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?

A Narcissist’s Flying Monkeys

A narcissist, or other Cluster B type, can do little mind manipulating without flying monkeys’ help. If the narcissist acts alone, in all likelihood, he or she will be found out sooner or later; but a team of helpers to validate the narcissist’s ‘version’ of the truth can create a powerful illusion that it really is the truth.

Everyone plays a different role in the narcissist’s game, and these roles can even be swapped from time to time, in order to fulfil changing elements in the narcissist’s agenda. In families headed by narcissistic parents, children are put into the roles of golden child, scapegoat, and lost child.

It may be assumed that the golden child is always spoiled, the scapegoat exclusively abused, and the lost child the only one neglected. The relationships in such a dysfunctional family, however, make up a tapestry far more complex than that. All of these children are abused, just in different ways.

The golden child is favoured, but this favouritism comes at a high price, since the only reason the narcissistic parent favours this child is that the child has given a steady amount of narcissistic supply to the parent. The pressure is on to keep providing that supply, and if the golden child should, for any reason, fail to provide it, there will be hell to pay.

The scapegoat suffers the most…on the surface, but there are hidden blessings in disguise here. There’s far less pressure, on average, to provide narcissistic supply. Also, there’s an ‘accelerationist’ element, if you will: the scapegoat may get sick and tired of the abuse, and repudiate the family forever (!). The golden and lost children, in contrast, may feel a lifelong addiction to the conditional love a narcissistic parent gives. Their hope is their despair, and vice versa for the scapegoat.

The lost child may not so much be abused in the overt, blatant sense that the scapegoat is, but neglect is an abusiveness in its own right. Constant emotional neglect, like any form of recurring neglect, is in essence a lack of love; and such a parental failure is a terrible thing to put a child through. These bad parent object relations form the basis for all of the child’s later relationships, thus perpetuating the neglect.

The narcissistic parent juggles these three kinds of children in a cunning way, to create maximum conflict for his or her own personal entertainment, while–in the best of circumstances–being careful enough to keep the family just reconciled enough to each other to ensure the family unit stays together, however scarred they all remain. This cunning method, which mixes division with togetherness, involves a tactic called triangulation, in which two sides of a family fight often don’t speak with each other directly, but through the narcissistic parent as a mediator who deliberately mixes half-truths, fabrications, and calculated omissions of fact to create the illusion of reconciliation while actually keeping the conflict alive and in limbo, to be fought another day.

Why does the narcissist do this to his or her family, whom he or she presumably loves? Cluster B people have little, if any, empathy for others, including even family members. With their fantasies of power and greatness, combined with their exaggerated sense of their own abilities, narcissists will hardly pass up the opportunity to play mind games with their own, far-too-trusting children, to revel in the feeling of power over others, to prove their superiority.

When I came to the ineluctable conclusion (see my post on Emotional Abuse, particularly section 3–The Dawn of Realization–to get the whole story; that post, along with these sequels, form the must-read basis for understanding the current post) that my mother had been lying to me about having an autistic spectrum disorder I’ve never had, in my rumination, I found myself arriving at a series of sequiturs, if you will. It didn’t make sense to me to believe that an otherwise mentally healthy, loving, and well-intentioned mother would ever deceive her own son in such a monstrous way. The enormity of such perfidy obviated the possibility that she’d had the best of intentions on every other occasion, when she wasn’t busy squirting her poison in my ears.

There had to have been something wrong with her…but what? She didn’t display examples of overt criminal behaviour, so she didn’t seem to have Anti-social Personality Disorder (ASPD). My speculation that she had at least a mild case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) seems the best explanation, though, to be fair to her, I have no way of knowing for sure, since she’d never been diagnosed with NPD, and much of my speculation’s cogency depends on whether her private thoughts involved an exaggerated opinion of her abilities, fantasies of power and greatness, and envy of others (projected onto them). It’s highly possible that she had such traits and hid them from the public, but I’ll never know for sure. (This is the crucial difference between her and me: I admit that I’m only speculating, whereas she, never able to admit she was wrong, insisted her fabrications about me were bedrock facts, proven as if by science.)

With this understanding that she was a liar who had no qualms about using lies to hurt her own son, I did what anyone who’s been lied to would do: I started doubting the veracity of anything she said, especially if a) there was no corroborating evidence of her claims, b) her version of events contradicted my understanding of the situation, and/or c) she seemed to have secret motives behind why she was representing things the way she was. Call it confirmation bias if you will, but I started finding many of the things that she was telling me (during the 2010s up to her death in 2016) were easily reconfirming my growing belief that she was a pathological liar.

There is a scientific case to be made that liars become increasingly mendacious as they continue lying over the years; and so, too, my mother’s lying may have grown more and more habitual over time. Though my mother was good at hiding her narcissism, there were ways I could see past her mask of humility and altruism to get at her true self. Was my mother a malignant narcissist? I’ll never know for sure, but she could have been.

I briefly described a few of these lies in my post on Emotional Abuse. Many of these lies were directed against my youngest cousin, whom I’ll call G. The nastiest of her smear campaigns (to my knowledge) were against him, and there never seemed to be a valid reason for her meanness. For though G. is a bit socially awkward and puts his foot in his mouth from time to time (Don’t we all?), he isn’t half as disagreeable as my mother tried so hard to portray him. He has a caring, human side, too, as he proved to my satisfaction during a visit to my home, showing deep sympathy for my sister J. over the then-recent death of her husband. You’ll recall from my original post on my mother (link at the top of this paragraph) that I wanted to show compassion for J. by making a visit to see her and her terminally-ill husband; but Mom didn’t want me to come, because I’m too ‘tactless and insensitive’ (The family had always justified their emotional abuse of me by complaining of my not showing enough concern for them, and when I do, instead of being encouraged to show more caring, this is how I get treated?). If my mother didn’t want to see good in you, that good apparently wasn’t there to be seen at all.

On one occasion, in my parents’ restaurant back in the late 1980s or 1990, my aunt and uncle were visiting, having brought along G. At one point in the conversation they were having with my parents and me, G. wanted to complain about someone (presumably a bully that my family couldn’t care less about) he felt was “a real prick, a real asshole.” My parents and his immediately stopped him, gently chiding him for his bad language; my mother pointed out that constant swearing only indicates a poor vocabulary (a nonsensical idea in itself, but anyway…).

At the time, my mother spoke in a calm, reasonable way; but later, she relayed this story to other people in a manner that suggested she was totally (and, in my opinion, artificially) scandalized. When he said “prick” and “asshole,” he said it in a conversational voice, not loud at all; but my mother made it sound as if he’d shouted ‘cunt’ and ‘cocksucker’ at the top of his lungs, for everyone in the restaurant to hear. Remember that this happened around the end of the 80s, when “prick” and “asshole” were still rude enough to raise eyebrows, but hardly shocking to hear. Had this happened in the 1940s or 50s, being scandalized would have been understandable. Furthermore, my mother used words like those all the time (sometimes on me). G. was in his teens at the time: it’s not as though he was an innocent little kindergartener or something.

Added to this near-hysterical recounting of what happened, which I saw her do on at least two or three occasions, my mother claimed I’d told G. off “good and proper.” THIS NEVER HAPPENED. (I, in my late teens at the time, was actually pro-profanity and would have found it out of character to tell G. off.) When she’d told this fable to my sister J., who like a good flying monkey, bought the whole story without a trace of critical thinking and even complimented me on my “assertive” response, I scratched my head later and wondered, “Did I tell him off? I don’t remember.” I assumed my mom had been a little scatterbrained at the time; but knowing her bias against him as I’d seen it played out over so many years now, I realize she was simply embellishing her ongoing smear campaign against him by including me in her ‘team’, to validate her animus against him.

Speaking of teams, my mother was all about defining her clique as opposed to other factions…within the family; and J., along with my brothers, R. and F., Mom’s flying monkeys, went along with her every step of the way. In my post Emotional Abuse (section 4–Abusing My Cousins), I touched on the following (as well as the above “prick/asshole” story); now I’d like to go into the “scoring another point for the team” story in more detail. During a phone call she’d given me in the early 2010s, at a time when I’d already found myself broken-hearted about her autism/Asperger Syndrome lies, she was resuming her long-standing smear campaign against G. She discussed the funeral of my father, who died in September of 2009, among other things involving my cousin. He’d developed a bad habit, apparently, of stopping people (including strangers) in their tracks and chatting with them about whatever topic interested him at the time, without showing any consideration for the feelings of the accosted person. (Again, I have no independent corroboration of this story.)

During the funeral, Mom claimed he’d accosted my niece in this way, when she needed to use the washroom; then my brother R. intervened and stopped G. from bothering her, and afterwards told Mom he’d “scored another point for the team.” I don’t know what R. said or did exactly to ‘rescue’ my niece (I don’t even know if–or how much of–the story is true, since my mother was telling it!), but I find it easy to believe that, given R.’s haughty personality (his narcissism is comparable to Mom’s!) and the family’s collective contempt for G, R. probably spoke to him in the snottiest language he could muster. If the family’s upset about something (e.g., grieving my father’s death), they need someone to attack; I know this all too well from personal experience with them. Living in East Asia, I wasn’t at the funeral in Canada, so they had to pick on G. instead of me.

Other complaints my mother had of my cousin included a fight he’d gotten in with his eldest brother (whom I’ll call L.) over my uncle, who was in hospital. She related the matter in her usual unsympathetic way. The argument between the two brothers escalated to the point where G. said it was L.’s fault that their dad had had an aneurysm. L. punched G. Now, granted, G. shouldn’t have provoked L., but L. shouldn’t have punched G., either, and who knows what L. had said to provoke G. to accuse L. in such an uncalled for way? In any case, no sympathy was shown G. for having been assaulted.

Included in Mom’s anti-G. rant on the phone, she threw in how my brother F. “would like to punch both of them out.” [That is, punch out both L. and G.] She said this in a tone of voice that showed total sympathy with F. I can understand the family’s frustration with L. and G., but how was any of this cousin-bashing a contribution to a solution to these problems? It seemed the opposite to a solution, and I’m convinced that an escalation of the problem is exactly what my mother was aiming for, for her own personal amusement, all the while playing the role of the ‘concerned aunt’.

Her bad-mouthing of G. reached a crescendo where, having mentioned his penchant for accosting people randomly to discuss whatever was on his mind, she complained, “I think he has Asperger Syndrome!” (Rambling in lengthy monologues about whatever one is obsessed with is an Asperger’s trait, one that I, too have; but it alone isn’t enough to prove that one has Asperger’s [AS]. One has to have a clinically significant level of autistic traits, that is, many of them, to qualify for AS. All neurotypicals have a few autistic traits, though not enough of them.) I suspect she said this to push my emotional buttons; whatever her intentions, in saying this, she gave me insight into the inner workings of her mind, not those of G.

During her anti-G. tirade on the phone, my mother was linking her obvious contempt, and lack of love, for G. with AS, the very disorder she’d been so preoccupied with making me believe I had! If people with AS are so disagreeable, and R., F., and J. (the last of whom, in an e-mail she later sent me, expressed how “dismayed” she was at how not even one of our cousins was “normal”) also find G. to be disagreeable, what does this say about the family’s attitude to me, who was falsely labelled an autistic from childhood, bullied by R., F., and J. from then until I left Canada, and never protected from them by Mom except for three or four occasions (when F. got physical with me, and she knew about it)? It’s far easier to believe she’d been engaging in smear campaigns against me than not to. I may not have eyewitness evidence of these smears (which she’d have been careful enough not to have me see), but I have mountains of circumstantial evidence pointing unswervingly in that direction (including all the times she’d bad-mouthed me to my face, sometimes in front of others, including the family). People who gossip to you often gossip about you, remember.

My mother was probably much subtler in her smear campaigns against me, the scapegoat. She probably tossed harsher slurs at me, with R., F., and J. within earshot, at a time (the early 70s, when we were all little) when they’d have assumed her words were unshakeable truth, before they were able to develop critical thinking; and when they had gotten old enough to think critically, the negative attitude had already been ingrained in their brains too deeply to remove, with my childhood awkwardness and normal, human faults apparently ‘proof’ of how ‘right’ Mom was about me. As we got older, though, she had to smear me in a softer way, to suggest it was just the criticisms of a ‘concerned, loving parent’.

I discovered a hint as to how she could have been so cunning in something she said to me on the phone just before she died: she claimed, just after listing off all my vices, negatively generalizing about me as usual, while R. was standing by her hospital bed and listening to her side of the conversation, that she’d given me “the most love” of all four of us! No examples were given to demonstrate this mythical love, of course: I was just supposed to take her at her word. She was my mother, so ‘Poof!’ she had oceans of love for me, and the usual duties (feeding me, clothing me, providing shelter, etc.) she performed were proof of this love instead of just proof that she’d regarded me as a job to do. Her gaslighting, enabling of my bullying siblings, and other ways of emotionally abusing me, apparently don’t establish any doubt of this love.

After she died, and I’d failed to communicate with any of the family (as detailed herehere, and here), R., furious with me after cyberstalking me and discovering this video I’d posted on YouTube, under my original name, claimed that Mom “loved me more than anyone else on the planet.” This wild hyperbole got me thinking about the true nature of her smears.

Had she been combining smear campaigns against me with false claims of loving me the most? Such a combination would create the illusion of her having no personal bias against me, thus making her smears seem objective and truthful. It would also arouse jealousy in R., F., and J., giving them a motive to bully me, while my mother sat back, allowing the bullying to go on, as if I’d deserved the grief I was getting. If this is true, then far from favouring me over my siblings, Mom was being especially cruel.

Cruel not just to me, but also to R., F., and J., though cruel in a different way. As I said towards the beginning of this article, scapegoats aren’t the only victims of narcissistic parental abuse. Golden children and lost children get their own versions of it. If it was in my mother’s nature to gossip about and play mind games on my cousins and me, why stop with only us? It logically follows that it was in her nature to want to mistreat other people, too, including my siblings and even my father!

The family always used to tell me, “Not everything is about you,” echoing Mom’s projection of her (and their) narcissistic egoism onto me (claiming, falsely, that it is an autistic trait; the use of ‘autistic‘ to mean ‘egoistic‘ is an antiquated use of the term from about one hundred years ago). I must say, after speaking so ill of all of them now, over four blog posts (including this one), that actually, they’re right: it isn’t all about me. My dad and siblings suffered under her, too.

I remember her being verbally abusive to Dad on many occasions over the years, as well as giving him the silent treatment (an oft-used tactic of narcissists) for doing such things as forgetting her sacred birthday; she, on a few occasions, would even go so far as to park the family car far away from our house, leaving it parked there over a period of several days, to create the illusion that she’d left him. Small wonder my father was such a grumpy man: he’d been enduring her emotional abuse and manipulation, too, and he had no outlet for the pain he felt, having been raised to believe that talking about feelings was a sign of weakness.

As for R., I remember, if vaguely, the pain he felt as a teen, sometimes with tears in his eyes. As I mentioned in Emotional Abuse, he left home as a teen, refusing to move with us from Toronto to Hamilton after fighting with my father about his bad grades at school. Granted, my father could be verbally abusive if any of us kids got bad marks, but surely a problem like that won’t be serious enough to escalate into one of us leaving home! It was just bad grades that R. had!

