The Identified Patient

I: Introduction

As I explained in my post on flying monkeys, all children of narcissistic parents (including even golden children) suffer in one form or another; but the blatant emotional abuse that the family scapegoat suffers should be self-explanatory.

Now, there’s a variation on the scapegoat that is worthy of special attention: the identified patient (IP). When I first heard of this variation, my eyes widened, for it sounded perfectly applicable to my family situation. As I read more about it, I saw how correct I was to see myself as the identified patient in my family.

The IP is the ‘ill’ member of the family, as contrasted with the ‘healthy’ rest of the family. You see, the family is actually a ‘fully-functioning, loving, and responsible, upstanding pillar of the community’: they just have this one ‘problem’ family member (or members), who embarrass(es) or frustrate(s) the ‘virtuous’ relatives from time to time whenever he or she ‘acts up’. [Translation: narcissists can come together in groups, loving each other (and their leader) as extensions of their own glorified egos, and projecting their faults onto a chosen victim.]

Properly understood, though, the identified patient is not only good for the rest of the family, in giving them an emotional punching-bag that they can take out all their frustrations on; this scapegoat’s ‘sickness’ is crucial to the preservation of the family’s collective false self, for they need someone to project all their pathologies onto. If that one family member isn’t ill, they might have to confront their own collective illness, and that is far too scary to do.

What must be emphasized is that the family doesn’t want the IP to get better, even though they pay lip service all the time to wanting a cure for him or her. If he or she is ‘cured’, then they have no one to blame all their inadequacies on; to preserve the illusion that they love and care for their patient, however, they must always pretend they only want to help him or her.

II: I, the IP

When psychiatrists say ‘identified patient’, they don’t necessarily mean the troubled family member is literally ‘sick’, in some psychiatric sense, though I was quite literally called ‘ill’ by my mother when I was a child. This labelling of the scapegoat tends to be an unconscious act in most families, too; but my mother seemed to be not only conscious of what she was doing to me, but also calculating about it, pre-meditating it.

As a little kid, I went to grade school with other kids, perfectly normal ones who were my age. I read a lot at the time, picture books of dinosaurs, typically, but I was reading, learning the names of the dinosaurs by reading them in the books. There were a few I’d mispronounce (as any little kid might do), such as diplodocus (misread, or so I’ve thought, as diplodocus), but this was proof that I was picking all this up by reading, not having their names read to me.

This all demonstrated applied learning from an early age, yet my mother claimed, based on the results of a mythical IQ test, that a psychiatrist deemed me so mentally incompetent that I was recommended to be locked away “in an asylum and throw away the key!” (my mother’s actual words). Over the past five or six years, I’ve been kicking myself for having taken so long before it finally dawned on me that she was lying about an ‘autism’ diagnosis. (Traumatic bonding tends to cloud one’s judgement in such a way.)

My mother freely admitted that I, as a little kid, attempted to read passages from Time magazine; yet she’d also say, with a dramatic flourish that suggested she was lying, that it had been a “miracle from God” that I had pulled out of an extreme, debilitating form of autism to become a reasonably, mentally competent child! (Never mind that she’d never had a religious bone in her body.)

The alternative (and far likelier) explanation, that I haven’t an atom of autism in me (I scored a mere 13/50 on the Autism Spectrum Quotient), and that I’d never shown signs of mental incompetence, was never admitted to by my great deceiver mother, because I was playing a crucial role in her life, as well as that of my siblings: I had to be the IP, the ‘screw-up’, so none of them had to be.

The autism lie that my mother fabricated for me, and that was backed up by my flying monkey siblings, was something she altered over the years, adapting it to my changing, maturing behaviour. First, I’d come out of the worst of it through a “miracle from God”; then, in my teens, she claimed that people of above-average IQs can grow out of it (whether psychiatrists in the 1980s were actually speaking this way about autism is irrelevant–she was using this idea on me as part of her gaslighting), and she’d say, with an ear-to-ear grin–as if this were joyous news!–that “there are many levels of autism” (which, of course, is technically true, as autism is a spectrum, but what does that have to do with me?), meaning she was free to adapt her lie as necessary; and finally, in the 2000s, she learned about Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), and decided that I have it, with no need to consult a psychiatrist to make sure.

When I was a child, I simply assumed my mother was giving me the straight facts about ‘my autism’. I had no reason to doubt her until my mid-twenties, when I’d gone to see two psychotherapists for a deep depression. I’d been seeing each of these two men, one immediately after the other, over a period of several months. They were watching my body language, mannerisms, and facial expressions; they were hearing my verbal way of expressing myself, my choice of words. They were trained to interpret the meaning behind everything I said and did…unlike my mother.

They both told me they saw no autistic symptoms in me.

Their fallibility or infallibility is irrelevant: doubt–strong doubt–about ‘my autism’ was established.

Still, my mother insisted she was right. Their professional opinion was dismissed outright by my mother, who had no psychiatric expertise whatsoever.

Not only did she insist she was right, though, she persisted and persisted, requiring my absolute acceptance of her amateur opinion. That’s when I started to question her motives. (You see, the notion of ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ really applies to narcissistic abuse, because the nature of the abuse is more in its gradual, cumulative effect, rather than just one or two horrid instances of abuse, as can be the case with physical or sexual abuse.)

I was increasingly getting the creepy impression that she was insisting on the ‘correctness’ of her ‘diagnosis’ not out of her sense of conviction, but out of a wish to impose Asperger’s Syndrome on me. Surely, a reasonable mother, one who truly loved her adult son, would respect his right to have doubts, even if she personally was convinced that I have an autism spectrum disorder. Thus, instead of just arrogantly imposing her will on me (for that’s what she was really doing), she would have taken me, during one of my visits to Canada (I’ve been living in Taiwan since 1996), to a psychiatrist instead.

You see, her ‘diagnosis’ of AS for me was really just a fabrication; no proof had been provided by any independent source. She justified this fabrication by basing it on a TV documentary and a newspaper or magazine article or two (I wasn’t even in the country at the time she’d learned of AS!), doing a superficial comparison of AS sufferers with memories of my childhood behaviour, yet totally lacking the psychiatric training to interpret the meaning of AS symptoms to see if they really apply to me. She also based her ‘diagnosis’ on the one I’d supposedly received as a child.

But here’s the thing: if the AS ‘diagnosis’ was just a fabrication (and without testing me with a trained psychiatrist, it couldn’t have been anything other than fabricated), is it not possible that the childhood ‘diagnosis’ of classic autism was also a fabrication, all a product of her fertile imagination? Was the fabrication of mental disorders a habit of hers? (She imagined my youngest cousin, G., to have AS, too, as I discussed here, and his brother, S., as having schizophrenia.)

My suspicions are no mere fantasy. Those two psychotherapists established more than a reasonable doubt of that childhood ‘diagnosis’. Furthermore, no one other than my Mom (certainly no shrink) ever spoke of me as being autistic, as a child or young adult. I never received autism therapies of any kind. As a teen and young adult, I’d gone to several therapists; but none of the treatment had been for autism. I’d gone to them to help me with emotional problems in general (Gee, I wonder why I’d have had emotional problems back then!).

III: Even If She Was Right, She Still Did Me Wrong

The foundation of my mother’s claim that psychiatrists had diagnosed me with early infantile autism involved my supposedly having scored poorly on an IQ test (as if IQ tests have any kind of binding validity!). Then, she went into dramatics (in themselves suggesting dishonesty on her part, as mentioned above), telling me, a ten-year-old at the time, she didn’t know if I’d even make a good garbageman…as long as I was happy (even if a psychiatrist had actually made such extreme judgements of my intelligence in my early childhood–an absurdly unlikely thing, as I’ve already demonstrated–surely my mother, had she cared about my happiness as much as she claimed, would have had the tact and sensitivity not to tell me such a confidence-killing thing!) This is as dubious a basis for an autism diagnosis as it gets.

Now, here’s another thing: let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that my memories are all out of context and too selective; let’s assume I’ve misinterpreted her intentions; let’s assume the mythical psychiatrists of my childhood did exist, really did say the things she claimed they’d said, and that she’d lucked out about AS, and my score on that autism quiz was wrong. Let’s assume I really have AS, and she’d never lied about autism. I’d still be justified in saying she’d emotionally abused me. Here’s how.

People with autism spectrum disorders are vulnerable. They are easy prey for bullies, with their social awkwardness and eccentric mannerisms, especially in childhood. An autistic may seem self-absorbed and lacking in empathy (traits truer to people with NPD), but it’s not as if he or she enjoys annoying people, as a narc would; autistics simply don’t understand why their narrow, obsessive interests (what they’re truly absorbed in, not themselves) aren’t shared by most other people. An autistic tends to be deficient in cognitive empathy (he lacks theory of mind, and doesn’t understand what others think, though he often cares, or is remorseful if he’s bothered someone), but a narcissist lacks affective empathy (he knows how others feel, but doesn’t care). It is not only wrongheaded to confuse autism with narcissism; it’s also dangerous and hurtful to do so.

Autistics are vulnerable, but narcs prey on vulnerability. If my mother and siblings had truly loved and cared about me, as was so dubiously claimed by her and my sister J., they would have appreciated my ‘autistic’ challenges (assuming that was the true nature of my childhood problems), and they would have been patient with me. The opposite was true: often they would blow up at me over the most trivial things.

Instead of telling my brothers R. and F. and my sister J. to be patient with me, and to be understanding of how hard it is for an ‘autistic’ to relate to the world, Mom rationalized their abusive treatment of me, explaining (if not through shouting, through condescension) that I was such a ‘frustrating’ person that they ‘couldn’t help’ losing their temper with me so often. This was not merely “imperfect” parenting: at the very least, it was irresponsible parenting on a massive scale; at the most, it was emotional abuse.

IV: Rationalizing Irrational Behaviour

I’ll now give you a few examples of my siblings’ viciousness to me, and of how Mom tried to justify it all. Since I focused on R.’s and F.’s nastiness to me in my last post on this subject, I’ll be focusing on J.’s this time.

About 27 years ago, my maternal grandmother died. At the funeral, my sister, J., apart from asking me how I felt about Grandma’s death (it felt as if J. was testing me, to see if I had the ‘correct’ attitude about the family’s loss), and virtue signalling about how ‘hard’ it would be for her to deal with the death (J. had written an essay in university about Grandma’s Alzheimer’s Disease, which was like her dying twice, first mentally, then physically, an awful thing in itself, to be sure, but I suspect J.’s grief was more about impressing Mom and the family than about showing genuine sorrow), she had been nagging me ceaselessly about mostly trivial matters (Had I remembered to thank our uncle for buying us lunch? etc.–remember that I was a young adult at the time). She had no idea of how annoying she was being…nor did she care.

When the funeral was over, and everyone was saying goodbye to each other, J. noticed me daydreaming. She barked–and I do mean barked at me–audibly, so everyone in the area could hear, these words: “C’mon! Say goodbye to Grandpa! Get out of dreamland!” (Somehow, her grief precluded the possibility of gently whispering, ‘Don’t forget to say goodbye to Grandpa.’ I just don’t deserve such consideration.)

Fuming inside, I nonetheless went over to my grandfather and said goodbye to him. Then I went over to J. and said, “I said goodbye to Grandpa!” in a mockingly bragging, but also angry, tone.

She started up with the usual condescending rationalizing about my always being “in dreamland.”

There was no way her words could pacify me (why would they have?), of course, so I continued with my angry complaining about her attitude, which she further tried to justify by talking about how “rude” it is not to say goodbye to people, saying it as if I’d never even heard of the concept of rudeness. (Her barking at me, making me lose face in front of the family, wasn’t rude at all, of course: after all, I was just the idiot identified patient. My feelings didn’t matter one bit.)

When I persisted in my telling her off (something she’d elsewhere, in all hypocrisy, exhorted me to do whenever she or my brothers had taken things too far), she took on her usual, bullying, authoritarian attitude: “You don’t talk to me like that!” she hissed. (Sorry, J., but is there a kinder, gentler way of telling you what a narcissistic bitch you really are, under that fake ‘loving family woman’ mask you wear? I have my doubts.)

I continued with my defiant rage. Then she shouted, “I don’t want to hear it! Get in the fuckin’ car, asshole!”…and indeed, I got in the backseat of the car with her, my parents got in the front, and we drove off.

Here’s where things really get interesting. A little later, the car stopped somewhere, and my mother and I were alone in the car. She turned back and looked at me.

She asked (note her choice of words), “What did you say to your sister to get her so angry with you?”

I don’t know whether Mom came in during the middle of my row with J., or just at the tail end of it, but either way, she was clearly showing her bias in J.’s favour without even knowing what our fight was about.

Mom could have simply asked, “What were you two fighting about?” if she’d come in the middle; or, “Why was she being so verbally abusive to you?” if she’d heard only the end of it.

I tried to explain my side of the story, but of course, there was no hope of my gaining any sympathy from her (Mom who, recall, ‘gave me the most love’.) She then lectured me about why remembering to say goodbye to everyone is vitally important; while treating the IP like complete shit was understood to be perfectly defensible.

The fact that Grandpa–absorbed in his grief, not only from having lost his wife, but also from having endured her Alzheimer’s, and all the frustrations involved with that–probably wasn’t too occupied with whether or not I’d remembered to say goodbye to him, was of little import, it seems. In my family, who jealously guard the collective False Self that is their public image, one must always stand on ceremony, complying with every protocol, or else there will be hell to pay…especially if you’re a ‘lowly autistic’.

Of which I’m not even one, as I later learned.

On another occasion, at home, my mother tried to convince me that all three of my siblings loved me, in spite of the obvious contempt they’ve always held me in. I was about the same age as I was at Grandma’s funeral, twenty-ish. My mother said something to this effect: “Your brothers, with some reservations…”–reservations was said with a tone of exasperation that more than suggested, ‘Yes, we all have reservations about you, Mawr, and we should, because you really are a pain in the ass, and loving you is extremely difficult and trying for us Superior People.’–“…love you. And your sister, with some reservations, loves you. She really does love you, Mawr.” Having heard that speech, I was supposed to be reconciled with all of them, apparently.

