Women’s World: Hat Pins and Feminine Erasure

Lipstick

I’m gonna fix my lips then tear your argument to shreds!

This morning at church, one of the ladies noticed I had a knitting needle plunged through my hat. Her husband was perplexed, but she understood when I said it was to keep the hat on my head.

Once upon a time, there was a solution to this problem: Hat pins. They daintily skewer the fabric and don’t require permanent holes in felt like knitting needles do.

Hat Pins

They were also good for stabbing!

They still exist and can be found on various online marketplaces. But they don’t sell them anywhere in the real world, where I do still do most of my shopping.

For one thing, hats as a staple were out of fashion for, what, 80 years? Long enough that culture has forgotten most of the stuff that goes with them.

Short-haired people don’t have this issue, their hats fit more snugly. And if you have long hair you should wear it down, anyway. It’s sexier that way.

My hair is the longest it has ever been. I grew it out because I’m pushing 40 and it’s fading. I figure this is my last chance. I often wear it up because it’s distracting. It gets caught in stuff. The toddler pulls it. It blocks my vision.

How to keep my hat on when it’s chilly and windy (ya know, when you need a hat!) is a practical issue for me. It’s frustrating to know that it’s been solved but I don’t have good access to the solution.

I can’t help but think it has to do with long hair being coded Feminine. Smart women have long stayed away from everything with that label, and men don’t know or care about how women wear hats.

Hat pins are just my latest example of a lifelong struggle. It doesn’t get much ink or airtime, but I have had the conversation with many women.

Clothes are not actually designed to fit us. Women’s clothes are mostly designed by men. Many of them are impractical and absurdly expensive for it. They lack pockets. They are just tweaked versions of men’s clothes. They are flimsy and drafty.

This is probably a familiar topic to you.

Sometimes there is a company or clothing line run by a woman and a big deal is made of that. She may even be creating things specifically to fill women’s needs. But aside from hype that has a feeling of tokenism, they rarely make a dent in the market.

A big exception would be Spanx, which is interesting because it’s designed to be hidden.

We allow ourselves to be a niche market because, as long as Feminine = Weak, declaring our woman-ness is proclaiming weakness. And most of us know in our gut that our position is still too tenuous to do that.

We have thrown out the baby with the bath water, ladies.

Too Small

What? My stomach is naturally flat! It’s a curse!

The blurring of lines between force-fed frivolity and genuine female culture has been costly for us. Along with home making and high heels, strong women have turned away from domestic knowledge and most elements of style. Those who don’t are expected to apologize for it.

If you are butch, I love you, sister. But not all of us are happy shopping in the men’s section.

And I’m tired of pseudo-think pieces about how women can empower ourselves by improving the clothing industry.

This is all symptomatic of systemic sexism. It’s more than having pants that actually fit around the waist and the hips, with functional pockets.

It’s the same reason 80% of medicine is designed by and for men. And entertainment. And transportation.

But not only is most of the world not built for us,

We have willingly given up what we built for ourselves in exchange for entry.

What was left of it after the Witch Trials of the Middle Ages, that is.

I understand why a large number of women has always been put off by Feminism. But through coercion and force, the world of women has been demolished and thrown in the bin.

It almost feels like a dirty trick. I can run my own company and wear whatever I want. But I don’t know what to do with these leftovers, how to get these stains out or how to heal my children.

Precious Baby

Don’t worry, Junior, we’ll see what WebMD says!

Because eating well, looking after one’s appearance and caring for others is Girl’s Stuff.

Look at what is missing in the world.

Notice any correlation?

Sometimes I am cross-eyed with anger over knowledge that I’ve been told existed, historians talk about what has been lost, burned and spurned out of my culture. I am so sick of trying to play by the boys’ rules but I’m at a loss for alternatives.

Patriarchy has even absorbed Feminism. Transwomen adopting the frills of girlhood and popular talk of “empowering” stripping classes make it even harder to honestly evaluate the female identity.

And we need to have our own identity. If we content ourselves with imitation we give up our natural power.

If we want to maintain and advance the achievements of our foremothers, we have to rebuild the female identity. The time has come to stop being ashamed of the moments we reveal ourselves.

Womanhood is not weakness. The variety in our personalities shows the flaws in the stereotypes we fear. We can no longer allow them to cause us to fear ourselves.

Unpopular Opinion: Maternal Regret is Normal

“Traditionally, regret has been viewed as the purview of the childless.”

So claims an article in Canadian classic Maclean’s.

Penguins

The penguins are my babies and I regret nothing!

What? I understand childless people are often threatened with regret, but they don’t tend to voice it themselves.

Whereas, any parent can tell you, none of us do it right. Everyone comes out on the other side wishing they had known or understood something better. That they’d had more money or perspective.

But author Anne Kingston says when mothers express regret it’s “taboo.”

“Unsurprisingly, women who express regret are called selfish, unnatural, abusive.”

Which dovetails nicely with some Feminist ideas but just isn’t true in my experience. And I’ve been making small talk on playgrounds for over 10 years.

She lists other authors and articles along the same lines, illustrating the supposed trend of mothers admitting regret at having kids, and the backlash.

