Thursday, December 24, 2015

Reflection on the nature of the value of a gift

People used to show how much they cared by the "time" they spent on those they love.

I am thinking back to the days when hand crafted gifts were precious for the love that went into the making.  

When I was a child I spent hours “creating” gifts for family.  This was when I learned all kinds of crafts from embroidery to knitting to drawing and leather craft.  Creating for those we loved was simply an extension of spending time with those we loved. 

For example, time spent writing letters when loved ones lived far away.  Long distance phone calls were expensive so the “time spent” on a call was cherished not only because of the cost but also because of the time taken. Phone calls were an “event” planned and looked forward to.  But letters were often sent weekly between loved ones separated by distance.

Time spent keeping relationships alive was something that people practiced.  When I look back at my childhood it is the gift of “time spent” on others that stands out as the most loving and generous gift we exchanged.  

And then we were overtaken by the ever greater use of consumer goods.  We went from hand crafted cards with lovingly hand written messages to mass produced cards with a manufactured sentiment preprinted.  Now all that needed doing was scrawling a signature and done!

We went from hand crafted gifts to store bought gifts, less time spent in the act of giving, and over time less thought placed in the nature of the gift shared because the “advertisers” and “wish lists” already told us what was desired. 

We went from lovingly wrapped presents with carefully placed bows and decorations, to just plop it into a premade bag with some tissue paper, good enough!

I remember spending hours and hours wrapping gifts, making each one unique and special.  Then I learned that the wrapping was not cherished, it was torn off in great hurry to see it what was on the inside was indeed something from the "wish list".   And if it wasn’t the look of disappointment was so profound it was like a stab to the heart, a rejection of the time spent trying to find something meaningful and purposeful. 

In some cases the “wish demands” have become so extensive and expensive that now it is easier to just put some cash in a premade cash giving card so that “they” can buy the gift of their choice after the holidays.

What we have gained in being able to “buy” so many of the things we used to make is more free time to do something else that does not involve the giftee.  What we have lost is the emotional and spiritual connectedness between gift giver and gift receiver. 

Consumerism has taken away an element of connection between people.  Consumerism has made gift giving about giving a desired item over the gift of time.

Maybe there is a connection between this change in our culture and the way people are treated also like expendable things.  When people don’t meet the criterion to be on the “wish list” they are disposable.  Only the perfect and the beautiful (like assembly line products, every item exactly precisely as perfect as the last) are welcome.  The imperfect, the frail, the sickly, the old, the needy, the redundant are all swept into the waste bin just as the rejects of the assembly line are tossed in the trash.

So much has changed in the years since I was a child.  I face my life as it is now and realize, I may have a greater opportunity to buy more things, but there are many priceless riches that have been lost over the course of the years.  The things that I value are not in general valued anymore. 

In seeking cheaper factory made goods we have lost touch with the gift of time.  A handmade scarf is a gift of time shared.  Few people even consider “buying” a handmade scarf because of the cost, even though the knitter earns only pennies for their labour.  A cheaper machine made scarf devalues the labour of love, it separates us from the value of crafting skills, and it reduces a labour of love to a commodity. 

It dehumanizes us.  It creates distance between the giver and the giftee.  And the giver becomes expendable, because it is so much easier, faster, more convenient to buy a commodity of our own choosing, via the “want list”. Anyone will do as long as the end result is that the receiver gets what they “want”.  Who the gift giver is, becomes irrelevant and therefore disposable and expendable, for someone else can simply be found to fulfill the “want list”.

As I sit here reflecting on the changes that have happened in my own lifetime, and falling into the “expendable” category myself, I marvel at how changing perceptions of what has value and what does not, has changed our lives. The change is not insignificant. 

I will continue to create crafts and share them with my friends.  I will continue to give gifts of my time, my labour of love.  I find connection in the giving.  I hope that those of my friends who receive one of my random gifts of “time shared” find human connection in the receiving as much as I do.  Receiving a gift of loving time shared, continues to be one of my favorite gifts.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 - 12 - 24 

My journal blog entries are copyright
I love when you share my page to spread the word.
If you want to quote me I kindly ask that you please provide a link back to my page.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Post Estrangement: what are my intentions in moving on?

In the aftermath of estrangement I accept that the pain of rejection will always remain to some degree; it is a fact of the events.  There is no going back, no changing what was.  

Therefore, moving forward for me has been accepting that which I can't change and then to start to work on me.  My healing journey in a large part, is about what kind of a person do I want to be post estrangement?

Do I want to be bitter and live the rest of my life with harboured anger, grudges and regrets?


