Tag Archives: toxic parents

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 Journal Project – Are you really my mother?

31 Mar

Toxic Mom Toolkit Journal Project – Are you my mother?

Remember that children’s book that had the little bird that fell from its nest walking around asking every animal “Are you my mother?”

Sometimes, being the daughter of a toxic mom can make us feel a little bit like that fledgling bird. Some of us even wonder if we are our mother’s real daughters and begin searching for family secrets like adoption or cross-generational parenting.

When I was a private investigator researcher specializing in identifying the birth parents of adult adoptees it amazed me how many times a woman would discover something she felt all along: that her actual mother was her aunt or much older sister, or the family friend who stopped by every fifth Christmas.

One way to decide who your mother really is can be solved by asking yourself who really looked out for you when you were growing up. In the 20 Questions Every Daughter of a Toxic Mom Should Ask Herself blog post at 8womendream.com, I suggested that you sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil and try to write down three wonderful things your mother ever did for you.

Giving birth to you doesn’t count.

Can you think of one but not two? Can you only think of things that were really rooted in your mother’s image of you like paying for a good school or buying you designer clothes you didn’t really ask for or throwing an over the top wedding.

After compiling your list, turn that sheet of paper over.

Ask yourself: Who has done the nicest, the kindest things for me?

In my case, a boss I worked for cared for me like another daughter. He paid me well, he established a retirement fund and made me contribute to it even if he had to loan me the money to do it. He told me I was smart. He paid for my early writing classes. He told me to write because he could see I was a writer before I did.

My husband constantly does so many kind things for me from handling all the stressful stuff involved in staying solvent and keeping a peaceful home – to always texting me positive and encouraging messages and scheduling time to just talk and listen.

My friends, who know more about me than any member of my family ever did, have regularly checked on me as I went missing during the two years I worked on my book. The coffee dates, phone calls, emails and small treats that arrived in my mailbox have really encouraged me.

So, who is my mother – the one who nurtures me and wants the best for me? It was never my mother, the woman who raised me. My life has taught me that the people around me who possess those loving impulses to encourage me are mother enough.

Look at your list. Who really is your mother/encourager? Who has the power to sustain you when you are discouraged? Mother’s Day is coming on May 12th. I don’t think Hallmark makes a card for this: Happy Mother’s Day to You – Thank you for being like a mother to me. Or maybe they do? How many cards like that could you send out? Write about this in your journal. Explore the idea of mothering and how it applies to your life.

And report back!

Visit us on Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook for daily humor,

encouragement, support and positive images and ideas. 

Toxic Mom Toolkit: You Can Laugh or You Can Cry

24 Mar

As part of the Toxic Mom Toolkit Journal Project the next question is:

When you were little what did you think was the funniest thing? What made you laugh until your stomach hurt?

My dad, the beatnik printer, used to always say with a gleam in his eye,

“You can laugh or you can cry.”

When I would take a hard fall on skates and run to him weeping and showing off a fresh scrape he had this act, this routine, that would always leave me dissolved in giggles.

“You FELL? Where? Show me where you’re hurt!” he’d say breathlessly.

He’d scan my arms and legs with his huge hands, squeezing and waving my little limbs, asking me if this or that was broken; could I still feel it?  After he determined that I wasn’t actually broken he’d demand that I take him back outside to the sidewalk in front of our house and show him the precise, exact inch of sidewalk where I landed. He was worried that if I hit it that hard I might have left a crack and the Crack Police would come and write him a ticket – which cost money.

We’d get down on our hands and knees and touching the concrete with our fingers, feel around for fissures.

My dad would point to a little normal city street crack and demand to know if I had broken the sidewalk, right there.  Maybe we could ‘pin it’ on the little neighbor kid down the block.

“His dad’s a car mechanic. He can afford to pay the Crack Police fines. Not me! Not this week!” my dad would exclaim dramatically.

The routine went on and on until our giggles attracted a little knot of neighborhood kids to help us study the cracks in the sidewalk in front of our house. My father wasn’t worried about little hairline cracks, but big divots that collected dirt and allowed weeds to grow – that would be trouble.

My father had a knack for turning childhood upsets into funny adventures. When the gold fish died we held a New Orleans funeral for it, opening umbrellas in the house and parading down the hall behind him holding the fish bowl up high then pouring it dramatically into a flushing toilet. Then we’d all applaud poor dead Leon on his way to Ocean Heaven.

My dad and I wondered aloud what flowers said to each other and why birds liked to steal penny nails. We gave inanimate objects names in order to talk about them more. We talked and giggled and used our imaginations. Kids cry. But when my dad was involved, tears quickly turned into laughter.  We learned that bad things happen, but if you let the bad go, it’s natural to find something funny about it. Laughing is a choice, a habit. It’s a gift from my father for which I am eternally grateful.

When you were little what did you think was the funniest thing? What made you laugh until your stomach hurt?

Toxic Mom Toolkit Journal Project: Who Called the Police?

10 Mar

Most kids fantasize about the day someone finally punishes their parents for all the hurts, slights and times they had to eat their vegetables. But daughters of toxic moms can experience a life long struggle with the idea that perhaps someone should have called the authorities about a terrible home life, neglect or abuse.

So take a deep breath and transport yourself back to that time when your mom was at her worst. She is grabbing the wooden spoon and you are bracing yourself when – WAIT! There’s a sharp series of knocks at the door.

Imagine opening that door and seeing a special police force created solely to bust Toxic Moms. What would the police  say to your mom and what would she say back?

