Sunday, January 31, 2016

Post Estrangement: Healing versus Grieving

I think that after being estranged there are two very distinct patterns in ours lives. 

There is grief and there is healing. 

In the beginning it is very clear that we spend our time totally immersed in the grief. We can't even see a way to live beyond the pain of the grief.  This grieving period lasts a very long time.  Each person has to know and decide when it is time to move forward into healing. No one can tell you to move on.  Those comments made by others to encourage us to move on actually create anger and even more resistance as we respond with "I need to do this in my own time".

There comes a point in time though, whenever that is, when a cry comes from the soul that says, "this is not living, I need to move on".  When that day arrives you begin healing.

What I have found though is that there remains an overlap. This is probably because of the "ambiguous" nature of our status.  We are still parents of living adult children they just are not in our lives.  And I do believe that a portion of our hearts will always remain connected to the grief of that experience. 
However healing mode allows us to make a life beyond the estrangement.  

Sometimes we are more in healing mode and at others we slip back into grief mode.  The important bit to recognize as this transition occurs, is to recognize when we slip into grieving again and take the counter measures to begin healing again.  

I find it is a balancing act,  I start each day reminding myself of all the steps I am taking on my healing journey.  It keeps me firmly planted on the side of healing even when I am tempted to slip back into grieving.  

What is the difference between grieving and healing?  

Grieving is looking back at what was lost and healing is looking forward to alternative might be possibilities.

There is also a clear distinction behind the ruminating questions that occupy the mind. These questions clearly help me define where I am engaging my thoughts; healing or grieving. 

When I am in grieving mode I ask the unanswerable questions. They are those questions that I can't ever know the answers to:

- Why are they doing this?
- Are they happy doing this?
- What did I do wrong? 
- What did I do to deserve this?

When I am in healing mode I ask questions that I can answer:

- What can I do now?
- What do I need now?
- What are my plans for the future that honour me?
- Where do I want to focus my energies today and tomorrow?

The good days are the days when more of my ruminating thoughts run to the second category.  My bad days are filled with ruminating thoughts about the unanswerables.

As you process the emotions of grief and then embrace the emotions of healing this is a good guideline to follow to know if you are on track.

What questions do you ask yourself?
Is it time to ask healing questions?
Are you aware of the questions that keep you stuck?
Is it time to change your focus?

Only you know when you are ready to take that next step.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2016 - 01 - 31

link to my facebook Reflections page

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. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Reflections on Core Values: Day 14 Honesty

I value honesty.  

Honesty, toward myself and others, has always been important to me. I have always tried to conduct my life from this principle or value. 

However, I have learned that not everyone shares my desire.  I have learned, mostly the hard way, that people do not want to have their delusions about themselves or their lives challenged.  I have also learned that people often use lies to shape the impression they give to the world.  They hide behind masks of “niceness”, while inside lurks a serpent waiting to pounce and destroy. My naivety has on several occasions caused me great emotional harm.

Always when I look back on these events in my life I wonder what is it about truth that people fear?  Is the falsehood of the mask really that important to their self-worth?  And what emotional need do they feed with their falsehood?

When I evaluate myself and my life I am often brutally honest, more so when it comes to those things I wish I were better at. 

Lately however I have been learning to also honestly asses my strengths and virtues.  This change has led me down a new path called self-appreciation.  To be truthful, at first this scared me!  What if in the process of accepting and validating I become vain or heaven forbid, narcissistic?  It was only with much thought and deliberation and contemplation that I came to the conclusion that affirming my strengths gives me a platform from which to address my weakness.  In the past I was far too busy deriding myself and putting myself down to have the energy to do anything about it.  I was my own whipping boy keeping myself down, subjugated to feelings of guilt and inferiority.

Now that I have finally faced the truth about my strengths, I have not only the will, but also the energy to address my weaknesses.  Rather than making me become selfish or self-centered, I have begun the process of changing myself so that I can share a stronger, more healed, more compassionate person with others.  I am more giving simply because I am no longer “needing” outside validation to feel comfortable with who I am.  This comfort level, allows me to more fully connect with that which I want to share with others.

Yet, even as I struggle to be as honest with myself and those in my life, as I can, I have to acknowledge that honesty, as a core value is hard to practice.  I fear that instead of honesty most people “impression manage”.  And even I have fallen into the trap on occasion of pretending to be “alright” when in fact I am far from it. 

