Cuddling, narcissistic recovery, and nonsexual affection:

I read a few posts over the weekend that I want to share.

The first is Where Are You in Recovery? on the One Mom’s Battle blog, a post written by Sandra L. Brown, MA, Director of The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education at saferelationshipsmagazine.com.  The 2016 article written in 2016 addresses not just recovery from narcissistic abuse but the role of narc bloggers:

For instance, of course, one must disengage from the relationship, one needs pathology education to know what kind of relationship they are healing FROM, and one needs to recognize their symptoms of trauma in order to know what to work ON.  But these are first steps in what we consider the ‘early’ recovery level on the path to healing.  75% of survivors of narcissistic abuse develop a trauma disorder like Acute Stress, PTSD or CPTSD. Despite this, many and sometimes MOST survivors never get beyond early recovery.

In the past, I’ve been confused on whether I had PTSD or CPTSD, or if that’s supposed to be for, say, shooting survivors.  But this confirms that I most likely did have such a disorder.

The narcissistic abuse field is relatively young. Many survivors don’t realize that this field is only 11 years old. When you consider how long it took the domestic violence to get up to speed with their theories, and trainings, and therapists trained, 11 years is a drop in the bucket. The first information about narcissistic/psychopathic relationships and abuse was in the 1st Edition of my book ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths’ (Sociopaths & Narcissists) in 2008. There has been theories to work out and research to do and treatment approaches to figure out. We are just getting around to a formalized therapist training in a Model of Care in 2019. There hasn’t been much in the way of trauma therapists that understood these relationships for treatment. But what has been prolific, is survivor’s manning-up with books, blogs, and social media.  Survivors have had to rely on other survivors in the absence of a trained psychology field.  …In the absence of a trained psychology field, most survivors find information in a blog or social media site and stay, never progressing to the next stage of recovery because of so few trained trauma therapists in pathological love relationships (PLRs).

So it’s no wonder that I never heard of narcissistic abuse before 2010, even though I knew the word “narcissist” (as in lover of self above all others) and knew a lot about abuse: The information just wasn’t out there yet because even the psychologists didn’t know much.  And we bloggers have been a crucial part of getting the word out and helping others, because we have firsthand experience with such people.  But so many of us are still “stuck” because, again, even the psychologists don’t know enough about it.

We also hear a lot about empaths and codependents.  Empaths sound kind of New-Agey to me, so I have cast that a wary eye.  Also, codependency seems to make YOU into the pathological one, as if you’re somehow to blame.  So this part was interesting:

A pathological relationship happened because of your personality trait elevations which are part of your hard-wired nature and are ‘targeted’ by pathological partners. Our research with Purdue University on your personality made that abundantly clear, that you have high-normal personality traits that are a perfect fit for a pathological partner. As opposed to what you may read, this is NOT simply about ‘empaths’ and ‘codependents.’ Those labels are not research.  The true research shows you have personality trait elevations BEYOND mere hyper-empathy (and over 60% of you did NOT test as codependent), that are impacting your risk factors called ‘Super Traits.’ Since your personality is hard-wired, and these traits are always targeted by pathological partners, it makes sense that you need to understand your own risk factors and how to guard those traits in the future. Once trauma symptoms are being consistently and successfully managed by you, education on your Super Traits is the next step of recovery.  A mental health professional works educationally with you about the researched and known personality traits and their FACETS that are known to be a risk factor in you. (If they are suggesting you are an empath, you are in the wrong place and they are not educated.)

…We can see that this level of recovery is necessary for prevention of future PLRs because your personality and its risk factors will always be with you. Without understanding HOW Super Traits work in your thinking, feeling, and behavior there is nothing to prevent another PLR when your personality tries to do what it has always done with incoming information and red flags.

One reason many of us are still “stuck” is the lack of trained help:

We are well aware of the scant few trauma therapists trained in PLR Recovery. An online course for their training is currently being developed and when done, will house a database of therapists trained in this Model of Care approach for your use. Survivortreatment.com

I don’t know anything about this institute, so I can’t recommend or endorse it.  However, I hope that this will turn out to be a breakthrough for survivors of narcissistic abuse.

