Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Who grows and who does not?

If you're telling a story it is part of the deal that your protagonist is going to experience challenge and in the end some, if only very small, growth or transformation. We change from moment to moment, never quite the same on one day than another. So, it's expected that our characters don't stay stagnant, since nobody really does (or do they?), especially if they face hurdles. Hurdles in life almost demand that we confront the challenges and learn something from them. If we don't learn, then the challenges will come back at us until we do. Some people believe that we live multiple lives until we learn our lessons. Some people say that the soul can never be perfect, no matter how far we strive. This does not stop some people from trying, the polar opposite of the person who sees no reason at all to change.

I am not talking about perfection. I am talking about growth. It might be learning to get outside your own head and think of others, walking in their shoes. That's a pretty big lesson for some people; monumental. If, at the end of the novel the protagonist leans into the possibility of walking in another person's shoes, or of recognizing the pain to others that they have caused, or of making the admittedly enormous effort of living a life that takes into account those that they live with, that would be enough, in my book. I'm not an action writer. I'm fascinated by incremental, almost imperceptible change.

Remember when Richard Kimble said, 'I didn't do it', and Deputy Gerard replied, 'I don't care'? We note that. We note also the moment when it finally dawns on Gerard that Kimble is telling the truth. He bent. He stretched. He moved away from his rigid position and he entertained the possibility that he was wrong. I think that is why 'The Fugitive' was so successful. We saw this wonderful transformation of a rather rigid, pain in the ass man.

Now, read this advice to a person who is the kindly partner of a person with a personality disorder:

"You can't control what s/he thinks about you, how s/he acts or says or wants. Stop trying to change the N/B (narcissist/borderline). You can ONLY control YOURSELF. Also, stop trying to make the N/B feel better. You cannot do anything to make them feel better. It can't be done."

IT CAN'T BE DONE. Preordained, yes? Not much chance of a story line there.

So, what about the kindly partner? Can she transform in some way? There are many possibilities here, endless possibilities, and's so predictable. Of course she can transform. She has been morphing on a daily basis in the interests of everyone else. Hmmm, perhaps she puts herself first, finally? And yet, I'm such a fan of the Deputy Gerard transformation just because all along it seemed so implausible; so unlikely.

Surely, surely there is some way these dark characters can see the light.

"The good doctors" are demonstrating that awareness is possible; transformation, not so much. That sucks. Then again, they made a series of movies about Hannibal Lector, didn't they? All is not lost as far as a story arc goes, so long as you enjoy the permanently dark character. Personally, I'm not a big fan.

Saturday, June 24, 2017


I'm not at all sure that I am or ever was representative of women of this modern era. There is a certain blitheness about the way I go about life. In my younger days I was fairly 'live and let live' in my disposition towards others, so although I noted certain characteristics inconsistent with the way I'd do things, I wasn't particularly troubled by them. If it was wildly outside what I considered fair or reasonable I might question something perhaps, but I was in no way demanding. To use other terms, I was what is considered  as without boundaries.

Having said that, I remember telling my husband off one time in my mid twenties when I'd been waiting at the appointed spot for considerable time; a spot that wasn't comfortable to be waiting in. His sense of time was something that I had difficulty understanding. He'd say that he'd be a couple of hours when in reality he needed more like a couple of days. Or, he'd say he was coming to bed "soon" and rock up in the wee small hours of the night. He often underestimated the time it took to do something and even though he could give assurances freely that he could get something done for me, he'd struggle to tear himself away from the project at hand, or the thing that held his interest. When he did attend to the task it seemed to take an endless amount of time, for only a perfect job was satisfactory in his eyes.

The washing of the dishes was a strange affair. When we married he rushed out to buy a dishwasher, as if the lack of a dishwasher somehow implied that he had some unwanted involvement in the chore. The event stood out because making decisions was something that he often labored over for fear of making the wrong decision. When he occasionally did do the dishes it reminded me of a surgeon preparing for heart surgery. It seemed a job done with meticulous care and attention. My attempts felt sloppy in comparison, as was my packing of the dishwasher apparently for he often noted that something hadn't been done quite right.