There is a falseness to pretending that everything is alright when indeed it is not.  The consequence is that I come away feeling that not only have I been untrue to myself, but also I have not given the other person an honest opportunity to rise to the occasion of supporting me, and so I have also diminished them. It is a falseness to subjugate real emotions so as not to “disturb” others.  Maybe I have on those occasions robbed the other person of an opportunity to feel good about being able to be there for me? I am learning that many people feel good when placed in the position of being able to help.

Where did I learn this behaviour?  What is it that has happened to me that has made me think it necessary to betray my own feelings, to sacrifice my truth on the altar of “not disturbing others”?  I am struggling to change this, or at the very least to be more open to those closest to me.

Yet even this type falsehood, for the most part, does not cause great harm. It may lead to missed opportunities of really connecting with others.  I believe that facing this kind of vulnerability allows us to get closer to others, but fear of rejection keeps us private, keeping our truths unshared. 

What concerns me more as I ponder this concept of honesty is the deliberate misconstruing that is a tool used by the unscrupulous to gain advantage.  Over the course of my life I have experienced some grave injustices perpetrated by people who deliberately use dishonesty to gain power in relationships. 

  • There is the falseness, where a person presents a pretend personality most likely to get them what they want.
  • There is the duplicity of pretending to be nice to get close and gather “dirt” on others.
  • There is the betrayal, where confidences are deliberately sabotaged, twisted and manipulated to harm others.

All of these actions thwart the principles of honesty.

I have been learning there is a name for these kinds of people; they are called “Character Disturbed”.  How come no one ever told me about them?   Why have I had to learn the hard way, through the hard knocks of life that there are wolves in sheep’s clothing amongst us?

I understand that honesty is a hard value to live by. Honesty requires us to be real, in essence to walk about emotionally naked.  “Here I am, this is me, warts and all.” 

  • Honesty is what allows us to make the closest kind of connections.
  • Honesty also allows us to encounter our greatest betrayals.

The question for me becomes this:  “how can I be honest on this deep level and remain safe from those who practice to deceive?”

  • Can I become better at spotting the manipulators and liars?
  • Can I protect myself from the unscrupulous?
  • Can I be who I really am without giving away my own personal power?

Renate Dundys Marrello
2016 - 01 - 30

link to my facebook Reflections page

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. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Post Estrangement: who is in your corner?

It is so typical of people to believe they "know" when they really only "know" the lies and falsehoods that have been perpetrated by those with a need to “save face”.   I lost many, many friends because they believed the altered reality stories without ever bothering to ask me for my side of the story!  It is the way people are!

It hurts when people shut you out based on lies and half-truths and deliberate distortions. As I have read and learned about this topic; I have discovered that this action is called “apathy” and people who participate in believing contrived stories without a desire to find out the full story for themselves are called “apaths”.   And character disturbed people “DEPEND” on this apathy, and these apaths to ensure that that they get what they want. 

People with character disturbances (e.g. narcissists, and other controlling and manipulative types); want to be seen as the victim.  If they project their faults onto their target and get apaths to believe them they can continue to lead their lives as if they have done no wrong because in their mind justification that leads to others believing them means they have exonerated themselves.  Of course over time they tell their lies so many times that they believe their own lies; and the fact that apaths believe their lies unquestioningly supports them in their coming to believe their created stories.

There is another type of person in this listening triangle.  Emapths (short for empathetic people) don’t believe one sided stories! They know that there is always “the other side”.   When they are inserted into a story involving two people they want to hear the other side.  Emapths complete the triangle!  They are the ones that listen to what you have to say and they sift the truth out from among  the feelings, and they have an instinct for deciphering the exaggerations and the deliberate misconstructions and projections.  Empaths are those people that end up standing by you and even up for you.  They even confront the character disturbed often getting themselves ostracized as well for not engaging in the fabrication that the character disturbed wants to project.

When you have been a target of slander by a character disturbed you quickly learn that apaths stand by and do nothing, fearing the same wrath could be turned against themselves.  

Empaths are most likely to be your only support, and over time as the lies and rumours are spread via the gossip network of apaths, you quickly learn the real nature of your friends.  The very small circle of empaths are quite different from the majority of apaths in your life. 

In post estrangement healing it is critical to learn to recognize and know your apath acquaintances and distance yourself from them; while at the same time holding close your empath friends. 

It is your empath friends that will help you to move forward, for they are the ones that will help you most when you doubt yourself and start to question if maybe there really is something wrong with you like the character disturbed proclaims.  The empaths are your solid ground when you are swimming in emotions that are tearing you apart on the inside.  Empaths are the guiding light, helping you to climb out of the pit of dark despair.

I am grateful for the blessing of empaths in my life.  