Along with this, came two other blog posts which helped validate my experiences in narcissistic abuse.

The first was Dad Goes Off On Wife And In-Laws After They Tell Him To Stop Cuddling His Teenage Daughter.  He posted on Reddit to find out if he was the a**hole or not; the overwhelming response was that he was not, that there is nothing “sexual” or “inappropriate” about cuddling.  A similar conversation came up over on the Love Joy Feminism blog, when a post about a 19th-century book brought up the question of what was considered normal and platonic behavior and touching (such as cuddling or hugging or stroking hair).

Both conversations made it very clear that the common restrictive view on cuddling in America is neither the rule in the rest of the world, nor healthy.  Supposedly even Americans used to behave a lot more freely, before the 20th century, so when we read a 19th-century book on girls cuddling (or about Frodo and Sam holding hands) we think “OMG GAY” when it’s not.  And some–just as I have in the past–wondered if our lack of cuddling/other nonsexual touching is the reason why people in America have so many pathological issues (such as shooting up schools).

The Love Joy Feminism discussion also touched on the fact that modern Americans get hung up on the idea that close emotional connections must be romantic/sexual, so if two teenage girls become BFFs they start thinking they might be gay–when it’s just a normal, straight friendship.  Not knocking the fact that many people are actually gay or bisexual, but most people are not.

In my childhood, people saw demons and Satan everywhere; nowadays, they see sex everywhere.  Maybe this is also why people have gotten so hypervigilant about opposite-sex friendships, when 20 years ago, the common thinking seemed to be that opposite-sex friendships are normal and jealousy is bad.

Quotes from the comment section:

Single adults, definitely – one (bad) reason that people can end up desperate for a relationship, and cling to unhealthy ones, is that so many of us have a natural desire for touch and intimacy, and we’re only ‘allowed’ to have an outlet in romantic relationships.

 

Platonic yet intimate female relationships make my marriage work. Another reason society would be better if we stopped sexualizing all overt emotional expressions and physical affection. We all have different needs and to expect all those needs to be met by one person in our life is a tough order.

 

Because so many shows right now are really irritating me with that. We get connected to a character that identifies as straight, she gets a good friend, and boom they’re an item. Not every female magically becomes bisexual when they develop close intimate friendships with the same sex. In fact most don’t. I get that they’re trying to increase LGBTQ presence in the media, but it still seems to be developing as a titillating plot point. Not one that represents real life. Which is why they probably don’t do the same with males. Two females kissing is a fantasy for many adult males and that’s why they use it. It also confuses kids way more than helping them. I’ve actually had to help my youngest understand that just because she notices how attractive a girl is doesn’t make her gay or bi. It’s not that I care if she was but she’s not. And some of her friends have actually made fun of her for being supportive of her female friends. Like she’s not allowed to be complimentary or something unless she’s gay.

 

Oh my gosh yes. That’s my only real pet peeve with the increase in LGBTQ relationships on TV. It seems with girls (and only girls, never boys) that once a certain level of intimacy sets in, they evolve to a romantic relationship. And that’s just not accurate in real life. I actually am quite affectionate with my best friend both verbally and even physically. Lots of hugs, lots of I love you’s, etc. My youngest daughter has the same type of relationship with her best friend. Always remarking how cute she is, how much she cares, lots of physical affection. Right now they are both in fits because they have no classes together next year. They’re both straight though. Emotionally intimacy and general physical affection is a lovely thing IMO. Not everything has to be seen through the lens of sexual attraction.

Quotes from the Reddit thread:

This is a result of America’s puritan bullshit and had actually led to “cuddle starvation” across the nation. Look it up. It basically means that people become depressed because of a lack of cuddling and affection since we reserve it for romance.

 

Let me guess, you’re American? Americans always sexualize things that have nothing to do with sex. Why the hell should a daughter not be alowed to cuddle her father if she wants to?!

