Write it out, and the yoke.

Sometimes I write to get into a problem. Sometimes I write to run away from it.

I process information by writing. I learn a lot. It is paradoxical. I am not writing things down. I am pulling them down into a language I can understand. I will often write a question down and pry at it from different perspectives in order to find out the answer. It is always surprising to me.

But them sometimes I need to be quiet and just be with the question. I need to actually live through the experience rather than trying to document it as it happens.

I’m trying to do this with my abuse as a child. I’m tired of continually facing these doors and walls in my life. I’m tired of these trials. I’ve really worked hard recently, and I’m just tired right now. Sometimes I want to sit down and just cry rather than work on it and be brave. Sometimes I would rather be blissfully ignorant.

Sometimes when I do decide to work on a problem, I don’t know whether to lean into the problem or push at it really hard. So I wait and I pray and then I find myself doing whatever it is that I should be doing.

A little bit of the disease will heal you. That is how antibiotics work. This is how immunosuppressive therapy works. A controlled amount, administered with a healing intent, will build up a tolerance in you that will make you stronger. Avoidance is not the answer.

I’m tired of these doors. I’ve asked Jesus into it, and he says we can sit right here beside this door as long as I need. I don’t have to knock them all down right now. I don’t have to do this hard work all at once, or alone. I can take some time off and pace myself. It is ok to wait. And he will wait with me.

This is part of what Jesus means when He says “take up my yoke”.

Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30
“28 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 All of you, take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

He’ll carry our burdens with us. He won’t carry them for us. We’ll work together. But it is heartening to know that when we are working with Jesus, we’ll get a lot further than we would alone.

In my face.

I was at a buffet a few months ago and saw a brother playing with his baby sister. She was in a baby carrier, sitting on a chair. The brother kept leaning in, right up in her face. He would grab the sides of the carrier with his hands and pull in, speaking loudly to his sister, getting nose to nose with her.

I felt great anxiety at this. I guess it is triggering a memory. I felt for the little girl, unable to say that she didn’t like this, unable to get away from him. Again and again he was putting his face right up into hers. Again and again I felt that I should say something. He was so forceful that he was pushing her carrier further back each time.

The parents were there. I’m sure they thought he was just playing with her. I’m sure they didn’t think of the psychological trauma this might be causing. They were chatting with their friends and ignoring their children. They didn’t notice how forceful he was.

Perhaps the daughter enjoyed this. Perhaps I was overreacting. But every time I felt breathless and anxious. Every time I felt that someone should get him to think about how this would look from her perspective. She can’t back away – she’s trapped in her carrier. She can’t tell him no – she is an infant and cannot speak. Sure, she could make a noise to show her disapproval. But my concern is that she was being “taught” that being attacked is normal, that being pushed up against a wall is how she should be treated.

I’d also be concerned if this was a sister doing this to a baby brother. But I feel I’m more sensitive to this particular situation because I feel that I was treated like this. I feel that I was treated as a thing, an object, and not a person.

My brother was not my friend. He was my tormentor. He was my enemy. I don’t understand when people say how wonderful and protective their brothers are, how they can always call them for help and always count on them. It just sounds like a fairy tale.

I’m starting to understand that it isn’t my fault that I had a terrible relationship with my brother. I was taught by my culture and my religion that it was my responsibility to try harder to have a better relationship with him. Codependency comes free with a church membership. I’m starting to understand that he is just a narcissistic jerk, and I had the misfortune of having him as a big brother. I’m grateful that I severed all ties with him.

I wonder what our childhood would have been like if I had been born first?

After a while, I did say something to the boy. I felt like I had to. I asked him to be gentle with his sister. His father whipped around and stared at me. I’m sure he was thinking how dare this stranger tell his children what to do. I just smiled sweetly back. He turned back around to his plateful of food and his ball cap wearing friends.

So much for “It takes a village.”

Lucy

Remember Lucy from peanuts? The one who always managed to convince Charlie Brown that she would hold the football for him so he could kick it? And she always pulled it away and he always fell? The one who treated everybody like dirt? Yeah. That Lucy.

Lucy is a bitch.

I’ve never understood why Charlie Brown let her do that to him. I’ve never understood why he didn’t just say “no thanks” and walk away. Again and again she lied. Again and again he fell and got hurt.

Remember the saying “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”?

I’ve never understood why everybody let her talk like that to them. She bossed everybody around. She thought that her opinion was so valuable she set up a “the psychiatrist is in” stand instead of a lemonade stand like a normal kid. She made fun of Linus her brother for believing in the Great Pumpkin.