Something else had to have been going on. I know the roles my father and R. played in all of this…but what about the role my mother played? If she tried to de-escalate the problem, but couldn’t…why couldn’t she? It was just bad grades. She had an indomitable will; if she wanted something to be done, it was done. If she couldn’t do enough to fix the problem, why couldn’t she? Maybe she didn’t really want to…

If the problem was only between R. and my father (i.e., she had nothing to do with the problem), that’s tantamount to saying she did nothing to intervene. If so, why? She was the other authority figure in the family, in fact, the major authority figure, as evidenced by how henpecked Dad often was around her. Didn’t she care enough about R. to be motivated to help resolve the fighting between him and Dad?

Or, did she contribute to an escalation of the problem? Did she whisper ideas in R.’s ear to increase tensions between him and my father, and did she whisper in Dad’s ear nonsense about R.? To be fair to her, I have no way of knowing for sure; but given what I know about her needless mendacities against me, my cousins, and my aunt (see below), that she was poisoning R. and Dad against each other is far from impossible. Furthermore, as I’ve stated above, it’s hard to believe that a teen would leave home merely because of bad grades and a shouting father.

One time after R. returned home (in the early 80s) and I’d gotten into a fight with him over his emotional abuse of me (I was a teen, and he was in his early twenties), he rationalized his prickly, arrogant attitude by ranting about how our father apparently loved us more or less based on how high or low our grades were, an idea so absurd that I doubt Dad ever thought that way. (Yelling at us was just Dad’s primitive, dysfunctional way of correcting bad behaviour.) Did R. just assume that our father based his love of us on our academic performance (you’d think that, being a young adult at the time, R. was mature enough not to believe such a ridiculous idea: Dad just imagined he was rewarding good behaviour and discouraging the bad), or did our mother put that idea into his head when he was little, ingraining it there before he’d matured enough to be able to dismiss it as nonsense?

In his lengthy rant, R. also claimed that we regarded him as “the idiot of the family” (Really, R.? You should try being told that a psychiatrist once said that you should be locked away in an asylum with the key thrown away, one of Mom’s lies about ‘autistic’ me!). Now, there’s little doubt that our father, to his discredit, shamed R. about his bad grades by calling him ‘stupid’, in an indeed stupid attempt to motivate him to work harder at school; but could my mother have reinforced the idea in R.’s mind, that he was somehow by nature a bad student, to create conflict and rancour for her entertainment?

I’m convinced that she enjoyed stirring up conflict not only in her bad-mouthing of my cousins and me behind our backs, but also in her lies about my aunt. In Emotional Abuse, in section 5, ‘More Elaborate Lies’, I wrote of how Mom had claimed in an e-mail to me that my middle cousin, S., had yelled at her about me on the phone during one of his visits to Canada, a story with no independent corroboration at all. When I replied about my wish for him to get help, she suggested I write an e-mail to my aunt, telling her about S.’s mental instability. I did, sending it to an e-mail address of Mom’s choosing; but instead of getting a direct reply from my aunt, my Mom replied, telling me my aunt wouldn’t read my e-mail, claiming she’d received a series of crazy e-mails from me, e-mails so “over the top,” with content so “disgusting,” that she’d decided never to read anything I sent to her. I NEVER SENT ANY SUCH E-MAILS TO MY AUNT; though I had done so to my mother, and only because Mom had provoked me so outrageously over the years, as she was doing right at this time. Her lie about my ‘crazy’ e-mails to her was a projection onto my aunt.

My immediate reaction was to think my aunt was crazy, something Mom had suggested she was before (Mom claimed my aunt had had suicidal thoughts, because of my cousins’ impossible behaviour, among other problems–again, there was no independent corroboration of this). In an e-mail following the bombshell she’d sent me as described in the above paragraph, my mother claimed that my aunt had said I must have been quite a “burden” for Mom to raise, and Mom said my aunt’s attitude was “insulting” to me. My aunt had no more reason to think I was a burden than to delude herself that I’d sent her a bunch of crazy e-mails. The far likelier explanation is that my mother was lying again, and encouraging bad feelings between me and all of my cousins’ family, now including my aunt. If she was morally capable of such ugly deceit in this and her other lies about my mental state as a child, she was certainly capable of spreading lies among my siblings and father, too…all for her own personal amusement.

R. must have felt like the scapegoat at the time of his leaving home, and when he’d returned, thought of J. and me, those who got better grades, as the golden children. J. was definitely a golden child, and R. would have been able to see I was never a golden child if he’d opened his eyes and seen what was really going on in that family. F. seemed to be the lost child, to an extent, the one given far less attention, but he was a golden child compared to me (I heard Mom on two occasions say he was her favourite, though I can never really know for sure). Once R., in the 1980s, had proven himself a capable student and was seriously working towards a career in computers, he shared golden child status with F. and J., and the three of them had been programmed by Mom to be her flying monkeys, regardless of (or more likely, because of) her past manipulation of them when they were kids.

The three of them hungered for Mom’s love, since my bad-tempered father gave them so little affection; much of the reason for that being, I believe, because my mother was ruling over him as I described above. Little do they know that her nastiness to them, when they were kids, was more a form of manipulation than just parental discipline. To get her love, they had to give her the narcissistic supply she craved. They gave it to her, and thus became her flying monkeys. She’d rewarded them for their loyalty with ‘love’, for helping her bully me, and for being on her side when she was mad at Dad, or when she was bad-mouthing our cousins or any of the staff she didn’t like (but were too capable as workers for her to fire) in our restaurant.

I’ll now give a number of instances of the bullying that R., F., and J. subjected me to when I was a child. You, Dear Reader, can decide for yourself if all of this constitutes mundane family conflicts or emotional abuse.

1) When I was about eight or nine, I was in my bedroom, arguing with my sister, J., who would have been about thirteen or fourteen. We were raising our voices, and making a huge racket. I’d been so caught up in my quarrel with her that I didn’t notice my brother, F., about fourteen or fifteen at the time, enter the room.

Suddenly, he was there before me, slapping me hard on the left cheek about four or five times. The sting of those smacks was no pain at all when compared to the hate I saw in his eyes, something I’ll never, ever forget. Remember, I was only a little kid.

2) I was about eight or nine when my sister and I started playing games that were…let’s just say, inappropriate. She was about thirteen or fourteen, so certain urges were beginning to blossom with her body, and I was conveniently available.

I will not go into graphic detail about what we did, but suffice it to say, I was required on one or two occasions to lick, ‘only once’, a certain hairy region. For any man to do this with a woman, it would have been a thrilling moment; for a child, to do this with his teenage sister can only be described as disgusting.

3) Once, I was in the kitchen, sitting at the table with F. across from me. He spat on my face and laughed to himself. This wasn’t the only time he’d ever spat on me. I was a pre-teen.

4) In the family restaurant, I was about to sit at one of the tables in the guest room, when F. pulled the chair away, making me fall on the floor. One of the dishwashers was there, laughing at me.

I rushed over to the kitchen, where my mother was cooking. I shouted, “Mom, will you do something about that F.?” She, of course, did nothing. Instead, another dishwasher came by and mocked my words. I was about twelve or thirteen at the time.

5) When I was about eight or nine, F. was trying to get me to play baseball, as opposed to the maladaptive daydreaming that I was engaging in. He would take me out beside a townhouse, to a small area with grass stretching out before me, where he stood as a pitcher, with the brick wall of the townhouse behind me, the batter.

While in hindsight, I can now see his good intentions, which were to get me interested in playing with other people, what he neither understood nor could accept was that I simply wasn’t interested in baseball. Furthermore, his constant bullying of me made it impossible to see this ‘baseball training’ as anything other than just him imposing his will on me, as everyone in the family was always trying to do to me.

My continuing lack of interest in baseball, and resulting reluctance to cooperate with him, aggravated his frustrations with me, making him want to bully me all the more.

One afternoon, we were in a field near our home, with him ‘teaching’ me how to play baseball again. A girl about my age was with us, and he was bullying me and bad-mouthing me to her, right in front of me. Uncritically believing everything he was saying about me (she’d met me that very day, for the first time: the only things she ‘knew’ about me were F.’s slanders), she judgementally said to me, over and over, “If you were my brother, I’d…”

F. would threaten to hit me with the ball if I missed a swing or made some other mistake. In other words, he hit me several times (remember, I was only about eight or nine). And that girl would repeat, “If you were my brother,…”, scowling at me.

I went home crying. My mother, who never approached me, let alone comforted me, just snapped, “Take your bath!” from another room. I sat in the bathtub, quietly sobbing and contemplating the hostile environment I was trapped in.

Needless to say, neither my skill at, nor love of, baseball grew by even as much as a millimetre.

6) One time, when I was fourteen or fifteen, my mother ordered a pizza for us all to eat. She, R., and I were in the basement den, watching TV. The pizza box was on the coffee table, ready to be eaten, but it hadn’t been sliced.

Not wanting to make a trip upstairs for a knife, I suggested, foolishly, tearing off pieces of pizza for us.

“Go get a knife,” R. snarled at me. Then, with a mean look in his beady, brown eyes, he told me to “Think.” (He often growled at me like that, as if thinking was alien to me.)

Abashed, I said, “Well, I just didn’t want to go up and get a knife.”

My mother contemptuously said, “We know that.”

I suppose that the possibility of either of them offering to get the knife wasn’t in the cards.

After all, it was my birthday.

7) One winter night, when I was a teen, there had been a heavy snowfall, and our walkway and driveway was covered in snow. No clear path was available for the family to walk in or out of the house.

I was in bed. F. decided to wake me up in the middle of the night, make me dress up in my winter coat and boots, and go out and shovel the snow (with him, or alone? I don’t remember for sure).

When R. learned about me slaving away with a shovel at night when I, half-asleep, barely had the energy to do the work, he laughed with F. about it.

To this day, I fail to see what was so funny. I suppose one has to be a bully to see the humour in it.

8) The slurs against my intelligence that the family subjected me to were almost as constant as short steps when walking: one almost immediately after the other, frequently. They called me “dork,” “dip(stick),” and many others. Now, these first two were ‘just innocent banter,’ of course: J. was kind enough to call me “dip,” as a joke, ostensibly, on my thirteenth birthday; she wrote “Happy Birthday! (You dip!)” on my birthday card. R. especially enjoyed taunting me with the “dip” and “dork” name-calling: he once ‘joked’: “To dip is human; to dork is divine.” I’m sure he thought he was being clever with that quip.

None of this would have been quite so sinister except for how my mother had already associated my ‘autism’ with mental retardation (“We didn’t know if you’d make a good garbageman when you grew up.” “The psychiatrist recommended we lock you up in an asylum and throw away the key!”). I had so thoroughly internalized all this emotional abuse that sometimes I actively participated in the “dork” joking. As long as I was the ‘bad one’, I needn’t have ever considered something far worse: that the family were simply uncaring.

Now, whenever the family had reason to be angry with me (a teen at the time), the name-calling tended not to be so jocular: I’d be called a “little shit” by R. for slamming the door too often, for example. Or if, while playing with our dog, I accidentally hurt her within earshot of R., he’d enter the room and shout “Asshole!” at me.

9) One of F.’s favourite ways of tormenting me, when I was a little kid, was to grab my hands and make me slap myself, then say, “Why are you hitting yourself? Why do you keep hitting yourself?” (Smack! Smack!) “Stop hitting yourself!” Laughing at me the whole time.

10) My weekly allowance when a teen–first a dollar, then two, then finally five--was used as a pretext for making me the family servant. My chores were supposed to be washing the dishes and taking out the garbage, but my mother decided to expand that to making me serve the family tea…every day.

I’d bring the tea on a tray to her and my brothers, who gloated at my degradation. If I defied them, they bullied me all the more. One time, I was called into the kitchen by F., who snarled “Dishes!” at me, his eyes gleaming with hate, and him baring his fangs in a power-tripping grin. When I replied with a “homework” excuse, he shoved me hard. Once again, that vicious look in his eyes hurt much more than the intimidating shove to my back.

On one occasion, I brought the tea while my mother and R. were watching “Murder, She Wrote” on TV. As I set the tray on the coffee table, R. made an idiotic joke: “Tea, He Brought,” with a gloating smile, again proud of his seeming wit.

On another occasion, I defied them by refusing to serve the tea; instead, I just unplugged the kettle, which had been boiling to excess. When I told my mother this, she angrily refused to take me on a promised trip to an amusement park that summer as punishment. When I tried to stick up for myself, they, as usual, didn’t want to hear it. I had to cave in, again.

Once, when F. noticed that I hadn’t washed the dishes, he went down to the TV room to tell our mother with a smart-ass smirk on his face. She looked up at me, who was standing on the stairs, and with a frown showing ‘parental firmness’ on her face, told me to do the dishes. F. was still smirking, of course.

It isn’t so much that I had these jobs to do as it’s how the family used these jobs to degrade me. When Christmas came around, and there was a huge number of dishes to wash, the family tended to be rather lax about offering help. I did get the help every time, to be fair to them, but it tended to come with dragged feet.

Once, J. said with a snobbish frown, “Maybe if you ask, you’ll get some help.” Of course, dear sister! I should beg…on Christmas Day! That no one offered to help (hint, hint, J.) was not even contemplated by those people who always professed themselves to be so much more selfless and considerate than I. I did get help, but why didn’t the Christmas spirit inspire any of my ‘loving’ family to come right away? Why did Mom have to delegate (instead of herself offering to help)? Perhaps because it involved helping…little old me?

R. once helped, though in a very minimal way. He washed, I dried; but he would leave the washed dishes in the rinse water in the sink instead of taking them out and letting them dry on the drying rack, so I could towel them off and put them away in the cupboards. This meant that I had to take each plate, cup, or utensil out of the water, wetting my hand, which then got my drying towel wet, making it increasingly useless. There was no way I could get my sneering, arrogant bully of a brother to see things my way, of course, so I had to deal with the situation as best I could.

After all, I was the family servant, not he.

Now, these are only a few of the many stories I could tell you of what my mother’s flying monkeys used to do to me to make my life miserable. Again, as with my mother, R., F., and J. had their good moments sometimes, too; but again, those good moments don’t come close to compensating for the bad. And my mother stepped in to stop F. only about three or four times, while letting him and the other two get away with mistreating me scores upon scores of other times, rationalizing their behaviour and speaking nonsense about how they–with some “reservations,” implying that my imperfections justified those reservations–nonetheless loved me. I was expected to believe this horse-shit.

As Nick Cohen writes for The Guardian, “Compulsive liars shouldn’t frighten you. They can harm no one, if no one listens to them. Compulsive believers, on the other hand: they should terrify you. Believers are the liars’ enablers.” He was writing about the liars in the Trump administration, but this idea applies equally with narcissistic parents and their enablers, their flying monkeys.

People who want family harmony must learn to think for themselves and consider that if one of the family is bad-mouthing another family member to excess, is it because the latter is as bad as he’s being described, or is it because the former has an axe to grind? R., F., and J. never considered the possibility that my mother had an agenda, not only against me, but also against our cousins and our aunt. That’s why not only did they lose our mother last year to cancer, they also lost me forever due to their own thoughtlessness.