 

Also sleeping on people while watching a movie is just one of the best feelings in the world. I do it with close friends regardless of gender (and am somewhat well known for my inability to stay away during movies). Ive fallen asleep with my head in a cousins lap during many a post thanksgiving meal football game. If you’re both comfortable with it – why would it be weird?

 

I hate to bring up the concept of “Toxic Masculinity” everywhere but this is a pretty textbook case of the inlaws trying to push it I think. This disgusting idea that men shouldn’t be affectionate is so goddamn damaging on both an individual and wider scale, and sadly we’re still in the stage where normalizing touching and all that is a fight.

I don’t want to rehash why this last part is especially meaningful for me, but longtime readers of my blog will know.  Basically, I have had my motives maligned and sweet, beautiful, platonic expressions of affection turned dirty, and it was very psychologically and emotionally damaging–and abusive.  For a time I had begun to open myself up to others more with physical affection, but this scared me back into my shell.  Meanwhile, I see others do the same thing with friends, or here online I read about them doing that, and it’s okay for them to do it!

But these three blog posts have been very comforting for me the past few days.  And in the current state of the world, comfort is good where you can find it.

 

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A couple of notes: Spanking and No, the new girlfriend did NOT change my abusive ex

A couple of quick notes on things that I have seen today while, as usual, sucked into the Web when I’m supposed to be doing other things:

First:

Elizabeth T. Gershoff writes an opinion piece, The era of spanking is finally over, based on the announcement yesterday by the American Academy of Pediatrics that

recommends that adults caring for children use “healthy forms of discipline” — such as positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors, setting limits and setting expectations — and not use spanking, hitting, slapping, threatening, insulting, humiliating or shaming.

…”In the 20 years since that policy was first published, there’s been a great deal of additional research, and we’re now much stronger in saying that parents should never hit their child and never use verbal insults that would humiliate or shame the child,” said Dr. Robert Sege, first author of the policy statement and a pediatrician at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

…The statement goes on to describe how several studies have found associations between spanking and aggressive child behavior, depressive symptoms in adolescence and less gray matter in children’s brains, among other outcomes.

Gershoff hopes that the new statement will finally cause massive change in how parents discipline children, and notes changes that have already been made over the years.

She writes,

There are practical reasons to stop spanking. The main one is that it does not work. Some parents may say, “But it does for my child.” A child may cry and stop what she is doing in the moment, but numerous studies involving hundreds of thousands of children show that spanking does not make children better behaved in the long run, and in fact makes their behavior worse.
It is hard for parents to see this in their day-to-day interactions, but the research is clear: We consistently find that the more a child is spanked, the more aggressive he or she will be in the future.
Spanking also teaches children that it is acceptable to use physical force to get what you want. It is thus no surprise that the more children are spanked, the more likely they are to be aggressive or to engage in delinquent behaviors like stealing.
…The majority of us who were spanked by our parents think we “turned out OK.” Perhaps we did. But maybe we were lucky that our parents did other things, like talking with us about what behaviors they wanted to see us do in the future, that helped us develop self-control and make good behavior choices.

Of course, I see so many people say “I was spanked and I turned out okay” that I doubt the change will happen so fast.

It’s especially ludicrous to hear, on one hand, “They don’t let you spank these days and the kids are out of control,” but on the other hand read studies that say MOST parents still spank their kids.  Okay, so it’s more likely the kids who are out of control actually ARE spanked.   I’ve seen this for myself, a family where the kids were spanked and shamed and slapped over the back of their heads, but the kids still were out of control.

And well, I don’t actually see kids being any worse now than they were when I was a child.  Because yes, I still remember how we were.  I think people of my generation and older often have rose-colored glasses of how we acted.  But we were not angels, despite spanking at home and paddles in our principals’ desk drawers.

Just remember, back when harsh discipline was considered normal, what we had in the world: torture, Nazis, employers ordering troops to fire on their own striking Greek employees, burning or hanging people for being witches or heretics, racism, lynching, sexism, slavery, wars, military brutality (such as whipping for infractions), rape, murder, stealing, lying, piracy, etc. etc. etc.

