Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Ideas Gone Wrong

I know from personal experience how really good ideas can go terribly wrong in the hands of some people. When someone applies a "principle" that they don't really understand to make their point, things can get dicey at best. Let alone when someone takes a healthy message and manipulates it to justify their own position.

"Knowing just enough to be dangerous" comes to mind whether dealing with horses or people. The funny thing about this is that in both situations, the horses and the people are victims of this kind of behavior. They pay the price that goes along with manipulations in any form. Horses I've seen abused in the name of good training techniques and children I've seen further traumatized by abusing adults misusing helpful information.

What got me blogging down this road was Choose your feelings
over at Random Kahless. Her manipulative mother said "you chose to feel xyx; my actions didn't cause you to feel - you chose to have that feeling" in an attempt to make Little Kahless feel guilty.

Most of us have heard that we "are not responsible for the feelings of others." But what goes with that information that is equally important is that we ARE responsible for what we do. If we engage in abusive behavior and someones feelings are hurt because of it, we are responsible for that pain that has been caused. There is NO DOUBT about that!

Little Kahless's mother didn't want to be responsible for her behavior at all. She wanted to shove that responsibility onto the child whose was traumatized by her abusive behavior. Her intent from the start was to manipulate the child to take on her own personal guilt. This is a perfect example of someone taking good information and turning it terribly wrong.

I know that sounds confusing. And that is really the point, the confusion. I learned soon into my therapy that confusion was a major tool for abusive people. Being able to keep someone off balance and confused makes them more vulnerable. The more vulnerable a victim is the easier they are to abuse and to keep silent.

How could that statement even be good information. Kahless' therapist says that children are not responsible for their feelings, their feelings just are. I think that's an oversimplified way of saying that the child's feelings in abusive families are reasonable. They are what they are because of the abuse which brings us full circle back to "we are responsible for what we do." That brings the responsibility and guilt back to the mother here.

The good information from the statement "we are responsible for our feelings " comes in a whole different context. It's not designed to let someone off the hook for abuse, it's designed for the "glass is half empty" person to see clear to change perspectives to the "glass is half full."

As I explained in Half Empty or Half Full - Sad or Happy , I have been trying to teach my granddaughter how she has control over whether she is happy or whether she is miserable based on her perspective (the glass is half full versus the glass half empty thing). But she is old enough to understand the concept and is not being abused. Instead we are trying to teach her that she has some personal power and can affect her life by how she uses that power.

Little Kahless spent her childhood being taught that she had no personal power. If she wanted to survive and not be more abused she needed to conform to her parents way of thinking. There were no provisions for her to ever have her own thoughts or feelings. The rules were clear, she must see life by her parents' standards.

It's sure easy to see how someone like little Kahless's mother used something she didn't understand in any way shape or form as a means to control the child even further. The mother even set the child up insisting she write in a journal so that she could be sure she was controlling the child's feelings. For me, that's what makes the psychological aspect of this abuse so heinous.

It's no wonder that Kahless struggles with trying to get free of the ravages of this abuse. Her parents were experts at manipulating the child to carry their burden of guilt. Personally I believe the way to freedom from such crap lies in defusing the confusion they created. Understanding the process they used to shove their guilt off onto her will be a start at getting to the root of all of their evil.


Kahless said...

Hi RR,

Thanks for this perspective. I appreciate it. I think the whole way they taught me to "take responsibility" for myself and my feelings was very confusing for the little girl I was.

My T is always going on about me living too much in my mind and not in my body, to do things more instead of thinking things. I guess that being a personality trait of mine probably made it all worse as a kid; over thinking things.

My parents had a whole book shelf of popular psychology books and used to try and take ideas from them. Some of them were quite good books that I have re-read as an adult. I think my parents were trying to prove how clever they were.

They tried to encourage ‘open-ness’ but I think that back fired in that all of us kids are quite guarded in our privacy; probably because it ended up breaching our boundaries.

I am rambling now; not sure where my train of thought is going. I will have a think and try and sort it out in a post later. Maybe I should start with why everything has to be a debate in my mind? Lol!
I am not sure if I would call my parents evil, rather mis-guided, dysfunctional, selfish, self serving, f**ked up individuals!

Something else why I am rambling which comes to mind, rather random but its not going away. My parents are catholic; and in later life showed their intolerance of other religions when my brother became an Anglican and they cut him off (the lesson; do as we want or we cut you off.) Yet years earlier they used to open their doors to any door knockers like Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses. We used to get a lot of American Mormons. And they used to invite them in then preach to them and then ask them to pray with us all together. I remember us all having to kneel in our front room and hold hands in a circle. My dad got a kick out of that as I remember him laughing about it afterwards. Very confusing.


ps Thanks for the fridge message.

kïrstin said...

hey :)
i thought this was really well put.

the difference between having a say over whether youre going to face life with anticipation or dread is exactly what choosing your feelings is all about. being old enough to understand the concept is egually as important as knowing the difference. even adults cannot choose their feelings of reaction to hurtful or happy treatment from others. what is under our control there is our response.

its dreadful to think a mother would make her child feel guilty over her our pain, when she herself only seeks to get off the hook. what a psychopath.

Kahless said...

Now I have been over-thinking this;
what are we saying

+you can choose your attitude
+you can choose how you respond to your feelings or what you do with them

+but you cant always choose your feelings?

