No Empathy

I: Introduction

Narcissistic mothers are notorious for having, among other vices, a lack of empathy, or at least a deficiency in it. While, as I’ve said before, I don’t know for sure if my late mother had narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), she definitely lacked sufficient empathy, as I’ll try to demonstrate in the following paragraphs.

When my mother was dying in a hospital from a metastasized breast cancer, and everyone else in my family in southern Ontario, my eldest brother R. in particular, was there with her, doing all they could to comfort her and love her during her painful last moments on this earth, I–living on the other side of the world in East Asia–showed no empathy whatsoever.

If you didn’t know my story, you’d probably be thinking of me as heartless and unfilial. If you do, on the other hand, know my story–as R., my other brother F., and my sister J. might have known, had they not been so willful in their ignorance of what had really been going on between Mom and me, from the 1970s right up to the 2010s–then my lack of empathy would be properly understood as nothing more than a reaction to Mom’s lack of empathy for me all those years…her own bad karma, finally thrown back into her face.

The family’s main complaint against me, which is also their rationalization for bullying me during my whole childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood before I left Canada, is that I never show any caring towards them. But caring is a two-way street, and bullying is the opposite of caring. The ‘caring’ Mom and J. showed me was more apparent than real (at least R. and F. were honest in their total lack of concern for me).

As I have explained in previous posts (links above), my mother rationalized almost all my siblings’ bullying, minimized its impact on my life (loss of confidence, anxiety, depression, anger issues, social withdrawal, etc.), and invalidated my complaints to her about R., F., and J., almost every time the bullying occurred (my siblings, of course, did the exact same rationalizing, minimizing, and invalidating of their own–and Mom’s–bullying of me). Mom’s own gaslighting of me, which happened throughout my life–right up to her death!–only more thoroughly showed not only her lack of empathy for me, but, if anything, her outright antipathy for me.

I’ll now give you a number of examples of this callousness.

II: Early Abuse, Stimming, and Being Grabbed

In my first post about my family, aptly called Emotional Abuse, I mentioned a vague memory from back when I was about three or four years old, being confined in my bedroom at night. I remember at least two occasions of this: one time, I was locked in my room; the other time, the door was roped closed so I couldn’t get out.

OK, I understand that locking a child in his or her room is far from universally condemned by parents, and sometimes it’s considered necessary in extreme cases; but roping the door shut? What if there’d been a fire? It would have been difficult to untie in an emergency, so the pros and cons–i.e., preventing me from wandering around the house and accidentally injuring myself, vs. being in a fire, or not being able to use the bathroom–could have gone either way. The jury is still out on whether my parents were being in any way deliberately abusive, or just finding the simplest way to keep me out of trouble; but given what I know of my mother later in life, I find that the pendulum tends not to swing toward the latter explanation.

I don’t know whether it was my father or my mother who confined me on those early nights, but I do know that it was my mother who justified doing that to me, bizarrely claiming (remember, from my previous posts, her habit of fabricating indulgent, even elaborate, mendacities) that I had a habit back then of crawling outside and playing in the middle of the street (Could I have actually been going into my parents’ room and disturbing them in their sleep?)! She didn’t seem to care that confining me in my room undoubtedly traumatized me (if she didn’t care about all the later emotional abuse, why would she have cared about how I felt, a three/four-year-old isolated and locked up in my room?).

Indeed, unable to sleep, as has been typical of me for most of my life, I knelt in front of my locked bedroom door and rocked back and forth, frowning and rhythmically chanting, “Open up the doorrrr…” over and over again. This rocking back and forth was a childhood habit of mine, one of a few examples of stimming (self-stimulating) that I used to do.

Now, stimming is typically associated with (but by no means exclusive to) autistics, and if you read my other posts (links above) on my emotionally abusive family, you’ll recall that I proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that when my mother claimed I have an autism spectrum disorder, she was lying through her teeth.

In fact, I recently did the Empathy Quotient, designed by Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen, who’d helped devise the Autism Spectrum Quotient test I did, on which I got a score [13] far lower than the minimally autistic level [26-32]; as for the empathy test, I scored 41 out of 80, comfortably above a score of 30 or lower, which indicates an autistic lack of empathy; so even with my relatively low empathy, it’s once again confirmed that I don’t manifest even the mildest of autistic symptoms.

It would be more valuable to determine my purpose in stimming than guess if it indicates autism or not. Many people do it as a form of emotional regulation (e.g., relieving stress, overcoming boredom or fatigue, etc.). I believe I rocked back and forth (not all that often) as a child to soothe and calm myself, as I had those nights when my bedroom door was locked or roped shut. As a kid, and up through my adolescence, I lay in bed and hit my head against my pillow over and over until I fell asleep. I believe this was a ritual to help me deal with my sleeplessness, which shouldn’t be too hard to believe, given my early confinement in my bedroom, and the trauma I experienced from that.

The difference between autistic and non-autistic stimming is the severity of it, and whether or not it interferes with one’s day-to-day life. My stimming, which all ended more or less when I’d become an adult, couldn’t possibly have been all that severe or frequent, for if it had been, I would have a plethora of painful childhood memories of being mocked by my classmates and other people.

I recall only one time when a classmate mocked my habit, at the time, of excessive blinking. Only that one time. Had I been blinking or rocking much more often, people would have made fun of me for it regularly. They didn’t.

Furthermore, when I was seeing those two psychotherapists (who, as I explained in previous posts, said they saw no signs of autism in me), I must have been stimming at least a bit; so whatever stimming I’d been doing in front of them, they must have deemed it non-autistic.

The more typical autistic stims, such as hand-flapping, I never did. My more moderate stimming was a kind many non-autistics have been noted as having done throughout their childhoods and adolescences, until early adulthood. My mother would have had to look elsewhere than stimming to prove I have an autism spectrum disorder.

Her claiming I had such problems was not a reflection of her ‘loving’ solicitude over my well-being, as she and the family would have had me believe; rather, they were a reflection of her wish to stigmatize me as “different” and somehow ‘behind’ everyone else. Such is not an empathetic attitude. A truly loving mother wants all her children to feel loved and included in their family and society. Mother was aiming at the opposite for me. It was always tacitly understood in my family that ‘autism’, or ‘Asperger’s syndrome’, is a clinical-sounding euphemism for fuck-head.

One thing she used to do when I was a little kid was grab me by the chin and say, “Look at me when I’m talking to you!” Years later, she claimed that a woman working at the West End Creche, a kind of pre-school/nursery school (Mom spoke of the place as one for autism therapy, a dubious assertion if you ask me) I’d gone to during those early years, recommended using such firmness with “autistic” me (I have no memory of anyone other than Mom grabbing my face like that). Why any reasonable childcare worker would recommend such rough treatment for a toddler, merely because he was inattentive, is beyond me.

