Tag Archives: bad mothers

Toxic Mom Toolkit: A House Full of Love

13 Aug

7fd54531baa5ee8ab3ab0eda39cb8df1Driving through San Francisco on my way to the 2015 Catamaran writers conference in Pebble Beach, I had a sudden impulse to drive by the two-story house I grew up in. It was only a few blocks over and I had plenty of time. As I parked, I looked up to see new paint samples on the facade and there were other signs of home care.

In 2010, I visited the flat and was flabbergasted to learn that a wonderful lady had bought the building. She lived upstairs and in the lower flat, the apartment I grew up in, she ran a Tibetan Healing Center. Literally, my parent’s old bedroom, was set up with comfortable chairs for group therapy sessions! There was another private therapeutic office set up in my little bedroom, which once had yellow gingham and daisy wallpaper and light wooden shutters on the only window — the window I used to crawl out of. I was amazed that a venue of such intense sadness for me, had morphed into a healing resource for others.

Anyway, I cut the engine and looked up and thought, I’m going to leave my book at the house. So I wrote an inscription to 864-XXth Avenue and tucked my card in the book and drove off.

The universe is a wonderful place – full of unexpected blessings – including the note I just received from the current tenant of lower flat of 864. She even included an amazing photo of her gorgeous little boy. I’ve altered her note a bit to protect her privacy. What a generous and loving soul.

She wrote:

Dear Rayne,

Thank you for the thoughtful gift of your book.  I came home late last night from a trip to Bali and found it on the doorstep.  I was so tired from the long journey that I brought it inside and didn’t look at it until today.  I honestly thought it was something that a religious group had dropped-off at my door as they sometimes do.  

First off – congratulations on your book!  What an accomplishment.  

I haven’t had time to read a lot of it as I have a 10-month old little boy and spare time is not always easily found.  I read enough today to understand that your childhood in this house wasn’t always a happy one and that made me quite sad.  I’m sorry that you had to go through what you did here.  And I’m sad that energy was once here in this space.  

I hope that it provides some comfort and healing to know that my beautiful son is being raised here with a lot of love.  The house has been completely remodeled so I suspect you wouldn’t recognize it.  For instance, the hall closet that still gives you bad memories is now the laundry room.  When I bought this house as a single woman when I was 34, it was my favorite room because I had never had my own place with a washer and dryer.  I went out and bought the nicest washer and dryer that I could find and I painted the room a light, ballet slipper pink.  It’s also a favorite room of (the baby) as he likes to crawl in there and watch the clothes spin in the washer and dryer.  If he’s a bit fussy from teething or something else, I sometimes sit on the floor in front of the machines and he sits in my lap and watches them.  The baby’s nursery is in the sun room and it’s quite cheerful.  I was sad to add blackout shades as I loved all of the sunlight but I quickly learned that if day napping was going to be successful, I needed to forgo the light in that room.  (The baby) is so happy here.

Before I bought the house it was owned by Gary and Jane Bell.  Jane ran a healing center out of this unit for many years and they lived in the upstairs unit.  The house and my unit had been blessed and cleansed many times and I have had a shaman do a cleansing here myself.

If you ever want to come by and visit the house, please let me know.  I can even take a walk with the baby to give you some personal time here.  

Thank you again for your thoughtful gift.  I promise to continue to fill the house with light and love!

Thanks,
S

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Especially With a Dead Toxic Mother

4 Aug

797734b77a8d26ebe0685a1afbf3414aMy toxic mother died in April 2009. By August, I had left a good newspaper job to write Toxic Mom Toolkit, which I published in December of 2013. I have since watched a global support community spring up around my memoir. It has been a continuous learning curve for me. Along the way I shared my experiences including how to go No Contact with a toxic mom. I’ve always warned that it is not a step to be taken lightly and I’ve mostly recommended taking it a day, a week, a month, and a year at a time. There is no formula for going No Contact; no right or wrong way. Because each relationship is so complicated, the process of breaking away is an individual and unique event.

Walking away from a toxic mother can be incredibly painful. But here’s what I’ve learned lately: breaking it off with a deceased toxic mother can be just as difficult.