Renate Dundys Marrello
2016 – 01 – 19

link to my facebook Reflections page

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. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

post estrangement: learning to affirm my rights in a relationship

I used to be a doormat!  

There I said it, I have admitted my shame. 

Yes the truth is out; for most of my life I conducted myself in all my relationships as the "people pleaser".  I believed, mistakenly that I had to please other people in order to deserve their respect and love.  I gauged all my actions on how I could make others happy. 

This went above and beyond generosity and "doing for others", to the far more self-destructive; not standing up for myself.  

I accepted unacceptable behaviour towards myself to avoid causing others the discomfort of accepting responsibility for their inappropriate behaviour towards me.  This meant people got away with putting me down, ridiculing me, showing me disrespect and other actions that left me feeling deeply wounded.  All because I did not want to hurt them by voicing my disapproval of their actions!

Supposedly the reason we become "door mats" is because we need the validation that comes from being loved. Somewhere the mistaken notion is learned that by "not causing a scene" we are creating harmony and people who do not create drama are loved for their pleasantness.

Well, to my chagrin, I have learned that 
relationships don't work that way! 

The doormat instead of being loved is seen as weak and therefore becomes the target for abuse. The message others get is "it is alright to treat this person badly because they won't stand up for themselves.  

  • The insults and the put downs continue and grow more prolific and destructive because we never stood up and said "NO".  
  • The demands and expectations to do for others, grows because we never said "NO".  
  • We are told what to do and when to do and are "expected to do without question" because we have never said "NO". 
  • The disrespect grows because we are seen weak for never saying "NO". 
  • Our goodness and desire to be kind is taken advantage of because we never said "NO"
  • Instead of being valued for being accommodating, we became an easy target because we never said "NO"

Over time this type of relationship has a huge emotional cost. Sooner or later we pay the price in loss of self-worth and self-esteem.  

What I also discovered was that each hurtful event builds up over time. Each wound neglected, adds more emotional discomfort.  Inside the emotional bleeding becomes more and more severe.  The negative thought voices get louder and louder, ever more cruel and more punishing.

Inside I started seething with resentment for every time I was taken advantage of, disrespected, put down etc.  While on the outside I smiled and "kept the peace", on the inside I was crying from each cut and slice.  

Each little wound built up and built up and ate away at my self-esteem and self-worth.  I never had learned how to put a stop to abusive actions and words and so I didn't know how to defend myself.  One day I erupted like a volcano exploding to release the built up pressure.  I said a very uncharacteristic "NO!" 

That was the day my life changed forever.  I acted out of character defending myself.  I showed "anger", an emotion I so rarely allowed myself that it caught people off guard.  

Everything that I knew to be true in my life came tumbling down on that day never to be the same again.  Every relationship I was in, changed that day.  I was a stranger even to myself. 

I have been on a journey of recovery ever since.  From grieving, to learning, to healing; I have discovered that there are two kinds of people in my life.  
  • Those who realized that I had reached the end of my "be pleasant at all costs rope" and realized that they had to change their behaviour toward me as I changed my expectations of how I would allow myself to be treated and 
  • the other group, those people who liked being able to control me and manipulate me and were distraught that I would no longer allow it.  

The first group stood by me as I learned by trial and error (many, many errors) how to not be a "door mat".  The second group disappeared.
  • Part of the learning process has been to develop protective emotional boundaries around me.  
  • Part of the process has been learning to speak up for myself.  
  • Part of the process has been learning how to say "NO." 
  • Part of the process has been learning to respect and care for myself. 

Over time I have learned new skills and have adapted a more self-loving, self-compassionate and self-caring attitude. These have come together into a sort of "pledge to myself".

My Pledge to Myself for Safe Friendships and Relationships.

  1. I will never beg or plead for someone’s attention. Anyone who brings me to that level is not worthy of my affection.
  2. I will not tolerate criticism about my body, age, weight, job or any other insecurity I might have.  Good friends don’t put me down, they raise me up.
  3. I will regularly take a look at my relationships to make sure I am being respected, treated kindly and with love.
  4. I will ask myself, “Would I treat someone else like this?” and if the answer is NO, then I don’t deserve to be treated like that either.
  5. I will trust my gut instinct.  When I have a bad feeling I will trust myself and not push it away and make excuses.
  6. I will remember that I am better of alone than in the company of people who treat me in a toxic manner. I will control and limit the amount of time I spend in the company of people who are toxic to my emotional wellbeing.
  7. I will not allow myself to be spoken to in a condescending or sarcastic or mocking way.  Kind and compassionate people would not patronize me thus, and those who do will be dealt with or removed from my life.
  8. I will not allow anyone to call me names or use any kind of projection on me.
  9. My relationships and friendships will be mutual and equal for I know that love and caring is not about control and power.
  10. If I ever feel insecure about any of these steps I will pause and reflect or seek help from supportive friends.  I will not act on impulsive decisions.  But I will act with forethought and consideration as to what is in my best interests.