(Mom claimed that when the childcare worker asked her how I was doing at home, Mom growled that I was “a little brat!”, because I no longer had the preferred docile, compliant attitude I’d had before the childcare worker had been ‘treating my autism’ [which I’m convinced the childcare worker wasn’t doing at all]; the woman apparently was delighted to know of my defiance of my mom. I find it safe to assume that my mother was just trying to cajole me into reverting to a state of docility to please her. Note also the contradiction between Mom’s claiming the childcare worker had, on the one hand, recommended grabbing me by the chin and demanding I obediently give Mom my undivided attention; and had, on the other, approved of my ‘bratty’ defiance of Mom. Lies, lies, and more lies, Mother dear.)

Placed within the context of her autism lie, Mom’s grabbing me by the chin, and commanding me to look at her when she was talking to me, was really just another exercising of her dominance over me. She often projected her fabrications and manipulations of me onto other people (e.g., it was a psychiatrist, rather than her, who said I ought to have been locked away in an asylum; my aunt said I’d sent her “over-the-top emails” and claimed I must have been a “burden”, rather than Mom saying all that herself), so I find it easy to believe she’d ‘self-recommended’ handling me roughly and angrily ordering me to pay attention to her, rather than a childcare worker whom I remember, if vaguely, as being a much nicer lady than that.

Speaking of grabbing, my mother did quite a bit of that over the years. On one occasion, wen I was about eight or nine years old, I was being bullied by some of the kids among our neighbours; I was standing before the front door of our townhouse as these kids were yelling and laughing at me, and my mother could hear the racket.

What was her way of dealing with the problem?

Did she come out and stick up for me?

Of course not.

She grabbed me by the arm and yanked me into the house.

Those kids must have gotten a good laugh out of that.

I sure as hell didn’t.

In a previous post, I mentioned her tendency to grab me by the ear and lead me wherever she wanted me to be. One time, when I was a teen, she did it because she was angry with me for being late for work in our restaurant and, instead of starting right away with washing the pile-up of dishes, I’d helped myself to some breakfast. Two other times, she grabbed my ear, with lots of people there to see my humiliation, for her sheer amusement. Note her interest in controlling my body (locking me away, grabbing me) as a parallel to controlling my mind (locking me away in an asylum for ‘my autism’, or locking me away in a psychological prison of self-doubt).

III: Stifling My Growth and Confidence–Mother’s Mind Games

Indeed, the whole point of the autism lie was to control me. When she first started talking about ‘my autism’ with me, I was starting to get As in school. I would have been about nine or ten years old. I was just starting to build confidence in my intellectual abilities, and her idea of congratulating or encouraging me was to say what a “miracle from God” it was that I’d pulled out of an extreme state of “autistic” mental incompetence to become a reasonably intelligent child! Talk about the backhanded compliment of the century.

As a kid, I’d been going to elementary school with normal kids for as long back as I can remember (i.e., all the way back to primary school): I never shared a classroom with mentally retarded kids at any time during my early childhood (those kids were always in special ed classrooms, rooms separate from mine); but my mom claimed I’d been examined, for a mere five minutes, by a psychiatrist who supposedly gave me an IQ test I’d scored poorly on (anybody who knows anything about IQ tests, especially psychiatrists, knows they don’t carve your intelligence in stone), so I, apparently, was deemed retarded.

She spoke as if she believed this mythical shrink’s evaluation of me, then claimed a “miracle” pulled me out of it, instead of surmising the obvious…that I’d never been retarded to begin with. How does the following exemplify the attitude of an empathic, loving mother: telling me it was doubtful ‘if I’d make a good garbageman’; that the shrink recommended ‘locking me away in an asylum and throwing away the key’ (something no sensible psychiatrist would have said of an autistic in the 1970s, after such therapies as Applied Behaviour Analysis had already been developing); or wondering how my aged parents would be able to take care of “a forty-year-old moron”? Even if such an implausible early childhood of mine had actually occurred, an empathetic mother would never say such things, let alone repeatedly, and in so graphic and vivid a way.

On other occasions, she spoke of how she knew I was intelligent even back then, thus flatly contradicting her pessimistic assessment of my childhood intelligence; this changing of her story, which often happened over the years, indicates not just the possibility, but the probability, that she’d been lying to me.

She wasn’t the only family member to discourage me from doing my best at school: my envious brother, R., also did. In his early 20s at the time, R., the “more mature” bully (as my mother deemed him) had a totally childish attitude to my then-growing academic success. His belittling of me (remember the ‘dork’ jokes I constantly had to endure during my teen years) was based on his resentment over our father favouring our sister J. and me over him, because we’d gotten better grades at school than he (R. used to berate her, too). He confessed his motive to me in a rant one afternoon after I, about fourteen, stood up to him for going too far with his bullying. (Remember: going too far was a habit with these people.)

His contention that those who get high marks are “absolute idiots” (i.e., in everything other than doing well at school), an obviously biased ego defence against the apparent family belief that he was “the idiot of the family” (Did Mom ever tell you, R., about my mythical IQ score?), had a most harmful effect on my already-fragile self-confidence at the time…I, an impressionable teenager who had been enduring our Mom’s BS about autism, as well as bullying from the family, the neighbourhood, and school.

My motivation to study hard dropped, and so did my grades. Granted, I have to take some responsibility for letting my grades slip a crucial 5-10% on average, but R.s snark was hardly a help to me. And my siblings wonder why I want nothing to do with them.

One thing Mom used to do, back in the late 70s when I was about 7-9 years old, was present a bag of something she’d bought for me while shopping. She’d look me in the face with wide eyes, make a backwards “Whoosshhhh” sound, as if she’d bought me something wonderful, like a toy, then she’d take what she’d bought out of the bag.

It was a pair of pants.

Naturally, my expression of hopeful excitement would change to a slouch of disappointment. Granted, one should be thankful for anything one’s mother has bought, but why the need for that build-up (and inevitable let-down)? Was Mom expecting narcissistic supply in the form of histrionic thanks? Or was she just trying to play mind games with me for her personal amusement, then my (deliberately provoked) look of disappointment would be narcissistic injury for her, giving her a pretext to want to get back at me…with such things as…the autism lie?

IV: Excuses Never to Empathize with Me…Even Fabricated Ones

One notable incident with my mother was one time, when I was ten, I’d been riding my new bike with a few friends; then, approaching a descending slope to a park, I lost control, went down the hill and fell off the bike.  I went home crying. Mom treated my cuts, to be sure (a nurse, she always took excellent care of physical problems), but she explicitly said she wouldn’t give me any sympathy because, apparently, I’d been “showing off” on the bike (she typically exacerbated emotional problems).

Oh, really, Dear Mother? Were you there, an eyewitness to the accident (no), or were you at home, blocks away from it, and therefore with no possible way of knowing whether or not I’d been “showing off” (yes!)?

Her “showing off” excuse for feeling no empathy for me was a complete fabrication, an out-and-out lie. She didn’t give me any sympathy because she didn’t want to. (Remember: during those years, she’d given me “the most love”, as she told me on R.’s cellphone [Part 6, ‘Is My Mother Dead?’] while she lay on her deathbed…with R. sitting by her and hearing, and believing, her bullshit.)