Do I want to celebrate all that is best in me, becoming more of all the good qualities that I already have?

I have chosen the later.  I figure that the best revenge is to come through this "test by fire"; with grace and good character and to be more of everything they tried to take away from me.

They lied about me to justify their actions; so I decided to become more of all those qualities that they stripped from me, to live my life so that everyone who meets me or interacts with me knows from that experience just how mean-spirited and malicious those lies are.

They say I am crazy - I will educate myself and learn so much about real mental illness and stress illness  that I am an example of knowledge about this field and that I actually understand their character defects better than they do. I will become knowledgeable about the trite and flip comments they use use as part of their labeling process which they use in their attempt to put me down, and destroy my reputation.  I will recognize that just because something is said does not make it true and just because someone makes a diagnosis does not mean it has validity. I will empower myself with knowledge. 

They say that I am mean - therefore I will treat everyone with extreme kindness and let my actions speak louder than their words.  Every person I meet will be given the kindness, empathy and compassion that I feel every living being deserves.  I will even be empathetic  towards those who wish me ill.  I will strive to see in their hurtful actions their own spiritual and emotional lacks. I will even wish them well as I set them free to follow the paths they must walk for their own emotional enlightenment.  I will empower myself with kindness. 

They say that I am stupid and ignorant - I well learn and gather knowledge about all manner of things but high on the list is learning about the nature of people and the kind of people that attempt to gain in their own self importance by disparaging others.  In learning about abusive tactics used to hurt others, in coming to understand what bullies do to gain control and how manipulative people attempt to control others I will empower myself with understanding. 

They say that I am whining about the way I have been treated - so I will rise about their expectations of my whining and I will celebrate what they have forced me to become, a stronger more empowered person. Every success that I celebrate because of their treatment of me will be a testament to the fact that I am a survivor.  I empower myself when I become victorious. 

I start each day planning how best to become the best version of myself, building personal boundaries so strong and so powerful that I never ever allow anyone to destroy me the way they attempted to destroy me.  I get through the daily struggles by imagining the victory.  I work each day towards that goal.  Healing and moving on is not optional it is my mission. 

I am a survivor and my intentions in moving forward is to become the healthiest most proactive and self empowering survivor that it is possible to become. They wanted to see me broken by their attack, and the best way for me to fight back is to walk victorious, head held high, proud of my ability to overcome and be more of every good quality that I already have. 

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 - 12 - 14

Link to my Facebook Reflections Page

Photo credits: as marked or unknown 

My journal blog entries are copyright
I love when you share my page to spread the word.
If you want to quote me I kindly ask that you please provide a link back to my page.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Reflection on the Spirit of Wisdom

Time spent in reflection is for me a time I give to myself, a gift to ponder those things in my life that I feel in need of contemplation.  Wisdom is one of those qualities that I find hard to define.  I know I love to learn and discover and explore but I feel that wisdom often eludes me.  

The Spirit of Wisdom (chokmah)
•  Ethical wisdom
•  Pragmatic / The ability to choose the best of options
•   Ability to foil the enemies’ schemes.

Do I have ethical wisdom?  I like to think that I ponder my choices based on what is right not on what is easy.  I have a strong moral sense of right and wrong.  My desire to act conscientiously however often gets me in trouble with those who prefer I bend the rules, to say an untruth because that is easier on their ego than the truth I express. 

I have lost because of my need to be honest and not deliberately dissemble just because it would make the other person “feel good”.  And yet I continue to stand my principles because that is who I am.  

Is this what ethical wisdom is?  Accepting that even knowing that it can get me in trouble with others, it is myself and my conscience that I need to live with?

The second statement about pragmatism; am I able to choose the best options?  Often I look back and wonder what would my life have been like if I had chosen a different option?  

Does this mean that at that point in time I lacked the wisdom to make a better choice or was I supposed to make that choice because the experiences I lived through because of that choice were the ones that destiny wanted me to experience and learn from?  

Pragmatic choices are always based upon what we know in the present moment.  There is no going back in life and there are no do overs. There is learning and using that knowledge for the next choice.   But always we are left making choices based on knowledge that is incomplete for we never stop learning. 

To foil and enemies schemes!  Wow.  What a premise.  This requires great knowledge of people and the way they think and act and respond.  I think I had none of this wisdom for most of my life.  I spent most of my life believing, really believing, that if I treated others well they would treat me well in return.  

