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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Cutting Off Escape Routes: Forcing Responsibility

As an outside observer and as a parent myself I noticed a few things about raising kids and frankly 'raising' aka dealing with adults too.  I've spoken before of people having comfort zones.  By this I meant they are comfortable doing thing a certain way regardless if it is necessarily the 'best way'.   For example, for some odd reason, I like eating most leftovers cold.  Not sure if it is not wanting to wait or deal with heating it up or what.  To my wife, it doesn't make sense, but it's what I feel comfortable with.  In any case, escape routes are a comfort zone issue.  Often find ways to avoid doing what we should or need to by locating an escape route.  That is to say a reason, excuse, or delay tactic to take the place of doing what we need to.


Here are a few examples of things we might want to avoid and create an 'escape routes' for.  That is to say, the things we do to try to doing what we don't want to such as:
  • Having to talk to family.
  • Having to go to work. 
  • Having to do homework.  
  • Having to go to sleep/stay awake.
  • Having to go to the store.
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Below are a couple examples of an escape route and cutting it off:
  • If my daughter isn't awake already (on a school day), I will wake her up to get ready for the day.  She has said, "If you leave (my room)  I will get up and get ready."   That was her escape route, pressing me to leave at which time she could just plop her head down on the pillow. Anyway, my response to her is this: "If you stand up and get out of bed, I will leave.  After sending my wife in a couple of times to see if she's asleep or changing, and being told she's asleep, I confronted her on it and forced her to get out of bed when I was there.   She didn't like it and growled at first, but it was important for both of us she get up and ready so we both could be on time to where we needed to go.  Anyway, my forcing her to get up and stand up was cutting off her escape route of rolling back over and falling back asleep.  I was forcing on her the responsibility of getting ready for school.
  • A family intervention in which the family refuses to leave until their drug-addicted family member 'surrenders' to rehab.  By that point, they likely would have been pressing him or her to seek help, but being brushed off or promised that they will get it.


Before I finish this post on escape routes I did want to make a few observations:
  • From my observation, people usually don't take to well to having an escape route cut off.   It's not called an escape route because you want to stay in the circumstance or situation you are in or face what you need to.  It's an escape route because you are avoiding something you need to deal with.  Being forced to do so isn't exactly comfortable.  
  • The process of cutting off escape routes can be done so verbally and/or by actions.
    •  If a spouse or sibling is avoiding an uncomfortable conversation, for example, you can redirect the conversation back when they try to change subjects or you can logically cut through the verbal objects they throw in the way.
    • If your child refuses to do her homework and instead goes out with their friends, you can take away their keys and take away their ability to leave without doing their homework.
  • Sometimes it is not our place to cut off someone's escape route.
    • Just because we don't like what choices our adult kids are making doesn't automatically give us a right to interfere and force our will on them, especially if they are not dependent on us.
    • When someone has told us they need space or they don't want to be with us anymore, we can push for a discussion on it or to have them hear us out.   But, keeping them from leaving OR keeping tabs on them while it may be a way from keeping them from 'escaping', it is usually considered harassment or stalking, which is not okay.  It's okay to want to be heard out, but it's not okay to control others.
  • Sometimes we need the escape route, especially if we are in an abusive or toxic relationship.
    • Changing our phone number or address is an escape route from an abusive estranged partner.
    • Get a protection order can be an escape route from an abusive estranged partner.
    • This is especially true, when there are no children involved.  There is absolutely no reason in this case for our estranged partner to try to reach out to us.
  • Sometimes an 'escape route' may be a coping mechanism (or safety valve) that the other party needs until he or she can cope better.  For example, if a child loses a parent, he or she may not be ready to talk about it or openly grieve in front of others.   Sometimes, they just need quiet time to reflect on their loss and do what they need to cope--such as listen to music or just cry in private.  Forcing them to do so too quickly can at the least can breed resentment and at could cause unforeseen problems with the grieving process.

In summary, there are times when it is imperative to cut off 'escape routes' and force responsibility on our loved ones.  However, escape routes are sometimes in place for our benefit and the benefit of others and we should consider the purpose and circumstance of the escape route before mindlessly cutting it off.

