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September 21, 2016

Dysfunctional Families: Think of the Children
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:00 AM * 248 comments

Normally when we use the phrase think of the children, it’s dismissive. And rightly so. The abstract possibility of children’s presence, a low-resolution notion of children’s safety, has been used as a club or a gag far too often. And the worst of it is, the people who say it are not thinking of the children, or they’d stop crying wolf and save that argument for when it really mattered. (When this is can be determined by listening to the children: a related skill, and indeed a basic prerequisite.)

I’ve read many stories about family breakdown in the news, heard them in conversation, seen them in my wider circle of friendship and acquaintance. These stories usually center on the adults whose relationships are in trouble, but I often find myself thinking of the children, wondering how they’re faring, wondering what hurt they’re suffering. Wishing someone could teach them how to navigate the situations they find themselves in far too young. So many of them will cope, but at a cost—one they’ll be paying interest on for years.

One thing that’s gone past my Twitter stream this last week is a British family court judgment written to be accessible to the people it affects: a mother who “often finds things hard to understand”, plus two children aged 10 and 12. Content warning for gaslighting. (But not, mercifully, for any neglect or physical or sexual abuse.)

I like this judge. He seems to be trying to give his intended audience the tools to deal with their situation, both explicitly and by example. So he says things like:

  • People can tell lies about some things and still tell the truth about other things.
  • I know that the children are loved and have been well looked after in many ways. Everyone says that the mother deserves praise for that, and praise also goes to Mr B and to Mr A when they deserve it.
  • There is a good side to Mr A - everyone has a good side - and this makes it hard for H and A and their mother to see what he is really like.
  • He has got inside her head and it will take time for her to recover.

He also talks about everyone in the story as people, with comprehensible motivations and reasons for their actions. The policewoman who was upset when Mr A put a video of her visit up on YouTube. Mr B, who has served time for violence and drugs offenses, but still tries to be a good father. The headteachers who have dealt with the family. The officials who exaggerated and skipped steps while reacting to the family’s trip to Turkey. Even Mr A, for good and ill.

And he talks about the children in the same way, with the same language. He writes with an awareness of what makes up their lives: school, home, parents and stepparents, grandparents, vacations; he treats these things as seriously as he does terrorism, religious extremism, crime, imprisonment. In doing this, he shows the children that they matter as much as adults do. That they have, as Jo Walton would say, equal significance.

This is what thinking of the children looks like. Thinking of them as people in need of concepts and tools for dealing with the situation they’re in and the people around them. Thinking about how to minimize the damage they’ll suffer from these chaotic circumstances. Thinking about how to support the good relationships in their lives and reduce the impact of this bad one.

Yes, please, let’s think of the children.


This is part of the sequence of Dysfunctional Families discussions. We have a few special rules, specific to the needs and nature of the conversations we have here.

  1. If you want to participate but don’t want your posts linked to your contributions to the rest of Making Light, feel free to choose a pseudonym. But please keep it consistent within these threads, because people do care. You can create a separate (view all by) history for your pseudonym by changing your email address. And if you blow it and cross identities, give me a shout and I’ll come along and tidy it up.
  2. On a related note, please respect the people’s choice to use a pseudonym, unless they make it clear that they are willing to let the identities bleed over in people’s minds.
  3. If you’re not from a dysfunctional background, be aware that your realities and base expectations are not the default in this conversation. In particular, please don’t do the “they’re the only family you have” thing. Black is white, up is down, and your addressee’s mother may very well be their nemesis.
  4. Be even more careful, charitable, and gentle than you would elsewhere on Making Light. Try to avoid “helpiness”/”hlepiness” (those comments which look helpful, but don’t take account of the addressee’s situation and agency). Apologize readily and sincerely if you tread on toes, even unintentionally. This kind of conversation only works because people have their defenses down.
  5. Never underestimate the value of a good witness. If you want to be supportive but don’t have anything specific to say, people do value knowing that they are heard.

Previous posts (note that comments are closed on them to keep the conversation in one place):

Comments on Dysfunctional Families: Think of the Children:
#1 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 08:07 AM:

Drive-by this morning. I'll have to come back later to read the link. On the basis of abi's summary, it sounds like the judge has exactly the wisdom one would wish for and is being a force for good in a bad situation.

And also, thanks, abi, as always, for keeping this community going.

#2 ::: Keeping it private... ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 10:59 AM:

I'm not going to say anything about the article that Abi linked. Instead, I'm going to take the opportunity of a dysfunctional families thread to do some brain-dumping. I've just recently started to realize how dysfunctional my family was, and I've really be needing to unload somewhere - can't pass up this opportunity.

I come from a family of three children. My siblings are both professional musicians. I'm a math geek. More importantly for what I'm talking about, I'm also someone with ADD.

My parents didn't get my ADD treated: they didn't believe in psycho-active medication. But I'm bright, and did well in school, so they pretty much just let me cope with the fallout.

Looking back now, I've realized that they really didn't like having a kid with ADD. They never came out and said it, but thinking back, it's quite clear that they were unhappy with me, and felt like I was broken, and so didn't deserve the attention, support, or resources that they gave to my siblings.

I was horribly bullied in school. They talked to the principal, and when he refused to do anything, they accepted it, and let me be beaten every day, because there was nothing they could do.

I was a born engineer: from the time I could walk, I was taking things apart and putting them together to figure out how it worked. But they way that my parents saw it, I was constantly messing things up because terrible ADD kid that I was, I couldn't stop myself.

When college time came around, my musician brother travelled up and down the east coast auditioning, and then attended a very expensive private music conservatory. A year later, I was told that we couldn't afford anything except the local state school. And living on campus was out of the question.

My sister, however, went to the same private music school as my brother. The money was only a concern when it was me.

I went to college as a commuter. I was given a weekly stipend that covered far less than my gas plus lunches. (At the time, gas was between $10 and $15 per week, depending on traffic; and lunch in the campus dining halls were $6.50/day. A lunch-only meal plan was out of the question: too much money, how could I ask them for that when they needed to save for my sister's college?)

I went through college skipping meals, because I had no money to pay for them. If I complained, it was time for the massive guilt trip. I wound up getting a job to pay for my meals, and when that affected my grades, well, you can imagine.

I ended up changing majors, and taking an extra year to graduate. The guilt trips were off the chart. I ended up getting a *second* job, and using that to save money to pay for the second semester myself of the extra year myself.

Putting that in just a tiny bit of perspective: my *entire* college tuition cost, for 5 years at my state school, cost less than 1 year for my sister. That extra semester, which I was so heavily guilted for, cost $2500; her yearly tuition (just tuition - no room and board) was $27K.

I feel like crap complaining about this. I got a college education (mostly) paid for. But I've just recently realized how much of a pattern this was. Money was only a problem when I needed something. Even *meals* was too much for me to ask for.

Anything I ever did wasn't good enough, because I was broken. I was a better student than either of my siblings - but what I got told was always that my grades weren't as good as they *could* be. If I over-reacted to being beaten up (which is (a) insane, and (b) a classic ADD thing - ADD affects impulse control), then I was provoking the abuse.

Every story that my parents told about me was always set up as a negative. They never talked about the hundreds of things that I fixed: just the one that I broke. When they talked about something good I did, it was always phrased in a negative way: not "X built this amazing thing", but "X is so obsessive that he made this thing".

I just turned 50, and I'm just beginning to understand how this affected me. In so many ways, I'm still broken. I never believe - I can't believe - that anyone actually likes me or wants to be with me. I'm married, but I'm constantly convincing myself that my wife is with me out of pity. I can't really believe that my coworkers respect me, because deep down, I believe that nothing that I do is ever good enough - because that's how things always were, growing up.

This is incoherent, and long, and frankly, makes me look like a jerk. But saying it helps, so wha the heck. I'll submit it.

#3 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 11:12 AM:

Keeping it private, I don't think it makes you sound like a jerk. It makes you sound like someone who had a hard time when younger, whose parents were helpful in some ways (paying tuition) and profoundly unhelpful in others, and you are still coming to grips with that. Witnessing.

(FYI, this post is linked to your other Making Light posts. If you don't want that, pick a different email address, which can be bogus, and send up a flag to abi or one of the gnomes, who will fix it.)

#4 ::: BlackAndTan ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 11:46 AM:

I haven't ever posted in one these, hence the new 'nick, but I read (most of) the judge's paper.

Then I thought of my own family's divorce from my father, when I was 12. I wondered what would have happened if we'd had any support like that, what would have happened if we had that judge.

Then I had a flashback. I feel pretty shaky, so I'm going to go do soothing shit right now. BUT. Sometimes other people really do see through the lies. Sometimes they act.

I remember being trapped with my dad on vacation, in Florida. We were in a restaurant. He yelled at me, and yelled at me, and YELLED at me. "You don't understand the REAL WORLD," he kept screaming.

Finally, I fled to the bathroom. I tried to clean my face with those wooden-colored paper towels. All scratchy.

A woman came in. She said. "Can I call someone for you?" and she said "No one has a right to treat you that way." and "It doesn't matter if he's 'right' about you. His behavior is not OK. He's abusive and I'm worried for your safety. I could call a shelter, too." And also, "I will pay for a cab. Or I can drive you, if that would feel better."

I told her no.

"I'm OK," I kept saying. "I'm OK."

That was a lie. I wasn't OK.

Took me many, MANY years to realize she was right.

Yeah, maybe time to go do something very soothing.

#5 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 11:49 AM:

Argh.

Putting this in words, and it looks so obvious.

"Your feelings are real, your feelings matter" is true, and also completely irrelevant in many (most?) situations, because most other people don't care unless they already care about you. It is only applicable to friend interactions and the privacy of your own space.

My older habit of hiding that I have feelings at all would have been more appropriate to a recent situation. My older habit of not telling people about a problem I'm having apparently would have ended better, than telling somebody (who officially says "if you have a problem with x, email me" no less!).

My feelings and my actual opinions are for people I trust. So: here, and my new best friend. The rest of the world isn't much different from the world that taught me it was safer for me to hide my feelings and opinions. (And I fear the day said friend and I have a disagreement about something that is not resolved by one of us explaining what is behind our opinion and the other replying with "oh, I didn't know that, I agree with you now that I see this other factor." I have no idea how to handle a fundamental disagreement other than with avoidance. Of the topic, at least, if I can't avoid the person.)

Also, my recent attempts at figuring out what emotions and opinions I am having, instead of denying them and underreacting to everything and pretending to be like Spock, seem to have opened the door to something I don't know how to handle, and I'm having a hard time going back when I need to be not revealing things. So I'm having all these emotions and I don't know what to do with them yet. And, of course, anxiety means things get turned up to 11 and I can't yet reliably tell what's an anxiety reaction and what is normal or reasonable to react strongly to.

#2, Keeping it private...: Long, but not at all incoherent or jerkish. That's a crappy way for parents to treat a child, made even more so by the contrast with the siblings. ("Can't afford it" was a thing in my childhood, but it was across the board because I grew up ... not quite poor, but definitely low income.)

#6 ::: Priscilla King ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 12:46 PM:

Linking because I'd like to be a good witness...and I'm always glad to see new content here.

#7 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 01:32 PM:

Keeping it private... @2: That sounds like an awful way to be treated by one's parents, and not fair to you at all. I don't think it makes you look like a jerk.

BlackAndTan @4, the invisible one @5: Witnessing. :(

Turns out that "this thing you did makes me feel unsafe, because of things in my past that aren't your fault" is something that I may or may not be able to express at all to New Lover without him getting mad, if the thing he did seems sufficiently innocuous (like joking about tickling me, repeatedly, over the course of 5 minutes, while I am driving, over my repeated and increasingly serious-in-tone objections). Apparently my explanation made him feel as though I was treating him like a child, and of course he would never hurt me, he loves me. And I believe him that he would never hurt me because he loves me, but also the people who have hurt me the most, across the board, have been people who I believe sincerely love(d) me deeply. I asked him if there was any way I could have explained it that would not have made him feel talked-down-to and he allowed as how there might not have been.

This makes me feel all kinds of uncertain, since like... I am also hurt when someone I would never lift a finger or say a word against feels unsafe around me. It isn't unreasonable to get upset when someone you love dearly says they don't, or maybe can't*, trust you. It isn't unusual for a man raised in America to get angry when he feels hurt. But this is also a pattern that someone who is genuinely dangerous to me might demonstrate.

* If he's as harmless as he usually seems, it's quite possible we can repair the fundamental wound that's causing the distrust. That would be lovely. But, if...

I need to feel comfortable bringing issues up for this relationship to work out long-term. This is the second or third time he's pressed on wounds left by my abusive ex. The first time, though, he responded nearly as reassuringly as he could have, and some of the old wounds that flared then are now in a better state than they've been in years, or possibly better than they've ever been, because of his patience and sweetness and love. But I'm starting to get more conflict-averse around him. So I don't know. :(

#8 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 01:46 PM:

(like joking about tickling me, repeatedly, over the course of 5 minutes, while I am driving, over my repeated and increasingly serious-in-tone objections)

This is not okay. It's not even close to being okay.

#9 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 01:58 PM:

Keeping it private @2:
You're really not the one who looks like a jerk in that narrative. Your parents clearly assigned you a role and never learned to see you as anything other than that person. And because you were a kid, and they were your first source of information about the way the world works, you believed them.

But that doesn't mean that they were right about you. I doubt very much that they were. Something in you doubts it too, because you're here and talking about this.

It's a lot of work to unpick this kind of thing. It can be really tiring and difficult. But recognizing that it is a thing is the first step. And it's a hopeful step. Something in you, some inner compass, knows what right is, or how would you know what not right is?

Also, if you post again with the same nick and a different email address (it doesn't have to be a working address for this), I'll change your first post to match that one.


BlackAndTan @4:
Witnessing this so hard. I hope your "something soothing" was fruitful.


the invisible one @5:
Wishing you strength as you figure out how to get your emotions into better order. Maybe the intensity will die down, like pressure bleeding off after a great spurt. But in either case, remember: it's just a skill. You can acquire it. Try things, see if they work, try other things if they don't.

I can give specific suggestions if it helps and doesn't hlep.


hope in disguise @7:
Witnessing.

#10 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 02:03 PM:

cyllan @8: ... so I immediately want to leap to his defense, of course. And I am never sure if this is because it is defensible, or if it is because it is so much less bad than the behavior I was originally hurt by.

Like, it might be not even close to being okay, but it is also "normal" to tease friends and loved ones beyond the bounds of reasonability, normal to a point where I'm pretty sure it's not useful to classify everyone who does that as a problem without significant additional evidence. And he grew up with fairly mainstream social norms, as far as I can tell, in particular the whole "friendly insults to close friends universally recognized as unserious and affectionate" thing, which I am anthropologically unconvinced is inherently bad or toxic, although it certainly can be on an individual basis.

But maybe I am only once again falling into the pattern of defending that which I should not because I love him, and a year from now maybe I will be tearing my heart apart as I realize just how bad for me he was. I hope not, but my personal track record isn't very promising.

#11 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 02:52 PM:

Hope @11:

My feeling is that when "friendly insults to close friends universally recognized as unserious and affectionate" becomes a defence for continuing after being told it doesn't feel like affection to you, it ceases to be okay.

The tickling isn't the problem, in my opinion, it's the "repeatedly...over my repeated...objections" that's the problem.

#12 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 03:16 PM:

#9, abi:

The intensity of an anxiety reaction dies down after a few days at most, usually, and I'm often left wondering what happened and being embarrassed about things I said or did. But it keeps coming back. I now have the name "anxiety" for it. I think only once or twice since I learned that name, have I managed to identify an anxiety reaction while it's happening. Which is more than before. I'm not sure if allowing myself to feel and acknowledge my emotions is making the anxiety reactions come more often, or not.

I'm not sure about suggestions. They might help. I suppose I won't know until I hear them. I'll probably have to wait a bit to sort out my reaction to them once I know what they are, as well, and that after I get a bit less exhausted from the past few days' mess. So I guess that's a yes please?

#10, hope in disguise:

Whether teasing, or tickling, or teasing about tickling is "normal" or not, I thought "don't distract the driver" was something most people learned early. (Assuming their family drove places or otherwise rode in vehicles, public or private, that had drivers, that is.) And distressing the driver by teasing them about something that is upsetting them is, among other things, very distracting.

I'm one who finds "friendly" insults not at all friendly, and teasing not at all fun, and tend to avoid people who repeatedly direct those behaviours at me even after knowing I dislike it. Although I hear you on finding it hard to reconcile that with somebody you're really close to. My track record is likewise terrible with regards to having relationships with people who are not good for me. (And who "just joke" about things in ways that I find hurtful, but they "would never hurt" me.)

#13 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 03:28 PM:

Buddha Buck @10, the invisible one @11: It's maybe worth noting that most of my objecting was done in a pretty playful, affectionate tone, and he may just not be very good at sorting out that it's a real objection when delivered in that tone; this has come up as a pattern in other less-problematic cases and he said probably I should just say outright that I'm getting annoyed so that he will understand and stop. And he does, when I say it straight. And I'm usually fine with him teasing me and joking around, and he doesn't tend to insult me or anything like that. I am just extra sensitive about tickling in particular, which he hadn't known.

(My first, abusive, boyfriend would tickle me mercilessly. A few times I was unable to get him to stop until I used a safeword, which we only had as a joke anyway, and that is not what those are for; we had not pre-established that it would not mean "no" when I said no to tickling. I explained this as a partial illustration of why tickling in particular is a scary subject of teasing to me, as part of the explanation that apparently made New Lover feel patronized...)

I don't know...

#14 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 03:51 PM:

the invisible one @12:

I'm mostly hesitant because the suggestions I have -- the things I do --- seem so simple. But it took me so long to think of them, to evolve the practice of coping.

When I'm overwhelmed by emotion, I try to:
* acknowledge the emotion and name it to myself, if I know the name. Otherwise use a neutral term like, I'm feeling really upset right now
* if I'm in company, excuse myself as though I need to go to the restroom
* if it's possible, find something beautiful or symmetrical to look at as I process
* fold my hands, position my body deliberately, control my breathing, and note my sensations as I do so. name them neutrally to myself (my skin is crawling. I feel touch-averse.)
* if possible, go somewhere quiet and read a book/do something meticulous†
* if not, recite poetry in my head or otherwise order my thoughts
* forgive myself for the emotional storm afterwards

During a really bad time in my life I started memorizing poetry to keep myself from thinking. Most of it's gone now, but the few things that remain are useful touchstones now. I got through that, I can get through this.

That's just what works for me. Your mileage may vary. Take what works and don't worry about the rest.

-----
† OK, these days that's usually saying the rosary, but that's not for everyone. And the mechanic matters: repetitive, beloved words going through the brain. Whatever they are.

#15 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 03:57 PM:

Oh, and I self-test. Every morning I play a couple of games of solitaire on my tablet, not to win or lose, but to observe my reactions to winning and losing, to the random fall of the cards.

For me the problem is usually depression, so I look for inappropriate pattern-matching ("I always lose"), blaming behavior ("I shouldn't have put that eight on the nine" said in a non-neutral fashion), or shame for the very rule-based approach I take to the game (it's just my neurology, but sometimes I'm ashamed of it. That's data.)

I can often catch a depressive episode before it manifests in public. It means I can give myself an extra amount of care and affection. Those are the days I take care to dress in a favorite garment, think compliments at strangers, look for extra beauty, seek out friends at the coffee machine.

(I found to my surprise that both Patrick and Teresa also use solitaire for self-testing, but of different things and checking for different symptoms).

#16 ::: Bricklayer tries to kick loose an Internal Server Error ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 04:27 PM:

Let's see if this works.

#17 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 04:28 PM:

abi @15: I also use clicky games as brain self-tests, but mainly because certain kinds of patternmaking are fairly straightforward for me when I am processing well, but fiddly and hard when I'm not. Failing at several games in a row of one of this sort of thing, instead of making it to about where I usually make it before I lose, tells me -- even when I haven't noticed for any other reason -- that I'm not as well as I think I am, and I should look to self-care options (am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired?).

My own reaction to the starting paragraphs up in the top post is: people whose first reflex is to say, "But think of the children!!" are also usually people who think there's really only one kind of working family, and if yours doesn't match their ideal (often similar to that in Leave it to Beaver), then your family is horrifically broken and must be forced repeatedly into their ideal mold until they "fix" it.

See also the people insisting that children raised by two parents of the same gender "obviously" "must" come out damaged by it, even though study after study has produced good data that they don't. Or the widespread treatment of Black mothers in America who do not currently have a husband (and possibly never have) as if they are some kind of hussy spongers -- when generally speaking, most such families have a very engaged male father figure who is around and contributes monetarily. He's just not married to the mother in question.

It's assumptions and gaslighting all the way down, and trying to simplify a messy (but often functional) world into a stereotype.

Or, to confirm in spirit while refuting in detail that quote from Anna Karenina: I think it's strongly misleading to say "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

Unhappy, dysfunctional families often have an awful lot in common with each other when it comes to structural factors and communication patterns. Functional, happy families often get the job done in really diverse ways, that all add up to the same kind of (but not the SAME) structural choices about communication, agency, and the like.

#18 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 04:53 PM:

Keeping It Private, that is an awful way of parenting if one hopes to get functional adults out of it. Plural functional adults, even. I do the same thing with fixing and/or breaking things; a roommate once asked me to stop fixing the toilet because I was doing it over the course of a few days (had to see if it worked and I wasn't going to spend an entire afternoon watching it run) and some of the fixes were diagnostically-useful failures. I did eventually fix it.

Black and Tan, wow, that is intense, and I'm sorry.

My own Dys Day... I realized slash was straight-up told that I have been hurting my best friend for a year now. Thoughtlessly, carelessly, or when I make the wrong call on things-- I get angrier when I'm accused of thoughtlessness when I was wrong, but it doesn't matter on her end because she doesn't live in my head. So I've been chewing on that for a while (longer than a while, really; many of my wrong calls happened after quite a lot of awful thoughts.)

Strength to everyone.

#19 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 05:04 PM:

Keeping it private, #2: Seconding what abi said. Your description clearly shows that it was your parents, not you, who were jerks. Your Assigned Role in the family was (and perhaps still is) to be the Black Sheep, or perhaps the Ugly Stepdaughter (note: roles are gender-neutral, even if the names aren't), and to serve as a dumping place for all the negative energy so that the rest of the family could have a Fifties Family TV Show dynamic.

Since you're starting to recognize all of this, do you think that therapy would be a useful option for you? It's really hard to process this kind of crap on your own, and friends or support groups can only go so far. I'm also thinking that it's not fair to your wife to keep believing that she's only with you out of pity, or to your co-workers to keep thinking that they don't respect you, when you've already identified these things as being inside your head. I'm not trying to tell you what to do, but I do think you should consider the therapy option.

hope in disguise, #7/10: Like, it might be not even close to being okay, but it is also "normal" to tease friends and loved ones beyond the bounds of reasonability

No. No, it really isn't normal to do that. Yes, you can say things to close friends and loved ones that you wouldn't say to people less close, but even with them there are limits. And one of those limits is that if you accidentally overstep and they say, "Hey, that hurt!", you BACK OFF -- apologize and don't say that thing again.

This is all part of the Culture of Bullying. What I heard in your first post was "he's not hearing you say no" -- or, worse, "he's been taught that someone saying no is no big deal". And yes, that's a problem which is going to have to be addressed.

He says your explanation made him feel like a child. Has it occurred to him that he was acting like a child -- specifically, the kid in the back seat who (having been told not to touch his sister) keeps poking at her, stopping just short of touching each time, and then saying, "But I'm not touching you! What are you so upset about? I'm not touching you!"

Also, tickling in general is a really sticky topic because it is both (1) a common mode of parent/child interaction which both parties enjoy and is generally harmless, and (2) a socially-acceptable form of torture hiding under that umbrella. If he's "joking" about tickling you over your repeated objections, that's shading toward #2 and I would consider it a warning sign. How serious a warning sign depends on whether he can accept that you REALLY don't want him to do that and modifies his behavior accordingly, and whether or not he does similar boundary-pushing things in other areas.

#20 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 05:42 PM:

Keeping it private @2: Yeah, my brother was the Star, and I was the Hidden Child. (See prev DFD re Roles.) I didn't face anything like the "austerity" imbalance you did, but I also learned pretty early not to ask for anything much. It's really hard, coming out of that, to approach life with the idea that one deserves space, attention, and resources.

BlackAndTan @4: Oh, my. I am reminded of the time my mother hauled me off to the psychiatrist because she couldn't deal with my vivid imagination. It was only in retrospect that I realized I might have had an ally there. But, at 7, that idea wasn't available to my worldview. :-(

An escape exists only if you can see out through the gate. (Which makes the Orcus link in the Open Thread quite timely.)

the invisible one @12: I'm not sure if allowing myself to feel and acknowledge my emotions is making the anxiety reactions come more often, or not.

In my experience, it's less that those reactions come more often than it is that my threshhold for awareness lowers and I become better able to identify them. They were always there. I just couldn't see them before.

And what's really weird is the number of different disguises anxiety can come in.

abi @14: if it's possible, find something beautiful or symmetrical to look at as I process,
and also
the mechanic matters: repetitive, beloved words going through the brain.

Interesting: a lot of those bear strong resemblances to various mindfulness practices I've encountered.

These both rhyme strongly with my experience doing artwork. I usually have video running in the background (these days it's ancient archeology), but occasionally I'll work to silence,* and that has the interesting effect of keeping the front part of my mind interested and occupied, while "Stuff" runs through the back part.

