Category Archives: Family Dysfunction

Secrets in Big Sky Country Review

FINAL SBSC front cover 44-17-15jpgIt was a great honour to be one of the first to read Mandy Smith’s new book, “Secrets in Big Sky Country.” I’ve looked forward to the release date and the opportunity to share this tragic and courageous memoir, which I highly recommend.

Mandy and Cliff’s childhood changed long before they understood the consequences of their mother’s decisions to divorce their father and then embark on a relationship with his brother. This would affect the siblings for the rest of their lives, but it was never about the children, only the narcissistic mother’s needs were important.

From the age of three years old, Mandy came to know her uncle as daddy, who quickly replaced the attention that was severely lacking from her self-absorbed mother. Mandy was his special little girl, but while her innocence soaked up his apparent attentiveness, he had other depraved ideas of his own. His manipulative grooming techniques and subsequent abuse roamed freely through childhood and into her teens, but Mandy’s most heart breaking experience was yet to come.

I’ve read a few memoirs about abuse in childhood, but Mandy presents a very different story, which is not too graphic or difficult to read. Without a doubt, she is an amazing storyteller of the facts and her book is a real page-turner. Mandy’s ability to dust herself down repeatedly and then move forward in the face of so much adversity is truly inspirational.

Whether you are a survivor looking for validation and healing, or a professional seeking a better understanding of child abuse, Mandy’s book will take you on that journey and stay with you for a very long time to come.

The book is now available on Amazon here and includes a wonderful review by Brad Hutchinson Executive Director of The Gatehouse

This is Mandy’s blog, ‘Healing beyond Survival.’

No Contact with the Narcissist… “But, she’s your mother.”

We were born into a culture of idolising our mothers. People expect us to sit themthYS3WK643 gracefully on a pedestal, regardless of what they did, or who they became. When a mother and child’s relationship breaks down, there seems to be a predisposition to place the blame on the offspring.

I appreciate how difficult it is for those from functional backgrounds to understand how I could cut my mother off in the first place. People imagine the scenario to be fraught with a wide spectrum of grief. Their lips utter the words without thinking, “But, she’s your mother.”

As soon as people realise my experience is not as they imagine, they view my attitude with a mixture of suspicion and sympathy, their eyes say it all, ‘Awe, poor man… surely he must feel loss’. Many of them say, “But, she’s your mother.”

“Why don’t you try something different,” one woman suggested at last week’s group. I guess my course of action must be playing on her mind because we hadn’t discussed my mother for several weeks. “Write to your mum and tell her how you feel.” She continued, “You might never hear from her again, but at least you tried… what else can you do?” She shrugged, “she’s your mother.”

When I admitted to everyone in the group that the only worry on my mind is regarding what to do if a family members dies, heads nodded enthusiastically, each assuming the devastation and guilt.

It’s not the first time I’ve listened to how I ought to be reacting and it will not be the last when I go in search of those elusive feelings of loss, guilt, or any prospect of reconciliation. I’ve asked many times, where is my sense of loss?

The no contact rule with my narcissistic mother has come as a last resort. The sole intention is to free up enough headspace to address the issues that affect me today. I tried to live harmoniously alongside mum for many years. The first and most important aim was always to please her first, until I eventually realised this was unlikely to ever be successful.

I next moved towards the healthy distance option, while attempting to rise above the manipulation and covert abuse. This only riled mum’s frustration to control and she would only try harder to tear down any boundaries that stood in her way. We would run through her familiar spectrum of volatile moods, and ultimately, the silent treatment.

My sense of loss encompasses all those years I grieved when mum said I was a mistake or when they used intimidation and violence, just because they had the power to do as they pleased. I wept as a teenager for the paternal bond that never was and cried in early adulthood for the criticism that spilled from their mouths. I even questioned if they really were my parents and bawled when I realised they were.

When the group member suggested that I email mum again, it came as a bit of a blow. Her flippancy seems to undermine the blood, sweat, and tears, but her ignorance is forgivable because it’s difficult to appreciate the full flavour of a narcissist unless you’ve been there.

Sending a more detailed email assumes I might appreciate a potential resolution and whenever a person imagines a family death might influence my guilt and grief, they are wrong. The truth is, a close bereavement is the only event that would bring mum out of the woodwork, and the expectations are what I dread the most.