Just some thoughts for the day after Christmas (2018).

Cheers.


Monday, December 24, 2018

The 3-Legged Stool: Difficulty in Shaking off Narcissists

I was discussing with my wife recently about why I believe abuse survivors can have a harder time shaking off encounters with a narcissists, specifically those who attempt to control or and/or use belligerence to dominate.  For her it, the solution was to simply ignore the person.  In other words, if the person gives you 'unwanted advice', tries to 'suggest' (aka TELL) you what to do or some attempt at shaming, you either a) humor them or b) just totally ignore them or blow them off.  In other words, don't let them have any 'real estate in your head'.

Now anyone who has ever has ever 'survived' dealing with narcissists, especially those in a position of power over them and/or present in their childhood, probably knows what I am talking about.

In many cases ignoring or humoring them is very sound advice. This is especially true IMHO where their interaction with you doesn't undermine your authority in an appreciable way.  In other words, some things just aren't worth getting riled up over risking a fight.  However, I believe to someone who is an abuse/attack survivor, might find it hard to 'let it go' so to speak.

Her argument was that her dad could be a dominant personality and she was able to stand up for myself.   I understand her point and was struggling to find a way to help her understand.  I tried to find a way to answer why I react more passionately and get more upset when I am completely disrespected or controlled.  I finally stumbled upon an idea.   A table or stool with three legs is harder to collapse or flip over than those with fewer.  That is to say the more destructive factors you've had in your life, the less likely it is that you'll be able to 'let it go'.

Consider it this way:
  • When we think of a stool, we think of a handy product which can be used to hold us up when are reaching to get something we need.   Imagine the stool instead of holding us up, is used to hold up our baggage up and 'in place'.   Is that really a stool we'd want or is that a stool we'd want to see collapsed?
  • We know a 3-legged stool or table is more sturdy or stable than those with fewer legs.  From what I can see, abuse survivors don't just have 'abuse' in play.  From personal experience, observations and talking with others, people who are ultimately abused are often vulnerable to abuse because of other factors--overbearing parents/adults in their formative years and bullying for example.


Anyway, here are three legs of the stool which holds up inability to shake off encounters with narcissists in adulthood:
* Overbearing parent or other authoritative adult figure during childhood.
* Bullying (verbal or menacing)
* Attack/abuse

Now, these three legs or factors aren't necessarily exclusive.  That is to say the same person or persons can supply more than one leg of the stool.  That is to say, a bully can also be an abuser/attacker and that the overbearing parent or adult can be the bully who abuses or attacks for example.

We hear all the time, back in the day if I talked back like that, my mom/dad would have beaten me.  Sometimes the speaker might say how his/her voice was overrode by his/her parent, but that he or she eventually found his or her voice.   As a parent myself, I have found that I sometimes have to be assertive and override voices of a child/children.  Now, taken to the extreme that can be damaging and compel a kid to shut down or fear authority.  I do believe in most cases kids do gain a measure of a voice (and sometimes 'too much'), but I digress.  Like a one-legged stool/table, they can learn to easily push aside disrespect/lack of control later in life.  That is to say, the baggage associated with 'not having a voice', if others negative factors aren't in play, can thrown off more easily in adulthood. As people of my generation understood, that's part of growing up.

Add the factor of being bullied in your formative years.  Not only are you trying to seek their voice among adults in your life, but you are also trying to fend off those who would challenge their well-being and/or peace of mind.  With authoritative adults in a child's life, we typically think that the adult figure has the child's interests in mind.  In the case of a bully, for whatever reason, the bully typically doesn't tend to factor in the child's interest.  For whatever reason, they bully feels that it is okay to pick on his or her target.  Sometimes they don't care, but sometimes they can attempt to justify their behavior.  They might claim that they are helping a kid learn how to deal.   They might also that their 'victim' deserved it.  Whatever their reasoning their behavior it can reinforce the inability of a child to shake off disrespectful (or controlling behavior) later in life.  If you are so used to dealing with this sort of behavior, even minor 'bullying' in your adulthood can seem like more of the same (and hence hard to shake off).  Like adding a second leg, it can strengthen the stool or table which holds up the anger, frustration and/or resentment which results from facing 'bullying' behavior later in life.  A stool with two legs has some degree of stability, but is still by its nature can be collapsed relatively easily.