Really, anyone with an average understanding of feminine roles could imagine that reluctant mothers would be dumped on by a society that judges them by their children.

But down in the trenches it just isn’t this way.

Sure, there are tons of Mommy Bloggers whose beautifully curated lives make us all feel like Marge Simpson. But only Sanctimommies tear down other moms.

Reddit alone has several places where you can find real talk about mothering.

BreakingMom (Which I was recently auto-banned from for participating in Gender Critical spaces) is nothing but moms railing against the

Farm Girl

We’re all just trying to get shit done!

insanity that is parenthood.

BabyBumps has a lot of nursery pics and cute baby stories, but also plenty of scary moments and moms asking for advice.

ScaryMommy is a site whose entire premise is off-kilter takes on motherhood. The ‘Mommy Needs A Drink‘ trend is a hipper manifestation of this.

Yes, being a mom is fucking hard, sometimes in ways only other moms can understand. Sometimes we wish we were somewhere else. Sometimes we wonder what we might be doing if things were different.

Sometimes we even wish we had made different choices.

“Feeling trapped or suffocated is a common theme in Donath’s work; mothers felt ‘as if the metaphorical umbilical cord binding them to their children were in fact wrapped around their neck.’ Many women said they felt pressured to have children.”

No shit. That’s what Patriarchy does.

Obviously, we need to talk about it. But framing this as a babe-in-the-woods ambush is insulting to everyone.

If you feel suffocated by your children, first try reevaluating your approach to parenting. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, and with so much coming at us all the time, we probably feel like we are not doing enough.

Yesterday I was walking out of the bank at noon and realized literally the only thing I had done for myself that day was use the bathroom!

Bed Time

Did I miss story time?

There are only so many hours in a day, but childhood is long. Every moment is precious, but not crucial, if that makes sense.

I feel like I say no all the time, and I’m still swamped! It’s difficult to set boundaries but it’s better for everyone.

My trick has been to find a hobby no one else likes. The garden is on the sunny side of the house and involves using muscles and getting dirty. The only one who really wants to help is the toddler.

But all this takes some introspection. Because to admit regret is to admit complexity. Those of us who sit with our regrets are the type to consider things in depth.

French psychotherapist Corinne Maier is quoted sounding very French indeed, saying, “Her two children left her ‘exhausted and bankrupt,’ and she couldn’t wait for them to leave home.”

She was so upset about it she wrote a “manifesto.”

Kids are exhausting and expensive. We know this. If you decide that makes their existence a net loss for you, that’s a pretty harsh evaluation.

To say that you have regrets is different from saying you’d prefer something else. Saying I could have done better is not the same as saying I wish I hadn’t tried.

The impression I get is that some women want to be able to say, “In my perfect world, my kids wouldn’t exist,” and not

Golf Or Tennis Ladies

So I told Gary, practicing your swing is self-improvement!

get flack for it.

Which is why it’s all couched in this meta-analysis of the supposed blowback for normal maternal regret. If someone calls you a bad mother for admitting depth, she is the one with the problem.

And I just don’t see it on the ground.

If you are preoccupied with how much better your life could have been without your kids to the point you can’t wait to be rid of them, you may be the source of your own discontent.

Clicking around Maclean’s I found a counterpoint about the “collapse of parenting.” Cathy Gully quotes Vancouver psychologist Gordon Neufeld, “When parents realize that they are their children’s best bet, it challenges them to their own maturity.”

This really hits a nerve for me. I have felt myself chafe against the demands of parenthood many times. I have begun to learn what is a need calling out and what is my ego lashing out.

If you’re in charge of someone else’s life, you have to get your shit together.

“They become, in effect, the grown-ups their children need.

Or, at least, step up to the challenge.

Maternal Regret

Does it still count if I take my teddy bear with me?

If you are more worried about all the stuff you could be doing than any of the rest of the multifaceted experience we call motherhood, I can’t say that you are a bad mother.

But it definitely makes you shallow.

And “regretting parenthood, not the children” is less like being against the war but not the soldiers, and more like having your cake and eating it, too.

“I love you, but I wish you weren’t here” is nonsensical and mean. And using Patriarchy as an excuse for your inability to build meaningful relationships is as offensive as it is sneaky.

Maternal regret is normal. And it does get talked about. But it’s not the same as wishing your kids away.

Women have enough trouble discussing our issues without malingerers muddying the waters. Unironically using the supposed sanctity of motherhood as a cover to avoid criticism for being a jerk is a big middle finger to struggling mothers everywhere.

Part of being a true friend is calling your friend on her bullshit. And honey, this is some bullshit. Patriarchy is not why no one wants to hear about why you don’t like your kids.

You’re A Man, Honey, and That’s Okay

Male Violence is The Enemy

Hey, guys, I get it. As much as any lady can, I sympathize. Being A Man is a big freaking deal. Men are kinda nuts.

Lincoln

And the way they are mythologized creates an impossible standard!

Forced Into the Butch Box

If you are just not much of a hard ass, if you find yourself drawn to the lighter side of life, you may also find yourself targeted by the Man Police. They are regular guys, your friends, your boss, your teacher. Your Dad. Any or all of them may take it upon themselves to kick your ass if you step out of line.