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), also known as complex trauma, is a proposed diagnostic category of mental illness, one not yet recognized by the DSM, though more and more voices are shouting to have it included in the next edition. As its name implies, it is similar to PTSD, though crucial differences are to be noted.

Victims of PTSD generally experience one traumatic event (war, rape, disaster, or other life-threatening event); whereas C-PTSD victims experience repeated, ongoing traumatic events (continuous physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse, day-to-day life in combat situations as a soldier, ordeals as POWs or in concentration camps), such that the victims either have no means of escape or feel as though they have none.

If one has ever read the Marquis de Sade‘s unfinished novel, The 120 Days of Sodom, or seen Pier Paolo Pasolini‘s film adaptation of it, Salò, the casual observation of the plight of the victims–adolescent boys and girls who are forced to indulge the paraphilias of four wealthy, politically powerful libertines–would cause one to draw the unmistakeable conclusion that the victims, assuming any of them survive the four-month ordeal, will each develop a severe case of C-PTSD. They are stripped naked, sexually abused, humiliated, force-fed shit, and made to endure numerous other torments, all for the sadistic pleasure of a duke, a banker, a judge, and an archbishop (the story is, in part, an allegory of political corruption).

Other differences between PTSD and C-PTSD include flashbacks (PTSD) vs. emotional flashbacks (C-PTSD), the former involving reliving the traumatic experience with the five senses, as if having been taken back by time machine to when it originally happened; whereas emotional flashbacks lack the physicality of the relived experience, and instead the painful emotions (fear, despair, anger) are re-experienced.

C-PTSD also involves many symptoms often not felt so much by PTSD sufferers, including the following: difficulty regulating emotions (explosive or inhibited anger, making catastrophes out of everything, etc.); difficulty relating to others socially, a feeling of being irreconcilably different from others; a lack of a sense of meaning or hope in life; preoccupation with the abuser (a sense that the abuser is all-powerful, while also feeling an urge to get revenge on him or her), overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame, and self-hatred; and dissociation, including the forgetting of traumatic memories.

Symptoms common to both PTSD and C-PTSD sufferers include nightmares, intense anxiety, emotional numbing, and avoidance of anything that, or anyone who, may trigger the traumatic memories. A veteran with PTSD will avoid places with loud noises, such as bursting fire-crackers, which may remind him of machine gun fire. A rape victim may avoid all romantic contact with men out of fear of a sexual encounter that would make her relive the rape. And a C-PTSD sufferer who has been in a concentration camp perhaps may try to avoid seeing anyone in a uniform, which gives memories of guards or prisoners in uniform.

When children develop C-PTSD as a result of ongoing physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse, they may become clumsy, unable to concentrate, or lacking in empathy. Nervousness and fear can cause the clumsiness, self-hate and shame can cause the inability to concentrate (and vice versa, going in a vicious circle), and a lack of empathy can be the natural result of growing up in an environment devoid of empathy for the victim. “If they don’t care about me, why should I care about them?” is an attitude easily adopted.

Sensitivity to loud noises of any kind will be intolerable to victims of PTSD and C-PTSD. Startling noises can, if unconsciously, remind the victim of sudden slaps on the face, shouting, bombs going off, airstrikes, gunfire, etc.

I believe myself to be a sufferer of a mild form of C-PTSD, for I appear to have most of the symptoms. I must emphasize the word mild, for two reasons: first, having lived far from my emotional abusers for over twenty years has caused my symptoms to abate considerably; and second, I feel my suffering pales in comparison to that of people like Lilly Hope Lucario, whose wonderful website alerted me to this mental health issue. Perhaps I am wrong to say my suffering is less; after all, traumas are more a matter of being different than of being ‘lesser’ or ‘greater’ than each other.

I will now detail my symptoms to illustrate even further the experience of the sufferer of complex trauma.

Throughout my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, I was subjected to various forms of emotional abuse, including gaslighting from my mother, who fabricated an autism diagnosis out of thin air, independently corroborated by no psychiatrists (in fact, two psychiatrists I’d received therapy from said they saw no signs of autism in me); constant bullying and belittling from my older brothers and sister, from whom I’d received virtually no defence from my ‘loving’ mother; explosive outbursts of verbal abuse from everyone in the family, usually for only mildly irritating things that I’d done; and bullying from my classmates at school, from coworkers on the job, and strangers on the street. I saw no escape, anywhere, and this was all during crucial developmental years in my life.

Enduring this kind of thing from people outside the family wasn’t so bad as it was from within, because one expects more of a loving attitude from one’s own flesh and blood. I feel betrayed by the five I grew up with; in my early twenties, I’d fantasize about getting far away from them, escaping from Ontario and going to Quebec. When I ended up in Taiwan, my fantasy had come true.

Sometimes I remember those painful episodes from my past (which often included my brother, F., not only threatening and verbally abusing me with the shouting of four-letter words, but also slapping, shoving, and spitting on me, then gaslighting me about supposedly never having done anything wrong to me), and fantasize about what I’d say if I tried to stick up for myself; but the feeling of overwhelming power that my tormentors had over me meant I felt that asserting myself would be futile. In my fantasies, I’d get overly emotional, bursting with a rage I couldn’t control, even acting it out. My bullies almost seemed to be there, right in front of me and receiving my rage, instead of me really being all alone in the room. I’d snap out of it and end up feeling even more worthless than before, because of how foolish I’d feel, like that moment in Hamlet when the title character says:

“Am I a coward?/Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?/Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face?/Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i’ the throat,/As deep as to the lungs? who does me this?/Ha!’swounds, I should take it: for it cannot be/But I am pigeon-liver’d and lack gall/To make oppression bitter, or ere this/I should have fatted all the region kites/With this slave’s offal: bloody, bawdy villain!/Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!/O, vengeance!/Why, what an ass am I!” (Act II, scene ii)

I think these experiences I’ve had are examples of emotional flashbacks.

I have always had difficulty regulating my emotions, in particular, my explosive anger, something I learned from my family, since for them, blowing up was the solution to every problem. My wife finds it a terrible trial when I go crazy over every minor problem; but her minimal, controlled anger with my emotional excesses proves that my family’s explosive anger with me was not unavoidable–I hadn’t left them with no choice but to blow up. They just rarely considered other options.

Whenever I have a problem, or even contemplate the possibility of a problem, I tend to make a catastrophe of it in my mind; then, the problem usually gets resolved with relative ease, and I wonder why I got so upset about it. I’m a prophet of doom and disaster for my life. I lie in bed, imagining disasters befalling me, and my anxiety ensures that I often don’t sleep properly.

All that bullying from my family created bad object relations that resulted in bullying at school and elsewhere, causing me to have difficulty relating to others in general. The early relationships one has with one’s primary caregivers are crucial, for they provide the blueprints, as it were, for all future relationships. So if those early caregivers bully you, belittle you, and otherwise betray your trust, you take that with you and assume people elsewhere will treat you in the same way; for as a little kid, you scarcely know any other kind of relationship.

Though people with C-PTSD typically feel isolated from the world, none of us are islands. Every human personality is in symbiotic relationships with others of some kind or another, including the worst relationships that cause the loneliness of the C-PTSD sufferer. We internalize bad object relations, those of our abusers, and they frighten us away from the rest of the world. Those bad internal objects form the inner critic, an internalization of our abusive parents, elder siblings, bullying classmates, and anyone else who may have hurt us, and we ‘learn’ that this is just the way the world is.

These bad object relations haunt our minds like ghosts, like demons possessing us. WRD Fairbairn elaborated on this idea in his book, Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality. In my analyses of The Exorcist and The Shining, I quote the relevant passages, so if you’re interested, you can look them up there.

In my mind, I do battle with an inner critic every day. I hear him accusing me of various things: lacking consideration for others when, for example, I’m riding my scooter to and from home (i.e., road rage); being mean or selfish; or doing stupid things in general. I feel myself fighting back against this inner critic, trying to show justification for my actions; and while many might agree with my justifications, my inner critic is never convinced, for he is an internalization of my ever-bullying family members.

My mother used the autism lie to make me feel irreconcilably different from others. She explicitly said to me, “You’re different,” in a heavily condescending tone when she rationalized excluding me from being involved with my sister, J., and her dying husband back in the mid-2000s (see my blog post, Emotional Abuse, where I discuss my sister’s husband dying of cancer, and my mother not wanting me to fly back to Canada to visit the family). The consistent lack of empathy the family showed me, whenever I tried to tell them of my pain, added to this feeling of being too different to fit in socially, as well as to my learned helplessness.

I’m obsessively preoccupied with my abusers. In their assumption that I don’t care about anyone but myself (one of their rationalizations for abusing me), my surviving family members (R., F., and J.) probably think that I rarely think about them. How wrong-headed such an idea is! I think of them, as well as my dead parents, every day without fail. I rarely think of them with kindness, though, just as they assuredly never give me such consideration, despite their bogus claims of loving me. I’ve dreamed of revenge, or punishment, more accurately, on my late mother and siblings, not as spite for spite’s sake, but to get them to understand the wrongs they’d done me; since just telling them wasn’t enough, I had to hit them over the head, so to speak, with a sledgehammer.

But even hitting them with that figurative sledgehammer wouldn’t be enough, for they will never listen, so assured are they of their own would-be righteousness. They feel all-powerful to me, impossible to get through to, for they’re always ready with a rationalization, a minimizing of their guilt, or an invalidation to silence me. Even my mother seems all-powerful in death, since her internalized object remains forever in my head, as Norman Bates’s mother is in his head.

My abusers’ omnipotence in my mind leads inevitably to undying feelings of shame, guilt, and worthlessness in me, even though it was their emotional abuse of me that provoked my disowning of them. No contact was the only way to keep them from meddling in my mind; and this was especially true of my manipulative mother during her last few years on this earth, for she’d been the ringleader of them all.

As a child, I had an odd habit of playing alone, in a solitary world of my own imagination, since my devastation over losing my childhood friend, Neil–from a 1977 move from Toronto to Hamilton–combined with the bullying I received in my new schools (as the ‘new boy’) and neighbourhood, made me feel powerless to make new friends (see Emotional Abuse for more on that story). On top of these problems, my brother, F., and sister, J., were bullying me, and my mother was gaslighting me with the autism lie. My escape into a world of imagination–along with a bad habit of talking to myself–seems to have been a mild manifestation of dissociation, or maladaptive daydreaming, a retreat from the painful world around me.

What my remaining family–my siblings, R., F., and J., as well as their families–imagines is my contempt for them (i.e., my refusal to communicate with any of them), is actually my need to maintain avoidance of them, to protect myself from future abuse. My ‘uncaring’ nature is really emotional numbness.

My mother claimed that my clumsiness was from Asperger Syndrome; I’d say it was from the complex trauma I’d acquired already from childhood, combined with a lack of playing sports, in which I’ve never had any interest. My difficulty concentrating, sometimes resulting in foolish mistakes or absent-mindedness, would be disparaged by the family as ‘stupidity’. My relative lack of empathy was something I’d learned, as a child, from those five stony-hearted people. On top of that, I can’t bear loud noises, which again is typical of a sufferer of C-PTSD.

I really do hope C-PTSD gets acknowledged in the next DSM. I also hope therapies for it improve, and that we sufferers get a chance to be healed by them one day. For now, though, we have to engage in self-care: this means being gentle with ourselves when we make mistakes, paying more attention to our strengths and talents, rather than our faults; it also means using self-compassion, or being a friend to ourselves, that kind, sympathetic ear we never got from those who should have given it to us. Other effective ways to heal ourselves include meditation and writing about our pain, as I have done here.

All those university students who complain about how exposure to controversial political opinions is “triggering”, and claim they need “safe spaces” so they don’t have to be exposed to ideas they don’t like, should consider redirecting their wrath towards its far likelier cause–an emotionally abusive or neglecting family. Research has shown that in the U.S., such family dysfunction is almost universal. Taking one’s anger out on people who have nothing to do with it not only fails to solve one’s problems, but also adds to everyone’s.

When we feel pain, we must take it to its source, not displace it onto people or things we only associate with the source of that pain. Bad object relations with abusive and/or neglectful primary caregivers is a common source.

Narcissism in the Family

Everyone has narcissistic tendencies to some extent, but there are healthy and unhealthy forms of self-love. Those with the unhealthy kind can manifest their egotism in a variety of ways, with varying levels of intensity.

Some, like Donald Trump, display their narcissism blatantly, by constantly bragging, pretending they have abilities far greater than those they really have, always needing to be the centre of attention, and openly showing their contempt for other people’s feelings.

While such people are certainly annoying, at least they’re easy to spot, and therefore to avoid. Other narcissists, however, are more cunning than that. This second kind of narcissist, the covert narcissist, is who I will be focusing on, because he or she is so much more dangerous.

This kind of narcissist knows he or she cannot get away with the childish antics of the Donald. This narcissist needs to establish a social setting that will be conducive to the attainment of his or her narcissistic supply, while ensuring safety from being found out. This usually involves two categories of people: allies and, of necessity, victims.

The narcissist may find a victim in the form of a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a family member. The victim will typically be a sensitive, trusting sort, an empathetic person who’s easily manipulated into the relationship. A son or daughter, during the tender years of childhood, is an especially easy target.

When allies are used by the narcissist, they are showered with charm and flattery, and given loads of love, in order to convince them that the narcissist is actually a good, kind-hearted, generous person. So when the victim is oppressed by the narcissist, no one will believe that so ‘loving’ a person as the perpetrator could ever do wrong. The victim must be crazy; he’s also a terrible slanderer, apparently; it couldn’t possibly be that he is the one being slandered.

The narcissist who exploits through one-on-one relationships makes the victim into an alternating friend and enemy. He starts with charm and flattery, love-bombing the victim into being deceived that he’s a wonderful find. As the relationship progresses, however, his true colours gradually come out, and the victim discovers that something is seriously wrong. The friend has become an enemy, and when things come to a head, there’s an explosive confrontation. Then the narcissist uses guile and manipulation to trick the victim into thinking it was all or mostly her fault, while he pays lip-service to whatever ‘miniscule’ part of the problem was his fault.  A peaceful honeymoon ensues, things go back to normal, and before long, the cycle of abuse begins all over again.

If this nightmare of a relationship doesn’t repeat itself in a seemingly endless cycle, the victim is simply devalued and discarded one time, and left emotionally devastated. Now, this kind of one-on-one relationship with a narcissistic boyfriend or girlfriend (or husband or wife) is hard enough; but a break-up or divorce can provide (though not, of course, guarantee) an escape. Similarly, the group situation with a narcissist and his or her allies (in, for example, the work environment) can be avoided by quitting the job or leaving those false friends. It becomes infinitely harder, though, when the narcissist and his or her flying monkeys all make up your family.

The narcissistic parent is a true terror. Though the narcissistic father is a formidable bully, I suspect the narcissistic mother is, in many ways, often much worse, if for no other reason than that she can cunningly exploit the stereotype of the angelic, saintly mother who criticizes her victim only out of ‘concern’. Remember that while we normally think of narcissists as self-absorbed egotists, many can come across convincingly as selfless and altruistic, all for the purpose of gaining narcissistic supply from being thought of as such saintly types.