Wow, I didn’t know that love is so easily proven: one just has to say the words, ‘We love you,’ and it doesn’t matter how abusive we are to you, physically, emotionally, or sexually, and our love is not even to be doubted!

The fact that, the great majority of the time, all I ever got were the reservations, is again, of little import, apparently.

In a previous post, I gave numerous examples of how mean and abusive my brothers were to me…the reservations. Would you, Dear Reader, like to know how many times R. and F. told me they loved me, over the course of four decades? ZERO.

Granted, I’ve never told them I loved them over those four decades, either, but that’s because I really don’t love them, and I don’t even pretend to. They don’t deserve my love, because they never were true brothers to me: they were and are bullies, and little more than that. Any good they ever did for me, to compensate for their far-too-frequent nastiness, was paltry and insignificant in comparison, at best.

Even when R. let me use his acoustic guitar to learn how to play, it was only because he wasn’t really using it anymore. To be fair to R., he showed me a few tricks, gave a little advice on how to play, but not much more. I’m largely self-taught, having got lessons here and there from people I’d paid for.

He actually once threatened to take the guitar back from me because I hadn’t responded to his clamorous calling from the basement TV room (I was upstairs in the kitchen) to make tea for him (recall that I’d been made, essentially, the family servant, justified by a paltry weekly allowance, so I was obviously getting sick and tired of being the family’s drudge). He’d claimed he wasn’t mad about my not wanting to make the tea, but because I hadn’t answered him: but if that were true, why did he explode into such a rage about it, as if I’d shown him a gross lack of respect? He clearly wanted to intimidate me into continuing to make it for him on future occasions, even as he stood there in the kitchen making it himself on that one occasion, all the while bawling me out for not having snapped to attention.

V: My Loving Sister

Still, I have some grudging respect for my brothers: at least they’re honest about not giving a shit whether I live or die. My mother and J. professed a phoney love for me, even as they played an endless series of mind games on me, assuming I’d never be on to them.

J. loved talking to me in a snotty, condescending tone, as if I were an idiot, without a clue about anything; she’d also hypocritically talk about how important it was to help me build self-confidence! If she and I disagreed about anything, I was assumed to be in the wrong; if I tried to defend my opinions for any stretch of time, I was not only ‘wrong’, but also ‘closed-minded’ and ‘opinionated’. As with narc Mother, the lady doth project too much, methinks. If you’re the IP, however, all of this arrogance towards you has a perfect rationale.

According to J., my grooming is wrong, my choice in clothes is wrong, my political opinions are absurdly wrong, and even my taste in music is wrong. She’d made an epic catalogue of my faults by the time I was a young adult, and that list has continued to grow to this day, no doubt. My strengths, in contrast, are given short shrift, if they’re even acknowledged at all…Still, she “really loves” me!

Yes, Mother Dear, I’ll never doubt your observations!

J. not only disagreed with my musical tastes: she on occasion flew into rages about them, mocked the music to my face (often), or otherwise spoke disparagingly of it in general, which was almost invariably, whenever she heard me listening to it. On at least two occasions, she either turned the music off herself or demanded that I do so, calling it “Shitty music!”

And what was this ‘insane’ music I was listening to? Progressive rock, typically: Yes, early Genesis, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, etc. She especially despises Yes, ignorantly calling their high, three-part vocal harmonies “choir music”; early Genesis “sounds like Yes” she once said with a scowl; King Crimson is “weird”, etc.

When I branched out and tried other musical genres, for example, 20th century classical composers, J. felt this was just a continuation of her aural ordeal. One evening, I was on the sofa in the living room, listening to a record of The Rite of Spring, my all-time favourite composition. I believe I was at the slow introduction of Part Two–The Sacrifice–when J. walked in.

“What the hell is this?” she hissed at me.

“Stravinsky!” I said with a proud smile.

Walking away in a huff, she growled, “Jesus Christ!”

It doesn’t matter if you’re a teenage musician trying to broaden his artistic horizons. When you’re the IP, any musical tastes venturing beyond trendy Top 40 commercial pop is evidence of your growing mental illness.

In all honesty, there are some legitimate criticisms to be made of prog rock, jazz-rock fusion, and other avant-garde, boundary-pushing musical forms. Much of the music of these genres is pretentious, self-indulgent egotism run rampant: musicians showing off how well they can play. On the other hand, much of it is brilliant, too. Whatever one’s views are of this kind of music, though, IT IS JUST MUSIC! If you don’t like it, leave the room, J. If you love your brother half as much as you boast that you love me, J., don’t spoil my enjoyment of this “strange” music just because it isn’t your cup of tea.

Without any feeling that she needed to restrain herself out of consideration for those ant-sized trivialities known as my feelings, J. felt free to insult me to my face, often within earshot of other people, about how my sideburns “looked ridiculous”, or about my “terrible jeans” (i.e., they were dirty), when I’d grown a beard without a moustache (I was 18), she felt an urgent need to ask, “When are you going to shave off that ridiculous beard?”

When I confronted her about the beard insult, she, avoiding my eyes, moped and said, “Sorry. I don’t like it.” Translation: sorry, not sorry.

Instead of simply admitting that she was a proud, narcissistic bitch (which would have been far too ego-crushing for her), she then went on with the usual rationalizing of her attitude. She said, with her typical condescending air, “We [i.e., the family] worry about you.” Then she said something about the family wanting to guide me “based on their experiences.” Of course, I can’t be trusted to learn anything valuable from my own life experiences. The identified patient must have the family do all his thinking for him.

Later, during this row, when I complained of her not allowing me to follow my own path, or be my own person, she dismissed my concerns as “making a big thing out of nothing,” again, pouting and looking away from me, implying a disingenuous denial of the truth. She never could take it as well as she could dish it out.

Emotional abusers’ efforts at invalidation are shameless, in any case.

To end off the row, she couldn’t resist more victim-blaming. She asked, “Why didn’t you ever voice your concerns?”

Not missing a beat, I answered, “Because you don’t listen,” a truth so obvious, she shouldn’t have needed to ask for it, except for her narcissistic cognitive dissonance. I explained further, hitting the nail right on the head (not that she’d have noticed): “Whenever I try to stand up for myself, you say ‘I don’t wanna hear it! I don’t wanna hear it!’ (see above), or ‘Don’t get flippant with me,’ or some other condescending, patronizing remark that really gets me mad! I don’t care if I have the ‘right’ feelings, or the ‘wrong’ feelings. They’re still FEELINGS!”

Her response? “I don’t wanna listen to any more of this,” she said, walking away in a snooty huff.

You’re right, J. I’m making a big thing out of nothing.

You’re right, Mom. J. really does love me…as did you. Where do I get my delusions from?

VI: J.’s Dissing of Judy

J.’s worst act of disapproval of me, though, came many years later, during a picnic with the family back in about 2001. I was visiting Canada, having brought my then-girlfriend (now my wife, Judy) from Taiwan. J. had said in an email that she was enthusiastic about meeting Judy, since I’d told J. how good my sweetheart had been for me. The phoniness of that enthusiasm would be known to me soon enough.

At the picnic, I asked J., “So, what do you think of her?”

J. said, with undisguised coldness and looking away from me, “She seems very nice.” Then she looked at me with a worried frown and asked, “So, are you going to marry her?” Her eyes were begging me not to.

I will never forget J.’s words, or the look on her face.

Judy is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, by far the best thing that’s ever happened to me. J. made it abundantly clear that she didn’t want me to have that happiness. Marrying Judy meant, in J.’s opinion, my staying in Taiwan and never seeing the family again. Ironically, I’m doing just that, but not because of Judy: I could easily have moved back to southern Ontario with her, gone back to school, and found a teaching job there, if I’d wanted to; but that would have meant having those assholes around me regularly, emotionally abusing me for the rest of my life. They are the reason they’ll never see me again, not Judy.

When I was seeing the first of the two therapists in the mid-90s (the ones who told me they saw no signs of autism in me), and I complained of J. to him, he–who normally was quick to point out my projections or evasions of responsibility–immediately recognized her problem as her problem. Frowning, he said, “She wants to turn you into something she wants you to be.” I’d already known that of her for years. He spotted the problem in seconds.

There you have it, Dear Reader: my sister, in a nutshell, as my therapist described her.

So if I am an autistic, my vulnerability, after having been exposed to so much emotional abuse, would have made my emotional scars far too overwhelming to bear. An autistic’s weaknesses in communication and social settings would have made the family’s bullying irreparably damaging. The family’s lack of empathy, and their conniving at my suffering, would still render them guilty, even if ‘my autism’ wasn’t a lie. An autistic shouldn’t be blamed for his social deficits, but an IP is, regardless of whether he has an actual mental disorder or not.

VII: No Good Intent Goes Unpunished

When J. had learned that her husband was terminally ill with cancer, I was prepared to do the right thing and forgive her for what she’d said about Judy at the picnic. I’d married her by then, who upon hearing of J.’s husband’s cancer decided that making a visit to Canada to see him one last time was the decent thing to do. I agreed, and sent my mother an email about our plan to visit.

A few things need to be understood here, to understand just how much my mother’s reaction, given below, hurt so much. I hadn’t all that much money in the bank, so paying for the trip–which would have happened about only a year or so after my previous trip in 2003, when I was steamed at J. for her picnic remarks in 2001, and when I was mad at Mom for her prating about AS–would have broken the bank for me. Still, I was willing to make a great financial and psychological sacrifice for J.’s sake.

Then, my mom’s reply was to spit in my face. I was told I’m too “tactless and insensitive” to be around emotionally vulnerable J. and her ailing husband, so I shouldn’t come. As I’ve explained in previous posts, I was furious in my response, to which she in turn replied with the usual condescending rationalizations, claiming I was only thinking about myself (Wasn’t I thinking about J. and her husband? Wasn’t Judy thinking about them, too, she who was as offended as I was about my mother’s unapologetic rejection of our attempt at love? Had I explained the financial and emotional sacrifice I was prepared to make, she wouldn’t have listened: I knew her too well.)

I have a suspicion that my mother lied to J. and the rest of the family, claiming I’d never wanted to visit, whether originally, or after my mother suggested I attend his funeral. It is true that she’d suggested I attend J.’s husband’s funeral, which I’d declined; but that was only after her initial rejection of our proposed visit–it’s only natural that I’d be too angry to attend the funeral; and after the bad experience of my grandmother’s funeral (see above), it’s all the more natural that I’d want to avoid all family funerals.

But I suspect my mother never told J. about my original offer to visit, and that her claim that the whole family agreed that Judy and I shouldn’t come was a lie. Only Mom didn’t want me to come, and she was projecting her shitty attitude onto all of them (a habit I’d noticed in her over the years, shifting the guilt of her private thoughts onto other people, real or imagined [i.e., the mythical shrinks of my childhood]). Then, when I declined to attend the funeral, I’d be seen as ‘selfish’ before the whole family. (Similarly, when I’d composed a poem and this piece of music, tributes to J.’s late husband, my mother felt they were inappropriate, so the poem wasn’t read at his funeral to compensate for my absence, and in all probability, Mom never gave J. a CD of the music [though she claimed she had]. Naturally: the IP can’t be seen as kind and thoughtful to the family.)

You see, if Mom had sincerely wanted to see me mature and improve, she’d have been happy to have me visit J. and her sick husband, and the family would have wanted to encourage me to think about them more, manifesting this selflessness in more visits. If I’d been “tactless and insensitive”, surely Mom could have just told me to watch what I said, instead of telling me to stay in Taiwan, a rejection any reasonable person would have felt hurt and angry about. Such a rejecting attitude from an otherwise loving mother makes no sense; but from a covertly narcissistic mother, needing me to play the role of IP, it makes much more sense…though it hurts every bit as much.

VIII: How Could Mom Do This to Me?

A loving mother would want to see her son grow and mature into a healthy, happy member of the family, regardless of whether or not he had a mental disorder. That I’d want to believe myself to have no mental abnormalities is perfectly understandable, regardless of whether I’m right or wrong; and a loving mother and family, right or wrong, would want the same thing for me. It’s only natural to want what’s best for ourselves and for those we love. But my mother was determined to ram Asperger’s down my throat, even to the point of risking a permanent rupture in my relationship with her…and the family went along with her, 100% of the way. To wish an illness on one’s son is hardly loving. It’s a truly sick thing to wish for in a family member. She needed me to be the identified patient.

I warned her, repeatedly, that if she didn’t stop harping on and on about AS, I’d stop visiting the family. She didn’t listen. Then, as I reduced communications with her to a minimum in the 2010s, a natural corollary of no longer visiting (it’s called estrangement), she pretended she had no idea why I was being so cold and distant. She knew she’d lied about autism when I was a child; she knew she was biased in R., F., and J.’s favour whenever they bullied me; she knew she’d fabricated Asperger’s for me during the 2000s (always in denial about the fabrication, of course), and hadn’t respected my right to object to her amateurish speculations about my inner mental life. Yet when I’d given her the cold shoulder, I was the one with the problem, not her.

Again, a loving mother, who empathizes with her son, would never dodge responsibility for hurting him, as hard as it might be to own up to that guilt. Narcissists, on the other hand, are known for avoiding responsibility, projecting their vices onto their victims, and playing the victim themselves. This is exactly what she was doing to me as she lay on her deathbed and talked to me on R.’s cellphone (see Emotional Abuse, part 6, ‘Is My Mother Dead?’). Doped up on morphine at the time, she was so committed to her lies that she never let even a hint of the truth slip out.