It soon became clear that his relationship with workmen wasn't a happy one. Invariably he found fault in their attempts and he was much happier doing it himself, even if it might take a decade longer. He'd assure me we'd saved a fortune, though, as you might imagine, I  didn't see it that way. Recently an oven sat in the middle of the kitchen for 9 months as he got his head around installing it and framing it in the absolutely right way.

You'd be correct if you assumed that this has caused me a great deal of frustration over the decades. Trying to explain my frustration to him is like talking to someone from another planet. It simply doesn't compute. What matters is his sense of the fitness of things and this is determined through his own particular lens of perfectionism and obsessiveness.

Things reached a head several years ago when I found myself having the occasional conniption. I think the frustration had built to such a level that I demanded that he understand what he was doing to me. He'd apologize that he'd upset me, but then he'd talk me around to seeing things from his point of view. There was no winning this war. There was no change of perspective to be had; no recognition that he was sending his wife mad.

Naturally, I reached a point where I researched this dilemma and bit by bit I filled in the dots and created an accurate picture of what was going on. Then, I looked for solutions. Modern psychology was brutally honest with me. The person to change was me because I was the person who was able to change.

I needed boundaries. I need to express my feelings in particular ways and/or state what I needed at the particular time and in a direct but neutral way. I needed to be proactive. I needed to buy out of circular arguments. I needed to do things for myself where possible. I needed to keep in close communication and enjoy time together with him, but I also needed to understand that I had to be a free agent; to find joy in ways other than in the ways that I had intended and expected when I agreed to his marital proposal; to any marital proposal.

To my eyes, his priorities would often seem misplaced, but these were my eyes, and the common theme that remains to this day is that he was doing things in a completely necessary way and at a depth of detail that was absolutely essential for our benefit. If the need for a perfect outcome meant that the outcome was delayed, perhaps permanently, then this was the way it was.

It became a process of wrapping my head around the fact that there would be little meeting of the ways, but rather that I learn to 'let go' of certain expectations of life, of a certain living standard, of certain marital expectations, and instead focus on other ways to be  a happy, stable and fulfilled human being.

This is the face of perfectionism and of being married to a person with an obsessive-compulsive, anal retentive, perfectionist personality. If someone told me ahead of time the rocky road ahead, well, I'd have been a fool to do anything else than to find another highway. But, that's rarely the way it works out. We discover our partner's traits as we progress down the road and after the time it is easy to do a U turn.

The  five stages of grieving as outlined by Kubler-Ross are accurate; not necessarily experienced in the same order as the next person, but still, we do go through all the stages, and complete the cycle at the stage of acceptance. I have learned to accept that no change will take place. I've adapted my life, my mindset and my pursuit of happiness around it. I am at peace. I am loved, and happy. I live a good life even when, to the fly on the wall, it can look pretty darn odd. It is what it is. Come hell or high water, a perfectionist, full of love as he may be for his wife, and who attempts to make up for his oddities in other ways, is unable to change.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

About hope

Hope is a positive word, right? If we have hope for an outcome, then there's still a chance things will go our way. Yet, I read some time ago a comment about hope that suggested it isn't as positive a concept as we would like to think. If you are living in hope, the author argued, you are not accepting things as they are, and in that way hope could be seen to be counterproductive. Acceptance of what is happening right here, right now, is far more productive, it was postulated. This doesn't mean no action is taken, but one isn't wallowing in thoughts of a possible future outcome, in a hopeful frame of mind, if you see the difference. Staying in the present, acceptance of the situation, is what is advocated.

There is considerable dissatisfaction with the medical fraternity who take 'truth giving' a bit too far, advising patients with cancer perhaps that the prognosis is very grim; fundamentally that they should get their affairs in order because there is no hope, or next to no hope. There are just too many people who are taking their health into their own hands even at that  late stage of the game and achieving outcomes considered impossible by the medical practitioners.