I’d had to argue and argue with her that I never tried to impress my friends on my bike before she finally relented. But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I had been showing off when I fell and hurt myself: why would I not be deserving of sympathy? I was just a kid! Kids do foolish things from time to time, they let their pride get the better of them, and bad things happen; but when they make these mistakes, shouldn’t their parents tell them that it’s a lesson to be learned, instead of shaming them?

All my mother was doing was trying to justify why she’d refused to give me love: treating my cuts was just a chore for her. As was so often the case, I was just a job to be done. (But remember, she gave me the most love!)

This “showing off” fabrication of hers, along with the lie she told–about 8-10 years later–about my having “told off” my cousin G. for swearing in our restaurant, was one of the incidents that made me begin to suspect that indulgent, needless, and malicious lying was a habit of hers.

V: No Empathy Leading to Lots of Antipathy

I’ve already mentioned, in previous posts, her lack of empathy for me on almost every occasion when R., F., and J. went out of their way not only to bully me and verbally abuse me (usually only over minor things I’d done to annoy them), but also to ridicule me, belittle me, and humiliate me, all for the sheer fun of making my life miserable. I believe her lack of empathy spilled over into outright antipathy…not just for me, but for them, and for others in the family, too.

As I’ve mentioned before (Part 4–Abusing My Cousins), I have good reason to believe Mom not only bad-mouthed me (in virtually the same way she’d trash-talked my cousin G.), to R., F., and J., but also aroused jealousy in them by lying that she preferred me to them (an absurd idea, given J.’s golden child status, as well as the moderate golden children R. and F. were to Mom), thus giving them a motive to bully me. That isn’t just a lack of empathy in Mom…it’s outright malevolence.

Mom got a kick out of stirring up hate and conflict in our family. I saw evidence of it in her bashing of my cousins, first L. and G., then S., the very second she had proof of the latter’s mental instability from an email rant he’d sent me, of his paranoia of me supposedly gossiping behind his back to our former teacher friends here in Taiwan (my forwarding of his email to Mom, naively hoping she’d want to help him, but really just aiding her in her gossiping, is something I now deeply regret, for ironically, it means I had, however unintentionally, helped people bad-mouth S.!). Mom didn’t want S. to be my friend, so she made not even the slightest effort to help him get the psychiatric help he needs; she preferred the idea of him going through the rest of his life, blundering about in his delusions, to the possibility, however small, of him getting better and being my friend again.

She not only tried to nurture the bad blood between S. (up till his breakdown, my one good friend here where I live) and me, but also tried to stir up bad feeling [Part 5–More Elaborate Lies] between my aunt and me when I tried to get S.’s mother to help him. More fool me. Sowing division in our family was Mom’s modus operandi.

She knew my brothers and sister were bullying me. With her authority in the family, the respect she commanded from all of us, a commanding that could make our legs shake, she could have nipped my siblings’ bullying of me in the bud, in the blink of an eye. Had she truly loved me, truly empathized with me, she would have stopped the bullying. She didn’t. It’s not that she couldn’t have: she didn’t want to.

If autism had really been at the root of my social problems, those that were so ‘frustrating’ to everybody, she would have sympathetically explained this to R., F., and J. (“Mawr has a mental condition! He can’t help it. Go easy on him.”) I’m convinced that not only had she never thus explained my problems to them, instead, she described my faults in the most unsympathetic language imaginable. That’s how she talked about G., whom she also speculated had Asperger’s syndrome; why would it have been any different with me? She bad-mouthed me to my face a number of times, as, of course, my siblings did; doing so behind my back would have been all the easier. R., F., and J. would have eagerly contributed to this bad-mouthing me behind my back, as I’m sure their kids do, too. F.’s son mouthed me off to my face at one point during my 2008 visit; the boy barely knew me (I’d moved to Taiwan when he would have been too young to remember me, and after that, I’d made only a few brief visits.)…all he knows about me is what the family has told them.

“Mawr’s ‘autistic’, so he’s selfish. He’s ‘autistic’, so he’s going to be a real burden to take care of. He’s ‘autistic’, so he’s irritating and annoying. He’s ‘autistic’, so he’s an idiot,” etc. These quotes are speculations, of course. I don’t know exactly what words she used, because she made sure I was never in the room to hear her smear campaigns against me.

But however it was said, that was the message she must have conveyed to the family, starting from my early childhood, for my mere boyish awkwardness alone couldn’t have been enough to inspire so much contempt from people who supposedly loved me, in spite of my faults.

To be fair to her, there were a few occasions when she came to my aid: she once told off a bully in the neighbourhood who used to chase me around, shouting, “Leave him alone!” two or three times after he denied doing anything to me (I was 8 or 9); at about the same age, I accidentally caused F. to spill his hot tea on his lap, and he threw the rest of the scalding tea on my back as I ran away, making me scream and cry, and Mom scolded him, saying, “You could have burned him!”

Consider, however, how extreme F.’s behaviour had to be before she’d stand up for me, as she had on another occasion when he stole my wallet when I was about 20 years old. He did this in reaction to my ‘inconsiderate’ behaviour during R.’s wedding (not using my own toothbrush when I was staying at someone else’s home, not buying a gift for R. and his bride [I was hardly making enough money at the time for that], and not making myself available, as a member of the wedding party, for the wedding photo [J. took me away in her car from the party to lecture me about ‘being considerate’ to others {i.e., my lack of a gift}, so my unavailability was hardly my fault!]). When F. gave me back my wallet, he proceeded to lecture me about the importance of thinking about other people. I’m not sure that stealing my wallet did much to inspire selflessness in me, F.

Speaking of the need for selflessness, consider how, normally, older brothers are supposed to help their younger siblings against bullies, something neither R. nor F. ever did, not even once; and I was getting bullied at school regularly, too, just as I was at home. Of course they had no interest in helping me with that problem; for if they had, my growing confidence and assertiveness would have caused the five people I grew up with to lose their power over me. Why would bullies at home want to help you against bullies at school?

Mom’s lack of empathy wasn’t limited to her attitude towards me. I’ve already mentioned her contempt for all my cousins, and even her wish to turn me against my aunt. In this post, I speculated about the hand she must have had in driving then-teenage R. to leave home, due to an otherwise mysterious escalation of his fighting with Dad over something as relatively trivial as his bad academic performance.

I often found it striking how emotionless she seemed over things painfully affecting people, either me or others. One time, she mentioned how her mother had married my step-grandfather, not out of love, but just to have someone to provide for her (this would have been back in the 1940s/1950s). I wonder how he’d have felt if he knew; I don’t think my mother ever wondered, for she showed no disapproval whatsoever for my grandmother’s attitude.

On the other hand, Mom would sometimes have a twinkle of happiness in her eyes at inappropriate times, too. She had such a look on her face one day, when the subject of my large book collection was raised. I was in my early 20s, I think. She said, “[J.] says you have all those books on your shelves to look impressive to everybody.” Apparently, I was “showing off” again.

Whether J. really said that (she is enough of a snotty bitch to think that of me), or Mom was making things up again (projecting her shitty attitude onto others again), I do not know. It’s pretty clear to me now that she probably told me in order to stir up more resentment between J. and me. That look in her eye: she enjoyed telling me that.