Obviously, spanking children did not stop them from doing horrible things as adults.  These things did not suddenly appear in a world where spanking was banished.  And you can bet that the people performing these acts were spanked or otherwise hit as children.

Filmed in German and released as Das Weisse Band, Eine Deutsche Kindergeschichte, or The White Ribbon: A German Children’s Story, the film deals with a group of children who will become adults around the time of the rise of the Third Reich. This ‘children’s story’ seeks to discover what it was in German children’s background which may have caused them to support and assist the Nazi party when the time came – much the same questions, and conclusions, once offered by the late child psychologist Alice Miller, who drew a controversial connection between harsh child rearing methods and a tendency toward violence and the acceptance of tyranny. –Monica Reid, Twin Fascist Fables: The White Ribbon and The Childhood of a Leader

And also remember, today’s narcissists were probably spanked as children.  I know several of them who certainly were.  Sure didn’t drive the narcissism out of ’em.

Second:

And speaking of narcissists, more news on abusive ex Phil:

To recap, in the summer, I discovered that his own sister temporarily filed a restraining order against him.  I’ve also learned that she and his mother were involved in a lawsuit with him last year, with him as the plaintiff, though the details are not online.

From his Facebook profile, I learned that he was engaged.  His profile has been quiet ever since, and he did not respond to a question from me (simply “how are you”), though  I know he saw it.  But from hers I’ve learned all sorts of things:

She is around the same age as his controlling mother–whom, by the way, she writes that he finally broke free of about a year or two ago.  (Makes me wonder if she was a kind of replacement for his mother.)

She identifies as an empath.  (I don’t know if that’s a real thing or pseudoscience, but narc blogs commonly say that empaths attract narcissists.)  She believes in Christ, but also in various New Age things like astral projection.

(I’ve noted that Phil tends to have girlfriends who believe in New Age: One ex channeled a spirit in the middle of a makeout session.  I believed in Charismatic sign gifts and other psychic phenomena in those days.  Persephone is a Wiccan who’s written spell books, though in those days she told everyone she was Methodist.  Phil showed no sign of believing in such things himself, so I believe he looks for this in girlfriends as a sign of gullibility so they can be manipulated.  He manipulated my psychic beliefs severely, weaving a web of deception that lasted for many months.)

The engagement ended over the summer when she learned that he was diagnosed with Bipolar II and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (though Disorder is more likely, because he’s neither deformed nor retarded).

It was a mutual decision, because he hadn’t been taking his medication so his brain was heavily damaged; and under the influence of the disorder, he had turned manipulative and probably worse.  He has been in and out of a mental hospital on suicide watch for months.

She didn’t want to leave him, but neither did she want to be abused.  She was still supposed to stay in his life and support him–but then he cut her off.

She has been in a terrible state since then, very familiar as I was once there myself.  She has blamed it all on the diagnoses; sounds like there are several, though she only named two.  She has said that the real him wouldn’t hurt a fly, and that the disorder causes the bad behavior.

But there’s been a change recently.  She speaks of being blind, duped, used, of learning truths she didn’t know before he got sick.  (She’s also been posting memes and videos about narcissists.)  She talks as if she was more in love than he was, despite all the flowery words he told her once upon a time.  Flowery words which, by the way, he said to me some 24 years ago.  I can even tell you when, and what we were doing, because it’s in my memoir.  And her, she has a Facebook post which he wrote saying all those things.

I’m sad and hurt for her.  I’m angry at him.  I see it all happening all over again.  I remember my friends telling me what it was like seeing my relationship happen all over again with the girl he ended up legally marrying (1996-2007).

For a time, I thought he would change.  I thought this woman could do it.

I wondered if everything he did could be pinned on the FAS, if the real him was truly not responsible for the abuse, if he was truly Dr. Jekyll while Mr. Hyde was an illness beyond his control–but that could be eradicated by doctors.

I thought that because of the diagnoses and care of the doctors, which none of Phil’s exes ever had (he was diagnosed in 2010), Phil would finally turn away from his abusive behaviors.