Hope for more life, a better life, is part of the positive approach to healing advocated by some people who consult with these marked people. They work with them on their nutrition - a plant based approach. They work with them on their state of mind, getting them well established in a meditative practice, and gentle exercise regimen, and as well, they encourage them to take each moment as it comes.

Perhaps, they don't encourage 'hope' so much as they encourage a positive state of mind and an acceptance of where they are right now, and why, and where they would like to go, all being well. And, if it should be that death comes, then let it a be a good death. It's a hopeful approach because previously they had reached a dead end, whereas now they have an approach that provides them with a healthy and enhanced way of life, for however long that is.

When I was younger and having my babies, I worked on the supposition that all would be well. I quite simply didn't allow for any other thought and I certainly was not prepared for any other outcome.  I'm grateful to be married to someone who simply overrides those in authority when he needs to. When my obstetrician induced me at the time of my first pregnancy and promptly left for a birthday party it was my husband who told the staff not long after that if he didn't get his ass back there and assist with a birth that was fast spiraling out of control they'd all be very sorry. The doctor ran into the room and quickly delivered the baby with forceps, for the cord was around our baby's neck and he was starving of oxygen. Would I have hit the panic button? You know I'd have left it too late.

Over time, my husband who is very detail oriented and inclined to see down the road to potential disastrous outcomes, would proselytize as to a bad outcome. Something inside me usually told me not to buy into it, especially when it came to our children. On the flip side, he sometimes was able to balance me, when I was overly invested in a specialist's prediction, for example.

It was more than me just being hopeful when it came to my children. I made deals with God; deal along the lines that if he agreed to keep them safe, then he could take something else from me. I see now how ridiculous that was, that I have the power to adjust the way of the Universe, but at the time I would have done deals with the devil if I could be assured of a safe outcome for them all.

I'm very grateful that my husband is so prepared to act in a crisis, and to act to avoid a crisis. It balances out with my tendency to simply insist that the universe acknowledge my loved ones' rightful place on this Earth to live a healthy and happy long life. Only a day or two ago he seemed agitated about our eldest son's health. He has a very nasty bug. Of course, one keeps an eye out for symptoms that suggest bacterial meningitis that can happens within hours, as instructed by doctors.

Whilst my husband frets that he is not yet back to full health, ready to push the emergency button, I assure him that bugs play out the way his is playing out; that he is resting and eating well and soon he will be fine. I'm aware of my flawed thinking that nothing can happen to my babies at the same time as I struggle to go to that 'what if this bug doesn't pass?' mode of thought. I'm not so much hopeful as insistent. The Universe knows better than to fuck with me when it comes to my children.

But, the Universe always wins. In the end we have some control over little things, over the best path to take perhaps, but we have no control over what the Universe wants. It is in this way that I sit here awaiting the results of my daughter's test which will confirm or deny the sophisticated blood tests that indicate that her pregnancy should be terminated. Exuberant joy has turned to sorrow.

'I know it is such a narrow chance, Mum, but I still have hope that the blood test is some awful mistake', she wrote to me. And, some motherly instinct, some sense of what I would want to hear from my mother if in the same circumstance, had me writing, 'There is nothing wrong with hope, darling.'

To those people who have never carried life within their limbs it is impossible to explain the joy, the bliss; the hopes one has for this little life inside. The little man may not be fully formed and at risk, but still he is yours. What else is there to do but hope? What else is there to do right now? The die is cast and we have no control. We await the verdict.

Of course, my rational mind, and hers, tells me that we are unlikely to get a call saying, 'You're the one in a million. The blood test showed that the foetus was very high risk, but the CVS test has confirmed that he's fine'. She's prepared for, and I expect, to get the call to say that the diagnosis is now confirmed. In which case, we must accept that it wasn't meant to be, this time. She will grieve and she will heal, and then they will try again, because the human heart prevails. It is inspirational what the human mind and heart can endure and heal from.