And R., F., and J. backed her up completely, not even considering my side of the story. I can understand their focus on keeping Mom comfortable during her last moments, rather than on me; but instead of dismissing my side of the story outright, what they could have done was to promise me that they’d hear me out at a more appropriate time. They never promised me such a hearing, because they never intended to hear me at all.

You see, I have to be the IP for them to function as a family. I rebuffed my mother’s victim-playing with these simple words: “You provoked it,” I said softly on the phone, not that she was anything other than deaf to my words as she held R.’s cellphone to her ear. My siblings, her flying monkeys, accepted her version of my conflict with her. A loving family would give both sides of the story an equal hearing. Not to give the identified patient equal consideration makes sense only in a dysfunctional family setting.

IX: Family Pathologies

And our family was, and is, dysfunctional, despite their attempts to make themselves seem loving and healthy. I’ve already explained R.’s teenage troubles: now I’ll tell you about some of F.’s and J.’s problems over the years.

J. got into shoplifting in her early teens, a bad habit she’d picked up from F. (if I understand correctly). I remember her tears when she was caught by a floorwalker in a department store. Needless to say, she never did it again, but what had driven her (and F.) to do it in the first place? A loving family?

I’ve already mentioned her pathological hatred for my musical tastes; and in this post I mentioned those inappropriate games she had me play with her when I was about 8 or 9. Small wonder I regard her posturing as a ‘loving family woman’ as anything but genuine.

During my last visit to Canada in 2008, I was staying at her home for a few days. Her younger son was having trouble with spelling. He was obviously discouraged, but J. reacted to his insecurities with a familiar, contemptuous lack of empathy. Spelling is easy for her and for me, but this shouldn’t blind us to how, for some people (especially little kids!), it isn’t their forte.

She whined about how annoying his discouragement was for her (no doubt increasing his self-doubt); whereas I used my English-teaching experience to teach him some simple phonics rules that he could apply to his lists of spelling words at school. I empathized with him; his mother didn’t.

Because of a medical condition making overuse of her hands painful, she didn’t work; and while I acknowledge that that must have been trying for her, I don’t imagine her sitting around at home a lot making stress a significant factor in her irritability towards her son. He seemed to be just another ‘dork’ to her…as her younger brother was, especially when he was a kid, decades ago.

As for F., who, as I’ve already detailed elsewhere, was the only one of my sibling bullies to get physical with me, when he was failing in community college, he discovered an effective way of dealing with his frustrations: he got drunk, knocked me around, then drove around in the family car and crashed into a telephone pole. Was this a suicide attempt, be it a conscious or unconscious one? Is failing in college a strong enough reason in itself to act in such an extreme way? It could be, if other forms of family pathology had been going on all through F.’s life.

In any case, my mother was naturally upset with him about crashing the car; but when, in a later discussion about the incident with her and J., I mentioned his having smacked me around, those two ‘loving’ family members showed little interest.

As for my late father, his bigotry and ill temper did him no credit at all. He’d go into diatribes, over and over again, about how blacks, Jews, feminists, and “fairies” were the cause of so many of the ills of the world. Dear Reader, I give you my father’s position on communism, and all those who died under it: “Real genocide, not the killing of a few million Jews, who everybody hates, and for very good reason!” My father was Archie Bunker with a Master’s in History. At least Archie’s ignorance was funny: Dad’s was a toxic influence.

Around the late 1980s/early 1990s, he once said, “I’d never want to get married today, with the women the way they are, these career women.” Apart from his psychological self-enslavement to traditionalism, I suspect that his strident anti-feminism came from his personal frustrations with living with my manipulative narc mother. His wish not to marry a strong woman stemmed from an unconscious regret of having married a domineering wife. I deal with the issue of her having emotionally abused him here.

Knowing how impatient and bullying my siblings were to me, I find it easy to believe they’ve been excessively nasty to their own kids, at least from time to time. People’s personalities tend to stay basically the same, unless radical disruptions or traumas occur to shake up the person’s life, as the death of J.’s husband surely did. After he died, I noticed, during my 2008 visit, that the fire in her had blown out; but apart from that, she was largely the same person.

I’ve already explained how ‘trying’ it can be for her to help her son with his homework. Now, to be fair to R. and F., I have no direct proof of either of them emotionally abusing their kids; but I’ve seen a couple of incidents that hint at such a problem.

During my 2003 visit to Canada, at one of those lovely family get-togethers, I saw F.’s son and daughter fighting. My nephew, about ten, got mad at my niece (about twelve) and hit her hard on the back several times with his fist. What provoked that, I have no idea; but I do know how physical F. is capable of being when he loses it. ‘Like father, like son’ doesn’t have to be understood in only the genetic sense. I can only speculate on what goes on behind closed doors in their home.

R. has a Chinese girlfriend, and they live together with her son. Again, to be fair to R., I’d never seen him be nasty to that Chinese teenager (he’d be a young man by now). But at our family get-together in 2008, I saw the boy wander off, not wishing to chat with anyone. Did he dislike all of us for some reason? Had there just been a fight in his home to put him in a bad mood? I’ve discussed R.’s contempt of any straight-A student elsewhere, and East Asian students are culturally geared towards acing tests–I see it all the time here where I live. Had R. been sneering at that boy’s academic success, harming his self-confidence and making him feel like a loser…as he had done to me when I was a teen? Who knows?

X: Scapegoating My Cousins

Then there was the making of IPs out of my cousins. As I explained in my first article on my dysfunctional family, my mother needed to replace me in the role of IP once I’d not only left Canada in 1996, but had decided to stay here in East Asia. She kept me in that role, of course, as best she could; but I suspect she needed others, my cousins L. and G., to fulfill that role there in Canada, physically, before her eyes.

Small wonder she, already having labelled me with AS in the early 2000s, was also snorting with contempt about how L. and G. “were getting really weird!” In my private thoughts, I then imagined her eventually labelling them with AS. I would find out how right my imaginings were by the early 2010s; for she was claiming  that she thought G. had AS, right after a crescendo of complaining about his quirky personality, a chilling indication of how she’d most likely been talking about me to R., F., and J., all my life.

There were also claims of G. being schizophrenic, for so did a psychiatrist label him, as my oh-so-reliable mother told me. I’m sure that R., F., and J. uncritically accepted her interpretation of G.’s problems, since mere quirkiness is a sure-fire indicator of AS or schizophrenia (sarcasm), rather than of mere quirkiness.

His brother, S., corroborated the schizophrenia label, but I can’t be too sure of his attesting of this, since a) as a family member who could easily have been just parroting what my mother said (she having manipulated G. and my aunt into believing it, as I suspect), S. wasn’t giving independent corroboration of Mom’s story; b) there could easily be secret animosity between him and G. (S. once freely admitted to joining his brother, L., in bullying G. when they were all kids), giving S. a motive to help spread unflattering stories about G.; and most importantly, c) S. himself has shown evidence of mental illness (paranoid delusions of me and our other former friends in Taiwan either gossiping about him or otherwise persecuting him, probably brought on by auditory and visual hallucinations through excessive substance abuse–LSD, etc.), which makes his testimony about his younger brother especially unreliable.

Later, my mother claimed that a psychiatrist was undecided yet as to whether G. had AS or schizophrenia (two mental disorders so different from each other that it’s odd to imagine a trained psychiatrist imagining ‘One, or the other?’ instead of postulating comorbidity). Then she herself admitted that G. was most unlikely to have schizophrenia, as he wasn’t seeing things, etc. I’d agree with that. She also mentioned how upset G. was when he’d been told he had schizophrenia: I don’t blame him, and I’ll bet she enjoyed watching him get upset. It reminds me of how upset I was when my smiling mother was prating about AS in me, which she also claimed G. has (I suspect, grinning then, too). Hmm…

I’ve also noticed an unsettling pattern: first, she claimed severe mental problems in a targeted family member (classical autism and ‘retardation’ in me, schizophrenia in G.), then mild mental problems (AS in G. and me); was the purpose of this to agitate us, to make us IPs ‘act up’, thus making her fabrications into self-fulfilling prophecies?

When she discovered mental illness in S., she claimed that a nurse had read his email rants and seen “all the signs of schizophrenia” in hm (just from an email rant? Really? No need to examine him face to face?). How long before Mom was to claim S. has AS, too, had she lived long enough? Would L. have been labelled with AS, too, eventually?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, of course, but I could see in Mom’s words a labelling of my cousins as new IPs. She showed enough contempt for them, as evidenced by how quickly she turned on S., never wanting to help him, and getting my siblings to agree with her about what a ‘jerk’ she obviously thought he was for being verbally abusive to me in his emails, something she and my siblings have always considered their job alone.

Yes, Dear Reader, this is my ‘loving family’: here we have S., a family member with a genuine mental disorder, and my mother was content to leave him in the lurch. Worse than that, instead of trying to help him, she started a smear campaign against him to ensure that R., F., and J. would never want to help him.

I should never have forwarded S.’s email ranting about me to Mom, foolishly thinking she’d help instead of using it as proof that S., a new IP, is a ‘bad person’. But again, traumatic bonding will do this to you, make you an even bigger fool than you were before, since you imagine that a liar like her has at least ‘some good’ in her. No, Mawr, there was no Anakin buried under that female Vader.

The irony of all of this is that I did, indeed, help people blacken S.’s name behind his back, as he imagined I would; though I did it unwittingly, to different people, and as a result of his paranoid suspicions, rather than as a cause of them.

And when Mom died in May of 2016, and I–so thoroughly sick of her lies about me, and then about S. and even my aunt, told just the summer before she died, having playing dumb about her lifelong deceit on her deathbed–refused to talk to her again after R. had wished I would (Since when did that liar, even though she was dying of cancer at 77 years of age, deserve my love? She could get plenty of that from him, F., J., and their families!), he found this bitter video I made, under my original name, in 2009, and concluded that I, ever the IP, was a “disturbed individual.”

XI: Conclusion

But, you know what? Let them all think I’m insane. As long as I continue living on the other side of the world from them, I should be safe from their emotional abuse.

I believe that R., F., and J. have inherited my mother’s narcissism, though they have it to a lesser extent than she did. They got it, when they were little, as a result of her dictatorial parenting style, as well as from that of our father. I have no memories of her ever admitting she was wrong, even less so than my dad admitting his own faults. Similarly, R., F., and J. virtually never spoke critically of her, though they often did of our father. In the family’s imagination, Mom has been praised to the point of being just short of canonized as a saint (R. called her ‘imperfect’, a meaningless word: we’re all imperfect, R.!).

Here’s where the family’s collective narcissism comes into play. By doing virtually everything short of deifying her, my siblings are praising themselves by association, by identifying with her. She had a narcissistic False Self of near-ideal motherhood, a notion psychologically beaten into them when they were kids, for none of us dared to be ‘lippy’ with her; so they shared in her false sense of altruism and virtue by introjecting it as their object relation of her. I, despising phoniness, have always hated their masquerade. My refusal to honour their collective False Self, I’m sure, is part of the reason I was made the identified patient of the family.

But again, I say: let them regard me as the IP. Their mutual relations have always been precarious. They are the real losers of the family, not so much me or my cousins, for R., F., and J. have truly lost a lot of people in their lives. They lost not only J.’s husband, our father in 2009, and our mother in 2016, but they lost me (from their own pig-headedness and willful ignorance of the real roots of our family’s problems) when she died of cancer.

They need to maintain their illusion of superiority. If they were to acknowledge my mother’s lying, manipulative ways, it would destroy them. They’d then have to admit to themselves how badly they’d been duped by her. They’d have to face the reality that they never had a healthy upbringing, that Mom loved them only to the extent that they gave her narcissistic supply. They’d also have to acknowledge how unjust they’ve always been to me.

Facing such horrors would devastate them. Their whole world would be turned upside-down. It would cause them unbearable narcissistic injury. In the long run, however, if they were to fight their way through all that grieving, as I’ve been doing, they just might build a basis for being reconciled with me; for I will be reconciled with them only if they no longer pretend that I’m the only family member with personality problems.

Such a ‘miracle from God’ will never happen, though. R., F., and J. are far too invested in the ‘superior R., F., and J., inferior Mawr’ myth. Why give up flattering themselves at my expense, since it’s ‘worked so well’ for them in the past? It’s so much easier to dismiss what I’ve written here as nonsense from my ‘diseased’ imagination that admit to even the smallest grain of truth in it.

Their beliefs about the family, and my place in it, are like a religion for them: they prop my siblings up and give their pain meaning, and so they cannot be questioned, but rather accepted on faith. R., F., and J. will never believe their ‘idiot autistic’ brother, because it’s easier to believe I actually am an idiot than to believe our mother just told them I am one, in order to cover up for her lies, in case I, one day, were to expose the fraud she’d always been.

Believe the lies, R., F., and J. Flatter yourselves. Whatever will help you sleep at night.

But if you three were to read these blog posts, then dismiss them all as BS?

Well, let’s just say that you three have your story, and I have mine.

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My Short Story, ‘The Manic Defence,’ in the Horror Anthology, ‘Trumpocalypse,’ by Horrified Press

I have a short story, called ‘The Manic Defence,’ published in Trumpocalypse: Where Dystopian Fantasy Meets Reality, a horror/political satire anthology by Horrified Press, published in paperback on the Lulu website. The book is to be released today, April 30th!