Rising Rainbow said...

kahless, knowing that they had lots of books only reinforces my perception that they were calculating since their end result was shoving their guilt onto you.

If they had truly been trying to find a better way to live they would have applied the principles to themselves instead of using them as weapons against their children.

As for my perception of evil, I think for me that came along when I read the Road Less Travelled and its sequel. Manipulation guilt to be carried by another would clearly fit the author's desciptions.

I understand that your insctinct is to protect them but that doesn't mean that they are worthy of such protection. Their abuse was insidious.

kirstin, I'm with you on this. It is really ugly when a parent choses to make a child the scapegoat instead of taking personal responsibility. A difficult thing for the adult child to heal from because it is so convulted that its difficult to identify.

kahless, I don't think you are necessarily over-thinking. I think you are trying to find answers. There is nothing wrong with that. I suspect that you have been criticized for "over-thinking" most of your life so it's another label you easily take on but there is nothing wrong with trying to understand how your feelings work or what is at the root of them. It's no wonder you are so confused with the mind games they played on you.

And, yes, in a very basic way, you cannot control what feelings you experience but you can how to respond to them. Obviously you can learn to shut them down all together, you can put them on a shelf for later, you can tone them down a bit and you can choose how you respond to them.

Feelings do not necessarily reflect what is real which means you have to decide whether or not you react to them in how you deal with people, or how you deal with yourself.

If you stumble on the stairs and people see you, you might feel totally defeated and exposed. Because of those feelings you might beat yourself up calling yourself stupid and such or you might realize that we all fall at times in our lives and it's ok to be human. Each one of those choices will elicit a different internal "feeling" response.Which we chose will make the difference between a stumble ruining your day or being forgotten.

Kahless said...

M Scott Peck, The Road less Travelled. They had that one. Actually I have a copy of it too and its follow up.

Rising Rainbow said...

Kahless, That doesn't surprise me. The interesting thing about us humans is that we can twist anything to support where we are coming from, if that is our intent.

Perfect said...

I'm LOLing @ the last comment by RR only b/c I am remembering my BGF & I using random passages in the Bible to support our hopes of which guys liked us in school!! Talk about the ability to take what you want from any source!! But as for the content of the original post.....VERY well said. Very.

Rising Rainbow said...

Perfect,I rest my case! LOL if that doesn't show how ridiculous manipulating information to suit one's personal needs can be, nothing will. Thanks for sharing! LOL

Lynn said...

I've been mulling over this post and its comments. I, too, understand Kahless's confusion. I was treated similarly. It can be awful trying to sort out the reality of what it means to 'take responsibility' for one's self. Not very long ago, that would have translated like this for me: Take responsibilty for myself = admit that I am a terrible and worthless person and that everything is my fault. It's really sad what the psychological aspects of abuse can cause.

April_optimist said...

You always have such great posts.

Yeah, this is a typical trick of abusers. Nothing is their fault and they try to make the victim feel guilty.

I get furious when I think of Kahless--or any of us!--having been treated this way and I'll bet most of us to some degree at least were. (My mother's favorite was pity for the poor, confused, crazy daughter she had...)

And I'm betting Kahless's mother had that used on her, too, by someone who was abusive. Thank heavens all of us here are breaking cycles.

Thanks again for a great post.

jumpinginpuddles said...

still makes us shake our head when abusers can make you feel guilty and yet they cna walk around with no guilt whatsover its a stupid world.
Our mother was a psycho bitch whose knack of removing you from thinking you had nay part of society was careful and manipulative, in retorick we wonder if perhaps her sense of powerlessness made her yearn power even more. But like all perps they can only get it by hurting those smaller than them.

Lily Strange said...

I'm actually not trying to rip on my father, but he always would say "nobody can MAKE you angry." Which of course would make the person that statement was directed at even angrier. My father, however, is very quick to fly into a rage. This very rarely manifested in any sort of physical violence against people, just a lot of yelling and throwing things. My mother thinks this tendency of his contributed to his stroke. Without Lithium I wouldn't have been able to control my rages. I've punched holes in walls several times. Perhaps no-one could "make" me angry, but the punches were directed at my ex-husband's head! ;-)

Hummingbird said...

Thank you for your continued writing and the sharing of your acute perception. I learn something every time I read your blog, and I come from parents who are psychotherapists. And a long line of teachers. And abusers. My family is a battle field of warriors, users, and victims; and sometimes both simultaneously.The casualties lying randomly on the field, those still able to move, struggling to get off the field, and others in an almost unbelievable state of denial. I get strength from reading your words. Your insight cuts to the heart of each matter with compassion, depth, and with wisdom which comes from a genuine knowing. I thank you from my heart. Your are, and your voice is, a gift to many people.:) Love, Bird, xoxo

Rising Rainbow said...

lynn, it is so sad to hear the way those words were manipulated against you instead of used to teach you healthy ways to get through life. The insidiousness of that kind of abuse just makes me want to scream.

april optimist, it was a ways into my therapy before I understood how my mother had manipulated helpful information to support her abuse and protect herself from any responsibility. She managed to give validity to her condemnation of me. Yet the real way those things were intended to be used was exactly the opposite. It's no wonder victims are confused.

jip, you are totally right. Abusers only pick on the vulnerable.

lily strange, do you know that throwing things is on the continuum of violence. It is done solely to intimidate and is just as abusive as actually hitting?

hummingbird, thank you for your kind words. I am glad ot hear that my posts are helpful. Knowing that keeps me going.