Some of my greatest disappointments have been because of this “trustingness” that I had in people, and in the premise that basically all people are good.  I have learned the hard way that is not so.  There are many bad characters out there and many of them are hidden behind “masks of pretend goodness”, they smile as they stab you in the back, they are the proverbial “wolves in sheep's clothing”. 

Which brings me full circle to the concept of ethical wisdom; doing right is not necessarily going to get you done right by others. 

Wisdom requires knowledge not only of self and my own morality, but also to know the character of others and the disturbing character patterns or lack of character that allows them to employ shading dealings without regard for the feelings of others.

Wisdom requires building boundaries and emotional resources to face such characters and not be hurt or destroyed by them. If learning is a step in that direction then is it possible to gain enough experience and knowledge to foil their schemes? Well I can certainly try!

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2015 - 12 - 12 

My journal blog entries are copyright
I love when you share my page to spread the word.
If you want to quote me I kindly ask that you please provide a link back to my page.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

post estrangement: I thought of you today

I thought of my estranged daughter yesterday and realized I really don't think about her much anymore.  What I do think about is how her actions and her choices have affected my life. And continue to affect my life as I reassemble the broken bits into a new and cohesive whole.  That is what my healing journey is about. 

Strange as it seems, I feel separated from her the person, even though I am still very much aware of the separation itself and the changes it has meant in my life.

I no longer miss her “the person”, I don’t even really know who that person is anymore.  She is not the child I raised; nor is she the young woman I knew.  She is not the friend I thought her to be, nor the adult daughter and companion I expected her to become.  Who she is now is a stranger to me.  What I really miss is the dream of what I thought we would share.

So now I find myself at that crossroads of creating new dreams based on the reality of what is.

Learning to love who I have become because of what she  has put me through has forced me to come to understand the many wonderful aspects of my personality, to realize that in spite of all the trauma I am still a very much a good person, a little sadder, a little wiser, but filled with compassion and love.  With all her anger toward me, with all her spiteful actions, she could not take that essential goodness away from me.
  • I survived the intense anger I felt toward her. 
  • I mastered the desire for revenge and retaliation.
  • I have even found a way to open my heart to forgiving her for the choices she made.
  • I have become more compassionate and understanding of others in pain and even have room in my heart to feel compassion for the pain she is in, for deep down, she cannot be a happy person to know she is the root cause of so much hurting to not only myself, but to our whole family.
  • I have become more guarded in offering my love, but I can love again and even for her I have a different kind of love, a love that gives wings of hope that she may find that which see seeks, for she sacrificed much to achieve that separate space from which to pursue her dream, her autonomy, her future.  

No, my darling daughter, who I cared for and loved and nurtured all those years, is not in my life, she is barely present in my thoughts anymore, time does in fact create a veil, a curtain, between the past and the now.

Healing has forced me to compartmentalize and separate myself from what is un-achievable. To accept that which isn’t; and instead enable myself to focus on what actually is.

  • In coming through this traumatic chapter in my life I have passed a life test.  I emerged a sadder version of who I was before.
  • I am more aware of all the tragic possibilities of life, and that best laid intentions can all too easily go astray.
  • I have learned to humbly accept that which I cannot change, knowing that even the loudest and most persistent ranting can’t undo what has been done.
  • I am learning what it means to embrace beliefs and qualities and values that represent the person I want to be and that I don’t have to let events make me bitter.
  • I am learning that even with a broken heart and spirit, I can present to the world all those qualities I value; that no one’s disparaging words or actions can change the basic goodness of my nature.
  • I am learning that it is possible to live with a shadow memory and dreams unfulfilled, that wounded and scared does not mean an ending but rather a just a very different beginning.

I thought of you today, my estranged daughter, love of my womb, and realized I missed what might have been but I am learning to live with what is.  Not a fairy tale ending for sure, nor a happily ever after.  But there is an after and for that I am grateful.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 – 12 – 03

My journal blog entries and pictures are copyright
I love when you share my page to spread the word.
If you want to quote me I kindly ask that you please provide a link back to my page.
My Photoart may be ordered as signed art if you contact me.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Reflections on Presumptions as the Basis for Forming Judgments

Making presumptions about people, with limited access to detailed knowledge, can be a very negative thing.  And yet it seems to be something that many people in many situations do exactly this. 

Without thought, without reflection, they assume they understand a situation or a person and then they pass judgement based on their limited knowledge. 
Now if it stopped there it might not be so bad.  If they remained open minded that new information might lead to a different conclusion, and then remained willing to listen to new input and willing to change their judgment based on this new input, then things still might remain salvageable.  However the common path is to pass judgment and then turn off the ears and the thought process and the mind and remain in the stagnant waters of preconceived prejudices based on incomplete knowledge. 