I’m not going to dig into why that happens. It’s pretty foreign to me, and I truly don’t mean to patronize you.

But this stuff is directly concerning to me because there are men of all ages who I love dearly. They are deeply affected by these things.

One of my oldest friends is a poet and an artist. He is also a hard motherfucker who is covered in tattoos and recovering from heroin addiction. Because of experiences he has referenced but never really told me about.

My husband is barely on speaking terms with his father, who had a habit of humiliating him in front of the old man’s friends for giggles.

My own father has never been able to maintain normal relationships with women. He has apparently wandered off into some scary corner of sexual sadism and I really don’t even want to know about it.

I have two sons and I take my responsibility to them very seriously. Who better to teach them that women are people? I actually get pretty upset sometimes when I see things written by lonely men who are frustrated by their lack of connection with women.

The Root of Misunderstanding

Sad Cowboy

Patriarchy creates a world where a heart is a liability!

They don’t understand that the question, “How do I relate to women?” is the basis of the problem.

You relate to a woman based on what you can observe about who she is as a person.

Women are people, with every personality configuration imaginable. Just like you.

You are also complex and that’s okay. Men are capable of some amazing things, that is undeniable. Being one of the good ones begins with approaching yourself and the rest of humanity with the understanding that we are all people first.

Be Yourself, Darling!

If you feel like you are most feminine person on this green Earth, you do you. I support you in throwing away all that toxic, judgemental garbage that has been polluting masculinity forever. Being A Man has nothing to do with what you wear and everything to do with how you behave.

Be a thoughtful, respectful person. It’s really very simple. Go about your business.

If you find yourself with some leftover passion, join us in trying to stop male violence.

Threats 1

Feminists don’t kill transwomen!

Male violence is what kills transwomen. Feminist activists don’t kill people. Insecure, homophobic men kill people.

Male violence is everything from domestic abuse to mass shootings to war. It is the locker room bully. It is all those ironic motherfuckers who visited me this week and told me their suggested method for my death.

Lead the Revolution!

Male violence is the enemy of us all. Female, male, trans, all classes and races. It is caused by the isolation integral to toxic masculinity.

You could be the front lines of dismantling the system that you so clearly hate. Be A Man. On your terms. Don’t let them take that from you.

Regarding Being A Woman

I am tired of debating who is a woman or what a woman is. That is a stupid waste of everyone’s time – We all know what we are talking about. To suggest that people are going around confused about the biological and potential reproductive nature of anyone’s body is absurd and I am not going to engage with that any more.

Be the femmiest man you can dream of. I will support you and cheer for you.

You are not a woman, honey, and that’s okay. Men can do great things. Go normalize your truth and fuck gender labels.

Love & Hugs,

– Sarah

Trans Attacks!

For those keeping score at home, the Facebook trolls have not let up yet.Terf Gun

They took my walking away after two and a half hours this morning as some kind of victory. But guys, I have stuff to do!

They threw a couple studies at me, but the majority of it has been vitriol demanding my submission.

It’s all public record and I encourage anyone to go read it, if you have the stomach.

It’s Raining Crap!

The onslaught has taken various forms.

There’s the ever-popular repetition of meaningless slogans

And some apparent confusion about those slogans

I was threatened repeatedly.Threats 1

 

But the most interesting part was being told about my own political beliefs.Alt Right Tho

There was some strangeness, too.

And, of course, just a lot of pointless insults

These are but a few examples I spent a few minutes collecting. To post them all would take all night.Threats 4

It’s still going on as I write this. The post that started it all has blown up. I have gotten 13 new followers so far.

Unfortunately for them, I have not been cowed. Or “educated.” I had been thinking of taking BrazenShe in a more overtly political direction next year, there are lots of women’s issues at stake in the election.

This week has shown me that opinionated women are still shat upon. Even in the US, where we are supposedly a beacon of freedom, they flocked like moths to a flame to put me back in my place.Wife's Huge Cock

“TERF” is a slur, in case anyone hadn’t caught that already. Not that they need it, having no problem calling me scum and a cunt and a bitch and I don’t even remember what all.

After a while, all that negativity does begin to weigh on a person. Happily, there were a few brave souls who stepped into the fray behind me.Mental Health Problems

And even if I had been alone in this, nothing changes based on what a bunch of internet trolls say. Female oppression is still a thing. Gender roles are still Patriarchy’s favorite method.

Trans politics ignoring all of this and codifying gender stereotypes into an unquestionable religion is shockingly offensive.Twaw

Society uses our bodies as the reason for our subjugation. People are much more than just bodies, but physical form matters. It affects our life experience and how the world treats us.

To say women have some feminine essence is to imply we have been complicit in our own oppression.

Fuck

That

If you are upset by this, go in peace. I’ll see you on the flip side.

If you are on board, good news! This loudmouth bitch is only going to get louder.

Laws are being changed. Canada is now recording crime according to gender identity. (“The variable ‘Gender of person’ and the ‘Classification of gender’ are expected to be used by most social statistics programs.”) The UK is on the precipice of Self-ID becoming law.

