urgent need to ask, “When are you going to shave off that ridiculous beard?”
When I confronted her about the beard insult, she, avoiding my eyes, moped and said, “Sorry. I don’t like it.” Translation: sorry, not sorry.
Instead of simply admitting that she was a proud, narcissistic bitch (which would have been far too ego-crushing for her), she then went on with the usual rationalizing of her attitude. She said, with her typical condescending air, “We [i.e., the family] worry about you.” Then she said something about the family wanting to guide me “based on their experiences.” Of course, I can’t be trusted to learn anything valuable from my own life experiences. The identified patient must have the family do all his thinking for him.
Later, during this row, when I complained of her not allowing me to follow my own path, or be my own person, she dismissed my concerns as “making a big thing out of nothing,” again, pouting and looking away from me, implying a disingenuous denial of the truth. She never could take it as well as she could dish it out.
Emotional abusers’ efforts at invalidation are shameless, in any case.
To end off the row, she couldn’t resist more victim-blaming. She asked, “Why didn’t you ever voice your concerns?”
Not missing a beat, I answered, “Because you don’t listen,” a truth so obvious, she shouldn’t have needed to ask for it, except for her narcissistic cognitive dissonance. I explained further, hitting the nail right on the head (not that she’d have noticed): “Whenever I try to stand up for myself, you say ‘I don’t wanna hear it! I don’t wanna hear it!’ (see above), or ‘Don’t get flippant with me,’ or some other condescending, patronizing remark that really gets me mad! I don’t care if I have the ‘right’ feelings, or the ‘wrong’ feelings. They’re still FEELINGS!”
Her response? “I don’t wanna listen to any more of this,” she said, walking away in a snooty huff.
You’re right, J. I’m making a big thing out of nothing.
You’re right, Mom. J. really does love me…as did you. Where do I get my delusions from?
VI: J.’s Dissing of Judy
J.’s worst act of disapproval of me, though, came many years later, during a picnic with the family back in about 2001. I was visiting Canada, having brought my then-girlfriend (now my wife, Judy) from Taiwan. J. had said in an email that she was enthusiastic about meeting Judy, since I’d told J. how good my sweetheart had been for me. The phoniness of that enthusiasm would be known to me soon enough.
At the picnic, I asked J., “So, what do you think of her?”
J. said, with undisguised coldness and looking away from me, “She seems very nice.” Then she looked at me with a worried frown and asked, “So, are you going to marry her?” Her eyes were begging me not to.
I will never forget J.’s words, or the look on her face.
Judy is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, by far the best thing that’s ever happened to me. J. made it abundantly clear that she didn’t want me to have that happiness. Marrying Judy meant, in J.’s opinion, my staying in Taiwan and never seeing the family again. Ironically, I’m doing just that, but not because of Judy: I could easily have moved back to southern Ontario with her, gone back to school, and found a teaching job there, if I’d wanted to; but that would have meant having those assholes around me regularly, emotionally abusing me for the rest of my life. They are the reason they’ll never see me again, not Judy.
When I was seeing the first of the two therapists in the mid-90s (the ones who told me they saw no signs of autism in me), and I complained of J. to him, he–who normally was quick to point out my projections or evasions of responsibility–immediately recognized her problem as her problem. Frowning, he said, “She wants to turn you into something she wants you to be.” I’d already known that of her for years. He spotted the problem in seconds.
There you have it, Dear Reader: my sister, in a nutshell, as my therapist described her.
So if I am an autistic, my vulnerability, after having been exposed to so much emotional abuse, would have made my emotional scars far too overwhelming to bear. An autistic’s weaknesses in communication and social settings would have made the family’s bullying irreparably damaging. The family’s lack of empathy, and their conniving at my suffering, would still render them guilty, even if ‘my autism’ wasn’t a lie. An autistic shouldn’t be blamed for his social deficits, but an IP is, regardless of whether he has an actual mental disorder or not.
VII: No Good Intent Goes Unpunished
When J. had learned that her husband was terminally ill with cancer, I was prepared to do the right thing and forgive her for what she’d said about Judy at the picnic. I’d married her by then, who upon hearing of J.’s husband’s cancer decided that making a visit to Canada to see him one last time was the decent thing to do. I agreed, and sent my mother an email about our plan to visit.