As with a stool/table, once you add a third leg (or factor), the stool becomes very steady and very sturdy.  In other words, it will tend to stay upright and not collapsed unless you apply a great deal of force to it.  A person who has dealt with an overbearing adult may have had to 'justify' their voice.  A person who has dealt with a bully may have had to create or find a space for their voice.  But a youngster who has been abused or attacked, especially sexually, has had to recover from their voice being stolen outright from them.  It's bad enough having to justify your voice or find a place to exercise it safely, but like the third leg of the stool, having your voice stolen from you, reinforces the anger, frustration and/or resentment.  A response to narcissist behavior in later life isn't simply ignoring attempt it.  It is using whatever tools you have at your resource to make sure your voice isn't stolen again.  Anger, frustration, resentment and the like can be seen as tools to be deployed to ensure you he or she who could hold you down and crush or steal your voice is not given that opportunity.  It isn't simply being annoyed that you are being 'bullied'. Nor is it 'stepping away' and finding a place where your voice is safe.  To a survivor of abuse and/or an attack, there is a sense that the one who would control, disrespect you and/or otherwise bully you must be guarded against and in some cases be shut down.  In other words, sometimes you need to bare your teeth, build a wall or counterattack to make sure their threat to you is neutralized.

To someone who has just dealt with strict parents and maybe some bullying, but has never had to face the insecurity of abuse, a severe reaction to a narcissist can look like an overreaction.  That is to say intense anger, frustration, resentment, etc. can look like an overreaction to a when dealing with a narcissist.  I've dealt with the all three--CSA (childhood sexual abuse), bullying and an overbearing/controlling parent.  As an adult, I've come to understand situations better than I did as a kid.  However, I still am more inclined to, like a cat, arch my back, when I feel under threat or attack, 'hiss' and keep a wary eye open.  

Hopefully, this gives more perspective on why some people can let attempts at abusive/controlling/bullying behavior slide, where others cannot.  The more negative experiences you have had to deal with in life, the more likely you are to see are to see 'more of the same' when it comes to dealing with narcissists.   It isn't just dealing with a jerk, it is dealing with someone who is a threat to your serenity (or at least it can feel like it).

Anyway, I'm tired when writing this, so hopefully, it does make some sense.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Rich


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Half a Pie is Still Half a Pie and Other Mistakes in Relating

I believe that unless we are a really big jerk to everyone or we are surrounding ourselves with a toxic people who don't like us and/or don't respect us at all, most of the people whom we run across in our lives will try to relate or empathize with us.  They may do it on a sincere desire to empathize, a feeling of duty that they should try, a desire to look thoughtful or a cynical attempt to virtue signal.   Whatever the motivation, I believe people unwittingly make mistakes in trying to do so.

First a few notes:
* Audience = The person you are trying to 'relate' to.
* Speaker = You, the one who is trying to 'relate'.

