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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Post estrangement: Whose rules?

When you are the parent of an adult offspring who shows signs of having a disturbed character, you can probably look back and realize that you were “groomed” for the role of “doormat” by them from when they were quite little.  You realize that your commitment to unconditionally love has been used against your own best interests.

What I believed while I was parenting. 

If you are like me, you overlooked the little mean things they did and the cruel things they said, you excused the behaviour, explaining to yourself; “she (or he) is only a child and will learn to become a kinder and a more compassionate person because that is what I am showing them every day by role model and as I treat them kindly even when they hurt me they will most surly learn kindness”.

However they never did learn that!  What they learned instead is that “Mom (or Dad) backs down when I treat her bad” and they then continued to repeat the behaviour over and over again.  

And the process is repeated over and over as the parent backs down again and yet again in the name of unconditional love and compassion and kindness and a desire to keep the peace and to be mindful of the child’s self-esteem!

And then suddenly one day you wake up and realize that you have become a compete and total door Mat! 

Everything you do or say is with the singular thought of appeasing said child (walking on eggshells), to make them feel good about themselves in hopes of them learning to be kinder and more compassionate. 

Then finally you realize that being a door mat only made one thing possible, the aggrandizement of said child to the point where they think they are superior and better than you.  They feel that they have the right to bully you and put you down.  They feel that because you have backed down so many times before that you will always back down to their controlling demands.

Time passes, you back down so often that it becomes your expected response to all their bullying behaviour.  The trouble is that they keep upping the ante.  The demands and the desire for control, the put downs, the abuses keep becoming greater and greater, causing you more and more hurt and pain.  Your own self esteem is slowly whittled away and whittled away some more.

Until one day everything charges.  It is the day when they cross a boundary and say or do such hurtful mean things to you that you are backed up against a wall of resistance.  That wall of resistance is your self-esteem hollering at you that “No we can’t back up anymore and see ourselves as a self-respecting individual with rights and deserving of equal respect.”

That is the day the door mat gets up off of the floor and says “NO MORE”.

That is the day the controlling abusive child now grown to controlling manipulative adulthood screams “you have changed” and now they call you crazy for deciding that it was time to stop playing their game. 

They now turn to a new game!  They start to play the victim, blaming you for everything wrong in their lives.  You have refused the designated duty as their door mat and so they rechristen you their “scapegoat.” 

When you stopped playing the door mat game by their rules of conduct, when you no longer supported the abusive and unkind behaviours, you then became their “scapegoat” to explain why they do not need to change their oh so perfect ways to conform to the normal social rules of decent behaviours and conduct, because it was all your fault all along anyways.

Using you as a scapegoat becomes their way of excusing their bad behaviour.  Their treatment of you now is because “you deserved it” their reasoning being, because you did not conform to their rules. You stopped allowing them to be the one in control of the relationship!  You stood up for your right to be treated with respect! 

Now they go to outlandish extremes pointing out your many, many faults and flaws as to why you deserve to treated this way, why you deserve to be shunned and ostracized and estranged.  Why you deserve to be punished and bullied with emotional abuse.  

They will create stories about you and spread those stories as truth without even a second’s worth of remorse, because of course they deserve to make sure the world sees them as perfect and you as the awful person you are for not supporting their wonderfulness at the expense of your own self-worth.

They continue to act like the controlling bully they have been all along only now you are rejected for having the temerity to stand up for your own rights to be treated with respect.  And the rules they have written for the future is that you won’t be allowed back into their lives until you apologize for changing the rules and revert back to your door mat role.  For only by going back to the previous status quo, where you enabled your own abuse can they feel all powerful and in control.

And that is why I believe that many, if not most, estrangements by adult offspring will never have a happy ending. 

They feel they have no need to change their character or their behaviours, while we are expected to revert to previous doormat status.   

They do not need to grow or learn or change to become better people (because they already perceive themselves as perfect), we need to revert to subservient mode to allow them the illusion that they are, always have been and always will be superior. 

They have no trouble justifying their behaviour because they truly and deeply feel entitled to everything we are withholding (adoring praise of their perfectness even when that perfectness includes hurting us).  And they deeply hold on to the conviction that we are at fault for all their perceived unhappiness, issues, difficulties in life and whatever else is less than perfect in their estimation. They deeply feel they have the right to punish us for not seeing their perfectness. How dare we refuse to continue to play slave to their omnipotence!  How dare we disrupt their dream bubble, their facade of pretenses that entitles them to manipulate us for their personal gain!

They do not see their character disturbances as a weakness; they see their lack of conscience and empathy as a strength, one they do not wish to relinquish.

They do not wish a relationship between two equals they wish a relationship where they are the power and the controlling force.  Nothing less is for them a satisfactory outcome. 

And that is why they do not relent in their continued estrangement; we are denying them their expected outcome. As we continue to grow and learn and confidently say “I deserve more, I deserve better, I too am worthy" we set the bar for a much higher return of respect than they have ever had to give us in the past.

In many ways the longer the estrangement lasts the less likely there is to be a resolution.  For the longer we are forced to deal with all the emotional fall out of being ostracized, abandoned, bullied, shamed, etc. that comes with being estranged the stronger we grow in our desire to never again revert to being subjugated. The stronger and more confident we become the less likely we are to cave to their demands. And the less likely we are to cave the less likely they are to give us entry into their world.

Renate Dundys Marrello

Photo and picture 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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Post Estrangement: Managing my expectations

Expectations!  We all have them.  

The problem is when we equate expectations with fulfillment.  Not all expectations are fulfilled. 

Expectations are not always met and when we face unfulfilled expectations we can take the wrong message from the experience. 

To have hopes for how something could unfold is not a blue print for how it will unfold.  There are other factors involved in the process that we have no control over.