Male violence is arguably the biggest issue women face. I could swear 20 years ago, everyone knew this! If we can’t name the problem, if we are robbed of our privacy, we are left defenseless.

Stand with me and speak out for women’s rights. Your daughters will thank you.

***Stay tuned for the first installment of our Feminist Education Series, and the finale of the Summer Series, Fight Despair Together. Because I haven’t forgotten that everyone could use a little personal growth.***

Fight Despair Together: What Does Life on Your Terms Look Like?

You see the well-trodden paths in your life. You learn ways to stop getting stuck there. You go, killer! The next question is, “Where do we go from here?”

We have to forge new paths, create new ways of relating to people around us. If we are doing our inner work well, this should be obvious to us. We recognize familiar situations and remember how we would have reacted in the past.

Late Night

My coping mechanisms work fine…. Until they don’t!

Take Responsibility for Your Reactions

Personal example, a weird thing I have is I hate waking up alone. Like, if I went to bed alone, okay. But in that half-awake haze of the Night Owl at 8am, I seek out the comfort of my beloved.

And if he’s up early playing a game, it takes me to this weird, awful thing where each of my parents preferred a screen to my company.

Please keep in mind, I’m still barely half-awake.

There have been days when I was well into a spiral of lashing out and self-loathing by the time I really became conscious.

My new favorite YouTube shrink is Abdul Saad. In one video he says that stability is necessary before self-development can begin. This is so true! I’m so grateful to my husband for putting up with all my drama and being a consistent presence in my life.

Saying ‘No’

Sometimes I’m sad when I think of my old family and how none of my efforts made any difference. But without those people around, my dust is finally settling. I can begin to see myself as I truly am, without being drained by people who don’t know how to give.

So, when you see the old reaction – In my case, freaking the fuck out – but the instinct behind it is muted because you have been working through the blockage that triggers it – My fear of abandonment – you begin to see new ways to handle things.

Mostly these days I can stay calm long enough to remind myself who I’m talking to. Why I got up in the first place. Maybe I help deal with something bothering him. And, more often than not, I simply go back to bed.

Yawn

I love you guys, but I need my rest!

You might call this a ‘soft no.’

Another thing Dr. Sahd said is that suffering is a necessary prerequisite for personal growth. Not to throw a pity party but, dear readers, I have been suffering.

I have been tired before. I ran myself ragged in my 20s because I didn’t know any better.

And I thought pushing myself would make me harder. It just makes me numb.

Since I married my husband I have pushed myself harder than ever, in love instead of fear. I hoped this would carry me through. I hoped I would adjust to this complicated life.

I’m doing okay. But I have had to start saying no, as an act of desperation. It’s not easy! My impulse to prove myself and my enthusiasm for giving made me turn away from my own inconvenient needs a few too many times.

My family is a wonderful source of love, cuddles and companionship. But I need to be alone.

I have described it to my husband as a house – I am happy to have guests but I need time to clean up and take out the garbage. It’s starting to pile up.

Despite all my explanations, he is very extroverted and just doesn’t quite get it. He is getting better at anticipating my needs, but I can’t expect him to be my emotional babysitter.

I have to let go of needing to always please others and always feel included, because I have to find a way to include solitude in my life.

This is a must. I’m starting to lose my inner thread more and more. Even when rested I’m irritable and distracted.

Reading By The Window

I know I wrote it down somewhere!

Life on My Terms…. Who am I?

I bring it up because life on our terms isn’t just about deciding what we want and pursuing it. I reshaped my life a few years ago because I reached a crossroads. But Happily Ever After is always more complicated than we might wish.

We will always hit walls. Sometimes our goals don’t align with our abilities and we have to re-evaluate.

Most of all, remember you are a work in progress. Life on your terms requires a strong understanding of yourself.

My first dream was to be a musician. I pursued this dream for years and with various methods. At 20, life on my terms would have looked like playing out with my band every week. Travel, drugs and alcohol, all that stuff.

Now I understand that, if I had succeeded, that lifestyle would have fried me. And quite possibly killed me. The crippling anxiety that stopped me makes sense in retrospect. I still hope to communicate with the masses, but I don’t even like watching other people play stadiums!

A big part of actually accomplishing growth is letting go of how you thought things would be. The Buddha said the root of all suffering is wanting and, although asceticism mostly pisses me off, I think this is where that wisdom applies.

The Only Constant in Life is Change

It’s important to keep trying to be a little better, day after day. And while our goal vision is a great motivator, remember that it’s just a vision. It’s an idea. The only thing that’s real is what’s in front of you right now.

Life on our terms is not about bullheadedly pursuing an ideal. And you will find that your terms, your boundaries, your needs change as you change.

Unbalanced

I had it balanced there for a second!

My mother once cautioned me against using psychedelics because “it changes your brain chemistry. It changes who you are, forever!” Later I learned that, yeah, that’s kinda the point.

And anyone who wants to stay exactly the way they are is not someone I want to spend a lot of time with.

Once again I’m going to urge you to keep a journal. Just a notebook to write down your thoughts as they come up. It’s an invaluable tool for organization and reflection. Plus, you will be amazed how much you plain old forget.