VI: Mom’s Non-empathetic Prating about Asperger’s Syndrome

The following was her most recent, and among her worst, non-empathizing with me.

When she’d been prating on and on about “my Asperger’s” syndrome, I tried to impress on her, during a 2003 visit to Canada, how awful it feels to go through life being stigmatized as abnormal; she reacted as if I’d said nothing. I got the same blank reaction five years later, during my next…and last…visit to Canada when I said that, if I’d never moved to East Asia and she’d pinned the Asperger’s label on me, without having developed my self-confidence as an English teacher and as a married man, I’d probably have committed suicide.

Later, during the same 2008 visit, I’d been having some difficulties with my wife, who’d been visiting with me, and who was also mad at me about something, and thus giving me the silent treatment. I felt helpless in trying to make her feel better, and so I went to my mother in the hopes that she’d have advice for me. When I approached her, instead of seeing a frown of motherly concern and empathy for her son, I saw that old Cheshire Cat smile again, that inappropriate twinkle in her eyes. She seemed happy to see me all emotionally needy, and therefore dependent on her. She had control over me again…or so she thought.

Victims of narcissistic abuse often complain of how frustrating it is to have to explain to their narcissistic boy/girlfriends, spouses, or parents, what empathy and common decency are; but this was just the frustration I’d been going through trying to get my mother to stop ramming Asperger’s syndrome (AS) down my throat. When she first brought it up in an email message, I dealt with it gently.

But she wouldn’t stop bringing it up.

Soon after, she’d sent me an online article about a young man with AS, his experiences of having been bullied, and how he perceived the world “differently” (I know my mom interpreted “differently” as wrong, for that’s how she and the family always ‘interpreted’ my perception of the world). I sensed that she meant for me to believe that the awkward man in the article was a double of me. Naturally, I resented that.

I again replied as gently as I could, but also firmly, saying I wished she’d stop discussing AS with me, for it “makes me unhappy”. I wanted to stop focusing on my past, and look into the future instead.

She stopped…for a little while.

One way I tried–subtly–to get her to stop it, was to stop my, at the time (early 2000s), almost weekly phone calls home to her. She never took the hint, though, and continued looking for opportunities to bring up AS again.

When I reminded her about the two therapists I’d seen back in the mid-90s, the ones who told me they saw no autistic symptoms in me at all, she dismissed their professional opinion as if her amateurish one was much better informed. Those psychotherapists made me feel freed from the stigma of mental abnormality…and Mom was trying to take that liberation away from me.

When J.’s husband was discovered to be terminally ill with cancer, and Mom rejected [Part VII: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished] my wish to go over to Canada and visit, that was the last straw: you don’t make a family member feel as though he were persona non grata, even if he puts his foot in his mouth occasionally (Did I even put my foot in my mouth?); you gladly invite his visit, but tell him to watch his words, instead.

My furious response was to try to get her to understand how much it hurt to know that the family regarded me as “an incomplete human being, an overgrown child with stunted emotions.” That email, and others sent during the mid-to-late 2000s, involved my strenuous attempts to get her to understand how hurt, alienated, and lonely I’d always felt from her constantly making me feel “different” (her word, cooed with utter condescension on the phone one time).

I never needed to get her to understand, though. She knew how I felt. She’d always known.

She just didn’t care.

Remember, she often smiled when talking about ‘my autism’. She liked making me feel alienated.

After I’d complained repeatedly about her attitude, she complained to J. about mine. Naturally, J., the golden child, Mom’s number one flying monkey, took her side 100%, then sent me a blunt email, telling me to “let this go.” She also made sure to tell me not to respond to her email.

Now, I can understand J. not wanting to read a long email rant from me, explaining my side of the story (as I inevitably would have responded, had she allowed it), but the point is that, in any family dispute, it’s only fair to hear both sides of the story. Remember that my siblings have no more empathy for me than our mother had; that’s why they can’t reasonably expect me to empathize with them any more than I pitied Mom when she was dying. Empathy is a two-way street.

VII: Conclusion

Apart from what I’ve repeated here from my other posts on my family, what I’ve said above may not sound all that bad. Just remember these ‘minor’ offences in the context of my mother’s eight outrages, as I call them:

  1. The original autism lie, with all the melodramatic nonsense of my ‘infantile retardation’;
  2. Mom’s indulging and winking at my siblings’ bullying of me;
  3. Her explosive anger, usually over minor offences of mine;
  4. Her perpetuation of the autism lie, through her fabrication of Asperger’s (AS);
  5. Her rejection of my wish to visit Canada when it’s ‘inconvenient’ for the family, coupled with the family’s demand that I be involved with the family when it is convenient;
  6. Her bad-mouthing of G. behind his back, and saying he has AS, implying she bad-mouthed me in the exact same way;
  7. Refusing to help S. get psychiatric help, even if his mental instability could lead to him attacking me or my wife;
  8. Her string of seven lies to me, the summer before she died, about S. and my aunt, all to work me up, sow division between the two of them and me, and all so Mom could get narcissistic supply…and then never admit to any of it while lying on her death-bed.

Forgive me, Dear Reader, if I seem guilty of “keeping score of others’ wrongs”, as it says in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, verse 5, or of ‘injustice collecting‘. I am far from perfect myself; indeed, I do have a lot of faults that were legitimately irritating to all of my family, including my late mother. I’m often a selfish prick who tries people’s patience, but a person’s right not to have to endure emotional abuse needn’t be dependent on his having a minimal, insignificant number of flaws. As for any flaws of mine that seem to go beyond what’s reasonable for most people, well, refer back to Mom’s eight outrages above, and consider their impact on my development as a human being.

I don’t fault my family with being angry with me…as they often had good reason to. I do fault them with consistently dealing with their frustrations in the most abusive way possible. (My wife, who is often mad at me about all kinds of things, usually just gives me the silent treatment–she virtually never yells at me, let alone shouts cruel four-letter slurs at me. This is proof that flying off the handle is not the only way to deal with me.) Also, as I’ve said before, while my family was far from always bad to me, it’s just that their good sides weren’t enough to compensate for the bad.

I call my provocations of their anger minor, not because I never really did anything bad, but because their reactions to my faults were so often totally out of proportion with what I’d done (e.g., R. shouting “Asshole!” at me, a teen, for accidentally hurting our dog, instead of just telling me firmly to be careful when playing with her; F. stealing my wallet, as described above; on another occasion, when I was about 17 or 18, F. verbally abused me twice–shouting four-letter word after four-letter word at me, and even threatening to throw me outside in the snow–for having neglected to let our cat in the house over a freezing cold winter night, even though I checked for myself the next day, and the cat was fine, not even sick.), that it makes you wonder what their real motives were for getting so infuriated.

And if I’ve been immature, so were all of them…quite often. There’s nothing mature about bullying a little kid, through his adolescence and young adulthood, hurling insults and put-downs at him, almost every day, just for fun…a fun they often gleefully admitted was their motive.

The worst thing of all–and this applies to recent years–is how R., F., and J. uncritically accepted every piece of nonsense Mom told them about me and everyone in the family, including always taking her side when I was having my arguments with her, starting in the early 2000s, right up to her death.