Do I feel comfortable yet with my new perspective? 
Not quite! 

However I do realize there is no going back to the way I was. For my own mental health that is not an option. 

  • My kindness is now tempered by an awareness that I will not allow myself to be abused or be taken advantage of.
  • My desire for peace is balanced by my need for my need for personal emotional safety and respect.
  • My compassion toward others is balanced by a compassion toward myself. 

It is a good and healthy place to be and I am thankful that I have been able to find my way to these discoveries. 

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2016 - 01 - 18 

link to my facebook Reflections page

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. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Post estrangement: Trying to Understand

I recently read a quote by Jeff Brown that I found illuminating!  

(You) “endure it (abuse) either because 
you don't have a choice or 
because you don't love yourself.”

As a parent you have no choice but to “endure” the hurtful actions against you by a child.  You have to show them compassion even when they say hurtful things.  It is part of your “job” as a parent to NOT retaliate. You try to teach by example and explanation, but the long and short of it is you “endure” those challenging years.  Sometimes however this is exacerbated by a deeper level of not enough self-love.  When this happens you endure because you don’t deeply and fundamentally believe that you deserve better.

In those cases the resentment against the abusive behaviour builds and builds gradually under ever greater pressure.  The “snapping point”, is when you say “I will endure this no more”.  Quite possibly you shout it or demonstrate that you have had enough in a quite dramatic out of character manner.
It is when you say NO, STOP IT, that you discover that your adult child has become an abuser of your good will and that they like the power and control they have had over you and are angry with you for taking away that power and control. 

This is often when they estrange and in typical abusive fashion they blame you and say “it is all your fault”.  And it is true, you DID; you changed the rules that you were willing to play under.

When you reached the breaking point and changed because of your own needs to be whole, when you woke up and realized you needed to be treated with respect and love also, you finally affirmed self love, maybe for the first time in a long time.

However for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When you stopped going "with the flow" and accepting the negative treatment, when you changed the rules of how you would allow yourself to be treated they had to react to the changes in you.

They basically had two choices: 

- they could acknowledge that their behaviour toward you was really not very nice, 

Two - they could resent you for asking them to be accountable for their behaviour. 

How much easier is must have been to take the resentment route!  In throwing the blame back at you for daring to change the rules they don't have to face their own contributions that pushed you to the limit.

Renate Dundys Marrello 

2016 - 01 - 12
link to my facebook Reflections page

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. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

post estrangement: on the brink

The journey through estrangement has so many convoluted pathways that sometimes I wonder just exactly where I am at.  There are so many emotions to process and so much personal transformation that happens, that it is hard sometimes to know just what progress I am making.

Today I am at one of those crossroads of wondering where does one emotion leave off and the other begin and how do I know what I am doing.  To get some clarity I decided to reflect upon what differentiates grieving from healing.

In grieving we feel raw emotions.  Many of these emotions I am working my way though analyzing for my book "Secret Grief".  I find that as I work through grief related topics the questions that I ask are the unanswerable kind that start with why and what.

  • Why did this happen to me?
  • Why is my adult child treating me this way?
  • What did I do to deserve this?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • Why is my adult child acting this way?

The problem I found with all the grieving questions was that there are no answers.  They are rhetorical in that only the estranging person can answer them and they have chosen to be uncommunicative.

Grieving is about dealing with the unanswerable and coming to the acceptance that I will most likely never know just what the motivational causes were because they are locked inside the mind of my child that refuses to share those answers with me for whatever her reasons are. Grieving is about coming to terms with the incontrovertible truth that I have been estranged. Grieving is living as though being estranged / abandoned / rejected, is all that I am.

In my work on healing, (that will eventually come together in my book "Post Estrangement: Reflections on Healing"), I notice that I started to ask a new type of question.  These questions are quite different in nature because I am the one that can answer them.  The questions I started asking in healing are:

  • Where do I go from here?
  • What can I learn that will help me heal?
  • What can I learn that will help me understand myself better and help me to create better relationships in the future?
  • If I am not to be mother and grandmother, what will define me now?
  • What is my purpose now and how do I find meaning in my life?
  • What image do I want to present to the world now?

