BUT SHE SAYS SHE LOVES ME
& of course I believe her!
PREVIOUS: ACoAs & Confusion (Part 4)
QUOTE: “The best way to end confusion is to get honest, reliable information so you feel more in control of your destiny.” ~ Diane Plusset
Childhood SOURCES of Confusion (cont.)
8. Communication DISTORTIONS (cont.)
c. Conflicting information: insisting that you see the world in the same slanted way they do, even with much evidence to the contrary. We heard:
• “Purple is Green, you don’t really see that, I’m not an alcoholic, your brother isn’t really dangerous, no one is to be trusted, no one will ever like / love you ….”
• “We’ll help you any way we can / you can tell us anything /we’ll always be there for you” & then when you go to them …. they negate what you say, make excuses, make it your fault, make it all about them…. They don’t really want to deal with your emotional needs, nor will they tell the truth about what’s really going on in the family
• “Of course I love you”. BUT that’s not how it feels! as they alternately neglect & hurt us
• “Do as I say, not as I do”. Kids are master imitators – that’s how they learn. When adults’ rules & actions are diametrically opposed to their words, we are thoroughly confused. If we catch on to their ‘game’, we feel betrayed, and seeing their hypocrisy leaves us hard-pressed to trust. But also – which version do we follow? If we disobey the rules we get punished, but if we obey them we betray ourselves
• “Don’t lie” & then they lie in blatant or subtle ways
• “Never use drugs” as they drink like fish….
• “You’ll be the death of me yet”. So I wonder “Am I a potential murderer?” What if they die young-ish? And if they’re still alive many years later, what does that mean??
d. Subtext – implied meanings we all get, but can’t always put into words. And it’s never kind or helpful! EXP of subtext: “Even Johnny got an A on that test” – could mean:
— Johnny isn’t very bright // the test was that easy
AND for ACoAs – They’re painful stab-in-the-heart comments from parent to son or daughter:
● “You know dear, it’s better to have brains than looks”, means you’re not a pretty girl, so be happy you can rely on being smart (just trying to be helpful!)
● “I never expected you to understand”, means I actually expect you to read my mind son, but you’re too selfish to bother thinking about me
● “See, she got one”. Teenage daughter has been complaining that she’ll never get a guy because she doesn’t think she’s pretty. This is the result of her perfectionistic mother who is only interested in appearance, &is never satisfied. One day they’re walking together, & across the street mom spots an unattractive woman walking arm in arm with a plain-looking man. (See she’s got one). Trying to be encouraging while reinforcing daughter is ugly???
● Secretary – told the boss needs xerox copies of certain papers – immediately, no delay. In all the boss’s demands is the implied threat of punishment or dismissal – keeping employees frightened & compliant. As usual, the ACoAs worker rushes to comply, but finds those papers still lying around 2 days later! Crazy making.
● ‘You can do anything you want”. Sounds good, as if you’re given the freedom to pursue your own course in life. BUT in a dysfunctional family, children understand the subtext – even if they can’t describe it.
MEANINGs: The focus is on DO-ing rather than BE-ing
— parents can’t be bothered / don’t take the time & effort…. to find out what exactly you dreams of, or are inherently good at
— it leaves you with too many options, with no boundaries, and no
guidance or explanation of process (HOW TO get to a goal)
— you’re only allowed to choose what the family approves of, so can’t make a mistake. Wrong one may cause a lot of anger or flat-out rejection
— no support, encouragement or admiration for the choice actually made,
AND MOST important: whatever you choose to do in life has to make THEM look & feel good about themselves (their narcissism – you’re not considered a separate person, only an extension of them).
RESULT: we either rebel – doing things to piss them off, OR do whatever they told us to no matter how unsuitable, OR drift & never quite decide
To make it even more confusing, one of our Toxic Rules is “You have to always struggle, but can never get there.”
e. Silence as punishment : When a parent passive-aggressively stops talking to their child, it severs the vital connection between them, & is always devastating to the child. While the angry adult may get temporary narcissistic satisfaction hiding behind their wall of disdain (“I’m more powerful, so I can shut you out”), ultimately P-A behavior is even more destructive than overt aggression. Over time, virtually all relationships with a P-A person end up confusing & destructive. (See post: “Anger Categories #10” – P-A anger)
f. Double Messages cause confusion because —
— we were punished if we didn’t know how to shop for our dinner, care for the pets, fix the washing machine, or get all As in school , AND
— we were punished (or made fun / teased) if we did things better than the adults – playing board games, getting awards in school, making our clothes or balsa models, making friends….. (See posts: DMs, 1-9 & DB, 1-10)
NEXT: ACoAs & Confusion (Part 6)