Narcissists often get their supply from being the master of puppets. They project their inadequacies, through projective identification, manipulating their victims into introjecting that phoney identification. This manipulative kind of projection is necessary because of how important it is to the narcissist to maintain the image of his or her False Self, that phoney self-image that portrays him or her as a fountain of virtues, wisdom, and talents to him- or herself, as well as to everyone else. So the abuser has a phoney self-image as well as the victim.

Maintaining all this phoniness is done, of course, through lying–the narcissist lying to himself, to his victim(s), and to his enablers. Imagine the cruelty of doing this in the family, when a covert narcissistic mother is pulling the strings, knowing she can take advantage of both the ‘angelic, saintly mother’ stereotype and her kids’ sense of filial duty to her. Triangulation between the narcissistic mother, the enabler sibling(s), and the victim is especially damaging. Narcissists will believe their own lies, too, even when the lies are obvious. Their egos won’t tolerate the cognitive dissonance when confronted with their lying.

The narcissistic parent will choose one son or daughter, or several, to be the ‘black sheep,’ the scapegoat(s) on whom as much blame and grief will be imposed as the parent can get away with. The other son(s) and/or daughter(s) will be the ‘golden children’, the narcissist’s allies (the enablers or ‘flying monkeys’) who are encouraged to help the parent, in every way viable, to vilify, ridicule, and abuse the victim(s), justifying the cruelty by saying that the ‘black sheep’ deserve(s) it.

How can a victim escape such a nightmarish situation, especially if he or she is still a child? The child’s trauma will be ongoing, during crucial developmental years in his or her life, with no way out in sight. That the very people, who are supposed to love him or her, are constantly causing emotional–or maybe even physical or sexual–harm means the victim will grow up with an impaired sense of trust in people in general. If you can’t trust your own family, how can you trust the world? The victim will develop complex PTSD.

I know that I have suffered ongoing emotional abuse from my family, my mother having been the architect of that abuse. My story can be found here. I’ll never know for sure if she was actually a narcissist (she was never diagnosed), so I’m only speculating now. I will provide evidence here to make a case of covert narcissism in her, though I’m no expert and have no authority to say for sure if she had it.

Yes, my mother really died of cancer last May. If you read my article on Emotional Abuse, you’ll note that I speculated that she could have been lying about dying of cancer to get my attention, and manipulate me into flying back to Canada to see her. I was wrong about that, though my suspicions were understandable at the time, given her other lies over the years; so I didn’t update that in the previous article. Still, my mistaken speculation doesn’t disprove the rest of what I said in that article.

Now I will share a number of memories of mine to continue making the case (keeping in mind all of what I said in the previous article) that she could have been a narcissist, with the rest of my family–my brothers and sister in particular–as her allies, her ‘golden children’, and with me as the ‘black sheep’.

As I explained in Emotional Abuse, my mother tricked me into believing I had classic autism as a child back in the late 1970s (if you haven’t read that post, please don’t read this until you have, because I will make references to it that will make little sense unless you have), describing my ‘condition’ in extreme ways and using the most melodramatic language. I’d been going to grade school with normal classmates, yet she associated me with mentally retarded people. She also tended to grin like a Cheshire cat whenever she spoke of my ‘autism’. She seemed to enjoy talking about it, something most parents would never be happy about; she also spoke of it as if it were narcissism that I really had…projective identification, remember?

I’m sure she didn’t want me to think I was retarded, but instead that I ‘miraculously’ came out of a more extreme form of autism. Her plan was to make me believe I was, and still am, ‘behind’ everyone else. The fact that I actually don’t have an atom of autism in me (two psychiatrists who, in the mid-1990s, had examined me each over several months, told me they saw no autistic symptoms in me; and I did the Autism Quotient test back in the early 2010s, and I got a score [13] far below even the slightest of autistic traits [at least 32 being “clinically significant”, with any score below 26 effectively ruling out Asperger’s Syndrome], thus reconfirming the psychiatrists’ conclusions), even of the highest functioning type, shows what brutal gaslighting she’d been subjecting me to…and gaslighting is a typical form of abuse narcs use on their victims.

My mother sometimes showed explosive rage, at times when it didn’t seem at all necessary; this is a trait of narcissists, when they feel their worth is being somehow doubted. One time when I was about eight or nine years old, I was talking with my mother in the kitchen, and while I forget the context of the conversation, the relevant part came when she said dumb, meaning ‘stupid’ (Was she calling me dumb? I don’t remember). I corrected her by saying that “dumb means you can’t talk.” I meant no harm, but I must have sounded cheeky, for she slapped me hard and growled, “Don’t be [SMACK!] lippy with me!”

I can understand her being annoyed with my cheekiness, but surely slapping me hard on the face, and shouting in a fury over such a small thing, was a bit much. I suspect she was feeling narcissistic rage and injury at the time. This wasn’t an isolated incident; there were many examples of this narcissistic rage and injury that she manifested, of which I’ll give a few more examples.

Other moments of such narcissistic injury seem to have occurred on her birthday, on two occasions. One time, when I was a kid, she got upset with my father for not being or doing as he should have, and she stormed away in tears, shouting, “…and on my birthday!“, just like a child who’d had her dolls taken away.

Another time, when I was about twenty, was when my father and my brother, F. (and I was falsely accused of having), forgot her sacred birthday. Just as a parenthetical note, before I go into the details of this story: whenever my birthday is forgotten or regarded slightly, I don’t get one one-hundredth as upset as my mother did; yet the family consensus is that I have an over-estimated opinion of myself (the definition of autism, apparently), rather than her. I’ll go into a theoretical explanation of why I’m branded this way instead of her later on.

A day or so prior to her birthday, I found myself unable to think of a suitable gift to buy her. I discussed the problem with my sister, J., one or two nights before Mom’s birthday. I remember taking a bus downtown the day before her birthday with the express purpose of looking for a gift for her, unfortunately with no success. My mother had spoken of needing a wheelbarrow, but there was no way I could have afforded one, and lugging one onto a bus to take home would have been awkward, to say the least.

On her birthday, a Sunday afternoon, J. gave Mom a gift; J.’s plans later that day were to get together with a friend of hers. Agitated that I hadn’t gotten Mom anything, I talked to her about it; she kindly said I didn’t have to get it for her that day–she also mentioned a gardening book she wanted.

Now I knew what to buy her; but in the meantime I’d buy her a birthday card, so I did. When I gave it to Mom, she received it in the TV room with a smile. Then I went over to J., who was in the bathroom. I said jokingly, “I gave Mom a down payment.”

Then J. got all snotty and bitchy on me, all of a sudden. She was obviously irked that I hadn’t provided a parcel for Mom “on time”. I pointed out how arrogant she was being (not a nice thing to say, but it was the truth), and she started yelling at me, accusing me of forgetting Mom’s birthday (Had Mom told her I’d forgotten, when I hadn’t?). When I asked why it was sooooooo necessary to be punctilious about birthdays, she shouted, “It’s your mother’s birthday!!!

Then I snapped. “And a birthday is this great god we have to worship!” I shouted. Though it hadn’t been my intention to trivialize my mother’s feelings (I was just criticizing the need to follow social conventions so blindly), unfortunately, it came out that way.

Now my mother started screaming at me. “Go away!” she shouted. “Fuck off! You arrogant, egotistical…” etc. etc. (It’s interesting how she’d switched so quickly from kind and gentle to so vicious, all because of one remark I’d made.)

Shaking, I tried to apologize for what I’d said, to placate her, but to no avail. “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” I said sincerely, over and over.

“Yes, you did!” she shouted. “Go away!”

The very same day, I went to a shopping mall and bought her that gardening book. When I gave it to her, a got a muted apology from her for yelling at me.

A little later on, I ran into J. in front of a nearby variety store. “Hi,” she said to me, as if a fight hadn’t occurred at all that day. (Amazing how people’s moods can swing so quickly.)

When I tried to clarify my position on the whole gift-giving custom, saying, “I thought it was the thought that counts,” I got a contemptuous scowl from J.

Then she explained the root of the problem: our father had forgotten Mom’s birthday. Similarly, neither F. nor his wife were anywhere to be found to give Mom anything. (And I, as usual, was the last to be informed of any of this problem, because I’m the least important family member.)

Then J. acknowledged that I had taken the brunt of Mom’s wrath (scapegoating is a typical tactic used by narcs and their enablers); J. never apologized for that, of course, but instead rubbed it in further, first by accusing me again of forgetting Mom’s birthday, then by shouting, “Think of other people! Don’t think about yourself!” and saying that I shouldn’t think of getting Mom’s gift fast, so the rest of the day could be a “Me-day!” (Of course, the idea was lost on J. that maybe I was trying to get Mom her gift on time, precisely what J. had said I should have done, because I’d been thinking of Mom rather than myself.) By the way, J. was about to have a “Me-day” of her own with a friend, now that her ‘debt’ to Mom had been paid, fortunately for J., “on time”, so she was guiltless.

Then J., always Mom’s faithful flying monkey, manipulated me into saying that I thought buying a gift for Mom was a “chore” (she actually introduced the idea into the conversation, projecting that bad attitude onto me); then she guilt-tripped me by saying, “If you think giving Mom a gift is a chore, then that’s your problem,” then she walked off in a self-righteous huff.

So, there you have it: both J. and Mom were mad at me because Dad forgot Mom’s precious birthday, as F. had seemed to do. I never forgot it, as you’ll recall, and in fact made a decent effort to find something for her, but was unlucky. Even though J. surely remembered my asking her what to get Mom a day or two before Sunday, she accused me twice of forgetting what I obviously hadn’t. (She and Mom were displacing their anger at Dad onto me.)

My mother was flying into a fit about trivializing her sacred birthday, something I’d hardly get mad about if it had been my birthday, yet I am the “egotistical” one.

Several months after this absurd birthday incident, I talked with J. in the kitchen about it again. She gave me another one of her condescending lectures about how awful it is to treat a birthday as if it were a mere chore, a job to be done (Something I’d never thought: I just didn’t give birthdays the holy status she and my mother were giving them, especially my Mom’s birthday.)

Then J. droned on about how we as a family weren’t very “lovey-dovey”, and “that’s OK” (WTF?). Therefore, we compensate for this lack of affection through gift-giving, a rather superficial showing of love, in my opinion. The idea that maybe, just maybe, we as a family could make an effort to show more love to each other as a regular habit, instead of putting all our eggs in one birthday basket, was never even to be considered, of course.

During this same conversation, I told J. about my long-existing doubts about whether I was truly loved by the family, and she responded by saying, “We love you, Mawr,” half-sneering and avoiding my eyes, suggesting no sincerity at all, and certainly giving no demonstrable proof of this professed love. I also asked for help and reassurances against the insecurities I was having at the time (insecurities largely caused by the emotional abuse and bullying I’d been subjected to by the family); she said, in her typically derisive tone, “That’s a pretty big order, Mawr.”

Gee, who has a problem with chores now?

Another occasion of Mom’s explosive anger came when I was about eighteen. I was at home with her, in the TV room, where she’d been sitting on the sofa. I was standing at the doorway, and she told me she would need me to do some dishwashing work at the family restaurant. She’d got me to substitute unavailable or sick dishwashers on many occasions, and I was irritated by this. I showed my annoyance by interrupting her before she could finish explaining the situation.

Now, I admit that by interrupting her, I was being impolite, and I’ve had a bad habit of doing that with people; but her explosion of rage immediately following my interruption was surely excessive. At the time, I’d imagined her overreaction was a result of the accumulated stress of her owning and managing a restaurant with my father for almost ten years…but at the time of her blow-up, she’d been sitting comfortably in the TV room, watching the boob tube, as she very often did. So I doubt stress was her problem.

Narcissistic injury seems a better explanation.

First she said, “Shut up!” Had she stopped there, she would have found me quiet and listening to her. Instead, she exploded: “Jeez, you’re rude!“, then began ranting at me like a psychotic. I tried to keep my cool, not yelling back for the sake of avoiding escalation, but it was no use: she was determined to be as verbally abusive as she liked.

Apparently, my calm was infuriatingly arrogant, whereas her self-indulgent rage was nothing to criticize. My response, “Has the volcano finished erupting?”, was a tad incisive, but understandable. She insisted that I was making her even angrier, when she hardly needed any encouragement from me. Was my cool just reminding her of what a jackass she was behaving like? I never called her that, but she hardly needed to be called that by anyone, so obviously was she making herself lose face in front of me. The only thing more obvious than that was how much she was hurting me…not that she cared.

Somewhere in the middle of her high-decibel rant, she shouted, “Do you think you’re the only person in this whole god-damned house?” (The lady doth project too much, methinks.)

Finally, she decided my calm was too outrageous to bear, and she shouted, “Get out of here! Who needs ya?” As I walked up the stairs to my bedroom, I then heard, “You arrogant little bastard!”

I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I replied, “Hateful person.”

She roared at me once again, “Get out of here! Who needs you?”

And all of this, just because I’d interrupted her.

Later, after she’d finally calmed down, I returned, saying, “I’ll apologize to you if you apologize to me.” She, of course, would never apologize, calling me a “prick” after I told her how hurtful “arrogant little bastard” sounded. Then, she expressed her offence at my saying she was “hateful”. She insisted, frowning, “Of course I love you. You’re my son.”As if that even means anything: love is as love does. We need to show love, not just talk about it.

After that pathetic attempt at reconciliation, I returned to my room and bawled my eyes out. How could a mother’s “love” be so shamelessly phoney? I was loved only because technically I was a member of the family; yet merely for interrupting her, and trying to keep my cool during her tirade, I ‘deserved’ that avalanche of verbal abuse?

Some time after, I complained about that incident to J., who as Mom’s enabler, her flying monkey, defended Mom to the hilt as usual, without even properly hearing my side of the story. J. talked a load of nonsense about teenagers thinking they know everything, which had nothing to do with what I was talking about; I just didn’t see why I needed to be screamed at for merely interrupting Mom. Impoliteness deserves viciousness, it seems.

And speaking of impoliteness, she was hardly innocent of that.

Not too long after this incident, she interrupted me in a conversation, which I, without anger, immediately pointed out to her; then she justified it by claiming she’d merely been “anticipating” what I would say. Hadn’t I been “anticipating” rather than being an “arrogant little bastard”? Why was my “anticipating” rude, but hers wasn’t?

Other occasions of her rudeness included several times when, in the restaurant, she had found me standing in her way, and she, presumably busy and stressed, had no alternative, it seemed, but to shout “Get out of my way!” and even shove me to the side once or twice.

On another occasion, when she was in the restaurant kitchen working, and I asked her about something, and she, too stressed out to be nice, couldn’t help shouting, “In your ass!” to me. On yet another occasion, in the kitchen, my questions and trying to get her attention necessitated her throwing a steel ladle in my direction and shouting, “I’m not listening to you!” with the most vicious look in her eyes. I’m a most infuriating conversationalist, apparently.

She also liked grabbing me by the ear and pulling me along wherever she wanted me to go. She didn’t do this merely out of anger or frustration with me: sometimes she did it for the sheer fun of humiliating me. One time, right in front of other people, non-family members, she told them, “This is how you get him to come with you,” then grabbed me by the ear again. I yelled, “No, no, NO!” and struggled to make her let go.

I was about 28-and-a-half at the time.

This, recall, was the mother who ‘gave me the most love’ of anyone in the family, a position my oldest brother, R., another flying monkey of hers, reiterated in a shaming comment to me just after she died (see my article, Emotional Abuse, for the whole story).

