On Forgiveness and Confrontations

Cover of "Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their...
Cover via Amazon

I am currently reading Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward, PhD. Most of her information and advice is spot on. However, I disagree with her on a couple of issues. Before I get into those, I should probably fill you in on why I’m reading this book.

As stated in my introduction post, I lived with a sociopath for a number of years, and my significant other was ensnared by one for over a decade. If you’re reading this, I assume you’ve had your own major encounter with a psychopath, or perhaps you have a loved one who has. And if that’s the case, you may already have learned that the reason some of us get involved with sociopaths is because we’re trying to resolve childhood issues. We had high conflict, sociopathic, or personality disordered parents, and we got stuck in dysfunction; we don’t know what normal, healthy relationships are all about.

As far as my parents are concerned, I’ve already made my peace. When I say that, I mean I’ve made my peace within myself and, as a result of that, I was able to make my peace with them. (I want to point out that this was partly a result of the relationship I had with the psychopath. As I was discovering what he was, I realized he and my father seemed to have come from the same template. So it gave me some deep insight into the relationship I had with him, as well.)

My SO comes from a highly dysfunctional family also, and has made significant progress as far as understanding how that has affected his life and his choices. He has learned to recognize when he is being manipulated, and he stands up for himself. We both still read books like this one to continue to gain valuable insight. For me the subject is still fascinating.

Getting back on topic, Dr. Forward tells her clients that forgiveness is not essential. I respectfully disagree. Unfortunately, many people seem to think forgiveness and absolution are one and the same. They are not. Forgiveness does not equal absolution. The two are not synonymous. Forgiving someone does not mean that you will continue to allow them to abuse you or that you will pretend like the abuse never occurred.

It’s been my experience though that forgiveness is a process. You cannot simply state that you forgive your abuser and expect that magically, all of the hurt from the past will disappear, you will have your self esteem back, your toxic parent(s) will be grief-stricken at ever having hurt you and will become the perfect parent(s), etc. Strangely, many people seem to think that that’s how forgiveness works. It has to come naturally. For me, it’s been part of the healing process. It gradually started to happen on its own, without any conscious effort on my part. (Other than struggling to make sense of everything and to recover from it all.)

I realized I had forgiven these people when I got to the point where I could think of them, and unpleasant incidents from our past, without feeling strong emotions. Now, especially when I recall traumatic incidents from childhood, they almost seem as if they happened to someone else. I don’t feel anger, confusion, emotional distress, helplessness, hatred or a wish to lash out. Sometimes there’s a little sadness at the fact the we humans can be so cruel, but that’s not what this post is about.

The second thing I disagree with Dr. Forward on is her urging all of her clients to confront their toxic parents. I don’t think a confrontation is necessary for everyone. She suggests putting it in writing or arranging a face to face meeting. The patient basically outlines the abuses/neglect they suffered, how they were affected by it, and that they are not going to tolerate any ongoing abuse or disrespect. I think there are plenty of people who could benefit from writing a letter that they never intend to send. (Writing in a journal is another option.) If you’re struggling with going no-contact, then the response to your confrontation might help you decide. However, if you already know in your heart that no-contact is the only way to have peace in your life, then what’s the point of a confrontation?

Dr. Forward suggests that the confrontation is to prove to the patient that he/she can stand up to their parents. In my experience, in order to do that, you must set solid boundaries and stop allowing the parents (or anyone else for that matter) to cross those boundaries. When you can do that, then you know that you are okay. When you no longer allow them to abuse you or treat you with disrespect, when you can calmly tell them that you’re going to walk out/hang up if they keep acting like children, when you can refuse to give in to guilt and manipulations, when they are no longer able to push your buttons, then you are fine.

You can stand up to your parents without confronting them with the past. In some instances, a confrontation may make things worse. For me, I simply don’t see the point – it wouldn’t be helpful to me at all. Everyone is different though and, if you feel the need for a confrontation, Toxic Parents will help you prepare for one. Check your local library, or you can purchase the book on Amazon or e-bay.

There’s one more thing I want to mention. Dr. Forward gives examples of how toxic parents typically respond during these face to face encounters. Not surprisingly, they react exactly the same way personality disordered spouses/lovers do, when we call them on their bullshit. Essentially, they respond with denial, blame shifting, false apologies – in hopes of sweeping everything under the rug, making excuses/rationalizing, the martyr routine, and – my personal fave – the whiny, melodramatic why-are-you-being-mean-to-me crap. I couldn’t help noticing the pattern, and it made me wonder if Dr. F would also advise her patients to have a face off with an ex spouse/lover. I doubt she would, and doing so with one’s parents hardly seems like it would be particularly helpful for the same reason.