Forever, I thought that back-brain processing was just anxious spinning, but I finally realized that there's actually quite a bit of digesting that's going on, too, that very specifically requires (or at least deeply benefits from) non-interference from the front part of my mind. And that this digestion is actually pretty time-consuming, so it's good to have large blocks of time available.

* I should probably do this more.

& @15: Huh. Deliberately running diagnostics. Now there's an interesting idea....

Bricklayer @17: certain kinds of patternmaking are fairly straightforward for me when I am processing well, but fiddly and hard when I'm not.

::snort:: I spent the morning fighting intransigent software. Then I finally remembered: "Oh. Right: three hours sleep last night. Yeah, that would account for that." :-)

Diatryma @18: Um, Ask vs Guess?

It's unfortunate that Friend has framed it as your "thoughtlessness" since, presumably, Friend also has words and knows how to use them.

Lee @19: No. No, it really isn't normal to do that.

Well, modulo adequate, ongoing, healthy negotiation. I've seen relationships where that kind of back-and-forth is clearly fun and healthy for the participants. But that's also clearly because they have worked out what they enjoy, and what works for them.

Has it occurred to him that he was acting like a child

Yeah, I had that thought, too.

#21 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 05:43 PM:

abi @0: BTW, I so love that the OP is about somebody getting something right.

#22 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 08:43 PM:

Witnessing for everyone. I'm too busy these days to participate much, but I can at least witness.

#23 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2016, 10:07 PM:

What Alex R. said. (And one more "you don't sound like a jerk to me" to Keeping it private.)

#24 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 12:23 AM:

Come to witness, stay for useful emotion-processing techniques. Thanks, abi. I need those a lot this week.

I am again having the problem where Recent Personal Interaction Trauma is haunting the back of my mind, ready to jump out and replay itself on any circuits not currently being used for conscious, deliberate thought. Like, when cooking, or playing clicky-games.

Of late, I have found that physically picking up the Patricia McKillip book I most recently reread and turning to the last page to read the final couple paragraphs aloud (or at least "mentally aloud") helps somewhat. Even if I have to do it several times in an hour. I suppose it's a similar dynamic to the rosary, as a use of beloved words. (The Book of Atrix Wolfe, in case anyone's wondering. Not my favorite of her books, but possibly one of my favorite last pages.)

"Naming the emotion" is surprisingly helpful. It was ridiculously freeing to realize I wasn't just feeling chronically miserable because of recent personal interactions, but I was also feeling angry at the injustice of having to feel miserable. Like, "I should be happy! It is unfair that I don't get to be happy!" It was oddly empowering to recognize and name that component of the unhappiness.

Mostly the passage of time helps, but having something proactive to do while waiting for the passage of time helps more.

#25 ::: Dogcow ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 01:16 AM:

Today I had a bizarre conversation. Folks were talking about how their SO had said something hurtful. Someone said "did you tell them that they hurt your feelings" and "you should tell them."

So I asked why. What good would it do?

They talked about discussing the hurtful thing, and empathy, and I just sat there not wanting to ask any more questions because I felt like a space alien. I still don't understand what good they thought it would do to tell someone "you hurt me."

If I say "you hurt me" the response will be "No I didn't" or "You're too sensitive" or "well you hurt me first." None of these are productive conversations, so why bother having them? Why pick a fight?

#26 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 02:42 AM:

If I tell my SO, or any of my friends, "that thing you did† hurt me", I expect* the following sequence of reactions:
1. An apology
2. Optionally, a request for clarification. This will not challenge my feeling hurt or my right to feel hurt, but merely try to understand and narrow down what about their behavior was hurtful.
3. A proposed solution for the future. This could be many things:
* a sincere resolution to change (even if it's difficult and there will be backsliding)
* a mutual decision to avoid the topic/situation in question because of incompatible and deeply-held views
(* special outcome for my relationships with toddlers and adolescents: I just suck it up after discussion, because it's a developmental phase)
* some other mutually agreed-upon outcome

Sometimes, if we haven't cleared the air in a while, my comment that I'm feeling hurt will be answered by a "well, you do this and it hurts me." Because of the history of good faith in these relationships, I will tackle that alongside expecting the other person to tackle their issues.

This is all predicated on a mutually-agreed (often implicitly, but mutually-agreed nonetheless) goal that friendship/partnership is about mutual happiness, support, and respect. Sometimes friendships and partnerships lose sight of that, and the irritation builds until everything is annoying. That's a relationship in trouble, and should be treated as such**; it's not how things should be.

In my life, anyway.

-----
† note the phrasing; it's designed to place weight on the action, not the person. The distinction shouldn't matter, but sometimes it does.
* and get, because people who don't do this rapidly stop being counted as friends
** which is to say it's time to fish (do some hard talking and hard work) or cut bait (part company)

#27 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 04:12 AM:

Strength, Diatryma.

It sounds from here like you have some internal blame-things going on that are getting in the way of both the friendship and your ability to untangle the problem?

#28 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 08:40 AM:

Jacque, with my friend, she's entirely right. It's, as she put it, that for the last year, much of the relationship we have has happened in my head rather than outside it. That's not okay. There are several life changes coming up in the next year, and they affect her as well as me, so 'in my head' isn't the place to keep our friendship.

#29 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 08:50 AM:

I'm going to write some first reactions to abi's post and the pointer she provided, before I read the comments and join the ongoing conversation.

Despite it's simple, direct and clear language, this report is very hard going for me, personally. That's because of the dynamic that abi describes very succinctly in her top-post: in all my years of "think of the children", when I was a child I sure as hell was not personally considered that way. Thus, I learned, early and often, how much of that care for the children was meant to be understood as the purest of abstractions.

I won't call my parents abusive - just short-sighted and unwelcoming. Us kids were "protected" from the hard realities of the expense of household bills, until we asked for something nice for a Christmas or birthday (or even a fun meal out), and then it was often, "You kids don't know what we go through!!" and "How can you kids be so selfish?"

But "we don't let you starve, do we?" passed their lips more than once, and then "It was just a joke, of course we love you!" when one dared to point out that feeding (housing/clothing) a child in one's care would be something of a minimum, done not in expectation of thanks but as a basic expression of love.

I wasn't an angel, who is? But damn, with that abstraction of "children" some people say they're protecting, you'd have to be an angel to gain that protection.

*sigh* Sorry, I've worked myself into a lather. I'll see if I can receive some of the gems I always find here, thanks to abi's good care in curating this community.

Crazy(as in "They f*ck you up, your mum and dad" kind of way)Soph

#30 ::: Keeping it private... ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 09:09 AM:

@19: As a result of the high school beatings, I've got pretty severe social anxiety disorder with PTSD. A few years ago, after realizing that SAD was a thing which could be treated, I started to get some therapy.

My boss at the time (at nameless large tech company) found out I was getting therapy, and forced me to leave the job. (Basically, he needed a scapegoat, and finding out he had someone with SAD was like a gift: the perfect scapegoat.)

I had to stop the therapy at the time, because with the loss of income, I couldn't afford it anymore. (Therapy wasn't covered by my insurance.)

For a kind-of broken depressed SAD guy, reaching out to get therapy was difficult. Actually go through the therapy sessions was really hard and painful. Four years on from that whole episode, starting it all over again is just not something I'm up to right now.

@20: If it was just favoritism, that my parents were more happy with my brother's musical talent than my mathematical/engineering thing, I think I could understand it. I wouldn't be all right with it, but I think I'd feel better about it. What's been weighing on me since I figured al of this out is that it isn't that he had some positive quality that they liked: it's that they saw me as broken - that there was something wrong with me, and that made me not worthy of the same level of love and respect as my brother and sister.

I've got two kids now, and they've both got ADD. (Genes will tell.) Both of them have wound up taking medication for it. I look at them, and think about what I'd do if they were getting bullied at school the way that I was.

I always really believed that my parents loved me. But when I look at my kids, and think about what I'd do if they got one tenth of the abuse that I did? I'd be in that damned school with a squad of lawyers to force them to take action to stop it. The thought of just letting it happen? I cannot begin to imagine it.

And when I remember some of the things they did for my brother, intervening with teachers he had trouble with, etc.... If it were him or my sister being beaten? They wouldn't have stood for it.

That's what makes this so painful. Realizing that there's something wrong with me that made them feel like it was OK for me to go through this, that I wasn't worth the trouble of intervening.

#31 ::: Keeping it private... ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 09:14 AM:

@25:

That's something that my wife and I struggled with at times. She's chinese, and comes from a family that is totally non-communicative. In her family, you don't come out and talk about things that other people did that upset you; you just quietly show, through behavior, that you're hurt, and hope they notice.

The thing is, communication is valuable and important. You can't fix a problem if you don't know what the problem is.

Talking about it accomplishes two things:

- It informs them that they're doing something that hurts you, so that they can respond. If they actually care about you, it gives them the information they need to stop hurting you.

- It lets you express the pain that they're inflicting on you in a non-harmful way.

If their response is to just get defensive and deny the hurt? You should get out of the relationship, because you're dealing with someone who doesn't care that they're hurting you.

#32 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 09:28 AM:

abi @14, 15: That seems like a very useful list/process/starting point, thank you. I wonder what sort of thing would be good for me to use as a self-test, because that also sounds like a Good Idea.

Diatryma @18: Ouch. :( Strength and witnessing.

Lee @19: I don't think he heard the "Hey, that hurt!" until the conversation about why it hurt was underway, at which point he had backed off. Which is a particular kind of problem, that is probably easier to address than not listening. He's good at hearing and respecting "no" when he expects it to be real and to matter, e.g. during sex. It's just that tickling is also real and also matters, and he did not know that.

Has it occurred to him that he was acting like a child....? Ahaha no, I don't think it had. Nor would have occurred to me. :) Your observation makes me feel a bit better for some reason.

He may have gotten into a bad pattern with his previous girlfriend where when she disagreed with him he would be dismissive and talk down to her. A friend talked to him about it and I think he tried to work on it, but I should be watching out for that sort of thing.

Dogcow @25: The experiences you have had with telling people that they have hurt you are not good, and should not be normal. I am sorry that you have had them.

abi @26: Oh, another really good process description. Thank you.

crazysoph @29: My mother also did the "you should be grateful that we feed you and house you and love you" thing. It didn't particularly help her case, although I never had the impression as such that my behavior was the problem, as opposed to her just being bad at parenting.

Keeping it private... @30: It's not that there is something wrong with you; it's that they decided there was something wrong with you. ADD doesn't make you broken or less worthwhile; it just changes what you need to function well and thrive. Your parents felt that they couldn't or didn't want to give that to you, for reasons that have nothing to do with your inherent worth as a human being. Witnessing. :(


On coping skills and communication: I've noticed recently that I sometimes snap at people I love for reasons that turn out to not be quite true or justified, and I would like to stop, but I don't know how to insert a gap between "emotional reaction" and "verbal reaction" to go wait, I don't actually want to bite them.

#33 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 10:05 AM:

Dogcow, #25: Add me to the chorus of those saying, "If this is your only experience of telling people they've done something that hurts you, then you're hanging out with the wrong people." ALL of the responses you say you're used to getting are abusive. Yes, there are several social sub-cultures in which that kind of abusiveness is the norm, but it is NOT the norm for a healthy relationship. You're not a space alien, but there's a good chance you've been raised by space aliens. This doesn't mean that you have to continue putting up with that kind of treatment. You are worthy of respect, and of not being abused.

Keeping it private, #30: I hear you about the difficulty of getting back into therapy, and will hope on your behalf that at some point you do feel up to doing it.

Realizing that there's something wrong with me THEM that made them feel like it was OK for me to go through this, that I wasn't worth the trouble of intervening.

This is not something you need to blame yourself for. Parents who are doing it right don't just abandon a child because he or she has medical issues. You understand this, and I don't think it's just because of what you went thru; I think you'd feel the same way about one of your kids getting bullied even if your own school experience had been unexceptionable. The problem was not with you, it was with THEM.

hope in disguise, #32: Fixing this kind of problem tends to go in stages:
1) You don't notice that it happens.
2) You notice it after it's happened.
3) You notice it while it's happening.
4) You notice it before it happens.
5) You start being able to keep it from happening.

It sounds like you're at stage 2 or maybe stage 3. The fact that you're noticing it at all is important, because without that you can't do anything about it. The rest of it just requires a little more awareness of your own emotional states, which will happen on its own now that you've started the process and want to continue. Depending on how much you trust your friends, you might consider asking them to flag you if they see the build-up to one of those events happening; sometimes it's easier for a person on the outside to catch the warning signs.

#34 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 11:23 AM:

Diatryma @28: she's entirely right. ... so 'in my head' isn't the place to keep our friendship.

Oh, dear. Yes, that can be a problem. It sounds like you're responding in good faith, though.

Keeping it private @30: That's what makes this so painful. Realizing that there's something wrong with me that made them feel like it was OK for me to go through this, that I wasn't worth the trouble of intervening.

That is heartbreaking, and so, so wrong. Do I correctly gather that you've never been in a position to confront them about this? (Not that they'd acknowledge their wrongdoing if you did, but—)

hope in disguise @32: Pulling this out for emphasis:

Keeping it private @30: It's not that there is something wrong with you; it's that they decided there was something wrong with you. ADD doesn't make you broken or less worthwhile; it just changes what you need to function well and thrive. Your parents felt that they couldn't or didn't want to give that to you, for reasons that have nothing to do with your inherent worth as a human being.

...

I've noticed recently that I sometimes snap at people I love for reasons that turn out to not be quite true or justified, and I would like to stop, but I don't know how to insert a gap between "emotional reaction" and "verbal reaction" to go wait, I don't actually want to bite them.

What I've found useful in this kind of situation: pay attention to what's happening around and before my unwanted reaction. In the beginning, this review usually happens in retrospect, as I'm pondering the situation in my mind (or in my journal). But over time, with experience, I learn what to watch for (which is one reason I think abi & Bricklayer's diagnostics are so brilliant), and can spot situations where I'm likely to react "badly." I can then put resources in place (extra sleep, a meal, permission to myself to leave the situation, &c) to handle things better.

#35 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 11:26 AM:

My DFD issue: I have a longtime friend who has, up until recently, been absolutely stone reliable and trustworthy.

In the last six months or so, things have started to get...weird. The most conspicuous shifts have been that Friend's presence in interactions has been eroding. Starting with an increasing compulsion to finish my sentences for me—incorrectly*, progressing to blowing off attempts to coordinate a project for Friend's benefit. The most recent round, which really brought me up short: getting together to watch a movie (which is a thing we've done regularly since forever). I asked if we wanted to queue up a second movie for a double-bill. "No, let's spend some time talking instead." Cool! I love conversation with Friend, don't get anything like enough.

Friend arrives, (forty-five minutes late, without bothering to check in about the delay—this has historically never happened). Then, instead of being present for talking, takes what turns out to be long and very loud call from Offspring. Then, when the call finally ends, instead of engaging with me, settles down with work on the laptop, not responding to any attempts to fire up conversation. Finally, I finish puttering, start up the movie (which was terrible). Movie ends, Friend doesn't have time to chat because (something else).

So, in general, WTF? I've been wracking my brains for things that I might have done to precipitate this shift, and have come up with some candidate Clueless Blunders on my part. But I don't Know, and Friend hasn't said; hasn't, by point of fact, been available for interaction of any sort.

I've largely gone quiet. We've been friends for >25 years, with greater and lesser closeness. So I figure I'll just let things steep for a while.

But this time, it feels different. I really really hope it's not Over. But I'm afraid.

* This has always been there to some extent, but in the past, I could either navigate it or throw a flag on the play to bring Friend's attention back into consensus experience.

#36 ::: Keeping it private... ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 11:29 AM:

@34:

Do I correctly gather that you've never been in a position to confront them about this?

Yeah, they both died - my dad around 8 years ago, and my Mom around 2 years ago.

(And guess who was left holding the bag to clean up their debts, and dispose of their home?)

#37 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 12:29 PM:

Jacque, it might not be you; it might be Friend. I remember serious behavior-changes in a friend of mine shortly before a psychotic break (his, not mine) -- only really troubling in retrospect, alas.

Is it possible that your friend is just experiencing bad brain-weather? Maybe difficulties with Offspring (which might explain the distractedness AND the long call)?

#38 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 12:55 PM:

#14, abi: the suggestions I have -- the things I do --- seem so simple. But it took me so long to think of them

All the more reason to share, if they take so long to figure out.

One thing I immediately like about your list is that it doesn't matter if I'm dealing with an anxiety reaction or not, it just acknowledges that I'm feeling what I'm feeling. That's been a big turnoff for me about many anxiety-related coping things (at least the way I have read them) in that they focus on how the anxiety reaction is wrong and the feelings and thoughts need to be corrected. Having had nearly all my anger and upset deemed "overreacting" and needing to be corrected regardless of whether something actually upsetting or infuriating is happening or it actually is an anxiety thing has left me very touchy about being told my emotions are wrong. Even though anxiety reactions pretty much by definition are overreactions.

The actual physical quietening things, I'll have to figure out how I can apply them. Too often I have a schedule to keep and can't just disappear until I calm myself down. Have to get to work on time, have to do certain things. The last few days at work I have tried as much as possible to do my work without exchanging more than a few work-related words with the people around me. I think I can hold reasonably calm work-related conversations without the people around me seeing anything other than maybe I look tired. I hope.

I have found that distraction is so far the only thing that works to let me continue to function when I'm really upset. Forcibly earworming myself (lately with "it all goes around", after seeing the link here to somebody setting that little SF song to music) helps to drive out most other thoughts.

#15, abi: For me the problem is usually depression, so I look for inappropriate pattern-matching ("I always lose"), blaming behavior ("I shouldn't have put that eight on the nine" said in a non-neutral fashion), or shame for the very rule-based approach I take to the game

Hm, self testing to look for specific things, rather than noticing them only when they get loud enough they can't be ignored. That sounds very useful. I must think about what sort of self test will work best for me.

My predominant internal narrative the past few days has been that I'm a horrible awful person who should never be trusted to interact with humans ever again. Which is obviously untrue as I'm also having a perfectly reasonable conversation with best friend, and talking here without attacking anybody, and getting work done at work, and so on. But truth makes no dent in internal narratives like that.

Although I've been in a not very good situation for over a year now, so my baseline is kind of skewed. There are still periods of worse that could be identified.

#20, Jacque: In my experience, it's less that those reactions come more often than it is that my threshhold for awareness lowers and I become better able to identify them. They were always there. I just couldn't see them before.

That is a possibility. But... one of the fearmonsters that harries my heels now and again grew out of a description of developing agoraphobia, where avoiding a thing because it causes anxiety reinforces avoiding things until everything is avoided, a positive feedback loop of noping out of things. I worry that by starting to acknowledge and express my emotions, I'm opening up a positive feedback loop of freaking out about things.

And what's really weird is the number of different disguises anxiety can come in.

No kidding.

#25, Dogcow: If I say "you hurt me" the response will be "No I didn't" or "You're too sensitive" or "well you hurt me first." None of these are productive conversations, so why bother having them? Why pick a fight?

Or "I'm hurt that you think I hurt you." Or, later, using the thing I said hurt me to hurt me again, or more.

#39 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 01:08 PM:

Cassy B.: Thank you, yes actually. Both are possibilities, doubtless plus possible additional unknown factors.

Oh yeah, come to think: Friend has also been fighting long-term MASSIVE dysfunction at work, which has been getting steadily worse, as well (which was the precipitating factor for previous visit which Really Didn't Work), as well as a comparatively new Significant Relationship.

Two useful side notes: our relationship has enough length and depth that I'm confident taking an extended break won't, by itself, be fatal to the friendship.

Also, echoing Diatryma above, I'm becoming much more conscious of how much of my relationship with Friend has underpinnings inside my head: I see art and I think, "Friend would enjoy this." I see movie trailers, "for movie queue with Friend!" In a way, it's good, because it's a reminder of how much positive impact Friend has on my general well-being, even by just being in my world.

#40 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 01:31 PM:

the invisible one @38: That's been a big turnoff for me about many anxiety-related coping things (at least the way I have read them) in that they focus on how the anxiety reaction is wrong and the feelings and thoughts need to be corrected.
...
has left me very touchy about being told my emotions are wrong

THANK you. This just snapped into focus my own discomfort with things like cognitive behavioral therapy.

anxiety reactions pretty much by definition are overreactions.

Well, except: if that's what it takes to get noticed...? (Sort of like the coworker who once scolded me for yelling at her. Which I did because my previous three attempts to get her attention had utterly failed...?)

I'm opening up a positive feedback loop of freaking out about things.

Yes, that can be a concern, I agree. There are two rulers I hold up against that worry: Am I feeling choiceful in my aversion*? And more specifically, does Bricklayer's @17 HALT search produce a hit?

* Which references a specific experience of a teacher actually showing me the difference between what choice feels like versus fear/anxiety.

#41 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Gardener of Threads ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 01:54 PM:

Keeping it private...:

I've synchronized email addresses. If you (or anyone) makes a mistake and needs a cleanup, flag me and I'll come sort it out.

#42 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 02:27 PM:

#40, Jacque: This just snapped into focus my own discomfort with things like cognitive behavioral therapy.

Yes, CBT is one of the things I was specifically thinking about when I said that. Many people say it's a wonderful tool for treating anxiety, so I read about it and it kind of freaks me out. By which I mean oh hell no, but I couldn't say that the first time I wrote this because that would be overreacting, so I softened it with "kind of".

Well, except: if that's what it takes to get noticed...? (Sort of like the coworker who once scolded me for yelling at her. Which I did because my previous three attempts to get her attention had utterly failed...?)

I think... anxiety reactions are overreactions, but not all "overreactions" are anxiety, perhaps. And the latter are often defined as such by the person who doesn't like your entirely reasonable reaction. "No need to shout" when a normal tone of voice had no effect, as in your example.

There are two rulers I hold up against that worry: Am I feeling choiceful in my aversion*? * Which references a specific experience of a teacher actually showing me the difference between what choice feels like versus fear/anxiety.

Hm. Other than being calm when making the decision? Actually calm, that is, not "suppressing things because I'm being told to relax and forcing my muscles to go soft to prove I'm relaxed" calm.

And more specifically, does Bricklayer's @17 HALT search produce a hit?

"Tired" applies to me basically all the time right now.

"Angry" does far more often than I'd like. I spend a lot of time with a kind of free-floating anger at all of humanity which regularly sharpens into hating the people around me, from people at work who leave their work space a mess (which I have to work in too, grr) to the JWs at the transit station standing beside their pamphlets smiling politely at people to the people all dressed up and out on a Friday night when I'm exhausted and coming home from work to people having conversations that I have no choice but to overhear because transit vehicles are not big enough to avoid them.

Avoiding making decisions while tired or angry would, right now, make me avoid all decisions.

"Hungry" at least is something I can control.

"Lonely" ... I don't know. I used to say I don't get lonely. Maybe I didn't, or maybe I was just used to it. Maybe the groups I was part of and the relationships I was in (however bad they turned out to be) filled enough of that need that it didn't really matter that I had no really close friends for large portions of my life. Those people I've told that I feel most lonely in a crowd look at me like I'm some kind of freak. (Or that's how I interpret their reaction, maybe they're just baffled.) But I really do feel this deep sense of loss when I'm in a crowd and everybody around me is (seems to be) enjoying themselves. If I were in exactly the same place doing exactly the same thing but there were few or no other people around, I wouldn't feel lonely, I'd be enjoying the space, or at least using the space without a sense of loneliness. (Friday nights on transit vs. Monday nights. I see this in myself every week that I am not hating on the Friday night people.)

#43 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 02:43 PM:

the invisible one @42: But I really do feel this deep sense of loss when I'm in a crowd and everybody around me is (seems to be) enjoying themselves.

That rhymes very deeply with things that I have felt. There are crowds in which I do not feel this, but often enough, yeah, I feel something wistful and lonely and painful. What is wrong with me that I can't seem to drop into this flow the way that they seem to? Am I broken, am I not-like-them, will I ever belong anywhere?

There have been, at various points, crowds where I don't feel this, and it definitely correlates with negative brainweather, but. Sympathy, empathy. I don't think feeling lonely in a crowd makes you a freak; it makes perfect emotional sense to me.

#44 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 02:56 PM:

#43, hope in disguise: I feel something wistful and lonely and painful. What is wrong with me that I can't seem to drop into this flow the way that they seem to? Am I broken, am I not-like-them, will I ever belong anywhere?

Yes, that describes the feeling very well.

#45 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 04:25 PM:

I think the judge made a careful and judicious decision. In fact, I am deeply impressed by the care and judiciousness of the decision. That is the kind of thoughtfulness that we all seek, and that is not achieved as often as we would like.

I am intrigued by the idea, mentioned in the comments, of self-testing for depression. As someone who worries that certain kinds of memory lapse (why do I remember something I have recently learnt belonging to category A, but not something else in the same category learnt at the same time?) is a sign of depression, I wonder if there are reliable tests I can run on myself, or if the fact that I want to test myself (or even that I worry about falling into depression) indicates that I am not depressed.

#46 ::: ADDing Machine ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 05:11 PM:

Keeping it private: My mind is blown at the way your parents treated you. Witnessing. Honestly their behaviour had absolutely nothing to do with your ADD, or anything you did or didn't do; that was just an excuse.

As another person with ADD, I want to stress that you are not broken.

You probably know this but one (very real) way of looking at ADD is not as a disorder at all, but a different kind of brain function. The traits associated with ADD -- like most personality traits -- really have both good and bad versions. For example, the primary symptoms of ADD/ADHD are distractability, hyperactivity, and impulsivity; but in the right context, these become creativity, energetic-ness*, and spontenaity.