So really, is Lucy a bitch, or is it that everybody created this monster by not standing up to her?

I feel that Charles Schultz didn’t do anybody any favors by having this character. The audience wasn’t taught how to stand up to a bully. I feel there is a lot of stress in seeing Lucy be hateful to people over and over. Children can end up feeling helpless, and learn that being bullied is normal and there is nothing you can do about it.

On Sesame Street there was a character called the Snuffleupagus. Only Big Bird could see him. Everybody else thought Big Bird made him up. The creators decided to change this because they felt that it was sending the wrong message. They felt that children would feel that parents wouldn’t take them seriously. They felt that this was especially important if the child had something serious to report, like being abused. They felt that otherwise they were teaching them that their reality would get treated as a fantasy.

Sure, it is just a cartoon. Sure, it isn’t real. But children are constantly learning, even when we think they are just being entertained. Why not teach them something useful for a change? Why not teach them that they don’t have to be victims, whether the abuse is coming from a peer or a parent?

When bullies become adults.

Most of us, when we think about the term bully, think about a schoolyard. We think about some large, brutish kid, generally a guy, stealing lunch money and pushing kids around on the playground. But sometimes bullies grow up – in age, but not in attitude. Nobody has managed to intervene and teach him how to behave like a human being. His actions get him the results he wants, so he continues.

A bully is even worse when he grows up because he is harder to manage. If he has children then the disease spreads. He either bullies his children and wife or he teaches his children that bullying people is normal. They either learn to be victims or tyrants.

Now, it is important to say that women can be bullies too. Women can be abusive and manipulative and mean. But I have to pick a pronoun to use here, because saying “him or her” is tedious, so I’m going with the default male bully. Sadly, males are more likely to be bullies, but this post isn’t about gender so much as behavior and repercussions.

A bully will treat others that they are lesser than him because he needs this version of reality to prop himself up. A bully at the heart of it all is a weird combination of a narcissist with low self esteem. This seems contradictory. But if someone has a healthy sense of self esteem then he doesn’t have to keep shoring it up. A narcissist spends all his time thinking about his needs and how things affect him. He doesn’t care about what other people need or think unless it directly will affect him.

A narcissistic boss will get angry if an employee calls in when she is in the hospital because this means the project that she was working on won’t be finished on time. He doesn’t care that it means that she is suffering and that it has made things difficult at home with taking care of her children. It is all about him.

Bullies are narcissists sometimes. Sometimes they are also simply sadists. Either way, they don’t care about other people. Other people are simply a means to an end. It is all about their needs, and if other people get hurt, that doesn’t matter.

A bully who becomes a father will teach his children that they are lesser than him so that he can maintain a sense of control. He will try to show how important he is by making them dependent on him.

If he really wanted to show how awesome he was as a father, he’d teach them to be able to take care of themselves. The sign of a good parent is one who is able to teach his child how to be successful and happy and self sufficient. If your adult child has to move back in with you after her divorce, you haven’t done a great job. If your adult child has to constantly ask you for advice or money, then you haven’t taught her anything about what it means to be an adult.

Baby birds need to fly. If they don’t learn how to fly, how to leave the nest and go out on their own, then there is a problem. The same is true with humans, but somehow we forget that. Prolonged childhood is becoming normal. Some adult children (the term itself is a sign) don’t have the emotional, mental, or financial resources to live independently until they are in their 30s. How much of this is because of bad parenting? And how much of that is because of parents who they themselves aren’t mature? But I digress.

Imagine how terrified a bully is when he discovers his wife is very sick. He won’t have her around to push around or prop up his ego. It will all be about him. Her sickness becomes his burden. Her sickness means it isn’t all about him. She gets terminally ill, and he is no longer the center of attention. He either has to learn how to become a caregiver (not a natural role for a bully) or he becomes even more “helpless”. He will become passive-aggressive and “forget” to take his medicine. He will expect her to do all the cooking while he acts like a king during family gatherings.

He isn’t fooling anybody. Well, he is. He is fooling himself. He hasn’t figured out that the way to look important is to not feel the need to push other people around. It is to be self-sufficient.

Some people will be bullies all the way up to their death.

It is a sad way to die. It is even more sad to live this way.

Perhaps what bullies need is love. Perhaps they need to have people stand up to them and tell them what they are doing is wrong, too. But bullying is a desire for attention and a need for a good sense of self-esteem. Perhaps they need to be taught new ways to feel good about themselves other than knocking other people down. Perhaps they need to be taught that how their actions affect other people.