But no.  Take this as a lesson to you: They simply don’t change.  They aren’t “different” with the next girlfriend.  She won’t “save” him.

And it isn’t your fault.  The abuse is not your fault.

It’s all his.

This is a lesson I, too, have been learning, trying to take it into my head and abolish all the lingering doubts, put there back when Phil insisted I was to blame for it all.

This knowledge is helping me to heal.  Hopefully it will help her as well.  She’s a sweet person who deserves much better than this.

Also see:

Abusive ex Phil has a new bride

Is this why my ex Phil was so abusive?

So Phil, my abusive ex-husband, is back in the hospital

Abusive Ex: Blame it on him, not mental illness

 

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Repost from 2016: Healing from abuse by friend: “Our movie” no longer stings

Yet another milestone reached in healing my heart from the betrayal by my former best friend:

A few months ago, I DVR’d The Trial, a 1962 movie with Anthony Perkins and Orson Welles, based on Franz Kafka’s unfinished work of the same name.  I wanted to see it again, but I wondered how I’d take watching it again: My former best friend and I watched it–dang, nearly 9 years ago now–back when he lived with us.  We loved it, and it sort of felt like “our movie.”

You see, I don’t know how it is for neurotypicals, but I attach sentimental value to movies I see with close friends.  That movie now connects to them, no matter how many years have passed, especially if I saw it for the first time with them.  Such as Addams Family Values, which I saw in the theater with my best friend from high school.  Or Wayne’s World 2, which I saw with my college roommies, or Lord of the Rings, which I saw with several old college friends along with the Hubby.

I watched many movies with my former best friend while he lived with us and after he moved out.  I don’t remember them all, but the ones I do remember, have attached to him.  So I have avoided those movies ever since.

Last year, I watched The Apostle for the first time since 2008, when I saw it with Richard, my former best friend.  Then, too, I feared that it would twinge my heart to watch it, but no, it didn’t.  Same with many songs which attached to him back then; I hear them now and then on my favorite Goth webstream or in my MP3s, but they no longer twinge my heart.  They used to be so painful to hear that I didn’t listen to them for years after Richard–who turned out to be a narcissist–betrayed me.

I feared The Trial would hurt to watch, while at the same time looking forward to watching it.

(First I wanted to re-read the book, which I first read in 2010.  I then lent it to Richard, but the betrayal happened, so I got it back from him, and it was covered in spaghetti sauce.  I thought I cleaned it, but found yet another stain before reading it a few weeks ago.  Yet more evidence that he wasn’t the friend I thought he was: He didn’t even have consideration for my books.  😛  )

I feared it would hurt to read, but it didn’t at all.  I barely thought about Richard while reading it.  Then tonight I watched it and–no, no pain at all.  Well, other than the typical purist reaction to a favorite book being adapted into a movie and things getting changed.  I barely thought about Richard while watching, except to think, “Hey, it’s not painful after all.”

I guess time really does heal, even when you think the hurt is too deep.  Think of how it would feel to Sam if Frodo finally threw him over for good: That’s how deep the wound was for me.  Only to discover later that Richard apparently didn’t feel at all the same.

Of course, I don’t know if actually physically seeing him again would hurt like it did back in 2010 and 2011, when he came to my church.  Maybe, maybe not.  Probably not nearly as bad.

When I saw him back then, after a year of healing and recovering, I came home and bent over crying, then was plunged back into a deep depression.  So you see, this is why I haven’t wanted to see him at church again.  (I haven’t wanted to see his wife, either, but that’s because she’s probably the meanest person I’ve ever known.)

I have worried about this for years, especially when the hypothetical merger of my church with his, became reality earlier this year.  But I still haven’t seen him there, so I doubt he wants anything to do with my church.  So I don’t think I should worry and wonder about that possibility anymore.  Which would be good, because that worry has been gnawing at my stomach for years now.

There are several movies which I haven’t seen in about 9 years, since I saw them with him, even though they’re old favorites.  I have avoided them on purpose.  Maybe it’s time to pull them out again.

 

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