And a mother who lies to her family, not just a few times out of expediency, but as a way of life, has given up all moral authority over her family, as her all-too-credulous flying monkeys, my siblings, have given up all of theirs over me.

That’s why I grew so cold to her the last five to six years of her life.

Karma’s a bitch, ain’t it, Mother?

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Maladaptive Daydreaming

Everybody daydreams to some extent, and daydreaming, incidentally, is a mild form of dissociation. Some otherwise normal people take their dissociating a little further, though, and daydream, on occasion, at inappropriate times.

Then you have people like me.

We daydream constantly, addictively. We enjoy living in the world we dissociate into, and want to stay in that state, on and off, for hours on end. We may pace back and forth in our bedrooms, or in the halls, or anywhere alone, where we’ll have peace and quiet, away from human distractions.

I don’t do it anywhere near as much as I did when I was a child; but then again, I don’t have that pathetic excuse for a family around (<<<read the links to know why I judge them so harshly) to make me want to escape from them into a world of fantasy. That goes double for those who bullied me at school.

Many different kinds of people engage in maladaptive daydreaming: people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADHD, autism (!), and others. What they seem to have in common, however, is a wish to escape the horrors, or boredom, of regular, everyday life.

Maladaptive daydreamers also have considerable creative gifts, which come naturally as a result of regularly exercising their imaginations. Certainly Dr. Eli Somer, the Israeli psychologist who discovered this peculiar form of dissociation in several trauma victims he was treating, thought of them as gifted.

Still, this daydreaming is maladaptive because those who engage in it do so to the extent that it interferes with their ability to study, hold down a job, or pursue relationships with other people.

Mine wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t work or study, but when I was young, I found the fantasy conversations I had with people in my head better company than the real people who surrounded me. Childhood emotional abuse in the forms of family bullying and gaslighting, as well as school bullying, tends to make a person rather antisocial by the time he reaches adolescence.

The other extreme of this form of dissociation, as opposed to the one I mentioned at the beginning of this post, is dissociative identity disorder, DID, formerly known as split personality or multiple personality.

Dr. Somer discovered and wrote about maladaptive (or excessive) daydreaming in about 2002; his ideas were ignored by his fellow psychologists at first, but his research gradually made an impact and even went viral. Something that I find ironic is how, at roughly the same time as that of Somer’s first published research on maladaptive daydreaming, my mother was first telling me about Asperger Syndrome (AS), insisting that I have it. If her intentions (“to help” me, she said) were anywhere near as noble as she’d claimed, and information on maladaptive daydreaming was already available, why didn’t she even try to find out about it, instead of perpetuating her autism lies by trying to force me to accept the AS label? Looking into Somer’s research is what would have truly helped me!

Her gaslighting me into believing I have an autism spectrum disorder, perpetuating it with her BS about ‘my AS’, was not only cruel, it was stupid. What on earth made her think that saying I have AS would go over well? What did she expect me to do? Thank her? Her sad death without any comfort from me, in that hospital in May of 2016, with my brother R. at her bedside, means that insofar as I ever meant anything to her at all, pushing AS on me was the worst mistake she’d ever made in her entire life.

Learning about maladaptive daydreaming could have helped the family not only understand me better, but also find better ways than shaming me to help me stop the bad habit. They’d have also understood my imaginative gifts better, and been motivated to redirect my creativity into more productive outlets (writing, music, art, etc., instead of my wasting day after day in fantasy).

I gave the family many opportunities to be exposed to my creative side, but their acknowledgement of it was minimal, at best. I composed music (under my original name), wrote poetry and prose, and got little, if any encouragement. There was no dearth of ‘constructive’ criticism, though.

Mom claimed that this piece I wrote for the late husband of my sister, J., was “plodding”. Instead of turning a deaf ear to the, admittedly, mechanical nature of the computer MIDI sounds, Mom focused on it, as she did to all the other pieces I’d composed with the Finale software.

The string sounds in my Piano Quintet (a piece she superficially complimented as being “very impressive!”) were “tinny”, and she insisted she was being “constructive” in her criticisms; but how could I improve on the sounds without real musicians available to record the music for me?

I slaved for a year composing my Symphony In One Movement. When I said to her, during  a visit to Canada (I live in east Asia), that I wanted to listen to the 35-minute composition with her, Mom scowled and said, “No, I don’t (i.e., ‘want to have to listen to it again’)!” She’d criticized, by email after hearing a CD I’d burned of it as a gift I mailed to her and my father, that the symphony was structurally all over the place, with no sense of unity among the many featured orchestral instruments.

Actually, I structured the piece very carefully: a close listening will make it evident that my symphony is rondos within rondos, with sonata-allegro form (towards the beginning, after a brief intro), binary form (the following slow section), a scherzo and trio in the middle, a theme-and-variations section after that, then a kind of experimental ‘mirror’ section. The overall ‘rondo-within-rondo’ effect is like Russian dolls (i.e., the rondos get smaller and smaller, or shorter and shorter). The link is above, Dear Reader, so you can hear it and decide for yourself whether or not my symphony is well-structured or ‘all over the place’.

Now, none of this is about debating the worth of my musical abilities. The point is that a truly loving mother would have the tact and grace to emphasize the positive of anything her sons or daughters created, regardless of whether her children were actually talented or not; any comments critical of her children’s creative output would be given as carefully and gently as possible. For no matter what level of talent her kids have, she wants to give them a maximum of encouragement…because she loves them.

My mother made it obvious that she had no intentions of encouraging me whatsoever. She’d pay a bit of lip service to my accomplishments, but little more than that. In contrast, she showered my sister, J., with praise for writing an expository essay (when she was in university) on our maternal grandmother’s descent into the horrors of Alzheimer’s disease, what seems to me to have been one of J.’s attempts to win Mom’s favour (i.e., by adding the grandeur of the family, an extension of Mom’s ego). Only if Mom’s children’s creative efforts gave her narcissistic supply (directly or indirectly), would she praise us…and J. was always the golden child of the family.

I suspect that Mom, as another manifestation of the narcissism I suspect she had, envied my musical creativity. Again, I’m not trying to say I’m some kind of unsung genius (geniuses are tireless workaholics, of which I am none). The point is that she couldn’t even do the limited number of musical things I can do (I’m the worst keyboardist in the world, I have no formal musical training, and I composed all that music by clicking a mouse to put notes on the staff. To get a more accurate idea of what I can do musically by actually playing instruments and singing, check out these pop songs I wrote and recorded [poorly], if you’re interested.) What is the first thing that people who are envious of you do when faced with your abilities, be they great or small (<<as mine undoubtedly are)? They tear you down, either subtly or blatantly.

But going back to my childhood maladaptive daydreaming, for which the family constantly tore me down, one of the main ways that they shamed me for it was by adopting a stupid-sounding, pejorative expression my sister J. coined to describe it: she called it “tooka-tooka.” (And J. wonders why I don’t believe her when she says the family loves me.) There’s nothing like making up childish names for your habits to continue a campaign to make you feel worthless.