My story is a surreal political allegory, expressing political ideas I wrote of concretely in this recent post. There are lots of great writers in the book, too, including Alex S. Johnson, Pippa Bailey (and Leanna Locker), Jeffrey Penn May, Rhys Hughes, Bill McCormick, G.K. Murphy, Mathias Jansson, Emery LeeAnn, S.L. Koch, Christina Engela, Joey Burneez, Mandy White, Dino Parenti, B. Michael Stevens, Raven Dane, Kevin Henry, Jeff Stevenson, Samantha L. Nocera, Norbert Gora, and Florence Ann Marlowe. It’s on sale for $11.91. Go check it out! (The below picture is not mine: it’s by an amazing artist named Stephen Cooney.)17990786_10203198581481268_4885600579375284981_n

The Big Club We Aren’t In

[NOTE: I was originally intending to publish this just after the November elections of 2016, assuming that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in. Since Trump won instead, I’ve had to make considerable revisions of this post, not only to accommodate the surprise outcome, but also to take into account what a ‘Trump presidency’ would be like. In terms of all the horrible things we were expecting him to do, he certainly ‘didn’t disappoint’. Nonetheless, as unhappy as I am that he is president, I’m also glad she isn’t. This post, though critical of both of them, will focus on why she should never be president, and so much of it focuses on issues from 2016 rather than those of the Trump administration, which is touched on only a bit.]

I expected, a year or so ago, that Hillary Clinton would win not only the Democratic primaries, but in November 2016, too: I was wrong about the second prediction. According to polling data over the months, from various media sources, she was consistently winning against Donald Trump the great majority of the time, but he got it in the end.

Hillary seemed to have this election in the bag right from the beginning; you need only have knowledge of her record as a politician over the decades, allied with who her husband is, to know that she is working for The Big Club, as George Carlin called it in a famous rant. Yet, she still managed to lose. Well, she never had her husband’s charm…

All of the candidates, of course, were and are working for The Big Club, in varying extents and with only mildly varying political agendas, in both mainstream American political parties (what makes Trump ideologically similar to the others is far more important than what makes him different). Not even Bernie Sanders is as committed to ending the rule of the Big Club as he would seem to be, as proven by how he sold his soul to the Democratic devil. The Big Club, needless to say, is the capitalist class…but of all the candidates, Hillary was the most qualified, and the ruling class wanted to ensure that she got the job, just as any boss hires the best one for the job. They never wanted Trump to represent their interests, but this dissident member of the ruling class won, anyway, as surreal as that is.

The new president may have been elected, but she was selected, for it had all been rigged for her up until the end…but even that rigging wasn’t good enough. All the bias in Hillary’s favour among those in the DNC had already been known for months by Sanders and Jill Stein supporters before Wikileaks publicized the DNC e-mails in July 2016. People with eyes to see and ears to hear saw the proof all over the place in the mainstream media, in what was not reported every bit as much as what was reported: glowing op-eds about Hillary’s experience and competence, as against a dearth of coverage about Sanders or Stein, except to say they were both a lost cause from the beginning; about how pro-Hillary Google ensured that pro-Hillary searches were accessible, while searches critical of her were not.

Other evidence of pro-Hillary bias can be seen in how ‘Correct’ the Record (begun in late 2013 by ex-conservative [!] David Brock) paid trolls to harass and annoy online critics of her; a former Facebook friend of mine, who was doing exactly this kind of intensive, constant trolling of many anti-Hillary posts I’d put up, got so cocky when I posted an article on the paid trolling issue as to ask where he could sign up, for allegedly Bernie’s supporters had been doing it first. I should have responded by saying I thought he already was signed up, and knowing how much more money was in the Clinton campaign than in that of Sanders and Stein put together (as to make the claim, ‘Sanders’s trolls started it,’ sound ludicrous), I figured that if my former friend was a paid troll (as opposed to being merely one of Hillary’s useful idiots), he was probably getting so much money by being an asshole that he didn’t need to have a real job. In today’s sluggish economy, caused by the neoliberal agenda that the Clinton family helped establish, combined with neoliberal-caused wealth inequality, it is quite plausible that trolling at least contributes to a comfortable income for those without other options.

The Wikileaks e-mail exposures (claimed, without proof, by a desperate and embarrassed Democratic Party, to have been fabricated) may not have explicitly shown a plan to rig the DNC primary elections, but they did show a sufficient bias in favour of Hillary over Sanders. A suggestion to propagate evidence of possible atheism in Sanders may not have been used, but the bias against him in those e-mails disproves the impartiality that is supposed to exist in the party towards potential candidates. Sanders could have won if there hadn’t been the bias and election fraud during the Democratic primaries, and he certainly could have beaten Trump, unlike Hillary.

The reasons for the DNC’s preference of Hillary are obvious: she has the big money behind her. (Consider her connections with billionaires like George Soros. She also accepted a huge amount of money from UBS.) Sanders, though much more popular at the time, never had the needed huge number of Super PACs, because he wants to help the poor. No wealthy donor is going to support such a politician.

One rationalization Hillary supporters have given for the bias against Sanders is that he’s been an independent politician for most of his career, had only recently joined the Dems, then proceeded to hit Hillary and the DNC with criticisms of party corruption. Why would the butt-hurt DNC want to support this upstart outsider who had just joined their club, only to bash their favoured candidate? Who was he to judge her?

Well, maybe that was the whole point, Dear Dems. Your party is corrupt, right to the core. You’re supposed to be the left-leaning party, as contrasted with the right-wing Republicans. (Or, at least, the Democrats had been the left-leaning party, starting from their 1930s move to the left, until they were moved back to the right by…who were they…the Clintons?) The corruption of the Dems required an outsider to come in and expose what has been going on since the 1990s. It’s exactly the establishment within the Democratic Party that must be exposed for the pro-capitalist frauds that they are, so naturally, those servants of The Big Club are going to be biased against Sanders; but that doesn’t justify the bias.

In popular imagination, Bill Clinton (born William Jefferson Blythe III) is a hero among ‘left-leaning’ liberals. Actually, he and his wife are more conservative than Reagan was (not to say that Ronny didn’t want to be more right-wing, of course). Bill signed and ratified NAFTA (after George HW Bush tried to), which helped take jobs away from unionized workers in the U.S. and kept Mexican poverty about the same over the years, with hardly any economic growth, and with Mexico’s increased dependence on the U.S., Mexico was hit especially hard by the 2008 economic crisis. Small wonder so many Mexicans keep crawling across the border into the U.S. Poverty has forced them to search for decent-paying work in America.

When I touched on Bill Clinton’s contributions to the nefarious growth of neoliberalism in this essay, I was barely scratching the surface. His and Hillary’s betrayal of the left began long before they got into the White House; but when he got in, he did a number of other shameful things, supported by Hillary, during his two terms, including the Crime Bill of 1994, the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The first of these heinous forms of legislation resulted in the lopsided levels of incarceration for blacks and other minorities, whom Hillary callously called “superpredators.” The welfare reform destroyed the social safety net. The telecommunications act helped with the merging and acquisitions of so many media sources that now almost all of the US media are controlled by only six corporations (who, of course, decide what political agenda to promote); small wonder so many of us, finding the mainstream media utterly untrustworthy, now flock to alternative sources, including even Russian media, so derided by the establishment Western media, for obvious reasons.

Bill Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, which many commentators believe was a major factor leading to the financial crisis of 2008, since it allowed financialization of the economy to go on without let or hindrance.

During his two terms, Bill Clinton also helped US imperialism ruin Russia with Boris Yeltsin by destroying the country’s social safety net. This led to what some have called the economic genocide of Russia. And the demise of the USSR made it easy for the US to extend its global hegemony.

With this background in mind, we must now see why having the Clintons back in the White House, continuing their machinations, was such a dangerous, frightening prospect, and why, in spite of how obviously awful Trump is, we should be glad they didn’t get back in. The military-industrial complex’s habit of removing regimes that go against the interests of the capitalist class has been going on for a much longer time than when the Clintons came onto the scene (consider the CIA’s helping MI6 to oust Mohammad Mosaddegh and bring back the Shah of Iran from exile in 1953, or the CIA’s helping to replace the democratically elected socialist, Salvador Allende, with the capitalist dictator Augusto Pinochet); but the notion of waging “humanitarian wars” against “brutal dictators” really came into its own with the false charge of genocide against socialist Slobodan Milošević, against whom it was recently judged that there was no evidence linking him with the deaths in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. This ousting of “brutal dictators” didn’t start with George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003; it was continued by him, but popularized by that ‘sensitive liberal,’ Bill Clinton, in the late 1990s.

Now we can put Hillary’s hawkishness in its proper context. Her support of the Iraq War wasn’t just a fearful reaction to the September 11th attacks; her later recanting of that support was a reaction to that war’s unpopularity, in anticipation of her hopes of becoming president in 2008. Given her continuing hawkishness since then, I find it easy to believe that her ‘regret’ over voting for the Iraq War was anything but genuine.

As Secretary of State under Barack Obama, who is as undeserving of a Nobel Peace Prize as anyone can be, Hillary talked him into bombing the Hell out of Libya, resulting in the brutal sodomizing and murder of Muammar Gaddafi, benevolent as far as dictators go, whose government had been providing a host of social programs, including free education, free health care, free electricity, and even interest-free loans. Libya, thanks to the NATO intervention, became a failed state and a haven for terrorists. Hillary boasts of this achievement, instead of being contrite. She’s friends with Henry Kissinger, remember.

She has always supported an aggressive foreign policy against the already besieged and aggrieved Syria, arming “moderate” rebels as well as ISIS, all for the purpose of removing another “brutal dictator,” Bashar al-Assad. How many more Syrian children must be traumatized or killed, just so the U.S. can install a gas pipeline in Syria?

Of course, Russia has been doing airstrikes on Syria, but with the intention of helping the Syrian government stop ISIS (which US imperialism in the region has helped to create, and with Hillary Clinton’s help, allowed its Arab allies to fund), not helping the terrorists. And because of this thwarting of the US’s plans to extend its global hegemony (among other reasons), Vladimir Putin has become the latest “brutal dictator” whom the US and NATO must stop.

It has come to this: the deep state in the U.S. is actually, seriously planning to go to war with Russia, a country as armed to the teeth with nukes as the U.S. is. Does the hubris of U.S. imperialism have no limits? Haven’t the misadventures of the American army (and NATO) in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria proven the limits of their strength? And now they have NATO troops lined up along the Eastern borders of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, doing war-games and preparing for a confrontation with Russia.

The U.S. Navy has also had navy vessels and aircraft in the South China Sea, ready to face China, another growing challenger to U.S. hegemony (Steve Bannon, of course, has predicted war with China). This anti-China and anti-Russian attitude is nothing new from Hillary, of course, but it should be equally obvious that not all of this is solely the Clintons’ fault, either: Obama had been pursuing much of this, because The Big Club want it; hence all the anti-Russian and anti-Chinese propaganda in the U.S. corporate media, including the speculative fantasy that the Russians were behind the Wikileaks hack of the DNC e-mails (US intelligence insiders seem a likelier source of the leaks), as well as the claims that Trump, Sanders, and Stein are, or have been, all puppets of Vladimir Putin. Then, of course, there’s the ridiculous, unsubstantiated claim that Russia manipulated the election to put Trump in the White House.

My criticism of Hillary will lead many to assume that I’m a supporter of Sanders, or Stein, or that right-libertarian Gary Johnson, or–worst of all–Donald Trump. I don’t like any of them. Sanders is at best a mere social democrat, who would help Americans get lots of free stuff while allowing a certain measure of U.S. imperialism to continue unchecked; at worst, he’s a pawn of the system, bullied or bribed into supporting Hillary instead of fighting for his “revolution” to the bitter end. Stein is a nice lady whose heart is, or seems to be, in the right place, but how she plans to implement her radical changes, especially when opposed by the Big Club, remains a mystery. I don’t support Johnson because I’m a left-libertarian, and we shouldn’t need him to legalize weed.

As for Trump, opposing him is all too easy. His charmless, tactless campaign showed what he really is: a lecherous buffoon, a cartoon character. He has a cult of dedicated bigots and simpletons following him, and we’ve always known that lots of Americans are like that (although, to be fair, others among his supporters are better than that; but despite their legitimate feelings of disenfranchisement, they still have the misguided notion that he, a billionaire narcissist, actually cares about them); still, more than enough Americans, including the super-rich, won’t want to let him stay in the Oval Office too long. Most importantly, I’m convinced of the idea, often dismissed as a conspiracy theory of disgruntled Republicans, that Trump was originally a Clinton plant; but later, when he saw how popular he’d become, his narcissism took over, and he didn’t want to be her plant anymore.

You don’t have to be a partisan of the GOP to believe that Trump could have originally intended to run a phoney campaign to help his friends, the Clintons, make all Republicans seem extreme, and ensure that the Clintons easily return to the White House (though the plan ultimately failed). You just need to understand the nature of The Big Club, who are now using the mainstream media to get rid of him by demonizing him.

In any case, the political goalposts keep getting moved further and further to the right, with the GOP goalpost coming closer and closer to Attila-the-Hun right-wing, and the DNC goalpost being more and more neoliberal right-wing…with the illusion of the Dems still being ‘progressive’ relative to the GOP. The extreme goalpost isn’t so much what we need to worry about, since Trump will probably be removed from the White House by the Big Club sooner or later, either through their attempts to impeach him (and replace him with the much more establishment-oriented Pence) by accusing him of being a ‘Putin stooge’, or by defeating him in 2020, or they’ll ‘remove’ his agenda by bullying him into following theirs, or he’ll simply quit the job out of frustration at his unpopularity and the stress of the job; it’s the neoliberal goalpost that is the problem, and Trump is helping that one stay in place forever, in his own, twisted way.

Trump and the Clintons have been friends for years. The Clintons attended Trump’s wedding with Melania in 2005. Bill and Trump play golf together. Bill has played golf at Trump’s golf course for years; Bill, Hillary, Chelsea, and Marc Mezvinsky all played there together once. Chelsea is friends with Ivanka; their husbands introduced the young women to each other, because the young men were already friends! It’s a big club, and we’re not in it! Then, there was that mysterious phone call Bill gave the Donald, just before he announced his bid for the Republican nomination.