My multi-decade disconnect from my living Toxic Mother was totally organic. I just felt that I would die (or my soul would die) if I kept in contact with her. I made it up as I went along.  I don’t recommend totally winging it like I did.

Today, when asked, I suggest that people sit down and make some notes, some lists, to pre-plan how to handle typical life events. Ask yourself: If a grandparent dies will you go to the funeral? When a baby is born, will you notify your mother? Family relations are complex and sometimes your fear of your toxic mother is tempered with love for your father, siblings or love for a related community. Some decisions are not absolute. You can grant yourself flexibility. You can allow yourself to keep an open mind. Variables are part of the calculus of No Contact.

While I was writing my memoir, I realized there was still work to do. I needed to stop listening to my deceased toxic mother.

If your deceased mother is still a source of sadness, fear, instability, emotional limitations, phobias, shame, self-loathing, self-medicating, over or under eating, isolation, or grief, consider this: Dead People are only as powerful as you allow them to be.

When it comes to your deceased mother’s voice, I’ve decided the main survival skill is to replace a negative with a positive.

When you hear your mother’s negative voice you can:

  • Take a moment to understand that her voice is nothing more than lingering trauma, which you are working on to overcome.
  • Tell her (out loud) she is wrong and to be quiet. (Don’t worry. Other drivers will think you are on speakerphone.)
  • Write down the words you hear and decide if those words are true or not. Many times, labels from childhood are completely false and meaningless, yet they haunt us.
  • Reach for the Happy List you created, which includes all those things of which you are most proud. For example: If you have a good job, have put your kids through college, volunteer, help your neighbors, or bake great brownies, put it on your list. Keep your list in your purse or on your phone, where it is easy to see. Feel free to include things that simply please you and make you happy in the doing, like: I keep the hummingbird feeders clean and always say a blessing for young mothers pushing strollers. (I also bless men with trucks, checking their tie-downs on the side of the road.) Simply wishing others well probably puts you WAY ahead of your Toxic Mother. Relish what makes you a nice person and refer to it whenever your thoughts turn to your experiences as the adult child of a toxic parent.
  • Call a friend and express positive thoughts, even if it’s just checking in. Develop a habit of being a good listener and be a supportive friend.
  • Turn to a favorite activity, hobby or method of self-care. Instead of listening to negative thoughts, (and granting them power), decide to walk your dog instead, do an art project, clean or organize something, or even take a short nap or bath. Keep something you enjoy, like a special tube of hand lotion nearby to moisturize your hands for a few minutes. Grant yourself a few minutes in a bookstore. Listen to a positive or funny Podcast.

You have worked too hard to build a happy and peaceful life despite all the negativity associated with growing up with a toxic mom. Each time you hear your deceased mother’s voice and substitute a positive experience for old negative thoughts, tell yourself, I deserve to be treated lovingly and with respect.

The Power of a Stranger’s Prayers

23 Dec

fc9362b98632056c567d6f85b5348d5dIn the weeks that followed my leaving my newspaper reporter job in 2009, I spent a lot of time at the movies.

Having practically grown up in neighborhood single screens in San Francisco, I always gravitated to red velvet chairs and dark theaters when life was a little overwhelming. I had left my job of a decade and I was toying with the idea of writing a book. As I often do, I tucked a notebook in my purse.

As a few other daytime movie fans chatted while waiting for the previews to commence, I grabbed my pen and pad and started to map out a book about surviving toxic moms. I had an idea of what stories from my life could serve as a foundation and I made a list of women I knew that I could interview on the topic.

At the other end of my row two grandmotherly women were chatting and laughing. One turned to me and asked if I was trying to get homework done before the show.

“Oh, no, I’m a writer and I’m thinking about a book I could write. I’m outlining it.”

“What would you write about?” a lady named Doris asked me.

“I know a lot about surviving toxic, terrible mothers. I think I’ll write a half memoir, half interviews with other resources, self-help kind of book,” I said.

Then they BOTH leaned towards me, and burst out laughing. One said she had the meanest mother ever – that SHE should write that book. The other said she would buy my book and would buy copies for some friends. I could see that they totally “got it.” They were the very first Toxic Mom Toolkit fans – before I even had a title, a blog or a Facebook page.