Those ignoramuses that I grew up with had an up-to-fifteen-year opportunity to learn the correct, and non-insulting, name of what I was doing; but they, mindlessly parroting our mother, would rather continue to link my odd habit with ‘my autism’, and use it as a basis for humiliating me. They had no motivation to learn of a term that’s gone viral worldwide, a concept they could have found with relative ease had they bothered to look, and a term that would have truly helped me!

And they scratch their heads, wondering why I no longer want anything to do with them. They blame me entirely for my estrangement from them, and never blame themselves for causing even a significant part of the problem.

While it is true that many on the autism spectrum engage in maladaptive daydreaming, many non-autistics do, too (people with OCD, ADHD, PTSD, C-PTSDvictims of bullying and abuse [!], etc.); if the family wants to prove that I have AS, they’ll have to look elsewhere than maladaptive daydreaming for proof.

The rationalization behind shaming me about my dissociating was, of course, to discourage me from continuing with the habit. It shouldn’t have been too hard a concept to understand, though, that shaming an already sensitive, emotionally vulnerable 7-year-old child who’d been devastated after moving from Toronto to Hamilton in 1977, and leaving his best friend forever (read this, Part 1–Childhood, for the whole story) would only make him feel more socially isolated, thus making him engage in maladaptive daydreaming all the more.

As I’ve explained elsewhere, my father growled at my brother R. (at my older brother F., too, to an extent) for getting poor grades at school. His shaming of my brothers didn’t improve their academic performance one jot. Why would R., F., and J. have thought shaming me would have resulted in any success in stopping my dissociations?

To be fair to my siblings, they were young, and therefore not mature enough to understand how dysfunctional their methods were in deterring me from my odd habit. But my father and mother (apart from her apparent narcissism) didn’t lack maturity: why didn’t they explain to R., F., and J. that they were going about the whole thing the wrong way? Oh, wait, I forgot: Dad still thought shaming was the right way, for he was a slave to his own conservatism; and Mom, well…just read these to get the whole story.

What’s more, the shaming I got from R., F., and J. continued well into their young adulthood, so the immaturity excuse won’t carry them very far. And as I explained here (in Part 3–The Dawn of Realization), if they really believed I’m autistic, then making grumpy, impatient demands that I stop with my idiosyncrasies and ‘just act like normal people’, would make them a special kind of stupid.

My siblings aren’t stupid, though; nor were my parents. If there’s one positive I’ll acknowledge about all of them, it’s that they were and are, at least reasonably, intelligent. So neither stupidity nor enduring immaturity is enough to explain why they thought shaming me was the way to deter my excessive daydreaming.

Cruelty for its own sake, buried under a pile of dubious and hypocritical rationalizations about ‘wanting to help’ me, is a far better explanation for all their shaming. Emotional abusers’ whole agenda is about having power and control over their victims, as well as having a convenient human punching bag they can take all their frustrations out on.

This is why the family doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.

I mentioned in previous posts how I find it the safest of assumptions that my mother was bad-mouthing me to R., F., and J., my whole life, this being a far better explanation, as to why they bullied me, than that I was ‘so frustrating’ to live with. My wife gets irritated with my quirks and idiosyncrasies all the time, yet she feels no tremendous urge to yell and scream at me, or to use abusive, four-letter language on me.

Mom’s bad-mouthing of me wasn’t limited to her squirting poison in the ears of R., F., and J.: she was smearing me to anyone who’d listen, including the staff at our restaurant back in the 80s, when I was a teen. I know of this because she did the bad-mouthing in front of me, on at least a few occasions!

Once she used J.’s “tooka-tooka” word to make me and my maladaptive daydreaming seem foolish in front of a new cook, who laughed and said, “What’s that?

She said, “Oh, it’s his game,” with a dismissive air of contempt. She went on describing my bad habits like that, right in front of me and not caring at all how she was embarrassing me; for amusing the new cook, by making me–a kid, her son–look like an idiot, gave her a much-coveted ego trip. And ego trips were more typically important to her than her son’s feelings, I assure you, Dear Reader (her lack of empathy for me, or for anyone else, was most consistent).

On another occasion, not far from the time she’d embarrassed me in front of the new cook, she asked about my excessive daydreaming; if I remember correctly, this was also in front of the restaurant staff (asking me in our house, where Dad and my siblings knew as much as they needed to know…for their purposes…seems less likely). Mom, in an uppity, irritable tone, clearly shaming me and showing me no empathy, sneered and snapped, “What do you do (i.e, ‘when you do that’)? What are you doing (i.e., ‘when you tooka-tooka’)?”

Naturally, I had no answer to give her from such a shaming. Again, if she’d asked me nicely, encouraging me to open up and give a full explanation, she could have gotten some real insights about my creative imagination, and the family could have been motivated to get me to channel my creativity into productive outlets, examples of which I shared above.

Such encouragement, however, was never the family’s plan. As the identified patient, the family scapegoat, I was only to be shamed all the more for my maladaptive daydreaming. I was never meant to be ‘helped’, to get better. I was meant only to be controlled by Mom and the rest of the family.

Again, I must ask: my mother ‘loved’ me?

The Identified Patient

I: Introduction

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, having playing 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.”

XI: Conclusion

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.

Analysis of ‘Carrie’

Carrie is a horror novel written by Stephen King, his first published novel, which came out in 1974. The title character is a troubled teen, bullied by her high school classmates and abused by her Christian fundamentalist mother. She also has telekinetic powers (TK), strong enough to kill anyone who hurts her, as the people of her town, fictional Chamberlain, in Maine, learn.

A superb movie version was made in 1976, directed by Brian De Palma and starring Sissy Spacek in the title role, and Piper Laurie as the mother (both actresses receiving Oscar nominations); it co-starred  John Travolta as Billy Nolan, Nancy Allen as Chris Hargensen, and Amy Irving as Sue Snell. Other film versions were made, though they weren’t as successful.

The dominant themes of the novel are bullying and abuse, the illusion of omnipotence, failed communication, and the motif of blood. Apart from these, I’ll be doing a psychoanalytic reading of the novel’s symbolism.

Much of the narrative is given in epistolary form, with passages from newspaper or magazine articles, books about the Carrie White affair (The Shadow Exploded, My Name Is Susan Snell), transcripts of an inquiry (The White Commission Report) into the tragedy, etc. This breaking up of the narrative flow into fragments, telling the story from different angles, symbolically suggests failed communication, with its starts and stops. This failed communication is much of the root cause of the bullying and abuse that Carrie suffers.

Like most victims of school bullying, Carrie is different from her classmates. This difference comes from how she’s raised by her mother, Margaret White (white as the Christian innocence she tries–and fails–to preserve), whose religious fundamentalism won’t allow her to expose her daughter to the ‘sinful’ ways of the modern world. This failure to communicate needed information leaves Carrie in a state of arrested development, infantilizing her. Psychologically, Carrie White (white as a baby’s innocence) is a baby going to school with teenagers.

This infantilizing is made clear when her mother fails to tell her about menstruation, her first period being her rite of passage, as it were, into womanhood. So when she’s bleeding in the shower during gym class, what should be a simple matter of using a tampon ends up a terrifying moment for her: all that blood makes her think she’s going to die.

