Some people may wonder why we share personal stories about our lives here in this blog instead of focusing mainly on the problem of priests and what to do about them and what is being done about them.
My feeling is that we who have been abused at the age of 18 and older share some similarities in our stories and our lives. I’ve heard it said, and I believe it to be true…that it is not the abuser who should get credit for our survival and for our finding our way out of the darkness into perhaps a better existence, but it is us ourselves who discovered our own strength when we needed to find a way to get up and go on…alone.
But while there had been patterns of abuse and co-dependency and fears and feelings of inadequacy throughout my own life, nothing quite put up the “STOP” sign quite like running across an evil and narcissistic priest. Because in order to begin to heal, I had to begin to also look at what made me a more attractive target.
That kind of dysfunction does not just happen, and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And the reason we want to learn what made us an attractive target is not so we can blame ourselves, but so that we can understand ourselves better so that we can begin to separate the facts from the personal persecution. So, we can then begin to let go of the self-blame and even the hatred towards those who abused us and begin to heal.
Notice I did not say “forgive” those who abused us. I am talking about lessening the intense emotions going on inside us…we don’t have to fix or forgive anyone. Besides, forgiving a Narcissist is only inflicting further harm upon us. There is a difference between becoming more aware of how things happened so we can distance ourselves and find peace…and looking for more trouble by having anything to do with someone who is set on destroying you. We do not have to make nice or be responsible for anyone else’s healing.
Today we can talk a little bit about boundaries and how we probably don’t have any and why that is and what we can do about it. It’s not easy.
First of all, we may know by now that when we start to set boundaries, we are going to have resistance. And we are also probably going to lose people from our lives.
And that is exactly why it is so hard to have boundaries. Because we care. We are like puppy dogs bouncing along into the junkyard wanting to hand out bones and make friends with all of the other strays.
And let me just say here…I grew up in a puppy mill. When my mother’s family got together, it was a contest to see who could give everyone else the most stuff to bring home. “You take it” “No, you need that” “No, you will enjoy that later, you take it”.
And it seemed to be a genetic thing. I was told that my grandmother would hand out sandwiches to people who came to the door asking for food during the Depression. And I mean…sandwiches. Not by today’s standards. Piled high, nobody leaves here hungry sandwiches. Probably pie too. And my grandfather would be insulted if you didn’t take home half of the table and the silverware.
To this day, anything I give my mother, she gives back to me saying I can use it more than she can. And as a kid, you can view this as a form of rejection. I’m sure I did. Now I see it as my mom’s own kind of mom craziness and love because that is what she knows obviously. But that’s another story for another day.
Thing is, we learn this behavior somehow. Whether it be, like it my mom’s family…it makes people happy if you give away more than you can afford to give. Or as we see at work, at home, or in friendships or romantic relationships, people switch up behavior depending upon who needs to be pleased at any given moment. Many times, what we may be witnessing is people trying to placate a Narcissist at the expense of others.
While it’s best to avoid Narcissistic rage, the way to do so is to go no-contact with the person…and that is the only boundary that is going to work. If it is a romantic relationship or if there is a child in the middle of things, I feel it is best to have a lawyer take care of matters so that you have as little contact with the other person as necessary.
If that no-contact boundary is breached, you can find yourself sliding that slippery slope back in to be used as needed and discarded when they are done with you. Over and over again.
Someone told me recently that I have a bad judge of character when it comes to people. I don’t know if that is the case or if it is more about having a short memory and needing to be liked and to have a connection. The needing to please thing again. I think it is also easier in the short run to use a go-to pattern. If pleasing people worked in the past, we’ve learned to use that system. It can be difficult to try to consciously go against the grain at first until it becomes second nature.
My life has felt like a minefield in many ways. I find myself taking care of people who probably should be taking care of themselves more. And so, when I give, what I get back is a sense of entitlement and what feels very much like betrayal.
I recently sold a house I owned to my son. It worked well for both of us. I sold it to him for half of what I owed on it because I wanted to give him the best break I could while for me, I would still owe money, but I would owe half of what I did owe with a loan instead of a mortgage and I would no longer be responsible for repairs and taxes and such.
My son being who he is, would probably describe the situation differently than I. I felt emotional during the closing. I felt that it was a big day in both of our lives. I had asked my son if he wanted to go out with me afterwards for dinner. He said he had to work.
Tension was very high in the conference room where the closing took place, and I don’t think my son ever made eye contact with me. He was on his phone to work. He did, however, give me the finger at one point. He did. He then told me that anything that was mine that was still in the house was going to get tossed into a dumpster. I asked him could I come over to see what I had there. He said no. You haven’t needed it in 7 years. It’s junk.