Perhaps the root of it all is that the bully was himself bullied, and just doesn’t know any better.

One of the strangest stories I’ve heard recently is from a man who was abusive to his sons who still tries to push them around through guilt and a mis-applied sense of service to him. He told me a story about how a current neighbor had a dog that he left outside all the time, regardless of the weather. He felt so sad for that dog, whining in the cold and the rain. Sometimes he would speak through the fence to the dog to try to comfort it.

Yet he didn’t see the connection between that dog and his children.

He didn’t see how his constantly talking down to them, belittling them, and beating them was abusive. He didn’t leave them outside in the cold or the rain, but he didn’t provide any warmth or comfort inside the house either.

There is a lot more to taking care of children than just providing for their physical needs. You can make sure they have food and a place to live, but if you neglect their emotional and mental needs, you are abusing them. You may not ever hit them, but if you don’t hug them either you are still abusing them.

Opinion poll.

Why do we care what other people think? I’ve read recently that humans need community. We need each other to create our understanding of reality. But I’ve found that if we pay too much attention to what other people think, then we stop being able to think for ourselves. We stop being able to act too.

Say I’m at work. A lady gets upset that I’m smiling. She thinks that I’m making fun of her, that I’m smirking. Then I’ll make a point of not smiling, and another person thinks I’m not being friendly enough. It is healthier for my soul to just do whatever I’m going to do and let them deal with their issues themselves. Otherwise I’m constantly second guessing myself.

I try to adapt myself to other people. I think it is kind to adjust myself so I’m at eye height to them, or that I know enough about their reading interests that I can suggest something for them to read when they ask. Remember how the apostle Paul tells us we must be all things to all people? Yeah. That.

But there is a big difference in being accommodating and being a doormat.

And there is something very dangerous in letting someone else shape your behavior. When you do, you are giving up your autonomy. You are giving up control. You are letting someone else tell you how to live your life.

I have a friend who was told that he would amount to nothing, that all he was good for was factory work. He was told this by an authority figure at school. Fortunately he had a strong mother who told him a different story. He is soon to graduate as a social worker.

Imagine the loss to our world if he had listened to that negative person.

We are often told that we aren’t good enough, that we can’t do something, or that we should give up or never even start. The secret is that other people are mirrors of you. If someone is telling you that, it is their own fear of failure they are pushing onto you.

Don’t take it. It isn’t healthy.

Think of this. Use “you can’t do that” as a dare, as a springboard. Use it as a sign that you are on the right path. There is something you are about to do that frightens them, because they think they can’t do it. But they aren’t you. Prove that person wrong. Do it instead of them. Do it because of them. But just do it.

And forget about what they think. They don’t know anything anyway.

The essence of “self-esteem” is “self”

I remember talking with a friend many years ago and saying that the most important part about self esteem is the word “self”. If you have to rely on other people for your self esteem, then you aren’t doing it right.

I saw a Facebook meme that had a picture of a happy child with a tagline that said something about how important it is for parents to fill their child’s bucket of self esteem so high that it spilled over. This may sound strange to say in light of my recent post about verbal abuse, but I think there might be something wrong with that.

Sure, I think it is important to encourage your child and to support her. Sure, I think it is essential that a parent be a good model for the child. But I think a dose of reality is important too.

To cheer someone on as if they are doing A-level work when really it is D-level work is to set them up for failure. Encourage and show them how to succeed. Yes, cheer on every good thing they do – they can’t do it perfectly at the beginning. But don’t tell them they have reached the top of the mountain when they are still standing at the base. They will never keep growing to their full potential. They will think they are already there.

We’re just now seeing the results of this kind of thinking in the work force. There has been an entire generation of kids who have gotten trophies just for participating. They have gotten certificates just for showing up. So they get into “the real world” and they wonder why they aren’t getting the same amount of praise for the same lack of effort.

It also seems odd for someone to say that another person damaged their self-esteem. Eleanor Roosevelt tells us that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” There are plenty of self-help books (that I’ve listed as “Survival Books”) that will tell you the same thing. You can’t change the other person. You can only change yourself. That is the essence of self-help. You have to help yourself. Someone else didn’t affect your self-esteem – you chose to let them bother you. This sounds in part like blaming the victim, but it isn’t. It is actually empowering. It is encouraging the person to stop being a victim – to stop letting things happen to them, and to be an active participant in life.