I think one of the problems is that, as both kids and adults, (most) everyone gets taught self-management skills: time management, organization, discipline, emotional regulation, etc. But a lot of what we get taught just doesn't work when you have ADD -- just like a lot of what works for someone with ADD would be useless for most other people. And when it doesn't work, all too often the "explanation" is a moral failing (I'm just being lazy, or stupid, or ...). I'm very fortunate that by some miracle my parents never went there, by word or by action, but I've been very "successful" at supplying those accusations myself.

I was only diagnosed with ADD a few years ago (in my mid thirties). So I grew up not knowing what the hell was wrong with me, and it only got worse as an adult. (Grad school gives a lot of people self-esteem issues even without ADD...) I'm still struggling with the deep-seeded conviction that I really am stupid, lazy, etc, on _top_ of the ADD; I'm not sure how much of that is true, but I'm quite sure it's not as true as I think it is.

So I've only just recently started to learn about this ADD thing, what it does, and how to work with it and manage it -- and with the fallout from 30+ years of living with it undiagnosed. But I'm also learning about the positive things I can use it for, and working on steering my career (and the rest of my life) to take advantage of those things. (I'm in the very early stages but I've already seen the difference I've made.)

[If a suggestion is welcome, here's one (if not, please ignore this paragraph): One increasingly popular option for treating ADD is what's called an "ADD Coach". This is not a counselor. It's a person who helps you to manage your priorities, to develop skills to control your focus, to figure out how to keep track of time and deadlines, and so on, in a way that actually works for your brain. I mention this because you said you're not up to therapy right now; this might be something you'd be interested in. I haven't tried this yet myself due to financial constraints but it's on my radar.]

You're probably behind on learning the same life skills everyone else takes for granted, since everyone else was actually taught stuff they could use. But these are still skills you can learn.

The point of all this is that you are not broken, not even kind-of.

---

* Not sure how to noun "energetic". "Energy" doesn't seem to have the right connotations.

#47 ::: Ghost Boy ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 06:29 PM:

Hearing a lot of stuff that rhymes with my experience. Haven't had much energy lately due to illness, but I was simultaneously the Smart One and the Broken One, subtype Flake.

If I was upset or caught short by a change of plans, it was always my fault for "not listening" -- even after my hearing loss and ADD were diagnosed, even if the change of plans was made in another room. If my memories didn't match someone else's, theirs was always "reality". And Mom, as I realized much later, was a steamroller -- if what I wanted or thought didn't match her worldview, she'd just ignore it.

And especially, she didn't have any patience with "boy stuff", or ability to teach me male roles. We did see Dad alternate weekends, but after a while that meant visiting with his new family -- my stepmother was, if anything, an even worse steamroller than Mom, and even I could tell that my stepbrothers were not good role models. (The dinnertime saying at their table was "there's plenty if you're fast"....)

#48 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2016, 10:02 PM:

I'm not sure if this belongs here. If not, Abi, please feel free to delete it.

Coca-Cola has been running a TV commercial for some months, showing a pair of brothers. They call it "Brotherly Love", but to me (and several friends I've discussed it with), it's normalizing a very bad bully/victim relationship.

This kind of irritant sometimes moves me to express my frustration in verse... usually not my best work. In this case, it's a new set of lyrics for that commercial. I posted them here, if others would like to see them. Warning: it's rather dark stuff, from the point of view of a gloating bully.

#49 ::: Keeping it private... ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 08:43 AM:

@46:

I've learned to live with the ADD, by turning it into focus and intensity. I've got my PhD, and I've written a couple of books, in addition to my full-time job. Nowadays, I'm OK with it. Back when I was a kid, I could really have benefitted from medication and/or coaching to manage it.

Even now, I'm largely self-medicated... When my daughter was first diagnosed with ADD, and we were considering giving her medication, my wife asked the doctor if this was something that people outgrow. The doctor said that there's a lot of disagreement about that; her opinion was that many people "outgrow" the need for ADD medication right around the time that they start drinking coffee. (Caffeine works by a slightly different mechanism, but its overall effect is quite similar to ritalin.) When she said that, it perfectly fit my own experience: I really started getting control over the ADD in college, right after one of my first good college friends got me hooked on coffee!

#50 ::: BlackAndTan ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 11:07 AM:

Thanks for the kind words everyone. I did some gardening, which always helps. Picked eight pounds of tomatoes and peppers.

It's so true that even if the door exists, you have to be able to see it. I couldn't see it, not then, but I did, later.

@Keepingitprivate
A lot of your story resonates with me. My siblings once got taken out for pizza (a major treat) for bringing an F to D, and for bring a D to a C. But my parents sat me down and 'Had to have a talk with' me. Why? I had 5As--and one B. Why did I have a B? Did I understand how important school was? What was my problem? On and ON and ON.

About your wife and coworkers, vs your old family voices. This is what helps me. YMMV. I try to ask myself. "Is my wife a reliable narrator, in general?" and actually look for evidence for or against this. That is, does she usually commit herself to people out of pity? In the same way, are your folks able to judge people accurately? Do they understand what 'broken' means?

When I started looking at this, it helped me because my dad is a very UnReliable Narrator. He's liable to use his own emotions to say whether a person is good or bad, rather than harder data. But my friends usually use solid facts to decide who they like--things like, 'I like people who are kind to animals, who fulfill their promises, who read books I also read'.

That helped me put the comments in a different context, if that makes sense. It was hard to do, though, and took a long time.

#51 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 12:28 PM:

Generally witnessing--and BlackAndTan, I envy you your garden productivity! (Bad tomato year here, everything got the late blight.)

#52 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 12:54 PM:

Keeping it private... #49: IMnsHO, it's worth treating ADD in childhood, simply because there are knock-on effects, especially with respect to education and social experiences. That said, I wouldn't call meds an "obviously right choice", especially if there are other support channels available.

#53 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2016, 03:32 AM:

the invisible one @42: Hm. Other than being calm when making the decision? Actually calm, that is, not "suppressing things because I'm being told to relax and forcing my muscles to go soft to prove I'm relaxed" calm.

(I propose that "suppressing things because I'm being told to relax" is numb, not calm...? :‑> )

For "choiceful," I might be "calm." Perhaps as accurate is "quiet": I can hear and see ("get at", "have access to") my internal options and resources. So maybe also "clear."

The particular experience referenced in my @40: I was "demo client" at an NLP training; don't recall the particular point being demonstrated. But the teacher (John Grinder, in this case) perceived that I was having trouble with a decision I was confronting. (I think this is how it went:) He brought me up in front of the class, presented me with this decision I was struggling with, and observed me waffling. (My particular history trained me very specifically not to express* preference while in the presence of Authority. I was simply not allowed choice.**) After pointing out the physiology of my reaction to the class, he then had one of the teaching assistants come up, stand behind me, and just lightly put her hands on my shoulders, keeping them down.

Then he asked me about the decision again.

And, bang, just like that, I said "no thanks." No excitement. No stress, no anxiety. I don't even think I noticed the change until perhaps a few years later.

It took me a long time to put this together. And even longer until I had the experience of having access to my internal experience in the middle of a conflict, and being able to assert my own boundaries in the moment. (Surprised the shit out of me when it happened, too.)

Here's what it's like: it's like standing in a doorway.

When I couldn't make choice under stress, it's dark and windy and stormy outside the doorway, and I'm buffeted by the wind and the rain, and have to struggle just to remain upright and hold my position. I turn back to go inside, but the door's shut or blocked, and anyway, it's dark inside, too.

When I am feeling choiceful, there may be wind and rain and darkness outside, but I can look back inside. The lights are on, and I can see what I have available to work with. There's my coat, there's my umbrella, there's my flashlight. Or maybe it's too stormy and I just want to come back in and close the door. Or maybe I'm in the mood for bluster and am enjoying the rain, so I go on out and happily push my face into the spray.

Not sure if this is any help—?

* Or even feel it; if I even felt it inside, even that would be detected. And then Surgery would ensue.

** I've been thinking a lot about animal training lately, and especially about the abusive attitudes (the absolute, mindless violation and denial—dismissal of the "trainee's" autonomy and agency) people have traditionally had about that. I now perceive that this may not be a random fascination.

BlackAndTan @50: It's so true that even if the door exists, you have to be able to see it. I couldn't see it, not then, but I did, later.

And that old teleportation trope is not metaphorical: sometimes even if you can see the door, if you can't see (or imagine) what's beyond it, you can't go through it. (::blink:: I don't know that I ever really realized that before. That might explain a lot about my young adulthood, and my difficulties around job hunting—!—?) (Wow. If true—wow.)

(...holds this idea up next to retrofitted curiosity & learning skills...) (...um, wow.)

#54 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2016, 02:23 PM:

#53, Jacque: he then had one of the teaching assistants come up, stand behind me, and just lightly put her hands on my shoulders, keeping them down.

Right now I'm getting stuck on the image of somebody physically pushing a certain reaction on my body. Nope nope nope. Also, that part I said about forcing my muscles to go soft to somehow prove I was relaxed? Same thing, only without the other person actually touching me.

I know about how body posture affects mental state to a certain extent, and to a certain extent it works on me - if I'm feeling draggy and push myself to stand up straight with my head up, instead of slouching and looking at the ground, I do start to feel a little bit more alert (and by contrast, when I'm walking home from work I deliberately keep the slouch on because I go to bed as soon as I get home and that walk is part of my winding down time). But I've also had many instances where I'm freaking out about something and even though I am capable of getting my shoulders down and relaxed, I don't stop being upset, or angry, or otherwise agitated. It does take continued focus to keep myself physically relaxed, and I tense up again before long, but I am entirely capable of going completely limp physically while my brain is running all kinds of terrible scenarios and I'm freaking out. I have done this many times while trying to get to sleep, including keeping my shoulders down. Yoga's corpse pose, basically. When it fails, I grab a book and read for a while to distract myself until the freakout passes, which it does with the help of a book regardless of the position of my shoulders.

When I couldn't make choice under stress, it's dark and windy and stormy outside the doorway, and I'm buffeted by the wind and the rain, and have to struggle just to remain upright and hold my position. I turn back to go inside, but the door's shut or blocked, and anyway, it's dark inside, too.

There's a door?

(I propose that "suppressing things because I'm being told to relax" is numb, not calm...? :‑> )

Not if only the outward signs are being suppressed.

Calm/quiet/clear ... I think I will have to think about how to distinguish those from resignation and apathy, because those are also calm-appearing but not choiceful. And I'm far more familiar with those as states of "calm".

Another thought I had yesterday, was that I'm apparently not good at reading appropriate tone based on what other people say and do. At least, I have been in situations where I thought I was matching tone but the people around me reacted badly to it. Old example is teasing; I've never much liked it, but when I tried to participate I was told I was being horrible. (By people who normally both give and take teasing with glee...) Recent example is related to the situation I posted about just upthread, where other people in the group with the same nominal status as me are making complaints in what I see as unfriendly to disrespectful tone. I think I need to stop reading that particular discussion. My perception of the problem I was having was amplified by exhaustion and anxiety, certainly. But when the official line is about being inclusive and everybody is welcome, and the discussion is "ugh whiners" and "this is not a safe space, losers" and other bashing of people whose posts I haven't seen so I have no idea how out of line they are... the discussion of people who are actively harassing or spamming looks less disrespectful! While also banning them. Right now I'm dreading interacting with that group, and it's a thing I've enjoyed a lot in the past.

#55 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2016, 07:11 PM:

the invisible one @54: Right now I'm getting stuck on the image of somebody physically pushing a certain reaction on my body. Nope nope nope.

Yeah, I worried when I wrote that that it would evoke the reation you describe.

Add'l context: this was a teacher who had previously demonstrated his judgement to be trustworthy. I was up there voluntarily, and understood the point about the physiology being demonstrated. There was no downward pressure from the assistant, just a light touch as a tactical reference as to where I wanted my shoulders to be. The assistant was assisting me in maintaining that posture. By no means was she forcing me. Nor was I forcing myself, since he waited until I was relaxed and set, and able to maintain the desired position, rather than trying to push myself into it.

And in any event, my emphasis is less the specific example than in being able to notice the difference between this state (the tense inability to choose) versus that state (the relaxed ability to sense and express my preferences).

Your example of standing up straight to become more alert, versus deliberately slouching to maintain less alertness is exactly the kind of compare-and-contrast I'm talking about.

But I've also had many instances where I'm freaking out about something and even though I am capable of getting my shoulders down and relaxed, I don't stop being upset, or angry, or otherwise agitated.

And this is entirely consistent with my understanding of how these things work. It's generally futile to try and change one's reaction to a crisis in the middle of the crisis. Once panic-brain has been invoked, it ain't going anywhere until the crisis response has played through. (Although, every once in a while, I've had the experience of being in the middle of a crisis and being able to catch a glimpse of the gears in motion. But usually this only happens after I've been doing a lot of work on that reaction for a lont gime.)

Rather, I've had best success in discovering these kinds of contrasts in review: pondering (or fretting about) an instance of a dysfunctional pattern, thinking about how I would like to react instead, and then searching my memory (and putting out a watch for) examples of that desired reaction. Then I hold the two up next to each other, and set about working out how to do the desired thing rather than the undesired thing.

I grab a book and read for a while to distract myself until the freakout passes, which it does with the help of a book regardless of the position of my shoulders.

Yes, exactly. In the example of my teacher above, before he did the specific demonstration described above, he distracted me (I only now realize on review) until I settled into the desired physiology naturally. Only then did he have the assistant come up to help me stay in that desired physiology.

It sounds like you've got a good internal sense of the different states involved. It also sounds like you're more conscious of and have a better understanding of the crisis state than the relaxed state. My point is that it is possible to improve understanding of (and access to) the desired state.

There's a door?

Hah! Yes! Or, at least, there is for me. Maybe a more accurate description is the threshhold between my internal experience (thoughts, visualizations, feelings, emotions, &c), and what's going on around me. The degree to which I've been able to become more conscious of the destinction (and of my internal experience) correlates well with my ability to respond choicefully in the moment.

Not if only the outward signs are being suppressed.

You may have different experience around that than I do. Given the nature of my mother's abuse, if I was aware of something, even if only internally, she would pick up on it, so I had to supress "all the way down." YMMV.

Calm/quiet/clear ... I think I will have to think about how to distinguish those from resignation and apathy, because those are also calm-appearing but not choiceful.

Yes! That is my experience as well. FWIW, the first time I ever experienced "relaxed," I was well into my 20s.

the discussion of people who are actively harassing or spamming looks less disrespectful!

Well, you know, hypocrisy is a thing, and is often unconscious. So if you're matching tone and they're responding badly, maybe it's just that you're matching notes of the tone they'd rather not have brought to their attention...?

...

Meanwhile:

Summer in Orcus spoiler thread: While respecting abi's preference for keeping the discussions separate, I also am noticing certain harmonies with this thread. :-)

#56 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2016, 09:15 PM:

Witnessing, etc. what I have read above. I just get so mad when I read these threads, reading what has been done to helpless people. I wish I could protect/avenge everybody, and I'm not even all that much into people.
"The child", as something to think of, seems to be "the designated locus of weaknesses and disorders and flaws, for us to pity, and to distract us from worrying about the gov't, the Russians, etc., let alone our own problems." I grew up in the mid-60's and early 70's. And adults--doctors, dentists, p.e. teachers, and parents and their siblings--were always finding crap wrong with me, when I didn't even ask them, and it seemed never finding anything right--except to sometimes tell me I was "bright" and should perform better in school, as a proper little show animal. I guess even then I thought it was a big scam. But I didn't have the guts to say so.
I looked into a book written for parents that said one should be ready for one's child's temporary fascination with excretory functions--but it did not warn kids about crazy adults obsessed with the child's same functions. To the point of relentless grilling until the child makes up some story just to shut the crazy person up, and still feels violated, for one thing the parent in question was the "opposite" gender. And of course the other parent never would stick up for me.
Not till well after I was grown did I find out that there was nothing wrong with my intestines, and nothing unusual either. Freak-tripping a kid--false isolation, making them feel more unusual than they actually are--is a particularly exquisite form of mindfuckery.
I have since called both of them on many of the issues remembered, but I wish I'd gotten all before one party croaked [and all I felt was relief.)
If I could travel back in time I would demand that the eye doctor point out how good I was at close-up things, and not just harp on how bad I was at far-off things. Etc. I would later call for some sort of law or something that if you find something wrong with a child or a vulnerable person you have to find something superior to balance it. And no, good looks don't count, we are not ornaments.
I am in the hospital getting used to another new knee--and that's the cause if I am unclear, that and we were under a lockdown last night because of a gunman at a mall 20 miles east, who hasn't yet been caught. But I have just found that my lung capacity, according to this device they gave me, is superior--and just wish I'd known that when young.
Stay safe, all.

#57 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 02:15 AM:

#55, Jacque: And this is entirely consistent with my understanding of how these things work. It's generally futile to try and change one's reaction to a crisis in the middle of the crisis.

Ok. So the posture-affects-emotion things that I've read all seem to say that it's somewhat causal, as in straightening up posture leading to an increase in energy levels. Only it doesn't work in crisis, a detail that seems to have been glossed over or ignored (or at least not emphasized such that I remember) in the information I've seen.

(Glad it was a trusted instructor and also a reminder not a push for the touch. There are few situations where I'm comfortable being touched at all, so I'm not surprised that I reacted to that.)

It sounds like you've got a good internal sense of the different states involved. It also sounds like you're more conscious of and have a better understanding of the crisis state than the relaxed state. [...] Maybe a more accurate description is the threshhold between my internal experience (thoughts, visualizations, feelings, emotions, &c), and what's going on around me.

Um, so is the storm the internal experience or the outside situation? Because being caught out in a wild storm without anywhere to shelter is kind of a decent analogy for the inside of my head sometimes, including the recent problem. Even if what's actually going on out where everybody else can see is not much at all. And sometimes there's no storm, it's just grey and kind of drizzly, and sometimes it's lovely weather, but there's not really a door with shelter and useful supplies behind it that I can see.

I'm not sure I'd say I have a good sense of the different states. I mean, I read about the slouching/straightening thing, and I read about the shoulders up around the ears thing. Trying to make use of the former worked; trying to make use of the latter did not. I only rarely can tell I'm stuck in a storm while the storm is happening. My reactions seem reasonable to me at the time, and it's only later that I (might) realize that they weren't.

if I was aware of something, even if only internally, she would pick up on it

I don't know how much I show or don't show. On the one hand, I'd think I was suppressing showing stress and mom would tell me to relax, on the other hand the last guy I dated said he couldn't tell if I was interested or not when I was falling over myself. Then there's all the people who think I'm always cheerful. Maybe it's what I'm showing, maybe it's what they want to see, maybe it's the intersection of both, who knows. All I know is that it's confusing. And I try to bias on the side of appearing cheerful to others if I have to interact with them more than once in passing. My default reaction is kind of cheerful, really.

Well, you know, hypocrisy is a thing, and is often unconscious. So if you're matching tone and they're responding badly, maybe it's just that you're matching notes of the tone they'd rather not have brought to their attention...?

Maybe. And maybe I was taking the tone a bit farther (probable because anxiety), and/or directing it at somebody who wasn't part of the group of People Allowed To Be Disrespected (that this group even exists is not cool), and/or putting the complaint in a spot where that tone was not accepted. Or maybe all of those to some degree. Haven't the foggiest. Right now, I'm going to stop reading the area where the disrespectful complaints happen, because reinforcing that this tone is allowable anywhere is clearly not what I need right now, and also not make any complaints at all myself, because I don't want to make my reputation there any worse.

#58 ::: Broken Pottery ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 03:10 AM:

I'm immensely grateful that I've had lots of help over the last couple years (and the last 6 months in particular) teaching my son skills for resilience, emotional management, and navigating a chaotic world where the adults in his life have not done a good job of creating stability. The unfortunate thing is that he is going to need to exercise them again soon.

In the next couple days my ex-wife is almost certainly going to be getting convicted and sentenced to at least a year of jail time. He has no idea that this is going to happen because she hasn't told him* and I'm stressed out anticipating how this is going to hit him when we've just finally gotten his world fairly stable after being apprehended by Children and Family Services and having his home change without warning several times and a lot of tension between the adults in his life over custody and legal issues.

It is incredibly unfair that he, and kids like him, are forced to deal with the fallout from the adults in their live that are unable to manage their own issues and lives. Still I'm incredibly jealous of the quality of the skills and techniques that have been taught to him since they are effectively the same skills (adjusted for age appropriateness) that I learned in the last few years that have allowed me to stop being a source of chaos in his life rather than the worthless (or often actually actively harmful) ones that I got when I was a kid.

* Yes I know that I could tell him myself, and I will if I have to, but I don't want to unless there isn't a choice for a couple reasons (a) it isn't my responsibility (b) I want to avoid any possible claims of editorializing (c) until recently it wasn't clear to me that this was going to be the outcome as the information I was getting from my ex was substantially divergent from reality and while I felt it seemed self-serving it was Not My Problem and didn't impact my son directly (d) I'm a coward and I don't want him getting smad (his word for being simultaneously sad and angry) at me for this the way he does when she flakes on visits

#59 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 06:48 AM:

the invisible one #57: It is entirely possible that your "blocking problem" is being aware of your own emotions. This is particularly but not exclusively an issue for autistic-spectrum folks, and in my own case, I've realized that my upbringing probably contributed to the problem.

Angiportus #56: Children are going to be a locus of tension in any society, if only because they represent their parent's evolutionary survival. But in America especially, we've got major issues. I don't know where I first read that "America is afraid of its kids", but it seems clearly true to me, on several fronts. In particular, the dark side of "eternal progress" is that children are expected to outgrow and outdo their parents, and that's a threat to the parents. It was startling to me to learn that the business of "adolescent rebellion" was basically an American thing, not particularly noted in Europe or elsewhere.

#60 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 12:39 PM:

Witnessing and sympathizing with all, without much in the way of positive contributions to offer other than that.

Dave Harmon @59: From where I sit in the US, I it seems that the history of both "rock and roll" (Beatles era) and "punk rock" (Sex Pistols era) give examples of "adolescent rebellion" outside the US, specifically in the UK. I'm less familiar with the pop cultures of the rest of Europe or elsewhere, but I had the impression that other places also had their scary youth movements. It may be that very stable tradition-regulated cultures don't have such phenomena, but America isn't the only culture that's been suffering rapid change.

#61 ::: Broken Pottery ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 12:45 PM:

Dave Harmon @59

I'd say adolescent rebellion it isn't anything new given that we've got quotes from Aristotle lamenting how 'kids these days' are disrespectful of their elders and tradition

#62 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 02:27 PM:

the invisible one @57: Ok. So the posture-affects-emotion things that I've read all seem to say that it's somewhat causal, as in straightening up posture leading to an increase in energy levels. Only it doesn't work in crisis

Well, it can work in a crisis—if one has had prior experience of the calm state, and experience with successfully shifting from upset/tense to calm/resourceful. But trying to just impose the calmness over the tenseness, especially if the person doesn't have this experience, not so terribly effective, no.

This is why it's important to study these skills when one is feeling safe and otherwise well-supported.

a detail that seems to have been glossed over or ignored (or at least not emphasized such that I remember) in the information I've seen.

Which I, in fact, appear to have done above. :-\ Sorry about that.

Um, so is the storm the internal experience or the outside situation?

In my metaphor above, the storm is outside, in external experience.

This is not to say that there can't be storms inside, in internal experience, as well, either at the same time or separately. I can be terribly upset at work, internally grinding my teeth to nubs, while to all outside appearances I can be completely calm and composed. The skill lies in recognizing that the two loci are distinct, and can be experienced separately. Here is where I spotted the difference. (Link is to middle of the essay.)

Because being caught out in a wild storm without anywhere to shelter is kind of a decent analogy for the inside of my head sometimes

Yeah, that's kinda where I was at before I discovered the inside of my head. Not a happy circumstance.

but there's not really a door with shelter and useful supplies behind it that I can see.

The good news is that they may be there, if you can find them, and/or it is possible to build them. Which is what much of my 30s was all about.

I'm not sure I'd say I have a good sense of the different states.

And this is something that may take practice and observation. One trick I've heard of is to set oneself an alarm at random intervals through the day. When it goes off, one stops what one is doing and jots down a quick inventory of one's internal state, and the circumstances (internal: I'm hungry, happy, excited, sleepy &c.; and external: I'm washing dishes, in the middle of a work task, reading at home, thinking about my day, &c.) around it. I think, in fact, that there are phone and online apps out there that can help you do this.

Also, one can practice different postures & such, and see what kind of effect they have on your internal state. This can take a while to bear fruit, if one isn't practiced at reading one's internal state as distinct from one's external circumstances. Give it a try when you're home alone and feeling safe. Shoulders up: "How do I feel inside?" Shoulders down. "How do I feel? Is it different? What are the differences?" Another one to try is the classic Superhero posture: fists on hips, feet planted wide, head up, shoulders back, chest out. Try comparing that with an inward slouch, head down, shoulders up around your ears. See if you can detect internal differences between those two postures. And if you can't detect a difference, don't panic: it may take practice. (That's why I'm an advocate of filtering for naturally-occuring instances.)

I remember during my NLP training, I'd be asked in an exercise to go inside and see what was happening. I'd come back with "it's all black and featureless." Took me a while to realize that "black and featureless" is a thing, too. It's not that "black" is "nothing," which is how I'd interpreted it at first, it's that "black" is "black."

My reactions seem reasonable to me at the time, and it's only later that I (might) realize that they weren't.