When we were done, he left the room quickly to get back to work, without acknowledging me at all. I told him congratulations and that I loved him. He ignored me and walked out.
My lawyer hugged me.
Now they say we teach others how to treat us. That sounds exhausting. I just want to live in a world where if I am kind to you, you are kind to me. But none of us live in that world.
I know my son, obviously. I have known him for years, obviously. I know that if asked why he acted that way, he would have a reason. Work is stressful. You pissed me off. Your lawyer is incompetent, and he was late.
I’m not going to change my son. I don’t feel like telling someone how to treat me at this point. But I probably won’t make him my health proxy. I did, however, find myself falling into a trap of my own making.
After the closing, I was thinking perhaps somewhere down the road, I could buy an RV. That way I could always bring the dogs with me on vacation, and they would be in a familiar spot and not freak out when I am gone. And I could pack it up and go away for the weekend and not worry about hotels and things like that. Just a thought.
But then I thought…what if my kids want to borrow it? I would love to share something like that with them. I would love to see them happy. But I can’t. Because I have to be the one who is responsible for who I give to and how much I give.
Boundaries are not so much about what other people do to us. They are to be set in order to not allow someone else to do something to us again and again. They are about not expecting different behaviors from someone after their behavior has hurt us. And it’s about not giving more and more to someone and expecting them to suddenly act differently towards us.
I have found also that when I do give too much, thinking that it is out of the goodness of my heart, people do begin to expect you to continue to do so. So, when you begin to pull back and put your own needs first…like I needed to do when going through my divorce…it can be seen as not being nice. And because we want to be nice and we want people to like us, it can feel devastating to feel that you are losing people and sometimes more importantly…losing people’s approval of you. But sometimes we need to remember that the people we have lost were part of our dysfunctional past. In order for them to remain in your life, you would have to not change and just keep accepting bad treatment.
The thing is, the pain is usually inevitable, and the loss is usually already there. We tend to stretch things out and prolong things so that we put of letting go for as long as possible.
Someone recently reminded me to re-read “Co-dependent No More” which I need to do. Something recommended for anyone suffering from a lack of power in their life due to feeling surrounded by people and situations they feel the need to fix.
You know, I do believe that emotions tend to go inward or outward or sideways. But I think they go somewhere. If someone were to ask me how I handle less than loveable people in my life, I think I’d have to say that there was a numbness to it…because you grow used to it. That’s just the way that person is. Where I often find it to affect me is with totally unrelated people. Emotions happen in a situation, and you cannot explain why. Like someone is nice to you and you back away in fear of being hurt.
One book I found on Amazon that looks pretty interesting is “Boundaries: Where You End & I Begin…How to Recognize and Set Healthy Boundaries”.
Families and people who you see the most often are probably the hardest to set boundaries with. But perhaps they are the first you need to practice with. That is the first step to boundary setting. Practice.
Okay, practice. Well, back up a second…I lied. The first step is to see a therapist. Because we can’t practice what we don’t know how to do or where to start.
Okay, so you now have seen a therapist and you know what you are doing. You have a roadmap to go by. That is a GPS for younger people. We used to use roadmaps. So, what are we going to practice? Saying the word, “No”. No. Hard to say? That is why our lives are in the shape they are in. No.
When do you want to say this word? Well, you want to recognize that your needs are important. It’s starting to get harder now. We actually have to identify our needs. Needs. Hmmn. What are some of those? I looked this up and the term “needs” seems a bit vague.
No abusive behavior; No being used or taken for granted; No letting anyone control your emotions or dictate your actions; No disrespect or making you feel inferior; No spending time with people who don’t respect your boundaries; No doing anything that is uncomfortable or violates values; No one else determines your happiness; No allowing yourself to have lingering negative thoughts or feelings; No being a doormat or pushover; No being an afterthought to anyone else; No one else makes decisions for you.
Well, wow. Now that we have seen the list of where boundaries need to be placed, know that you are allowed to only do family functions that feel doable. That’s right. You can stay home on Thanksgiving and not feel guilty if your family bullies you.
Also, be firm and kind. Ha-ha. I mean, I agree. I just remember coming home from the hospital with a new baby and having night number one at home with the new baby and a two-year-old and what a huge adjustment that was. And having to explain, firmly and kindly to my mother-in-law that I would be coming home on Friday and that I would prefer not to have any visitors until Sunday. But that anyone who wanted to come on Sunday was welcome That did not go over well.
Boundaries do not always make you popular.
Be direct. Be assertive. Be consistent. Be firm and kind. Remember, you are in charge. Nobody can make you feel or do anything you don’t want to feel or do. That’s a lot of words assuming that we’ve already got this.
Hence, the need for therapy. You are going to need back up on the road to reinvention.