This is where presumptions and judgments can indeed be a very negative thing.    When presumption becomes fact in spite of contrary evidence and judgement is passed based incomplete knowledge or even the desire to gather more complete knowledge, then it is possible to become stubbornly closed minded. 

-           To pass judgement ends communication and the search for the greater truth. 
-           To pass judgement creates a barrier to understanding. 
-           Sometimes the passing of a judgments stops the process of finding out the “rest of the story”, the “other point of view”, the “extenuating circumstances” or even if the original story was a fabrication or lie to begin with.

Making presumptions and passing judgment becomes an ending.  Whereas, open-minded awareness is a beginning; leading to learning and discovery.

For example, something much in the media these days is the concept of “narcissism”.  The term is seen everywhere.  We see spouses, and parents and children being accused of being narcissistic.  And the communication stops there. 

Often judgement is passed “that person is narcissistic and therefore they are bad and therefore they must be avoided or shunned as toxic” and the door to understanding the complexities of human interactions is closed.   And what if the accusation was made based on someone else’s lies, someone with an agenda to destroy another person’s reputation?  What if there was a situation that required the person to act in a self-preserving manner that was then labeled as narcissistic?  What if there was a totally different issue playing out one where the other side of the story was vitally important to understanding the real nature of the situation?
  • In today’s age we are prone to making assumptions and to passing judgement based on articles we read as though reading those articles makes us experts and competent to do so. 
  • In today’s age we draw parallels between our situations and other people’s situations and then we presume to know all the players in someone else’s life story based on our affinity with one person.
  • In today’s age we try to encapsulate input and make it fit our prejudices and presumptions and sometimes we end up with a completely false understanding which we then promote as the truth when in fact it is only our opinion.

In my resolution of avoid negativity in my life I am learning that I must be very careful to not draw conclusions, to make assumptions or to pass judgement. 

  • I can form opinions based on my learning and my knowledge. 
  • I can continue to further my gathering of knowledge to see if my hypothesis withstands the test of time. 
  • I can seek to understand extenuating circumstances and the “other side of the story” and remain open-minded to changing my mind based on what I learn.

I must also be aware that even when people speak as though they know, it could very well be that they don’t know, that they have only made assumptions and passed judgments, either because they do not know any better or because they fear what may be revealed if they do seek beyond their limited experience.
I must be aware that those who most stubbornly stick to a one sided point of view are to be distrusted for their very close-mindedness and judgmentalism, for as they judge others, so will they judge me. 

I need to be aware that sometimes judgmentalism stems from a place of “needing to be right at all costs” and that people with this deep need to be right will surely strive diligently to find a way to try to convince me that I am wrong to preserve their sense of order. 

So while I will strive to keep the negativity of assumptions and judgment out of my life, I will at the same time be aware that not everyone sees these qualities as negative.  In accepting that I will meet all kinds of people in my life, I will be selective about who I allow into my life and most closely guard who I will allow into my inner circle.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 - 12 - 02 

Photo credits: as marked or unknown

link to My Facebook Reflections Page

My journal blog entries are copyright
I love when you share my page to spread the word.
If you want to quote me I kindly ask that you please provide a link back to my page.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Healing Journey: Setting the Scapegoat Free

One of the burdens we shoulder in the aftermath of being estranged is that we "self blame".  For me however, this self blame went deeper and the trauma of estrangement left me confronting my life long habit of self blame. 

Part of my healing journey has been facing the negative way I talk to myself and the impact that this habit has had upon my life in general. In order to bring appreciation and joy and love back into my daily life I needed to change those deep down feelings of unworthiness.  I needed to embrace that self-love and self-worth and self-compassion, are qualities that I actually deserve to experience!   

I NEEDED, almost desperately, to escape from the negativity that because I have not been perfect and because I have made mistakes, I somehow don’t deserve to feel appreciated, joyful or loved. 

Because I own responsibility for all things that have gone wrong in my life to a detrimental degree.  I carry with me this huge burden of self-imposed guilt.  It is a burden that I took up as a child (those feelings of not being good enough) and it has been with me my whole life.   

I saw every insufficiency in my life as a being the result of my not being good enough, doing good enough, being successful enough. And then I carried that guilt for “not being good enough” in my psyche!   I carried this burden with me into my daily life!  What a great burden to carry!
I should have let go of this burden a long time ago, but it was so ingrained in my nature that I never even stopped to think of the damage I was doing to myself by blaming “ME” for everything that did not go smoothly or did not turn out the way it was planned.  