And I'd be cautious about labeling one's reactions. If your body has a reaction in a particular situation, it's because it thinks (in whatever body-wisdom it has access to) that that reaction is reasonable—that is, it has a reason for reacting that way. It may not be a desirable or effective reaction, but that's not the same as "reasonable."

All I know is that it's confusing.

Oh, ghods, yes. And it also illustrates that there's a third state in play here: There's your internal experience, your external experience, and then there's their experience. And reactions thereunto. So, four. Yes, Universe, let's make this as muddled and difficult to navigate as possible, thankyouverymuch.

Right now, I'm going to stop reading the area where the disrespectful complaints happen, because reinforcing that this tone is allowable anywhere is clearly not what I need right now

Go, you. This is a very sensible response.

#63 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 02:58 PM:

Broken Pottery @58: Wow. That's quite a Situation. It sounds like you, your son, and your resource people are handling it as well as possible. Still, sounds like Son's situation sucks big slimy rocks. :-( (And I can haz training that Son's getting? HHO½K)

Witnessing.

Please tell your son I'm totally stealing "smad," because it's a state English doesn't really cover well, and that's a great word for it.

#64 ::: A New Coat of Paint ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 05:30 PM:

Haven't posted on these threads before. Ritual disclaimer about non-brevity.

I always used to think of my family as the closest, most functional thing ever, simply because I was just about the only person I knew who hadn't experienced divorce, abuse, material neglect, or all of those. Only just now, in middle age, starting to understand that things aren't that simple. As my parents get older and are in poorer health, they talk more about mortality and the course of their lives as a whole... so for the first time, in recent years, I've been hearing some tentative suggestions that they had second thoughts about decisions they had made for us (the kids)... like, "When we did such-and-such regarding school, work, unconventional living arrangements, etc., I wonder if that caused problems for you that we hadn't thought of."

And I couldn't think how to answer, because although the true answer in each case would be emphatically yes... 1. I feel like it could achieve nothing but cause them more sadness now, because I wouldn't be able to say "Yes but it was a long time ago, it doesn't matter now": I'm still dealing with the effects, and not very successfully. And 2. those were conscious choices they made, but actually the things that were the worst to deal with were not like that; those would be things like "Frequently witnessing loud tearful fights which are never acknowledged later" or "Knowing that one parent couldn't be approached (or, maybe, located) due to being lost in depression and/or drink, and that the other one is trying to keep up a brave face about it." I can't convince myself that if only they'd thought "what about the children", they would've been able to avoid those things. And those are too painful to talk about, for either of us; they've been extremely, sometimes embarrassingly, open about most other aspects of their lives, but not that.

These are the same recent years when I've had to face the decision— as opposed to the default or preliminary condition— that although I always wanted to have kids, that's not happening. (One of my parents also recently asked me, for the very first time, if I had ever wanted a family... seemingly acknowledging that I seemed to have decided against it, and probably sad about this, though they were never the kind who would nag about their desire for grandchildren. And, again, I didn't know what to say, and bit back anger at being asked.) All of the previous reasons for that are either no longer applicable (no pot to piss in -> at least a pot and a half; terrible relationship -> solid loving one; etc.) or have workarounds (genetic diseases -> adoption), leaving mostly "I'm almost too old"... but it's become obvious to me that it's really about this fear I can't shake, that I'll repeat this story. Not the part about making bad decisions, that's inevitable, but the part where I can't improve my mental health by force of will just because I know someone's depending on me. I am more functional in some ways than they were, but less so in others. Thoughts like "I might not have a steady job" or even "how will I give them hope for the future in such a messed-up world", I can somehow toss into the bucket of things I'll deal with as the need arises... but the image of an child trying to get the attention of a strangely unwell, horribly distressed parent who's having one of their "spells"... that just terrifies me to the bone.

Being compulsively logical, or "logical", I can't have such a thought without then wondering "But am I saying my parents shouldn't have had kids?" That's a tough one. I do appreciate existing.

#65 ::: Broken Pottery ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 05:34 PM:

Jacque @63
Thanks for the witness. If you are interested, the core of what we are using is Zones of Regulation which is a a combination of self-awareness and CBT inspired emotional management. Learning to identify and being able to name a feeling has been really important along with learning techniques to move back into zones where you are still in control even if feeling a strong feeling without letting them spiral you off to a point that you can't actually use critical thinking anymore.

#66 ::: A New Coat of Paint ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 05:40 PM:

Note to Abi: I need to contact you, but can't find any way to do it except this. Please email me at the address I used here, then feel free to delete this.

#67 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 06:26 PM:

A New Coat of Paint: Unless I miss my guess, abi@ prepended to the domain name for this site will get you there.

#68 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 06:33 PM:

the invisible one @ 54:

Another thought I had yesterday, was that I'm apparently not good at reading appropriate tone based on what other people say and do. At least, I have been in situations where I thought I was matching tone but the people around me reacted badly to it.

I know for sure that my expressions and tone are sometimes misread by others, in some consistent ways. When I have a passing encounter on the street, and make eye contact and give what I intend as a neutral nod with my face relaxed, I generally get a big smile in response. (Maybe it's just that people don't expect any actual acknowledgement from passersby?) And when I am tired/confused/trying to figure something out, apparently that comes across as me being angry. Eyebrows lowered, a bit of a frown, something like that. God knows what other people see on those rare occasions that I really am angry. Might find out tomorrow, when my boss deals with a bit of HR-level-inappropriate crap I got from a semi-colleague.

#69 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 11:23 PM:

I read a summary of a study some time ago about how hard we think others poke us vs how hard we think we poke them. We (being the humans studied) consistently poke too hard when asked to poke with the same amount of force they poked us with. There might be some of that going on psychologically, extrapolating from the purely physical poking.

I mean, also, poke poke poke. I lost track of at least one sentence in there.

#70 ::: JJ ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 11:25 PM:

Keeping it private, #2 and #30: That's what makes this so painful. Realizing that there's something wrong with me that made them feel like it was OK for me to go through this, that I wasn't worth the trouble of intervening.

Your posts are really striking a chord with me. I went through a similar experience growing up (though it wasn't nearly as bad for me as it was for you, and my heart aches at hearing what you went through).

If I were growing up today, I'd probably be diagnosed as ADHD (and if I were lucky, successfully treated for it). What's more, I was the middle child, with all the baggage which frequently comes with that. I can recognize now that I was often an incredibly unpleasant child to be around. Some of that was no doubt due to my temperament, and some of it was due to my reactions at the way I was treated. Of course I can see now how this would be a self-perpetuating feedback loop. At the time I only recognized that my parents treated my older and younger sibling much better (in my opinion) than they treated me -- which, unsurprisingly, often resulted in me acting out in response.

Somewhere in my mid-20s (and I don't know how or why), I eventually managed to realize that I'd spent my life trying to reconcile two utterly irreconcilable things:
1) I knew deep-down that my parents didn't treat me in a way that I considered "fair" with respect to the way they treated my siblings;
2) I knew that my parents were good people, and therefore could not possibly actually be being unfair to me and treating my siblings better than they were treating me, so obviously the problem was with me.

It was only as a twenty-something when I realized that I needed to break #2 into two separate things:
2) I knew that my parents were good people, doing the best they could as parents, and
3) nevertheless, they were human beings, and therefore were not always able to keep themselves from being unfair to me and giving my siblings preferential treatment because they liked my siblings better than they did me.

Once I took my parents off that pedestal I'd put them on and allowed them to be flawed human beings, it got a little easier to understand and forgive them -- and to forgive myself for not always being a lovable person, too.

Last year I spent one week of my summer vacation with my only cousin on my mom's side, who is 12 years older than me. I told my cousin the things I've said here, and their response was, "Well, you know that I came East on a couple of occasions and stayed with your family, and it was quite obvious to me that you were treated differently by your parents. Your older sibling was your father's favorite, and your younger sibling was your mother's favorite, and they didn't do a good job of not showing that."

Although I've managed to conquer a lot of the feelings of worthlessness in the intervening decades, it was very, very nice after all that time to have gotten some external validation from my cousin. I wasn't crazy. My parents really did show favoritism to my siblings. The way I was treated really was not fair.


The problem was not with you. You were not broken. Your parents did not know how to parent a child with the challenges your condition presented, and they didn't do a good job of it.

And it's okay to be angry and resentful about that. It wasn't fair. They did not treat you fairly. They did not treat you as well as they did your siblings.

If you allow yourself that -- if you can acknowledge that you deserved to be treated better, that the failing was in your parents and not in you, it may help you to get over believing that you don't deserve the love of your wife or the respect of your colleagues.

#71 ::: JJ ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 11:50 PM:

Joel Polowin, #48: Coca-Cola has been running a TV commercial for some months, showing a pair of brothers. They call it "Brotherly Love", but to me (and several friends I've discussed it with), it's normalizing a very bad bully/victim relationship.

I hadn't seen that commercial before. It's horrible. And it makes me angry that this is out there, telling bullies that their behavior is loving, and telling victims that really, the way they're being treated is just an indicator of how much they are loved.

Your lyrics are (sadly) very apt.

#72 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2016, 12:28 AM:

Joel Polowin @48: Thanks to JJ's link, I just now watched the spot, and your lyrics are dead on.

I posted a comment, "Oh FUCK no."

Then deleted it, because I don't need Nk notices of other comments in my YouTube feed....

#73 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2016, 12:34 AM:

#59, Dave Harmon: It is entirely possible that your "blocking problem" is being aware of your own emotions.

Given how often I felt the need to deny that I was upset at all (because "overreacting") I'm not at all surprised I have a hard time with it.

#62, Jacque: This is why it's important to study these skills when one is feeling safe and otherwise well-supported.

First reaction was a cynical laugh. So I guess I have to find that, first. I mean, there have been times that I have felt safe. Usually when I'm alone and in a situation where I feel I have control over what feels to me like a reasonable amount of my life.

One trick I've heard of is to set oneself an alarm at random intervals through the day. When it goes off, one stops what one is doing and jots down a quick inventory of one's internal state, and the circumstances

Hm. I've heard of that before. Maybe I'll look into something like that, though my phone is set to full silent (as in, not even vibrate) while I'm at work so I'd only see the alarm notice when I pull it out to check the time, or on break. Could be I don't usually notice the times when I'm calm, in the same way it's hard to notice a sound that goes away or a thing that isn't there. If you're not checking for it, it doesn't draw your attention.

Shoulders up: "How do I feel inside?"

Heh, given that my typical computer slouch (such as the one I was in while reading; can't maintain it while typing) has my weight on my elbows pushing my shoulders up quite far. It's a pretty relaxed posture for me. Though I suppose that's different from having the muscles *pulling* my shoulders up.

And I'd be cautious about labeling one's reactions. If your body has a reaction in a particular situation, it's because it thinks (in whatever body-wisdom it has access to) that that reaction is reasonable—that is, it has a reason for reacting that way. It may not be a desirable or effective reaction, but that's not the same as "reasonable."

And sometimes that reason is because my brain is running around screaming that everything is going horribly and it will all end in fire, while outside my skin somebody said a few words that could possibly be extrapolated into how they're aligned with the obnoxious extreme bigoted version of a group that says similar sorts of words, so even though there is zero evidence of hatefulness, the person is going to also turn out to be obnoxious and horrible and and and. (That would be the first time ever that I recognized an anxiety reaction while in the middle of it, in fact. Spent over half an hour freaking out, crying and shaking.)

Otherwise, yeah, I'm used to my reactions being labelled as unreasonable, and I seem to think of them the same way. Not helpful for me trying to figure out what's going on.

#64, A New Coat of Paint: I couldn't think how to answer, because although the true answer in each case would be emphatically yes

Oof. Not something pleasant to consider telling your parents. I see why you don't know how to answer that. "Can't change the past" is about the only not-yes-or-no but also not-lying answer I can think of, but even that can be easily taken to mean that the answer is actually yes.

#65, Broken Pottery: I may be looking for that book. Thanks for the pointer.

#68, Joel Polowin: I saw a photo of myself concentrating on something, and I think I look something approaching angry. Even though I also see in the photo what it is I'm concentrating on, and I remember that I was enjoying myself during that activity. I did already know I frowned when I was concentrating, though, I just hadn't seen it.

#74 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2016, 02:55 AM:

A New Coat of Paint, #64": it's become obvious to me that it's really about this fear I can't shake, that I'll repeat this story. Not the part about making bad decisions, that's inevitable, but the part where I can't improve my mental health by force of will just because I know someone's depending on me.

This is actually a very common occurrence among people who grew up in dysfunctional families, whether they realized it at the time or not. In my case it was a combination of "I don't have a good role model for this, and I'm afraid that I'd screw it up, and you Don't Do That with someone else's LIFE," and "what if I had a child as alien to me as I am to my parents?" -- and the conviction that I wouldn't handle it at all well. Your specific concerns are different, but the structure of them is the same, and produces similar results.

I can't have such a thought without then wondering "But am I saying my parents shouldn't have had kids?" That's a tough one. I do appreciate existing.

This is a variation on the "but aren't you glad YOUR parents didn't abort YOU?" argument, and can be addressed the same way. In my case, the approach is to say that if my bio-mother had aborted me, I would never have known about it, and so the whole question is invalid. They're asking me to pretend that I would have known what I was missing, which is along the same lines as the irresistible force / immovable object paradox; in any given universe, you can only have ONE, never both.

In your case, I can say that you have every right to appreciate your own existence and still believe that your parents might have been better off without children. (Mine certainly would have been better off had they not adopted me, but gotten a small dog instead and gone in for obedience training!) (Also, notice the difference between "should" in your phrasing and "might" in mine. An absolute judgment is impossible to make in this situation.)

JJ, #70: Although I've managed to conquer a lot of the feelings of worthlessness in the intervening decades, it was very, very nice after all that time to have gotten some external validation from my cousin. I *wasn't* crazy. My parents really *did* show favoritism to my siblings. The way I was treated really *was not fair*.

Oh, yes. Even when you know all the way down to the bone that something about your family dynamics isn't right, it's amazing how good it feels to know that someone else sees the same thing! One of the most treasured memories from the years with my now-ex is getting back into the car after a visit with my parents and him saying, "Your mother was REALLY out of line about that." It's a natural outgrowth of the time you spend as a child not realizing that everybody's parents don't act like yours do.

Joel / JJ: OMG. That commercial could be used in therapy for people who are recovering from abuse; it's practically a catalog of the standard abuse tactics. Bullying, gaslighting ("Who, me? I didn't do nothing! I don't know what's wrong with him."), and then the Occasional Nice Thing (aka "random positive reinforcement") which keeps the victim coming back over and over again in hopes of getting the treat instead of the kick this time.

#75 ::: JJ ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2016, 04:04 AM:

A New Coat of Paint, #64: These are the same recent years when I've had to face the decision — as opposed to the default or preliminary condition — that although I always wanted to have kids, that's not happening... Thoughts like "I might not have a steady job" or even "how will I give them hope for the future in such a messed-up world", I can somehow toss into the bucket of things I'll deal with as the need arises... but the image of an child trying to get the attention of a strangely unwell, horribly distressed parent who's having one of their "spells"... that just terrifies me to the bone. Being compulsively logical, or "logical", I can't have such a thought without then wondering "But am I saying my parents shouldn't have had kids?" That's a tough one. I do appreciate existing.

I am so sorry to hear that you really wanted children and will probably never get to have them. I see how much love and joy and wonder my siblings and my friends have gotten from their children, and I grieve for you and every other person who wanted that, but did not get to have it.

I love kids -- I'm always the one buying them toys, and then sitting down and playing with the toys with them -- but I never really felt like I wanted my own. For decades, I have heard the constant refrains of "oh, but you're fabulous with kids, you should definitely have your own" to "you think that now, but you'll change your mind" (I never did), to the horrifying "you can't really know what love is until you have kids" (oh, please, if that's what it took for you to actually be able to feel love, then there is something very wrong).

There was a whole combination of reasons I chose not to have children (timing of my marriage, financial reasons, etc) -- but one of the main ones was that I was terrified that I would be sentencing some poor child to an utterly miserable childhood like my own. (When I say that books are literally the reason I am still alive today, I am not joking or trivializing.)

I was somewhat lucky in that my mother was a pretty good mother, in a lot of ways -- but my hypercritical father was one of those horrible selfish people for whom children are merely an ego tag, and he should never have been allowed to have them. (I'm convinced, at this point, that he has an untreated condition, probably Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder.)

So yes, I had a huge concern that I would not be able to do a better job than my parents -- that, in fact, given my intermittent struggles with deep depression, that I would be doing well just to be able to take care of myself, never mind some poor undeserving child.


It is not wrong for you to feel that your parents should never have been allowed to have children, because they were so bad at the job.

It is not wrong for you, in engaging in close self-examination, to decide that you are not certain you could a provide a child with a good upbringing, and to opt out because of that. It's okay if you decide that.

It is also okay if you decide that you have the commitment and ability to follow through with having and raising children. You are the only person who is really qualified to make that decision.

Please just know that, whichever way you end up going, it is very much okay for you to choose what you feel is right for you and for any potential children.

Our society throws a lot of baggage onto people about the unquestioning need to have children. I would like to see that change.

#76 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2016, 09:37 AM:

Witnessing all here, and admiring greatly.

Broken Pottery, it's been a tough few years for your son. I'm glad you're explicitly working with him on these skills and acquiring resources to help you do it. That's exactly the kind of thing that I was thinking about in the main post; the stuff you do when you can't make the larger circumstances better. Mitigation and symptomatic treatment. Courage and respect!

I think the conversation about looking back at your parents' screwups with adult eyes (Keeping it private, A New Coat of Paint, and JJ in particular) is wonderful and full of truth.

I'm fascinated by the conversation about physical triggers with the invisible one and Jacque, but my feeback loop between physical and emotional wellbeing is a little off the main sequence and I don't think I can add much of value.

#77 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Gardener of Threads ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2016, 09:38 AM:

Also, I've sorted out A New Coat of Paint's (view all by).

abi@[this domain] will always reach me. And I do read the DF threads, but sometimes I'm asleep or busy. An email will fetch me somewhat faster.

#78 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2016, 12:12 PM:

#76 ::: abi

I'm interested in anything you want to say about the connection between your physical and emotional well-being.

It's very tampting for me to give advice, and I want to be sensible about the range of possibility

#79 ::: Keeping it private... ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2016, 01:58 PM:

Thanks everyone.

A couple of people have focused on my description of myself as "broken", and I just wanted to stress that my parents *never* said that to me - they never called me broken, and never said anything about my ADD.

They did clearly not favor me, and my own interpretation of why is because I honestly feel broken. The things I went through in high school left me feeling deeply broken.

My own sense of brokenness comes mostly from the social anxiety. Even while I know, and can talk about how it's all just an illusion created by the anxiety, I *believe* deep down that there's something wrong with me, and I naturally impose that feeling and that terminology on my experiences as a kid.

I know that my parents mistreated me. That's become clear enough that I can't deny it, no matter how much I want to. But at the same time, I loved them, and I know that they loved me - and while they deserve blame for the way they treated me, I don't want them taking blame for things that they didn't do.

They didn't call me broken: that's just what I call myself. And when I look for reasons for *why* they treated me the way they did, the explanation that makes sense is because of the things that made me difficult, and that made me an outcast at school: the things that I can only see and understand as the things that were, and are, wrong with me.


#80 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2016, 02:46 PM:

Keeping it private @79 They didn't call me broken: that's just what I call myself. And when I look for reasons for *why* they treated me the way they did, the explanation that makes sense is because of the things that made me difficult, and that made me an outcast at school: the things that I can only see and understand as the things that were, and are, wrong with me.

From the outside, with what you have said here to go on, and putting a charitable spin on it, I suggest a shift in perspective to say that the problem was not what was "wrong" with you but that your parents were unable/unprepared to parent the child they had rather than an imaginary child they wanted or better understood. There are many things that can make a child difficult to parent, ranging from serious physical or mental issues to personality incompatabilities with the parent. But it's almost never just that the child is difficult; it's a two-way street. The child is difficult in ways that push a parent's buttons. The child is difficult in ways that the family context make worse. But the parents are the adults. It's incumbent on them to meet the child's needs, including calling in help if they need it.

#81 ::: Keeping it private... ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2016, 02:57 PM:

@80:

Yeah, I understand that, intellectually.

What I'm trying to get at is the difference between what I know, intellectually; and what I believe deep down, no matter how irrational that is.

Living with social anxiety is really believing, deep down, that you're a freak, and that you need to keep that hidden from everyone else. When I was getting some therapy for the SAD, the doctor I was seeing said that that's a pretty common description of how many people with SAD feel.

It doesn't matter what the truth is, when you've got a lie that's wormed its way into your self-image. Even as I know it's a lie, deep down, I *believe* it's true.

So when I look at my on experiences as a child, that's the way that I interpret it.

I think that my parents failed me in an important way. And I can say, intellectually, that it's not my fault. But part of the scars of my childhood is the belief that there's something wrong with me, and so whatever I accept intellectually has no affect on what I really believe emotionally.

#82 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2016, 03:37 PM:

Keeping it private, sorry, didn't mean to sound like I was perkily saying that you could intellectually understand this and make everything fine.

I'm not sure how long you've been lurking on the DF threads. There was a post linked to several years ago from this DFD post on how these experiences put fish hooks in your psyche. Recognizing that the hooks are there doesn't take them out, but it lets you begin to start taking them out.

#83 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2016, 11:27 AM:

Just a note to say thank you to abi for the very thought provoking and well expressed OP. I sometimes find (small) children difficult to relate to, and this has given me a lot to think about...

#84 ::: Dogcow ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2016, 07:36 PM:

It seems odd to attribute my experiences to sampling bias. Abi's comment about phrasing struck me; maybe I have been using the wrong words. People have said that before. "If you just asked differently"... Although it seems like I can offend people by reacting wrongly, even if I don't say anything. Flinching is particularly offensive. My folks hated the way I'd flinch when people touched me. "You'd think we beat you." (Which they did, so that comment never made much sense to me.) It's not that I don't like being touched, it's that usually people hurt me when they try, especially on days like today when all of my joints feel hot and sore. I try not to flinch. I know it's rude. It's rude to let them know when it hurts, or let them catch me rubbing a sore spot, or to say "no" or duck away or do anything but smile and put up with it.

#85 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2016, 08:34 PM:

Dogcow @80: If something someone does hurts you, it absolutely isn't wrong to ask them not to do it! Even if you phrase it rudely, or offensively, they should still stop! Ideally, over time, you can learn how to phrase it better, but that's a secondary concern. The main issue is "stop hurting someone!"

I don't know if it's sampling bias, but there are plenty of people in the world who don't think blithely hurting someone is ok (as well as plenty who sadly do think it's ok).

About that "joints feel hot and sore" thing (combined with touch being painful); have you tried getting medical help? If you have, and they weren't able to help, I'll shut up (there are things current medical science doesn't understand). Or if you can't afford medical care (and are here in the backwards US), I'm not sure what to suggest. But if you haven't considered that it might be something treatable, you might consider investigating it.

If you were beaten as a child, it's also possible that these physical symptoms are an after-effect of that, either medically or psychologically. In the latter case getting help may be harder, but also maybe not impossible.

Also, if you think something is going to hurt, flinching is a perfectly natural reaction.

#86 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2016, 10:51 PM:

Dogcow @84 maybe I have been using the wrong words. People have said that before. "If you just asked differently"...

This is ... probably not true.

It is true that some wordings are more likely to get the results you want than others. This is why a frequent request at Captain Awkward is for help with a "script" to start such-and-such a discussion (or end a discussion). It's a reasonable thing to think about.

But it is also true that bullies and abusers and people who do not respect you - who don't, for example, care whether they hurt you or not - will use this argument, and not in good faith. For them, really, there were no right words you could have used because they weren't going to listen to you anyway, and they try to make you seem at fault for their actions. You are not.

#87 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2016, 11:40 PM:

Dogcow, #84: It's rude to let them know when it hurts, or let them catch me rubbing a sore spot, or to say "no" or duck away or do anything but smile and put up with it.

IT IS ABSOLUTELY NOT RUDE to let someone know that they've hurt you! This counts for emotional hurt as well, but it goes double or triple for physical pain. Anyone who's told you that it's rude for you to acknowledge pain is LYING.

Did you see what I said upthread about how there are several sub-cultures in which abusive behavior and bullying are normalized? It's starting to sound as though you've spent your whole life surrounded by such a sub-culture, and have never been given an opportunity to get any kind of reality check about it until now. But I swear to you, what you're describing is not the way most people behave, and not the way anybody is supposed to behave.

Are you comfortable with providing some specific examples of situations in which you've been hurt (physically or emotionally) and have been treated like that? You don't have to provide names, but roles would be helpful, e.g. "my parents" or "the teacher" or "my boss".

WRT your "all my joints are hot and sore" issue, I'm not a doctor, but the thing that leaps to my mind is "rheumatoid arthritis". Can you consult with a doctor? If not, Googling on that phrase might give you some ideas for dealing with it.

#88 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2016, 02:23 AM:

Dogcow:

In an ideal world, talking to people who aren't wrapped up in their own heads or desperately invested in being "a good person" no matter what, you shouldn't need to take care with phrasing. Because it's not rude to tell people when you hurt. It matters. And it's valuable data for people who are trying to learn to have a good relationship with you.

It's also your right to take up your share of the social space, even if it's not with good news and happy shiny unicorn-fart rainbows.

But if we lived in the ideal world, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I certainly don't live there; I live with people who have their own bad days, their own frailties, their own brain weather and mind weasels. If they're still interested in my well-being, these phrasings make it easier for them to do the right thing, to get in the habit of doing the right thing. And over time, I can speak more impulsively, because we've established a pattern of apology and remediation.