A few things need to be understood here, to understand just how much my mother’s reaction, given below, hurt so much. I hadn’t all that much money in the bank, so paying for the trip–which would have happened about only a year or so after my previous trip in 2003, when I was steamed at J. for her picnic remarks in 2001, and when I was mad at Mom for her prating about AS–would have broken the bank for me. Still, I was willing to make a great financial and psychological sacrifice for J.’s sake.
Then, my mom’s reply was to spit in my face. I was told I’m too “tactless and insensitive” to be around emotionally vulnerable J. and her ailing husband, so I shouldn’t come. As I’ve explained in previous posts, I was furious in my response, to which she in turn replied with the usual condescending rationalizations, claiming I was only thinking about myself (Wasn’t I thinking about J. and her husband? Wasn’t Judy thinking about them, too, she who was as offended as I was about my mother’s unapologetic rejection of our attempt at love? Had I explained the financial and emotional sacrifice I was prepared to make, she wouldn’t have listened: I knew her too well.)
I have a suspicion that my mother lied to J. and the rest of the family, claiming I’d never wanted to visit, whether originally, or after my mother suggested I attend his funeral. It is true that she’d suggested I attend J.’s husband’s funeral, which I’d declined; but that was only after her initial rejection of our proposed visit–it’s only natural that I’d be too angry to attend the funeral; and after the bad experience of my grandmother’s funeral (see above), it’s all the more natural that I’d want to avoid all family funerals.
But I suspect my mother never told J. about my original offer to visit, and that her claim that the whole family agreed that Judy and I shouldn’t come was a lie. Only Mom didn’t want me to come, and she was projecting her shitty attitude onto all of them (a habit I’d noticed in her over the years, shifting the guilt of her private thoughts onto other people, real or imagined [i.e., the mythical shrinks of my childhood]). Then, when I declined to attend the funeral, I’d be seen as ‘selfish’ before the whole family. (Similarly, when I’d composed a poem and this piece of music, tributes to J.’s late husband, my mother felt they were inappropriate, so the poem wasn’t read at his funeral to compensate for my absence, and in all probability, Mom never gave J. a CD of the music [though she claimed she had]. Naturally: the IP can’t be seen as kind and thoughtful to the family.)
You see, if Mom had sincerely wanted to see me mature and improve, she’d have been happy to have me visit J. and her sick husband, and the family would have wanted to encourage me to think about them more, manifesting this selflessness in more visits. If I’d been “tactless and insensitive”, surely Mom could have just told me to watch what I said, instead of telling me to stay in Taiwan, a rejection any reasonable person would have felt hurt and angry about. Such a rejecting attitude from an otherwise loving mother makes no sense; but from a covertly narcissistic mother, needing me to play the role of IP, it makes much more sense…though it hurts every bit as much.
VIII: How Could Mom Do This to Me?
A loving mother would want to see her son grow and mature into a healthy, happy member of the family, regardless of whether or not he had a mental disorder. That I’d want to believe myself to have no mental abnormalities is perfectly understandable, regardless of whether I’m right or wrong; and a loving mother and family, right or wrong, would want the same thing for me. It’s only natural to want what’s best for ourselves and for those we love. But my mother was determined to ram Asperger’s down my throat, even to the point of risking a permanent rupture in my relationship with her…and the family went along with her, 100% of the way. To wish an illness on one’s son is hardly loving. It’s a truly sick thing to wish for in a family member. She needed me to be the identified patient.
I warned her, repeatedly, that if she didn’t stop harping on and on about AS, I’d stop visiting the family. She didn’t listen. Then, as I reduced communications with her to a minimum in the 2010s, a natural corollary of no longer visiting (it’s called estrangement), she pretended she had no idea why I was being so cold and distant. She knew she’d lied about autism when I was a child; she knew she was biased in R., F., and J.’s favour whenever they bullied me; she knew she’d fabricated Asperger’s for me during the 2000s (always in denial about the fabrication, of course), and hadn’t respected my right to object to her amateurish speculations about my inner mental life. Yet when I’d given her the cold shoulder, I was the one with the problem, not her.
Again, a loving mother, who empathizes with her son, would never dodge responsibility for hurting him, as hard as it might be to own up to that guilt. Narcissists, on the other hand, are known for avoiding responsibility, projecting their vices onto their victims, and playing the victim themselves. This is exactly what she was doing to me as she lay on her deathbed and talked to me on R.’s cellphone (see Emotional Abuse, part 6, ‘Is My Mother Dead?’). Doped up on morphine at the time, she was so committed to her lies that she never let even a hint of the truth slip out.