Her explosions of temper weren’t directed only at me. As the owner of the family restaurant in the 1980s, she was often nasty towards salespeople, or even just any visitor who, perhaps, she mistook for a salesperson. It took the slightest provocation to make her blow up at any visitor trying to do business with her. Yelling at them like a madwoman was apparently the only way to deal with them walking into the restaurant kitchen to talk to her.

One time, a man who was apparently a friend of one of the staff asked if he could sit in the guest room while eating his meal; she coldly told him he had to sit in the main dining area and walked out of the room. I’d rather not repeat what he said about her after she’d left.

Another time, a man came into the guest room with some innocuous questions, and she, apparently thinking he was another hated salesman, blew up at him, shouting, “I don’t even know who you are!” among other hostile remarks. I had to leave the room because I just couldn’t bear to hear any more of her nastiness, or imagine how she was making him feel. Seriously, what was wrong with her?

It seemed that anyone outside of her inner circle was unwelcome in the extreme, including my cousins and, sometimes, me. She never had a kind word to say about my cousins, particularly the oldest and youngest of the three men. The middle cousin, whom I’ll call S. (previously mentioned in Emotional Abuse), had been spoken of fairly well by her until evidence surfaced of his emotional instability, an instability already seen, according to her smear campaigns, in his two brothers. As soon as S. was seen to be “ill” (her word, one she’d used to describe me when I was a kid with an apparently extreme form of “autism”), she turned on him. My nurse mother cured bodily illness; she cursed mental illness…right after projecting it onto those she despised.

She justified her antipathy to S. by complaining of all the awful things he’d been saying to me in his e-mail rants, accusing me of gossiping about him behind his back with our former teacher friends, completely baseless accusations coming from S.’s paranoid fantasies. In contrast, Mom couldn’t care less about the far crueller things my brothers and sister (Mom’s enablers, remember) would say to me, in their bullying of me throughout my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Mom rationalized their bullying, because they were in her inner circle; she condemned S.’s nastiness, because he wasn’t in that circle.

Instead of trying to feel compassion for S. for having a mental illness, possibly paranoid schizophrenia brought on by excessive substance abuse (LSD, marijuana, hashish, and loads of alcohol, among other drugs), my mother used his scurrilous ravings against me as a convenient excuse not only to dislike him, but to teach the family to dislike him, too. If he really is a “schizy,” to use her pejorative slang, teaching the family to alienate him is the last thing he needs.

So, she spoke pejoratively about their emotional problems just as she had about mine; I believe this bad-mouthing represents a projection of her own probable narcissistic tendencies onto us, since she spoke of my “autism,” or later “Asperger Syndrome,” as well as that which she fabricated of my youngest cousin in descriptions with the language of narcissism (i.e., having an annoyingly self-absorbed personality, etc.).

People with mental illnesses were, in her mind, always thought to be people who trouble others rather than are troubled people themselves, worthy of sympathy.

The family tends toward the belief that “ill” people are ‘born’ with a mental disorder of some kind: my mother encouraged that attitude, I believe, as a way to evade responsibility for how the family caused so much psychological harm to me, to my cousins, and even to each other. R. did poorly at school and dropped out because he was just “stupid” by nature, according to my crusty father, rather than because he was going through a tough time during his early adolescence, a problem made worse by my father’s verbal abuse and insensitivity to to R.’s emotional problems. My father was no narc, but he was mentally unhealthy in as huge a way as my mother.

My cousins aren’t “normal” because of innate personality flaws, or so my mother would have had us believe; not because of poor parenting, or some other cause of childhood trauma.

I tend in the opposite direction of my mother’s theory of ‘innate’ mental illness. In a similar vein, I find it troubling how many psychiatrists tend to focus too much on somatic factors (i.e. chemical imbalances) in the brain to explain various factors of mental abnormality. This approach seems to be used to justify the use of psychiatric drugs to ‘manage’ mental disorders instead of doing the long and hard work of curing the patient. The use of these drugs seems to be an exploiting of people’s pain for profit.

In contrast, I believe mental disturbances are more the result of traumatizing events in one’s life. The use of psychoanalysis (free association, dream analysis, etc.) can gradually bring to the surface all those childhood traumas that have been buried in the unconscious for years. Also, the transference and countertransference in the patient/therapist relationship can help the patient rebuild positive object relations to replace the negative ones from childhood.

R., F., and J. experienced moderate levels of emotional abuse from our parents (I’m convinced that Mom was manipulating them, in different ways and for different purposes, as much as she was me, resulting in my siblings’ having their own mild forms of narcissism, carbon copies of our mom’s), resulting in their own fierceness towards me; my parents also experienced traumatic moments in their childhoods to give them the often irascible personalities they had. This is not to excuse them of their cruel ways in the least, just as my own excessive scolding of some of my child students is not to be excused by my Complex PTSD (as I believe I have); we must own our bad deeds and take full responsibility for them. We must do all we can to heal ourselves to the best of our ability, to minimize the hurting of others.

My mother was born in London, England, in 1938. She moved to Canada with her mother in the 1940s after her father died; she must have experienced, on some level at least, the horrors of World War II. This, combined with the loss of her dear father and the huge change of moving to another country and leaving her old world behind, all at such a tender age, must have been too much for her bear (remember how devastated I was when I moved from Toronto to Hamilton, and had to say goodbye to my best friend, Neil). It would have been a miracle if she hadn’t been traumatized.

As hard as it must have been for her, though, none of it justifies what she did to me or my cousins. What happened to her was beyond her control; her lying to me about autism was a choice she made.

My father was born in Canada in 1928, so he as a child suffered through the Great Depression, teaching him to be tight with money; as a German-Canadian, he would also have had social difficulties as a teenager during World War II. Still, his verbal abusiveness and parsimony were choices he made, not anything forced on him. He justified his meanness as “conservative” thinking. I just call it mean.

One memory my mother was actually fond of telling on at least a few occasions was when she’d been with R. in a shopping mall in, I assume, the mid-late 1960s. He was being a bratty kid, shouting and being demanding. She’d had enough at one point, so she pulled his pants down right there in public, and spanked him. She later bragged, “He never did it again” (i.e., behaved badly in public with her).

Now, if a mother snaps and does something like that, then regrets her excessive punishment, seeing it as a momentary lapse of judgement, that would be forgivable; but my mother boasted about her moment of power, decades later, at a time when people had been coming around to consider spanking, especially such a public kind, to be a form of child abuse.

So here we see some examples of childhood trauma in some of my family members. Now, having suffered childhood traumas gave my parents and siblings the right to grieve their pain; it gave them no special right to inflict that pain on me.

Since my mother’s lying had gone on over a period of decades, along with her manipulating and triangulating tactics with my siblings, I find it reasonable to assume that these were things she’d been doing from childhood, the product of her early life having been turned upside down. I’ll bet that she, as a lonely child and teenager, lied constantly to gain attention; and her mother scolded her about it and shamed her. This resulted in a fragile ego that constantly needed supply, a typical problem with narcissists.

She was smart enough to realize, by the time she’d grown up, that she couldn’t get away with overtly demanding attention and adulation all the time, so she learned what many narcissists learn: how to hide her egocentricity and fake being altruistic. In exchange for doing things for others, she’d expect them to give her narcissistic supply; and if they failed to do so, there’d be hell to pay.

Her choice of vocation, nursing, is interesting in this regard–someone who helps the sick. Her preoccupation with medical matters as a possible source of narcissistic supply (i.e., showing off her nursing knowledge at every opportunity), was extended to a preoccupation with psychiatric matters, which she knew nothing about. Her medical knowledge deserves acknowledgement and respect, but she never deserved that for issues of mental illness. Still, she’d prate away like an expert on autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and even schizophrenia, things she didn’t know the first thing about. (Narcs claiming their victims have mental illnesses seems to be a very common thing, by the way.) A nurse is supposed to be among the most compassionate people around, yet where was her pity for my cousins or me?

I must jump ahead to her last years. When I finally put all the pieces together and realized that all her talk about autism and Asperger Syndrome was lies, I was so overcome with rage at her betrayal that, typical of someone with complex PTSD, I grew obsessed with my abuser, wanting revenge.

I consider punishment a better word for what I did in 2015, in response to her abuse, than revenge, since denying her what she didn’t deserve–me as a source of narcissistic supply–was the perfect punishment. This was also, as I see it, a gentle punishment. I was only avoiding contact with her, as is appropriate with Cluster B individuals. In that final year, I wasn’t hurling verbal abuse at her in e-mails, or anything like that. When I’d complained about her emotionally abusing me, and warned that I’d stop visiting if she didn’t stop, that had been in e-mails sent almost ten years earlier, which contained none of the four-letter words she and the family had always used on me. Finally, she couldn’t have missed me all that much: after all, when she’d told me not to come to see J. and her dying husband, my absence then hadn’t made her heart grow fonder–why would she suddenly hunger for me by her side now?

No, her pain from lacking me in Canada from 2009-2016 was more likely from narcissistic injury. She never took responsibility for anything she’d done: for lying to me about my mental state; for sitting idly by while R., F., and J. bullied me throughout my youth; for not caring enough to lift a finger to help S. when she, a nurse, learned he is mentally ill.

If she was upset about my non-communication with her during the last five or six years of her life, why didn’t she simply do what any normal person would do? Why not e-mail me, asking me if there had been anything she or the family had done to upset me, making me not want to talk to her? Instead, whenever she tried to confront me on the issue, she put it all on me: I wasn’t communicating with the family; she was “hurt and annoyed” that I had “given up on the family.” Given all those years of emotional abuse, why wouldn’t I have? Yet she always put the blame on me, instead of herself, when my previous e-mails (from 2005-2008) clearly expressed all my grievances with the family, and warned her that the family visits would stop if she didn’t stop manipulating me.

The fact is that my narc mom felt perfectly entitled to treating me as she had; and like a queen, she still expected tribute from her subjects. She got that tribute from R., F., and J., so they, her flying monkeys, were treated well. When I failed to pay that tribute, to give her the attention and adulation she needed for her narcissistic supply, I was in the wrong, and not her.

When she was dying of cancer on a hospital bed, R. by her side with his cellphone there, waiting for me to call her, the lies she’d told me the previous late summer (in 2015; see Emotional Abuse) should have been fresh on her mind. Yet she feigned ignorance of all of them, as well as all the others, the same playing dumb that she’d been doing months before. Furthermore, she was high on morphine and full of the stress of imminent death, not to mention feeling the pain of her conflict with me. Surely that stress, and the drugs, would have caused a slip of the tongue, if not a confession of guilt with teary eyes! Surely she could have at least confessed to the 2015 summer lies about S. and my aunt, saying she was desperate to get me to talk to her, and so she lost her head.

Instead, she calmly pretended she had no idea what I’d been talking about in my accusation of her lying, focusing on how I’d hurt her so badly. This is the narcissist playing victim while denying her own guilt. I’d been so shocked by her lie about my aunt saying I’d sent her “over-the-top” e-mails that I couldn’t sleep for most of the night after I’d received Mom’s phoney message; but I had hurt her…I hadn’t merely forced her to take responsibility for hurting me. She was remorseless to the end.

She died of cancer at the age of 77, going on 78, in May of 2016. Though I wasn’t with her when she died (nor did I want to be), I did find myself with conflicting feelings, torn between a sense of filial duty to her and my need to protect myself from her manipulations. Remember that I had reason to believe she was faking her death; though I was wrong, my suspicions were understandable given the lies and manipulating I’d endured from her already. So I had to weigh my need for self-protection and urge for justice (through punishing her) against a need for a filial, compassionate response to her suffering (assuming that her cancer really had metastasized). The stress at the time was driving me mad, for unlike my mother, I have a conscience that perturbs me, even when my harsh actions are sufficiently justified. Such is the power of society’s injunction that one honour one’s father and mother.

Of all those things she said to me during that last phone call, all negative generalizations about me because of my understandable wish to end all contact with a probable narc, the most galling was her claim to have given me more love than to R., F., or J., a preposterous falsehood given all her preferential treatment of her three flying monkeys. R. went into all-out hyperbole for her sake by claiming that she’d loved me “more than anyone else on the planet,” in the context of shaming me for not having returned her love at her death. This is an example of a covert narcissist convincing her flying monkeys that she was practically a saint in life, when her victim secretly knows better. It’s also an example of reaction formation, a pretending to have the noble opposite of one’s real, unacceptable attitude (i.e., Mom’s actually having loved me least, if at all).

Indeed, how does a mother who loves you the most, or even equally to your siblings, do the following eight things: lie that you’re autistic, describing it with extreme language to deprive you, a child, of needed self-confidence; allow your elder siblings to bully, belittle, humiliate, and curse at you without a word of reprimand to them, with only a few rare exceptions; frequently indulge in explosive anger, usually for slight provocations; extend your feelings of childhood social alienation to the remaining years of your life by modifying the autism lie into a more plausible lie about Asperger’s Syndrome; demand your involvement in the family regardless of how you feel, on the one hand, then on the other hand discard you as persona non grata when your involvement becomes inconvenient (i.e., Mom’s telling “tactless” me not to visit J. and her dying husband); make it apparent that she’s engaging in smear campaigns against you, behind your back (i.e., when bad-mouthing my youngest cousin, claiming that he, too, must have Asperger’s Syndrome, this implying that she was doing the same thing to me); do nothing to help a mentally ill cousin, whom you’ve begged her to help, when helping him would be the only assured way of preventing him from harming you; and exploiting your concern for him through lies, along with projecting her obvious spite against you onto someone else (i.e., my aunt’s supposed dismay over my “over-the-top” e-mails, and claiming that my aunt considers me a “burden”, when actually it was my mother who had these feelings)?

Was this a loving mother, or a covert narcissist who feigned altruism to get her supply from her flying monkeys (R., F., and J., her darling golden children), then bad-mouthed, cursed at, and smeared everyone she didn’t like (the black sheep: me, my cousins, salespeople, etc.), for more narcissistic supply? Was her claiming I have an autism spectrum disorder, incorrectly described in the language of narcissism, really her using projective identification on me to rid herself of her bad, True Self, thus making it easier to make her loving, False Self more convincing to the world and to herself?

Was her heartache at my rejection of her really just narcissistic injury, her listing of my vices on R.’s cellphone just her way of getting back at me? And if her death was in any way connected with that heartache (as I imagine R., F., and J. think it is, doubtless with her influence), was it really because she’d forever lost that projected part of herself…what she really loved?

I’ll never know for sure, but I have good reason to think so.

As I said in my previous post on this subject, my mother didn’t always mistreat me. She could be generous if she wanted to be, and she was quite often. I acknowledge that, but only in the context of how narcissists can alternate between being nice and nasty (idealizing, devaluing, and discarding phases). You see, Dear Reader, even her kindest moments cannot compensate for the wrongs she did to me as described above, so I can only conjecture that her good moments ultimately had self-serving motives.

Had I been in a normal family, with healthy and loving, if imperfect parents, my snubbing of my mother during her last moments on this earth would have been inexcusable. But mine was a dysfunctional family, so dysfunctional that they will never admit it to themselves. No contact is a standard defensive move that victims of narcissists and psychopaths will use; when I used it, it just happened to occur during my victimizer’s final hours. And my last talk with her on R.’s cellphone gave her one last chance to redeem herself. She chose not to do that.