If they're not interested in my well-being, then these phrasings rob them of the excuse that it's how I said things rather than what I said. Then I'm crystal-clear that there's nothing I can do except avoid them.

It sounds to me like you yourself need to apply a litmus test: does this person, do these people, care about me? Really? A script that can differentiate between "well-meaning but oafish or fragile" and "too self-absorbed to be around" can be part of that test.

(To evaluate the results: every answer you quoted in comment 84 is the wrong answer, and the person giving it has not shown the care you deserve as a human being. Right answers include words like "sorry" and sincere resolutions not to do the hurtful thing again.)

If nothing you say is ever right no matter how you phrase it, if you being hurt doesn't matter to the people nearest to you, if apologies are unthinkable, then the problem is probably not with you. They've failed that test, and you've learned something about them.

#89 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2016, 08:38 AM:

You know how I mentioned hurting my friend upthread? With the apologies (well, they happened, I may not have mentioned them) and the desire to stop hurting my friend, the bad feelings that I had already hurt her, and rather importantly, the entire thing happening with people who were less invested in this than my friend and I so she doesn't have to deal with my processing?

That's kind of how people are supposed to react when someone says, "You hurt me."

Apologize, *work on fixing it, process the bad feelings elsewhere, repeat from * until finished.

It's not something that perfect people do, or good people, or people who have been taught a really out-there philosophy of socialization. It's what people in a functional system do, which is a much wider circle.

#90 ::: BlackAndTan ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2016, 09:48 AM:

@Dogcow I have pain when touched, some days, and I sometimes flinch. I wonder if it might be helpful to share with you how I interpret the reactions I get?

Sometimes, when I flinch, people react quite strongly. "I'm SO SORRY! Oh No! Did I HURT YOU?"

I was not trained/raised to understand this as a normal reaction. Therefore, my default is to assume *I* was rude.

"No, no! You're fine! It's my fault! I'm so sorry I flinched!" I say.

Turns out normal/kind people go O.o if you say, "I'm so sorry I flinched!!!"

Sometimes their jaws drop and they stare flabbergasted.

(Perhaps, you, too, know this reaction? I suspect you might.)

I have learned that upping the volume of 'But I really AM SORRY' is not the way to go here.

People with this reaction aren't trying to tell me I've been rude. They are trying to apologize because they're sorry they hurt me. If I am not careful, we can end up in a Midwestern fandango of "I'm so sorry, no I'M so sorry," that never ends until we all fall down, like an absurd duck-duck-goose game.

I have learned that, when someone sees my flinch and apologizes, they aren't telling I'm rude. They are saying, in a way, "I'm upset that I hurt you. I feel bad about this. I will try not to do it again. I apologize."

Then, I say, "Please don't worry about it. You didn't know. Sometimes my joints ache, that's all."

(Possibly not what anyone else here would say, but it's what I say, and it helps to calm the person down, which makes me feel better.)

Then, basically, I watch. Do they go out of their way to suddenly touch me again? If so, they are hurters-on-purpose. AVOID.

Do they go to hug/touch, then hesitate? If so, I assume they are trying to connect, but are sensitive to my needs. I try to cue what level of connection would be safe for my body. Gripping both their hands and patting it is often a safe one, for me.

It's hard for me to believe that someone else's upset is not something 'bad', in this case. It's just the genuine reaction of a good person who accidentally hurt someone. The good people in my life have assured me they got over this temporary bad feeling, that they don't consider it 'my fault'. It's just one of those life things.

I hope this has been helpful.

#91 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2016, 11:14 AM:

abi @88: we've established a pattern of apology and remediation.

Also of intent, good faith, and history. I mind a coworker who, upon being called out on an infraction, would apologize all over the place—and then go on to do the same damn thing next week.

Contrariwise, I have a friend who's been acting painfully-to-me over the last few months. Given Friend's history of Absolute Reliability, I simply wait an watch, alert. Because clearly, Something's Going On. It's my turn to be a supportive friend.

Dogcow: I am reminded of a man I was briefly involved with. I finally credited my experience that every single time he touched me, he managed to hurt me. When I'd finally use words: "What you're doing is hurting me. Please stop." instead of the more immediate, "Ow," he'd back off. But it took me saying something to sensitize him to my discomfort. When I asked him why he didn't stop when I said "ow," his response: "I thought you were just joking."

O.O

Under what circumstances do you assume—every time—that someone is joking when they express pain!? As I said, my involvement with him was brief. Because when I say "ow" when somebody touches me, my friends (or even basic civilized J. Random Citizen) apologize immediately and back the hell off.

If someone would then turn around and blame me for objecting to being hurt (nevermind flinching and saying ow), I immediately conclude that these are dangerous people and I need to avoid them.

#92 ::: Dogcow ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2016, 03:47 PM:

BlackAndTan @90

That sounds very familiar, yes. However it's hard to know what I'll get, given how quickly "You hurt me" turns into "I feel bad for having hurt you" and then "You need to make me not feel bad anymore."

I have thought about rheumatoid arthritis. It runs in my family. However I've had these hot/sore episodes since I was a teenager. I did once bring it up with a doctor, who told me that rheumatoid arthritis does not affect the distal ends of one's fingers as much as I described this pain affecting mine, and it was probably something else, take some tylenol and don't worry. I may bring it up again as I have a new GP who actually seems to want to help.

Unfortunately I am an extrovert. I need human company or I sink into terrible depression. Being a space alien makes this hard; I know I am strange and it makes people behave strangely around me. I don't know what to think about being told that everyone I know has been abusing me. I am inclined to trust my own experiences.

#93 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2016, 05:06 PM:

Dogcow 92:

I don't know what to think about being told that everyone I know has been abusing me. I am inclined to trust my own experiences.

You don't have to accept anything you don't want to.

But I was wondering about a more basic premise. What do you think about the idea that you have a right to not be touched, and that it is reasonable for you to dislike people's touching you when you don't want them to?

#94 ::: BlackAndTan ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2016, 05:24 PM:

@Dogcow

However it's hard to know what I'll get, given how quickly "You hurt me" turns into "I feel bad for having hurt you" and then "You need to make me not feel bad anymore."

Yeah. :/ I wish it wasn't so risky.

My stepmother seems to be on a personal mission to live up to the fairy tales. She likes to refer to me as 'The Crip' and will publicly say, 'It took us an extra hour because I had The Crip along.'

OTOH, my best friend has quietly and thoughtfully figured out some safe/non-painful ways to touch me. It's really comforting and makes me happy. She's never gone to the 'make me feel better about hurting you', and we've been friends for a decade now. So, that result has been great.

I wish it was easier, and I wish I could predict you'd get the good answer from those you know.

All I can offer is that, for me, the risk has been worth it, even though I've had some lousy results (stepmother, among others) along with the good.

#95 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2016, 07:08 PM:

@Dogcow: yeah, I would see about getting a referral to a rheumatologist. There are a lot of kinds of arthritis, amd I'm pretty sure there's more than one that specifically affects the DIP joints. My husband's just been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, so it's been on my mind lately.

#96 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2016, 01:15 PM:

@Dogcow, and it MAY NOT be rheumatoid arthritis (RA) at all, but instead its evil cousin, Fibromyalgia.

Sometimes Fibro presents with similar, but not identical, symptoms to RA. I have Fibro and the symptoms you're describing match my experience with the ailment.

If you look up Fibro on the Web, you'll see that the most common diagnostic are what are called 'trigger points' where there is tenderness and pain when pressed. Common ones are in the muscle above elbows and knees, between the sholder blade and spine, and above the hips in the back.

Fibro can feel like the worst case of 'flu you've ever had -- constant aching body and massive fatigue. Unlike the 'flu, it never completely goes away, waxing and waning depending on how much stress the body is experiencing.

It IS treatable, but you'll probably need to see a rheumatologist, because many doctors are not familiar with it.

#97 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2016, 01:39 PM:

Dogcow @92 I have thought about rheumatoid arthritis. It runs in my family. However I've had these hot/sore episodes since I was a teenager.

My 7-year-old-cousin has rheumatoid arthritis and was diagnosed with it a year or three ago. Her mom tells me that all sorts of things aggravate it: too much activity, preservatives in food, and so on. Basically, the kid has been in pain all of her life to one intensity or another. Which is why she plays full out despite having swollen joints from playing.

Please go see a heal care professional.

#98 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2016, 01:42 PM:

That's "health care professional" not "heal care"

#99 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2016, 02:01 PM:

Joel Polowin @ 68 And when I am tired/confused/trying to figure something out, apparently that comes across as me being angry.

That's called 'resting bitch face' in some circles - a recent thing, too. I have it, also. Everyone expects a smiling repose in all situations, I guess. My mouth just isn't formed in that shape. For what it's worth people, usually strangers, command me to "smile" if they're feeling particularly entitled. My standard response is a teeth-baring Joker-like rictus of a smile. It was one of the things I hated about working retail. Quasi-regular customers (male) felt the need to interrupt my work to inform me I was concentrating.

BlackAndTan @ 90 Turns out normal/kind people go O.o if you say, "I'm so sorry I flinched!!!"

(replied to out of order) That O.o expression typically indicates the normal/kind people inferring you are an abuse victim/survivor. They may or may not be trying to figure out if you need police assistance or similiar help. At least that's where my mind goes in similiar situations. Once you get confirmation/diagnosis about your medical state, you can replace your standard "Sorry" line with "Some kinds touching hurt more than others."

#100 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2016, 01:39 PM:

Re: touching, I recently had to give a hasty explanation of an autistic issue to a doctor; I'd gone in because of a painful shoulder (probably just more rotator-cuff problems). So she did the usual resistance/extension/pressure tests, for which I was duly reporting no or minimal pain (because regression to the mean, yay -- the pain had eased up in the several days since I'd called in). But then she said, "well, you're obviously in a lot of pain, because you're wincing!"

I first just said "no no, that's just because you're handling me", but quickly realized I needed to expand that, to "I'm on the autistic spectrum, so being touched is an issue. I'm mild enough that I can 'handle' it, but it's still off-putting". That seemed to get the idea across, she said my explanation was very helpful.

#101 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2016, 10:11 PM:

Props for a tuned-on doc!

#102 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2016, 10:16 PM:

:-[

That would be: "tuned-in doc."

:-\

#103 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2016, 09:57 PM:

Rule of Thumb: Selfish people aren't worried about being selfish.

This is a very well-reasoned article, to the effect that (1) most of the time, when you hear someone asking for advice on the matter of selfishness, it's not that person who is being selfish; and (2) if you're wondering whether X thing you want to do/have is selfish, imagine someone else asking you about the same thing, and go by the answer you'd give them.

(This is IMO related to the principle that if it ever occurs to you to wonder if you're being a bore, you aren't.)

#104 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2016, 01:21 AM:

I realized today in therapy two things: one, that I'm still deeply affected by my dad's alcoholism (no longer a problem; he stopped drinking after a court date shamed him) and two, that I don't solidly know who I am.

From what I understand, it's quite common for appearances to be paramount to the families of alcoholics; no one must know. Add to that my mom's (and her family's) obsession with reputation and appearances and you have quite the situation. And me, who (now that I think about it) spent most of my life being a chameleon, trying to be what I thought would please the person/people I was with the most.

This came up as we (group therapy) were trying to figure out why I loathe certain habits in my mom, yet hold on to them for dear life in myself.* (albeit unconsciously) The therapist said I was boxes within boxes within boxes; what was finally at the core? We realized that I don't solidly know. :/

That said, the phrase "I am a hollow sphere, filled with light" ran through my head all the way home. Thinking about what my hindbrain might have meant by that.

Therapy is f***ing hard. But some days remind me why it's worth it.

*The past couple of weeks have been very uncomfortable, and needing all of my skills/tactics for dealing with self loathing, as I've been observing my behaviours and watching for those patterns.

#105 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2016, 04:25 AM:

Chickadee: Not dissimilar to the dynamic around my parents' alcoholism. The chief difference being that I worked to hide, rather than conform. Which produces its own set of issues.

#106 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2016, 09:40 AM:

Chickadee, #104: Hearing, witnessing, cheering you on.

#107 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2016, 10:36 AM:

Chickadee, "filled with light" sounds promising. Just sayin'. Witnessing.

#108 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2016, 12:18 PM:

"I am a hollow sphere --
Filled with light:
May that light be only kindness
That I may illumine the world with compassion..."

#109 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2016, 05:50 PM:

I've been away from Making Light for a few years. Put myself back together reasonably well after the divorce. Co-parenting hasn't been easy, but it hasn't been impossible. Until now.

Things have recently come to a head. To give you an idea what I'm facing now, I'll only say that family attorney switched from advising me to compromise as necessary to sustain the peace between my son's mother and me, to instead advising me to prepare for a contested child custody process.

So there's that voice in my head again: "You failed. You deserve this."

This, despite the fact that I've met all my obligations in the judgment. She has ignored the judgment since before it was issued, and has violated the letter of it routinely for years. In recent weeks, she went over the top and started violating the spirit of it, and more flagrantly and recklessly. I can't accommodate her anymore.

I know this conflict was always inevitable, but I feel sick and terribly sad nonetheless.

#110 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2016, 05:55 PM:

Ugh. I mistakenly used my real email address, and now my post can be connected to my identity in the 'view by all' feature. Sorry. I hope the gnomes will please correct my error.

#111 ::: Cassy B. Pages The Gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2016, 06:21 PM:

xiaoren @109/110 needs a nym/email rescue ASAP, please. (In order to respect xiaoren's privacy, I did not check View All By to see if 110 has the correct Disfunctional Families thread email. xioren, if you haven't already, please post with your DF email attached to help the gnomes sort you out.)

#112 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2016, 06:45 PM:

Jacque, Lee, Cassy B: Thank you.
Lori Coulson @108: That sounds like a quote - but either way (quote or original) it's beautiful and I love it. May it be(come) true.

xiaoren: Deepest sympathies. Hugs if desired, certainly know that you are heard.

General note: this weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving. Guess where I'm spending tomorrow? :( Thought I was okay with it until spending a good bit of today in bed with outbreak of depression. :(

#113 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2016, 11:24 PM:

Chickadee, well, I wish you as happy a Thanksgiving as possible under the circumstances. Strength to you...

#114 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Rescuer of Nyms ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2016, 03:25 AM:

xiaoren,

Sorted. But you've used a variety of email addresses over your history here. I've unified them under the most common of them - I'll try to contact you with what that is (under the email address I've just removed from your comments).

If you don't get a mail, please contact me at abi at this domain and I'll send it to you.

With regard to the divorce: do remember that every stable, peaceful year you've given your son is a treasure that cannot be taken away, and which will bear the fruit of stability and good heart for the rest of his days. We all want more such, but even a holding action is hugely valuable in these circumstances.

#115 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2016, 04:17 AM:

Dear Gnomes—

Yes, everything is sorted! Thank you so much. And now, I will catch up on my reading through all the updates from the rest of us here.

#116 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2016, 01:53 PM:

xiaoren, #109: You have not failed. SHE has failed, and you can't control what she does. She has failed you, and more importantly, she has failed your son. Kids aren't stupid; he'll figure it out, if he hasn't already. You did your level best, but in a 2-person interaction, both parties have to be willing to cooperate in order to make it work.

#117 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2016, 02:40 PM:

Chickadee 112: The nugget you provided sprung the rest of the phrase from my mind. I suspect it can trace its origin to when I was studying Tibetan Buddhism, or even a more SFnal source --

Yoda: Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.

So glad you found it helpful!

#119 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2016, 02:50 AM:

Frustrations of being invisible (and in many situations preferring to remain so)...

...when I see more and more friends and FoF on facebook posting things about mental health stuff, with the stated aim of reducing stigma and opening dialogue. I appreciate that the topic is becoming more common and more acceptable in general, but I find that I can't reply or react publicly in any way - because if the person posts it publicly viewable, which they usually do because that's the point of raising awareness, then my activity on their post is viewable to my parents. I am not willing to have that discussion with my parents, or with the majority of people I know. I know my parents see that sort of activity, because they have asked about people they don't know, by name, and about those people's fb posts that I reacted to.

There's the 22 pushups thing going around. I was terrified that my friend was going to nominate me. (Which they didn't, to my great relief on day 22.)

There's the supportive shares, some of which are ick but some of which are nice; the latter seem to mostly come from people on my fb friends list who have talked about their own mental health stuff. I sometimes almost click some reaction on them, then notice the permissions.

Then there's this short video on what high functioning anxiety looks like. Yow, I recognize large chunks of that. But, another thing I couldn't react to visibly on the fb interface.

#120 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2016, 03:07 AM:

the invisible one @119: Sympathies; that's difficult.

#121 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2016, 10:52 AM:

I can talk about this stuff here, at least. And I'm cautiously edging toward talking about it with best friend, which so far is going well. But... I can't bring myself to talk openly about mental health stuff under my real name. Maybe one day I will, maybe not. Some days I feel like a coward for this choice, but my immediate family has made it obvious to me, in dribs and drabs of comments and disparagements and criticisms, that they fall somewhere in the realm of not believing in it and/or blaming the victim. I don't expect the extended family to be any better, given how much casual bigotry makes up the baseline.

The whole thing with fb showing your activity to your entire friends list based on the privacy settings chosen by other people bothers me though. And it shows all activity, not just algorithm-selected pieces of it, to the friends who have added you to their "close friends" list, which you can't control either. (As I discovered when I added a couple of friends who don't post often, because I didn't want to miss what little they did post.) The only things I can limit the reach of are the original posts that I make.

#122 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2016, 02:56 PM:

Witnessing.

#123 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2016, 01:47 AM:

A friend showed me a poem by Rumi.


Seek the wisdom

that will untie your knot

seek the path

that demands your whole being.

Leave that which is not, but appears

to be

seek that which is, but is

not apparent.


Then, in group therapy: "You create ghosts of your mother everywhere."

Much to think about.

#124 ::: Melanie the Tongueless ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2016, 02:22 AM:

Chickadee @123 - that is a beautiful and deep juxtaposition.

Thank you for having taken the time and effort to bring it here & share.

(I'm currently "running hot" on the home front, so can't express how very grateful I am for each and every one of you. Strength and compassion to all, even if I cannot be the one giving it as token of my esteem for you all.)

#125 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2016, 04:43 PM:

This series of posts is helping me a lot. Less directly so, these days, than in communication: I try to be clear with my students, I try to notice when I am not saying what I mean, I try to be aware of the many ways a system can be destructive. And I am in the early-middle of wedding planning and am working on being as functional as possible when talking to my mother.

I've also suggested the threads to people in the school district as helpful in many situations pertaining to our students. In my case, the threads won't help the students necessarily (again, directly-- this year, all of mine read, but it's not true every year) but there are other teachers and educators who probably need to read the threads, and can be helped.

Ugh. I'm posting through a cold.

#126 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2016, 10:42 PM:

hope in disguise @ 7: in your position, I would also be worried and confused about what New Lover's behaviour indicates and how to handle it. Your idea about having a "playful objection" signal versus a "serious objection" signal is a good one -- I do this and it works well. So do a lot of moms -- e.g. "John Quincy Adams, put that down!"

Lee @ 19: I like what you're saying about the Culture of Bullying. Being bullied is pretty much training in how to be an abusee.

Keeping it private:

@ 2: You're not being a jerk -- you're admitting something really difficult and that there's no easy remedy for. I was also the wrong kid (with the wrong medical conditions too) -- same tune, different key and lyrics. The damage is real, extensive, and subtle. My parents weren't complete villains, but they sure did mess me up.

Has anyone ever told your parents that mathematical talent is other side of the coin of musical talent? :)

@ 30: what hope in disguise said at #32. Your parents failed you, and it is not your fault. You just had the bad luck to get parents who weren't a good match for you. (At first, when I started telling myself this, I could barely think it. Now, when I say this to myself, I know intellectually it's true. I hope that one day I'll really believe it.)

@ 79 & 81: I always felt like I was broken because the world around me -- parents, peers at school -- broadcast in a thousand ways subtle and not so subtle, that I was broken. I was never up to any of their standards, never in sync. That's telling someone they're broken, but with deeds not words. Maybe some of it was accident, but overall, the message came through loud and clear. The poison goes very, very deep. Think of those creatures that get heavy metal poisoning from living in a toxic environment.

Have you ever read Spider Robinson's Time Pressure? There's a bit in the ending I want to quote, but who knows where my copy has gone?

#127 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2016, 12:41 AM:

Maybe a weird question, but does anybody here have dentistry knowledge? Why would a dentist ask about mental health on a new patient medical background form? List of medications, sure, dental is medical and that's important information for interactions when they introduce something new, but with no medications? Is this information actually needed?

If it's truly relevant, then I'll have to answer. If it's not, I'll have to weigh looking elsewhere against lying on the form against telling somebody something I'm not comfortable sharing. I still haven't told my new doctor, after that disaster of an interaction with my old doctor a few years ago.

#128 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2016, 09:24 AM:

the invisible one #127: 1) Bluntly, they're probably mostly concerned about potential freakouts, with anxiety being a major issue. Remember, they are working in close quarters with a frequently-distressed patient.

#129 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2016, 10:16 AM:

The separate dental history form covers topics of being fearful about dental work and prior bad experiences during dental work. That seems a reasonable and related thing and I have no problem with those.

Asking whether I'm frequently exhausted, or depressed though? Asking whether I'm "considered a touchy person"? (By whom? in what context?)

#130 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2016, 11:03 AM:

the invisible one @129: "considered a touchy person"??? I think at that point I'd go looking for a new dentist... Do you know anyone who could recommend one? That's how I found my current (awesome) dentist. Because that line sets off my alarm bells.

Anyone else?

#131 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2016, 11:23 AM:

the invisible one, #129: Ye ghods. Re that last, I would at a minimum ask for clarification; as written, that's a question which is impossible to answer because you're being expected to read the mind of the person who wrote it.

"Frequently exhausted" might be relevant; IANAD, so I can't say whether (as an example) low-grade dental infections might cause chronic exhaustion, and that's something they're looking for. Depression? No clue.

Frankly, at this point I would ask for a full explanation about why all of these issues are relevant to your dental work. If they come back with some bullshit about "that's our office policy" and won't give any further explanation... then it's time to look for a new dentist, and put up a review on Yelp.

#132 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2016, 11:49 AM:

I haven't been to this dentist yet; I downloaded their new patient forms to prepare for making a first appointment.

I will look elsewhere, I think. Just asking why those questions are relevant is telling them that my answer is yes I do have issues with those things. People who don't have those issues would just mark "no" and keep going.

Shame. The rest of the website seemed to show a reasonable approach. All-female office was a bonus, too.

#133 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2016, 12:30 PM:

the invisible one: I've never seen questions like that myself. I wonder if they may be trying some sort of holistic mind-body approach, but that's something they should be giving broad warning about, certainly on their website and on the form itself.

#134 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2016, 02:20 PM:

Yeah, "holistic" is one of the things I watch out for. It didn't show up on their website anywhere that I could see. Why, they even recommended fluoride toothpaste! (Oh the anti-fluoride brigade. Big enough that there are multiple brands of fluoride-free "toothpaste" out there.)

By objecting to these questions, they might consider me a touchy person... :p

#135 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2016, 02:39 PM:

the invisible one @127: Why would a dentist ask about mental health on a new patient medical background form?

Two reasons I can think of: stressed-induced teeth grinding, and bulimia plays hell with one's tooth enamel.

But, yeah. I'd require a lot of clarification before I'd choose which questions to answer. If any.

It might be a legitimate query, actually related to your dental care. Even if it is, those questions are badly written.

#136 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2016, 02:47 PM:

the invisible one @132: Just asking why those questions are relevant is telling them that my answer is yes I do have issues with those things.

Not necessarily. You're telling them that you have issues with their asking those questions. Which is your right as a patient.

I've gotten a lot more aggressive with choosing which questions to answer or not. Usually it's just a case of: "see other form," "see prior record." But I'm just fine requiring them to establish need-to-know.

@134: By objecting to these questions, they might consider me a touchy person... :p

So what? If you're too touchy for them, then clearly they're too touchy for you. :-)

#137 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2016, 03:50 PM:

the invisible one, #132: The way you play this game is to do the I'm-so-confused thing. Instead of bristling at them, you go all wide-eyed and say something to the effect of, "I don't understand how exhaustion and depression have anything to do with my dental treatment -- could you explain that?" And about the "touchy" thing, you do have cause to request clarification. I would insert an anecdote about having learned the hard way not to answer ambiguous questions back in the third grade. :-)

#138 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2016, 04:26 PM:

the invisible one @ 127

I've just filled out one of those new-patient forms for a dentist myself. They had the same question, only general, (do you have a history of mental illness) so I googled it.

Turns out it's a multi-reason issue and all for the benefit of the patient. Better diagnosis by the dentist/hygenist (sometimes mental health impacts dental heath) so there's no misdiagnosis. Possible help with payments. Better with determining long-term care/treatment for dental issues. Awareness that the patient may find the visit stressful/difficult and so they can provide better overall service for the patient's needs. One of the articles I found mentioned certain disorders have a massive impact on the teeth/mouth and that's before the medicine gets involved. (from my read, a reason for teeth grinding and jaw clenching -- mechanical damage, not chemical damage.)

In a related subject, not all that long ago researchers found out that good oral health made for good cardiac health.

#139 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2016, 02:28 AM:

Lee & Jacque: I've barely got the energy to find and make an appointment at all, so I think I'll leave the questioning their questions, whether by confrontation or pretend confusion, to somebody else and just look elsewhere. There are dozens of dentists in easy walking distance of my home.