Let's think about a few scenarios:
  •  I know how you feel or I understand what you are going through.
    • Sometimes people have faced very similar circumstances and can relate or understand, but many times, others simply can't know how we feel until they've actually been in our shoes.  Sometimes, it may be beyond their understanding as well.
    • I believe when said genuinely, it is a statement designed to convey solidarity, but it said the wrong way it can wring hollow or can even be condescending.
      • In other words, you--the speaker--are just trying to hard to stand with them.
      • Sometimes, it is better just to quietly stand by another going through trying or tearful times.
    • It is important to try to understand yourself and your audience when considering saying this.
      • Is there any real possible way you could even remotely know?
      • Have you been through a circumstance even remotely close?
      • How well do you actually know the person you are considering saying this too? 
        • Are you close enough that they know what you mean and/or would take it as a solidarity statement?  
        • Are you just an acquaintance and unsure what your audience is thinking but feel compelled to say something 'appropriate'?
    • I can relate to what you are going through (followed by how).
      • Sometimes you can relate and sometimes you can't.
      • Sometimes your audience just wants to vent or 'cry' and they really aren't looking for your reassurance.  They are just looking for a 'pat on the back', not a 'solution' or 'proof' that you know.
        • There is a time for serious reassurance and there is a time to just nod or say, "I hear you" or just a hug.
          • Maybe your audience does want some reassurance and are open to hearing your situation and how you can make it through tough times.
          • Maybe everything will be alright or one day they may feel better, but at the moment your audience may not feel that way.  Perhaps they still need to mourn a bit more before they get to a point of being open to hearing someone who has been there.
        • There is time to jump in and 'problem solve' and there is a time to let your audience figure out there own path.
          • If your audience asks questions about you and a particular situation--in other words, seeks you out-- obviously, they are open to letting you help them.
          • If your audience rebuffs moderate attempts to relate, then they probably aren't ready for your assistance.
          • Sometimes, as painful as it is, you have to watch your audience make his or her way through their own tough circumstances.
            • People process grief and hurt differently, sometimes they have to figure out their own way or pace.  You can't artificially impose a deadline or a path for another.  You can help, but you can't force it.
            • Trying to hard to shield loved ones from the effects of grief and hurt can keep them from gaining the strength they need for future grief or trauma, when they may not have the same 'help' available.
        • There is a time to relate and there is a time in which relating could seem like minimizing.
          • Age or a similar difference in circumstance could cause a problem in relating.
            • People tend to relate better to their own age/circumstance.   I believe this is especially true when life experience levels are different.
            • Trying to relate could sound like "in my day" or "where I come from" or some similar disconnect.  Even if you can see the parallel on the relatable issue, your audience may not.   Besides, due to difference in personal circumstances, your audience may not be open to seeing the parallel.
          • Perceived expertise or regard could cause a problem in relating.
            • Sometimes if your audience hears the same thing from a 'professional', even if you have the life experience to know the same thing, your audience will tend to respond better to the professional.   That's why counseling is such an in demand profession.
            • If there is a disconnect or block with your audience, you might say the right things, but your audience may perceive it 'not getting me'.   Once again, an outsider such as a counselor or minister or highly regarded family or other leader might be the answer as they could be perceived as being more 'objective'.

I could go on indefinitely about mistakes in relating, but I will finish the main part of my post there.  Why I called the post "Half a Pie is Still Half a Pie..." is this.   I have never had a very close knit family and I barely knew family outside of immediate family.   This at points in my life has left a void.  Let's face it, for worse or for better, family has an outsized influence on our life.   They are our first example and in many cases, strongest example.  They are the ones who are expected to be the most loyal and at least initially whom we seek the strongest validation from.   Anyway, at times, I have mourned not knowing my extended family and not having a close knit family.   I've been told by people a few times in my life that well, that knowing your (extended) family and getting together with family isn't all that it's cracked up to be.   In other words, 'having' family is not all it's cracked up to be.  To me that has felt tone deaf.   I came up with an analogy to express this.   Mainly that "Half a Pie is Still Half a Pie".   That is, yes, your circumstances aren't perfect either.  In other words, your family might have its problems, but they are still a unit and they have some close, albeit, not perfect relationships.  In other words, you have half a pie.  Some people, for all practical purposes they don't have a family (little overall cohesion with any that they do know and most that they never knew).  That would be little or no pie.   So, trying to relate by saying, well family isn't all it is cracked up to be seems 'tone-deaf'.  Their intentions may be well in stating that, but it doesn't feel relatable.  Anyway, this was just an obvious example of where I've seen mistakes in relating.

Just my 1/50th of a $1.  As with all my blog posts, feel free to take that which helps.  I write them in hopes that it helps people either can find someone to relate to and/or sees a perspective which they hadn't necessarily thought of.

Cheers,
Rich