What you want is only half the picture. Who you are will assert itself in sneaky ways.

Radical Acceptance is the Cure for What Ails Ya

I could easily have gotten some pills for the anxiety and blamed the world for whatever level of failure I attained in the sexist music business. And I can only imagine what a miserable fuck I would be at 35.

Don’t imagine for a second that this tomboy thought she would have four kids and just want to stay home to clean and write. Hell, no.

There is what you want, and there is who you are. You have to radically accept who you are, otherwise you will be running in brambly circles forever.

**We’re coming up on the last push in our Fight Despair Together series. I hope I have helped a few of you gain some insight and get a little grounded for the hard work in the coming year. Heal yourself, come together.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Fight Despair Together: How Do I Know It’s Working?

When we are going inward and doing personal work, the most important thing is to stay on-task.

How Do I Choose Which Path to Take?

Raking Leaves

This is harder than it looks!

Stay focused on a simple goal, don’t be distracted by side paths that may pop up. If you are working on expressing yourself more clearly and you realize that you are experiencing social anxiety, it’s tempting to run off and treat the anxiety.

But why? Who’s to say the communication issue didn’t cause the anxiety? Or they could both have origins in a single, forgotten event from childhood.

But you know they are related. Focusing on one will help the other.

Pick one.

Keep notes of your discoveries so you can go back over what you run into. Focusing on one thing at a time is harder than it sounds, but it’s vitally important.

I like to think of my mental landscape as a forest, some paths well-worn and easy to follow. Some are new and tentative, others old and overgrown.

But I try to follow one simple course at a time, because it’s easy to get distracted and end up going in circles.

I’ve done it. So many times.

But how do you know when to switch it up? Building new habits can get boring and frustrating. How do you know if you should stick with it?

How Do I Measure Progress?

You know that feeling when you’re out and about and the self-consciousness is just weighing on you? You realize you feel like a weirdo.

You second guess every little thing, stressing about how you’re standing or the shirt you chose or whatever never-ending minutiae. That feeling of being 13 on the first day of school, forever.

Wigs

I obsess over superficial things to avoid my own lack of definition!

Maybe you’re dealing with a negative person. Maybe these feelings are coming from your own mental habits.

Regardless of origin, the less often you feel like this, the more you know you are on the right track.

I think the end goal of personal work is to never feel this ever again. Not just because it sucks but because it’s the manifestation of so many different mental misalignments.

The world at large is not judging you. And if they are, they need to get a life.

War is Over, if You Want It

There are (mostly) two kinds of people out there – Friendlies, who are willing to engage on the field of social commerce, and Unfriendlies who aren’t.

This classification system is good for every bank teller, store clerk, customer, playground parent and most co-workers.

If they are not interested in engaging with you, feel free to decline in return. This will free you up even more to pursue your goals.

The negativity of others should roll right off of you because you choose not to engage with it. You are too busy with your important business.

This mindset is a machete for slicing through the brambles. As a sensitive person, it’s very helpful to have a method of steadying myself against constant bombardment from the world.

And that self-conscious feeling makes the machete mindset almost impossible. When you notice it’s been a while since you had to remind yourself that no one is staring at you, you’re making real progress.

Something Fun: Being Grounded is Totally Different as a Grown-Up

We have been doing a lot of important stuff lately. Today we’re going to take a break and ground ourselves with simple pleasures.Mulberries

Our yard has been full of mulberries for a week. Nature’s candy, so plentiful I have collected bowls of them and will never be able to get them all.

Hubs made some delicious sweet bread. I want to make a pie. Today I resorted to just eating them off the ground. Perfect packets of juicy goodness.

I was supposed to be watering the vegetables, and I got sidetracked.

Hubs also got adopted by a dog. He jumped in the car at a gas station. He seems pretty young and very mellow. He lets the toddler hang off his face!

Yesterday was a sunny, windy day. We packed the whole crew in the van and took him to the local dog park.

It was a glorified field with a dugout and a hose with some water troughs. The kids ended up having more fun than the dog, I think.Lokidog

It’s been a peaceful Memorial Day weekend. I really enjoyed just sitting in the shade, watching kids and animals and just soaking it all in.

Too many beautiful days have been passed embroiled in inner turmoil. I consider it a marker of progress that I can put the heavy stuff down for a while when opportunity for fun comes knocking.

This is why we do the work that we do, right? To acquire the ability to be happy. To feel the sun on your face and watch your kids play without lingering shadows.

Is Fear of Abandonment the Root of Narcissism?

The similarity is unmistakable – Narcissistic people, who appear grandiose but are actually cripplingly insecure, tend to follow a cycle in relationships.

Haystack Captive

I could use a little more control in this situation!

While reading about the Fear of Abandonment I was struck by how they are essentially the same reaction. The main difference is that the Narcissistic Cycle dominates a person’s relationships.

Idealize – The beginning is beautiful, often called ‘Love-Bombing.’ Their partner is the most perfect person to ever live.

This is a hard one because it mimics normal infatuation. In the early stages of romantic love, people are notoriously rose-colored in their estimation of their crush. Much ink has been spilled, thousands of songs written and enough films for a weeklong festival. It’s cruel because this phase can actually be terrifying for people who have been involved with emotional vampires before.