Jacque & Victoria: Well all of those things you list have their own specific questions. They specifically ask about fear of dental work, they specifically ask about grinding teeth, they specifically and individually ask about a whole bunch of physical disorders, many of which I don't know about a connection to oral health but some I learned recently are connected... but for mental health, it's "emotional problems", "considered a touchy person", "frequently exhausted", "unhappy or depressed". Thinking back, I'm not even sure they asked about bulimia. That would have been a dentistry relevant question for sure!

Poorly written questions that may have relevance could be what's going on here. If they were more specifically written, maybe with an info page that explained why these things are asked, then I'd probably be more comfortable answering them.

#140 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2016, 09:35 AM:

the invisible one @ 139

Ah. Very, very specific then and not general like mine was. I agree that the questions are poorly written. Or not, depending. I suspect, after my research, that this is an example of 1) determining the level of self-care/after-care as it impacts oral/dental health and 2) a conscious/unconscious selection tool for the dentist to weed out unwanted patients.

Follow your instincts and go to a different dentist.

#141 ::: just a volunteer ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2016, 11:19 AM:

I had a dream last night about a call I got last month, which made me remember it.

I volunteer for a crisis line and a woman called in. She was having trouble with her husband. See, her 15-year-old daughter ran away from home to a neighbour's and made abuse allegations against her parents to Child Protective Services. The woman said she made them up, but also CPS told the parents that to even be considered as candidates to ever get their child back, they had to go to counselling, submit to psychological assessment, and make their farm habitable ie. clean it out of squalor and get it hooked up to running water. She also talked a lot about how "defiant" her daughter was since becoming a teenager, clashing with her parents and "only happy when she got things her way", and it'd only be worse now because eg. CPS was placing her in a regular high school, which she'd been asking for for years, and they told her that when she was 16 she no longer had to live with her legal guardian, so she'd run away again even if she did come home. Also this might inspire her 18-year-old brother, who still lived on the farm, to leave, since he said he was tired of all the arguing and the farm being in "the state it was in".

So I gave the lady resources like cheap counseling in her county, the local hoarding support organization, so forth, was emotionally supportive...

But on the other hand I couldn't stop thinking about the DFD community, about this post, about this kid. Like: You go, kid. You get that better life for yourself. Get the fuck out of there. Free your whole family from this hell, even if it feels like blowing them all apart. Get out. We know what it's like and we're all here cheering for you.

#142 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2016, 12:10 PM:

Just A Volunteer: witnessing, and echoing your advice to what has to be a strong young woman...

#143 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2016, 06:18 PM:

volunteer: Yeah, and that's not really something you can say in that context, is it? Go you, for being supportive—to everyone who needed support! (And may the gods light the daughter's path.)

#144 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2016, 07:08 PM:

Lee @118: My partner says that that article is not very consistent with current psychiatric models. She cannot speak to sociology/criminology.

#145 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2016, 01:37 AM:

I suggest, to anyone whose Thanksgiving-with-family visit tends to be fraught in any way that could be connected with the election, that this year you simply not go. Don't present yourself as a target for your crazy racist uncle or gay-bashing parents. You're better off alone, or with other friends who find themselves in the same predicament.

How? By any means necessary, including lying about having the flu or (better) a GI bug that has you "going at both ends". Anything that keeps them from being likely to descend on you. If you're in a position to be able to say, "I'm not going to be the punching bag this year" flat-out, that's even better.

This is not the time to try to salvage a limping family relationship. This is the time to save yourself first.

#146 ::: Tessa ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2016, 02:19 AM:

I'm having trouble and I wasn't sure where to go except then I remembered these posts and well...

My family is visiting. They're in a hotel which is good. We were supposed to do sightseeing today, but my dad got stomach flu and I feel so relieved. And guilty because I feel relieved. Because stomach flu sucks. It's just so stressful having them here that getting a temporary reprieve is so nice. Please tell me I'm not a terrible person.

#147 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2016, 02:32 AM:

Tessa @146:

You're allowed to feel two things at once. You can feel whatever kind of sorry you do* that he has stomach flu and be relieved that you aren't going to spend the day with him.

Look at it this way. What if you couldn't do the sightseeing because suddenly an old friend of his turned up in town and he canceled so he could spend the day with them? No flu, no bad thing, just canceled sightseeing? You'd feel relieved, right?

Relief at the cancelation of plans you weren't looking forward to is totally normal and completely fine. It's OK.

-----
* And the degree of sorry you feel can vary depending on things like your history with him.

#148 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2016, 09:20 PM:

Tessa @146, seconding what abi said. You're not a terrible person. Feeling happy that you get a reprieve from stressful company is not the same as feeling happy that your father is sick, even if the two things coexist.

#149 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2016, 02:55 AM:

Argh, invisible person frustration. There must be something about the way I ask questions.

Elseweb, under a different username, I asked for resources so I could learn a thing, which admittedly is a broad topic more than a single thing. I got one or two suggestions, which were helpful, but in an otherwise busy, chatty, helpful place, got not a whole lot. Then somebody else asked a similar question, and got *lots* of answers, most of which would also be excellent answers to the question I asked.

Sigh. Going through the other question's answers. Going to drop my question, because I guess I'm asking wrong. Or something. This sort of thing has happened to me before. There's a reason I chose this username.

#150 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2016, 10:13 AM:

the invisible one @149, for what it's worth (and I realize that it doesn't help that much), you're not invisible here....

I'm glad your questions were answered second-hand, as it were, but how incredibly frustrating that they weren't answered to you. Perhaps it was bad timing? The people who could answer best didn't happen to be available when you asked? You certainly express yourself clearly here, so it seems unlikely to me that communication style is the issue.

I've had that happen to me in person, likely because I'm female. I make a comment or ask a question and it's ignored; a man repeats it and it's addressed. This has gotten better over the decades, but it still happens sometimes. Do you present as female in that place elseweb? Could that be a contributing factor?

Wish I could help. But I can witness.

#151 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2016, 11:03 AM:

It's also likely that when your question was rephrased, the folks who'd come up with answers in the meantime were ready to write them up.

The French call these "staircase thoughts": where the perfect response comes when you're on your way home from a party. At that point the direct connection has been lost.

Examples of this are fairly common. It's frustrating, but it's not you. You primed the pump.

#152 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2016, 11:57 AM:

#150, Cassy B. & #151, Carol Kimball: It may have been bad timing or priming the thoughts, but I've also tried three times there over the course of about a month and a half, each time posting at a different time of day. (It is a busy site with frequent open threads where posting such questions is encouraged. My question is very directly on topic for the site.)

Most places online I seem to be seen as male, and I make no attempt to correct that. (Life is more convenient when people think you're male.) Nobody has said anything one way or another on that site, but in other places where I use the same username I have been referred to with male pronouns.

One of the "answers" I got was something I addressed in my question, too, saying that this answer was totally standard and totally unhelpful advice that is trotted out by rote every time the subject comes up. Which I know is on them for not actually reading the question, but kind of reinforces the perception that my question isn't actually being read.

#153 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2016, 05:09 PM:

No advice, but you've been heard. *waves to the invisible one*

#154 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2016, 01:04 AM:

Unrelated question that's been preying on my mind for quite a while now: several DFD threads back, Abi mentioned sharing food/meals as a way to build and maintain relationships, specifically in the context of office lunches. I've processed my gut reaction to that to the point where I can say that yeah, I am probably the limiting factor in how I don't get to know my co-workers. Not eating lunch with them is just the start of it. (I shared an office with a co-worker who, after well over a year, and after we were work friends, said that for the first six months or so she thought I was scary-unfriendly. I was quiet and focussed on work, I thought.)

But... how do I social at work? My last two office jobs, I noticed that when I ate in the lunch room at a table with other people, they talked to each other about things where I had nothing to contribute. A TV show I don't watch, for example. Worst was when they talked about Those Other People, which happened from time to time. But even when it was a topic that I merely had nothing to say about instead of a topic I actively dislike, how do I join in? The only way I could participate would be to change the subject. On top of that, listening to other people's conversations is just something that I hate — even if it's a conversation that, if I were participating in it, I would have no problem with. (I actually like it if people having a conversation that doesn't include me are speaking a language that I don't understand. Because then I don't have to listen.) So I ended up eating in my office, alone, in the quiet. I can be equally invisible in the lunchroom or in my office, at lunch time. Eating in my office doesn't rub my face in how invisible I am.

Then there's the food aspect. I am uncomfortable accepting food brought by individuals I don't already have a warm-ish relationship with. (I am even more uncomfortable if I don't think terribly highly of them instead of just being a relative stranger.) So my reaction is something like, sharing food to build a relationship seems backwards.

And maybe weird, but the thing that shows up regularly in fantasy of how accepting food in the faerie world means you're stuck there forever seems way too related to how I don't want to accept food from a co-worker I don't like, even if I'm hungry. >.< I have no idea what repercussions I think it will actually have if I accept food from a disliked co-worker, I just can't do it. I can't even take a piece when nobody is looking.

I have a list of things I want to do when I get a new job, and one of them is to get to know my co-workers better right from the start. I just ... don't know how to do that? So far my plan consists of an electronic picture frame that I can load up with interesting photos as a conversation starter. Which is a passive invitation, and one thing that ought to be useful, but I also need ideas that I, anxious and introverted as I am, can actively use so I am directing some of my own relationship building instead of depending on other people to direct things.

I'm already trying to be more active in maintaining relationships with friends. I have three people I do stuff with individually on a semi-regular basis now! This is exciting! And tiring. Even though the semi-regular basis that I'm talking about is on the scale of once every month or two, each. But it's progress, you know. Maybe it'll get less tiring as it gets less terrifying to contact somebody and ask for some of their time and attention.

#155 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2016, 01:58 AM:

the invisible one @154: Very quick I'm-supposed-to-be-in-bed-already note.

I'm a gregarious introvert - I thrive on social interaction, as long as it's not too much and I can control the frequency. (right now, social things once a week is good, but sometimes a couple of times a month is lots) So I hope my experience is useful - but even if not, hearing and witnessing what you are experiencing.

One of the ways I socialize is through food. I realize you have limits with this, but bear with me. I joke that I live to feed. Fortunately, my current workplace involves people bringing in baked goods to share on a fairly regular basis (and so far, never one of the people I'm not as warm toward). I've done my share of baking-bringing. :) I mention this to ask if there's any sort of a culture like that at where you're working/will be working? Because an ice-breaker might be to contribute baking if the work culture encourages it. Even leaving it on the coffee room table with a note "ginger spice cookies (contains xyz allergens) please enjoy! the invisible one" - leave it there first thing in the morning, and you'll probably be getting thank yous at lunch. :)

Also, I love the electronic picture frame thing. Be sure to load it with at least a few of your daily interesting things! To pick a recent example, it's SO COOL how pretty/unique/fascinating as mundane a thing as a geranium bud can be. (the close-up from October 25)

As always, YMMV and feel free to ignore if not useful.

Also, YAY for doing stuff individually with people!!!

#156 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2016, 09:52 AM:

And maybe weird, but the thing that shows up regularly in fantasy of how accepting food in the faerie world means you're stuck there forever seems way too related to how I don't want to accept food from a co-worker I don't like, even if I'm hungry. ... I am uncomfortable accepting food brought by individuals I don't already have a warm-ish relationship with. .

This is a problem alright, but not one unique to you; indeed it's very old (and still a problem for allergy sufferers and the like): Sharing food with someone expresses trust and builds community, while the refusal to "break bread" with someone expresses the opposite, distrust and an assertion of "not my tribe".³ And this is exactly what you are expressing and reinforcing in the bit I bolded. To expand your tribe, you need to form more links with other people (community is the plural of relationship). These links don't have to be food related, but sharing food is so central to human experience, that finding alternatives is noticably difficult. Bringing your own food to share may help, but reciprocity is likely to be an issue eventually. Do you find that you're more-kindly disposed toward someone once they've eaten food you gave them? If so, that might help "break the ice" in establishing a connection.

(Leaving in a bit of rambling on the topic:)

The point of not eating with fey-folk is precisely because sharing food with someone would establish community and guest/host obligations... bonding the human to the fey in a way that might well conflict with their human loyalties. The flip side of this is elves refusing to share salted food with humans, this being declared as a "human universal" that would risk binding the elf into human obligations. ¹

Getting away from elves, the early Israelites had a version of this with their kosher laws -- the point was specifically to keep the Israelites separate from the other tribes, by preventing their members from eating with, (and thus establishing community) with outsiders. (Many of the kashruth restrictions seem targeted at the traditions of tribes/cults who were present at the time and competing with the Israelites.)

¹ Both of these apply whether the fey are imagined as potentially hostile spirits, or as a memory of native tribes who were overrun and destroyed by the land's current or recent masters.²

² If Jackson and his ilk had succeeded in wiping out the Native Americans, we'd be mythologizing "the Indians" in the same way, modulo that it's only been a couple of centuries there, with some written histories in play.

³ There's a side-rant to be made about how this social pattern also backs "drinkups", with dire dangers especially for women.

#157 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2016, 12:20 PM:

Using the recent Open Thread:

Jenny Islander asked for help about her computer unexpectedly rebooting. There were a few immediate suggestions, with more trickling in, some queries, more interaction. There have been at least seven posts on her specific and limited dilemma.

Usually, topics start with a question or comment and build from there. Rarely do we have one query, one succinct answer, regardless of the timing or content of the original post.

Some people are good at strewing seed crystals. Looks like this is one of the invisible one's superpowers.


#158 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2016, 01:30 PM:

the invisible one, #154: In addition to everything you say about the "sharing food builds unity" thing at the office, I've seen it be abused by companies encouraging their employees to think of themselves as "one big family" when some of the company policies were... dubious, shall we say. So I don't think you're necessarily wrong to question it. "I trust you enough to eat what you provide" is not a bad metric.

"They only talk about things I can't contribute to" brings up a very specific bad memory for me: an office "department lunch" (presented by the supervisor with the implication that it would be a working lunch, which is why I didn't decline) that turned into a discussion of upcoming plans and social activities at the church everyone else in the department attended -- which I didn't know because I'd only been there a few weeks. And my attempt to maintain a tactful silence was directly overridden by the supervisor. I didn't last much longer at that job.

OTOH, that's not the situation you're facing. You're looking at something that happens a fair amount with my regular Sunday-brunch group, all of whom are far more into movies and TV than I am, and they get started on something I haven't seen and talk it into the ground. My approach to that is to let it run for a while, and then either toss in a question which has the potential to introduce thread drift ("I've heard that this show does a good job of trope-inversion on X. Do you think so?" or something like that) or say something about a related item that I can discuss and see if I can turn the conversation in that direction instead. OTOOH, I have to note that this is with a group of people I already know well and trust.

Y'know, I may not be the best person to listen to about this stuff because I always kept my work and private lives very separate; part of the reason I didn't socialize with co-workers was that I was generally the "office freak" -- the only political liberal, and someone whose major outside interests and activities were not shared with anyone else (science fiction, the SCA, contradancing). But I had an active social life outside of work, so "making friends with my co-workers" was not even a blip on the horizon of my priorities; if I could get along with them in the office, that was enough.

I do think the electronic frame is a good idea as a passive invitation to conversation. Paying attention to which pictures draw comments from which person is a safe way of finding out more about your co-workers, which is one of the ways you figure out who can or can't be trusted further.

#159 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2016, 02:00 PM:

#155, Chickadee: One of the ways I socialize is through food.

I do enjoy sharing food with people I like! And yeah, I usually call it social introvert. I like socializing with people... if I like them, and if it's not in an overly crowded or overwhelming situation, and if I also have my alone time.

Currently looking for a job, so I don't know what the food culture of my future workplace will be like. I have brought in baking before at previous jobs, and got some compliments. (I think my favourite was the time I brought in one of my experiments in 100% rye bread, and a co-worker with an eastern european last name and accent told me it was really, really good. That was a co-worker who I was neutral about due to barely interacting with, because we worked in completely different parts of the business.)

To pick a recent example, it's SO COOL how pretty/unique/fascinating as mundane a thing as a geranium bud can be.

I've discovered I really like doing macro photography. Lots of the pictures are close-ups of roadside weeds, in fact. I especially like plants with puffy seed fluff. Also bees, in the summer when they're out working. But yes, some of those pictures will probably make it into the planned future picture frame. (Current plan is to buy it with my first paycheque from whatever new job I end up in. Can't afford one right now.)

#156, Dave Harmon: Do you find that you're more-kindly disposed toward someone once they've eaten food you gave them?

Not if I already dislike them. If I'm neutral, and if they say thanks, then slightly, yes, but I haven't followed up on it to expand that into something more than co-worker I am neutral about.

To expand your tribe, you need to form more links with other people

I know that, I just don't know *how*...

And... looking back at my previous post, I mention the terror of asking someone for their time and attention. This is most likely related. I have this enormous aversion to "interrupting" people, and taking the initiative to start a conversation is filed under "interrupting". Because they were doing something that didn't involve me, first, and because just because I look like I'm not doing anything, I might be enjoying some quiet alone time and really don't want to be interrupted, so just because they look like they're not doing anything, I shouldn't interrupt them.

There's a side-rant to be made about how this social pattern also backs "drinkups", with dire dangers especially for women.

I'm not familiar with that term, but from context it seems to involve getting drunk enough that judgement is affected. Given that I don't drink at all... (I find anything with alcohol in it tastes vile.)

#157, Carol Kimball: Some people are good at strewing seed crystals. Looks like this is one of the invisible one's superpowers.

Maybe. The site in question uses threaded comments, so while there is some thread drift, replies tend to stay contained and more or less directly related to the question for other people's questions. For a linear comment setup like there is here, there is a lot more thread crossing.

#158, Lee: "making friends with my co-workers" was not even a blip on the horizon of my priorities; if I could get along with them in the office, that was enough.

Well, I'm less looking for friends at work and more looking for friendly co-worker relationships, as opposed to barely knowing anybody in the company and not knowing who to ask about certain things or who is the expert in a topic.

#160 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2016, 02:03 PM:

Re socializing with coworkers and food.

In addition to bringing in baked goods, which are nearly always appreciated, my office also has a tradition of people bringing in a food item from a trip and leaving it in the kitchen for general enjoyment - macadamia nuts from a Hawaii trip, salt water taffy from the beach, pecan pralines from New Orleans, etc.

Following on what Lee said, if people are talking about something you don't know about, in addition to shifting the topic to something related (I haven't seen movie X, but I really liked actor Y in movie Z) you can also just toss the conversational ball back to them, e.g., I haven't seen it but I've heard it's excellent/ violent / a good look at subject A/ whatever you've heard, and then go on to ask them something like whether they've been watching since the beginning.

Re listening to others' conversations, is this perhaps a situation where the anthropologist trick might work? Listen without expecting that you'll understand or be involved in the discussion, and see what you learn?

None of this applies to discussions about "those people" of course.

#161 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2016, 04:31 PM:

I can't actually find a definition for "drinkups" online -- too much contamination of the search term with unrelated stuff -- but I did find this, which suggests that it's an ostensibly professionally-oriented event at which people are encouraged to drink heavily in the name of "networking". Or possibly something like speed-dating with drinks; I can't quite tell which, and both versions may be operative.

#162 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2016, 12:15 AM:

#160, OtterB:

Hm, food for thought. I think an even more basic skill for me to build is going to be how to participate in a group conversation without being talked over, because I'm drawing a blank on how I might even begin to try your suggestions. I'm not sure if I'm trying to speak when somebody else is expecting their opening due to not seeing how the who-is-speaking status is changed within the group, or if I'm so invisible that the person speaking over me doesn't even notice that I've started talking. I certainly stop talking quickly enough when somebody talks over me.

Participating in a conversation with "I don't watch that" just seems ... wrong, somehow. On par with saying "I don't like that" when people are discussing a thing they like that I don't. I just stay out of those conversations entirely, and only say that if asked directly what I think about it. (Rarely. Because invisible.) I certainly don't say anything online, because when I do see somebody saying a similar thing, they get jumped on. If you dislike/don't care about it so much, why are you spending time and effort in a discussion about this thing you dislike/don't care about? That sort of thing.

Anthropologist... maybe I'm going to have to figure out *why* I find listening to other people's conversations so unpleasant. I mean, sometimes it's obvious: the topic is one I find unpleasant. But that's not all of them.

#163 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2016, 06:53 AM:

the invisible one #159, Lee #161: A "Drinkup" (which term I learned here at ML/DFT) means handing someone a drink with an order to "drink up!", with the implicit "or else" coming from "party rules", a "drinking game", or worse. Not a good situation. I actually learned about the term/concept here at ML/DFT; in my own college years, I don't remember having to deal with that, and would have "gone off on" anyone who tried it on me. Both because I was a guy, and I hung out in several crowds that were Really Big on consent issues.

#164 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2016, 10:33 AM:

the invisible one, regarding television shows that the listening person doesn't watch: I have that problem too. I don't watch TV, grew up without watching any at all, so I was always at a disadvantage with my school peers. My wife and I are also gregarious introverts, so the socializing with new folks is an issue we each have dealt with. (Her solution? Specialize in a field that allows working-from-home..alas, I cannot do that.)

And even though my profession normally has a fair amount of socialization built-in (I'm a veterinarian), in my particular instance, I'm mainly in my office working online with scientists and managers. Socialization with my staff is limited by the imposed hierarchy and regulations, so I can't do much about that. Instead, I do bring in some food -- baked goods, other treats -- and chat briefly with folks throughout the day. I say hello to everyone, especially the housekeeping staff, the cashiers and cafeteria staff, the security guards and concierges, because they get overlooked by a lot of people. Very quickly, they become friendly faces that I see at random times. That helps make it more pleasant.

I'm used to some social isolation, being hard of hearing, and some shyness, which was stronger when I was younger. I've practiced overcoming this by saying nice things to complete strangers; for example, admiring a little boy's car set while we were all waiting in the checkout line. People like to have their kids admired, and kids make it easy by showing their new treasures for admiration. It's one way to be social without any pressure at all, for me.

More later, when I think of it and get back to my desk.

#165 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2016, 10:58 AM:

the invisible one,

Instead of, "I don't watch that," which is a flat and final statement, how about, "I haven't seen that," which conveys the same information, but is more open - there's almost an unspoken 'yet' at the end of it, and the other person is more likely to continue.

Or "I haven't seen that - what do you like about it?" which is a definite invitation to the other person to talk to you about the show they are interested in. And then you can ask questions about it, and it may even turn out to be something you'd be interested in.

Just some thoughts for your consideration, YMMV, etc.


#166 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2016, 11:16 AM:

re: drinkups (Dave Harmon's explanation @163): It's interesting how sometimes you'll read something and realize you haven't reevaluated a story you've been told. I've looked at a lot of the stories Mom told me about her growing up without the rose-coloured lenses she put on them, and man, her childhood was awful. :( One understands how almost all the kids came out *seriously* screwed up.

She'd always presented the drink at the door as a cultural thing. And maybe it is - Eastern Europeans are known for alcohol, and my grandfather was a bootlegger. But there's a matter of degrees. And a proud, insecure man would probably take a tradition like that quite a bit farther than others... Mom phrased it as "you drank it in one go, or you weren't a real man." I wonder how many "not real men" never got invited back, or were considered inferiors to this former aristocrat who was by necessity a farmer in the New World. :( (and at least at first, really bad at it)

#167 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2016, 11:26 AM:

#162 ::: the invisible one

Back when I actively avoided watching TV, I would mention not having seen the show and asked for clarification about some point in their conversation that made no sense to me. It worked to keep the conversation going and appear like I was interested when I wasn't. In fact, I currently have a co-worker that just adores HBO's Game of Thrones and will talk endlessly about it if given the chance. I've only read the first 2.5 books (and stopped out of boredom) but I'll feed him questions anyway. It's mostly a time killer when I need a break from spreadsheets.

Either way, "A Request For Additional Info" whether you care or not is always well received.

I'm reminded of my Japanese friend who had a translating gig at an auto factory. She was walking with one of the Japanese head honchos and passed an American floor manager going the opposite way. After hearing their "How-are-you-doing, Fine-and-you, Pretty-good" exchange, the honcho asked my friend, "Do you know him? (no) Why did you ask that? Do you even care?" She explained the exchange as "a different way to say hello and be polite." The form was more important than the content. So asking co-workers things like "How was your weekend", do you have plans for the weekend/holiday/vacation/etc and other things to start short, non-work related conversations are good. No one expects in-depth talks about those subjects.

Even a simple "Hey" (no smile required) as you pass a co-worker in the hall helps. Ditto for eye contact and a slight nod. If you walk fast and keep your head down and never make eye contact in passing, that's a non-verbal cue to "Don't Talk To Me!"

And that's another thing. Non-verbal cues are important. How good are you at reading them?

#168 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2016, 02:18 PM:

Regarding "I haven't watched that...": That's an increasingly common situation for everyone these days -- with so many fandoms available, nobody can keep up with all of them.

#169 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2016, 02:00 AM:

#164, Ginger: I say hello to everyone

You know, initiating short one-on-one interactions will be a lot easier to practice than group discussions. And it's something I can do everywhere, and doesn't have to wait for a better job situation. (I am in a survival job that keeps me fed and sheltered. I do not like the company, and I hide that fact as best I can.)

#165, Nancy C. Mittens: Or "I haven't seen that - what do you like about it?" which is a definite invitation to the other person to talk to you about the show they are interested in.

