Tag Archives: support

Toxic Mom Toolkit On Finding Common Ground

6 Jun

6794709c192ca56931b7fc339f512ec3How many times has a well meaning friend or colleague, after hearing a sliver of a story about your toxic mom, offered advice to find “common ground?”

 

The common ground comment is usually followed by comments like these:

 

“She’s the only mother you’ll ever have.”

 

“You’ll miss her when she’s gone.”

 

“You may regret cutting her off later.”

 

“Other people in your family can handle her, why can’t you?”

 

“Maybe if you tried harder?”

 

One of the quickest ways I know to nip this suggestion in the bud is to offer the suggestion that your friend replace ‘toxic mom’ with ‘boyfriend who beats me.’ This usually flummoxes them a bit. But it’s a valid suggestion. Your friend can’t quite imagine a mother starving her child, or abusing or neglecting her teen. Harder still to imagine a mother who uses a child for sexual predator bait (meaning, she’s tired of being raped or abused, so she lets you have that job for awhile), or a mother who steals your after school job money you’ve hidden, or even a mother who does all that – for years – and then one day kicks you out for, Oh, I don’t know, being too pretty, or smart, or ambitious.

 

But a friend can imagine a boyfriend or spouse abusing you. If you told your friend that story, you’d probably be offered a spare room, a spare car and lots and lots of help.

 

But if you are trapped by your toxic mother and confess to a close friend the depth of the situation, they might look at you like you’ve lost your mind. And the talk goes on. Your friend suggests that, yes, you may not like your mom’s parenting style, but certainly she wants what is best for you. Surely, there must be some common ground?

 

It’s sort of like when you go to the dentist and the dentist blames you for plaque like you’re the bad person, the non-flosser, the one who couldn’t manage your own mouth. Sometimes because of abuse or neglect you grow up without regular dental visits. Sometimes you are trained by your toxic mom to be afraid of medical professionals because, you know, they see things. So you don’t go to the dentist as often as other do. Dirty plaque – like dirty family secrets – builds up.

 

Sometimes friends with kinder families can’t imagine the cat-clawing-up-the-curtains fear that a terrible mother can inspire. They think finding common ground, as an adult is as easy as flossing. You just decide to do it and it all works out.

 

Your friend, this lucky person, has no reference for what you experienced – (maybe read some Dave Eggers?) – and the best you can offer them is to wait until they catch up. You could loan them your copy of Toxic Mom Toolkit. Remind them that many successful people rose above their rising, just like you are trying to do.

 

Maybe the two of you can try to understand each other’s point of view when it comes to family history, family dynamics, generational pathology and making peace with all that. That conversation might include the shocking news that yes; an abuser is an abuser, even if that abuser is your mom. Maybe the best common ground you can shoot for is creating common ground between two friends.

 

 

 

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Paris Calling Toxic Mom Toolkit

20 Dec

135319163774557788_UXJANyPs_bOne night I was curled up on my couch with a book and my little old dog in my lap when my cell phone erupted.The caller I.D. simply gave what looked like 20 odd numbers in neon digits. Feeling brave I clicked through and man with a charming French accent explained that he was calling Rayne, the founder of Tox-eek Mom Tool-keet — from Paris.

“Really?” I gushed. (Really – does any other word inspire such awe as Paris?)

He was quite concerned about a younger sibling living in the United States. It seemed that their toxic mother created such severe drama that there was concern for the well being of his brother.

Of course, I was concerned too. Concerned he had my private cell phone number. I had to ask him where he got it.

“It’s there on your website, really. I didn’t do anything bad to find it, but if you go back into how you set up your page, it’s there,” he explained earnestly. He went on to say that he was so relieved to find something on the Internet that seemed to address the exact problem he was worried about. He calculated the difference between time zones and he crossed his fingers that I’d be home in the evening after dinner time.

“I watched the hours. I really hoped I could speak to you.”

Which got me thinking of how many thousands of newspaper articles I’ve written that included my desk number and, who knows, might have linked to my cell phone. Does it really matter?

We had a long chat. He was so grateful to just have a sounding board. I offered some suggestions and we collaboratively created a short list of helpful things that could be done immediately. Before I hung up I complimented him on the obvious love and concern he had for his brother. It was really sweet. I made him blush.

Regular followers of Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook know that I tend to post first thing in the morning before I head out for my day’s activities. Quite often, “friends” who can “see” I’m online send instant messages in the lower right hand corner of my computer screen. Usually, they are messages of thanks or updates on particular toxic mom situations. Sometimes they make me laugh. Sometimes they require that we chit-chat electronically back and forth for a few minutes. I’m always happy to make myself available that way.