Unlike my mother, I take full responsibility for what I did during her final years. I deliberately refused to be loving to her, and the whole family was hurt by that. But in my defence, I was provoked…my whole life…by people who spoke of love all the time, but largely didn’t practice it, except among those in their inner circle.

When I received a package from the family lawyer confirming her death and showing me a copy of her will, my heart sank. I went into a depression for at least a week, my shame weighing down on me like a huge rock on my back. She’d left me a portion of her money equal to what she gave R., F., and J., but I didn’t want it. I sent a release of my portion, preferring instead to have our mother’s money equally divided in thirds between R., F., and J. I didn’t want anything from a mother who refused to give me the basic emotional building blocks to live in a functional way.

I’ve gotten over the worst of my grieving so far. Though it was hard for me to do what I did, I feel no contact was the right thing to do. If you, Dear Reader, have been emotionally abused, especially by family, who should have loved you and inspired your trust, you should feel no compunction whatsoever about not giving them a love they didn’t deserve. You owe them nothing. You need to love yourself and take care of yourself, what they never did for your emotional needs.

Learn about self-compassion. Meditate. Write about your experiences, as I have done here; it’s cathartic. Find support groups, whether on social media or in your physical area. Get a therapist if you can find one. Do whatever you have to do to heal, taking as long as you need. Take care of yourself because you are worthy of a happy, healthy life. You did not deserve what happened to you, at all. You deserved much, much better.

Love yourself, and be at peace.

Emotional Abuse

Introduction

Also known as psychological abuse or mental abuse, emotional abuse involves repeated and sustained forms of manipulation, bullying, and controlling of the victim over a long period of time, resulting in clinically significant amounts of psychological trauma, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or complex PTSD. This abuse is distinct from physical or sexual abuse, though these two always include emotional abuse, since the whole aim of the abuser is to have power and control over the victim. Though physical and sexual abuse thus involve dual forms of abuse, as opposed to emotional abuse existing alone, it is emotional abuse that causes the longest-lasting scars, since the physical scars heal, whereas emotional ones tend to stay with the victim for years, even decades.

Emotional abuse takes on many forms, including terrorizing (physical threats to the victim, his or her children, or pets), degradation (insults, put-downs, yelling, public humiliation), isolation (physical confinement, not allowing the victim to be with friends or family), corrupting (exposure–especially of a child–to alcohol, drugs, pornography, bigoted attitudes, religious fundamentalism), rejection (including forms of manipulation, like gaslighting, denial, or rationalizing abuse, or minimizing/invalidating its existence, to make the victim feel devalued, inferior, or unworthy), and emotional unresponsiveness or neglect (failing to show affection, making the victim feel like a burden, ‘a job to be done’).

The perpetrators abuse their victims for a variety of possible reasons. They could have been abuse victims themselves, and so they take out their pain on their victims; also, a relationship dynamic of abuser vs. abused may be the only one the abuser knows. The abuser may suffer from a personality disorder: Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD, also known as psychopathy or sociopathy), etc.

The abuser doesn’t have to be cruel to everybody: usually one or two victims will suffice; also, the abuser doesn’t have to torment the victim 24/7, for in a cycle of abuse, there are pleasant periods (the ‘honeymoon’), then a build-up of increasingly intolerable abuse leading to a confrontation, then insincere apologies and a promise to change (this includes ‘hoovering’, a method of sucking the victim back by being temporarily ‘kind’ to him or her)…then another ‘honeymoon’ arrives, and the cycle repeats itself…endlessly.

It is inconceivable that the abuser would always be mean, let alone be so to everybody, because he or she knows that people would quickly get sick of his or her attitude and end the relationship. The abuser tends to pick one victim, or only a few, then build a network of friends and/or family who will be loyal to the abuser, at the victim’s expense. The abuser is sometimes nice in order to confuse the victim, making him or her think that the abuse is also ‘out of love’, and just meant to correct the victim’s supposedly errant ways.

Thus emotional abuse emerges in situations where there’s a power imbalance: in families (parents dominating their kids, adult sons or daughters abusing their elderly parents, or elder siblings bullying their younger ones); at school (bullies, domineering teachers); in the workplace (bosses over their employees, senior employees over newer ones, etc.); online (cyberbullying, trolling…which includes professional trolls, doxxing), etc.

The long-term effects of bullying are not something to be trivialized, though they all too often are, particularly…and most obviously…by the abuser. Childhood trauma shows itself in adulthood problems. The victim’s trauma leads to depression, low self-esteem, severe anxiety, poorly-controlled anger, dissociation, and having no sense of one’s own true identity. The victim loses much of his or her ability to trust others, learned helplessness ensues, and thus he or she either avoids social contact or develops poor social skills; this can cause a vicious circle including re-victimization, even poorer trust in people, and more social avoidance/ineptitude.

If you find yourself in an emotionally abusive relationship, be it with a domineering boyfriend/husband or girlfriend/wife, or an abusive family, job environment, or school situation, these steps must be taken: first, get help; if that doesn’t work, get out! If the abuser(s) won’t leave you alone, break off contact. Then, get psychiatric help. Involve the police, if necessary.

Baring My Soul

To illustrate the emotionally abusive relationship, please indulge me, Dear Reader, in some autobiography. Since I’ve been a victim of emotional abuse myself (the abusers being my family), I find it therapeutic to vent my feelings by telling you my story.

I’ve tried to make the following as coherent as possible, keeping reasonably to a chronological order. But the emotional nature of this confession makes it impossible to keep the below narrative from jumping back and forth sometimes. Psychological trauma tends to addle you in this way.

1 – Childhood

My brothers, whom I’ll name R. and F., were born in 1961 and 1963 respectively. My sister, whom I’ll call J., was born in 1964. I was born much later, in 1969. The family photo album was loaded with baby photos of R., F., and J.–I had one. Neither of my parents took the picture, for they were in it. Perhaps these facts mean nothing; perhaps they mean a lot. I will speculate on the possible significance of them towards the end of this article.

Around when I was three or four, I vaguely recall my bedroom door being locked at night, confining me in my room. On one occasion, the door was roped shut. I remember sitting on my knees by the door (I never slept well), rocking back and forth, chanting “Open up the door” rhythmically, over and over again. Needless to say, it was never opened till the next morning.

My mother explained that I had a habit of going outside at night or early in the morning and playing in the middle of the road. This seems like a bizarre story; I suspect that what I was really doing at night was getting out of bed and bothering my parents when they were trying to sleep.

As a child, I was bullied by F. and J., often left crying without anyone to hold me. I made friends, my best friend being an Irish boy named Neil. He was extremely important to me during those years, and when my family moved away in 1977, I was devastated. I don’t fault my family for moving–that was just my bad luck–but how they dealt with my subsequent social withdrawal was another matter entirely.

Before I go into that, another matter must first be dealt with. R., about 16 at the time, left the family. He’d been having a difficult time because he wasn’t doing well at school, and my ultra-conservative father used the most Neanderthal of methods–verbal abuse, shaming–to deal with R.’s bad grades. It all came to a head, R. couldn’t take it anymore, and he didn’t move with us from Toronto to Hamilton.

My despondency over leaving Neil affected me at school, and I was removed from regular classes, actually removed from one school and put in a different school altogether; a regular grade school, as always, but I was put in a class with kids who also had problems of one sort or another. It was around this time, the late 1970s, that I remembered hearing my mother describe me as ‘autistic’ for the first time.

The bullying continued, and though R. had sometimes protected me from F., he was gone now, leaving me at F.’s mercy. F. rationalized the bullying as ‘frustration’ that I showed no interest in making friends. Of course, if my parents had explained to him that bullying me, and forcing me to play baseball (a game I wasn’t at all interested in), wouldn’t encourage me to make friends, he might have stopped.

Now it is unfortunately true that I had an odd childhood habit of playing all by myself; I indulged in solitary fantasy, dreaming up stories like those in movies or on TV. I also developed an odd habit of talking to myself, and intensely imagining myself in conversations with others. My mother would have considered these ‘autistic symptoms,’ though I’ve never read of such habits as being autistic. In hindsight, I now suspect that these habits could have been forms of dissociation, or maladaptive daydreaming, due to the psychological trauma my family was subjecting me to.

As I said above, I’d played with friends like Neil in Toronto, but the devastation of having lost him was something I hadn’t gotten over. F.’s and J.’s bullying of me, and their pejorative way of describing my solitary play just shamed me into doing more of it. When people are making a child feel worthless, he or she figures no one will want to be his or her friend. Make a child feel like a freak, and he’ll act like a freak.

It was around 1980 or so that I began to get As at school. My parents were pleased: one A, then two, then three, then five As in grade five. I asked my mother what ‘autistic’ meant. The official family definition was that it referred to excessive self-absorption, which sounds more appropriate for NPD.

Actually, anybody who knows anything about autism knows that it’s made up of a triad of symptoms: 1. problems with social situations (which I admittedly had, though emotional abuse can be the cause of that problem, too); 2. problems with communication (which I did not have); and 3. limited interests or repetitive habits (my eating habits fit this category, as did my childhood habit of rocking back and forth; though I’ve read that this latter habit could result from emotional abuse, too).

Furthermore, my mother’s idea of congratulating me for my improved school performance (I was back in regular classes now, though behind a year) was to say that it was a “miracle from God” (she was never religious) that I turned out all right. Mother said the psychiatrists (whom, assuming they even existed, I barely remember at all–were they social workers? Teachers?) diagnosed me with autism, and claimed that an IQ test I scored poorly on showed that I was ‘retarded’. (!)

I was about ten years old when I was hearing her say these things to me.

Mother claimed that she didn’t know, before my new academic success, if I’d “make a good garbageman…as long as [I was] happy.” (How sweet of her to say!) She claimed, on more than one occasion, that the doctors recommended locking me up in an asylum and throwing away the key. Now, I admit that I was an odd kid, but surely my problems were nowhere near that extreme! (In fact, putting autistics away in institutions and forgetting about them was a common practice back in the 1940s and 50s, when little was known about effective therapy for them. By the early 1960s, considerable progress had been made, including the use of Applied Behaviour Analysis [ABA], so I find it hard to believe that, in the 1970s, psychiatrists would have been so pessimistic about me.)

She said things like this to me many times over the years, including her fear of my having to live with my parents as an adult, them worrying about having to take care of a forty-something “moron”. This was all while the “miracle” of my good school grades was going on. On a much later occasion, I think when I was a young adult, she said I was “good at things that don’t make money.”

Can you imagine what the effect of words like this have on the psyche of an impressionable, growing child?

R., being at the end of his rope, came back home. He was back in school, working hard and learning about computers, but he had a big chip on his shoulder. Imagining he was thought to be “the idiot of the family” (R., you have no idea!) for having been a high-school dropout, he went out of his way to insult J. and me for having done better at school, gaining our father’s favour and R.’s envy. R. insisted we were stupid know-nothings in spite of our academic achievement.

So now all three siblings were bullying me: calling me four-letter names, giving me constant put-downs, making me the butt of their jokes, shouting at me viciously, and usually because I’d caused them only minor annoyances. This abuse happened almost every day, throughout my adolescence and young adulthood. My mother knew it was happening the whole time, but never did anything about it, except for a few occasions when she saw F. get physical with me. Almost every time, she took the side of my bullies, rationalizing their actions and blaming the victim.

My mother described R. as being “more mature” when he was nasty to me; J.’s meanness was called “more loving”. I’m curious: what kind of bullying is “more mature” or “more loving”? All my mother was doing was appealing to stereotypes about the mature first-born son and the loving woman.

Another form of emotional abuse the family subjected me to during those years was to make me serve them all tea every evening, the rationalization being that I was getting a weekly allowance for it…a paltry amount (first $1, then up to $5 a week, really for washing the dishes almost every night, and taking out the garbage). Mom made me the family servant.

By the time I’d reached my twenties, R. and F. had moved out, to my great relief. But I still had to put up with my know-it-all sister, J. Both of us were studying English literature in university, and though I’d always done more creative writing than she, J. liked speaking as though she were an expert on literature, and that I hadn’t a clue. She would laugh at my writing and belittle me for my opinions, and when I had the audacity to defend them, I was branded the opinionated one, which she, of course, never was.

The combination of all these factors–bullying, invalidating, and the inferiority complex I’d got from the autism label–seriously damaged not only my sense of self-worth, but also my confidence in my very ability to perceive the world around me correctly. This all affected my mental health, too, and these factors, combined with other frustrations I’d been enduring, put me into a serious clinical depression by the time I’d reached my mid-twenties. I was even contemplating suicide.

Over a period of about half a year, I was receiving psychotherapy, first from a psychologist, then from a psychiatrist. Each of them analyzed me over a period of several months; after telling them of the autism label, both men told me point blank that they saw no signs of autistic symptoms in me. What liberating words!

When I told my mother about this, she would have none of it. She insisted that something had been wrong with me as a child. She insisted that those therapists were wrong because they’d never seen me as a child; apparently, those thoroughly trained in psychiatry–unlike my mother–can’t tell the difference between an autistic child and an autistic adult, whose symptoms have often abated somewhat. Mother knows best, apparently; and my psychological liberation was taken away from me.

Now let’s jump ahead about seven years. As of 2002, I’d moved to Taiwan, I was teaching English as a second language, and I married my Taiwanese girlfriend. I also got an Alien Permanent Resident Certificate, allowing me to stay in Taiwan for the rest of my life.

My mother began sending me e-mails about a mild form of autism called Asperger Syndrome (AS), insisting that I had it, and pointing out that it’s a condition that stays with one for life. (This is in direct contrast with her claim, after the “miracle from God” one, that autistics with above average intelligence can grow out of it. Notice how her story about me was always changing!)

It is also interesting how my mother brought this up at a time when I’d been clearly setting roots in Taiwan, with no intention of going back to Canada. This could have just been a coincidence, but I doubt it. Was she using AS to shake my newly-developing self-confidence and make me want to return to Canada, where I’d be ‘safe’ with her?

She concluded I had AS from watching a TV documentary, of all things; but I had never been formally diagnosed with it; I wasn’t even in Canada for my mother (who, remember, had no background in psychiatry–she was only a nurse, and one out of professional practice for decades) to observe me and double-check if this amateur diagnosis was correct.

At first, I politely tried to disagree with her, but she wouldn’t stop prating about AS. She’d sent me an online newspaper article about a young man with AS, whose life of being isolated and bullied seemed calculatedly meant by my mother to compare with mine. His tendency to “see the world differently” seemed meant to imply that I had the same tendency (and as my family constantly observed, this meant that I saw the world incorrectly).

I went to visit my family the following year, and my mother’s prolixity about AS continued. She spoke about it as she always had about autism, grinning like a Cheshire cat (an odd thing to do, considering the pain and stress autism causes, not only for the sufferer, but also for the family who has to take care of the autistic).

On one occasion, my mother and I were in her car, with my wife sitting in the back. With her usual bright, cheery countenance, she informed me that, due to my AS, I’d apparently had a toddler’s maturity when I was a teen, a teen’s maturity when I was a young adult, and at 33 (the year was 2003), I had a 23-year-old’s maturity. I was furious.