And R., F., and J. backed her up completely, not even considering my side of the story. I can understand their focus on keeping Mom comfortable during her last moments, rather than on me; but instead of dismissing my side of the story outright, what they could have done was to promise me that they’d hear me out at a more appropriate time. They never promised me such a hearing, because they never intended to hear me at all.
You see, I have to be the IP for them to function as a family. I rebuffed my mother’s victim-playing with these simple words: “You provoked it,” I said softly on the phone, not that she was anything other than deaf to my words as she held R.’s cellphone to her ear. My siblings, her flying monkeys, accepted her version of my conflict with her. A loving family would give both sides of the story an equal hearing. Not to give the identified patient equal consideration makes sense only in a dysfunctional family setting.
IX: Family Pathologies
And our family was, and is, dysfunctional, despite their attempts to make themselves seem loving and healthy. I’ve already explained R.’s teenage troubles: now I’ll tell you about some of F.’s and J.’s problems over the years.
J. got into shoplifting in her early teens, a bad habit she’d picked up from F. (if I understand correctly). I remember her tears when she was caught by a floorwalker in a department store. Needless to say, she never did it again, but what had driven her (and F.) to do it in the first place? A loving family?
I’ve already mentioned her pathological hatred for my musical tastes; and in this post I mentioned those inappropriate games she had me play with her when I was about 8 or 9. Small wonder I regard her posturing as a ‘loving family woman’ as anything but genuine.
During my last visit to Canada in 2008, I was staying at her home for a few days. Her younger son was having trouble with spelling. He was obviously discouraged, but J. reacted to his insecurities with a familiar, contemptuous lack of empathy. Spelling is easy for her and for me, but this shouldn’t blind us to how, for some people (especially little kids!), it isn’t their forte.
She whined about how annoying his discouragement was for her (no doubt increasing his self-doubt); whereas I used my English-teaching experience to teach him some simple phonics rules that he could apply to his lists of spelling words at school. I empathized with him; his mother didn’t.
Because of a medical condition making overuse of her hands painful, she didn’t work; and while I acknowledge that that must have been trying for her, I don’t imagine her sitting around at home a lot making stress a significant factor in her irritability towards her son. He seemed to be just another ‘dork’ to her…as her younger brother was, especially when he was a kid, decades ago.
As for F., who, as I’ve already detailed elsewhere, was the only one of my sibling bullies to get physical with me, when he was failing in community college, he discovered an effective way of dealing with his frustrations: he got drunk, knocked me around, then drove around in the family car and crashed into a telephone pole. Was this a suicide attempt, be it a conscious or unconscious one? Is failing in college a strong enough reason in itself to act in such an extreme way? It could be, if other forms of family pathology had been going on all through F.’s life.
In any case, my mother was naturally upset with him about crashing the car; but when, in a later discussion about the incident with her and J., I mentioned his having smacked me around, those two ‘loving’ family members showed little interest.
As for my late father, his bigotry and ill temper did him no credit at all. He’d go into diatribes, over and over again, about how blacks, Jews, feminists, and “fairies” were the cause of so many of the ills of the world. Dear Reader, I give you my father’s position on communism, and all those who died under it: “Real genocide, not the killing of a few million Jews, who everybody hates, and for very good reason!” My father was Archie Bunker with a Master’s in History. At least Archie’s ignorance was funny: Dad’s was a toxic influence.
Around the late 1980s/early 1990s, he once said, “I’d never want to get married today, with the women the way they are, these career women.” Apart from his psychological self-enslavement to traditionalism, I suspect that his strident anti-feminism came from his personal frustrations with living with my manipulative narc mother. His wish not to marry a strong woman stemmed from an unconscious regret of having married a domineering wife. I deal with the issue of her having emotionally abused him here.
Knowing how impatient and bullying my siblings were to me, I find it easy to believe they’ve been excessively nasty to their own kids, at least from time to time. People’s personalities tend to stay basically the same, unless radical disruptions or traumas occur to shake up the person’s life, as the death of J.’s husband surely did. After he died, I noticed, during my 2008 visit, that the fire in her had blown out; but apart from that, she was largely the same person.
I’ve already explained how ‘trying’ it can be for her to help her son with his homework. Now, to be fair to R. and F., I have no direct proof of either of them emotionally abusing their kids; but I’ve seen a couple of incidents that hint at such a problem.