Of course, there is still hurt and anger leftover from the abuse and dysfunction, but arriving at my decision has nothing to do with anger or an inability to forgive the narcissistic mother. It’s not a means to resolve and would never generate a meek response or entice reconciliation.

Staying in touch with a narcissistic mother who is incapable of unconditional love only generates toxicity, which links directly to the source of the emotional and psychological damage. Severing communication is about reclaiming control of my own life and creating a healthier environment to begin healing.

While it may feel unimaginable to ‘divorce’ from one’s own mum, it’s equally difficult for me to imagine what it’s like to experience a maternal relationship based on unconditional love and acceptance. When someone says, “But it’s your mother,” I only want to reply, “So what.”

How the Child Survives Narcissistic Parents part 1

Narcissistic people come in all different shapes and sizes with a diverse range ofthJAMA4L71 personalities, each driven by self-obsessed motives and an arrogant belief in their own self-righteous perfection.

Narcissistic parents seem to possess a cold-hearted ability to adopt either a possessive or a passive aggressive approach to parenting. Both tactics aim to achieve authority and control over their children, regardless of age.

In my own experience, they will swing precariously between the two states of tyranny and switch mercilessly through a wide spectrum of manipulative methods, predetermined by a child’s ability to please and feed their ego.

When I finally severed contact with my own narcissistic mother, we were already on the far end of her passive aggressive scale and had been for many years. While my email contained only 100 words, the honesty was unprecedented, unforgiveable.

Narcissism doesn’t like the truth because it threatens to burst a carefully constructed bubble of perfection and there is always a risk of exposing controversial disciplinary tactics at home, as well as other kinds of abuse. They then expect us to collude in concealing the shame behind those secretive solid doors.

Peel beneath the fragile layers of perfection and you will find self-centred people who manipulate their dysfunctional family with intimidation and fear. They stop at nothing to get their own way, while maintaining a position of control and righteousness. The only time a disagreement can be resolved is when we finally see the error of our ways.

Growing up within an unstable environment can be a very scary and bewildering time for small children and teenagers. Even when bullying and abuse is prevalent at home, children believe they are solely to blame. ‘If only I hadn’t made mummy cross… if daddy loved me more… if I was better behaved… had better grades … if only I hadn’t answered back.’

When we experience manipulative abuse by our trusted caregivers, many of us don’t know how to ask for help. Riddled with guilt and self-blame, it’s like confessing all the nasty things our parents ever said about us, which is a clever tactic that helps to seal our silence.

“You only have yourself to blame,” is a statement familiar to many of us. It’s similar to when a paedophile warns the victim, “no one will ever believe you… you made me do this… bad things happen if you tell.”

I branded myself with every derogatory name they used; selfish, nasty, horrible, I was inconsiderate, disrespectful, and ungrateful, oh and a failure who would never amount to much in life. There was an eternal echo of the narcissistic voice playing out inside my head and it felt suffocating.

I imagine that every child of a narcissistic parent grows up with a belief in their own self-centred nature, while they experience a confusing sense of reality in the dynamics. The parent’s idealistic voice saturates their developing mind, professing impeccability and unconditional love.

Meanwhile, the child secretly harbours guilt when their interpretation of the experience is far from perfect and they slowly realise that the term ‘unconditional’ has intricate and volatile limits.

There is no winning with a narcissist parent, no bending, or negotiating and never any chance of them easing up on their obsessive need to control every inch of dust under their roof.

To a hot-blooded teen, this was a toxic and explosive mix. I was homeless as a teenager on a number of occasions, but I would gladly crush my testicles in a nutcracker than live under their roof ever again.

During those early years of pretending to be independent, mum had enormous influence over everyone and was never shy with her opinions. It feels strange to think of how I still idolised her and longed for love and acceptance.

I would call her daily and visit every week for dinner, hoping to fulfil their expectations of the perfect son. This only gave them unlimited access to the day-to-day events in my life, which invariably came under criticism and interference. Rather than recognise my own strength and courage for sensing something wasn’t quite right, I could only see weakness and foolishness.

When dad could no longer control his son with intimidation and violence, he transformed into a passive aggressive parent overnight, whereas mum continued on the dominant pathway to our ultimate destruction.

Most people who come from happy functional families would probably find it difficult to comprehend a mother or father being a source of so much negativity and I imagine it might be difficult to grasp why anyone would eventually wish to cut all ties with their parents. This is what I will cover in part 2.