“By being in a relationship with such a nurturing, loving person, the person with narcissism is able to consume that person’s authentic love and extract narcissistic supply.”

Terrifying because the downturn is insidious:

Devalue – When their partner is inevitably revealed to not be perfect, the dysfunctional person begins magnifying and imagining flaws. Small things like a tone of voice or canceled plans with little explanation sow seeds of doubt in their once-beloved. Slowly, the partner can begin to doubt their own perspective.

Tactics can include “intermittently lacking emotional or physical intimacy, withdrawing affection, seductive withholding, inexplicably disappearing from contact, or blaming the target for the narcissistic person’s issues (projection).”

Kiss On The Couch

There’s no escape…. from the love!

It’s all a setup for the final phase:

Discard – Now that the target is all jumbled and insecure, the Narcissist is on his merry way. He has drained his victim and will use his charm (and possibly the sob story about this break-up) to find another.

Asking for better treatment can precipitate this phase. Demands for empathy or reciprocity are met with temper tantrums. “Inevitably, the discarding occurs when the person with narcissism either disappears or orchestrates his or her own abandonment by engaging in some form of egregious emotional abuse.”

My ex and I went through this whole thing three or four times over seven years.

How do you do it more than once?  I hear you asking. Well, part of it was my unwillingness to walk away, and part of it was his unwillingness to actually be alone. Put this together, and you slip easily into the last phase of the cycle:

Hoovering – This is not always officially included but, in my experience, it might be the most important. Because it’s where real confusion can set in.

So you’ve been devalued, rejected, abandoned. But then the minute you start to get your head together, he’s back. Apologizing and saying everything you want to hear. This phase is named after the brand of vacuum cleaner because he is sucking you back in. The moment you begin to play along, the whole cycle starts over.

But Narcissism is usually created by abuse. Narcissists beget narcissists. They are emotionally stunted and wounded people.

The Fear of Abandonment can mimic this cycle.

Impatient

You know, the older you get, the more you remind me of my father!

Verywellmind.com lists the steps created by a Fear of Abandonment as

  • Getting to Know One Another
  • The Honeymoon 
  • The Real Relationship
  • The Slight – Where they reveal imperfections
  • The Reaction“If you have this fear, you are probably completely convinced that the slight is a sign that your partner no longer loves you…. Some people handle this by becoming clingy and demanding, insisting that their partner prove her love by jumping through hoops. Others run away, rejecting their partners before they are rejected.”

Seems to me that it’s usually one, then the other. It’s a lot like the Narcissistic Cycle, but that doesn’t mean someone who behaves this way is narcissistic. It’s like a phobia, and can be self-contained in an otherwise reasonable person.

A person who is able to look at their own behavior and see where they could improve. Narcissists are incapable of this. They may be able to talk the talk, but they will never walk the walk. They talk themselves out of things just as quickly.

They will never really take responsibility for anything, this is the purpose of their emotional jig. Eventually, even the most loving and patient person will be exhausted and unable to take any more.

But the reason they can’t take any responsibility is they are extremely insecure. I wonder if it’s what happens when the Fear of Abandonment runs amok.

Swinging Sixties

Do you love me now?

The way Narcissists pass on the disorder is by teaching their children not to rely on them and, thus, anyone. They are not even reliably unreliable. Sometimes, they love you.

And then they emotionally abandon you over and over.

Maybe it’s the Fear of Abandonment grown so big it makes it impossible for them to open up, even to themselves.

I don’t really know but I see the role it plays in my life and it’s got to go. I do have a knee jerk paranoia that every little argument is the beginning of the end.

Because people have abandoned me totally unexpectedly and for no apparent reason. Aside from my emotionally unavailable parents’ divorce when I was five, we moved around a lot. My entire grade in school rejected me when I was nine, then again three years later in a different district.

After a while, you start assuming there’s something wrong with you.

You begin to treat everyone as if they are temporary and, most of the time, they are. Just because of the transient nature of this modern life. And maybe because sometimes you sense a relationship growing stale and the downslide feels like being nauseous before vomiting so you just get it over with and move on.

My first serious boyfriend spectacularly dumped me. My first son’s father was uninterested in both of us. My third major relationship was that ex I mentioned.

He does make for excellent learning material, though.

All Red

I really am trying my best!

My dad went crazy and my mom took the opportunity of her own near-death to treat me with all the grace of a petty child. And now, naturally, my sister has decided she’d rather not actually talk about any of the bullshit she accused me of.

So, yeah, it’s a thing. Learning about it helps a lot. Solidifies the concepts and helps me feel less insane. And I realize that this, plus totally unrespected overstimulation problems, are responsible for basically all the weird shit I do.

Eventually you get a little old and a little wistful wondering where people are now. Hindsight shows you what a shithead you were, things you totally misunderstood.

Psych Alive offers some hope: “Fortunately, a person’s style of attachment is not fixed. We can develop earned secure attachment as adults in several ways…. experiencing a secure attachment can offer someone a new model for relationships and how people behave in them.

This is what I have been instinctively trying to do. I want to fill my life with functional people, and not drive them crazy with my antics.