It was just somehow always “my fault”, and I never stopped to question the truth of that statement! 

I have been learning to question the veracity of that belief!

Actually I have been forced to learn that lesson by events in my life. 

The turning point came when I realized that I had taught my children to judge me as harshly as I judged myself!   I had taught them that is was okay for them to blame me for everything that was wrong in their lives.  They had the perfect scapegoat, MOM!

When our eldest child estranged from the family she sent a letter and the message that resonates with me the most was this sentence:   

“There are so many things wrong with my life 
and they are all your fault.”  

My world collapsed in the reading of that sentence!   
I was guilty!  
I was to blame.  
I was a horrible person.  
I was a horrible mother!  
I was a horrible person.  

How was I going to live with the knowledge that I was such a failure?!  That was May 2009. 

Looking back now I find it interesting that she did not take any responsibility upon herself, not even the tiniest bit!   She did not see any of her actions as contributing to the growing tension between us.  

Even more perplexing is that I allowed her to use me as a scapegoat!   I did not even question that it was my fault! 

I was ultimately the perfect scapegoat 
because I believed the accusation that 
I was at fault for everything 
that was wrong in her life!

So there I was, shattered! 

First the good news, I survived!   I somehow picked up the pieces and spent the ensuing years trying to mend my broken heart and my broken life. I read, I attended therapy sessions, I joined support groups for estranged parents and I worked very hard at learning about myself, my unrealistic expectations, and what exactly I was and was not responsible for.  

Second the bad news; it has been an uphill battle that has seen me struggling with old concepts, outdated ideas, facing new knowledge and new understanding.  Rewiring thoughts about who I was and what I could and could not take responsibility for, has been like an emotional evisceration.  I was often left feeling raw and exposed and vulnerable.

I am now firmly on the path forward toward rebuilding with new and healthier foundation stones those parts of my life that I do continue to take responsibility for.  

What I have left behind, is the baggage of making excuses for others and then shouldering their share of the blame as well as my own.  

I have stripped away guilt that 
was not mine to start with.  

I have removed self-shaming for being inadequate from my self talk vocabulary!  

I have learnt to embrace that being human and making mistakes is part of living and that this is not something to be ashamed of.

I am rebuilding those areas of my psyche that still need fortification.  Most importantly, I have created a fourteen day self-appreciation challenge that I pamper myself with whenever I catch myself sliding back into old habits. 

Originally this challenge came out of my need to remind myself that:

  • I deserve to feel good about who I am and what I have accomplished. 
  • I deserve to  declare to myself that I deserve the good feelings that come with acknowledging my victories rather than drowning in my failings.  
  • I have a right to claim my rights as a human being; to no longer be trapped in the role of the scapegoat.

Appreciation is one of the highest emotional states you can be in. 

I love writing my daily gratitude list.  It allows me time to reflect on the state of abundance in my outer life. Over time this exercise also taught me that if I am capable of appreciating others then I should be able to learn to apply that skill towards appreciating myself.  The goal was to create an equal state of abundance in my inner life.  I do this for ME, because I too deserve appreciation. 

Out of that awareness came my "Self Appreciation and Self Love Ritual"  (in my soon to be published book, Post Estrangement: Journey Forward Toward Healing)

My ritual is there to remind me of my promises to myself.  

  • I will stop and take a moment to remember and fully experience gratitude for all my good qualities. 
  • I will make daily self-appreciation a part of my daily gratitude practice 
  • I will make it a priority in my life to work on changing old conditioning patterns that no longer serve me. 
Setting the scapegoat free has been one of the most precious gifts that I have given myself during my post estrangement healing journey.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 – 11 – 18

My Facebook Reflections Page

photo credits - as marked or unknown 

My journal blog entries  are copyright
I love when you share my page to spread the word.
If you want to quote me I kindly ask that you please provide a link back to my page.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

healing journey: celebrating the victories

Today I was reminded of some advice I received from a successful person I looked up to, many many years ago. He said "create a victory book.  In it you write all the wonderful things that happen to you, the kind things that people say to you and the moments when you feel appreciated.  These become a visual reminder to you on those days when you feel unsuccessful and unappreciated".

I was very young, when I heard this, life was like this rosy pathway of wonder before me.  I was not even a parent yet at the time.  Looking back now I sort of regret that I did not follow this sage piece of advice in the arrogance of my youth. 

Now, many years later, after the most traumatic event I have ever experienced in my life I wish I had this victory book to look back upon.