The lights dimmed and I tucked my notepad into my purse and enjoyed the movie. The theater filled up and I lost a line of sight to the encouraging senior ladies.

But as I was walking out after the movie, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Doris handing me a card with her name, address and phone number scribbled on the back.

“When you publish your book, please let me know so I can buy it. Good Luck!”

*  *  *

Two days ago, I received a huge box containing 50 copies of Toxic Mom Toolkit meant for family and friends. All of a sudden, I wanted to find Doris’ card from years ago. I kept it tucked into my computer case and often thought of her early encouragement. It was like her immediate buy-in opened a floodgate of encouragement at every step of the book writing effort.

I checked the address and realized that her home is about 10 minutes from my home, so I grabbed a warm scarf and my car keys and drove over.

Encouraging one encourages all.

Encouraging one encourages all.

When I rang the bell, the house erupted in small dog barkiness and I heard Doris shushing a pack of tiny terriers. I held the card up to the locked screen door with one hand and held my book and business card in the other hand.

“You gave me this card four years ago — in the movies. Do you remember?”

Did she remember?

“Oh, HONEY, you did it. Do you know that I’ve told that story about our meeting in the movies so many times and I’ve always prayed that you would get your book done. Look at that! Isn’t that amazing?” she said as she hugged me.

As I often do when overwhelmed by emotions, I fled at the first opportunity.

I drove away and no sooner had I turned the corner, she called me on my cell and asked me to come back and sign her book. While I was re-parking she went back in her house to get something for me.

“I volunteer at the school, so they include us in school pictures,” she explained as she handed me one of her photos as  a momento.

I thanked her again for encouraging me and told her that her prayer must be powerful. I suggested she keep praying for as many people as she can. We both got a little choked up.

* * *

“Wow, that felt good,” I said to myself as I drove back home.

Wow. That felt good.

The Happiness Plan for Adult Children of Toxic Parents

19 May

649b484de9e3863bdeb5ed543f6b7120I receive a lot of nice mail. But, I can’t remember a more interesting or thought-provoking message in a long time.

A Friend of Ours wrote:

Hi Rayne,

We spoke about 1.5 yrs. ago by telephone. I was a complete disaster on the phone so angered and teared up barely being able to focus whilst speaking with you. Since that time I had allowed the toxic and abusive relationship to continue until recently when my Mother created another ‘fairy-tale’ to which she fabricated stories to a family court that I absconded my child from her Father in Australia over five years ago.

Of course this story she told was simply nothing more than a story to which I, as with my ex-husband, was able to quickly clarify and provide evidence that no such thing had occurred. So without further ado my heart and mind quickly went into estrangement mode and stronger than ever before.

The only way I can describe to you in a metaphor about how this time it is for sure, is it is kind’a like getting really mad at yourself that you have made a huge mess in the kitchen and all of a sudden you start tearing through your kitchen doing what I call ‘Gorilla Cleaning’ to get through it all quickly and if anyone there is to witness this ‘Gorilla Cleaning’ they sure do know that you mean business and they wouldn’t dare stand in the way of your mission… of your Pinesol!

So now that you know I mean business I need your insight on how I might be able to structure a successful estrangement. Maybe it is my intense need to always have a plan or a map but I feel like I need a game plan of sorts. I can’t find a book or site on the web to help me and this is why I suggested that perhaps you could write a book on it?

For me, I simply cannot see myself sitting in a therapists office reciting my last 39 years of crap delivered by my Mother – I don’t want to talk about it anymore – I would like an actual Toolkit of Complete Estrangement.

I want to learn how to be REALLY happy and create more moments and loving opportunities with the abundance of friends I have because I know I don’t know how to do this all that great because I have never been taught. I do not have any other Family other than my Mother and a few distant cousins, aunts, and uncles so my estrangements make it pretty easy. I really need to find a supportive and humorous way to walk towards the future I see now that sadly I never saw before.

My only fear is that I will not know how to just be happy, Rayne, and that is such a crazy thought to get your head around unless you lived it yourself. 

