Guest Author - Kathie LoMonaco
I am a veteran of a chronic, dysfunctional family background, and of hard feelings that have gone on within my family for many years. I have been bruised and battered emotionally along with many others out there who are dealing with certain family members who have issues that they impose on others (within the family), and because of their dysfunctional behavior, it impacts those of us who are trying to live the life we want, a life unfettered by this dysfunctionality.
I promised myself a long time ago, after suffering through the years from one type of emotionally and mentally abusive situation after another, whether family or work-related, that I was not going to sit still for the abusers of this world to take advantage of me. After many incidences in which other people dumped their own issues on me, I have decided it is in my best interest, for my mental, emotional and physical well-being to either speak up for myself or, if possible, avoid those types of people altogether, some of whom are family members, which in turn took that powerless feeling away, that feeling that you get whenever you are in their company and fall victim to their hurtful tactics. It doesn't have to be physical to be abusive; if people could be turned inside out, the scars of these emotional abusers would be apparent for all to see.
You see, my feeling is that people of this 'ilk' or nature, perceive niceness as a weakness, and they tend to push the envelope too far thinking they will be able to victimize you very easily. However, over the years you become a seasoned veteran of the machinations of this type of person, or as George W. Bush would call them - 'evil doers', and, therefore, once burned, twice shy. Or, as they say, "fool me once, shame on you - fool me twice, shame on me"!
What do people do when there is so much friction, resentment, anger and/or bitterness within the family when it comes time for family functions wherein they all have to continually see and be exposed to these same family members? I have often wondered why there hasn't been a hotline established for advice on these situations. I have been at events where siblings or other family members are embittered towards each other and it is very uncomfortable. I tried the 'forgive and forget' thing - it just doesn't work - not when people who have been rude and insensitive to you take no responsibility for their abhorrent behavior in the past. It is rare for a person to change their behavior completely - they would need years of counselling in order to do that, and since most people don't feel there is anything 'wrong' with them - as long as they continue to blame everyone else - they are not going to do a thing towards changing their own behavior patterns.
I know people who have even refrained from going to a major celebration for a close family member just so as to avoid that certain 'close' family member who was going to attend the same event. It's not because the person was being 'small' or 'petty', it's because people just don't change and therefore they will repeat their abusive pattern of behavior over and over with whomever they can get away with it on - and they seem to gravitate to sensitive and caring individuals, people they feel they have a better chance of 'dumping' on.
Usually these 'dumpers' are people who have deep-seated, or 'core' issues - they feel inferior possibly to that particular person. They use tactics like humiliation, shame and/or embarrassment to keep the person who makes them feel insecure 'in check'. They then feel they are in control - except that, in reality, that is their total illusion - it's not reality. They need to think they are in control. They need to keep the other person off balance. They need to put them down in order to elevate themselves, and feel superior. These are sad, pathetic people who miss out on the joy in life - they are too busy plotting and planning their next move, and trying to control the universe.
I know mothers who do this to their own daughters. These are women who do so much damage to their own family members' images of themselves, their self-esteem. They don't care - they have a different agenda - and the agenda is always about them. I guess you could even say this is a narcissistic trait.
You have to wonder what happened to them in their childhood to erode their own self-esteem to make them act in such a detrimental way. But, I don't feel too sorry for these people as they take their misguided anger and resentment out on innocent people who have nothing to do with their damaged and impaired psyches -- they always seem to find easy prey which enables them to 'act out' their convoluted 'issues' on. They are insidious and can usually mask their hostility and animosity in public - but it's all too apparent behind the scenes to the person or persons being dumped on.
I would love to know how people survive these injustices year after year with such sour family relationships. Maybe they do what I do - and avoid being put in a situation with that person just so that person can get their 'angst' out by using their arsenal of belittling tactics.
The holidays should be joyful and memorable - and not to be dreaded each time one rolls around. It brings to mind one of Dr. Wayne Dyer's earlier books, 'Pulling Your Own Strings', which I read many years ago, and wherein he states in the book that a good majority of people that are confined to institutions today are there because of emotionally abusive situations within the family, and the mistreatment by family members. It is not hard for me to believe that at all, being a veteran of such mistreatment within my own family.
Thanksgiving is upon us - don't put off reaching out to a family member if you have been wanting to mend fences with that particular person for a while. If that person is a person who can bring love and warmth to you and your household, don't put off repairing the rift - admit to yourself the part you have played in alienating that person and take the steps needed to offer and extend an olive branch - the sooner you do, the sooner you will feel the true joy of the holiday spirit.