Then I realized, that here I am 2 years into my healing journey, and unconsciously I have been following his advice. This is exactly what I have been doing as part of my recovery.  In my daily journal I document those wonderful transactions that happen in my life.  I celebrate the people that treat me with kindness.  I celebrate my victories of self discovery.  I have those moments recorded in my journal!  My journal is a celebration of the victories I have had on my journey of rediscovery and the people that have had an impact on me during those times when I most felt unworthy. 

Today, as I reflect upon this I realize that I felt better about myself just writing about those events, and the writing was significant for it reinforced the good in my life when I was overwhelmed by the sadness and sorrow.   I also now know that I have a record of the people and events during my healing and should I ever need reminding again in the future, they are there for me to revisit. 

I am thinking, that as we move forwards after a traumatic event in our lives, we need to celebrate, commemorate and preserve the special moments when we are recognized and appreciated, or when we overcome an obstacle and surpass our own limited expectations.  These moments are like a salve on a bloody wound, a balm that soothes the acid of hurtful events.  

The act of writing down positive events helps us to refocus on the goodness even in the midst of great loss.  We are given second chances to regain our self-worth, opportunities to be grateful for, and most especially kind compassionate and caring people that remind us that there is goodness in a world where our sorrow makes us believe that all has turned putrid with hatefulness and spite.

I am glad to have these victory moments in my journal to celebrate.  Are you ready to create a victory journal to celebrate your healing journey? 

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 - 11 - 12 

photo credit: as marked or unknown  

My journal blog entries are copyright
I love when you share my page to spread the word.
If you want to quote me I kindly ask that you please provide a link back to my page.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Post Estrangement: are we becoming too general in our use of language?

Can we strive to be more specific in our use of words is always something that I face with my daily reflections. 

For example,"Toxic" is often used as such a broad umbrella term and under such an umbrella all kinds of petty acts are relegated to equal intensity.  Under this category truly hurtful and abusive actions become the equal of unintentional comments or actions that are perceived to be hurtful. 

For example if I make a comment and someone's feelings are hurt by that comment does that make me toxic, my comment toxic or does the person hearing my comment have an interpretation problem because of their personal issues from their life experiences?  

Further if they label me as toxic and walk away, can I learn from the experience?  Is there possibility for growth, for communication, for boundary work, for understanding?  NO, because labeling and silence is an end to communication, an end to working on resolving, an ending rather than a beginning.  

Expand that to our estranging adult offspring.  If the things we did as parents came from a good place at heart, does their perception of us as toxic come from our behaviour or from their interpretation or perception of our behaviour?

Tossing labeling words around to explain responses and reactions, could this be a sign of our times where we are not willing to invest ourselves in communication?  Have we begun to make ourselves unavailable to discuss these important inter-relationships issues without generalizations?

If our offspring could say to us "when you say XXX I feel YYY" that would open the door to communication.  Instead they choose to abstain from communication by saying "you are toxic and I will not be around you", thus cutting of communication and possible solutions. 

I am unsure as to how much of this is a sign of our times where communication has to be “text-able”.   You are toxic can be texted in a moment of anger.  Talking about feelings and responses requires at the very least full sentences and thoughtful reflections, listening skills as well as managing responses that come from a place of hurt or anger.  

If in the process of grieving our hurt and our loss, we then fall into the same category as our offspring by emulating their behaviour are we doing anything to further the cause of communication or are we further compounding the problem?

For this reason I am starting to think in terms of "actions" and "words" that are much more specific. 

We can agree that the way our offspring treat us is wrong.  But to lump them all together as being toxic I believe is also wrong.  Is it not better to be specific?

For example: I could say "My estranging daughter's behaviour is toxic and therefore I will be angry with her for being so mean to me and I will label her as a bad toxic person so that I don't have to face the pain." 


I could be more specific and say  "when my daughter chooses to withhold communications with me, when she gives me the silent treatment I am hurt.  My feelings are unacknowledged by her.  My importance has been diminished by her.  Her behaviour toward me is wrong because it removes the possibility for resolution from the equation. Her actions hurt me because I feel rejected which triggers my attachment needs.  I feel unworthy because she triggers my guilt feelings.   How I respond to her actions is based on my emotional needs being unmet."

This then allows me to look at what is it about me that allows me to be triggered in this way.  If I look at myself and why I react this way, is this not an opportunity for me to grow and learn?  I can now see her actions separate from how they make me feel.  I can allow for the possibility that she is not deliberately mean or spiteful or toxic, but that her actions are based on her own hurting.

Now I further try to imagine if our offspring did the same thing. 