Let’s compare Hillary’s history with Trump’s political positions. She, too, has spoken of building a barrier to keep Mexicans out of America. Trump put a ‘temporary’ ban on Muslims? His executive order merely continued and developed something Obama had started in late 2015; furthermore, Obama and Hillary have bombed Muslims (as Trump is doing now in Syria)! Obama was the deporter-in-chief, as well as a bomber of Muslims, so how much worse can Trump be? Trump wants to outlaw burning the US flag; Hillary Clinton backed proposed legislation to do the same thing in 2005. He may have spoken of wanting to ‘drain the swamp’ of Clinton-oriented corruption, but now that he’s president, he’s appointing the same kind of neo-con, neoliberal, pro-banker people who supported the Democrats.

People were afraid when Trump asked why we can’t use nuclear weapons, while Hillary and Obama were and are content to expand NATO along Russia’s border, with troops there, ready to do war with a nuclear-armed superpower. Hillary hasn’t been any less averse to using nukes, either. Trump is actually less hawkish towards Russia, yet we’re all afraid of his itchy finger on the button, instead of hers. He is an awful president, but that’s because there’s never really been a good president. His election isn’t Russia’s fault: it’s the US’s.

Now, Trump was accused of not paying his taxes (which, it turns out, he has payed them); now, avoiding paying one’s fair share is typical of any capitalist billionaire. The Clintons haven’t been much better with that kind of thing, though, with their not-so-charitable foundation. And if Trump is no friend to women, neither is Hillary. To all of those who were so ecstatically hoping to shout, “First woman president! First woman president!” in November 2016: it isn’t the women at the top who matter (there already are lots of women at the top…not so much female politicians, of course, but I mean those women in the families of the ruling class); it’s the women at the bottom who do…working women in the US who would have got no help from Hillary had she become president, women in the Middle East who have had her bombs raining over them, women apparel workers in Haiti whose wages were kept down by her and the then-State Department, etc.

None of this is meant to be a defence of Trump, who as I’ve said above, has been as awful a president as we had all predicted he would be. His bigotry, rudeness, needless increase of spending on the military–side by side with cuts in such areas as the arts, education, the HHS, and the EPA–are all inexcusable. Then there’s his continuation of the ‘War on Terror’. These are also typical moves to expect from The Big Club. Trump’s privatizing of education has parallels in the Obama administration, too.

But as bad as Trump is, none of this means that Hillary would have been any better. The 2016 voting in California and New York State showed election fraud (note how easily hacked electronic voting booths are, how computers can be used to rig elections); the mainstream media favoured Hillary; the FBI director, who was on her payrolltwice wouldn’t indict her for the e-mail scandals; she paid trolls to intimidate her critics; and she got a personal friend to make an ass of himself, and was promoting him to the hilt through the corporate media so she, because of the fear of him being elected, would be ensured a victory, though her plan failed. But because she’s a “liberal progressive” Democrat, she couldn’t have been an authoritarian dictator, or someone working for the plutocrats? And just as everyone is rightly worried that President Trump is showing fascist tendencies, the mainstream media is trying to silence alternative media as ‘fake news’ or ‘Russian propaganda’. This is the new version of book-burning, and both the mainstream GOP and the Dems are supporting the idea.

Hillary and Kaine aren’t progressive in the slightest, if the word ‘progressive’ actually means anything. The notion of the Democratic Party as ‘left-leaning’ is a lie. The Republican Party isn’t the only repugnant party. Don’t ‘correct’ the record on Hillary, consider her record. Here’s a hint: a number of neocons and Republicans were either supporting her, or had at least considered supporting her. Being a ‘liberal’ Democrat is nowhere near left enough. The ‘Third Way’ is what brought the Democrats and the Labour Party to the right. Imperialism with the Dems is the same as it ever has been with the GOP. Democrats have been no less war-mongering than Republicans, for both parties serve the same capitalist masters. The US really has two Republican parties: the neoliberal Republicans (Hillary ‘Democrats’), and the Attila-the-Hun Republicans (President Trump).

So, what can we do? Anyone with a modicum of common sense will know that The Big Club won’t allow anyone to legislate them out of their wealth. Such is the nature of so-called liberal democracy, which is really the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. And a soft Left won’t suffice in fixing this problem; ‘libertarian socialist’ Noam Chomsky has seriously disappointed me in supporting a Hillary vote to prevent Trump from winning in swing states.

What we need is a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. And what is the dictatorship of the proletariat? It means various things to different leftists, of course. For Marx, it was exemplified in the short-lived but exhilarating Paris Commune. For others, it was the USSR, it’s Castro’s Cuba, or North Korea, and socialist Eastern Europe during the Cold War. That’s not how I, leaning towards a more libertarian left, would prefer it. But in any case, it’s about having a worker-ruled society that is protected from a resurgence of capitalism through an arming of the workers. This is real democracy, a worker-ruled society, democracy from the bottom-up, for a change. This is to be achieved by any means necessary, and necessarily involving force.

I personally don’t like violence; my advocacy of violence comes not out of personal preference, but out of a lack of viable alternatives. The only thing that will fix America, and by extension, the world, is a bloody, violent revolution. Lots of Americans own guns, thereby making them physically equipped (to an extent, at least) to carry out this uprising. Sadly, too many of these people fetishize capitalism, and therefore won’t want to make the necessary political changes. They’ll simply replace Trump’s right-wing government with a neoliberal one in ‘left-wing’ garb (think of those Hillary supporters who don’t accept the Trump victory), or with a right-libertarian one.

Leftists will have to arm themselves; they’ll also have to get over their differences. A divided Left is an impotent Left. Now is not the time to debate on Facebook whether Bakunin or Marx, Kropotkin or Lenin, Makhno or Mao, or Trotsky or Stalin had the right ideas. Nor is it the time to debate how many died under communism in order to invalidate those forms of leftism we don’t particularly like. Now is the time to organize and plan a revolution. Online communication will have to be kept to a minimum, for fear of all that internet spying. In-person meetings will have to be made at the local level, off the radar.

Sadly, we in the First World have next to no revolutionary potential: we stare at our phones like zombies, eat unhealthy food, and get far too little exercise. We need to be in a state of desperation to be in a revolutionary situation. I try not to be as pessimistic as Jason Unruhe about First World revolutionary potential; it’s not that I think he’s wrong, but if he’s right, why are any of us leftists still spreading the message? Are we just ego-tripping? The Third World may be desperate enough to be in a revolutionary situation, but they lack the wherewithal to prepare an uprising; they can barely feed their families.

Our situation is urgent: the Big Club, with or without Trump, is sure not only to continue to exacerbate the problems of income inequality, environmental dangers (i.e., fracking), and imperialist wars, including a possible nuclear confrontation with Russia or war with China; they will use a mass media the DNC largely controls to divert the masses’ attention from the real issues.

The Big Club must be torn down, not just because of our yearning for justice, but for the sake of our very survival. It’s either socialism, or barbarism. Since the people make up a much bigger club than the capitalist club, we all need to come together. We have nothing to lose but our chains.

The choice is ours…for we have no other choice.

Analysis of ‘Carrie’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carrie White eats shit.” (page 4)

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

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

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.

Beginning Scene in ‘Creeps,’ an Erotic Horror Novel I’m Working On

The tunnel was claustrophobic, stuffy, and pitch black. It smelled of burned corpses. Only their soaking sweat covered their total nakedness as they shuffled through, banging their elbows and knees against the sides of the tunnel. The desperate urge to escape made Petunia LeBar and the man crawling behind her forget their fatigue, as well as the unbearable heat.

“How much longer, do you think?” the man asked in gasps.

“I think…I see a tiny…dot of light…up ahead,” she panted, now crawling faster. “We’re almost there.”

“Thank God,” he said. “We’ll be free…of those bastards.”

“The light…is getting bigger,” she said. “This is it.”

They started crawling faster, in eager anticipation of their soon-to-come freedom.

Then, from behind, they heard the squealing sounds…like a million screeching violins in a crescendo.

“Oh, no,” she said with shaking breaths.

“Let’s hurry…before they get us…Be brave!” he said. Suddenly, though, he felt an army of worm-like things crawling up his legs. “Oh, God! They’re on me!”

“Oh, my God! Frank! No!

She looked back and saw the short, glowing Creeps, wiggling in colours of blue, yellow, green, and orange, some crawling past him and towards her, others crawling all over his body, aiming for his ass and head.

Before he could close his buttocks in time, one of those things slithered inside his anus. He screamed and jerked his whole body, banging against the walls, roof, and floor of the tunnel, as the Creep slid deep inside his rectum, then into his intestines as fast as mercury. It wiggled inside, tickling him; then other Creeps made their way inside, one in his right ear, one up his left nostril, two in his mouth, and another up his ass.

He kept banging his head and limbs against the walls of the tunnel in all helplessness as he endured the unbearable tickling…so unbearable that he ignored the pain of his bruised and bloody toes and fingers.

Then the first Creep settled in his intestines…

…and the burning began.

“Oh! Oh! It’s hot!” he groaned.

“Frank! Frank! Oh, God, don’t die on me!” she bawled, slowing her crawling, confused over whether to go back and help him or flee the approaching Creeps.

He moaned in pain at first, then the ball of fire he felt inside himself grew, burning holes in his internal organs. He felt the fire cut into his stomach.

“Ah! It’s burning!” he screamed, coughing blood, his body now shaking and writhing with as much violence as that of the burning Creep. Then his body went limp and he lost consciousness, falling on the floor of the tunnel.

So horrified was she by his death, always sobbing and shaking, that she hadn’t noticed the Creeps crawling up her legs.

Then she snapped out of it.

“Oh, God!” she shrieked, trying to close her legs; but one of those things was too fast for her, and it slid inside her vagina.

Her whole body shook. She screamed, putting two fingers inside to try to scoop it out, then two other Creeps slinked in. They got past her flickering fingers and joined the first, deep inside her now. Then one of those wigglers crept inside her anus.

“Oh!”

The three inside her vagina melted. She felt the ooze permeating her body within seconds, passing through the mucous membranes of her internal organs. The other one snaked up her rectum and into her intestines. As she continued shaking all over, banging against the tunnel walls as Frank had, she softly sobbed.

Am I going to die, too? she wondered.

That worm melted inside her, too, in about the same area of her body as the one that killed Frank, and she could feel its substance pass into her bloodstream and spread throughout her body.

But, what was it?

Would it burn her insides, too? If it was going to do that, she figured it would have already begun burning. It had to be something else. But what? Part of her would have preferred the burning and a quick death to her forced life of prostitution in this hell of a house. She trembled as she waited for it to take effect, for she knew these worm-like Creeps were how her enslavers kept her and all the other nude women and men here under their control.

Soon enough, she began to feel the effect of a drug. She grew light-headed, her body swaying left to right. It almost felt like ecstasy, but it was a depressant rather than a stimulant. Her eyes grew heavy, and the glowing multi-colour Creeps surrounding her grew foggier before her eyes. Her limbs and head grew even heavier, and within a minute she slumped onto the floor of the tunnel and passed out.

Review and Analysis of ‘Mayan Blue’

Mayan Blue is a horror novel written by Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, also known as the ‘Sisters of Slaughter’. As the novel’s title implies, it involves grisly rites of human sacrifice, as well as the darker aspects of Mayan myth, featuring the underworld, Xibalba, the Place of Fear, which is ruled by Ah-Puch, the Lord of Death.

Professor Lipton has discovered proof of his theory that a group of Mayans migrated from what is now Mexico to a forest in Georgia. To provide proof of his findings, he has removed a disc there, a seal preventing the demons of Xibalba from emerging in the land of the living and finding more victims. His removal of the seal has made him the first modern victim, of course.

Before this, however, he has informed his young assistant, Wes, and four university students–Alissa, Tyler, Dennis, and Kelly–of his findings. They all come into the forest in Georgia to meet with him by the entrance to the Mayan world. But instead of meeting with him, they encounter a living nightmare.

This debut novel has been met with near-universal praise, and for good reason. It is not only an exhilarating read, a story that draws you in and keeps your attention to the end, but it is also well-written in terms of prose style. There is a poetic musicality to the assonant narration, full of vivid, figurative description.

Technical errors and typos are so rare as to be easily overlooked. This is a novel that is begging for a movie adaptation. Indeed, provided that such a production will have a talented director and actors, as well as a budget that will do justice to the special effects (preferably a maximum of practical effects and a minimum of CGI), and above all, of course, a well-written script (ideally, written by the Sisters of Slaughter themselves!), such an adaptation should make for a powerful film experience.

Analysis…SPOILER ALERT!

I’m going to do a largely psychoanalytic reading of this novel; now, the Sisters of Slaughter, in all likelihood, think of their novel as meant just for entertainment (and entertaining it most assuredly is!), and therefore probably don’t think it necessary to intellectualize their work (something I get a kick out of). Nonetheless, the point of psychoanalysis, which I dabble in, is to find meaning in the story that I suspect the writers put into their story unconsciously.

Let’s start with the title: Mayan Blue. Why blue? If you recall Mel Gibson’s movie, Apocalypto, you’ll remember that the Mayans’ sacrificial victims were covered in a blue dye before being killed, as the victims are so coloured in this novel (page 71). I see a deeper symbolism in the colour blue, though.

Blue can represent all kinds of things to people, depending on their situation: blue skies suggest happy days; blue can suggest icy coldness; blue can also mean sadness, the extreme of which leads to despair and even suicide. Now we’re getting closer to the meaning of blue in this novel, with all the killing and death in it. (Ixtab, the Goddess of Suicide, is referred to on page 74.)

Connected with sadness, despair, and suicide is the deadly sin of sloth. There is more to sloth than mere laziness. Sloth involves a loss of meaning or direction in life, related to sadness and despair. It’s been said that many people are addicted to porn because they’re unhappy. They over-indulge in physical pleasure because they lack meaning in their lives, or more crucially, lack strong human relationships. These porn addicts are more guilty of sloth than of lust. Remember the man in Se7en who, having lost his Christian faith, was labelled with the sin of sloth? The killer didn’t complain of him being too lazy: he called him a “drug-dealing pederast”.

