That time strategy healed our extended family ptII
If you haven’t seen it already, part one is here!
With part one becoming a wrap up of what’s happened in our immediate family, for part 2 I want to change gears and throw to how I’ve changed my own family. In the next instalment of this series I’ll dive into the rest of our extended family!
For now: Lies, no accountability, secrets and a game. Here’s a story about my childhood.
Growing up I had my mother and a step father, as well as a half sister. Because mom and dad were married when I was a few months old we were like a typical 2 child family growing up in the 90s. Nice sized yard, good house, went to church, had a dog, ate dinner together, all of it. As I got older I began to notice some of the nastier things. It’s almost like that arguments and disagreements were hidden. Looking back, that meant I didn’t learn conflict resolution skills, and that there was a fair bit of tension in the house at time.
To top this off, my mother is fairly avoidant, and we’re convinced that dad has Asperger’s Syndrome. Growing up this caused a lot of problems. One of my parents would run from problems, the other would cause them and then lie about it, trying to escape blame. This has ruined many many of things, damaged the relationship (at times basically beyond repair), led to many let downs, and not really relying on others.
Adding to the tension was an anger and rage that came with the probable Asperger’s. Out of what seemed like nowhere dad would just be in a rage, so everyone would walk on eggshells. This is emotional abuse, and something to address instantly. Don’t ever settle for that garbage.
One time, my sister was watching tv with dad and I, something set her off. Whatever it was she had to go to her room, and she was crying. Being like 4 years old, this turned into a tantrum. Legs flailing, arms smashing the ground. All the noise, all the tears, all the banging, all the SMASH!!!
Dad got up, rushed to her room, and discovered that she had kicked the glass panel in her dresser.
The response? This really annoyed dad… so, in his infinite wisdom, he smacks her again. This type of thing would happen all the time.
With me it was more sporadic for whatever reason. There were a few times he slapped me in the face though. One time I was playing drums, and had three friends over. At the time, whenever I would finish playing I would throw my sticks over my shoulders, thinking I looked cool. This day dad was walking down the stairs and decided I was being disrespectful with the stick throwing.
My friends walked through the house to leave, dad following, and then me at the back of everyone. As we got into the kitchen my friends continued and dad turned around, grabbing me by my throat. I think he tried to lift me up a bit, but the whole time he’s yelling some garbage, and my friends are trapped at the front door because he locks it with a key.
The worst part of that night was that mom was at work, and I had to leave my little sister there, there was no way I could stay there that night.
These type of things lead to all kinds of issues for all of us obviously, I think it’s one of the reasons I got into helping other people. Over the years I have worked on myself, finding the information and healing my own traumas. As I got older I realised that to keep these people in my life, some of those patterns and habits needed to change. So I began doing things in my family to improve the entire situation.
With dad being unable to accept blame, one of the first things I did was take responsibility. I decided that I couldn’t be angry at him for not accepting blame, while not taking responsibility for my part of the interactions. After some time trying to talk directly to him, and getting no where, I came up with a plan. Each time we had a negative interaction moving forward, I would apologise for where I was wrong, and then explain the context and my thoughts. This was, at first, in an attempt to have a mature conversation. When it was obvious that wasn’t going to happen, because of bald faced lies, I began to get more annoyed obviously. When I was seeing red, I would remove myself from the situation, go away and think about it until I was calmed down and knew where I was wrong, then I would go back and apologise. Over time dad began to reciprocate, first in small ways. This was enough to see change and to be less irritated…
However, as hinted earlier, he was a terrible liar. He could literally just do or say something, and if called out could turn around 10 seconds later and try to convince you that you are wrong. This is called gas lighting, and is a manipulative, controlling, disgusting habit. Again, this is a massive issue for me, so I had to plan… and this time I came up with a game. Now, the game could be cruel, but that completely depends on the other person playing the game. For liars, I take them at their word. I act accordingly. All of those years of walking on egg shells had taught me to pander to people, specifically abusers. Now, I make my decisions on the information they give me, while factoring in what I see is their true intention (or most likely intention). This type of malicious compliance may not necessarily solve the situation, but it sure takes the pressure and mental drain away.
Now, the best thing I ever did was have terrible, painful and difficult conversations with my mother.
I remember being in the kitchen one day, I can’t remember what the conversations was about for the life of me though! Whatever it was, it was intense already, and I certainly had some feelings wrapped up in the entire thing. What I remember CRYSTAL clearly is that I knew exactly what I should say, but it felt waaaay too harsh to say to my mother. I caught myself, and decided that being truthful and having this difficult conversation was more than worth it. For the first time in my life I had knowingly made my mother sad and hurt. But, as hard as that is to do, and watch, and repeat… It’s made the entire relationship MUCH better.
We could already talk about anything, but now it’s all different. She is starting to really voice her opinions more and more. We are able to get to the heart of issues much faster now, because all of our cards are laid out from the beginning. There’s less pretence, masking and pandering.
So, here’s my recommendation. Dive into the truth. We all know the things we hold back, how is pretending to care about the other person when we’re scared to say something (usually because of the possible repercussions) caring at all? What we end up doing is giving people part information, and setting both parties to be let down and in a difficult situation down the road.
Stand up for what you really think, it’ll heal your family over time too!
If you’re interested in more, here’s how I have been disciplining my daughter to avoid some of these issues.