During my 2003 visit to Canada, at one of those lovely family get-togethers, I saw F.’s son and daughter fighting. My nephew, about ten, got mad at my niece (about twelve) and hit her hard on the back several times with his fist. What provoked that, I have no idea; but I do know how physical F. is capable of being when he loses it. ‘Like father, like son’ doesn’t have to be understood in only the genetic sense. I can only speculate on what goes on behind closed doors in their home.
R. has a Chinese girlfriend, and they live together with her son. Again, to be fair to R., I’d never seen him be nasty to that Chinese teenager (he’d be a young man by now). But at our family get-together in 2008, I saw the boy wander off, not wishing to chat with anyone. Did he dislike all of us for some reason? Had there just been a fight in his home to put him in a bad mood? I’ve discussed R.’s contempt of any straight-A student elsewhere, and East Asian students are culturally geared towards acing tests–I see it all the time here where I live. Had R. been sneering at that boy’s academic success, harming his self-confidence and making him feel like a loser…as he had done to me when I was a teen? Who knows?
X: Scapegoating My Cousins
Then there was the making of IPs out of my cousins. As I explained in my first article on my dysfunctional family, my mother needed to replace me in the role of IP once I’d not only left Canada in 1996, but had decided to stay here in East Asia. She kept me in that role, of course, as best she could; but I suspect she needed others, my cousins L. and G., to fulfill that role there in Canada, physically, before her eyes.
Small wonder she, already having labelled me with AS in the early 2000s, was also snorting with contempt about how L. and G. “were getting really weird!” In my private thoughts, I then imagined her eventually labelling them with AS. I would find out how right my imaginings were by the early 2010s; for she was claiming that she thought G. had AS, right after a crescendo of complaining about his quirky personality, a chilling indication of how she’d most likely been talking about me to R., F., and J., all my life.
There were also claims of G. being schizophrenic, for so did a psychiatrist label him, as my oh-so-reliable mother told me. I’m sure that R., F., and J. uncritically accepted her interpretation of G.’s problems, since mere quirkiness is a sure-fire indicator of AS or schizophrenia (sarcasm), rather than of mere quirkiness.
His brother, S., corroborated the schizophrenia label, but I can’t be too sure of his attesting of this, since a) as a family member who could easily have been just parroting what my mother said (she having manipulated G. and my aunt into believing it, as I suspect), S. wasn’t giving independent corroboration of Mom’s story; b) there could easily be secret animosity between him and G. (S. once freely admitted to joining his brother, L., in bullying G. when they were all kids), giving S. a motive to help spread unflattering stories about G.; and most importantly, c) S. himself has shown evidence of mental illness (paranoid delusions of me and our other former friends in Taiwan either gossiping about him or otherwise persecuting him, probably brought on by auditory and visual hallucinations through excessive substance abuse–LSD, etc.), which makes his testimony about his younger brother especially unreliable.
Later, my mother claimed that a psychiatrist was undecided yet as to whether G. had AS or schizophrenia (two mental disorders so different from each other that it’s odd to imagine a trained psychiatrist imagining ‘One, or the other?’ instead of postulating comorbidity). Then she herself admitted that G. was most unlikely to have schizophrenia, as he wasn’t seeing things, etc. I’d agree with that. She also mentioned how upset G. was when he’d been told he had schizophrenia: I don’t blame him, and I’ll bet she enjoyed watching him get upset. It reminds me of how upset I was when my smiling mother was prating about AS in me, which she also claimed G. has (I suspect, grinning then, too). Hmm…
I’ve also noticed an unsettling pattern: first, she claimed severe mental problems in a targeted family member (classical autism and ‘retardation’ in me, schizophrenia in G.), then mild mental problems (AS in G. and me); was the purpose of this to agitate us, to make us IPs ‘act up’, thus making her fabrications into self-fulfilling prophecies?
When she discovered mental illness in S., she claimed that a nurse had read his email rants and seen “all the signs of schizophrenia” in hm (just from an email rant? Really? No need to examine him face to face?). How long before Mom was to claim S. has AS, too, had she lived long enough? Would L. have been labelled with AS, too, eventually?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, of course, but I could see in Mom’s words a labelling of my cousins as new IPs. She showed enough contempt for them, as evidenced by how quickly she turned on S., never wanting to help him, and getting my siblings to agree with her about what a ‘jerk’ she obviously thought he was for being verbally abusive to me in his emails, something she and my siblings have always considered their job alone.