Consider these ideas in light of Tyler, Dennis, and Kelly in Mayan Blue. All they want to do is smoke marijuana, get drunk (pages 22-24), party, and have sex (pages 44-46). They have no deep interest in the professor’s discovery, as Wes and Alissa do in contrast. And these three partiers are killed off first, despairing as they crawl toward death.

These five young people, as well as the professor, are from the university world, from city life, civilization, suggestive of the conscious mind, with its censors against bad behaviour and thoughts. The underworld caverns, tunnels, and shadows of Xibalba, the Place of Fear, with its demons and their bloodlust, symbolize the unconscious, the turbulent, non-rational world of not only libido, but also of Thanatos, the death instinct. The surrounding forest, a potentially dangerous place also untouched by civilization, suggests the preconscious mind, where unconscious thoughts may surface, as the attacking owls do (pages 78-79).

Normally, the mind houses a fairly even combination of internalized good and bad object relations (based on our relationships with our primary caregivers, especially Mother), the good and bad aspects being reasonably integrated to give a person a healthy, realistic view of the world, a mix of good and bad. A despairing mind, however, will know mostly, if not all, bad objects; hence the army of demonic tormentors that the five young victims and the professor suffer. Only the Skeleton Queen, along with the Shadow Priestess (who, guiding Alissa with her whistling, represents both the ‘good mother’ and Jung’s Shadow) and her Skeleton Coats, provide help and hope. They are the only good internalized objects in the despairing unconscious mind symbolized by Xibalba.

WRD Fairbairn, in an early paper (Fairbairn, pages 249-252, ‘Psychology as a Prescribed and as a Proscribed Subject’), discussed the universities’ dismissing of psychoanalysis as a kind of pseudoscience, explaining that such a dismissive attitude comes from a fear of exploring the demons, as it were, in our unconscious minds. In his wish to prove to his university the validity of his theories, Professor Lipton dares to explore the Mayan world that symbolizes the unconscious; and he learns of its dangers after removing the disc, which Wes and Alissa must use to reseal the entrance to Xibalba, to keep bestial urges repressed.

In a later paper, Fairbairn compared the bad object relationships we internalize to demons that possess us (Fairbairn, page 67, ‘The Dynamics of the Influence of Bad Objects’, Part 5 of ‘The Repression and the Return of Bad Objects’).  “…it is worth considering whence bad objects derive their power over the individual. If the child’s objects are bad, how does he ever come to internalize them? Why does he not simply reject them…?…However much he may want to reject them, he cannot get away from them. They force themselves upon him; and he cannot resist them because they have power over him. He is accordingly compelled to internalize them in an effort to control them. But, in attempting to control them in this way, he is internalizing objects which have wielded power over him in the external world; and these objects retain their prestige for power over him in the inner world. In a word, he is ‘possessed’ by them, as if by evil spirits. This is not all, however. The child not only internalizes his bad objects because they force themselves upon him and he seeks to control them, but also, and above all, because he needs them. If a child’s parents are bad objects, he cannot reject them, even if they do not force themselves upon him; for he cannot do without them. Even if they neglect him, he cannot reject them; for, if they neglect him, his need for them is increased.”

Fairbairn also noted how we may pursue superficial pleasures (e.g., drugs, alcohol, sex, porn) when we cannot find joy in human relationships (Fairbairn, pages 139-140, ‘Object Relationships and Dynamic Structure’). “…from the point of view of object-relationship psychology, explicit pleasure-seeking represents a deterioration of behaviour…Explicit pleasure-seeking has as its essential aim the relieving of the tension of libidinal need for the mere sake of relieving this tension. Such a process does, of course, occur commonly enough; but, since libidinal need is object-need, simple tension-relieving implies some failure of object-relationships.”

Tyler, Dennis, and Kelly pursue superficial pleasures, while Alissa would rather find joy in human relationships, for she has a crush on Wes. Wes’s admiration for Professor Lipton shows his preference of relationships, too, hence his and Alissa’s ability to hang on to hope, over the other three victims’ quick succumbing to despair.

A brief digression into psychoanalytical theory, if you’ll indulge, Dear Reader: I’ll relate this to the novel soon enough.

Melanie Klein noted that a baby’s first object relation is with his or her mother–or more accurately, her breasts as part-objects; then later in the baby’s first year, it recognizes the mother as a whole object. When the breast provides milk for the baby, this is the ‘good breast’, coming from the ‘good mother’ object; and when no milk is given, this is the ‘bad breast’ of the ‘bad mother’ object. This dichotomous thinking leads to splitting in the baby’s mind, to love for the ‘good mother’ on one side, and hostility to her (the ‘bad mother’) on the other, the paranoid-schizoid position.

As the baby feels this hostility, it bites at the breast, like the thorns that “were embedded deeply in [Wes’s and Alissa’s] flesh, suckling from their blood” (page 266, my emphasis). For the vines, human blood is their milk. On page 132, the sucking, biting thorns, which “sink in [Wes’s] skin like the teeth of a hidden predator”, are on “vampire vines” that are “yearning for the blood of the living”. So Wes’s and Alissa’s skin is symbolically a large breast of blood-milk, if you will.

This biting at the breast is part of the stage of oral sadism, also called the cannibalistic phase. Remember the half-human, half-beast demons that feed on the flesh (page 146) of their dead victims, Tyler, Dennis, and Kelly, and hope to feast on Wes and Alissa: “Their mouths slavered like hungry carnivores…Ah-Puch plunged his arms into the dead man’s abdominal cavity to gather gifts for his men. Each was granted a fistful of gore on which to feast voraciously, spreading their terrible countenances with blood.”

Oral sadism is originally an infantile phase, but those hostile urges can remain, repressed in the unconscious, especially in the case of oral fixation, which is manifested in such things as smoking (including marijuana), drinking (remember Kelly’s bottle of whiskey, page 22), and oral sex (something Tyler and Dennis were probably hoping to enjoy from Kelly).

These oral fixations and sadistic hostilities can be projected onto others, and they are, when Kelly’s skin is worn by one of the flying demons: “[Dennis saw]…a flying creature…[that] wore a face as a mask, Kelly’s sweet angelic visage with bloodied edges, and that’s when Dennis realized it had breasts…not breasts of its own, but it wore Kelly’s tanned skin like a suit stretched over its own deformed body, morphed into something between man and bird, with its feathers protruding through her soft skin.” (pages 139-140)

What is projection from the first person is introjection into the second person. As Melanie Klein explained in “Weaning” (1936): “To begin with, the breast of the mother is the object of his [i.e., the baby’s] constant desire, and therefore this is the first thing to be introjected. In phantasy the child sucks the breast into himself, chews it up and swallows it; thus he feels that he has actually got it there, that he possesses the mother’s breast within himself, in both its good and in its bad aspects.” (Klein, page 291)

So, the flying creature has introjected Kelly’s projected oral fixations, symbolized by her face, skin, and breasts, as a baby sucks in its mother’s milk and, in unconscious phantasy, breasts.

Healthy emotional development for a baby, particularly in its relationship with its mother (symbolized in this novel by Xibalba, the underworld, chthonian Mother Earth, the collective unconscious of instincts and feelings we share with those who came before us, including Mother, and the Mayan civilization of centuries past), comes by passing out of the paranoid-schizoid position, with all its persecutory anxiety (the Place of Fear), and through the depressive position, a period of painful reconciliation with the mother, after fearing the consequences of the baby’s former hostility to a mother who sometimes didn’t give milk. To save themselves from Xibalba’s horrors, Wes and Alissa must reconcile themselves to this underworld of the unconscious.

The thorns that cut into Wes’s and Alissa’s skin can represent the teething, biting baby in its destructive envy; but through introjection, the mother can be in the baby’s unconscious, meaning the ‘bad mother’ object (of which the Blood Maiden can be seen as a manifestation), angry from the biting, or hostility in general (towards the Blood Maiden in Alissa’s blinding of her [page 206]; or towards the ‘bad father’ object, represented by Ah-Puch, angry with Wes’s defiant hope), may want revenge. Hence, Xibalba switches roles, from hostile baby to hostile parent.

The paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions are phases alternated back and forth throughout one’s life; they only begin in infancy. These shifts back and forth between hostility and the need for reparation, between splitting and integration, are felt not only for Mother, but are later displaced onto other people. Alissa feels annoyed and contemptuous of Kelly, Tyler, and Dennis, inwardly giggling from the foul marijuana she’s given them to smoke (pages 16-17).

Later, when the Blood Maiden (the ‘bad mother’ object) is sucking away Alissa’s energy and showing her a vision of Kelly’s suffering, Alissa feels guilty over having brought Kelly, Tyler, and Dennis to this place of death (pages 199-200). She would have reparation with them. This depressive position is part of the sadness engulfing Xibalba. The absence of Mother brings about the depressive position, a fear that the child has in unconscious phantasy destroyed Mother; the baby waits in terror for Mother to return, as Alissa does when Shadow Priestess (the ‘good mother’ object) temporarily leaves: “Alissa trembled as she awaited the shadow’s return.” (Chapter Fourteen, page 193)

But Alissa and Wes would keep hope, and fight their way out of Xibalba, wishing to die “[their] way and not his [i.e., Ah-Puch’s]” (page 251). This is a successful going-through of the depressive position, the way to health, back up to the forest. So when they die, it’s a selfless sacrifice to save the living world from the living nightmare of Xibalba. They don’t die of despair. Their spirits are good internalized objects in the hellish unconscious.

Indeed, Xibalba is a land of bad dreams, where one never truly dies (page 139). The spirits of dead Kelly, Tyler, and Dennis are Ah-Puch’s possessions. One is reminded of Hamlet’s soliloquy: “To die, to sleep;/To sleep, perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;/For in that sleep of death what dreams may come/When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,/Must give us pause.” (Act III, scene i, lines 64-68)

And the interpretation of dreams, Freud reminds us, is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious. While too much repression of the id can lead to neurosis, overindulgence in its bestial impulses can lead to the dangers symbolized by the owls and demons coming out into the forest. Some repression (Wes’s and Alissa’s resealing of the entrance) is needed.

Inspiration for this novel came from learning of a theory that some Maya migrated to parts of the southern US. This migration, I’m guessing, may have been in response to the Conquistadors‘ taking over of what is now Yucatan Mexico and parts of Central America. Despair at European imperialism’s destruction of their world may have prompted the Mayan move, and part of the despair of the priestess when sacrificing the boys to seal the entrance to Xibalba the first time (Prologue, pages 7-9).

Despair leads to Hell, and Xibalba is in more than a few ways comparable to Dante’s Inferno (‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.’ Canto III, line 9), with its windy second circle (for those guilty of lust), the Mayan equivalent of which Wes must endure (page 226); though since Wes isn’t susceptible to lust as Kelly, Tyler, and Dennis are, he laughs defiantly, feeling immune to it. Later, there is the blue maw of a cenote, similar to any of Satan’s three mouths in the centre of Dante’s Hell, mouths that eat traitors like Judas, Brutus, and Cassius. The defiant hope of Wes and Alissa can be seen as a kind of treason in Xibalba, where fear and despair reign supreme.

When our two heroes fight their way to the surface, resolving that “if it was going to end, it would end her way [and Wes’s]” (page 262), they are reconciling themselves to the bad objects (Ah-Puch, the half-human, half-beast Wayob and Nagual, as well as the Blood Mistress) by joining the good objects (Shadow Priestess and Skeleton Coats); this is the integration of good and bad that leads to better health. Wes and Alissa know they cannot return to the world of the living, but they’ll be damned (literally) if they die in despair and suffer the living death of Kelly, Tyler, and Dennis, the “sleep of death” that “must give us pause”. Remember that Wayob comes from a word meaning “sleep”, and they can transform into an animal while asleep in order to do harm. And sleep and dreams represent unconscious processes.

There are dialectical tensions at work here: we can’t have one opposite without the other. Xibalba, like any Hell, is a living death. As Bane told Bruce Wayne, “There can be no true despair without hope.” The deep despair of the demons is coupled with the hope of passing their pain onto others, hence their delight in tormenting Wes and Alissa: “The crowd gathering at the bottom of the stairs shrieked eagerly as [Wes] was paraded by. A beating of wings above him told him the Wayobs had joined the train…A chunk of broken roadway was picked up then tossed at his face by a mummified onlooker. His blood brought them great satisfaction for they howled in triumph as it burned his eyes. This prompted a handful of other malevolent creatures to do the same, stoning him with any debris their decrepit hands could attain.” (pages 236-7)

Our two heroes feel a mix of hope and despair, knowing they’ll die, but not to die as despairing Tyler, Dennis, and Kelly did. Wes and Alissa save the lives of those in the upper world, and their own souls, by killing themselves so their blood will reseal the entrance to Xibalba. Their souls will join the Shadow Priestess and Skeleton Coats in battling Ah-Puch’s tyranny. Similarly, the Skeleton Queen dies in thwarting the Blood Maiden (pages 268-9). Hope in despair. Life in death: like the heartbeat-like drum that presages death. “The drumming was the signal: she had witnessed it before. It was the instrument bringing about the change from living to living dead.” (page 238)

Blue and Red, in a way, are also dialectical opposites: cold, blue death and despair, versus hot, red life and hope. Wes has the blue dye all over him, mixed with his blood, the draining away of his life and hope. Still, the heat of his angry defiance helps him survive the freezing room. The mixing of red and blue also symbolizes the needed integration of good and bad objects to return to health, never a perfect mental health, but one good enough to deal with life’s horrors, as Wes and Alissa learn to do when their spirits re-enter Xibalba.