These questions have hope in them because they are things that I can confront and order in such a manner that there is a reason and purpose to my days beyond being estranged.

Since I have been on my healing journey I find that I still sometimes stray into "grieving".  On those days I ask the useless unanswerable questions that lead me round in circles going nowhere.

Lately an even more empowering question has started showing up in my self talk.  This question is WHEN:
  • When will I make a full transition from grieving into healing?
Wow, eye opening!  I am still sitting on the fence, with one foot still grieving while the other is trying to stride full speed ahead to the uncharted territory of post estrangement living life fully.  

Reluctantly I have to admit that this final step is harder to take than anticipated.  There is now a certain comfort in knowing and understanding my grief.  Stepping out beyond; applying everything I have learnt into living as a survivor is going to involve a certain amount of risk and uncertainty.  I will move from a vulnerability I know (the pain of grief and loss) to a different vulnerability; facing a future I never anticipated or expected.  A future of my own making, created out to the knowledge and learning I have had to do in the healing process.

Am I ready for this next adventure?

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2016 - 01 - 10 

link to my facebook Reflections page 

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, January 7, 2016

Reflections on Core Values - Day 5 - follow-through

Follow through for me has a lot to do with acting responsibly.  That includes doing those things that are necessary even though they are not pleasant or fun or easy. 

Let’s face reality, if it is fun or easy, pleasurable or enjoyable we really go not need great motivation to “follow through”.

  • If it is a job or chore we love it is easy to dedicate the time to doing it.
  • If it is a relationship with someone we get along with easily, we don’t need motivation to spend time with that person.

The real test to character comes when it is something unpleasant that needs doing.  This tests our value of how important follow though is in our lives.

There are so many mundane things that need to be seen too that are a part of survival.  Fundamentals like food and shelter need to be seen too whether they are fun or not.  So  much of our life energy is devoted to these areas, we follow through in these areas because to not follow through has a negative consequence, no food, no shelter. 

When we take on family obligations we now extend those responsibilities to our offspring and now we have a duty to see them cared for as well.  This extends then to their wellbeing, their education, and tending to them gaining their own independence. 

Part of this journey is teaching them the responsibility of “follow through”.  As parents we give them “chores” (which they hate) to teach them this lesson.  They fight and struggle and come up with all kinds of reasons to not “follow through”, they resent us for teaching them this lesson (we are the mean ones) and yet we follow through on teaching those lessons that it is a parents responsibility to learn because we feel a responsibility / obligation to give our offspring a realistic and value filled start toward independence.  And surely there are many obligations that come with parenthood that we “follow through” on even though they are not pleasant.

At the same time as we build our separate family we have responsibility and obligations to our own now elderly parents.  Parents we don’t always understand, or who we have differences of opinion with.  And yet we find ways to fulfill our responsibility and follow through on the “honour and respect” part that relationship even through the challenges. 

In maturing we come to realize that “follow through” is not always about what is pleasant or enjoyable but rather about what is right and honourable.  Sometimes we follow through with teeth gritted in determination, we stop our feet from running in the opposite direction, we put on a grin and we bear it!  Why?  Because we value the virtue of “follow through”.

As I sit here and ponder the times in my life when I have done the right thing in spite of my “feelings” I realize that I have a strong sense of “follow through”.  I really believe firmly that our character is determined by how we follow through when the act of doing what is right is not as pleasant as doing something we “want” to do.  Sure there were times I wanted to run away and do something more fun or pleasant.  But I did not because I felt responsible to my obligations to “follow through”.

So what is my concern?  I am concerned that not everyone sees this steady determination to follow through as a virtue anymore.   We are admonished so often to “if it doesn’t feel good do something else” or “if the relationship isn’t comfortable, abandon it and move on”. 

  • In pursuit of the “feel good” are we learning to abdicate responsibility?  
  • Has follow through become something we only do as long as it is pleasant? 
  • Instead of doing what it right have choices come down to doing what feels good?

My long term concern is where does this attitude lead us in our social or cultural stability?  We already see countless relationships ending because they don’t feel good. 

We see abandonment in all kinds of social situations, from divorce, to absentee parents, to elder neglect.  

We see the sick and the needy abandoned.  We see the frail and disabled left alone. 

Why?  Because it does not feel good to follow through on our responsibility to care for others even when it does not feel good.

Doing what is right comes with the obligation of doing what does not feel good.
The desire to do what does not feel good comes from a sense of responsibility to follow through.

How do we re-integrate this virtue or value to a society that has grown accustomed to desire and want only the “feel good”?

Renate Dundys Marrello
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.