Given how few shows I've been interested in at all... I'm more likely to stop after "haven't seen that". I'm not so much actively avoiding tv as: I have so little interest in it I haven't had a TV for years, I'm not set up for netflix or pirated downloads, and on those rare occasions that a show sounds kind of interesting and I think I might be curious to watch it, it isn't a strong enough desire for me to bother getting things set up so I can watch it. (And I'm sure setting up netflix is super easy. I've just never bothered.)

I suppose listening politely to something I'm not interested in is a skill. Oh wait, listening to various ex boyfriends and a bunch of other male people go on and on and on while nodding and making vague noises so they think I'm listening while wishing they'd just stop already is a thing I've done many times. Even coworker who is quite proud of not prying into other coworker's lives outside of work has spent a lot of time talking at me about his precious car, and his back injury and physio, and his car again, and his buddy's car and... argh. I don't want to know about his life. He certainly doesn't want to know about mine, whenever I tried to continue as a conversation, he'd change the subject. Now I just don't like him, and as much as I can I try to keep our conversations to work topics.

#167, Victoria: Even a simple "Hey" (no smile required) as you pass a co-worker in the hall helps. Ditto for eye contact and a slight nod. If you walk fast and keep your head down and never make eye contact in passing, that's a non-verbal cue to "Don't Talk To Me!"

Well that just pulled up an old memory. High school, I think. One of my teachers... hm, can't remember which one, but some part of me wants to remember it as the career planning/counsellor teacher (we had an entire class in career planning). Anyway. Teacher tells me, you don't have to say hi to people every time you see them, you've already said hi today. And if my memory is right, this was not all that long after I had expanded a bit from a timid mouse who barely talked to anybody, so... Hm.

And that's another thing. Non-verbal cues are important. How good are you at reading them?

That is unknown to me. I spent too many years being told that I was absolutely terrible at that, that people were only listening to me to be polite but actually wanted me to shut up (even though they were asking questions and leaning forward), that people were only nice to me to be polite, and other things pretty much guaranteed to screw up my sense of how to interact with people and especially my sense of how to have friends. The majority of that came from the one I refer to as Crappy Ex. Last time I mentioned this I think I also mentioned that I had been quite successful as a tutor when I did any tutoring, so clearly before Crappy Ex I was capable of reading the other person's engagement and comprehension successfully.

I'm sorry. I seem to be very negative about a lot of human interaction things at the moment. Crappy workplace has been eating my brain. I really need out, but I need somewhere to go in order to leave. Can't afford anything else.

#170 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2016, 02:14 AM:

I read through an article (https://theinvisiblescar.wordpress.com/acons/) for adult children of narcissists. I have never been convinced that my mother counts as a narcissist. She doesn't map well onto the usual symptom checklists. But this article also had a 24 point list of behaviours for how narcissists treat others. Counting each as 1 point (=total of 24) and allowing 1/2 points for behaviours that were present but not that dramatic, my mother scores between 18 and 21.5 points. That is far too high a number to be an accident. So...either (a) my mother is a narcissist or something close, or (b) my mother was trained by a narcissist. (When you know how to do it and you're in a bad enough mood to want to, it can be hard to resist. I would know.)

I barely even met my mother's mother, because my mother and one of her three sisters moved across the continent from her as soon as possible. The younger pair of sisters were the favoured children and stayed on the home coast. My mother used to threaten me that she should hand me over to her mother so that I'd realize how soft I had it. I begin to wonder if my mother's mother was a top-class narcissist.

I do think my mother has at least some narcissistic tendencies -- the question is how many/how bad. For example, my mother's reaction to my recent peanut allergy scare was to ignore it. Then when I was so uncouth as to bring it up, her concern was to suss out the minimum necessary extra work required to avoid driving me to the emergency room next family event. Labelling peanut-containing things was deemed too much hassle -- I should instead depend on the fact that she dislikes peanut-flavoured desserts. She resents the idea of anaphylactic allergies and tries to disbelieve.*

I should stop obsessing and go to bed.

* The in-laws aren't much better on this point -- they believe in allergies, but have to be quizzed on nut content, and don't label the dangerous food. Once they even fed me peanut cookies when *asked* about nut content...

#171 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2016, 10:21 AM:

the invisible one @ 169
I spent too many years being told that I was absolutely terrible at that, ... so clearly before Crappy Ex I was capable of reading the other person's engagement and comprehension successfully.

So, you've identified your problem by answering my question. Yes, you can read body language, you just don't trust yourself because of mental tapes your crappy ex installed in your head. Have you tried mentally telling your crappy ex to "siddown and shuddup" when you start second guessing your first read of a person? Because if you could read engagement and comprehension before, you can do it still. You just have to trust yourself and not the tapes left behind by the crappy ex.

#172 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2016, 10:31 AM:

the invisible one @ 169

forgot to add: the co-worker who complains about everything and doesn't want to list to you? They're everywhere. Some people aren't happy unless they're unhappy. I.E. they're happiest when complaining about something someone else did--because they've never set a foot wrong themselves. (It's a variation of the martyr complex.) My father used to say "They'd bitch if you hung them with a new rope" with all that implies.

I've an aunt-in-law and a sister who display this trait. There's nothing you can do to satisfy them, so the best way to deal with them is to please yourself and ignore them as much as you can while being polite.

#173 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2016, 10:57 AM:

Bodhisvaha @170

Witnessing.

Not that I have food allergies*, but I do have friends and family with them. It takes effort to be mindful of other's Food Needs/Preferences. For me, it's no different than remembering drink preferences for "coffee, black" and "coffee, cream" and "not coffee, but tea with sugar". However, I pay attention to that kind of detail. I also like to cook and experiment with food so when a typical ingredient is forbidden, I have a work around close at hand. (Or I can find one quickly enough.) Most people don't have that skill. If they can't follow a recipe to the letter, they're helpless in the kitchen.

*Just a strong, very strong, Food Prejudice. I'm allergic to things like dust and tree pollen.

#174 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2016, 12:19 PM:

#170, Bodhisvaha:

That was some scary reading. With that high of a score, there's a good chance that you're right about your mother. I mean, she could have learned those behaviours as "how to adult" but you also indicate that she knows how bad her own mother was, so...

My mother only got two "half points" using the scoring system you describe, but Crappy ex hit a few more, especially in the "insults disguised as concern" and "envy when I'm successful" area. Not enough to be definitive though.

Refusing to acknowledge a potentially deadly allergy, though. And giving you an allergen even when you ask specifically about it! That's well beyond clueless and into malice.

#171, Victoria: Have you tried mentally telling your crappy ex to "siddown and shuddup" when you start second guessing your first read of a person?

Well I'm less second guessing and more jumping straight to a negative interpretation of anything ambiguous. When I try to tell myself that my negative assessment of, say, a boyfriend being quiet or less responsive than usual, is probably just jerkbrain being a jerk and telling me that nobody could possibly want to stick around once they get to know me, there's a certain amount of self-fulfilling prophecy (link is to a radio documentary) coming out of the anxiety behaviours the whole situation provokes.

It's also context specific. I mostly managed to protect the context of explaining a factual thing, because comprehension is something that is also fairly factual. In more subjective contexts like friendship or opinions or relationships or other, there was less in the way of facts to hold on to, to protect myself. Especially with the whole "they're pretending to like you just to be polite" teaching me that people's behaviour didn't reflect their opinions. (And since I'm pretending hard at work, to hide how much I dislike the job... I know that faking pleasant behaviour is a thing.)

#172, Victoria: the co-worker who complains about everything and doesn't want to list to you?

Oh no those aren't complaints. The various car stories are told with great pleasure and enthusiasm, and even the physio stories are more TMI and things are improving, and less complaining.

There's a different co-worker who complains about everything. I learned within a day or two that this was the case, so I do not engage with him.

#175 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2016, 04:28 PM:

#174, the invisible one:

It continues to be scary. The 33-item narcisstic effects/behaviours list from _Will I Ever Be Good Enough?_ (published book by qualified therapist) scores out between 18 to 31 out of 33, depending on what gets marked as full or half-point. It is so helpful that you gave me some idea how a couple other people scored on the same test. Maybe more people would do that? (Crappy Ex did you serious damage, and you say he only used a few of those strategies. What he could have done if he'd branched out more...)

So...I went back to that book's narcissistic personality traits list and paid it close attention. My mom still did not match the conventional traits. But when I think hard about the *result* rather than the mechanism, I can see that in a perverse, Catholic-guilt-and-humility sort of way, she consistently sets herself apart. It's a tossup whether she'll peg herself as more or less virtuous/afflicted than a given referent, but you can count on someone coming out on top as saintlier. For example, other volunteering ladies are always more beautiful or more successful than her. Single mothers are harder-working than her. Mothers with disabled children are more afflicted and therefore more virtuous than her, practically saints on earth.* Child who commits minor infraction of household rules -- lazy / weak character / moral failure (insult depends on type and scale of error), and probably an indication of her failure as a mother.

I feel pathethic when people tell me that surviving and awakening to the abuse is a major accomplishment, but maybe it is more true than I want it to be. Narcissists are known to be extra dangerous even as abusers go, and my mom could give master classes in manipulation. Maybe this is a bigger deal than I can accept it for.

* Now that I think about it, I can't recall her expressing sympathy for the disabled children, just the parents. WTF?

It was actually the in-laws who blanked when asked "do these have nuts?" and fed me Cookies of Doom. They did not complain about the ensuing hassle, but they are still pretty careless about allergies. My mother, however, just doesn't believe in allergies and asthma, although she's less bad about normal illness like fever. She genuinely worried and took care of me the time I caught mono, just like a real mom. I admit it was a rare bright spot, but it did happen.

#176 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2016, 02:29 AM:

#175, Bodhisvaha: (Crappy Ex did you serious damage, and you say he only used a few of those strategies. What he could have done if he'd branched out more...)

Yeah, whatever was driving him didn't seem to be NPD, at least. One of the many other ways of doing damage to people instead. It's not as though there's a shortage. :(

It's a tossup whether she'll peg herself as more or less virtuous/afflicted than a given referent

Self-martyrdom? Looking for reassurance? Holding those saintly people up as an implicit comparison to you? Or to herself, with the scripts her mother installed?

#177 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2016, 11:18 AM:

Back to "saying hello to everyone": It's nice for me because it's a limited time event -- as brief as I want to make it, or extendable if I'm feeling sociable -- and it's a positive event that requires very little demand for recognition of cues. I smile, make eye contact, say hello or some other noncommittal remark (Weather, time, day/holiday, season, something), and sail onwards. The eye contact and smile bit makes people automatically smile back (unless they're very used to resisting that human behavior), so you get both a positive feedback for yourself, and a positive association of yourself in them. I think that makes sense. Over time, the same people become more friendly, even if on a superficial level, so a longer conversation becomes possible although not required.

I used to watch the security guards transform from suspicious, scowling guardians to smiling friendly people on the job. Now we have mostly concierges instead of security guards, and they've been around long enough to know me by name (and I know their names), but all our interactions are short ones. Friendly, short, positive interactions. They're good people, doing a thankless job, and I appreciate it. We've never had to discuss families or cars or television shows, which is a relief.

#178 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2016, 09:20 AM:

#176, the invisible one:

She's a world-leading expert on self-martyrdom. Plus, in a sentence or two of chit-chat, she can praise an acquaintance, denigrate herself as inferior, and give you a backhanded compliment that places you firmly below both. An untrained observer will never spot the sleight of mind.

Ginger's advice on just saying hi and smiling is good. So is having a few conversation items of your own, such as books read, photos taken (anything that doesn't offend the listener), where you can lead the talk instead of follow. If it's not catching, you can just wind down after a few sentences and either let the other person switch topic or start wrapping up. (Yes, I found it intimidating at first, and can't always manage it on bad brainweather days! It's easier to practice in a small group where you have some common interests but not complete overlap.) Even a momentary look, smile, wave, or hello shifts people's impressions to merely shy instead of cold or ignoring. Things I have learned the hard way...

#179 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2016, 06:30 PM:

Just spotted elseNet, dropping it here in case it's useful for anybody.

Oh my god. So my mom has proposed a total ban on political debates on Thanksgiving and she intends to enforce this by not only putting up a sign at the dinner table, but by also arming everyone with cheap plastic kazoos... which we will toot aggressively if The Discourse™ begins to occur.

Potentially a good idea for any kind of family gathering, I should think. Or any other gathering at which tempers may run high to the detriment of the purpose of said gathering.

#180 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2016, 06:54 PM:

Captain Awkward had linked to the Kazoos of Civility. It unfortunately works best if you are the host and not the guest, but I still love the idea and have a BIL I would like to use it on.

#181 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2016, 10:03 AM:

My emotional state has been steadily getting worse and is approaching total paralysis and breakdown, so I have been trying to figure out what the eff is going on.

I am trying to find counselling again and this counsellor asked "who are you?" I can't answer that question straight: I grew up being erased and reprogrammed. The first batch of attempts boiled down to "please let me exist and be wanted."

I woke up at 4:30 am with a migraine and a hunch. The emotional scars create the enforced self and its programming. Can I work backwards from their pattern to sketch what mom worked so hard to remove?

The enforced self is normal, follows rules, is under authority / in a hierarchy. It's small and closed-in, predictable and repetitive. It's negative, looks for how to shut things down. It's a tiny cog in a big machine, calcified and rigid. It is arbitrary and often petty or even vindictive, because we are always keeping score for and paying for everything.

This suggests my natural self is weird (known true), and writes new rules or breaks them as needed. It's open, growing, creative, adaptable or flexible. It's positive and wants to find a way to make good stuff happen by negotiating something mutually beneficial. It's free and makes new paths, an organic, unique original. It likes to be self-directed and autonomous, and to operate in webs or networks, not hierarchies. It wants to shine bright as the stars and take center stage!

You could practically use the description of the enforced self as a stereotype of a minor bureaucratic functionary...and five months into being employed as a minor bureaucratic functionary in a huge government department, I am deeply miserable. Also, what is more boringly normal and invisible than being a paper-pushing cog handling routine but necessary business?

I have been trying SO HARD to respect the nature of the organization and role, to believe it is necessary and valuable and makes a difference, at least to our clients. I signed a contract to be a cog so I have been sucking it up and working really hard to be a good cog...and it is failing, and starting to backfire. I can't become my natural self in this context -- it is wrong, arrogant. Who am I to have unmet needs for which exceptions would have to be made? I'm the newest staffer -- I haven't earned the right to the limited supply of cool projects. I'm supposed to keep trucking and prove I deserve a share of the rewarding work that everyone else wants too.

Even with the best of intentions, the situation -- the role, my manager, the organization, everything -- has me trapped and rejects my natural self. That triggers a majority of very old, very bad patterns. The lack of malice takes down defences I might otherwise have. I am too triggered and exhausted to get out in a good way, or to regenerate while in the same daily grind. Ditto for taking on a job-hunt, when I am terrified and lacking experience in areas it is logical to assume I have down already. Throw in a few toxic colleagues who are not kept under control, and that we have a reorganization starting.

I need to convince someone to take a chance on me and give me a role where I can recuperate and then thrive, but how on earth do I find the right prospects and successfully pitch that proposition when I'm in *this* condition, and when I'm the primary income for the household?

#182 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2016, 11:18 AM:

Bodhisvaha @181: Witnessing, and sympathies.

#183 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2016, 03:13 PM:

Bodhisvaha @181: Witnessing. That's a hard position to be in.

#184 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2016, 08:36 PM:

Bodhisvaha, #181: Hearing and witnessing, and sending GoodThoughts your way.

#185 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2016, 05:37 AM:

Bodisvaha @181, when I read your description of the enforced self, what struck me was that it was a cog (as you put it) carefully engineered to reduce all individuality and unpredictability. I thought it would be hard to tell from that what your original natural self was, because the whole point of the enforcement was to create uniformity and so it's hard to tell what was suppressed by what's left.

You say that you're too triggered and exhausted by the daily grind to regenerate outside of it, so perhaps this won't work, but I'm wondering if you could find a volunteer opportunity to put your creative self to work outside of your employment. That could have the double benefit of honoring your true self while also giving you experience you could use in seeking more congenial employment.

Also, have you ever read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron?

#186 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2016, 12:34 PM:

If "who are you" is not intended merely to learn your name, the only fully correct answer is "I am myself, defined by example." But this isn't accepted in most contexts.

#187 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2016, 01:24 AM:

#186, Joel Polowin:

True, and yet entirely useless. Especially to somebody who is trying to figure out who they are.

I'm remembering that scene from B5. Who are you? over and over again. No, that's your name, not who you *are*. No, that's your job, not who you *are*.

I don't recall if there was ever a satisfactory answer. Or really any details beyond the question, repeated. I don't really know how to answer that for myself, beyond what I do and what I like.

#188 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2016, 01:44 PM:

Bodhisvaha, you seem to have some creativity wanting to come out. You may want to think about what you'd like to do if there weren't any barriers in the way.

#189 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2016, 02:09 PM:

OtterB @185: I was trying to use the enforced self -- which is easy to find -- as a kind of mirror image or shadow with which to see what should have been. I'm guessing that the more it hurts or more work was put into the enforced pattern, that those spots are where my natural tendencies would be most different, and probably directly opposite. So my list could have the outlines wrong, but it's probably going the right direction.

There are some traits not on either list that were left alone or even rewarded, so those I guess would be natural-self traits my parents were comfortable with. For example, my entire family love to read but differ on what material, and we all do similar kinds of mental work though in different domains. Many of the good experiences with my parents probably relate to these areas.

I wonder if the triggering and conflicting requirements and feedback (happening most of my life, one way or another) have been keeping me in a state where the natural and enforced selves are mashed together in chronic confusion and conflict, with neither able to completely flesh out and take control. There are no reports of me *actually* having multiple personalities...but when I work hard on the issues from the abuse, I feel like I am up against a set of thought police installed in my head. Something that is not-me, but inside me, made from energy and materials belonging to me, and which wants me to follow the abuser's rules. These thought police interpret situations differently and want to respond to them differently than my more positive, probably more natural-self side. The thought police give me anxiety or headaches when I try to do things they disapprove of. A day or two ago I got a full-on panic attack that as well as the usual heart-racing kind of stuff, nearly shut down speech and motion, because I dared to ask my partner to stop interrupting me and tuning me out because it was triggering. I guess the thought police have listed him as allowed/supposed to hurt me, because they hit back really hard for that transgression.

I wish I knew how to disband the thought police. A few years ago, I tried to (thinking of them as a shell or armour to guard me from the abuse, but also very restrictive) by thanking them and telling them to stop, but apparently that didn't work.

For some years this keeps feeling like a problem that should be attacked from the spiritual/magical thinking side as well as the logical. I just don't know how to work on it from that angle.

#190 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2016, 03:57 PM:

Bodhisvaha @189: thanking them and telling them to stop, but apparently that didn't work.

This approach sounds similar to the NLP Parts Party technique. Here's one approach.

The trick is that (as you've discovered) just telling a part (or a person) to stop doing something frequently doesn't work. It's generally more effective to find the positive intent ("Keep me safe" or "Be a 'good' person."), and then update that part's criteria to achieve that intent ("Kindly and cleanly maintain personal boundaries" rather than [old maladaptive response]). Find other parts of yourself that have resources necessary to achieve that intent, share those resources with that part, and update that part's response. Roughly. There's nuance to it, but it's doable.

#191 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2016, 04:14 PM:

the invisible one @187 - No "satisfactory" answer came out, because (1) it's impossible to find a simple answer to that question, and (2) Delenn's inquisitor was a psychopath whose purpose was to try to break her.

If "who are you?" is to be answered in words, the answer must prominently acknowledge that "I am many things" and that those things change with time. Human personality traits are time-dependent and fractal.

#193 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2016, 08:57 AM:

"Who am I?" can be answered more satisfactorily than, "Me," though. I think this is a question where your base assumptions are leading you astray. Many people are told who they are, repeatedly and to ill effect, and want to know who they are outside that influence so they can work to become more who they are. It's the first step in a very important process for them, not a glib question or a Buzzfeed quiz or even a Les Mis earworm.

I think that investigating the places where you're told who to be, and considering yourself the opposite, is a really good idea. It's similar to writing advice I've given, actually, as a technique rangefinder of sorts.

#194 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2016, 05:04 PM:

Today at work has been hard. I managed to identify the anxiety sensation -- like having stage fright, but ALL THE TIME. Actual stage fright I can deal with -- I will do ok to great and it will soon be over! This isn't. One of the people I like and think well of was spending a lot of time on me, both on job advice and personal. As a result I feel like my head is exploding -- like I tried to wear a set of glasses with an alien prescription.

To take a few notes before the details fall away leaving the emotional impression only: do the job -- exactly what was specified how it was specified, by the request or the rules, depending on which has priority. Do not go above and beyond to help more or make people happy. Doing too much not only makes more work for you, it will eventually bring down an audit and make trouble for the larger group. Instead do exactly what they are entitled to, no more, no less, and do it well and efficiently. Do not let anyone push you around. Do not hesitate to wield policy when someone tries to take advantage of you. Be firm -- even harsh -- when someone attempts to question or negotiate anything that isn't their role. Be very sparing when giving out information -- they don't need to know that, it will only confuse them.

I do see why she finds the system empowering and safe. Difficult customers have almost no room to push her around. When work is done for the day, it's done.

And it made me feel sick. In part because I was trained to knuckle under, but let's put that known factor aside and look further. The implications of such a system generate a lot of conflict in me given my history. Why is it so hard dealing with these suppliers instead of my old ones? Why do I feel so much fear and resistance at becoming the kind of project boss required here? Logically, it would be good and empowering for me to learn some of these skills...but intuitively I feel that the system will whip me long before I whip the system.

Below the coworker's description above, the past whispers, sometimes shouts: do what you're told when you're told -- anything else is making trouble. It's all clearly laid out (except when it's not). Do the minimum -- do not do extras. Everyone is keeping score but there are no pluses, only minuses. Do not shine; do not surprise them; do not make them light up with delight for good surprises. Be the best robot you can be. Do not let yourself be diverted from your program by any unauthorized instructions, and it is your job to know which ones are authorized. Unless otherwise required, keep them cut off from information and treat them as ignorant, even stupid. At my old position, I was able to work *with* suppliers most of the time, rather than dominance games. Here, many routine interactions outside my team feel to me more like a fight than like working together. It's exhausting!

Perhaps I am freaking out because not *only* do I need to suppress my natural self and be a good cog here...I need to be a good enforcer too. The way I'm advised to treat people to keep the wheels turning...reminds me somewhat of how my mother treated me...only now I should dish it out instead of take it. Nowhere near as nasty, but it has enough of the flavour for a partial match, you know? I would much rather be kind, delight the client, excel, treat people with respect...and that's just not what's useful and rewarded here.

Being required to perform a combination of enforced + enforcer is not that distant, emotionally, from being required to turn into my mother. (Intellectually I can see there's a medium distance, but even detached, it makes me very uncomfortable!) ...That would be a damn good reason for my natural self and psychic alarm systems to go berserk...

#195 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2016, 05:34 PM:

Bodhisvaha #194: That really does sound like you need to get the hell out of there. By your description, that is a seriously dysfunctional workplace that is indeed trying to force you into their mold. Also, I strongly suspect that your "fights" with suppliers are due to their prior interactions (and "lessons taught") with your company.

#196 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2016, 08:00 PM:

Bodhisvaha, #194: Yeah, I can see why you're having trouble with that rule-set triggering you. It would send me straight into "malicious obedience", aka "do exactly what you're told even if you can see that it's going to cause a problem, and when it does, play dumb".

Seconding David that you need to put as little energy into your current position as you can, and focus on looking for something better.

#197 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2016, 11:08 PM:

Whee! What a high! I was giving a speech tonight, and you know that state where you have practiced like mad and you are ON? That happened. My evaluator and mentor were blown away. More than half the audience came up later and complimented me and asked variations of "how did you do/learn X?". As for the MC, who is a very experienced speaker? He wishes we had videotaped it. Not that I want to claim any expertise in a forum where actual Old English scholars are likely to be found, but I had a blast researching, writing and giving tonight's 7-minute introduction to Anglo-Saxon poetics. I used Beowulf for historical material, and to further illustrate, composed a little something alliterative based on Pratchett's _The Last Hero_. The audience didn't expect to be rapt for this subject...but they were!

It gets better. There were guests...and one of them just got a better position, and thus is looking to refer candidates to her former firm. So she has gotten to see a genuinely stellar speech of mine and then talk to me while the sparks were still flying off me. This is on top of one of the other members -- a natural networker with tons of connections -- being my cheerleader and talking me up. I had better give the guest a "so pleased to meet you" call tomorrow! Also, my cheerleader got to confirm that I want to move on to a new job, and has some idea of what parts of the culture are the problem, and therefore what I do like.

I know what *I* want for Christmas...and I have a birthday coming up right after that, so it's a good time for the universe to give me a BIG present...don't you think?

#198 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2016, 04:49 AM:

Bodisvaha @197 **Wild cheering and applause**

Go, you!

#199 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2016, 06:39 AM:

Bodhisvaha #197: Yay! And I bet you know just what you're asking Santa for.... ;-)

#200 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2016, 11:31 AM:

#197, Bodhisvaha:

Oh that's wonderful. I hope something good comes your way!

#202 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2016, 12:16 PM:

"Everyone is keeping score but there are no pluses, only minuses."

Dysfunction in a nutshell, that. So glad a potential recruiter got to see you at your best, and may that continue through the process!

#203 ::: Bodhisvaha ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2016, 03:10 PM:

Thank you everybody! Imagine a sweeping bow, if you will.

Dave Harmon @195: I sort of agree with you and sort of don't, on "seriously dysfunctional workplace that is indeed trying to force you into their mold."