Adding to her trauma are all her bullying classmates, who start laughing at her and throwing tampons at her, chanting, “Plug it up! Plug it up!” Since, as noted above, she is psychologically a baby among teenagers here, instead of this being a passage from girlhood to womanhood, she’s held back by one phase of life, passing from unborn to born, from unknowing innocence to the terrors of the real world, like a newborn baby. Thus, this naked, terrified ‘baby’, dripping wet and bawling her eyes out, is symbolically experiencing a birth trauma, or at least the triggered reliving of it.

Blood as a motif symbolizing death runs throughout the novel. The flow of blood signifies movement from ignorance to knowledge. Carrie finally learns about menstruation, and she is angry with her mother for not telling her about it; but her mother (pages 62-66) equates the blood with sin (e.g., the Tree of Knowledge, of which eating the forbidden fruit, symbolic of sexual indulgence, leads to death).

“…the first Sin was Intercourse. And the Lord visited Eve with a Curse, and the Curse was the Curse of Blood. And Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden and into the World…” (page 63) Out of the Garden of Eden and into the world of sin parallels Carrie’s bloody movement out of the world of innocence into knowledge, out of a peaceful, psychological in utero state and into birth, into the physical, painful world, a world of blood. “And then there was a second Curse, and this was the Curse of Childbearing, and Eve brought forth Cain in sweat and blood.” (pages 63-64) Again, we have an association of blood with newborn babies, curses, pain, suffering, and death (Cain, the first murderer).

Later, the pigs’ blood, first being the result of the pigs’ deaths, of course, later becomes the cause of so many deaths not only in the high school, but all over Chamberlain, too. And with the splashing of that blood all over her comes the realization that her enemies are still enemies. The outflowing of her menstrual blood is her projected destructive instincts; the pigs’ blood poured on her is that death instinct re-introjected.

With the flowing of her blood from her mother’s stab (page 250) comes her knowledge that her filicidal mother is no less an enemy than her school bullies. Margaret is all the ‘bad motherobject; not even the slightest trace of the ‘good mother’ object exists in her. After Carrie finally dies in the presence of Sue Snell, one of the few people who tried to be a friend to Carrie, Sue leaves in a state of abject horror, in a knowledge of that horror and death, with her own menstrual blood running down her leg (page 277).

In the contemporary world, with all of our advanced science, technology, and modern knowledge, being raised in a fundamentalist family is a terrible handicap. So much ignorance of today’s world abounds in such a setting; it’s like being a naïve child among a crowd of adults. This is what I mean when I call Carrie a psychological baby among teenagers. Thus, I feel justified in using her story as an allegory for the pathological infant’s psychological state.

When we see a baby, we usually think of an adorable child smiling up at us. We don’t think of the terror that a vulnerable child feels so very often, weeping its frustrations at not getting what it needs. Normally, a good enough parent (to use D.W. Winnicott‘s terminology) provides for all of the baby’s needs well enough in the beginning that the baby is given the illusion that it magically provides for itself: the breast magically appears as soon as the baby wants it.

“The mother, at the beginning, by an almost 100 per cent adaptation affords the infant the opportunity for the illusion that her breast is part of the infant. It is, as it were, under magical control. The same can be said in terms of infant care in general, in the quiet times between excitements. Omnipotence is nearly a fact of experience. The mother’s eventual task is gradually to disillusion the infant, but she has no hope of success unless at first she has been able to give sufficient opportunity for illusion.” (Winnicott, page 238, his emphasis)

With Margaret’s calling Carrie’s breasts her “dirtypillows” (page 142), thus showing that she considers the breast to be only a ‘bad breast’, it can be safely assumed that she hardly, if ever, breast-fed Carrie when she was a baby. It’s not just the milk that the baby enjoys; the texture of the nipple provides pleasure, too, so bottles aren’t always a good substitute. Thus, Margaret is what Melanie Klein called the bad mother, whose frustrating bad breast rarely if ever gave suck to baby Carrie. This willful refusal to provide her baby with a basic need shows a child neglect that would soon grow into full-blown child abuse.

This failure to provide a good enough environment can lead to pathologies in the infant, as Winnicott noted. Margaret, with her prudish attitude towards sex and the body, would have been loath to hold her child or give her any physical affection. This is more emotional neglect, aggravating Carrie’s mental pathology. Carrie’s whole problem is a lack of love, which needs to be grounded in the body.

A healthy infancy involves a child’s peaceful “going on being,” without impingements frustrating that natural, peaceful, passive continuity in life. Not only isn’t she receiving a loving, holding environment, people frequently cut into her private space, bothering her, abusing her, and bullying her. If it isn’t her classmates throwing tampons at her, it’s her mother locking her in a small closet with frightening religious icons so she can pray for forgiveness (pages 65-67), when surely she is one more sinn’d against than sinning.

A baby in such an uncaring, hostile environment goes through terrible persecutory anxiety, the paranoid-schizoid position, as Carrie is going through. When asked out to the prom by Tommy Ross, she can only assume that it’s another trick from her bullying classmates to set her up for humiliation. The impingements she regularly suffers make her want to isolate herself from the world, as Winnicott said a child would want to do: an overly-aggressive environment makes for “…faulty adaptation to the child, resulting in impingement of the environment so that the individual must become a reactor to that impingement. The sense of self is lost in this situation and is only regained by a return to isolation.” (Winnicott, page 222)

“The persecutors in the new phenomenon, the outside, become neutralized in ordinary healthy development by the fact of the mother’s loving care, which physically (as in holding) and psychologically (as in understanding or empathy, enabling sensitive adaptation), makes the individual’s primary isolation a fact. Environmental failure just here starts the individual off with a paranoid potential…In defence against the terrible anxieties of the paranoid state in very early life there is not infrequently organized a state which has been given various names (defensive pathological introversion, etc.) The infant lives permanently in his or her own inner world which is not, however, firmly organized.” (Winnicott, pages 226-227) Recall Carrie’s words to Sue as she’s dying: “(why didn’t you just leave me alone)” (page 275).

Defenceless and without the infantile illusion of omnipotence that a good enough mother provides in normal circumstances, Carrie is forced to retreat into phantasy to provide herself with that omnipotence, which is symbolized by her telekinesis. “…a rain of stones fell from a clear blue sky…principally on the home of Mrs. Margaret White, damaging the roof extensively…Mrs. White, a widow, lives with her three-year-old daughter, Carietta.” (page 3) Her ability to move things with her mind is symbolic of the baby magically making the breast appear at feeding time, when Margaret probably never did it herself. This frustrating bad mother provokes wishes for revenge in Carrie’s phantasy life, represented by her TK.

People who are abused or bullied are essentially infantilized, treated as if weak and helpless, but never given compassion: their feelings and opinions are trivialized and invalidated. Carrie’s mother shows no interest in the pain Carrie feels from having been laughed at for not knowing about menstruation, nor does Margaret care that Carrie is mad at her for not telling her about it.