In life there is suffering. There is no two ways about it. It is our search for happiness that identifies us, however. I simply hate novels that end without some sense of hope for the protagonist because if we hang in with him or her for 300 pages of conflicts, issues and problems, we'd be mad to want less than at least some hope for his or her future when we turn the last page and must leave them behind. Where there is life, there is hope.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Narcissistic Cycle

From the moment we take our first breath we expect life to revolve around us. It is all about our needs. We want out stomachs filled and our diaper changed; to be held when we desire and for people to stop holding us when we desire to be alone. Over time, we learn that it is not all about us, and this comes as a deep shock to some children. The adults around them may wonder, why is he or she so desperate for attention? Generally speaking, little people learn to adjust to the real world, being a cog in the big wheel of life. Some people even enjoy their humility. But, for a significant minority, it really does suck to not be in the limelight, to not have a great deal of attention; to not reach some great height in life.

Of course, expression of a narcissistic personality isn't something that you can plot on a line. There are grades of narcissism and according to the level of narcissism expressed, we have some idea as to people's reactions to narcissistic injury. So much of the behavior is covert; covered up; a secret. It can take a good deal of looking before your eyes stop deceiving you.

It is almost impossible to be certain what leads to this behavior in adulthood, but there are two theories. Either the parents created a golden child who did no wrong and and certainly deserves the abundance of praise, glory and possessions the child is given, or else the parents were cold; unresponsive to the child's needs and withholding of praise and love.

It seems that it may well be something that happens about the age of 7 or 8 that can lead to permanent damage in the psyche; a scary thought for me since I work with children of that age. It is also fascinating that it is the occurrence of some damage to the psyche at this same age that can set the child up for a future cancer. Children need to express their emotions. You don't want them feeling that they must contain these emotions. Indeed, it is important that they share them with you. Having dinner together regularly is a great insurance policy because that's a time when concerns are raised.

For some people the swings and arrows directed at their sense of self is so great that they must create an inner sanctum. The chances of being invited into this inner sanctum of their minds is remarkably low for the very reason they fear going through the portal of their inner sanctum themselves. If they cannot enter, then you certainly must be kept out. Thus, the false self is created.

The narcissistic personality requires confirmation; validation; attention. With a low supply of empathy for others or a sense of guilt at their disposal, for their psyche rotates around their own desperate and urgent needs to feel better, people that come into their orbit are at risk of being manipulated to serve the N's needs.

Not all people with a narcissistic personality are wildly intelligent and abound with charm. Some people are mildly narcissistic in personality whilst others are in the mid range. Then there are others that are Masters at the game. How they experience themselves within their own skin can vary wildly from their outward appearance and behavior. It's the pressing need to have their needs met that have them behaving in certain ways because supply must be found and, if we are talking of a primary source, secured.

The appetite for supply can often be voracious and this makes secondary supply and even tertiary supply very important; not as important as the primary supply, most often the romantic partner, but still, an important source for supply. It could be a lover, a co-worker or even a stranger on the street. It is an insidious, all encompassing thing for some people.

There is a pattern, easily recognized when you know what you are looking for, but far too irresistible to reject when you do not. Submissives, yearning to submit as they do, are far less likely to see the master narcissist coming.

The golden period when the narcissistic is a delight to be around and you think you have found the perfect match is, well, golden. It feels special; heady; a high. Is there anything better than this, you wonder?

Unfortunately, the need for supply prevents this period from being permanent. There are a couple of things to note here. Positive supply isn't permanently enough; not even close. The N must have negative supply as well. He or she wants you to love them, but they also want you to sometimes hate them. How else can be there a contrast? How else can there a full expression of their control? Secondly, things go off the boil for the N. He needs to stir the pot; either to get some supply from another source, or have a cooling off period to gather strength and/or recover from a serious narcissistic injury. Either way, the golden period ultimately comes to an end or is patchy at best.

Confusion abounds. Drastic efforts are made; herculean attempts to return to that golden of golden periods of time. And yet, no matter how many hurdles you jump or how many sacrifices you make, that period of time is indeed gone; history; vamoose; vanished in a puff of smoke. It may return in some form or measure for limited periods of time, but the close connection between you is never quite reached. Nor are any attempts to discover the reasons for the change ever revealed or explained.