It was around this time that I was beginning to have truly anti-Mom feelings. I struggled with these feelings for years, trying to reconcile myself with the family, but she was just making it harder and harder for me.

2 – The Last Straw (Or One of Them, Anyway)

A year or so later, when I was back in Taiwan, I’d heard bad news from home: J.’s husband, Kevin, had terminal cancer. Up until that time, I’d been angry with J. over slights comparable with what my mother had been hitting me with (i.e., treating me like an overgrown child); but I felt compassion for J., who was clearly devastated by the imminent loss of the man she loved. Furthermore, having been going through a politically conservative phase in my life (which I now deeply regret), I’d adopted Christian beliefs (which I’ve since renounced); and so I wanted to do the right thing and show kindness to my sister, forgiving her for those past injuries and comforting her in whatever way I could.

I e-mailed the family, telling them that my wife and I wanted to visit and see Kevin one last time. My mother e-mailed me back, claiming that I’d sent J. e-mails that were “tactless and insensitive” (I recall sending messages that, if anything, were the opposite of that), and since J. and Kevin were in an emotionally vulnerable state, it would be best if I didn’t go over to see them.

Enraged, I immediately e-mailed my mother, saying that, as surprising as it must have been for her, I’d actually acquired some social skills over the years. She responded in a typically condescending way, saying that my response was in my usual, self-absorbed manner, only reacting to what she’d said about me, and ignoring all the other things she’d said in her e-mail. Apparently, rejecting her son’s wish to be loving was just an insignificant detail, because her ‘abnormal’ son was an unimportant person.

This kind of twisting of my intentions, from good ones to bad, has always been typical of that family. Any reasonable family would have been happy to receive a visit from a son or daughter, even if he or she was rather “tactless and insensitive” at times: upon arriving in Canada, I could have been taken aside and simply told to watch my words. Instead, I was spat on.

Mom suggested that I come over and attend Kevin’s funeral, which came about a year later. I had no wish to attend his funeral, or any family funeral, for that matter: painful memories, of J. verbally abusing me with four-letter words at my maternal grandmother’s funeral (when I was about 20), ensured that I wouldn’t want to go.

To compensate for my absence, I e-mailed a poem dedicated to Kevin’s memory. Mom, rationalizing that the funeral was mainly for his side of the family, rejected the poem as inappropriate. I composed this piece of music, dedicated to him, for J. to hear, hoping it would touch her heart. I mailed a CD to Mom to give to J. Along with claiming that my music was “plodding,” Mom claimed it would arouse painful feelings in J. rather than touch her. (Dear Reader, are you beginning to see a pattern in my mother’s attitude and behaviour?) She claimed she gave J. the CD, but I think she was lying, for J. never acknowledged it, let alone thanked me…and J. is quite particular about politeness.

Mom’s unrelentingly unapologetic attitude drove me to make an ultimatum: either she and the family had to change their attitude, or I would stop visiting. This ultimatum was in a long e-mail in which I went over essentially every grievance I had with her and the family, the highlights being the Asperger Syndrome label, her characterizing me as uniquely “tactless and insensitive,” and my reminding her of examples of the family’s past cruelties to me, to show that they were no more tactful or sensitive than I.

In her response, she portrayed my complaints as me being too preoccupied with the past (my vivid memory, apparently, is a curse, rather than a blessing, since it reminds me of who they really are as a family). No consideration was given to the fact that they had to change their attitude to me if any reconciliation was to happen. She also insisted that I, as a child, really was as ill as she’d claimed, that my answers to that legendary IQ test were totally “bizarre”. However painful it may have been for me, I had to accept the autism label; they apparently didn’t have to accept the painful responsibility for emotionally abusing me. I was supposed to forgive them, as unrepentant as they were. I restated my chief demand: no respect, no more visits.

Then my sister sent me an angry e-mail demanding that I “let this go.” Obviously, my continued complaints were troubling my poor mother to no end. Now I was being commanded to forgive them. Also, J. told me not to reply to her (she always dished it out better than she could take it). Here we see typically emotionally abusive behaviour: the victim is vilified, the victimizer is portrayed as the victim, and the victim is not listened to, his or her perspective is never given a chance even to be heard, let alone sympathized with.

Remember that none of this bickering would have happened if my mother had simply respected my wishes not to discuss AS any further, and if she’d accepted my wish to see Kevin before he died. Instead, this whole family row was blamed on me, as all my rows with them have been. Apparently, my anger over this issue proved Mom’s point about me being “tactless and insensitive.” Whatever.

Mother made an empty promise, in a later e-mail, that the family would have a discussion together about changing their attitude. I made my last visit in the fall of 2008, and while she promised that the family had truly changed their attitude toward me, and in ways that would have surprised and impressed me, I saw clearly that no such changes had occurred.  R., as well as F.’s son Eric, were blatantly disrespectful to me on three occasions; and while I could have tolerated those slights, my mother did the one thing I’d demanded she never do again–she brought up AS. In fact, she bought me a book about it, to drill this phoney identity even further down my throat!

Did she not realize how much she was endangering her relationship with me? Had I not threatened never visiting again if she ever brought up AS? Surely her relationship with me was more important to her than a mere psychiatric label, particularly a label she had no authority to impose on anybody. She had to be ill herself in some way. I would investigate that possibility soon enough.

3 – The Dawn of Realization

Back in Taiwan, I’d been reading about AS on Wikipedia, and interestingly, I discovered that people with AS, due to their social ineptitude, are often subjected by their families to emotional abuse. Then I started learning about emotional abuse, fascinated to see that I myself had been subjected to it.

I learned about gaslighting, and found it ironic that, as a teen, I’d seen the movie Gaslight (1944), not knowing that I myself was being victimized in a similar way. I read about how abusers deny their abusiveness and blame the victim, and remembered that my family had been doing exactly that to me. I learned of the effects of emotional abuse on the victim–excessive anger, anxiety, depression, dissociation, insomnia, inability to trust others, social ineptitude–and easily saw how I manifested most of those symptoms.

A few years later, I discovered a quiz called the Autism-Spectrum Quotient. Bravely, I decided to take it, to determine the truth about myself.  There were fifty statements with which I could slightly or definitely agree or disagree. Sometimes agreeing, and sometimes disagreeing, would result in an ‘autistic’ answer, if you will, giving me a point each time. A score of 32 or 33 would indicate “clinically significant levels of autistic traits.” A score anywhere between 26 and 32 apparently was an area of uncertainty, since according to one research paper, a score of 25 or lower could effectively rule out Asperger Syndrome. Even with a high score, one shouldn’t jump to conclusions, since one should double-check by getting examined by a psychiatrist first. The test is not intended to be diagnostic.

I did the test, answering the questions with perfect honesty. Seriously, what good would it do me to lie? I needed to know the truth about myself. Second, I didn’t even need to lie. Third, I had no idea at the time if many of my answers were going to be ‘autistic’ or not.

My score was 13.

I reconsidered my answers carefully, looking at the fifty statements and wondering if more (or fewer) of the ‘autistic’ answers might have applied to me. An adjusted, possible score ranged from 2 or 3 to 20, 21, or maybe 22 (and that was stretching things). In any case, I was safely below the minimum for even the highest-functioning of AS, even if I went with the highest score.

So, what the hell was my mother talking about?

I had an epiphany.

If I am nowhere near even the mildest of autistic traits, confirming what the two psychotherapists had said fifteen years before, it became shockingly clear just how improbable, how outright preposterous, my mother’s claims had been of my seeming childhood mental incompetence (i.e., the ‘retarded’ IQ score, “lock me up in an asylum and throw away the key,” “Would I even make a good garbageman?”). That her claims were totally implausible should have been obvious to me long before taking that test, but her gaslighting was clouding my vision.

My mother had been lying to me the whole time.

The first words that came to mind, upon this realization, were, “Those perfidious snakes!” I don’t blame only my mother, but the other four, too, including my father (who had died in 2009) for not doing anything to stop her (he had once expressed doubts about this ‘autism,’ but did nothing beyond that to help me).

R., F., and J. had always made demands that I “grow up” and make friends (in a bullying manner that was the opposite of helpful), insensitive and ignorant of how difficult making friends and acting normally is for autistics (or for victims of emotional abuse, the real cause of my social difficulties). Seriously, demanding autistics or sufferers of psychological trauma to adjust like everyone else is like demanding mentally handicapped people to excel in university. If my siblings really thought there was something innately, clinically wrong with me, their bullying treatment of me (which continued when they were adults) makes the three of them a special species of asshole.

If R., F., and J. didn’t think there was anything significantly wrong with me (It is safe to assume that my ‘loving’ mother never told my bullying siblings to go easy on me: “He has a mental condition. He can’t help it. He doesn’t know any better. Be patient with him.”), couldn’t they put the pieces together and realize, or at least suspect, that Mom’s autism narrative was dubious? Of course not: those three apaths were being manipulated every bit as much as I was. They also didn’t consider me worthy of being thought about so much.

Knowing my mother lied about autism (and since she was a nurse and had a pronounced interest in medical/psychiatric matters, her lying seems to have been a case of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy), as she had told smaller lies on other occasions, I found myself forced to ponder a difficult question: what kind of a mother deceives her own son in such a monstrously cruel way?

There had to be something wrong with her. To try to state specifically what that problem was, I’d have to venture into very speculative territory: she, being totally unqualified to pin psychiatric labels on me or anybody, fabricated them for me all my life; for me to do the same to her, feigning certainty about something I have no more authority on than she, would make me a hypocrite.

All I can do is conjecture the possibility that she has a mild case of ASPD or NPD; but in all fairness to her, I cannot say this with any degree of certainty. Indeed, many of the diagnostic criteria for ASPD and NPD are traits she doesn’t seem to have, unless she’s skillfully hiding them. All I can say, with any reasonable degree of certainty, is that she has indulgently lied to me and to others on many occasions over the years, has used those lies to manipulate and control people, and feels no remorse at all.

Indeed, upon realizing that my mother had been lying to me, and subsequently resolving never to visit the family again as punishment, I noticed things she was saying and doing, during the early 2010s, that seemed to confirm my suspicions. (Given the viciousness with which the family insists on having their way, I decided to continue communicating with them by phone or by e-mail–minimizing the communication, of course–since ending all communication with them ‘cold turkey’ would have provoked an aggressive reaction from them. I decided to end our relationship gradually, by attrition.) Now I will explore my mother’s lying about other people.

4 – Abusing My Cousins

Mom always complained about my cousins, in particular the oldest and the youngest of the three guys. Only the middle cousin, whom I’ll call S., was spared her bad-mouthing, since he seemed mentally stable (though as soon as S. began to show signs of mental illness a few years before this article, Mom immediately turned on him). His younger brother, whose erratic behaviour was most apparent to everyone, got nothing but harsh words from my mother. She once lied to the family, over 25 years ago, that I’d vigorously told him off for swearing in my parents’ restaurant; she said this presumably to make the family think, “See? Even Mawr doesn’t like him!” I never said anything about his naughty words at the time; my mother and his parents were the ones who’d scolded him.

I remember, about 14 years ago during that visit to Canada, her saying about him and his eldest brother, “They’re getting really weird!” She said this in a sneering, contemptuous way that was totally unbecoming of an aunt. You had to be there to see it. I was wondering, at the time, when she was going to label them with Asperger’s. I would find out soon enough.

On one occasion in the early 2010s, Mom complained to me on the phone about the youngest again, mentioning how he’d been annoying everyone in the family during my father’s funeral. She said that a new expression had been in common use in the family at the time: “Scoring another point for the team.” (Of course–she and her narcissistic fan club were just that: a team, a clique, an exclusive social club.) Apparently, R. had used the expression when stopping my youngest cousin from annoying my niece, Emily, when she needed to use the washroom. Knowing R. (and assuming Mom’s story was even true), he probably spoke to my youngest cousin in the snootiest language he could muster.

During the same phone call, she claimed that F. wanted “to punch [my youngest and oldest cousins] out,” which sounded like a typical thing F. would say. Mom droned on and on like this, about how irritating and unlikeable my youngest cousin is; and almost within the same breath, she griped: “I think he has Asperger’s Syndrome!”

Hearing that was nothing short of chilling.

Just let that sink in, Dear Reader. Take as long as you like.

He–whom my mother never loved, never had a kind word for, but had an endless list of complaints about–apparently has an autism spectrum disorder! He, who had never shown evidence of autistic traits before, now suddenly had them. He has the ‘unlikeable, annoying person’ mental condition! I was beginning to understand the real reason I’d been bullied by R., F., and J. Had Mom been bad-mouthing me behind my back, all my life, too?

She made other speculations about his inner mental life, claiming that a psychiatrist had said he was schizophrenic, an absurdly improbable idea that even my Mom later said couldn’t be true. Why was she so interested in the mental state of a nephew she’d never cared about, never even liked? Had he replaced me as the victim of her lies? It seemed so.

As I stated above, my middle cousin, S., began to show signs of mental instability at around this time. He was making baseless accusations of me gossiping about him with former friends of ours in Taiwan. Some of his paranoid charges against me–like saying awful things I’d never said, or doing things like throwing money at him–I’m sure he ‘saw’ and ‘heard’ me do, but were clearly based on hallucinations (S. has a history of substance abuse).

I know it’s not my place to put psychiatric labels on S., but I do want him to get psychiatric help, which isn’t really available here in Taiwan. Far too few of the locals understand English fluently enough to be able to interpret the psychological meaning of his barely coherent speech.

Mom has never lifted a finger to help him; in fact, she wants nothing said to my aunt about her son. Here is a man with a genuine psychiatric condition, and while Mom acknowledges it, she won’t help. It’s not that I expect the family to wave a magic wand to cure him; I don’t mean to place the whole burden on them to help S. I do expect them, though, to care enough to try. I have tried: I told S. to his face, and in e-mails, that he needs to see a psychiatrist. As I said above, I don’t have the resources that are available in Canada (which he visits regularly, giving the family lots of opportunities) to help him. Mom could help. She just doesn’t want to.

My estrangement from the family increased because of her antipathy to him. (She justified her attitude by claiming she was so upset by the hurtful things S. had said to me in his e-mail rants–a few of which I’d forwarded to her–that she ‘couldn’t’ repeat his words to my aunt. Wasn’t that rich?! R., F., and J. had said much crueller things to me, while in reasonable mental health, but Mom wasn’t upset; while S. was clearly not guilty by reason of insanity, yet he was the antichrist in her opinion!) Now, I wouldn’t e-mail or phone her at all, and a year before this post’s publication, she e-mailed me, expressing her frustrations with my avoidance of the family. Of course, she never considered what she might have done to provoke my emotional distance. As usual, everything was my fault.

5 – More Elaborate Lies

Last summer, my mother tried to get a rise from me again, claiming that S., while visiting Canada, shouted at her about me on the phone. Actually, as of that time, he hadn’t voiced any anger to me in at least a year or so, nor has he since then. It is safe to assume that S. has gotten over his rage at me; he may even be regretting his hostilities. All of this made me suspicious of what my mother was saying.