Each of us is different, and it’s important to do what’s best for you. If you find this book helpful, and you want more, I’ve comprised a short list of books that have been helpful to me during my recovery. If you’re interested, you can view it here.

Toddlers and Tanning?

Some people should not be allowed to reproduce. A New Jersey mother of a five-year-old  faces child endangerment charges for allegedly exposing her daughter to the UV rays from a tanning bed. If you haven’t seen this yet, you can read about it here. No way to tell for sure if this mommy is personality disordered or a sociopath, but body dysmorphic disorder is probably a safe bet. At any rate, she’s not exactly what you’d refer to as mentally stable.

When I read about this, it reminded me of an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The gang finds a baby in a dumpster, and Dee and Mac try to exploit him for money. They take the baby boy to a tanning salon to get a base tan, so that he can become an actor/model. It’s hard to explain out of context, but you can watch the tanning salon clip here.

A tanning salon is no place for children, and it’s baffling that an attendant had no problem letting Patricia Krentcil take her little girl into the room with her while she tanned. Ms. Krentcil claims her daughter wore protective goggles and played in the room but that she wasn’t exposed to the UV rays. In case you hadn’t already guessed, I’m just not buying that.

Staff members at the girl’s school were concerned when the child went in with a sunburn and ratted her mom out for taking her tanning. What did the mother have to say for herself? “There’s tons of moms that bring their children in.” (Referring to the salon). She also equated it to taking a child to the supermarket with you.

That’s a very poor defense. Taking your child shopping with you does not involve going into a private room with her, shutting the door, and possibly exposing her skin to harmful ultraviolet rays. Shopping for food is done in the public eye.

The father defended mom, and his response was equally inane. “It was 85 degrees outside, she got sunburned. That’s it. That’s all that happened.” 85 degree weather does not cause sunburns. Being directly exposed to ultraviolet rays causes sunburns.

In the video clip, Ms. Krentcil goes on to state that her daughter, who has very fair skin, hasn’t been exposed to a tanning bed, but when she turns eighteen, it will be her choice if she wants to tan. This is a woman who refers to herself (in the video) as a princess or a Barbie, and there’s no doubt she turns a lot of heads, but for a different reason. By the time this kid turns eighteen, her mom is going to look like one of the California Raisins and, hopefully, that will be reason enough for this girl not to go anywhere near a tanning booth.

Introduction

After more than a decade of having some type of psychopathic presence directly or indirectly involved in my life, I have been wanting to chronicle these misadventures for quite some time. Originally, I planned to start from the beginning and do a thorough job of chronicling my experiences in as much detail as possible. It was supposed to be a purging experience, and a way to gain more insight into myself and what I have been through.

But the thought of going back to the start of all this, to get it all out, and try to put it in order, was absolutely overwhelming. That is mostly why I have been putting off starting a blog until now. The other delays were deciding what platform to use and how to get some of this stuff off my chest if I wasn’t going to do a chronology of events.

After doing some research, I decided on WordPress for a number of reasons which don’t merit going into detail about. I’m sure this will become easier as I familiarize myself with WP and blogging but, for the time being, it feels a bit awkward.

I’ve come to realize that I don’t so much have a need to relive my experiences from beginning to end (although I’m still considering writing it all down, if I ever feel like tackling that), but my analytical mind is caught up in the mechanics of these relationships (between psychos and their victims). The behaviors are truly fascinating.

A bit of background: Why am I blogging about this?

I lived with a psychopath for a while, and then I moved out. Unfortunately, I wound up moving back in at a later time, and that’s when things really started to go downhill. Once I got away from him for good, things got even more interesting. It turned out that the vindictive, overgrown child my best friend (now husband) was trying to divorce was even more of a monster than the one I had lived with. Figuring that out with him turned out to be more painful than my own previous experiences. I’m blogging as a way of healing and gaining perspective. However, if anyone happens to find these posts helpful, that’s wonderful.

The two toxic individuals I’ve mentioned in this post meet the criteria for psychopathy. Though they both display traits from various personality disorders, they are both pathological and covert, so I’m not even bothering with the PD traits, although I’ll probably point them out from time to time. (Once you learn to recognize them, it starts to become second nature, like a survival instinct kicking in).