If I allow unfulfilled expectations to create resentment or bitterness in my life then my expectations have become a negative influence in my life.  I am learning that it is vitally important for me to “manage” my expectations versus allowing my expectations to “manage me”. 

What do I mean by this?  If my expectations “manage me”, I get upset when my expectations are not met.  I feel anger or resentment towards the person who I see as “having let me down”.  The problem here is that I have not taken into account what is happening in the other person’s life that prevents them from living up to my expectations.  If I do this, I am putting undue pressure on the other person to live up to my expectations and to what end?  

If I analyze this thought carefully I realize that my expectations are built upon the foundation of what I want for my gratification!

I have to learn to let go of expectations that come solely from a place of what I want and include also a recognition that the other person also has expectations and needs of their own.

If I do this I am in effect “managing” my expectations.  I am cognizant of the fact that what I expect may not be possible because my needs and the other person’s needs are not congruent.

If the other person does not live up to my expectations it is not because of some cosmic ill will, or even ill will on the part of the other.  It simply means that for whatever reason the other person is just incapable of doing what I expect because of where they are at emotionally or psychologically.  This is neither good nor bad it just is.  It is my interpretation that creates the stigma.

If I see their “letting me down” as a personal attack on me I become disappointed or angry or hurt.  On the other hand if I see their “letting me down” as a statement of their own shortcomings or personal demons I can feel compassion for their challenges and imperfections.  Once again in doing so I am in control of “managing” my expectations by selecting my response.

Of course, this is neither easy nor comfortable to do.  It is much easier to feel resentment and disappointment when my expectations are not met, than to “manage” my expectations to honour the other person’s challenges.

I find myself once again choosing to travel the more difficult path, as I try to learn to control those things in my life that can lead me toward negative responses.  

How does this reflection change my response toward my estranging offspring?   It allows me to honour the expectations that I had for our relationship and at the same time release and let go of the expectations I had for her part in my life.  In accepting that where she is at in her personal life experience is not conducive to a relationship between the two of us, I manage my expectations.  It is accepting that she has issues and demons to deal with in her own time.

It is acknowledging that she has expectations of me that I have failed to provide because of my own shortcomings.  It is accepting that her resentment of me stems from her unfulfilled expectations of me.  And finally it is recognizing that until she learns to let go of her expectations about me, as I have been learning to let go of my expectations of her there can be no reconciliation. 

Reconciliation requires releasing expectations about the other person, allowing them to be who they are. 

As long as there are expectations there are disappointments and as long as there are disappointments there is resentment and bitterness.  And as long as you hold on to expectations you hold on to the bitterness and the grudges fueled by unfulfilled expectations.
Finding peace requires learning to "manage" expectations rather than allowing the expectations to "manage" the relationship.

I have my intention firmly set on finding that peace and part of that peace stems from letting go of the expectations that my estranging daughter will come to the same conclusion anytime soon. She is who she is, she has her own journey to navigate and I release her from the expectation that we can or should walk life's path as mother daughter or as friends. 

Maybe we are meant to learn the lessons that only walking separate paths can teach us. I certainly know that walking alone I have learned many lessons I would not have learned otherwise.  And maybe that was my destiny.  Certainly that was never in any of my expectations!

Renate Dundys Marrello 

picture credits:  as marked or unknown

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.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Post Estrangement: Letters for my Grandson

Song 70 for Walter: "Where Is The Love?"

Dear Walter,

There is so much judgement and negativity in the world.
There are wars and terrorism and there is discrimination.
There are disputes and the need to be right. 

But where is the love?

  • Even in families the content of the argument is more important than the love.  
  • The hanging onto old grudges is more important than the love. 
  • Being right is more important than love.
  • Judging others is more important than love.
  • Punishing is more important than love.
  • Controlling others is more important than love.
  • Telling others what they ought to say or think or do is more important than love.
  • Feeling good is more important than love.
  • Feeling superior is more important than love.
  • Getting what you want is more important than love. 

Love has become twisted and contorted by the ego.  

If you love me you will do what I want you to do for ME.  
I ask you Walter, “is that love”?  Is this what you are learning about the nature of love?

Is that what people have started to equate with love? 

  • Is the quality of my love gauged by my willingness to sacrifice myself to please them?
  • Is my worthiness to receive love based on what I sacrifice to earn it? 

I am completely baffled by today’s standard of what love is. 
In my old fashioned view, love should not be used to control and manipulate other people’s behaviour.  Love should be a gift freely given and not have strings attached.

Maybe your Mamma-rae has it all wrong, but in the world I want to live in, love is not used as a tool of acquisition.  Love is a gift to be shared from a level playing field.  Love should not be withheld as punishment or used to coerce certain behaviour. 

And it brings me to the place where I have to ask what is wrong with people who feel they have the right to use love as a tool to get what they want?  What character flaw is in them that they feel they can use love to hold others hostage?

If this is what love means in today’s world then I truly feel sorry for those who, like you who are growing up with this definition of love.

“whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness and equality”

What happened to loving people for WHO they are not for
WHAT they can do for you?

Has love now become a commodity and when you can’t pay the price of receiving love you are denied it?

It seems that now we toss people away when they can no longer provide the services desired to earn love.

"It just ain't the same, old ways have changed
New days are strange, is the world insane?"

How will you experience love?
What message of love are you receiving?
What message of love are you learning?

I wonder and fear for all the young ones and the message they are receiving. 

Will you wonder “where is the love?”

Or will your generation 

wonder as I do, 

"What has become of love?"

Your Mamma-rae 

Renate Dundys Marrello 

Link to My Facebook Reflections Page 

Photo credits as marked or unknown

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.