Lots of people are gone. But so is lots and lots of awful bullshit. Maybe most of the time, when someone leaves, they are doing you a favor.

What is Family? What is Love?

These are the questions that keep me up at night.

I was doing alright ignoring them until a few days ago. My sister Quinn, my only sibling from childhood, sent me a novella about why she didn’t want to talk to me anymore. She immediately blocked me.

Friendly Fire

Woa! Friendly fire!

Was there some kind of argument?

I sent her a link to my post about Donald Trump’s mental problems, because she doesn’t like him either and I thought she might appreciate it. She said it was terrifying, and she was “tired of being afraid all the time.”

Afraid of what?

She said Trump and all his supporters want her dead.

I told her that seemed like a bit of an overstatement. That I thought being unnecessarily incendiary weakened a position that I basically agree with.

She insisted, so I let it go with “Okay, I can’t convince you otherwise.” And I have neither the energy nor the conviction to try. But I wish she weren’t afraid all the time, too.

She called that passive-aggressive. Called me “gaslighty.” Okay, nice chatting with you, too, you ray of sunshine.

Hours later I received that long message telling me how emotionally abusive I was to her as a child and how I goaded our mother into her petty behavior last year.

How my not wanting my younger sister following me around gave her abandonment issues. Forget that she was annoying on purpose, and was very open about it. She was four years younger and drove my friends crazy.

But I’m not going to argue here. Anything I have ever tried to say is beside the point: “And since I have little faith that you’ll read all of this and not have a LOT to say about it, I am temporarily blocking you on this account.”

Gin And Tonic In Blue

Sometimes, the only thing to do is drink!

Of course I have things to say! For one thing, that’s what I do. Also, I’m expected to let her completely mischaracterize our lives and not comment. Let her stew in half-remembered unhappiness just like our mother. Let her push me away.

But she has never wanted my help. Nothing I do is ever right. She has been trying to make something out of our rough childhood for years, and it reminds me of the abandonment issues I have been working on lately.

It mirrors the Narcissistic Cycle and I think its extreme form is at the root of that. It involves devaluing someone until you feel like you are better off without them. Then you can leave them before they leave you. It’s an unconscious thing that keeps you stuck in the early stages of relationships because, as soon as they slip up and fail to meet expectations, you are spooked and the devaluation begins.

I have been supportive of my sister’s choices. I have told her I usually don’t understand them, but I don’t need to.

But I’m not allowed to have an opinion. She’s always been the kind of person to take disagreement personally, so I just stopped expressing myself on a lot of things. Both face to face and in public places where she might see.

And for what? Peacemaking with someone who can’t be bothered to stop for lunch when her trip takes her an easy 20 minutes from my house. Who has tapped my skills but was never interested in being an ear. Who would rather blame me for her issues than see me as a co-victim.

Gloves Off

Time for the gloves to come off!

I can defend myself forever and people will see it however they see it. But I feel robbed of so much, not least of which is the opportunity to have a real conversation about any of this.

What my mother showed me last year was that everything we had built between us since I became an adult was fake. If you have grown as a person, you don’t revert right back like 20 years never happened. No matter what is going on. That’s what growth is, it holds up under pressure. It helps you hold up under pressure.

I didn’t care that the furniture arrangement was a sore spot then, and I don’t care now. We’re talking life and death stuff here, and Quinn accuses me of “starting a pissing contest.” 

If that’s how she perceives me, I wonder why I waste my time. She overheard a panicked call home where I said something about not feeling comfortable “talking to my family” which she made all about her and then neglected to consider why I might feel that way.

Hubs was actually impatient with me for being upset by this whole thing. He was arguably being insensitive but he has a point – “She’s crazy, anyway.”

He’s biased but he has seen how I tiptoe around her despite her being hundreds of miles away.

What really upsets me is now I have to accept that my family is dead. 30 years ago next month, more than three times what their marriage lasted. For many of those years I was the only one in contact with everyone. So I could look around and say, ‘I have a family! See?’

“You lost her a long time ago.” Hubs does have his moments of wisdom.

I guess I’m not gonna get away with not really looking at the roots of my abandonment fears. I have been dealing with individual symptoms, but they share a common cause. Now that I’ve been paying attention, I begin to see how vast the issue is.

And somewhere on the other side are my sisters. I hope they can figure out how to be happy.

But get ready for some Brazen commentary on previously-untouched subjects. I don’t have anyone to tiptoe around anymore.

Fight Despair Together: Healing Through Self-Compassion

What is stopping you from working through your problems and becoming who you want to be?

Redhead With Pistol

I’m not defensive! Just stay away from me!

Depression and anxiety are both subsumed anger over how we have been treated. 

Over and over, researchers have shown that those who suffer from such things are overwhelmingly victims of abuse as children. 

Of course you would be angry if those who were supposed to care for you instead treated you like crap. Or otherwise made you feel lesser. And there’s a good chance you don’t even realize it. Or the depths to which it shapes your experiences to this day.

The most important thing is to have compassion for yourself. This sounds a little weird but we all know what compassion looks like. We just usually reserve it for other people. 