People have asked me to Skype and that’s where I draw the line. Only because women of a certain age who look like me should never Skype unless they own a Judy Jetson mask.

89720217546707539_HEJuPPmo_bAs Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook recently topped 100,000 people reached per month I noticed a few more urgent requests for phone conversations. My attitude is if I have time and someone feels they are in crisis, I’m available as long as its on the caller’s bill. (The entire Toxic Mom Toolkit operating budget is skimmed off of my grocery budget and my husband expects beer.)

It seems more and more often the stars align for these long distance conversations and my phone rings in Northern California and I put down laundry I’m folding.

It doesn’t hurt that my journalism career taught me to shut up and listen. Or that I’ve collected hundreds of life stories and conducted years of interviews on the topic of surviving toxic moms. Five years as a law enforcement chaplain trained me to accept everyone without that impulse to fix anything. Like you even can. Listening. Hearing. Repeating. Agreeing. Suggesting. Offering similar tales from others. Encouraging. That, I can do.

One sunny morning there was a call from a young woman, very upset at the sudden realization that for her entire life her mother had made it her business to be cold and unkind – but only to her and only in private. She offered many examples and stressed that the worst venom was always delivered in private. How could a mother single out a child to abuse, she asked over and over. Could it possibly be true that her mother would never accept her in a loving manner no matter how many kind gestures the adult daughter offered? The telephone line hissed and crackled as we spoke and I stretched out on our guest bed, looking at the ceiling imagining the cell phone waves rising up out of my 1970’s ranch home to a space satellite and blinking back down into an ancient city built on the pearl trade and sustained in modern times by oil. Was I really helping someone in the Middle East? Yes, I was.

279152876872500112_HLBA4gWB_bThese calls boggle my mind.

How can one person at their kitchen table be able to calm and encourage someone half-way across the globe? I guess it helps if you are earnest and honest and can identify with all the confusion and hurt and sadness. That I am upbeat and encouraging makes others brave.

I know after we hang up, the callers go back to the Toxic Mom Toolkit Facebook page and they read, read, read. I see them lurking in the stats. A few from the island of Mauritius. That nice lady in northern England. My friends in southern Italy. The writer in Iceland. Every story of crisis and the lines of support from other people create a platform for examining their own mother/son/daughter relationships. Is the passive aggressive mother in the deep south so different from the angry alcoholic mother in Central America? Are personal boundaries as necessary in Peru as in Poland? Visitors from different continents and countries, speaking different languages, all wade in like gold miners swishing the stories around in a shallow pan looking for that nugget that will help them find peace, or at least a visit home without a screaming match.

Callers may not always find exactly what they want in that moment but they do discover that they are not alone. They see that it took many, many people to create such a wealth of helpful information and resources and that they, too, can contribute. They gain perspective and start viewing their family story as a story. And then, if they are lucky, they decide to be the hero of that story.

Toxic Mom Toolkit – The Book – Sneak Peek

8 Oct

Here is a sneak peek at a chapter from Toxic Mom Toolkit. The book is finished and I am beginning the process of figuring out how to get it published.

CALL OUT THE GURKHAS

Jen and I were having our monthly eggs Benedict brunch (my eggs hard as golf balls, hers not so much) when she asked me what I’d do if I won the lottery. The newspaper headlines were trumpeting a huge jackpot.

I happen to have given this a lot of thought. I’ve even written out my “to do” list, should my winning numbers come up. In previous daydreams I had concluded that it all comes down to world travel.

Say you win $100 million. First you pay your bills, and then you pay the bills of those you love. Then you buy a house or two and have some shared experiences with loved ones to recall with a sigh when you’re old and in a wheelchair. But after that shower of riches, it really boils down to the ability to go see whatever you want.

The Vatican on Easter Sunday? Amen. Front row seats at the Paris Opera, gazing at the shimmering Aurora Borealis in Norway  or the running of the bulls in Pamplona?

Easy-breezy-peezy – with millions.

Jen agreed I had a point. So where would I go with my Lotto winnings she wanted to know.

“Oh, I wouldn’t go anywhere, that’s for normal people. What I’d do is build a small suite onto our house and hire a Gurkha houseman,” I said. “I’ve wanted a Gurkha houseman in a white jacket all my life.”

Nepalese Gurkha’s have fought alongside the British for hundreds of years and are considered among the bravest and most loyal fighting men on earth. When they retire from military service many work as bodyguards or house managers to those with security concerns, I explained as I tested the denseness of my egg yolk.

Jen’s eyes bugged out.