Yes, Dear Reader, this is my ‘loving family’: here we have S., a family member with a genuine mental disorder, and my mother was content to leave him in the lurch. Worse than that, instead of trying to help him, she started a smear campaign against him to ensure that R., F., and J. would never want to help him.
I should never have forwarded S.’s email ranting about me to Mom, foolishly thinking she’d help instead of using it as proof that S., a new IP, is a ‘bad person’. But again, traumatic bonding will do this to you, make you an even bigger fool than you were before, since you imagine that a liar like her has at least ‘some good’ in her. No, Mawr, there was no Anakin buried under that female Vader.
The irony of all of this is that I did, indeed, help people blacken S.’s name behind his back, as he imagined I would; though I did it unwittingly, to different people, and as a result of his paranoid suspicions, rather than as a cause of them.
And when Mom died in May of 2016, and I–so thoroughly sick of her lies about me, and then about S. and even my aunt, told just the summer before she died, her having played dumb about her lifelong deceit on her deathbed–refused to talk to her again after R. had wished I would (Since when did that liar, even though she was dying of cancer at 77 years of age, deserve my love? She could get plenty of that from him, F., J., and their families!), he found this bitter video I made, under my original name, in 2009, and concluded that I, ever the IP, was a “disturbed individual.”
But, you know what? Let them all think I’m insane. As long as I continue living on the other side of the world from them, I should be safe from their emotional abuse.
I believe that R., F., and J. have inherited my mother’s narcissism, though they have it to a lesser extent than she did. They got it, when they were little, as a result of her dictatorial parenting style, as well as from that of our father. I have no memories of her ever admitting she was wrong, even less so than my dad admitting his own faults. Similarly, R., F., and J. virtually never spoke critically of her, though they often did of our father. In the family’s imagination, Mom has been praised to the point of being just short of canonized as a saint (R. called her ‘imperfect’, a meaningless word: we’re all imperfect, R.!).
Here’s where the family’s collective narcissism comes into play. By doing virtually everything short of deifying her, my siblings are praising themselves by association, by identifying with her. She had a narcissistic False Self of near-ideal motherhood, a notion psychologically beaten into them when they were kids, for none of us dared to be ‘lippy’ with her; so they shared in her false sense of altruism and virtue by introjecting it as their object relation of her. I, despising phoniness, have always hated their masquerade. My refusal to honour their collective False Self, I’m sure, is part of the reason I was made the identified patient of the family.
But again, I say: let them regard me as the IP. Their mutual relations have always been precarious. They are the real losers of the family, not so much me or my cousins, for R., F., and J. have truly lost a lot of people in their lives. They lost not only J.’s husband, our father in 2009, and our mother in 2016, but they lost me (from their own pig-headedness and willful ignorance of the real roots of our family’s problems) when she died of cancer.
They need to maintain their illusion of superiority. If they were to acknowledge my mother’s lying, manipulative ways, it would destroy them. They’d then have to admit to themselves how badly they’d been duped by her. They’d have to face the reality that they never had a healthy upbringing, that Mom loved them only to the extent that they gave her narcissistic supply. They’d also have to acknowledge how unjust they’ve always been to me.
Facing such horrors would devastate them. Their whole world would be turned upside-down. It would cause them unbearable narcissistic injury. In the long run, however, if they were to fight their way through all that grieving, as I’ve been doing, they just might build a basis for being reconciled with me; for I will be reconciled with them only if they no longer pretend that I’m the only family member with personality problems.
Such a ‘miracle from God’ will never happen, though. R., F., and J. are far too invested in the ‘superior R., F., and J., inferior Mawr’ myth. Why give up flattering themselves at my expense, since it’s ‘worked so well’ for them in the past? It’s so much easier to dismiss what I’ve written here as nonsense from my ‘diseased’ imagination that admit to even the smallest grain of truth in it.
Their beliefs about the family, and my place in it, are like a religion for them: they prop my siblings up and give their pain meaning, and so they cannot be questioned, but rather accepted on faith. R., F., and J. will never believe their ‘idiot autistic’ brother, because it’s easier to believe I actually am an idiot than to believe our mother just told them I am one, in order to cover up for her lies, in case I, one day, were to expose the fraud she’d always been.
Believe the lies, R., F., and J. Flatter yourselves. Whatever will help you sleep at night.
But if you three were to read these blog posts, then dismiss them all as BS?
Well, let’s just say that you three have your story, and I have mine.