0df2a3e3c3e819f3b804a305cf75c4a2Anyway, I have posted an ad on Kijiji today seeking a psychotherapist to assist me in creating a network of women that share in Mother estrangement; members will want to define their ‘happiness map’ after estrangement. I have a vision that the psychotherapist could guide and facilitate a positive approach for a group of women to create their own ‘Toxic Mom Toolkit’ so that each and every woman in the group can define boundaries, goals, and finally create what they deem to be their successful happiness destination. This is all I feel I can do until you’ve published your book Rayne 😉 lol Here is the ad link…. maybe you could share it on the FB page?

http://london.kijiji.ca/c-community-activities-groups-Support-Group-for-Daughters-Estranged-willingly-from-Mothers-W0QQAdIdZ485398538

I love following your page but admittedly I have done so in privacy not wanting to broadcast it to my friends and associates… this has started change for me though 🙂

Thanks Rayne!

*     *     *

 Wow! That’s quite a communication! My first reaction is that I’m flattered that Toxic Mom Toolkit has been a part of this person’s personal journey and that since cutting contact with her toxic mom she is glad of it and doing well.

My second reaction? WOW! Does she really need such an elaborate system and network to feel confident in that decision to cut off contact with a truly toxic mother? Well, apparently, Our Friend does, and so I support her 100% in seeking what she needs to stick to her plan. I also applaud her for putting herself out there and welcoming others to create a safe environment for mutual support.

I kind of chalk this up to how sometimes we need a lot of structure to follow our bliss and other times we just GO. It’s sort of like leaving home, embarking on your life journey. Sometimes, you are so done that you buy the ticket, call the taxi and get on the boat and you never look back. Other times, you have to take a bus ride around the block, but come back home. You might have to practice longer and longer trips until you get your emotional feet under you.

My goal in founding Toxic Mom Toolkit and writing my book was to tell my story and gather others and present them with an open heart and let readers sort out what they can use. I tend to be an either/or type of personality. I CAN walk out and never look back. But I understand that every person’s situation is unique and each person must navigate the waters only they truly know.

317181e6155a7322320318d9c334c88cOur Friend wonders if she can be happy and have friends and a normal life?

My feeling is that you get out of life what you put into it. I also know the cringing self-defeating impulses that can limit adult children of toxic moms, who may have suffered abuse or neglect and have a hard time trusting others.

I love her idea of calling this journey a Happiness Map. All I can say is do what makes you happy and while you’re doing it, look up and see who else is happy doing what you like. Smile at them. Offer to help them or ask them for help. Suggest coffee or just a five-minute break and discuss your mutual passions. Friendships are built one smile, one conversation, at a time.

I was always taught by my father that love is reflected in love and took that to mean that kind relations will grow, but you have to be kind first. You have to get the ball rolling. Little by little, your social circle will expand and you will be leading a life that is lighter and happier. And for the people you know who are struggling with Toxic Mom issues, you will be a shining light.

While a group led by a therapist may be helpful I think that should only be a small part of your efforts to live life to the fullest.

1efd518489872782aa82ced329ce0a99So, what do I think is the perfect formula for No Contact? I think the formula’s solution is simply personal peace and how you get there is your job to figure out.

I hope that people find strength in knowing that they are not alone and that there is respect and mutual support available 24/7 at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook and that our YouTube videos and the blog might also be helpful.

And always know – It’s not you. It’s her.

Ten Reasons Adult Daughters Stay Connected to Toxic Mothers

4 Sep

Some adult daughters…

  • Feel that limiting contact or cutting off contact with their Toxic Mothers will somehow reflect badly on them. They worry that others will wonder what’s wrong with them if they can’t even maintain a relationship with their own mothers.
  • Hold onto the hope that their Toxic Mothers could “get better” or suddenly become more loving towards them.
  • Fear retaliation from their mothers for limiting or cutting off contact that could include being barred from family activities and holidays.
  • Figure that even a negative relationship is better than no relationship at all.
  • Maintain contact in order to monitor younger siblings and intervene when necessary.
  • See their bad relationship with their Toxic Mothers as the only conduit to a father they still love dearly.
  • Can’t let go of a shared history, even if it’s mostly negative.
  • Hope that their Toxic Mothers might miraculously make wonderful grandmothers.
  • Wonder deep down if their Toxic Mother’s aren’t right about them.
  • Can’t see their Toxic Mothers simply as other adults. They can’t see their Toxic Mothers as people. And because they can’t judge their Toxic Mothers as they would any other adult they stay connected.