As a fellow undutiful daughter she knew that any story blurted out like that certainly had something to do with my toxic mother.

She grabbed the edge of the marble café table and said, “Tell!”

*  *  *

When I was little and the doorbell rang at our San Francisco flat my mother would grab me from behind – one arm around my tiny waist and the other over my mouth – and clutch me to her own chest, dragging me backwards to the hall coat closet.

She’d inch deeper into the space quieter than a cat to hunch in a corner behind the second-hand vacuum cleaner.

Is there anything worse than seeing nothing when your eyes are wide open in fear? With our faces smushed against musty woolen coats we’d wait until the coast was clear.

Yeah, I know. Who’s mother does this even once?

As an adult I can guess she was afraid of something.

Was the rent overdue? Was my mother avoiding man complications?  Was it the truant officer?

I’ll never know for sure.

But I do know for the little kid who still resides in my brain: Nothing is scarier than a doorbell.

Not too long after I confessed my closet story to Jen, The Mister and I bought our current house. Married for eight years, it wasn’t until we moved into the new house that my husband realized I avoided answering the door. He asked me why. (Dang, he’s so logical!)

Learning that I was carrying around my mother’s inexplicable fear of door bells he devised a regime of nearly constant random doorbell ringing and timed me on my responses. He briefed and encouraged neighbors and friends to pop in as often as possible.

What started as a two- to three-minute ordeal of looking out windows, through peepholes and smelling the crack for danger was whittled down to one super charged moment of dread as I flung open our front door expecting to be impaled with a rusty pitchfork. Yes, he successfully desensitized me but truth be told, I’d still pay someone to greet visitors.

Lotto gods willing, some day I’ll hire my own Gurkha.

You never know, one day it could be my birth mother on my stoop and I’ll be glad there’s a hired killer in my employ between us.

TOXIC MOM TOOLKIT SYNONYM FOR LOVE: BACON

22 Jul

I was sitting on a café patio with a good friend. We were enjoying iced teas on a hot day. This friend has been super supportive of my Toxic Mom Toolkit work and has had periods in her life when she felt her own mom was toxic.

The good news for my friend is that lately she has been able to enjoy time with her mother. That has happened because my friend set up some boundaries and has learned to say “No” to her mother. She’s been amazed at how quickly her mother has adjusted to her wishes. She’s very grateful that there are nice telephone conversations and pleasant outings now with her mom.

As I was listening to my friend the best analogy for this lack of true love feeling so many daughters of toxic moms experience, which can include feelings of confusion, yearning, and pain – suddenly, hit me.

It’s like this:

You are invited to a famous fancy country club. They have all these signature dishes and drinks. Let’s say, this club invented the Bloody Mary cocktail. So, you’re thinking everything I order here is going to be fantastic: over the top.  Sort of like mother’s love, which is unconditional and all encompassing.

You take your seat at a table overlooking a sweeping bright green lawn. The birds are chirping softly. Silverware being used at other tables creates a soft sonata of happy clinks. You decide to order the famous club sandwich and the Bloody Mary. You envision perfectly toasted thin sliced bread with lettuce, turkey, bacon and just the right slather of freshly made lemon mayonnaise. Your order arrives on a gleaming gold-rimmed plate and a chilled glass placed beside it. As you adjust your napkin under your chin you notice there’s not really a lot of bacon.

Wait a minute. There’s NO bacon.

You look up and check other diner’s dishes and you see other people with the club sandwich have so much perfectly crispy bacon on their sandwiches that they are breaking off long pieces and using the stiff slices to stir their Bloody Mary’s! What is in your Bloody Mary glass? A used popsicle stick.

You politely call the waiter over and point out that the kitchen forgot your bacon. And you need a proper Bloody Mary, please. He smiles and informs you that there was no mistake. YOU don’t get bacon on your sandwich.YOU don’t get a bacon swizzle stick for your Bloody Mary.

“Get it? A Toxic Mom that withholds love or is cruel or whatever is like a club sandwich without bacon. It’s a total gyp,” I said to my friend. “And it doesn’t happen to everyone once in his or her life. But it happens to you every time you order it. Especially if you’re dying for it. Every time you seek love, approval, support, understanding, kindness from your Toxic Mom…”

“You get a club sandwich with no bacon!” my friend chimed in as we both slapped our hands down on the table top.

We laughed about bacon as a synonym for love and throughout the rest of our conversation when talking about hurtful things that her mother had done, we would pause and both say, “No bacon” and we understood each other exactly.

If you want and deserve yummy, savory, bacon/love and know you’ll never get bacon/love from your Toxic Mom why do you keep ordering it? Why do you keep paying for it? Why do you keep walking away feeling totally gypped?