Still, I went along with her story, curious to see where it would go. I repeated my urging, in another lengthy, emotional e-mail to her, that S. be taken to a psychiatrist. She resisted as usual, with more rationalizations (It would be impractical, him living in Taiwan and having his working life here disrupted by time in Canada in therapy; also, the diagnosis of schizophrenia, as is suspected, might make him suicidal–as if he wouldn’t be suicidal without any therapy!).

She suggested that I send an e-mail to my aunt about the problem (why couldn’t my mom just do it herself?). Mom first had me send my e-mail to her, so she could check and make sure what I’d said was with well-chosen words. When she’d decided it was ready to be sent to my aunt, Mom included my aunt’s e-mail address in her reply (I suspect this replacement of her old e-mail address was really a fake one, so my message would be received by my mother instead of my aunt; in any case, what should be noticed here is how my mother was controlling the whole correspondence).

I sent the e-mail to my aunt, supposedly. Then a day or so later, Mom replied, saying my aunt refused to read it; Mom included text from my aunt’s reply to her, saying that I had apparently sent my aunt a series of “over-the-top” e-mails that were so upsetting that she and my uncle agreed they were “disgusting;” so she should just stop reading any correspondence from me.

I’d never sent “over-the-top” or “disgusting” e-mails to my aunt. The closest I ever came to doing that were a few forwards of online newspaper articles (centre-right political commentary), and those were sent around ten years before this current incident. I never sent anything to her since then, and though, at one time back then, she expressed strong objections with one political article in a long e-mail reply to me, the content of that article was far removed from, far less than anything that could ever be called “over the top” or “disgusting.” It was just an opinionated op-ed, the other forwards even less than that.

A far more plausible explanation for this incident is that my mother simply made the whole thing up, my aunt’s ‘text’ having really been typed by my mother in a different font, to give the illusion of having been from a different e-mail message. I have sent “over-the-top” e-mails to her over the years; and only a few years ago, I told her about speculations I had about how my uncle may have been the root cause of S.’s psychological problems (In one of S.’s e-mail rants to me, he said he couldn’t trust people because one of his father’s high school teachers–during WWII–called his father “the enemy”…my uncle and father were German-Canadians; but S., as I am, is an English teacher, and he could easily have been displacing his hostility towards his father onto that old teacher). Now, I’m sure that if I’d accused my uncle, directly in an e-mail to him and my aunt, of what I suspected he was guilty of having done to S. (and I’m not stupid enough to make accusations I can’t prove!), he would have found my words “disgusting”.

My mother has never wanted to discuss S.’s problems with his mother, and a perfect way to stop such discussions would be for Mom to manipulate me into being too embarrassed to pursue the matter any further. Finally, my mother could use “my aunt’s reply” to stick it to me for having sent my “over-the-top” e-mails to her.

Added to this, my mother told me that my aunt thought I had to have been a great “burden” to my mother (i.e., ‘autism’ was presumably implied here), and added that “my aunt’s attitude” was “insulting.” My aunt hardly even knows me, let alone has reason to think I’d be a burden to my mother. It’s far more likely that my mother has always considered me a burden, and she was just displacing this truly “insulting” attitude onto my aunt. This displacement would serve another purpose for my mother: to fuel more bad feeling in me against all my cousins, thus isolating their family from ours.

If I’m right about this estrangement being part of my mother’s agenda, that would explain why, after I naturally denied ever sending my aunt offensive e-mails, my mother then replied that S. may have made my aunt believe, or pushed her into saying, that I’d sent those crazy e-mails (an even more ridiculous lie). Mom also warned me to beware of any reprisals from S., who was returning to Taiwan at around that time. Of course, S. never did anything to me, reinforcing the probability that all of this had been more fabrication from my mother.

My wife was as shocked as I was to hear this bizarre accusation that I’d sent my aunt a whole bunch of offensive e-mails. My wife advised me to cut off all communication with my mother, which I did.

I bring up all these recent lies of my mother’s (an elaborate combination of about six or seven in total) to reinforce for you, Dear Reader, an understanding of how emotional abuse is an ongoing problem. The lies never seem to stop; the manipulation just goes on and on.

While she was doing all this, she had the gall to press me to make another visit. She seemed to want to use these lies to bring me closer to her (she was always trying to make me emotionally dependent on her, hence the autism fabrication). She also probably used these lies about S. to make me so scared of him that I’d want to leave Taiwan and live with her in Ontario again.

When the pressure to make a visit had gotten too great, I simply replied that I didn’t want to because of her “lies, lies, and more lies.” I told her not to pretend she didn’t know what I meant by that, and to take comfort in having the love of the rest of the family. I also said I wouldn’t answer any e-mails or phone calls from her, so sick was I of being manipulated. I sent this blunt e-mail in the fall of 2015.

6 – Is My Mother Dead?

In about April or May of this year (2016), I was informed that my mother was in hospital and dying of breast cancer, which she’d caught about ten to fifteen years ago; and while it had been under control, now it had metastasized. Surely someone with her medical expertise (she’s an RN) knew enough to make regular check-ups and prevent an early-stage cancer from getting worse; so to say that this news was a sudden development would be quite an understatement. Furthermore, I knew she was desperate to get me to talk to her, and make another visit: was this cancer story yet another elaborate lie, using the whole family as accomplices? Was this lie meant to make me feel guilty, jump on a plane, and visit them…only to find her fully alive, then be subjected to a condescending speech about how my ‘selfishness’ forced the family to trick me into visiting?

I was instructed to phone R.’s cellphone, since he’d been visiting her regularly at the hospital, or so the story went. I did call, her answering. I suspect she was pretending to be high on morphine, for she didn’t really sound all that out of it; besides, since in vino veritas (or in this case, morphine), I’d expected at least some of the truth to slip out while she was talking to me. Of course, none of that truth ever came out.

Instead, she droned on and on about how my e-mail “hurt” her: remember that psychopaths and narcissists always play the victim and blame the real victim. She also spoke of how I was “self-centred” by nature (never mind her own self-serving lies). Another empty promise was made to put the past behind us, while, almost in the same breath, she referred to how I’d annoyed her when I was twelve or thirteen–so much for forgetting the past! Then she congratulated herself for having been even more loving to me as a child than she had been to my siblings, not backing this up with any proof, of course. Gaslighting can be so surreal at times.

After that call, I continued avoiding contact with the family. R. tried to contact me online, saying she’d died already. J. had told me, during a phone call before I phoned R.’s cellphone to talk to Mom, that her terminal cancer would take almost a year before killing her; metastatic breast cancer patients can, with proper care, last many years before dying. Again, this was all happening remarkably quickly: frankly, this sudden death seems fake. My wife finds this quick death hard to believe, too. Was Mom again trying to manipulate me into getting onto a plane to see her?

All of this ‘dying’ had been happening, from my vantage point, within the space of about a month…or less. At around the same time, R. discovered a video I’d shared on YouTube, under my original name, about seven years before, one which expressed my bitterness over my feelings of betrayal by my mother. Obviously, he felt hurt and upset by what he heard me say, since he’s known our mother to be an angelic matriarch.

I hid R.’s comment because I find it triggering of my past psychological trauma, and because it misrepresents my meaning to anyone who may watch the video in the future. What follows, however, is an almost exact quote.

“Disturbing words from a disturbed individual with an imperfect mother who loved you more than anyone else on the planet. You misunderstand her, as you misunderstand everyone except yourself. Shame on you.”

This is a typical response from someone in my family: unthinking, spontaneous rage, with no consideration for the consequences. I wonder if he realizes he’s knocked the last nail in the coffin of my relationship with the family.

Contrary to what he thinks, those words I spoke weren’t mine, “disturbing” as they may be to many people. I was reciting the famous words of British poet Philip Larkin, from his well-known poem, ‘This Be the Verse’.

I’m sure it’s easier for R. to regard me as mentally ill than to look at himself in the mirror and acknowledge the failures of the family in dealing with their problems with me. There’s only one of me, as opposed to many of them, including my nephews, niece, and cousins. If this whole problem was only my fault, why couldn’t they all put their heads together and work something out? If their past methods weren’t working, why not try a new approach?

Here’s a hint: a solution involves actually listening to my side of the story, instead of contemptuously dismissing me all the time and listening only to our mother. (When I’d spoken to him and J., around the time I spoke to Mom on R.’s cellphone, I mentioned her lying to me, in a very emotional voice. Neither of my siblings acknowledged my experience; they didn’t even take it seriously, as I knew they wouldn’t.)

R. had a wonderful opportunity here to ask me, in the comments, why I recited such a harsh poem. Instead of immediately commenting in anger (as I assume he did), he could have waited, calmed down, and thought carefully about what to say. Now, if he actually did wait and calm down before commenting, then all the more shame goes on him for judging me rather than trying to understand.

What must be emphasized about my video is that it wasn’t intended for his eyes, or for those of anyone in the family. R. found it because he was stalking me online, after I wouldn’t communicate with him or any of those emotional abusers (I learned long ago that trying to assert my rights to people who don’t listen was a pointless waste of time). It’s not as though I deliberately sent him the video to watch while our mother was on her death bed…if she even was dying.

R. has no idea who I understand or misunderstand. I simply understand Mom differently than he, based on our different experiences of her. It’s only natural that R. and the rest of the family see her as loving and kind: she was good to them, though her emotional abuse of me divided me from the family, which in turn has hurt them through the lack of family harmony; so her ‘loving-kindness’ must be greatly qualified, even for them.

Actually, I understand her and the rest of the family very well. R., F., and J. were nasty to me because our authoritarian father was nasty to them (and my uncle, my dad’s younger brother, was probably emotionally abusive to my cousins, because he and my father had the same ultra-conservative upbringing, hence my suspicions about the cause of S.’s troubles), so my siblings learned that nastiness is how you resolve family conflicts. People are to be controlled, not connected with, in the family philosophy that they so vehemently deny exists. Remember what I said about my father’s abusiveness to R. when he got bad grades as a teen? The roots of R.’s aggression came from our father, not from my ‘annoying’ personality.

Note how, according to R.’s comment on my video, our mother is merely “imperfect”. When I’d spoken to J. on the phone about Mom’s cancer, she also dismissed my accusation of Mom’s lying by saying Mom didn’t have “an instruction booklet” for dealing with the challenges of motherhood. These straw-man arguments are typical of the family, avoiding the real issue.

I’ve never been upset about slight flaws in our mother: everyone is imperfect. My mother’s lies amount to a betrayal of trust. I’ve discovered a string of elaborate lies she’s told: autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and a fake incident with my aunt and S. Her death from cancer could very well be a fake. (In case R. is stalking my blog and reading this, if he plans on trolling me with photos of our mother looking bald, pale, and gaunt, he should know that I’m aware of how cleverly people can photoshop pictures and write fake obituaries, especially computer whizzes like R.)

7 – In Conclusion

Do I even know the half of my mother’s lying? How many other lies has she told me and the rest of the family over the years, lies I’ve forgotten about, but which played games with my head no less? Most people lie to avoid getting into trouble. Her lies, on the other hand, are manipulative.

When I spoke with R. on his cellphone about her cancer, immediately after hearing her tell me she loved “self-centred” me so very much, he said that the current situation was “all about her.” Now if she was really dying, these would be the words of a self-sacrificing, dutiful son, sitting by her hospital bed and doing anything he could to do her ease, out of love. Most admirable. But if she was, and still is, sitting on a sofa watching TV at home, “all about her” is more indicative of her narcissism, and his collusion in it, than his love.

R.’s attitude to my “disturbed” psyche is typical of the family’s total lack of compassion for people with mental disorders. I understand nobody but myself, as he said in his comment to my YouTube video, because I’m totally absorbed in myself, to the exclusion of all others. I’m a typical autistic jerk, apparently.

This egocentric mental state, however, is more typical of NPD than of AS. Mom was always fond of displaying her medical expertise (from a nursing practice that had stopped at least as long ago as when I was born, when my parents went into the food service industry–owning a Baskin Robbins Ice Cream store, then a Smitty’s Pancake House restaurant in the 1980s), even to the point of pretending to have a knowledge of psychiatric matters she obviously lacked.

Her making me out to be a ‘self-absorbed’ autistic sounds suspiciously like projection, or projective identification, which involves not just deluding oneself that another has one’s own vices, but actually manipulating the other to manifest those vices in objective reality (projective identification has been linked with gaslighting many times). If she could successfully push all her narcissism into me, and make me introject it, then she could be free to be selfless to everyone else. Shaming me, through projective identification, would make her look good. This would explain her need to continue labelling me with AS, even to the point of risking destroying her relationship with me.

With me no longer in Canada, she needed someone else to project onto on a daily basis. Hence, her bashing of my youngest cousin, saying he also has AS. If other people in her day-to-day life are self-absorbed and annoying, she needn’t fear that she will be so herself.

Now, as I’ve said above, I’m only speculating about her mental state. To be fair to her, I cannot know for sure. I have to have theories, though, to make sense of my own suffering. Whatever her problem was/is, no normal mother treats her own son the way she did.

How does a mother who “loved [me] more than anyone else on the planet” lie that I’m less capable that I really am? How does such a loving mother side with my bullying siblings if she loves me more than them? How is her unsympathetic attitude to my ‘mental condition’ loving? I challenge the family to rationalize such illogic.

While I don’t wish to promote an unsympathetic attitude towards NPD, ASPD, and the like, it is the very lack of empathy of those people, along with their tendency towards cruelty to others, done for their own entertainment, that makes sympathy for them so difficult. I believe my mother always knew she was different, and she learned from an early age to hide it, to fit in. Her parents’ lack of sympathy for her different ways may have inspired her to be similarly unsympathetic to me. People with mental conditions are “just bad people”.

Also, my birth, five years after J., who was born in a cluster with R. and F. in the early-to-mid 1960s, suggests that my parents had intended J., their one daughter, to be their last child. Was my conception an accident? Did my mother go through nine months of hell to have a baby she’d never intended to have? When she gave birth to me, did I ruin her figure? By emotionally abusing me, was she punishing me for even existing? Was I just an unwanted burden to her? Is that the explanation for the lack of baby photos of me? I’ll never know, of course.

You must be thinking, Dear Reader, that I have absolutely nothing good to say about my mother. I’ll try to compensate for that a bit. I’m sure she felt some love for me: after all, the maternal instinct is only natural in a mother. I have had some pleasant memories with her: our trip to England in February of 1987 was probably our best moment together; she took me to some fascinating and beautiful places there, including Shakespeare’s tomb. It is also true that she was generous in gift-giving to me over the years. But none of this comes even close to undoing the injuries she and the family did to me.

She. Broke. My. Heart.

Remember that emotional abusers aren’t always bad to their victims: they have to maintain a façade of goodness to maintain control, and to convince the world that they aren’t such awful people. Furthermore, everyone is a complex combination of good and bad traits, even those in my family. The important thing to note is that tipping point where the bad clearly outweighs the good; I’ve seen this in my family, and I want out.

I believe I’ve acquired a mild case of Complex PTSD. I’ve looked over the childhood and adult symptoms, and I have most of them. I fear never escaping my abusive relationship with my family (what will their next scheme be, to suck me back in? Internet trolling? A letter from them?), even after years of living far away from them.

As unfilial as this must sound, I hope my mother really has died; because with her gone, I know her manipulation will have died with her. The death of that signifies my final escape from the abuse…and escaping emotional abuse is the only way to be healed.