Tag Archives: toxic siblings

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.

Misery Defined: Toxic Mom Toolkit’s Top Five Tips for Surviving Seeing Your Mother after 20 Years of No Contact

19 Sep

If you are planning an oft-delayed trip to see your mother after a long no contact period, remember – it’s never what you worry about.

If you have had little or no contact with your Toxic Mother for five, ten, fifteen or twenty years, keep it simple. Just expect to be surprised.

Are you the same person you were last time you saw your mother? Probably not. So, expect your mom to be changed in some ways too. She may still be an irrational hater, an under-miner, a conspirator focused on annoying or hurting you, but her skills will have become rusty without you around to practice on.  In fact, she may no longer be able to upset you as she has in the past.

What would happen if you arrived at this dreaded meeting a whole, calm, optimistic and ready-to-laugh adult? What if this time she didn’t see the child-based fear in your eyes? What if at the first hint of old hurtful patterns you said to her, “You know what? I’ve got other things I’d rather do than go over ancient history” and you left her there with her mouth open to enjoy a matinée movie instead? So what if you flew two thousand miles to see your mother one last time and when she turned impossible you switched gears and turned the vacation into an antiquing trip instead?

Would anyone really blame you?

Here are my Top Five Tips for surviving a long-delayed Toxic Mom visit:

  1. Bring or enlist an old friend to be at your side. Toxic Mother’s hate outsiders, also known as “witnesses.”
  2. Plan to do something your mother loves even if you loathe it. Then pat yourself on the back and reward yourself with a massage, or some other treat, when you get home.
  3. Have a short list of other people or places nearby to visit.
  4. Have a short list of pleasant activities to transition to should you need to cut your visit short.
  5. Plan all mother/daughter meetings and activities in public spaces. Cops swear by it.

I hope this is helpful to you. If you have a specific challenge feel free to post questions at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook. But please post carefully on this “open” forum. If you don’t want everyone knowing your TM business feel free to create an alter persona or e-mail me directly at newsyrayne@gmail.com. I answer every email.

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 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: 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.

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.