Carrie’s feelings are cared for so little that even when people do care, she thinks they don’t, as when the assistant principal, Mr. Morton, tries to speak kindly to her, but keeps getting her name wrong (pages 18-19). This is also why she indiscriminately kills people all over Chamberlain instead of just killing Chris Hargensen and Billy Nolan, the ones responsible for the prank with the pigs’ blood.

A few people want to show genuine kindness to Carrie, though it’s a case of too little, too late: Miss Desjardin, the gym teacher (Miss Collins in the 1976 movie, played by Betty Buckley, who also played Margaret White in the Broadway musical version of 1988), Sue Snell, and Tommy Ross. Sue, feeling remorseful over having participated in the “plug it up” teasing, wants her boyfriend Tommy to take Carrie to the prom, to get her to mix with people and build her self-confidence (pages 95-98).

This getting insular Carrie to socialize is symbolically like a baby experiencing the transitional phase between the illusory state of omnipotence (able to summon Mother at will) and reality-testing, where the baby progressively learns to accept that Mother isn’t always there for it, and environmental impingements are at a tolerable level. During this transitional period, the baby has a transitional object (a stuffed animal, a blanket, or, by extension into adult life, creative or imaginative stimuli like the arts or religion). As Winnicott states, “The transitional object stands for the breast, or the object of the first relationship.” (Winnicott, page 236)

For Carrie, the dress she makes for the prom can be seen to represent this transitional object (recall how, when her mother sees her wearing it, she can see her breasts, i.e., note the association of the dress, the transitional object, with breasts). She bought the materials (page 107) and made the dress (a soft material, like that of a security blanket), similar to how the arts and creativity are like an extension of the transitional object into later life. This making of the dress represents aspects of the task of reality-acceptance, away from the illusion of infantile omnipotence: “It is assumed here that the task of reality-acceptance is never completed, that no human being is free from the strain of relating inner and outer reality, and that relief from this strain is provided by an intermediate area of experience which is not challenged (arts, religion, etc.).” (Winnicott, page 240)

By wearing the dress when Tommy takes her to the prom, she symbolically demonstrates the transitional phenomena of going from “me,” the isolated world of dependence on Mother when the baby sees Mother as an extension of itself, to a “not-me” understanding, based on a growing independence from Mother. Carrie’s leaving home with Tommy, in open defiance of her mother, symbolizes this separation of “me” from “not-me”. “It is usual to refer to ‘reality-testing’, and to make a clear distinction between apperception and perception. I am here staking a claim for an intermediate state between a baby’s inability and growing ability to recognize and accept reality. I am therefore studying the substance of illusion, that which is allowed to the infant, and which in adult life is inherent in art and religion.” (Winnicott, page 230, his emphasis)

At the prom, she has a brief moment of happiness, finally feeling accepted by the external world. She has even forgotten her telekinesis, since she doesn’t seem to need it (i.e., she’s letting go of her need of the infantile illusion of omnipotence). But Chris’s cruel prank (ruining her dress, her transitional object, and thus rendering impossible her transition from inner fantasy to outer reality) reminds her of her ever-present persecutors, and like a baby suffering in the paranoid-schizoid position and fighting back against a frustrating outer world in phantasy, so does Carrie get her revenge. “She was forgetting (!! THE POWER !!) It was time to teach them a lesson.” (page 220)

Having been subjected to bullying and emotional abuse myself from family and school, I find myself cheering Carrie on whenever I watch the 1976 movie and she’s using her TK to trap and kill everyone in the high school gym. “Flex.” (page 222)

But her TK doesn’t give her the omnipotence against the danger of her knife-wielding mother, who won’t “suffer a witch to live” (page 175). Nor will Margaret’s fundamentalist faith give her an omnipotent God to save her from Carrie (who kills her in the novel by slowing down and stopping her heartbeat; in the 1976 film, Carrie kills her by making knives fly in the air and stab her to death in a manner similar to the death of St. Sebastian).

Chris imagines her lawyer father can help her get revenge on the school for not firing Desjardin for hitting her (pages 77-84); and she’s bitterly disappointed to know he can’t. This spoiled girl doesn’t have the omnipotence she thinks she has. She never considers how her meanness has consequences. Even after Carrie has already destroyed much of Chamberlain, killed many of the people there, and given everyone the uncanny sense, psychically, that she was responsible for all the mayhem, Chris and Billy imagine they can kill her by hitting her with his car (pages 260-262). Instead, she kills them.

One indication of Carrie’s infantile mental state is her calling her mother, ‘Momma’, one of the first sounds a baby makes in its baby talk; hence the reason that some variation on ‘mama‘ is common in languages around the world for the first object relation most of us form in early life.

Many paradoxes can be seen in this novel (“…she was weeping even as she laughed…” page 226). Blood is associated with death and birth (remember Margaret’s words: “Eve brought forth Cain in sweat and blood.” page 64; also, “I fell down and I lost the baby and that was God’s judgment. I felt that the sin had been expiated. By blood. But sin never dies. Sin…never…dies.” page 247). There are failures to communicate, then there’s Carrie’s uncanny ability to make everyone in town know, psychically, that she’s responsible for the destruction of Chamberlain (pages 213, 229-30, 232-33, 235, 241, 244, and 256).

Also paradoxical about this story is how people seem powerful, but are really powerless, and this applies especially to Carrie. With all of her formidable powers of telekinesis, and all the death and destruction she causes just by thinking it, she is still, in her mind, just a baby: sensitive, vulnerable, fragile, and helpless. One stab to her shoulder kills her. “Able to start fires, pull down electric cables, able to kill almost by thought alone; lying here unable to turn herself over.” (page 272)

Similarly, her bullies think they’re immune to punishment when they’re throwing tampons at her, then find themselves in detention, doing exercises with Desjardin in gym class (page 74). Chris and Billy don’t think anything will happen to them after they drop the pigs’ blood on Carrie. And Margaret assumes she’ll go straight to heaven after death, even when she stabs her own daughter.

So often, we think about our own vulnerability so much that we forget about that of our enemies; and so often, this is the basis for our hurting each other, without end.

At the beginning of the story, Carrie fears bleeding to death when she needn’t; at the end, after she’s reached the height of her destructive powers, she bleeds to death for real. As she’s dying, she whines, like a baby, “(momma would be alive i killed my momma i want her o it hurts my chest hurts my shoulder o o o i want my momma…o momma i’m scared momma MOMMA)” (page 275). She is going through the depressive position, wishing to have reparation with her mother, despairing at her loss.

Though Sue wants to show Carrie love, it’s too late: psychological baby Carrie has lived her whole short life unloved, and is hated all the more after death “CARRIE WHITE IS BURNING FOR HER SINS JESUS NEVER FAILS” (page 287).

Could anything be more horrifying than wishing death and eternal suffering on a baby, a baby that was never even truly loved in the first place?

“Graffiti scratched on a desk of the Barker Street Grammar School in Chamberlain:

Carrie White eats shit.” (page 4)

Stephen King, Carrie, Anchor Books, New York, 1974

D.W. Winnicott, Through Paediatrics to Psycho-Analysis: Collected Papers, Brunner-Routledge, London, 1992