With your child’s eyes survey your childhood home. What would the police notice and question?  Would your mother confess or be defiant?  Would she try to escape? If she were arrested and led off in handcuffs what would be the last thing she would say to you as she was led away? What would you say back, knowing that the police would protect you?

This journal assignment is sort of like writing a small play. The great thing about creating a play is you can choose your characters, move them around and make them say or do anything you want. So what do you want to cover? What do you need to explore? What history needs to be rewritten by the adult you?

Don’t be afraid. It’s just pencil on paper you can erase or toss. But you just might discover that in reenacting and controlling the scene and dialog you are freeing yourself from old ghosts.  Or at least I hope so.

Toxic Mom Toolkit Journal Project

2 Mar

In honor of what would have been Dr. Seuss’s 108th birthday, today’s Toxic Mom Toolkit Journal Question is:

Q: At the very hardest time dealing with your toxic mom, what book saved you?

I think I became a writer simply because I loved to read. I developed a love of reading because I was alone much of the time, unsupervised. When I was small I used to carry very grown up leather bound books around to impress adults. I probably only impressed them as far too precocious. I spent many evenings on my tummy on the floor with my chin in my hands devouring the Wizard of Oz books, Heidi books and Betty & Veronica comic books.

Reading taught me that people’s lives are stories.

When I understood that, I started listening more closely, paying attention and taking mental notes.

I was the child who lived for eavesdropping. I became an adult apartment dweller who kept an empty water glass handy – just in case I heard neighbors fighting. I wanted to know why people did the things they did. I suspected that the way I was raised was not right and I relished observing others acting out their daily lives.

I wrote stories about the widow and the tomcat, my dashing motorcycle mechanic, the way people behaved under pressure or in the throes of love. I took writing classes and read like a convict on death row. I became a self taught writer and journalist.

I read adult books too early. I discovered children’s’ books too late. I have repeatedly been saved by the right book at the right time including, Gifts from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh and 52 McGs, a collection of the best obituaries from legendary New York Times writer Robert McG. Thomas, Jr.

Hands down the book that saved me more than once is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It showed me that the first job of a parent is to want what is best for their children. This is my favorite scene from the movie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7CX_5D6y6E&feature=relmfu

Growing up with a toxic mom sometimes it’s hard to know what is normal, what is better, or what is worse. Biographies, memoirs and fiction focused on survivors have not only inspired me but also saved me from feeling too sorry for myself. They taught me that I could write my own life story.

What book saved you?

The Voices in Your Head: They’re part of you but not you

21 Jan

As part of our ongoing journal project, here is our next question.

Every mother has sayings that are repeated over and over. What did your mom say over and over? As an adult, what do you think of that line or those phrases? What do they say about your mom?

Most people fear growing up and sounding just like their parents. They cringe when they blurt out – “Because I said so, that’s why!” or “I’ll give you something to cry about!” to their own children, the exact same way their parents did.

In a way it’s unavoidable. The child becomes the adult with adult concerns for their children.  But for children of toxic parents those messages, those sayings, can have more meaning than the typical scold not to run at the pool.

My mother, who schemed her way up in life through men and marriage, had a few lines that float through my head despite my best efforts to erase them.

She always said “Because Frank Sinatra might be in the parking lot,” whenever we complained about the length of time she took to put on her make-up. No sweats for my mom. No day complete without red lipstick and eyeliner. The world outside our house was a mysterious place and she had a beautiful part to play. She could park her car next to anyone – even Frank Sinatra. She had to be ready.

With little more than an eighth grade education she wanted to appear sophisticated. She never went to night school or travelled to learn a language and yet she tried to pretend that she could speak Spanish AND French by always saying “Uno momento – s’il vous plaît!” – “Wait a moment, if you please!” like Sophia Loren being manhandled by adoring fans at Cannes.

“Uno momento – s’il vous plaît!” is what I say when I’m in a hurry, stressed, often in the moments before I’m leaving my home for a trip. I have to be flustered to feel it forming in my mouth. But once I do, it trips out naturally, as if I am the very clever person who thought it up. As if I summer in Italy and winter in Mexico City – for the museums. As if I had nannies or tutors or can speak French to girlfriends in crowded cafes so others won’t be able to eavesdrop. (I wish!)

I know what this expression means to me now. It’s part of me through decades of repetition. When I say it, I’m not my mother, I’m me. I view the words spoken by my mother as  a sad attempt by a sad woman to appear sophisticated. I say it as often I say “bull-dinky!” like my dad did instead of swearing in front of us.

Don’t we all have a lot of voices from our childhoods in our head? It doesn’t make us them. These familiar expressions don’t define us. We can take them or leave them. But it is interesting to look back and study them a little bit.

In doing so, I’m reminded of my Aunt Rhea, who used to always say the opposite of what she meant.

“Come ov-ah he-ah you rotten kid!” she’d growl like Eartha Kitt before tucking you into a headlock and kissing you till you squirmed away.

I have a hard time expressing affection. Yet, I’m laughing and feeling happy when I call my husband rotten, my dogs “rotini’s,” even my friends, rotter’s. They know it’s my way of expressing my deep affection for them.

It’s funny that the neighbor we treated like an aunt, the neighbor who was kind enough to take me along with her kids on many weekends up to the country, sparing me from my deteriorating home life, probably also had a problem expressing affection. Half a century later, Rhea’s rough love carries over into my life on nearly a daily basis. She’s a good voice in my head.

I know now that my aunt was in a tough spot trying to help the neglected children of a good friend. She did what she could and I’ll always be grateful. I should probably call her and tell her so.

“What a rotten thing to say!” she’ll say. I know before I even look up her number.