Toxic Mom Toolkit: Thoughts While Editing – Time is Short

27 Jun

I always wanted to write a book. In grade school I carried around small leather-bound classics hoping I’d impress my teachers and schoolmates. I wanted them to think that I understood Dickens and Twain when I was EIGHT.

I could always imagine my name on a best-seller list. But for writing what?

It was brave of me to leave my newspaper job to write this book. As I dedicated myself to the writing effort, blogging about it and building an online community, I learned to truly trust my husband, the universe, and myself. It was one of the most difficult and ultimately rewarding journeys of my adult life.

Accepting that I was simply doing what was right for me was a huge leap of faith. At each transition the next step rose up to meet me. Choosing to forget about what others thought was crucial for me. It was very hard.

Of course, I had doubts all the way through. I remember wondering what former colleagues and co-workers thought. To some, I was weird enough to begin with. Were they poking fun at my efforts? Was I too obsessed with my childhood? Was I propping myself as an expert on a non-topic? Was I inventing a passion to have something to do? The chatter raged in my brain. But eventually, it died down allowing space for quiet contemplation.

I remembered, time is so short.

I travelled back in time and studied my life, the life of my parents and relations and I wrote it all down.  I remembered how I earned my courage. I was ready to tell readers about it.

That I signed up with 8WomenDream.com and wrote my little heart out on the topic of toxic moms for an entire year is pretty astounding to me now. I found my focus early on and I trusted that readers got it. At Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook we grew from the 30 or so “likes” I needed to start my stats to nearly 60,000 people reached around the world each month.

As I got to know my followers in the U.S., Australia, Japan, the Middle East and Europe, I began to think of my book as a wonderful life form that needed me as its midwife. On days when it was too hard I worked anyway on blind faith. If I had to tell myself I could have chocolate after writing a chapter, that was okay. I’m sure plenty of surgeons imagine cocktails or golf or other rewards waiting for them when the nurses take over the suturing.

As I racked up chapters, I taught myself to embrace the work joyfully even if I’d rather be doing anything else.

The very last bits included stories of sexual abuse. Feeling sickened I stalled and stalled and stalled, not wanting to welcome my own abuser back into my head. I was cranky and tired and a pain to live with. An emotional war raged in my head. I dreaded and resented having to revisit these events, yet I had to. I had kicked these stories out of my head long ago and even a brief visit made me dizzy with sadness.

My husband complained about my attitude.

“I’m walking around with my abuser in my head right now so you’ll just have to forgive me,” I told him.

“Don’t think about it,” he suggested.

“The problem is, I can’t kick him out again until I write the whole story and I can’t decide how much of the story I can live with out in the world. How much? How much? How deep? It’s a struggle,” I replied.

Our eyes met. Enough said.

I married a man who expects great things from me. Sometimes I can do things to impress him that I can’t do for myself. That I finished this book is in great part due to his complete faith that I would.

As I edit and shape and clean up I’m realizing that his book taught me to value my dreams, make room for them, and commit time and energy to them without apologies. Time is so short.

TOXIC MOM TOOLKIT FOLLOWERS GATHER NEWS ARTICLES YOU CAN USE

20 Jun

One of the best things about Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook is the global reach and depth. Women all over the world are checking in, offering wisdom and support and forwarding interesting and helpful articles – like this:

“Narcissistic Perverts: The Most Intelligent People are the Most Exposed.”

This is an interview with the author of the book: “THE MALADY OF THE CENTURY: To Understand and to Fight Manipulation.”

In your manuscript, you analyze the relationship where you have a grip on someone, the real “getting one’s mitts on their spirit,” according to the psycho-analyst Saverio Tomasella, that allows someone to take power over someone else. What does this consist of?

We can only define this with one word: “de-braining.” The process of de-braining consists in the progressive loss of the psychological capacities of a person submitted to daily manipulation that acts as micro-aggressions. The poison is instilled at homoeopathic doses.