My mother, she actively mistreated me for very personal reasons, and it was intensely about me.

The previous workplace treated me badly in a merely semi-personal way, and for not especially personal reasons. Instead it had cliques, absentee managers, and micromanagers whose whims depended on mood. Most of all, the trouble was that I was not selected to be the teacher's pet, and therefore got neglected or mistreated as a side effect of the pets being treated better. It was about them much more than about me.

This one...simply has a very, very government culture. The people have been treating me well. In fact they are worried about me and trying to help me. The system is not stacked against me personally either, any more than it is for any temp. There is no malice, no intention. It's just the role, and just the system. What it is and what it needs is so alien to what I need to do and be that it's like trying to breathe air with almost no oxygen in it. That's what was so freaky about the last couple days: I managed to glimpse how the system could feel good and safe and supportive to a person that fits. How it could feel to someone who *likes* breathing methane, at least some of the time.

Someone who hadn't been abused like I was would known themselves well enough to know to either avoid or leave the job as a very bad fit. But for me? It just happens to be broadcasting messages somewhat similar to my abusers, on the control frequencies my abusers installed.

I have some more thinking to do, but I have a feeling that I need to stay out of large, hidebound organizations. Small ones can also be dysfunctional...but it might be easier to spot how they are broken or conflicting.

I may have also spotted a major factor in how I get drawn in. Large organizations are absolutely stuffed with opportunities for me to do what I do best, of making stuff WORK by designing and changing and optimizing...except that they don't actually *want* that done. Not in their heart of hearts. For a large organization, that kind of very meaningful, purposeful change is a necessary evil that it suffers only when the alternative is worse. The larger and more complex the organization, the more risky and destabilizing change is. Large organizations *do* lust after the results of such change...but the changing is against their nature. To recommend and execute such changes, they need the type of people they naturally repel. THIS is why large organizations hire consultants instead of doing the same thing internally for less cost! It's like signing up for an expensive personal trainer because you hate to exercise, but hate wasting money even more.

#204 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2016, 04:47 PM:

Bodhisvaha @197 Congrats, and best of luck for that turning into something good.

I think you've been doing a really good job of analysing what's wrong with your present situation - which hopefully will help you avoid a similar situation next time.

#205 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2016, 11:28 PM:

Christmas with my parents done. (we're spending actual Christmas this year out of town with Awesome Spouse's equally awesome parents, so we had an early celebration with mine who are in town)

Angry and upset about parts, genuinely happy about others.

I feel so very, very sorry for their older cat. She was bullied by their previous older cat, and is now bullied by their new cat. And the way Mom interacts just makes it worse. (as always) Bright side: they're regretting getting the new cat. Maybe this means they'll not keep him? I hope?

I think overall the evening went well. I only needed to pull Awesome Spouse aside for a whisper-rant once. And my lip is fine (stress response/self hatred signal is biting it, and you can tell how stressed I am by the depth of the teeth marks). But ye gods I wish there was some magic happy-family-occasion potion that would let me smile and ignore shit.

#206 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2016, 03:58 AM:

Chickadee, #205: Earplugs? (HH1/2K)

#207 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2016, 01:11 PM:

Lee @206: I only wish... Also, HH1/2K?

#208 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2016, 12:04 AM:

"Ha ha, half kidding." As opposed to HHOK, "Ha ha, only kidding." Old, old APA jargon.

#209 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2016, 10:06 PM:

To everyone: May your holiday be as safe and un-fraught as possible.

#210 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2016, 04:03 AM:

This tweet seems to fit here:

When I was in 7th grade, our teacher put on a video and told us to take notes. Ten minutes in, she threw the lights on and shouted at Steven Webb Sladki, telling him he wasn't taking notes and he should have been. But the thing was, Steve was taking notes. I saw it. We all saw it. The teacher asked if anyone wanted to stand up for Steve. A few of us choked out some words of defense but were immediately squashed. Quickly, we were all very silent. Steve was sent to the principal's office. The teacher came back in the room and said something like "See how easy that was?" We were reading "Anne Frank." I started to understand. I just thought now was a good time to share this story. Don't ever let anyone tell you that what you see with your own eyes isn't happening.

Interesting how the concerns of the DFD threads are starting to intersection with politics these days....

#211 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2016, 11:00 AM:

How are everybody's holiday seasons going?

#212 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2016, 12:31 PM:

I watched the Sense8 Christmas Special,* which was really the only holidaying I needed or wanted. Thus, my Xmas was splendid.

* And picked up a new word: "Virts," for "virtual friends." ::wave-wave:: Hi, y'all!

#213 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2016, 01:25 PM:

Little John @211:

Strange-- for the first time I can remember, I had very little enthusiasm for setting up for the holidays. I got the Advent wreath out and set up and performed its' attendant ceremonies, but could not convince any part of me to set up a tree, much less any other decor. I have avoided listening to any holiday music, which is weird, because I collect albums of it, and generally set up a playlist of my favorites, but not this time.

Of course, on December 23rd, I changed my mind but I realized there was no way I was going to get our 9 foot tree up the stairs, put together and decorated in time for Christmas. Casting around I found my Grandmother's tiny ceramic tree, popped it onto the dining room table, plugged it in and lit it up.

I've had it for almost 20 years, and this is the first time it's made an appearance, and with it came enlightenment. Putting up the large tree is no longer a joy but a chore. So in January I will donate it to charity. I'm planning to go through the ornaments and keep only those that have personal meaning to me, and will obtain a small LED tabletop tree that requires minimal assembly.

The sense of relief this decision supplied was startling...

New objective for 2017 -- look for a way of doing the things that I want and need to do in such a way that brings me joy.


#214 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2016, 04:06 PM:

Lori @ 213: yeah, there's no sense maintaining a tradition if it doesn't make you happy. I think I've finally learned that.

Jacque @ 212: that sounds like a wonderful thing to do on a holiday. (I hear Twin Peaksmas is a yearly tradition for some folks, and that's also cool.) I got to spend Boxing Day lying around alternately eating, knitting, and watching a vampire movie, and it was my favorite part of the holiday season thus far.

#215 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2016, 04:30 PM:

Little John: I have a devoutly Christian friend who is really troubled by my refusal to do the Xmas decorations thing. (Leaving aside my non-Christianness) I point out that I can hardly improve on the 50' Colorado blue spruce growing right outside my living room window, decorated with snow, icicles, pine cones, birds, and squirrels, with zero effort on my part. She finds this argument unsatisfying. Which is her freedom!

#216 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2016, 10:11 PM:

Jacque, #215: So... your friend is bothered by your refusal to perform the social rituals of a faith that is not yours? Bothered enough to argue with you about it? I find that deeply disturbing, and symbolic of many things that are wrong with our country.

#217 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2016, 11:07 AM:

Lee: Oh, don't get me wrong: she's also bothered that the faith is not my own. And has said so. (Which doesn't surprise me overmuch. Even though she's not overtly evangelical, her particular brand is definitely of the "spreading the word" variety of Christianity.) She doesn't really get the multiple valid outlooks thing.

As is perhaps not surprising, lovely human being as she may be generally, I find myself disinclined to spend much time with her.

#218 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2016, 03:36 PM:

Jacque: That's the point at which I would stop using the word "friend" to describe this person. Friendship is a reciprocal thing; what you seem to have here is an acquaintance.

IMO the word "friend" gets stretched all out of shape in common usage, and sometimes causes a lot of drama as a result.* Words matter, and often I find that using the word which accurately describes a relationship clarifies my own thinking about it.

* For example, LiveJournal's policy of calling everyone you follow "friends" has been known to kick off epic arguments and even feuds when someone decides to "unfriend" someone else, because the someone else attaches all the usual connotations of the word "friend" to something which is really not the same thing at all. Facebook has fallen into the same trap; DreamWidth dodged it by having separate "subscribe" and "access" functions, so that you can follow someone's posts without necessarily letting them see what you post to (actual) friends.

#219 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2016, 06:51 PM:

Lori: Any voluntary chore is still a chore. There are things that I've done that became chores that I no longer do because of that. If you don't get value for your chores (even to the extent of "and now I have clean clothes"), they need to be dropped.

#220 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2016, 07:06 PM:

Lee: "friend"

Well, yes. It's complicated. And it's not. Fortunately, I'm confident of my ability to maintain my boundaries as needed for my health and comfort.

#221 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 09:31 AM:

Lee @218: I think it's not so much as "Dreamwidth dodged it", but more "pre-Dreamwidth saw it was wrong, asked LJ to change, and then when LJ refused, forked LJ in large part to get rid of the 'friend' labelling". As I recall, there were other issues, some involving LJ governance, but the "friend" label was a major issue leading to the creation of Dreamwidth.

#222 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 01:19 PM:

Buddha Buck, #221: I was under the impression that DW came about largely as a way to get out from under LJ's censorship -- either directly as a result of StrikeFail, or it got a huge boost from that. But I could be wrong.

#223 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2016, 11:36 AM:

#210: If I was a little kid, that performance would scare me, but all it would teach me is that I live in a world full of powerful and arbitrary grown-ups who will ignore what I say and punish children because they feel like it. I think most children realize that already.

How are kids expected to take a stand against adult tyrants? Like, I am annoyed by the performance described, because it seems like the adults are just saying to the children, "Tremble, worms, adults can do anything they want to you and you can't resist!" but I am also seriously asking the question.

Are there constructive things that children are supposed to learn to do, in case adults start handing their classmates over to the secret police or the immigration officials?

#224 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2016, 12:02 PM:

Little John @223, I read that mostly as the teacher trying to demonstrate how hard it is to stand up to insistent authority when you know they are wrong, and forgetting just how hard it is for a child to stand up to an adult at all. That is, the lesson is meant to be "see how the authorities can do horrible, horrible things even when everyone knows they are wrong," as an awareness to be taken into adult life rather than a lesson for children to apply here and now. But I think it would not be wrong to say that children have a harder time standing up to adults than adults have in standing up to the designated perpetrators of state violence and thus the lesson might be lost, as you said.

#225 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2016, 02:24 PM:

#223/224: I think the lesson comes more aptly if the class has already been discussing something like the rise of the Nazis (which, if I read the original comment correctly, was the case). And I would hope that there would be more discussion afterwards than, "See how easy that was?" because the point you make is a valid one. It's much harder for an adult to show children that submission to authority isn't always right, because in their world it is always right. And I don't know how you'd address that, as a teacher.

#226 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2016, 02:58 PM:

#225: You've got me speculating about how you could teach children that they had the power to defy authority. Maybe... either extend the student-being-taken-away-by-the-Gestapo lesson over a long period of time? Like, tell them all, "Your schoolmate is going to be expelled, what are YOU going to do about it?" and then seeing if they tried to do anything. That would take more time and investment than I suspect most teachers have to spare.

Or you could actually institute a system in their daily school lives where the students were able to "petition the government for a redress of grievances." If they do have some limited ability to affect their own environment, e.g., changes in the dress code or other small details, they may be able to start thinking, "Hey, we could make big changes."

I dunno, though. Remember that letter on Ask A Manager where a young intern wrote in to say that they had organized the other interns to petition their manager for changes in the dress code, and that the manager had reacted by firing them all? And does anyone also remember that the columnist and about a zillion commenters ripped into the young intern letter writer for being SO RUDE as to FORGET THEIR PLACE? The prevailing opinion was that, because their boss CAN fire them all, it's right and OK for their boss to fire them all.

I watched that exchange in great sadness, because it's more proof that we already live in an authoritarian system where powerful people can say, "Do what I tell you, or else," and can punish the smallest, politest dissent. And then lots of strangers on the internet will sneer at the dissenters for failing to duck their head and submit.

My point here is that boy, oh, boy, is it hard to fight authority in any way. The kids in the original example @ 210 who spoke up for their friend deserve way more credit than OP gives them.

#227 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2016, 03:31 PM:

Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play has somewhat about informal resistance, which includes diminishing the effect of authority without being a target.

There are reasons why being rule-abiding is viewed as something of a virtue, and those reasons aren't all bad. Life runs more smoothly if people obey good rules.

We're heading into an era where people are going to be making some complicated choices.

#228 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2016, 05:48 PM:

I think that with the children and teacher example, it's complicated by the fact that if you're a kid, all acknowledged authority is adult.

We do teach kids that some things are more important than authority, or at least we try to, we say we do. That's a lot of what is discussed in previous threads, with abuse and bodies and such (ugh, so minimizing, the way I say it). I make sure to tell my students, when we practice dialing 911, that they will never ever ever get in trouble for dialing 911 if they think it's an emergency*. I think that the demonstration in the class could go well, especially since a teacher willing to kick a kid out on false pretenses pretty much has to be** willing to back it up with a sound discussion.

*Some of my job involves turning gray areas black and white. I try to overdo it in a direction no one else does.
**Yeah, I know.

#229 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2016, 11:29 PM:

Actually, it sounds as though what we need here is a version of Aral Vorkosigan's lecture on how to disobey an illegal order. There's a fic out there which attempts to recreate said lecture, but I'm feeling too lazy to hunt for it right now. And, of course, the kind of situation we're discussing here is nowhere near as cut-and-dried as an illegal order, nor is there any real-life procedure for handling such a thing. What do you do when you see the police in riot gear firing into a crowd of unarmed students?

#230 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2016, 11:42 PM:

Little John @223: If I was a little kid, that performance would scare me

I would agree, if this was pulled on small children, say, still in their single digits. But this was a class of 7th graders which, if my calculations are right, would be 12-13 years old. (AIUI in Jewish tradition, 13 is the age of adulthood.)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds to me like you're interpreting this lesson as being aimed at trying to teach children to defy authority? My take is, rather, that it is a lesson in how gaslighting works, which is a completely different point. What would be your response to that as an emphasis?

Little John @226: You've got me speculating about how you could teach children that they had the power to defy authority.

Well, first off, I would attempt to teach them that only in circumstances where they actually had the power to defy authority. This particular lesson was more about, I think, learning to question authority. And about how authority sometimes works to undermine the judgement of the individual. Which is a different issue.

Diatryma @228: I think that the demonstration in the class could go well, especially since a teacher willing to kick a kid out on false pretenses pretty much has to be** willing to back it up with a sound discussion.

If I was the teacher in that class, another way to handle that would be to pick a student who I knew to be smart and self-possessed, and pull them aside before class, and basically offer them the role of shill. "There's a demonstration I want to do, but I need a volunteer. You don't have to do this, but it'd be a great help if you would. It'll be scary, but I promise, you'll be all right." Then, outline briefly what the plan is, so that they know roughly what to expect, and that they're not really in trouble.

#231 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2016, 02:13 AM:

#230: I'm interpreting the lesson as being "You must fight for endangered peers with everything you've got," and the narrator and fellow students seem to be positioned as having failed for having let their peer be unjustly marched off to the principal's office. I don't think you can entirely dismiss that as an important part of the story, if the teacher's saying, "See how easy?"

My take is, rather, that it is a lesson in how gaslighting works, which is a completely different point. What would be your response to that as an emphasis?

It doesn't seem like an effective lesson in how gaslighting works. It's a case of adults performing oppression in a blatant way and kids accepting it because they have no other choice. Notably, OP and classmates don't seem to be convinced by their teacher that their perceptions were wrong. That's the definition of gaslighting, as far as I'm aware. The person who wishes to manipulate you says to you, "Your perceptions are wrong. That bad stuff didn't happen. Your feelings/memory/grip on reality are all wrong; here's the REAL situation." (Well, most of the manipulators I've met did it more subtly than that. Point being, they deny your perception of reality and try to replace it with their rewritten version.) That isn't emphasized in the above anecdote.

I mean, if OP was like, "And that was when I began to doubt myself and think, 'Maybe she's right and Steve did screw up!'" I would agree with you about the lesson being taught here. But OP and classmates seem to have stayed firm in their trust of their own perception.

So, the point of "this is how gaslighting works" doesn't seem to be adequately made, to me. The strong point of the exercise seems to be "arrests aren't always just" and "authority figures can't be trusted to be righteous." Which I'd think kids wouldn't need to be taught, but maybe they do.

#232 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2016, 09:41 AM:

I was thinking of the lesson as being directed at kids who were saying as they were reading Anne Frank, well, obviously this is what is right, this is what people should have done or not done, this is what I would have done. Which makes "See how easy that was?" most of the lesson by itself, although I agree followup discussion of the nature of authority is called for. And yeah, it doesn't say that the child who was picked as the example was warned ahead of time, but that really, really ought to be true.

#233 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2016, 11:08 AM:

@231: Well, no. AIUI, the definition of gaslighting is the attempt to make the victim disbelieve their own experience. Even if the attempt is unsuccessful, it's still gaslighting.

Per Wikipedia:

Gaslighting or gas-lighting is manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a target. Its intent is to sow seeds of doubt in the targets, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. [Emphasis mine.]
#234 ::: Temporarily Nononymous ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2017, 07:35 PM:

I have a sibling who seems to have given up on adulting.

Specifically, on finding work.

In her chosen career, she depends on freelance jobs. At best, when working a punishing load, she survives paycheck to paycheck.

After a move, to live in a friend's spare room, there's no sign she is pursuing new gigs.

Instead of seeking work, she is volunteering, indulging in advocacy. For an admirable cause but . . . there's a starry-eyed-gushy-college-sophomore aspect to this devotion that isn't realistic in a fifty year old with income, much less savings.

There have been numerous bailouts and subsidies and chances at a new start from our parents. Tens of thousands in medical expenses, credit cards payed off, car bought, living expenses and tuition paid to enable a career change she decided after a couple of years that she wasn't interested in. And monthly checks still go out . . . supposedly to go into a retirement account, but they're getting used for living expenses.

Even if work was sought, performed, and being paid for, this isn't sustainable. Dream job isn't working out.

Our parents let us all know that the largess she has received was essentially an advance on any money she'd inherit (and that wouldn't be much anyway). So: Dependence on social security and threadbare medicare, and for her siblings, the prospect of replacing our parents as the source of bailouts.

Resentment over the unequal treatment has driven away one sibling. Other sibling and I are losing patience and perspective.

I suspect there's a deep neurosis at the heart of this, wrapped up in a thick cheery layer of "marching to the sound of a different drummer," "following your bliss," "free spirit untainted by the rat race" and other deeply-identified-with inspirational bullshit.

[/vent]

#235 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2017, 09:15 PM:

Temporarily @234 No advice to offer, but witnessing. Understandably frustrating for the adulting siblings.

#236 ::: Temporarily Nononymous ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2017, 09:40 PM:

@OtterB: Thank you.

* * *

"...with income, much less savings...."

=> " . . .with NO income, much less savings."

One of my fears:

Generous friend/landlord tires of Troubled Sibling's indolence.

Troubled Sibling moves into parents' house; unilaterally declares herself caregiver, making them the object of her neurotic advocacy. Parents, manipulated before, are manipulated again. Don't move into a smaller / elder-friendly home when they should. Are manipulated into paying for Troubled Sibling's...everything. When they are gone, Troubled Sibling can't be dislodged from house.

#237 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2017, 01:13 PM:

Unfortunately, TN, that sounds quite plausible. It also sounds as though this is a lifelong pattern, so all I can offer is that it is okay to disentangle yourself as much as you are willing and able to do.

#238 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2017, 06:19 AM:

TN: WRT sibling & parents, all are presumably over the age of majority, so they have the capacity to find their own damnation. Also: sounds like sibling is working up to / has become a professional freeloader. I've met the type. Really the only option is to watch from a safe distance. Or ... not watch. Frustrating, especially when people you care about are being victimized.

Ultimately, really the only practical solution is to, as B. Durbin says, disengage.

I'm sorry you have to go through this. It sucks.

#239 ::: Temporarily Nononymous ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2017, 09:33 AM:

I wish I could disengage more, but I'm a trustee of my parents' living trust and executor of their will. I need to protect assets for my other siblings' sake, at least.

Talking with sane sibling today, to figure out how to get my parents to disengage, and maybe talk Troubled Sibling into therapy.

(Indulging myself: The kind of therapy where the therapist listens, nods, murmurs "I see," takes notes, then says "Get a job you neurotic hippy flake.")

#240 ::: Lolotte ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2017, 05:55 PM:

This is mostly a request for assistance with scripts.

My mother is apparently not dealing well with my youngest brother moving out and the fact she now has an empty nest. This became extremely obvious when I woke up this morning to find an email from her, sent at 4:56am which started out “Hello my beautiful children I would love to see and hear from you more often” (and continued on from there along the vein of everything she tries to do). The contact time is not unusual for her, for either emails or text messages.

She’s emotionally clingy and needs constant validation. This has been A Thing about my mother her whole life – her two younger sisters mostly avoid her because of it. This has been useful for me and my siblings, as my aunts provide reassurance that it’s not just us, that she does this to everyone.

I’m not physically or emotionally close to my mother at all. I have other people in my life I rely on for that, which generally lands me as being cast as the ‘bad daughter’ who my mother can’t understand. However, I had thought we were doing well. We live about an hour away from each other, and I generally visit her every 4-6 weeks, around half the time framing the visit in some activity that she’ll enjoy (so we go hiking together, or I take over a quilting project so we can sit near each other while crafting), to provide a topic of conversation and structure to the visit. This has been fairly regular for the past 3 years, and has been mostly successful in decreasing the number of “I don’t see you, you don’t love me” messages. I do not speak to her on the phone, mostly because I’m generally terrible about phone conversations and avoid them whenever possible.

I feel I need to tell my mother to STOP with the emotional manipulation and whining. I just don’t have the words. Honestly, I would prefer to have the conversation with her by email, as it will give me space to consider my answers and be less cruel and harsh, while also not going silent (as would be likely in person).

Help?

#241 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2017, 07:10 PM:

The answer depends on whether you think she can actually hear you over her own habits of thought.

If she can hear you: "Mom, it's pretty clear that you're unhappy. Whatever is driving you to contact me at 5 o'clock in the morning over and over never seems to actually go away. I don't think I could possibly see you often enough to make it go away; you talked to me like this when I lived with you all the time. Please find a therapist or a support group with members your own age to talk to. I'll see you for our (activity) on (date) at (time)."

If you don't think she can hear you: "See you on (date) at (time) for (activity)! :)"

#242 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2017, 08:26 PM:

At least she's only sending e-mails, not leaving long whiny messages on your answering machine the way my father used to do! The main advantages to e-mail are (1) it's asynchronous -- she can send the mail at an unconscionable hour of the morning and you can read it later when you wake up -- and (2) as you note, it provides a less fraught method of carrying on a conversation. Texting at that hour is more of an issue if you keep your phone by the bed. I understand that there are ways to set your phone not to allow texts during the time you would expect to be asleep, but I'm not sure how to do that.

Is your mother naturally an early riser or extreme night owl, or is she having disturbed sleep cycles? The latter might be cause to suggest that she consult her doctor.

#243 ::: Lolotte ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2017, 09:43 PM:

@241 J, I feel I have got to try and see if I can get through, because she's getting worse again. I think I have to bluntly telling her I'm concerned and she needs to seek help.

However, I know that whatever I say will be repeated to every single family member/friend and will be brought back up for the rest of my natural life. She will nurse a grudge/offence into zombiedom quite happily.

@242 Lee, yes at least she doesn't call. Long whiny phone messages would drive me crazy! Instead I get guilted for 'not letting her call', and she's a martyr for complying to my request.

The suggestion to put her number on block overnight is probably sensible. I'm sure it can be done for a single number.

She's naturally an early riser, as in 4-5am.

#244 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2017, 02:54 AM:

Found elseNet: A useful strategy for dealing with toxic narcississts and sociopaths.

Summary: These are people who thrive on drama; they can't abide boredom. So be boring. Unlike ordinary bullies, if they stop getting "rewards" from you, they'll eventually give up and go looking for a new chew-toy.

#245 ::: Temporarily Nononymous ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2017, 10:39 AM:

I hope a compassionate solution that preserves your peace of mind presents itself Lolotte.

* * *

My older/sane sibling spoke with our mother about our concerns with not-growing-up sibling. Agreed that therapy is called for. But how do you tell Trouble Sibling that that her Helping Habit (and the disproportionate fury when the current object of her Helping is criticized* . . . did I mention that?) is something she needs to get help for?

* If her friend / landlord ever crosses her, Troubled Sibling could be out on the street.

#246 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2017, 05:34 PM:

Lolotte @240: That sounds *so* familiar to me - except I'm an only child (and have been through much therapy to deal with enmeshment). :(

That whole "you never call/e-mail/meet me" garbage - it goes straight to a switch she's built into my hindbrain, and for me I need to actually write out every phone call, supper at their place, etc. for me to be able to shut off the alarm bells of neglectful daughterhood. Like hell she never sees me. :( We see each other more often than you see your mom.

Unfortunately, with me any attempt to address the issue became highly counterproductive (receive passive-aggressive attack, plus extra bonus guilt). :( When we got married, we actually got call display specifically so I could screen her calls.

Thankfully, therapy and many years have helped a great deal from my end. I really hope your attempts to communicate with your mother go better than mine did!

So, sympathies, and I really hope she listens.

Oh, and re: #243: oh my, yes. Fortunately, I'm not in contact with any of my extended family, so I don't have to hear about it. :/

#247 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2017, 02:17 PM:

Argh why must I feel anxiety/panic when I express an opinion in public.

Didn't help that the response, while polite, basically said I got offended. More panic as I pointed out that what I pointed out the first time was inconsistent with the group's stated policies.

#248 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2017, 03:04 PM:

the invisible one: *witness pebble*

My variant of that is that the policy I'm bucking violates best practice. And still I get pushback.

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