In Christian myth, Satan is the ultimate one to despair, especially after Christ’s crucifixion. The mutual sacrifice of Wes and Alissa–suicides considered honourable to Ixtab–is obviously Christ-like, too, sealing the doom of Ah-Puch, the Mayan Satan (for the purposes of this novel and analysis), and his demonic brethren, who now have no more hope even of sharing their pain with new victims.

Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, Mayan Blue, Sinister Grin Press, Austin, 2016

WRD Fairbairn, Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality, Routledge, New York, 1952

Melanie Klein, Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other Works 1921-1945, The Free Press, 1975

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.

Analysis of ‘Gaslight’

Gaslight is a 1944 thriller film starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotten, and co-starring Angela Lansbury and Dame May Whitty. It was directed by George Cukor, and based on the 1938 stage play Gas Light, written by Patrick Hamilton. Another movie version was done in 1940, adhering more closely to the original play; but when MGM did the 1944 remake so soon after this first film, they wanted to have all existing prints of it destroyed. Fortunately, the original film wasn’t ever destroyed, but this 1944 version still eclipsed it.

Bergman won her first Academy Award for Best Actress with this movie, while Boyer was nominated for Best Actor, and Angela Lansbury was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, and it won Best Art Direction. The film got a total of seven Oscar nominations.

It is from this film that the term ‘gaslighting‘ originated, for the villain, Gregory Anton (Boyer), uses this very tactic–tricking his wife, Paula (Bergman), into doubting her own perception, memory, and sanity by staging bizarre scenarios for her–in an elaborate scheme to drive her mad, have her committed to an insane asylum, then take possession of her old London house, originally owned by her aunt, Alice Alquist, whom he murdered years before.

Normally, emotional abuse is used on a victim for the purpose of having power and control over him or her; but Gregory, or Sergius Bauer, to use his real name, only wants to get rid of Paula so he can freely search about that old house, to find the coveted items he killed Alquist to steal–her jewels.

In one scene, he speaks of his great lust for precious jewels (about a half-hour into the movie). In another scene, we see him in the attic, searching furiously for those jewels, using a knife to hack through the cushion of the back of an old chair in a desperate hope to find them (about an hour and a half into the movie). This ruthless searching for treasure, violating other people’s property in the process, reminds us of the plunder of the Third World for resources, diamonds, etc., by Western imperialists. Remember that, just as an emotional abuser often controls his victim’s finances, imperialism deliberately stifles the economic growth of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Since Patrick Hamilton had communist sympathies, especially in the late 1930s, when he wrote Gas Light, I feel at least some justification in making a leftist allegory out of this movie.

Gregory, who–as I see it–represents bourgeois imperialism, tricks Paula, who represents both the proletariat and those ‘brutal dictators’ that imperialism wants to remove, into thinking she is a forgetful kleptomaniac. He does this by deliberately moving items when she isn’t looking, then claiming she took them and forgot she had. He reveals her ‘forgotten thefts’ with a cruel frown, causing her to be frightened and hysterical.

When he leaves her alone in the house, ostensibly to go out somewhere and work on composing classical music, but actually to sneak up into the attic from the back to search for the jewels, she notices the gaslight dimming in the rooms. This frightens her, for she has no idea who is causing it to dim. The servants honestly deny any knowledge of the gaslight dimming (just as the average worker doesn’t know of the ruling class’s tricks), and Gregory pretends not to know either; for it is he who is dimming it–hence the term ‘gaslighting’.

Always claiming Paula is ill, Gregory never lets her out of the house to be sociable, like a typical emotional abuser. (Symbolically, this isolation is also like how imperialism economically isolates such countries as Cuba by imposing embargoes on them, to bring an end to the regimes of those ‘brutal dictators’.) The servants believe she’s ill, too, and are cool towards her, upsetting her all the more. Of course, it is Gregory who has made the servants believe she’s ill, through triangulation; just as the corporate mainstream media tricks us into thinking ‘brutal dictators’ like Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, et al, are madmen who must be removed from power.

By the climax of the film, Paula has been manipulated so thoroughly that she plods about, eyes half shut, as if she’s half-asleep, just like the average Western citizen, brainwashed and distracted by media nonsense. She believes her mind is going, that all she sees and hears is just a dream, as her cruel husband has convinced her.

I have elsewhere gone into detail about the nature and effects of emotional abuse, as well as about narcissism; hence my political interpretation of this film, instead of just elaborating on psychological abuse again. I feel a political interpretation is useful and necessary, because I see political gaslighting going on everywhere, all the time.

The media tricks Americans, for example, into thinking that one political party is evil, while the other is good, or at least has the potential for good, once the ‘good’ political party has been cleansed of corruption; when in reality, both political parties are working for the plutocrats, as are the media.

We are tricked into forgetting the imperialist crimes of previous years and decades, and even made to think that the Western imperialists are among the victims, rather than the victimizers. Here we see the microcosm of the narcissist, seeing himself as the victim and projecting his guilt outward, expanded into the macrocosm of the imperialists, who blame Muslims for terrorism instead of taking responsibility for US or NATO bombings of, or proxy wars in, places like Libya, Syria, Kosovo, or Iraq. Like Gregory, capitalists are murderers.

Gregory accuses Paula of stealing and forgetting her thefts, when in fact he is the thief (and a murderer). Similarly, the capitalist class excoriates socialists and social democrats for ‘stealing’ the money of the wealthy (through progressive income taxes), when in fact it’s the capitalists who originally stole from the workers (by overworking and underpaying them). Furthermore, the Western media has propagandized against socialist states like the USSR, calling them ‘totalitarian dictatorships’, when currently America has by far the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, and polls have consistently shown that a majority of Russians prefer the USSR to their current state of affairs. All of this media deception can be called political gaslighting.

Gregory leaves Paula alone, and the gaslight dims, frightening her; then he denies this dimming. This is symbolic of capitalism’s alienating of workers, leaving them in a darkness of misery, then denying that the capitalist system is responsible for these problems. The servants go along with Gregory’s thinking, just as so many workers, police officers, and soldiers refuse to resist the system.

Scotland Yard Inspector Brian Cameron (Cotten), who revives the case of Paula’s murdered aunt, Alice Alquist, after the police have considered it unsolvable, admired Alquist’s singing; this admiration arouses his empathy for Paula, and he puts the pieces together and saves her. Now he is a policeman, and therefore an unlikely hero in any anti-capitalist allegory; but because he’s the only inspector among the British police still interested in this case, out of his empathy for Paula, his authority can be seen to represent one other than that of the establishment; in other words, instead of being seen as representing a policeman for the bourgeoisie, Cameron can be seen allegorically as a member of the militsiya. (Furthermore, in the 1940 film version, there’s a scene in which the inspector–originally named Rough–invites a group of poor street urchins into a pastry shop to buy them something to eat [about 21 minutes or so into the film], suggesting his sympathy for the poor. Recall in this context Hamilton’s communist sympathies around the time of the writing of his play.) His fighting with and subduing of Gregory can thus represent the vanguard of a revolution against the imperialist bourgeoisie.

I admit that my allegorizing here isn’t as smooth as that of my previous analyses, but I feel it’s necessary to make a link between gaslighting in relationships and that of politics; for I see the latter as an extension of the former, an extension that mustn’t be overlooked. Now, if my emphasis on contemporary imperialism seems odd when allegorizing a story written so many decades earlier, consider how much older capitalist imperialism really is: equally disturbing examples of it can be seen in Churchill’s disparaging of Muslims and the Indians he allowed to starve to death in the Bengal Famine; or in the late Victorian Holocausts of the late 19th century.

Emotional abuse in families, extending to other relationships, is a lot more common than most people realize. In the US, it has been found to be almost universal. America is a country where authoritarianism, disguising itself as ‘liberty‘ (check out the gaslighting there!), is also rampant; religious fundamentalism, an intrusive state, mass incarceration, police brutality, and neoliberal capitalism being the most notable manifestations. It isn’t a wide leap of logic to go from American dysfunctional families to this authoritarianism, then to imperialism: it’s all about power imbalances.

A useful link between family abuse and the authoritarian political establishment, given from the perspective of a prickly American cop, is in this disturbing video (a scene from the TV series Southland), in which a truant pre-teen boy with a ‘bleeding-heart liberal’ attitude is lectured that “discipline is not child abuse”–this after his mother has hit him with a belt two or three times for truancy. To some, this may seem like a mild punishment in itself, but many families have wildly different interpretations of what ‘mild punishment’ is, especially as regards hitting a boy with a belt. Consider the end of this scene in Goodfellas, again, ‘punishment’ for truancy.

The point is that there is always a ’cause’ for the abuser to fly off the handle and assault the victim either verbally, physically, or even sexually. This ’cause’ does not justify an abusive reaction, which is then minimized as “discipline” or ‘punishment’.

Similarly, and by extension, Western imperialists always have ’causes’ for their bombings of other countries, typically vilifying the leaders of those countries by calling them ‘brutal dictators’. To be sure, the dictators of the world have more than their share of flaws; but for the West to be judging them, given all the corruption that favours the rich and powerful in the West, is really the pot calling the kettle black. The corporate-owned media, ever in the service of imperialism, engages in gaslighting by giving us biased accounts of what is happening in, for example, Kosovo, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and now Russia, so we will see the bombings as ‘humanitarian’, a truly obscene series of lies.

Once the bombing campaign is over and the victimized country is subjugated (if not more or less destroyed), the ‘brutal dictator’ is removed or killed, and the imperialists take over, just as Gregory tries to remove Paula, then take ownership of her home so he can finally search freely for the jewels, which could be seen to represent the oil and other resources of the conquered countries.

Remember how Iraq was regarded sympathetically by America during the Iran/Iraq War, then the US turned on Saddam Hussein in the 1990s? Or how Osama bin Laden and the mujahideen had the sympathy of the US when repelling the USSR from Afghanistan (we all know what happened after that)? Remember how the West briefly warmed up to Gaddafi during the 2000s…then in 2011…? Or how Syria was an intermittent ally until the 2010s? Gregory’s attitude to Paula can be seen to symbolize this kind of political relationship. At first, the victims have their uses; then they’re devalued and discarded.

In order to solve the problems of political oppression around the world, we must first solve the problems of our own social relations. This must begin with the family, the foundation of all social relations.

To optimize family relations, parents must be as sensitive as they can to the emotional development of their children, starting right from the first months of infancy. Attachment theory explains the different ways a child learns how to connect with primary caregivers, then with other people; this includes unhealthy forms of attachment. When these forms of attachment are unhealthy, the child grows up with these bad object relations, which become the blueprint for all future relationships.

This leaves such a person vulnerable to the schemes of psychopaths like Gregory. Paula’s childhood trauma, of having seen the dead body of her strangled aunt, would represent the kind of ruptured attachment, or bad object relation, that has led to her being susceptible to the charms of Gregory, who idealized her during their courtship, devalued her during their married life in London, and almost discarded her into a mental institution, but for the intervention of Inspector Cameron.

Just as we must be warned of the idealize/devalue/discard tactics of psychopaths, sociopaths, or narcissists, we must also do the necessary healing work if we’ve already been traumatized by them, be they our ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-husbands, ex-wives, or bullying parents. The healing work includes learning about toxic people, engaging in self-care and self-compassion, meditation, cathartic writing about one’s own problems, and joining communities (including online ones) of other survivors, to give them support as well as receive it from them.

When the needed emotional health is either established, through good parenting (not ‘perfect’ parenting, but the good enough parenting that DW Winnicott advocated), maintained, by being wary of the fake idealizing of potential toxic boyfriends or girlfriends, or restored after surviving an ordeal of emotional abuse, then people can organize into communities, and develop the solidarity needed to combat the greatest emotional abusers of them all–the capitalist class and their stooge governments, their political flying monkeys.

As for the Cluster B individuals themselves, psychiatrists must work tirelessly to discover a cure for each of those pathologies, whether those pathologies be genetically basedphysiologically based, or caused by trauma.

We as a people need to learn what love really is: not just a pretty-sounding word, not empty sentimentality, but a genuine connection between people, a connection brought about not by stern moralizing or authoritarian forms of religion, but by empathy…the empathy Inspector Cameron felt for Paula, because of how she reminded him of her aunt.

Only through empathy can we hope to build a better world, one in which bosses don’t rule over workers by overworking and underpaying them, and by gaslighting them into thinking they are worthless if they can’t help bosses make a profit; a world where all racial, ethnic and religious groups are treated as equals, and gaslighting isn’t used to make people equate blacks with criminals or Muslims with terrorists; where the sexes are regarded as equals, and gaslighting isn’t used to make women feel worthless if they don’t provide pleasure, or to make men feel worthless if they don’t provide money; where LGBT people are given dignity, and gaslighting isn’t used to make them seem perverted.

To fix the world, we must start with the family, the foundation of society.

Analysis of ‘The Shining’

The Shining is a supernatural horror novel written by Stephen King and published in 1977. It was his third published novel, after Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot. It was made into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1980; and while the initial critical response to the film was mixed (with King especially disliking how Kubrick changed huge portions of the story), it is now considered one of the best horror movies ever made. King had a well-received made-for-TV miniseries version done in 1997, one that, naturally, was much more faithful to his novel.

His novel is a classic in the horror genre, and while his and Kubrick’s visions of the story differ so vastly, I find enough thematic material common to both that I will cite both versions in my analysis to make my point. These themes include the self-destructiveness of alcoholism, family abuse, the return of repressed bad internal object relations, repetition compulsion, and the death drive.

Though analyses of the themes in Kubrick’s film (the white man’s oppression of Native Americans, etc.) are well worth exploring, since they have already been looked into, I won’t be exploring them.

Jack Torrance has accepted a job as caretaker for the Overlook Hotel; and just as the hotel has a dark history, so does Jack. A former drinker and teacher, he has been on the wagon for fourteen months (in Kubrick’s film, five months) after having not only hit a student, George Hatfield (and lost his teaching job for it, ‘Up On the Roof’, pages 162-170), but also injured his own son, Danny (pages 23-25, ‘Watson’).