What if instead of pointing a finger of blame at us and labeling us as toxic, they were to look at what it is inside themselves that makes them respond the way they do?  

And here is where I think that media has let us down.  In generalizing behaviours as toxic they simplify to a place of non-growth, to a place of  externalizing, and for making excuses.  

Our young people have taken this to mean that any time your feelings are hurt blame the other person for being toxic.  Take the easy way out.  Don’t work on relationships, excise them.  And this works because all actions that make us feel uncomfortable are now under one big umbrella word “toxic”.   But really isn’t emotional discomfort a warning sign that there is something that needs addressing?  

If I hear a suggestion as a put down does that mean the suggestion or the suggestor have evil intentions or is the problem with my own insecurities?

Growth happens when we explore the reasons for our reactions when we can vocalize our reactions coherently and communicate effectively.  Through non-confrontational communication we open pathways for learning and change.

Of course this will not stop people who willfully say or do hurtful things, (and I am not saying that such people don’t exist), but I do believe most people don't do negative things willfully.  For most people saying hurtful things is a reaction to a fundamental insecurity within themselves, in other words, they lash out from a place of hurt.  However inflicting another hurt does not expunge the original hurt.   And returning another hurt for the previous hurt only exacerbates the problem.

So if we see our offspring responding in a hostile manner toward us for something we unintentionally are perceived as having done to them we need to step back and say they are acting out of hurt not because they are willfully being toxic.  

We can in effect end the cycle.  

Let them hold the grudge and the anger until they grow and learn to express their emotions with the intention of resolution.  We do not have to step up the rift by resorting to the same tactic of name calling.

I have no doubt there is a tendency for us to do this name calling thing.  If we can label their behaviour as sociopathic or narcissistic or toxic or any of the other catch phrases that go around today, we can relegate the estrangement to a character flaw in our offspring and protect our hurt feelings by putting up another barrier.  If we respond to their hurt which was displayed as a hurting action towards us (estrangement), with a desire to hurt them back by labeling their behaviour have we then not lowered ourselves?  

I am fighting this all the time myself.  It is so easy to label my estranging daughter as cruel or spiteful.   But then I become just like her, lowering myself to name calling.   Do I want to walk that path?  Not really.  Does it help to know that there is possibly something much deeper at work that causes her to behave the way she does?  Yes.  But does labeling or name calling make me a better person or improve the situation?  Most assuredly not.

So what should my course of action be if I want to elevate myself, to become the best person I can be? 
  • I should strive to raise myself above this pettiness of name calling. 
  • I should focus on healing the triggers that cause me to see her actions as especially hurtful.
  • I should leave the door open that someday she too may learn that name calling and emotional silence is not the way forward. 

The questions becomes:
  • what kind of person do I want to be and can I grow into that vision of myself?  
  • Can I elevate myself to maintain an open mind in the spirit of loving, compassion and forgiveness?

This is my goal, to release the need to retaliate, to remove the need to blame, and release the unworthiness of payback.

I am learning that the harder path seems to be, for me, the correct one. In facing this I acknowledge that to strive to be a better person I must choose my reactions carefully and that this journey will not always be an easy one. 

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 - 10 - 29  

Photo credits:  as marked or unknown 

My journal blog entries are copyright
I love when you share my page to spread the word.
If you want to quote me I kindly ask that you please provide a link back to my page.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Post Estrangement: what are we reaping?

I feel we (the boomer generation of parents) tried to give our children more self-esteem than we were raised with. I call it the "Dr Spock" syndrome.

We followed the authority figures of our day of how to create more confidence in our children than we had. I have come to believe that the information that we were given about this was not wrong as much as incomplete. 

We have suffered the consequences of this belief. Only now is it becoming apparent to the "professionals" that catering to the "self-confidence" of children has led to epidemic numbers of narcissists and other character disturbances.  Only now are we seeing large groups of self-centered individuals who have no idea how to cope with disappointment other than projecting blame outside themselves.

In validating everything that my children said or did, in praising even mediocrity of effort or achievement, in ignoring the un-praiseworthy I (and other parents and teachers like me) inflated their self-worth without teaching them balance. 

It is not enough to have good self-esteem; one must also teach that effort is necessary.  It is important to teach that not everyone is perfection at everything they try. 

In trying to create self-esteem at all cost it is possible to fail to teach that rewards are commensurate with effort and product produced.  In focusing on self-esteem we did not teach this generation how to deal with disappointment, or that it is okay to not win today, or that it is not our right to win every day, but it is our duty to strive every day as if we could achieve a victory.  We neglected to teach them how to take defeat with grace and dignity, how to accept failure without shame or the need to put the other person down, or how to step up and try harder after a disappointment instead of blaming the other person for their failure.