Our expectations of ourselves run unreasonably high and we chastise ourselves for small mistakes. Dammit, that was stupid.  If you wouldn’t say it to someone else, don’t say it to yourself. 

This is something I’m struggling with right now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not presenting myself as some kind of self-healing guru. I’m just determined to figure this out and share my discoveries with you.

You are human, with flaws, like everyone. A lot of attention is given to forgiving others but forgiving yourself can be more difficult. Admitting someone else made a mistake is easy! But it’s absolutely vital, because turning compassion on yourself has been shown to soothe the Fight/Flight/Freeze mechanism.

Often referred to as Fight or Flight, this is an ancient brain system that is triggered by stressful situations. But when you are a child, and you can’t fight or flee, this stress response can go unresolved. If this happens many times over a period of years, years when your brain is growing, the overload of stress gets baked in and becomes part of the system. This is why, sometimes, you feel like crap for no reason.

Sad On The Porch

I’m just not feeling these shoes!

Plenty of people are dipshits to their kids. I suspect some common parenting practices are worse for little ones than most of us know. Chances are, the things or situations that throw you off-balance are related to bad experiences in your formative years.

Maybe you rare painfully aware of this but aren’t sure what to do about it. Traditional therapy can feel like endlessly rehashing trauma. Happily, the best treatment for these things is something anyone can do at home for free.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works by helping change the way you think about things. Unlike most forms of therapy, there’s quite a bit of evidence that CBT actually works.

According to the American Psychological Association“CBT is based on several core principles, including:

Psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking.

Psychological problems are based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.”

CBT is all about learning to see things differently. 

First, you have to admit, really understand, that you are not infallible. What you experience is not reality. You see your mind’s representation of reality. It’s impossible to get away from because you can’t get out of your mind.

But you can change it. The brain is flexible and always thirsty for new knowledge, until the day we die. 

The APA continues, “CBT treatment usually involves efforts to change thinking patterns. These strategies might include:

Learning to recognize one’s distortions in thinking that are creating problems, and then to reevaluate them in the light of reality.”

Peak Behind The Lace

I see plenty! And those kids over there are up to something!

Experience can condition us to anticipate certain behavior from those around us. We may even misinterpret what they say and do, following our customary script.

That’s right, I’m suggesting you could be wrong.

Maybe you are just totally jangly, too jumpy to think straight. Admit that the issue lies with you, rather than the world being unfair or unwelcoming. The world at large isn’t watching you. The world at large doesn’t care.

This may sound harsh but, when you realize the pressure is off, you can start living your life however you want …. Whatever that means.

In the words of the National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists“If we are upset about our problems, we have two problems – The problem and our upset about it.”

The power lies in putting some breathing room between yourself and the issue.

feel angry

instead of

am angry

Then we can see more clearly, “Often, we upset ourselves about things when, in fact, the situation isn’t like we think it is. If we knew that, we would not waste time upsetting ourselves.”

CBT calls this the Inductive Method. It’s the simple act of checking yourself before you wreck yourself.

Indtruder

You’re not sneaking up on me!

“The Inductive Method encourages us to look at our thoughts as being hypotheses or guesses that can be questioned and tested. If we find that our hypotheses are incorrect (because we have new information) then we can change our thinking to be in line with how the situation really is.”

Mental flexibility is the key to what we’re doing – Facing our fears and putting them to rest.

Top of the APA’s list of unhealthy behaviors CBT addresses is denial. They stress, “Facing one’s fears instead of avoiding them.”  This is the #1 most important thing!

You must be willing to do this or you are wasting your time.

By the time you get to be in your 30s, you will have noticed that certain scenarios – or situations that feel similar – keep cropping up. You don’t need to be a mystic to see that if you learn to handle these things better, you can stop going in circles. 

You can guarantee that your emotions are messing you up, keeping you from putting your best foot forward. This is why we often struggle with things related to our history. It’s not anything supernatural, and it’s within our power to make changes.

Take a moment, either during the situation or after, and ask yourself why it brings out the feelings in you that it does. How are you approaching or conceptualizing things in ways that come from thoughts that cause you pain? From ideas you know are probably unhealthy?

It’s not complicated stuff, but it does involve dealing directly and honestly with things that make you uncomfortable. With things you’ve taken for granted. It’s easy to get defensive.

Television

We all got way too much of this!

Watch out for anger directed at people or things who don’t really deserve it or are not worth your time. That’s your defense mechanism kicking in to deflect attention from a sore spot.

Time after time, take that pause to step back. Understand that your feelings are like a flowing river – You may be soaking wet, but you are not the water. 

By applying Self-Compassion and Check Before You Wreck, over time you will begin to see patterns in your thoughts and behavior. Understanding will enable you to act more with purpose, instead of just reacting to the world as it comes at you.

You can’t go back in time and undo trauma, but you can fix the damage it caused. It takes time. If you get frustrated trying to understand yourself, imagine the most sympathetic character you can think of – A small child, a puppy, an old lady – and imagine they are having your difficulty. Take how you would feel for them and apply it to yourself. 

Yes, it takes that much patience.

Coming soon: Part 2 – What Does Life on Your Terms Mean, Anyway?