Sometimes this means leaving the situation. Sometimes the other person just isn’t healthy to be around, and they aren’t going to get nicer. Sometimes it just requires you sticking up for yourself and telling the other person how their actions make you feel. Then they have a choice to act differently or not. Then you have a choice to take it or not. But it is on you to make the choice to act.

Other people can encourage you and support you, but when it gets hard, you have to be able to take care of yourself. Ultimately, other people are not responsible for your mental well-being, you are.

Survival Books

These are survival books. They won’t tell you how to make a solar still to distill water, or how to start a fire with a piece of flint. They will tell you how to survive a terrible childhood. Many of us were raised in dysfunctional families. Sadly, “dysfunctional” is the new “normal.” We spend a lot of our adult lives trying to undo all the damage that was done to us. These books can help you on your journey. If you can’t find these at your local library, ask them to order these via Inter-Library Loan.

These are all books that I’ve read and found very helpful.

CALL # 616.8522 N9743y.
AUTHOR NurrieStearns, Mary.
TITLE Yoga for anxiety : meditations and practices for calming the body and mind / Mary NurrieStearns, Rick NurrieStearns.
IMPRINT Oakland, CA : New Harbinger Publications, c2010.
DESCRIPT viii, 218 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
ISBN/ISSN 9781572246515 (pbk. : alk. paper)
ISBN/ISSN 1572246510 (pbk. : alk. paper)

CALL # 152.47 S472a.
AUTHOR Semmelroth, Carl.
TITLE The anger habit in relationships : a communication handbook for relationships, marriages and partnerships / Carl Semmelroth.
IMPRINT Naperville, Ill. : Sourcebooks, c2005.
DESCRIPT 146 p. ; 21 cm..
ISBN/ISSN 1402203578 (alk. paper)

CALL # 291.44 T651p.
AUTHOR Tolle, Eckhart, 1948-
TITLE The power of now : a guide to spiritual enlightenment / Eckhart Tolle.
IMPRINT Novato, Calif. : New World Library, 1999.
DESCRIPT xxiii, 193 p. ; 24 cm.
ISBN/ISSN 1577314808 (pbk.)
ISBN/ISSN 9781577314806 (pbk.)
ISBN/ISSN 1577311523 (alk. paper)

CALL # 301.11 P88w.
AUTHOR Powell, John Joseph, 1925-
TITLE Why am I afraid to tell you who I am? : insights on self- awareness, personal growth and interpersonal communication / by John Powell.
IMPRINT Chicago : Argus Communications, [c1969]
DESCRIPT 167 p. : ill. (part col.) ; 19 cm.
SERIES Peacock books.
ISBN/ISSN 0913592021.

CALL # 362.82 F7459t 1990.
AUTHOR Forward, Susan.
TITLE Toxic parents : overcoming their hurtful legacy and reclaiming your life / Susan Forward with Craig Buck.
EDITION Bantam paperback ed.
IMPRINT New York : Bantam Books, 1990, c1989.
DESCRIPT 324 p. ; 18 cm.
NOTE Includes bibliographical references (p. 324)
SUBJECT Dysfunctional families — United States.
SUBJECT Adult child abuse victims — United States.
SUBJECT Codependency — United States.
SUBJECT Abusive parents — United States.
ALT AUTHOR Buck, Craig.
ISBN/ISSN 0553381407 (pbk.)
ISBN/ISSN 0553284347 (pbk.)

CALL # 616.869 B3696c 1992.
AUTHOR Beattie, Melody.
TITLE Codependent no more : how to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself / Melody Beattie.
EDITION 2nd ed.
IMPRINT [Center City, MN] : Hazelden, 1992.
DESCRIPT 250 p. ; 21 cm.
ISBN/ISSN 0894864025 (pbk.)
ISBN/ISSN 9780874864025 (pbk.)

CALL # 362.29 F9117a.
AUTHOR Friel, John C., 1947-
TITLE An adult child’s guide to what is “normal” / John C. Friel, Linda D. Friel.
IMPRINT Deerfield Beach, Fla. : Health Communications, c1990.
DESCRIPT xiv, 245 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.
SUBJECT Adult children of alcoholics — Rehabilitation.
SUBJECT Adult children of narcotic addicts — Rehabilitation.
SUBJECT Adult children of dysfunctional families — Rehabilitation.
SUBJECT Alcoholics rehabilitation.
ALT AUTHOR Friel, Linda D.
ADD TITLE Dysfunctional families.
ISBN/ISSN 1558740902.