While self-esteem has value it is not the route to healthy self-hood.  In trying to raise children who did not feel the “good enough” syndrome of our generation; by focusing on self-esteem alone we created a whole new set of problems for society, the world and our individual families. 

What we should have been teaching is self-compassion.  We should have taught our children that sometimes we fail and that is okay we are still good people when we fail.  We should have taught them that there is no shame in not being the best at everything but that self-compassion allows us to feel good about the things we succeed at while not berating ourselves for the things we are less successful at. 

Instead of teaching our children that others are at fault for their bad results we should have been teaching them to be accountable for their own bad results, not because they are less than, but because that is life.

We should have taught them not only how to strive for something but how to handle things when events did not turn out as planned. 

Instead of just giving them sympathy when they did not win or achieve the success they anticipated, and giving them a “participation praise” to support their self-esteem, we should have taught them how to handle disappointment through self-compassion and understanding that to strive is not the same as succeeding and the congruent lesson that failure is not an ending but a new beginning to try something differently.

Instead of encouraging them to coast on their talents by giving endless praise, we should have been teaching the value of training and due diligence and teaching them that others also have talents but that talent alone is not enough. 

Yes Dr. Spock and his generation of child experts did not have enough knowledge to point us in the right direction.  Their advice was well meant but incomplete.  Self-esteem is important but the lesson should not have stopped there.  A whole generation has been raised where teachers had to give everyone a prize for just showing up and coaches had to give a trophy win or lose, to everyone just for participating. 

In this generation, parents felt obligated to praise for the sake of praising.  Where trying to teach lessons about humility were frowned upon.  Where when a child did poorly it was not the child’s fault but the teachers fault for not seeing the wonderfulness of this child.  Where all achievement was praised equally so that mediocrity became acceptable because to praise the extraordinary was frowned upon for fear the ordinary would think less of themselves. 

We glorified self-esteem at the expense of other equally important virtues.  We forgot to teach that not everyone can win all the time, that for one person to win another person must lose and that there is no shame in that.  We forgot to teach that valuing another person is not based on their being the best at anything in particular but that we value people simply because they are. 

Instead of feeding the ego we should have been nurturing compassion.

Instead of accepting that that good enough deserves praise, we should have been teaching that there is value in learning that there is a difference between good and excellent.

Instead of teaching "you are super special just for being", we should have been teaching "you have great value but you need to figure out how to bring that value to others."

Instead of teaching "you are the best", we should have been teaching "you have gifts and it is up to you to discover how to use those gifts to bring value to others." 

Instead of praising the un-praiseworthy we should have been teaching the difference between good enough and excellence.

We should have been teaching that it is each person’s responsibility to find a way to create value in themselves instead of expecting others to validate them.

And most importantly we should have been told that children need to be accountable for their shortcomings not to blame others for their shortcomings in order to grow up into adults that don’t blame everyone except themselves for their unhappiness.

In raising “self-confidence” we raised a generation that expects “out there” to provide them with gratification and happiness.  We taught them that praise and validation is their due.  We taught them that anyone who does not “feed” their need for praise is toxic and needs to be discarded and to surround themselves only with those who “feed” their aggrandized self-image.

And only now are the experts seeing the results of this “experiment” in child raising and they are seeing that the outcome is not at all what was anticipated.  The damage has been done.  The new “experts” are starting to show a different path.  But for many of us it is already too late. 

We are reaping the results of the “experimental generation”.  The generation of people that was supposed to be more confident than we were.  Well they are.  But being more confident does not make them better people.  It only makes them more arrogant and self-centered and entitled. 
  • They are more willing to lie and cheat and obfuscate to get what they want. 
  • They are more willing to leave behind anyone or anything that does not meet their needs and at the same time they are less caring of the needs of others. 
  • They demand respect without extending respect. 
  • They demand to be loved on their terms and they love as a form of blackmail, using it as something to hand out as a reward for getting what they want. 
  • They control others while they don’t control themselves.
  • They expect others to do for them without considering what they do for others. 

They do onto others that which they would never allow others to do onto them.

We are reaping the experiment gone wrong.

Renate Dundys Marrello 

Link to my Facebook Reflections Page 

Photo credits:  as marked or unknown 

My journal blog entries are copyright
I love when you share my page to spread the word.
If you want to quote me I kindly ask that you please provide a link back to my page.