How many times would you go back to that country club and order the club sandwich with the hope  you’ll get bacon before you try another restaurant and actually get bacon?

Yes, it won’t be the FANCY restaurant bacon, but there is wonderful, lovely, bacon elsewhere. There is bacon everywhere else. You can go out into the world and get all the bacon you deserve.

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.

TOXIC MOM TOOLKIT: WHEN FOUR ACES IS A LOSING HAND

1 Jun

If you follow my Toxic Mom Toolkit Facebook page you know that I have finished the first draft of my book and that I’m editing chapters. I was thinking how valuable this chapter is and thought I’d put it up here. I hope this is helpful to you.

 TOXIC MOM TOOLKIT:

        ACES – Adverse Childhood Experiences

 

I’m not a scientist, nor will I ever play one on T.V.

In fact, I am SO not a scientist for many reasons including extreme medical squeamishness and an empty folder in my brain where my multiplication tables should reside. But I’ve long thought I should have some scientific perspective to help illuminate the fallout from toxic mothering or some really smart analysis of how children are negatively affected.

How do people sort out how much their toxic mothers negatively affect their adult lives?

Ask the universe and it will come to you.

I met a new friend for coffee. This man happens to be a saintly sort, the director of a very interesting and progressive homeless shelter in the town where I live. A former attorney, he comes across as part professor, part priest, all compassionate caring. Which, couldn’t be more different than my first impression of “looks good on the outside” but “emotionally limping” on the inside.

I decided not to hold his brains and confidence against him. Maybe I could learn something.

He’s the one that introduced me to the exact information I sought in the form of a Kaiser Hospital study in which patients were asked a series of questions for a project that focused on Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACES.

In a nutshell, the study focuses on how the number of ACES one experiences in youth can be a point of calibration to predict emotional problems that could be serious in adulthood. My friend values the study as a way to look at the causes of homelessness, which is often the result of emotional turmoil or hopelessness. Sessions for homeless clients that utilize this measuring tool are taking place at my local shelter and the feedback has been positive.

I, on the other hand, immediately valued the scientific study of taking a person’s life story and pulling out the ACES as a way of exploring what daughters of toxic mother’s experience. I like that by clicking off a page of questions a person could really see objectively that damage was indeed inflicted.

I ran straight home and found the study online and the questionnaire and found that I scored 5 on this test. I knew from my coffee chat that anything over a four ACES was considered the tipping point for bad things including a high risk for becoming homeless.

You can find even more information about this study at: http://www.seclinicatcots.org/page12/page12.html

ACES QUESTIONAIRE

Prior to your 18th birthday:

1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often

Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you?

                                    or

Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often

Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you?

                                    or

Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever

Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way?

                                    or

Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

4. Did you often or very often feel that …

No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special?

                                    or

Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

5. Did you often or very often feel that …

You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you?

                                    or

Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

6. Was a biological parent ever lost to you through divorced, abandonment, or other reason ?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

 

7. Was your mother or stepmother:
            Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her?

or

Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard?

                                    or

Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic or who used street drugs?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill or did a household member attempt suicide?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

10. Did a household member go to prison?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

             Now add up your “Yes” answers:   _______   This is your ACE Score

Someone who scored an 8 on this quiz filled out one of my questionnaires. Her story is included in my book Toxic Mom Toolkit.

Toxic Mom Toolkit – Mending Hearts – Community Volunteering

11 Apr

May I share with you my syllabus for volunteering in the community?

I’m planning to visit my local childrens’ home with Toxic Mom Toolkit friends to teach sewing & mending to children the week before Mother’s Day. It’s one way to put a positive spin on how we are feeling around Mother’s Day; by hosting a fun learning activity for kids who may be missing their own mothers very much.

 

Mending Hearts Syllabus 

Today’s Project:

Learning to mend by sewing small hearts as keepsakes, decorations or presents. This tiny tokens can become gifts for their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters or other loving women in their lives on Mother’s Day.

 Definition of mending:

 To restore something

to a satisfactory state.

Mending is never perfect, but it is what we do when we care about something and don’t want to throw it away.

We can mend torn clothes and we can mend friendships and relationships.

The only thing required is a willingness to do so and patience.

* * *

Materials: Pre-cut red felt hearts, material hearts, embroidery thread, stuffing, buttons, red pipe cleaners for hooks, and large embroidery needles.

Examples: Can include several finished hearts in different sizes and materials, vintage linens and books on embroidery for inspiration.

* * *

Forgiveness is the needle that knows how to mend.

 – Jewell