CALL # 158.2 S877d.
AUTHOR Stone, Douglas.
TITLE Difficult conversations : how to discuss what matters most / Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen.
IMPRINT New York : Viking, 1999.
DESCRIPT 250 p. ; 24 cm.
SUBJECT Interpersonal communication.
ALT AUTHOR Patton, Bruce.
ALT AUTHOR Heen, Sheila.
ISBN/ISSN 014028852X (Penguin pbk.)
ISBN/ISSN 0670883395.

CALL # 248.4 C6471b.
AUTHOR Cloud, Henry.
TITLE Boundaries : when to say yes, when to say no to take control of your life / Henry Cloud, John Townsend.
IMPRINT Grand Rapids, Mich. : Zondervan Pub. House, c1992.
DESCRIPT 304 p. ; 24 cm.
NOTE Includes bibliographical references (p. 297-298) and index.
SUBJECT Conduct of life.
SUBJECT Christian life.
SUBJECT Interpersonal relations — Religious aspects — Christianity.
ALT AUTHOR Townsend, John Sims, 1952-
ISBN/ISSN 9780310247456 (trade pbk.)
ISBN/ISSN 0310247454 (trade pbk.)
ISBN/ISSN 0310585902.

Remember, it isn’t your fault that your family was crazy. That was their choice. What they did to you wasn’t right. You have a way out of this place where you feel stuck.

These are other books on the same subject that look interesting, but I haven’t read yet.

CALL # 158.1 T341i.
AUTHOR Tessina, Tina B.
TITLE It ends with you : grow up and out of dysfunction / by Tina B. Tessina.
IMPRINT Franklin Lakes, NJ : New Page Books, c2003.
DESCRIPT 224 p. ; 24 cm.
NOTE Includes bibliographical references (p. 209) and index.
ISBN/ISSN 1564146499 (cloth)

CALL # 248.86 W7532r.
AUTHOR Wilson, Sandra D., 1938-
TITLE Released from shame : recovery for adult children of dysfunctional families / Sandra D. Wilson.
IMPRINT Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, c1990.
DESCRIPT 201 p. ; 21 cm.
SERIES People helper books.
NOTE Includes bibliographical references (p. [197]-201)
SUBJECT Adult children of dysfunctional families — United States —
Religious life.
SUBJECT Adult children of dysfunctional families — United States —
Pastoral counseling of.
SUBJECT Christian life.
ISBN/ISSN 0830816011 (pbk.) :

CALL # 362.292 B398.
TITLE Becoming your own parent : the solution for adult children of alcoholic and other dysfunctional families / [edited by] Dennis
Wholey.
EDITION 1st ed.
IMPRINT New York : Doubleday, 1988.
DESCRIPT 285 p. ; 25 cm.
ALT AUTHOR Wholey, Dennis, 1937-

CALL # 616.85822 F2343a.
AUTHOR Farmer, Steven.
TITLE Adult children of abusive parents : a healing program for those who have been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused / Steven Farmer.
EDITION 1st Ballantine Books ed.
IMPRINT New York : Ballantine, 1990, c1989.
DESCRIPT xvi, 207 p. ; 24 cm.
NOTE Include bibliographical references (p. [195]-1960 and index.
NOTE Includes index.
SUBJECT Adult child abuse victims — Mental health.
ADD TITLE Abusive parents.
ISBN/ISSN 0345363884 (pbk.)
ISBN/ISSN 9780345363886 (pbk.)

CALL # 158.1 L21t.
AUTHOR LaMar, Donna F.
TITLE Transcending turmoil : survivors of dysfunctional families / Donna F. LaMar.
IMPRINT New York : Plenum Press, c1992.
DESCRIPT xiv, 299 p. ; 22 cm.

NOTE “Insight books.”
NOTE Includes bibliographical references (p. 267-289) and index.

CALL # 158 W86r.
AUTHOR Wolin, Steven J.
TITLE The resilient self : how survivors of troubled families rise above adversity / Steven J. Wolin and Sybil Wolin.
EDITION 1st ed.
IMPRINT New York : Villard Books, 1992.
DESCRIPT xiv, 238 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
NOTE Pain and opportunity — The challenge of the troubled family —
To name the damage is to conquer it — Reframing: how to resist
the victim’s trap — Seven resiliencies — Insight: forewarned
is forearmed — Independence: a delicate negotiation —
Relationships: the search for love — Initiative: the pleasure
in problems — Creativity: nothing into something — Humor:
something into nothing — Morality: holiness in an unholy
world.

Want more? Look up the subjects of “dysfunctional families”, “codependency,” “adult children of dysfunctional families”, “adult child abuse victims” “Adult children of dysfunctional families – Rehabilitation”