Probably, the narcissisticly challenged person has awareness; perhaps he or she does not. What matters to him is that he doesn't feel good and it's this drastic search to feel better that really matters to him or her. It drives everything.

Remember this: You didn't cause this situation and you can't fix this situation. You can, however, call it for what it is. You can even empathize, if your heart is big, deep and wide. Let's face it, as a submissive, you have bucket loads of empathy and forgiveness; endless supplies of understanding and an abundant willingness to wonder if you are to blame. For your own preservation of sanity, resist accepting the blame. In this way, you will heal.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Troubled relationships

So, what if you are stuck; stuck in a relationship that you can't seem to leave but that makes you crazy? Have you tried to changed the Other's behavior? How did that go for you?

There is a much more effective way to feel better about the relationship and about yourself because what you do have control over is your own behavior and thoughts. As these shifts take place in you, every element of your life, including the troubled relationship, starts to become smoother. Your sense of self improves. Most importantly, you stop feeling helpless and start feeling strong. The feelings of love remain but now they are based on an acceptance of the way things are; a full and complete acceptance of the person you love. You stop manipulating  the Other to get what you want and come to realize that it is the love that resides in you that you can tap into to heal yourself.

A troubled relationship that means a great deal to you can sap you of your self-confidence. Maybe you try to encourage the Other to act kinder towards you and instead of him or her seeing your distress and moving towards you to comfort you, there is push-back; blame, projection. It's confusing and can lead a person to wonder about their own sanity.  Do you find yourself digging deeper to understand the Other; pushing your own needs and wants further below the surface in order to settle or calm the Other? If so, your self-respect is at risk. You have come to behave like a Caretaker because it seemed the only way to function in a troubled relationship.

Counter-intuitively perhaps, you have to use different strategies to heal yourself and the relationship. Every time you use these strategies your self-respect will grow and you will start to see that things are not hopeless and you are not helpless.

Most importantly, you need to listen to your own feelings. Sit quietly with yourself as often as you can. Often, only a minute or two is enough. Ask yourself, 'How am I traveling?' Identify your feelings. Feel into your physical responses and locate where your feelings lie.

When interactions are hurtful to you, stop them. Don't feel that you need to keep interacting with someone who isn't making sense, or doesn't have control over his or her words and actions. Take a break. Let things simmer down.

If you are dependent on the Other but the Other's behavior isn't reliable it really doesn't make any sense for this person to be the final arbiter over your sense of self; the decider of who you are and the provider of your needs and wants. Your identity is made up primarily in the establishment of what you want, what you are willing to stand up for and the goals you strive for in life.  What you have to do is decide for yourself what action you wish to take. Then, you have to act. With or without him or her in your life, you are determining what will make your life better.

I think the problem can lie in the fact that a submissive sort of person will mention something he or she would like and the Other may sort of put that idea down; perhaps not in a direct way but in an overt sort of reference. It's almost a response to change that they unwittingly see as a threat. Change can be hard for the Other wrapped up in his or her own head. Rather than be put off, your goal can be mentioned in passing, and ultimately a declaration made that as of next week, say, you are going to be volunteering your time at the Soup Kitchen every other Thursday. No arguments. It is just now something that is part of your life.

It is not selfish to think about your own needs and wants as opposed to thinking all the time about the Other's needs and wants. This is what you have to get through your head. It doesn't work to be selfless. It is in fact inevitably soul destroying.

In a troubled relationship, the Other can in fact be very dependent on you. It helps to reflect back to the Other that you have heard and understood their feelings. 'You look upset.' 'I understand that would have been upsetting for you.' This isn't about ignoring the Other's needs but recognizing but they may be submerged in their own feelings and desire to feel better such that they can't attend to you. This is why it is so important in a troubled relationship to learn to use all those caring tendencies to nurture yourself.

When you stop wishing for things to change and start acting on the reality of your life, a sense of new beginnings starts to take hold. This does not have to be the demise of the relationship but rather a new found belief in your own abilities to make the most of your life. You can do it.