Ghosts inhabit the Overlook, which not only overlooks a beautiful mountain view in the Colorado Rockies, but also ‘overlooks’ (ignores, or doesn’t take responsibility for) the crimes that have been committed there. Jack’s connection with the Overlook–more and more complete as he goes mad in his attachment to the place, trying to ensure that he and his family never leave–shows how he is at one with the hotel. He has “always been the caretaker” (page 532, ‘Conversations At the Party’). The physical building represents his mind, with the boiler in the basement needing to be checked (to relieve the pressure) twice a day and once at night, for it symbolizes the death drive of his unconscious. There’s an interesting juxtaposition of ideas at the beginning of chapter 3, ‘Watson’, on page 22:

You lost your temper, Ullman had said.

‘”OK, here’s your furnace,” Watson said, turning on a light in the dark, musty-smelling room…Boiler’s on the other side of the wall. I’ll take you around.”‘

Jack’s anger and the furnace are mentioned side by side because they, and the boiler, are all one and the same thing. On the next few pages, Jack remembers injuring Danny for messing up his writing papers.

We learn through the course of the novel that Jack’s father had been abusive to him and his mother (‘Dreamland’, pages 335-338). Being abusive to Danny would be ‘normal’ to Jack, since his own dad’s abuse of him seemed normal: “In those days it had not seemed strange to Jack that the father won all his arguments with his children by use of his fists, and it had not seemed strange that his own love should go hand-in-hand with his fear…” (page 335). Similarly, his wife, Wendy, had a bad relationship with her mother. These bad object relations would haunt Jack and Wendy like ghosts…just as the ghosts of the Overlook will.

Wendy herself contemplates how the ghosts of her mother and Jack’s father could be among those in the hotel, when she thinks of Danny’s trauma: “(Oh we are wrecking this boy. It’s not just Jack, it’s me too, and maybe it’s not even just us, Jack’s father, my mother, are they here too? Sure, why not? The place is lousy with ghosts anyway, why not a couple more?…Oh Danny I’m so sorry).” (‘On the Stairs’, pages 491-492)

The isolation of the hotel, on a snowy mountain during a bitter winter, symbolizes the kind of social disconnect that often leads to problems like alcoholism and family abuse. In direct contrast, Danny’s psychic gift, the “shining”, as fellow shiner Dick Hallorann and his grandmother call it (‘The Shining’, page 117), connects him with people, and with the future, in an enhanced way. Jack and Wendy cannot contact the outside world (because Jack has destroyed the CB radio [‘Dreamland’, page 342], just as he’s ensured they can’t ride away in the snowmobile–‘The Snowmobile’, page 426), but Danny can “shine” all the way from Colorado to Florida to tell Hallorann of the threat to his family’s life.

The ghosts of the Overlook represent the ghosts of Jack’s past (and Wendy’s, to a lesser extent); but Danny, explicitly as such in Stephen King’s miniseries, points to the future, since “Tony” is actually Danny as a young adult (“Daniel Anthony Torrance”, page 639), advising his younger self to beware the dangers of the hotel (‘Shadowland’, pages 37-50). Thus, Tony is really Danny being a friend to himself, a form of self-compassion that can help victims of abuse to heal.

Redrum, or murder spelled backwards, represents not only the destructiveness of alcoholism–red rum, as red as blood–but also the destructiveness of looking backwards into the past, and letting internalized bad objects continue to dominate you, or letting bad old habits resurface and be compulsively repeated.

This brings me to my next point, what Freud called “the compulsion to repeat” in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Up until the horrors of World War I, he saw instinctual drives as geared exclusively towards pleasure, libido. The destruction of that war (Freud, page 281) compelled him to revise his theories and acknowledge a death instinct, what his followers would call Thanatos, which is opposed to Eros, the will to live. He now admitted that dreams aren’t always the fulfillment of wishes (Freud, page 304).

Sometimes his patients would compulsively repeat actions that seemed meaningless or without a clearly pleasurable aim, such a when an infant boy threw out a toy and reeled it back, perhaps to master the sensation of loss, as when his mother wasn’t with him (Freud, pages 284-285). Similarly, Freud treated traumatized veterans who repeated irrational acts in the form of flashbacks, traumatic dreams (Freud, page 282), and the reliving of battlefield events.

Jack’s inability to control his anger and compulsive drinking are manifestations of this death instinct and its compulsion to repeat. He was destructive and drinking before, and he will be destructive and drinking again.

The topiary animals make for interesting symbolism. Normally, the presence of plants gives us a feeling of peace, of pleasure, especially when they have been shaped into aesthetically pleasing forms, like animals–how charming. Yet the Overlook’s topiary is of animals that move when you aren’t looking (‘In the Playground’, pages 311-314). By the time Hallorann returns to help Danny, the topiary lion attacks him (‘Hallorann Arrives’, pages 617-618). So what we have are plants that are superficially charming, yet bestial and frightening when one knows them better. And since they are the Overlook’s topiary, they are an extension of Jack’s personality: charming and sweet on the surface, his ego ideal, but inside…

Then there’s Danny’s frightening experience with the fire extinguisher hose, which seems to unravel all by itself (‘Outside 217’, pages 258-262). Again, seen in light of the idea that the hotel represents Jack’s mind, we see something that, on the surface, is meant to protect and ensure safety, as a father is supposed to do. Instead, the hose, a near phallic symbol, moves surreptitiously, slithering, suggestive of a snake.

Because the hotel represents Jack’s mind, the ghosts in turn represent his internal object relations. Delbert Grady could be seen to represent Jack’s internalized abusive father, since grey-haired Grady eggs Jack on to kill his own family, just as the voice of Jack’s father, heard on the CB radio, urges him to kill them (‘Dreamland’, page 341).

The ghosts want Danny for all his psychic powers, that ability to connect with others that Jack lacks. When Danny rejects the ghosts, they go after Jack. Thus the ghosts initially represent, in WRD Fairbairn‘s revising of Freud’s id, the libidinal ego in its relationship with the exciting object; then, when Danny has rejected the ghosts, they represent Fairbairn’s revising of the superego, the internal saboteur or anti-libidinal ego, with its turbulent relationship with the rejecting object (both objects being symbolized by Danny).

Since I assume, Dear Reader, that you aren’t familiar with Fairbairn’s revision of Freud’s id/ego/superego conception of the mind, and since I further assume you haven’t read my analysis of The Exorcist, in which I discuss this revision, I’ll present the relevant quotes again here:

“…the intolerably depriving, rejecting aspect of the other person is internalized as the ‘rejecting object’, attached to the ‘anti-libidinal ego’…[,] the split-off ego fragment that is bonded to the rejecting object. We can think of it as the ‘anti-wanting I’, the aspect of the self that is contemptuous of neediness. Rejection gives rise to unbearable anger, split off from the central self or ego and disowned by it. Fairbairn originally termed this element the ‘internal saboteur’, indicating that in despising rather than acknowledging our neediness, we ensure that we neither seek nor get what we want. The anti-libidinal ego/rejecting object configuration is the cynical, angry self which is too dangerously hostile for us to acknowledge. When it emerges from repression we may experience it as chaotic rage or hatred, sometimes with persecutory guilt.” (Gomez, pages 63-64)

Fairbairn’s revising of Freud’s drive theory replaces the drive to pleasure/destruction with an object-seeking purpose, for which instinctual drives are mere avenues to seeking or dealing with objects. Fairbairn may have rejected Freud’s drive theory, including the death instinct and the compulsion to repeat, as superfluous (Fairbairn, pages 78-79), but I find both useful in explaining the symbolism of the Overlook, two ways of looking at King’s novel from different angles. Grady, the symbolic ghost of Jack’s abusive father, is pushing Jack to kill because Jack needs his father-object, regardless of whether it is good or bad for him.

Let’s consider what Fairbairn had to say about needing bad objects. “…it is worth considering whence bad objects derive their power over the individual. If the child’s objects are bad, how does he ever come to internalize them? Why does he not simply reject them…?…However much he may want to reject them, he cannot get away from them. They force themselves upon him; and he cannot resist them because they have power over him. He is accordingly compelled to internalize them in an effort to control them. But, in attempting to control them in this way, he is internalizing objects which have wielded power over him in the external world; and these objects retain their prestige for power over him in the inner world. In a word, he is ‘possessed’ by them, as if by evil spirits. This is not all, however. The child not only internalizes his bad objects because they force themselves upon him and he seeks to control them, but also, and above all, because he needs them. If a child’s parents are bad objects, he cannot reject them, even if they do not force themselves upon him; for he cannot do without them. Even if they neglect him, he cannot reject them; for, if they neglect him, his need for them is increased.” (Fairbairn, page 67)

Going back to drinking represents finding a pleasurable thing as an object to replace the meaningful objects, Wendy and Danny, that Jack needs. As Fairbairn explains, “…from the point of view of object-relationship psychology, explicit pleasure-seeking represents a deterioration of behaviour…Explicit pleasure-seeking has as its essential aim the relieving of the tension of libidinal need for the mere sake of relieving this tension. Such a process does, of course, occur commonly enough; but, since libidinal need is object-need, simple tension-relieving implies some failure of object-relationships.” (Fairbairn, p. 139-140) In the Overlook, Jack is isolated in his own mind, driving him to self-destruction and other-destruction.

Jack uses a bug bomb to kill a nest of wasps found on the roof of the Overlook, where he’s been doing repairs and been stung by one of them (‘Up On the Roof’, page 153). Danny is fascinated with the wasp nest, and wants to keep it. Wendy is unsure if it’s safe, but Jack insists all the wasps have been killed (‘Down In the Front Yard’, pages 177-178). The ghosts of the hotel reanimate the wasps that night, though, and Danny is stung (‘Danny’, pages 195-203). Since the ghosts and hotel represent Jack’s mind, the stings represent a return to Jack’s abusiveness (and self-destructiveness, since he’s the first one to get stung); and his assuring that the wasps are dead and harmless represents his denial of abusive intent, gaslighting, and his empty promise that he’ll never repeat injuring Danny.

The Overlook, Jack’s symbolic mind, full of the ghosts of bad internal objects, and with a boiler of anger that Jack must regularly “dump…off a little” (‘Watson’, page 28) to relieve the pressure, always repeats its aggressions. Kubrick’s adaptation brilliantly brings out this repetition compulsion in such symbols as rug patterns, the phrase “forever, and ever, and ever”, and Jack’s “writing project”, an endless repetition of the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Similarly, we see repetitive columns, doors, wallpaper patterns, and the sound of Danny driving his little three-wheeled bike on and off rugs and the hardwood floor, over and over again…sound-silence-sound-silence-sound-silence.

Danny refuses to believe that Jack, swinging the roque mallet, is his real father (page 639); it’s just the ghosts controlling him. But the ghosts, the hotel, and the roque-mallet-swinging madman are all Jack. Typical with abuse victims, they can’t bring themselves to admit their abusers really are abusers–it’s Stockholm Syndrome, or traumatic bonding.

Jack is supposed to be writing a play, a goal pointing to the future; but instead, he finds a scrapbook of old newspaper clippings related to the history of the Overlook (‘The Scrapbook’, pages 227-249). Now he decides, instead of writing the play, to write about the hotel: a project pointing into the future is replaced with one pointing back into the past. (In the miniseries, the scrapbook is titled My Memory Book, implying a symbolic connection with Jack’s past.)

Jack phones Mr. Ullman–the stern owner of the hotel and Jack’s symbolic superego (“Officious little prick“, ‘Job Interview’, page 3), a man who has hired him with the utmost reluctance (‘Job Interview’, page 7)–to talk to him about writing a book about The Overlook (‘Talking to Mr. Ullman’, pages 269-274). Ullman is furious with Jack for wanting to do such a thing, as he is with Jack’s impertinent attitude…just as the superego will be resistant to any surfacing of repressed, unacceptable desires.

Ullman has good reason to oppose Jack’s plan to publicize The Overlook’s shady past. It is a past filled with violence–mafia killings, a woman having committed suicide in a bathtub (“Inside 217′, pages 326-327), and Grady’s violence against his family. The scrapbook is found in the basement, Jack’s symbolic unconscious, and the violent contents represent his repressed bad internal objects (i.e., his father). The old parties represent his past of alcoholism. (“Unmask! Unmask!“) [‘The Ballroom’, page 464], Show your real self, Jack.

The ghosts of the Overlook want Danny, which means Jack needs a good internal object to replace his intolerably bad objects, a notion in Fairbairn’s therapeutic methods. Since Danny resists the ghosts, they want Jack, meaning the repressed bad objects resurface, causing mayhem. Having Danny, a good boy whose “shining” represents strong empathy and an urge to connect with others, would redeem Jack’s bad objects and help him to be a good man again, looking ahead to a future free of the past; but their evil is too great, so Jack instead spirals downward and backward into his violent, alcoholic past.

Dick Hallorann goes to great lengths to help a boy and a family he barely knows, because like Danny, his “shining” abilities give him strong empathy and an urge to connect, unlike the isolated, freezing cold world surrounding Jack’s mind, the Overlook. After Dick, Wendy, and Danny escape, we find them all together in Maine the following summer, Dick being almost like a new father to the boy. Danny and Wendy have escaped the dark, abusive past that Jack couldn’t escape, because ‘the shining’ is a light leading to a future of freedom and love.

Stephen King, The Shining, Pocket Books, New York, 1977

WRD Fairbairn, Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality, Routledge, New York, 1952

Lavinia Gomez, An Introduction to Object Relations, Free Association Books, London, 1997

Sigmund Freud, 11. On Metapsychology, the Theory of Psychoanalysis: Beyond the Pleasure Principle, The Ego and the Id and Other Works, Pelican Books, Middlesex, England, 1984