The manipulated person becomes little by little unable to make a difference between what is good or bad for him, and is not conscious of this “de-braining.” Incapable of discerning, robbed of his analysing capacities, his critical spirit and his free arbitration capacities, he will obey the orders of the manipulator without resisting. This is where the passivity comes from that characterises a subjected person. The relationship where one holds a grip on another has not been analysed very well yet. Therefore this gives the wrong impression and a number of perceived ideas that are wrong.

Why do we think that manipulated people are “weak”?

Indeed, they are not. It is often the most intelligent people, the most brilliant ones that paradoxically are the most sensitive or the most exposed to manipulation techniques.  Philippe Breton, one of France’s best specialists in the spoken word and communication, explains this in his book: “The Manipulated Word.” This book received the award for Moral Philosophy from the Academy of Moral Sciences and Politics in 1998. What you have to understand is that manipulation installs a relationship ‘grip’ that is totally asymmetrical, the more that it is a long-term project. There is absolutely no equality between the manipulator and his victim. In the most ferocious version, it talks about a predator whose intention is totally eluded by the majority of the analysts who study these questions.

But today we start to better recognize the process thanks to the work of certain neuropsychiatrists like Dr. Muriel Salmona, president of the Association of Traumatic Memory and Victimology. It describes how the mechanism of disconnection works with a traumatized person. The same happens as with someone who is submitted to repetitive psychological aggression. What works in this case is not the intensity of the traumatic experience but the repetivity. What this research teaches us coincides with the notion of “de-braining,” which has been described by psycho-analyst Paul-Claude Racamier, who discovered a number of concepts and neologisms amongst others the one of narcissistic perversion. We now know how the neurocircuit of auto-inhibition functions in a manipulated person. This auto-inhibition translates itself by a phenomenal auto-destruction of which the psychological consequences can be very grave. The de-braining only represents a phase before the devitalisation, of which the effects will be reflected in the mental and physical health of the manipulated.

How will the multi disciplinary approach favour a better comprehension of this?

I think that to go even further in the knowledge of these problems, it is necessary to establish that which the sociologist Edgar Moring calls the inter-disciplinary “reliance.”

This consists of regrouping the knowledge of different disciplines such as psycho-analysis, psychology of communication, neuroscience, anthropology, sociology… that all study the mechanisms of manipulation, the ‘grip’ relation and the consequences for the last ones on the individual.

In short, this field of investigation needs to be cleared, especially since more recent discoveries have been made in the field of molecular biology and genetics that support this thesis of “stressing agents” as certain manipulations that deteriorate our genes and make them “mute.”

You describe that “the manipulation deteriorates profoundly the personality of the manipulated”. What does this deterioration consist of?

Because of the “de-braining” the manipulator can “imprint” his way of thinking with the manipulated person exactly like you can engrave a new file on a virgin CD disk. These new behaviours will then appear and these “trans-acting agents” as Paul-Claude Racamier calls them, will act as a no-return stop sign in the evolution of the manipulated person. According to the theory of engagement borrowed by psycho-sociology, the individual will re-adjust its thinking system to cohere with its actions. This psychological re-organisation provokes a cognitive dissonance with the manipulated person and thus finds himself in loyalty conflict between what the manipulation “imposes” him to do and the moral values that these new behaviours transgress.

However the loyalty conflict is, according to Ariane Bilheran, clinical psychologist and author of many works on the subject of psychological violence, the most fundamental operating mode of torture. However, so that the manipulated cannot get back his psychological capacities, the state of mental confusion has to be carefully maintained.

One of the best ways to succeed in this resides in the use of the paradoxical speech (aka: word salad or schizophasia) that I will cite: “Do as I say, but not as I do, and most of all do not understand a word of what I tell you in a way that, whatever you think, whatever you say or whatever you do, I will always be right.”  This type of communication, that tends to pit one against the other in the different aspects of the personality of the manipulated, and generates loyalty conflicts and is “schizophrenic.” To say it more simple, this kind of communication makes you “crazy.”

 * translated from French by Nadine V.

If you would like to submit an article that helped you to better cope with your toxic mother, please email it to me, Rayne Wolfe, at newsyrayne@gmail.com or post a link at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook.