Sunday, December 20, 2015

How do you tell which parents are abusive and which are the the victims of abusive children

How Do You Tell Which Parents Are Abusive and Which Are the Victims of Abusive Children?

Members of estranged parents' forums say their adult children are abusive. They claim verbal abuse,emotional abuse, and deliberate mind games; many claim financial abuse; a few claim extortion, harassment, even physical assaults. Members diagnose their children with alcoholism, drug addiction, Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and sociopathy, all conditions that can make adult children just as much of a threat to their parents as abusive parents are to adult children. This is exactly the sad picture you'd expect if estranged parents' forums were gathering places for parents victimized by abusive children.
It's also exactly what you'd expect if you're familiar with the acronym DARVO.
So how do you tell the abusers from the victims? That's an excellent question, and one I'm working to answer. Without the chance to interview both parents and children, then check up on their stories, it's impossible to get a real answer to this question; and even then, some abusers are skilled enough to convince anyone that they're the wronged party. However, it's possible to come to tentative conclusions.
My working principles are:
1. Abusiveness is not an either/or situation. Abusive parents can have abusive children. In fact, abusive parents are more likely to have abusive children. So it's not a simple matter of determining that one party is abusive and calling it a day.
2. Abusers lie. Bear that in mind at all times—when reading both parents' and children's accounts. (This is the point I stumble over the most because I'm biased toward the children.)
3. If a person's own writing shows that they lie, rewrite reality, or otherwise engage in cognitive distortions, they're abusive. Period. Instant kill shot. The only exception is if they catch themselves distorting, correct it, and reflect upon it. That suggests that they have abusive tendencies, but are working to improve themselves in a most un-abuserlike manner. Unfortunately, that also means they're not entirely trustworthy, and can still cause pain to those around them; so if anyone is reading this list to decide whether someone in their life is toxic, a) please don't and b) go with your gut to decide whether the person is safe to be around.
4. Look for patterns of distorted beliefs. Common beliefs that show up in estranged parents' posts are:
  • My child is responsible for my happiness.
  • My child is permanently subordinate to me.
  • My child wants to control me.
  • Any limits my child sets on me are a power play that I must resist.
  • My child's decision to ignore my advice or make a choice I disapprove of is a sign of immaturity.
  • My child was most real and true to himself when he was a preschooler (and had not begun to defy me).
  • I am the best friend my child will ever have./I am my child's only true friend.
  • My child is living only half a life if he or she doesn't have a relationship with me.
  • If the relationship had any good times at all, the child has no justification for breaking it off.
  • If I put up with a certain level of mistreatment from my own parents, then my child should put up with the same level of mistreatment from me.
  • My pain is the complete justification for why my child should resume a relationship with me.
  • Children have no right to break off relationships with their parents.
  • Refusing to have having a relationship with me is abusive.
  • 5. Is the abuse offensive or defensive? Is one party tracking down the other party to abuse them? Or does the abuse happen only when one party insists upon contacting the other party? If a daughter drops by her mother's house for a visit and ends up shoving and punching her mother, there's an excellent chance that her abuse is offensive. If a mother drops by her daughter's house despite requests for no contact, and the daughter ends up shoving and punching her mother, the abuse is defensive—and is probably self-defense, not abuse.

Damhnait Doyle.

I really love her version of this song. I have wanted to post it for a while but it's not manly enough and I felt vulnerable in posting it. But thanks to a commenter here I think the timing is right. 
For some reason it makes me think of all the ways my father degraded, debased, and demoralized himself at my mother's feet just for one more instant of her good graces.
 By selling himself out he took the rest of us with him. 
He had a choice.
We didn't
Or maybe it's because I never really understood the lyrics before now.  

On a really, really, good day my
mother could pass for this woman.
I would post a picture of my mother but I threw them all in the trash.
This woman looks like she has a soul.
My mother had eyes like a snake.
Dull, flat and unblinking.
By the time she was older it was like her face was frozen into this smirk that looked more like
she was biting into a lemon.
The way she looked the last time I saw her reminded me of that twilight zone in which on a New Year's Eve in which this old guy was about to die had his greedy relatives all flocked around like a  bunch of vultures.
He had them all put on these hideous masks and after the clock struck twelve, and the old man died,
 they pulled off the masks and their faces had taken on the same look

Friday, December 18, 2015

Instead of posting this as a comment, it deserves it's own post

I don't why the thought of someone as a decent human being irk's narcissists so much, but it does. I guess if you are a corrupt slut and don't want to take the time to be honest and chaste it makes you jealous. They don't want to do the work to be chaste like not dropping their Capri pants on demand  they just fuck everyone and lie about it later. If you guys haven't seen the "The Bad Seed" you should, That is exactly what my mother must have been like as a child.  The girl basically beat the penmanship winner at school with her shoe until he fell off a pier and drowned. I know beating people with her shoe was my mother's preferred weapon when there wasn't a pistol handy. I can't count the number of times I saw my mother pull her shoe off and smack my father with it. And connecting the little bit of candor she gave me in the time I lived with her, and the few clues I had to connect the dots, it was always her in the wrong. She really subscribed to the best defense is a good offense. Here's one you'll never believe.  I remembered this one time her and my father pulled up to the farm at the same time and she walked up the porch and started whacking him with her shoe. Living down at her house she talked about a time she was eating lunch on the square in the county seat and looked out the window and saw my father pulling into the insurance agency where she worked and where my fathers parents got her a filing job. So instead of waiting until he came into the diner and inviting him to sit down and eat (It wasn't like he wasn't paying her astronomical legal fees and getting his ass in hock to get her ass out of hock) so what does this psycho do?  She walks out the back of the diner and through the alley and sits back down at her desk and acts like she had been there all along. She said he got infuriated and she made it sound like he was the crazy one and not her. He had just went inside her office and saw she was gone but instead of just telling him she had been in the diner and he missed her, and to sit down,and have some lunch with her, she looked him in the eye and told  him she had been at her desk all along.  So I guess they came home and she put her best defense into a good offense via whacking the bejesus out of him with her shoe.  I always read in Joanna Ashmuns blog how they gaslight people to make them crazy. This shows what she was all about. Even in that conversation in current times she implied he was crazy in the same breath she copped to telling him he didn't see what he just saw. And this was the bitch who turned herself into the family matriarch. The sad thing from my perspective is how many stories we all have just like this. We are all crazy and we are still crazy as they sit there and tell you about doing stuff none of us would ever dare to do ourselves. I am so glad I wrote what I wrote to my mother. Reflecting back on a story like this makes me think she should consider herself lucky I didn't go down and smother her with a pillow. Whats sad is that we all have these over the top stories. Why why why? Oh tell me why one crazy ass person can destroy a whole family and do it just for fun!?!?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Stories From Estranged Parents

Issendai seems to strike a chord with you guys and so, I will continue to post  posts of hers until I get called on it.

Stories from Estranged Parents

The forums where estranged parents post are full of stories.
  • A grandmother dislikes the formula her daughter-in-law is feeding her granddaughter. When her son and daughter-in-law reject her advice, she sends an email to the daughter-in-law's family, and when that gets no results, she calls CPS.
  • A woman follows her estranged adult son around town for hours before cornering him at his job site and demanding to speak to him.
  • A woman's daughter has been estranged for two years. The mother doesn't have any contact information for her except an address that will change shortly. She asks a forum for estranged parents for help, and the other members offer to track down her daughter and take photos for her.
  • A man's son cut contact with him 14 years ago, and has evaded all his father's attempts to get his phone number, email, or home address. The father finally tracks down the son's home address and turns up on his doorstep to inform him that the estrangement has gone on long enough. When the son blasts his father with rage, the father is shocked and hurt, and concludes that his son is severely mentally ill.
  • These are not stories estranged children tell about their parents. They're stories estranged parents tell each other about their own lives.
    • A woman asks the forum whether it would be a good idea to write to her estranged son's girlfriend and tell the girlfriend that she, the mother, loves the son too. Several forum members tell her yes, do it.
    • A woman finds a personals ad from her estranged son's ex-wife—who has also broken off contact with her ex-husband's parents—and answers it. She suggests that instead of looking high and low for a good man to take care of her, she let the grandparents be the "good man" and take care of the grandchildren for the summer.
    • A grandmother thinks her married daughter is having an affair. To make her stop, she lies to her daughter, telling her that she hired a private investigator to follow the daughter, and now she has photos of her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend together.
    • Estranged parents who visit forums for adult children of abusers complain that the adult children think everything is abuse. They're misled by therapists, by a culture of entitlement, by their own narcissistic personality disorder.
      • A grandmother who is estranged from her son's family gathers a party of six other relatives and ambushes the daughter-in-law at her house when the son is at work. The daughter-in-law refuses to let them in, so they stay on the lawn, screaming at her, for hours.
      • During an argument with her teenaged daughter, a woman locks herself in the bathroom and attempts suicide by trying to cut her hand off. Years later, she blames her now-estranged daughter for the incident.
      There might be genuinely abusive parents out there, but none of them are members of this forum.
      • A woman waits at her dying mother's bedside because she knows her estranged daughter will be coming to say her goodbyes to her grandmother. When the daughter arrives, the mother refuses to let her daughter say her goodbyes until her daughter hashes out the estrangement with her. The daughter decides to leave, and leans over to give her grandmother a kiss farewell. The mother grabs her daughter by the hair and drags her out of the room.
      Just being in the forum is proof that the parents want to work things out.
      • A couple sue for visitation rights to their two grandsons, one of whom they have never met. They lose. The day after the loss in court, they show up at their grandsons' school with presents, asking the staff whether they can see the boys.
      Real abusers never want to work things out.
      • A woman mails her estranged daughter a hand-drawn picture of the daughter standing over her mother's bloodied corpse, holding a knife.
      Their children don't know what they're talking about.

    • These incidents were drawn from public forums for estranged parents and grandparents, public forums for the discussion of psychological and relationship difficulties, and pages where estranged parents and grandparents post their stories to raise awareness of estrangement. All but two of the incidents were related entirely by the parents or grandparents in question. Two of the incidents were related by the estranged children and confirmed by the parents.
      These are not stories estranged children tell one another. These are stories estranged parents tell about themselves.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

"All or Nothing Relationships" on Down the Rabbit Hole by Blogger Issendia

All-or-Nothing Relationships

I have some thoughts and observations that aren't coherent enough for a complete article, but might be useful to others even in undigested form. Here are some notes about the all-or-nothing approach many members of estranged parents' forums take toward reconciliations.

Parents who try to reconcile with their estranged adult children often describe themselves as "walking on eggshells." Their children make all the rules, blow up at random. They don't accept invitations enough, offer invitations enough, call enough, text enough, visit enough. The parents feel they're "begging for scraps." Eventually—after a few years, a few months, a few visits, a single visit—the parents back out of the relationship and tell the children they're willing to reconcile only on their own terms. As one mother said recently, "I am coming to realise that they don't want a normal family relationship with us. They want us to know our place and for the entire thing to be run on their terms. [....] So I've decided that we're not playing their games. They want to connect or they don't."
  • The relationship is described in terms of game-playing and control.
  • Expectation of rapid return to the previous close relationship. Lip service given to taking it slow.
    • Some parents do manage to take it slow, and report success in reconciling with their children. Other members congratulate them, then tell them why their methods wouldn't work in their own case. Powerful resistance to generalizing based on parents' behavior.
  • Black and white thinking: "They want to connect [for a definition of connection that I control, and right now it means returning to our previous "normal" relationship] or they don't."
  • Parent hasn't internalized the changes their children asked for. "Walking on eggshells," not working out new behavioral patterns.
  • Eggshells imply uncertainty. Parent doesn't know what their child will take offense to = doesn't understand what the problem was.
  • The boundaries the child sets for their own protection = games, rules, terms, control. The parent doesn't understand why the child feels the need to take those actions.
  • The parent reacts as though they'd been told to wear a raincoat and carry an umbrella on a hot, dry day.
  • No understanding of problem or its solution = reconciliation is bound to fail.
  • Strikingly, the parent ends the reconciliation while the child, usually the reluctant party, is still trying to reconcile. Parent interprets child's slow, measured, "wait and see" approach as the permanent status quo.
    • Parent stops trying to meet the child's demands ("stops walking on eggshells"), returns to old behaviors, demands that the child meet their expectations, confirms their child's fear that Mom/Dad hasn't changed a bit. Child re-estranges. Parent interprets this in a way complimentary to the parent.
    • Or, parent loses self-regard because she perceives herself as submitting to the child's control and accepting disrespectful behavior. (Disrespect = not as much contact as the parent wants.) She ends the relationship because it's easier on her to have no relationship than to have a partial relationship.
    • Parents who describe their estrangement as life-shattering, devastating, the worst pain they've ever experienced, return to estrangement if the reconciled relationship is too distant for their liking.

    • Parents often get offers from their estranged or formerly estranged adult children to meet their grandchildren. There are usually restrictions: Meet only in a public place, both parents have to be present, meetings will be short and infrequent, etc. Parents interpret the offers as an attempt to make them bond with the grandchildren so the children can use the grandchildren against them. Parents who did bond with their grandchildren, then had the grandchildren taken away, warn them that losing contact with grandchildren is horrifically painful. Parents may decide not to meet their grandchildren in order to protect themselves.
      Adult children offer to let their parents meet the grandchildren because they consider it a step in reconciliation, because they feel sorry for the grandparents, out of a sense of duty, because they believe children should have grandparents even if the grandparents are bad enough that the parents cut them off, etc. The restrictions are partially for safety, and partially to reduce the chance that a grandparent will form a close bond. Estranged adult children don't want close bonds between their children and their estranged parents. Adult children don't enjoy arranging meetings between their estranged parents and their children, and are often doing it for the sake of the grandparents. The expectation is that if the grandparent does well with a period of supervised meetings, they can be allowed more time with the child, less supervision, etc.
      When grandparents turn the offer down, the children interpret it as "The grandparent wants a relationship on their terms, or no terms at all."
      • Once again, the estranged parent perceives the relationship as being about control.
      • Expectation of rapid reconciliation; initial distance perceived as permanent.
      • Backs away from the relationship while the adult child is still trying to reconcile.
      • Black or white thinking: Estranged parents do indeed say they want to "be allowed to be a grandparent" (according to their definition of being a grandparent = on their terms), or they don't want to have a relationship at all.
      • Parents think they can refuse the meeting without damaging the reconciliation, or alternatively, they think the offer means their child is trying to manipulate them, and it's a sign that they should back away.
      • Catastrophic failure of understanding: Adult children don't know their parents are desperately afraid of bonding with the grandchildren and then losing them; parents don't know the adult children view the meeting as a step in reconciliation.
        • Solution? Tell the other side the missing piece of the puzzle?
          • Adult children would reply, "We don't want to pull the kids away from you. All you have to do is follow our guidelines, and everything will be fine." Parent doesn't understand the problem that the guidelines are meant to solve, interprets "Follow our guidelines" as "Obey us, do whatever we say, give us control over you"; reconciliation is doomed, adult children will withdraw again, taking the grandkids with hem.
          • Or adult children make promises: "We would never cut you off from your grandchildren." Common when adult children have a poor grasp of the situation and/or unhealthy attitudes about problematic family members; "having a unicorn." Promises can prolong a relationship that's going sour, and don't prevent estrangement.
          • Simply comforting the parent isn't an option. Reassurances don't mean anything unless they're backed by promises, plus reassurance can encourage the parent to feel more secure than they are and return to their usual behavior.
          • Parents would be angry at being "tested": "Either they want to reconcile, or they don't." The adult child is viewed as the one with the problem, so the parent has nothing to prove.
              • Parents who think their child is trying to trick them into bonding with the grandchild as a means of control are already deep into thought patterns that lack perspective, indicate a failure of empathy (in the formal sense = being able to put oneself in another's shoes).
            • Conclusion: Adult children can't offer valid reassurance. They're willing to continue the relationship only if the parent changes their behavior, and because the parent doesn't understand what needs to change and why, change comes only through forced adherence to rules that parents see as arbitrary.
            • Conclusion: Parents can't believe that their children are sincere until experience convinces them; spoken words won't budge the paranoia. The necessary experience is a successful relationship with adult child and grandchild that outlasts the parents' paranoia. Paranoia encourages parents to back out of the relationship in fear, or to misinterpret their children's actions and sabotage the reconciliation.

          • Both situations arise from the same core conflict:
            Child is willing to have a relationship with the parent IF the parent will change. The child expects the change to take a while, needs proof that the parent has truly changed. The child's ideal future relationship is different from the original, unsatisfactory relationship.
            Parent considers change unnecessary, is insulted by the request, feels controlled by the child. The parent resents being judged and tested, has no understanding of the problem and therefore has no understanding of how long the child will take to trust them again. The parent's ideal future relationship is similar to the original, satisfactory relationship.
            Child is waiting for parent to change.
            Parent is waiting for child to stop this foolishness.
            No change in the parent = no change in the child = reconciliation fails.

            Not all reconciliations fail. Some parents say they had one or more failed reconciliations before succeeding, and the successful reconciliation had "give and take."
            • Humans want give and take in all relationships. No one wants to be in a relationship where they feel controlled, reardless of the reasons.
            • Skeptical about the degree of honest give and take in formerly estranged parents' relationships.
              • Personality-disturbed people are inaccurate self-reporters, very poor observers of other people.
              • Initial lack of give and take in a parent-child relationship is meant to offset the parent's psychological power over the child. Estranged parents use this power freely, deny its existence just as freely.
              • People who are used to an unequal balance of power interpret the correction of the balance as inequality. (See: the Republican party.)
              • Alternate possibility: Previous failed reconciliations knocked off some of the parents' sharp corners? Parents did change enough to at least partially satisfy their children?
              • Alternate possibility 2: Previous failed reconciliations convinced the children that the parents weren't going to change, caused them to lower their standards?
              • Same mechanism working in reverse if the child was the problem in the relationship, with the usual note that normal parents of disordered children go elsewhere for support and don't end up in estranged parents' communities. Disordered parents of disordered children are present in abundance, however.

              • If an estranged adult child is reading this, reconciliation is not impossible. I'm looking at a population self-selected for intense, enduring estrangements and poor empathy. If you're considering trying a reconciliation, my advice is:
                • Ask yourself whether your parent has shown signs of actual change. Hoping and wishing that they'll change aren't signs.
                • Expect them to want to move much faster than you want to. Be prepared to manage their expectations.
                  • Be prepared for them to black out your attempts to manage their expectations.
                • Expect them to change much more slowly than you want them to. If they don't understand what the problem is, you'll have to train them out of each behavior individually, and this will take time. Expect them to use any change in circumstances as a reason to backslide. Expect them to backslide if you're not consistent and persistent with consequences.
                  • Ask yourself whether the amount of training and maintenance you'll need to do is manageable for you. Revisit the question periodically.
                  • Don't push past the current limits of your training, even for special occasions. ("We said she couldn't see the baby yet, but it's Christmas...")
                  • Don't introduce your kids into the situation until your parent is well and truly behaving, and has done so for a while.
                  • Accept that it may take multiple estrangements and reconciliations before you and your parent truly reconcile. Just as your parent may not have believed there was a problem in the relationship until you cut them off, they may not believe you're serious about what you're asking of them until you've shown them that you'll cut them off again.
                • If it's safe to be emotionally open with them, talk with them about their needs and expectations. Be open to some input. (This is a tightrope walk between being open to them, giving them the impression that they have more say than they do, and letting them undermine you.)
                • If it's not safe to be emotionally open with them, don't reconcile.
                • If you read the second-to-last bullet point and decided they weren't safe, then you read the last bullet point and decided that no, really, they're safe, then your parents aren't safe. Don't reconcile with them until you don't feel pressure to lie to yourself about them.
                And, most importantly:
                • Under no circumstances will the responsibility for either training your parent, or dealing with the effects of their bad behavior, fall on your spouse or children. This is not a "do" or a "don't." This is not a request. This is not a suggestion. This is the Universe speaking. YOU train your parent, YOU deal with their toxicity. You do not push your children or your spouse into firing range, any more than you would push them out from behind cover when there was a shooter on the loose.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Issendia's view of Estranged Parents forums.

Issendia's view of forums for estranged parents 

I can't stop reading this blog, it's like potato chips. She is right up there with Anna V.

I know those are bold words so see for yourselves.

For several years now I've followed blogs about narcissists and other abusers, written by victims of abuse. They're powerful tools for recovery, and powerful testimonials to the impact of emotional abusers on other people's lives. What's been missing is the abusers' perspective on the abuse. The narcissists I see online don't write about their relationships with their children and close friends; they hardly write about their own partners, except as props in the narcissist's ongoing drama. I assumed that there was no way to get the abusers' side of the story, that abusers are smart enough to not incriminate themselves in their own blogs, and like hell would they get together with other abusers to discuss abuse.
I was wrong.
The keywords to find abusers' support communities are "estranged parents" and "grandparents' rights."

The Abuser's Side of the Story

The estranged parent communities are amazing. The members are people whose adult sons and daughters have cut off contact with their parents, and sometimes with their entire families. Although members of the estranged parent communities are largely unaware of the methods and vocabulary of the abuse-victim support network, they describe their sons and daughters ("estranged children," or ECs) going through all the steps of separation: the attempts to negotiate and set boundaries, the warnings, the process of going LC (limited contact), then NC (no contact), the escalating steps to enforce the no-contact rule, the hopeful attempts at reconciliation, the renegotiation, the setting of new boundaries, the return to NC. It's a view through a dark and crazily distorted glass. The parents and children had a wonderful relationship until something changed—the parents don't know what, but they suspect their child's new partner had something to do with it. And then their child dragged up a bunch of stuff from the distant past, most of which never happened, and blamed their parents for everything that went wrong in their own lives, and THEN they made a power play and cut their parents out of their lives to punish their parents. But their parents refuse to be controlled. They will reclaim their own lives, they will not knuckle under to their abusive, nasty, ungrateful children, and they will keep trying to contact their children to let them know they still love them.
Not all of the members of estranged parent communities are abusers.
 Quite a few people show up with stories of losing contact with their children because of drugs, mental illness, cult involvement, abusive sons- and daughters-in-law, or the influence of a vengeful ex. However, most of the people who know why their children are estranged filter away from the group quickly. I don't know where they go, but I suspect they find help in other groups—parents with drug-addicted children find groups about dealing with drug addicts, parents whose children are in the control of an abusive partner find groups about partner abuse. What's left are the people who have no idea why their children left them. And that, my friends, is a vast and waving red flag.

The overwhelming majority of the members tell tales of multi-generational abuse. Their grandparents abused their parents, their parents abused the members, in adulthood the members married abusive men, their own children accuse the members of abuse and are drawn to abusive spouses, sometimes the members even see their children abusing their grandchildren. Members' divorce rates are sky-high, and many members have divorced more than once when they remarried to another abusive husband. Many members say there were previous estrangements in their families—they may have been estranged from their own parents for a time, aunts and uncles may have quarreled with one another, their own parents may have cut off the rest of the family for a while. Members refer to a "culture of estrangement" and say with regret that they taught their children to estrange, but I think the explanation is simpler: Abuse breaks relationships.

Members all say they tried to be better parents than their own parents, and they succeeded. They can't understand why their own children say they were abusive when they did none of the things their own parents did to them. In fact, all around them they see really abusive parents—child-beaters, drug addicts—surrounded by circles of devoted children. What went wrong? Why are their own children rejecting them when children who were treated hideously still love their parents? More than one member has asked herself whether she should have treated her own children worse.

What went wrong? Two things. First, the parents identified their own parents' worst behaviors as abuse and stripped them out of their lives; but they still picked up their parents' dysfunctional defenses, unchallenged sick beliefs, and bad coping mechanisms.. A father who prides himself on not beating his children the way his dad beat him may not realize that being dismissive and controlling is doing his children almost as much damage as the beatings did him. When someone points out that he's being dismissive and controlling, he may see nothing wrong with his behavior because he inherited his father's ideas about what's due him as the head of the family, and his upbringing may not have given him the tools to absorb the knowledge that he hurt his children, however unintentionally. He may be far better than his own father, but that doesn't mean he's not abusive.
Most members of estranged parents' forums have been bitten by their own fleas. That's the first thing that went wrong. The second thing that went wrong is less common, but it contributes to no small number of estrangements: The members were better parents than their own parents. They raised their children to have a little more self-esteem, a little less enmeshment, better defenses that let the children make healthier friends and see a way to a wider, kinder world. That, combined with a greater understanding of abuse and more support for victims, meant that children were healthy enough to recognize their situation as abusive and escape their parents' orbit.
So some members are right when they say they were better than their own parents and that their children left because they weren't as bad. It doesn't mean the members weren't abusive.
The members of estranged parents' forums would score high on what Bob Altemeyer calls the Right-Wing Authoritarian Scale, specifically the authoritarian follower side of the scale. (I refer to this type as authoritarian followers instead of right-wing followers to strip the misleading political reference from the name.) Authoritarian followers' central belief, the one that organizes the rest of their personality, is that authorities should be respected and shown deference because they are authorities. Authoritarian followers support this belief with double standards that excuse authorities of wrongdoing, a rigidly hierarchical worldview that keeps people in their place, and powerful resistance to any attempt to question authority. They tend to be black-and-white, us-and-them thinkers with a deep need to punish transgressors.
All of this is readily apparent in estranged parents' forums. The members' worldview is fiercely hierarchical, with one group labeled "estranged parents" (or "grandparents," "mothers-in-law," etc.) and one group labeled "estranged children" ("children," "daughters-in-law," etc.). Each group is held to radically different expectations, with acceptance and validation of anything "one of ours" says, and rejection of anything "one of theirs" says. This separation between groups is impermeable. Estranged parents are estranged parents, even when they describe being estranged from their own parents; they're not subjected to the rules imposed on estranged children, even when they talk about being estranged children.
And they're clear on the need to punish estranged children. (Real estranged children, not themselves back when they stopped talking to their parents.) One of the forums' primary functions is to act as a safe place for members to vent about their desire to humiliate their children, beat them, shame them, make them hurt as much as they're hurting their parents.[1] After the pain of rejection, the second most common emotion members express is rage.

Authoritarian followers also have a slippery grasp of reasoning. They compartmentalize, they avoid looking at contrary evidence, they tend to think a line of reasoning is correct if they like the outcome. They also have a loose grasp of facts. As a researcher working with authoritarian followers said,
They could not remember some pieces of evidence, they invented evidence that did not exist, and they steadily made erroneous inferences from the material that everyone could agree on.
Bob Altemeyer, The Authoritarians, pp. 75-76

 Her description could be applied to any estranged parents' forum. Members recount events in an impressionistic style, cherry-picking details and often telling conflicting versions of events at successive retellings. The other members pay no attention to the inconsistencies, accepting the latest version as the full truth. In mixed forums where members are more likely to question one another's stories, estranged parents have difficulty keeping all the relevant details in mind, forget inconvenient facts, add new facts, and feel confident about making judgements even when they don't remember any of the background. When challenged, they may concede that they got the facts wrong, then keep arguing for a conclusion that relies on the facts they just admitted were wrong. In mixed forums, this leads to sulking over being misunderstood and nitpicked to death. In estranged parents' forums, it leads to a forum culture in which members will happily argue for something one day and against it the next day. In the long run, it impoverishes the forum culture because the members don't pool their experiences and come up with a coherent understanding of estrangement based on what works. If anything, the members declare that coherence is impossible because estrangement is beyond understanding.

The beliefs that members hold, teach each other, and try to impose on their adult children are deeply authoritarian:
  • Parents are to be respected because they are the parents. Period.
  • Parents who behave badly are still to be respected. (The members' own parents were awful, and they would never have treated their parents the way their own children are behaving.)
  • The parent is the arbiter of what "respect" means.
  • The parent sets the terms of the relationship. A child's attempts to set terms are an attempt to control the parent.
  • Parents should control children. Children must not be allowed to control parents.
  • Making decisions a parent disagrees with is a sign of immaturity. Doing as a parent says is a sign of maturity.
  • Other people's reasons have no validity unless the member agrees with them. Invalid reasons are nonexistent reasons.
  • Children have no right to break off relationships with their parents.
  • Refusing to have having a relationship with a parent is abusive.
  • Members spend a lot of time lamenting that their children don't hold these beliefs, that the people around them won't help the members impose the beliefs on their children, and that society in general is moving away from these beliefs. For many of them, the magical solution to estrangement that they're searching for is a way to corner their child and force these beliefs on them. Unsurprisingly, they're unlikely to reconcile, so over time less authoritarian members either reconcile with their children or leave for less authoritarian forums, and the concentration of authoritarian members stays high.

    criticism avoidance

    The culture of estranged parents' forums is built around the members' resistance to criticism. The members question one another with exquisite gentleness, or not at all; they believe whatever another member chooses to tell them; and they spend a great deal of time comforting one another when the outer world dares to be less kind. One of the more important functions of the forums is offering relief to people who feel misunderstood, attacked, maligned by the outside world for things they believe are beyond their control.
    Some of the mechanisms members use to avoid criticism are:
    • Inability to remember criticisms. "She was screaming and screaming at me," members say, but they won't be able to recall what she screamed.
    • Minimization of the criticisms members do remember. A list of grievances is boiled down to "He accused me of eating his Halloween candy one year" or "He was angry because I made him do chores in high school." Whatever the members repeat is so petty or reasonable-sounding that it can't be taken seriously.
    • Unwillingness to repeat criticisms. Members don't post the "letters full of abuse" their children send them, rarely post texts from their children, and often avoid saying what the substance of an argument was.
    • Refusal to accept criticisms that they themselves don't agree with. If their daughter says she can't put up with their disapproval of her boyfriend, but the parents think their disapproval is perfectly legitimate because she could do so much better, then their daughter is not estranged from them because they gave her grief about her boyfriend. The parents conclude that she hasn't told them the real reason, therefore she hasn't told them any reason, and they wish she would tell them so they can heal the estrangement.
    • Hypersensitivity to negative emotions aimed at them. Any criticism at all is interpreted as an attack, unhappiness is interpreted as rage, calm speech is remembered as screaming. Their children aren't hurt or upset, they're "filled with hatred." Other people's reactions are perceived as being so powerful that nothing could justify them, and so painful that no sane person would willingly withstand them.
    • The members' criticism avoidance mixes with their authoritarian-follower disinterest in facts to create a distinctive approach to reality. Members have difficulty integrating details into a coherent whole. Their stories are generally vague and focused on the emotions they experienced during the episode, lacking information about what led up to the event and often related with a timeline so mangled it might have been run through a blender. Estrangement comes at them like a punch in the dark: Their son was happy and then he cut them off the day after the wedding, the picnic was wonderful and then their daughter-in-law came up to them and started screaming. Members see nothing odd or missing in these accounts. So many of them have been through the exact same thing, after all.
      If an estranged parent comes to a mixed forum, another member may ask for more details. At that point, one of two things happens. Either the parent explodes, saying she came here for support, not to be questioned, and why are you interrogating her, anyway? Don't you believe her? Are you a parent or a child? She wants to speak only to parents, because they can understand, so you can go away and take your insults with you.
      ...Or the parent reveals that despite what they said, they have all the puzzle pieces. "My daughter-in-law was rude and selfish and wouldn't let anyone hold the baby at the baptism—we were so hurt" becomes "The baby was premature and at risk for RSV, and it was flu season."
      Members' ability to keep the facts corralled varies according to how they're feeling. A woman who visits her son and daughter-in-law frequently says she knows her daughter-in-law dislikes her visits, but the member will keep visiting because her son would never let her daughter-in-law turn her away. Six months later the same member says that she and her daughter-in-law had such a good relationship, and now the daughter-in-law made her son cancel a visit, and the member has no idea what's happening.
      Criticism avoidance guarantees that people will have strained relationships. No one wants to be around someone who can't bear to talk out problems, who can't remember being told anything she doesn't like, who goes around saying she has no idea why people are so mean to her. It also guarantees that if the solution to a problem is "See what you're doing wrong and fix it," the problem will never be solved. It's no surprise that criticism-avoidant people end up divorced and estranged more often than the general populace.
    • Once you know the pattern, it's also no surprise that criticism-avoidant people cry that their children cut them off suddenly for no reason. As far as they're concerned, there was no reason. (At least, no reason they can remember, apart from all the abuse their children screamed at them, and something petty about eating their Halloween candy.) They so want to reconcile with their children, but when they ask what they can do, their children only scream more abuse at them, or tell them they know what the problem is, or give more petty reasons that no one can understand... so the parents offer to go to counseling with the children, but counseling fails, or the child refuses and tells the parent to go on her own and work on herself first, only the parent can't work on herself if she doesn't know what's wrong, so she has to wait until her child calms down and hope that someday, someday, her child will tell her what the real problem is.


      Generational abuse, authoritarian follower personality, and criticism avoidance are intimately entwined. The authoritarian parenting style isn't inherently abusive, but it's the style of choice for abusers. Authoritarian upbringing tends to create authoritarians and abusive upbringing tends to leave children with poor parenting skills, so people brought up in abusive, authoritarian households tend to bring at least some of their parents' abusive, authoritarian behavior into their own parenting. Abusers are intensely criticism-avoidant, so they don't teach their children healthy ways to handle criticism, and their authoritarian punishments fill their children with such a sense of shame and powerlessness that some children grow up unable to admit to any wrongdoing without being flooded with shame and powerlessness all over again. At the heart, abuse is authoritarianism is criticism avoidance.
      Not all members of estranged parents' forums show all three traits. A sizable minority weren't abused as children, and, separately, a minority aren't authoritarian followers but still find the forums congenial. However, all the established members are criticism-avoidant. It's impossible to be estranged "for no good reason" without criticism avoidance; and members who know what the problem is and who have the fortitude to look it in the face go elsewhere, to forums that directly address their issues.
    • Most members of estranged parents' forums belong to a group of people who are at high risk of poor relationships: People who were abused as children, who unconsciously absorbed some of their parents' abusive behaviors and, despite their best efforts, passed the abuse on to their children. They also resist criticism so strongly that it alters their perceptions, making it impossible for them to absorb and act on the issues their children have with them. Unconsciously, it's easier for them to bear the pain of estrangement—pain so intense that some estranged parents commit suicide—than to bear the pain of being wrong.
      What can be done? I don't know. Lifelong patterns are hard enough to break when the sufferer is willing to break them. When someone can't even see that there is a pattern, when breaking the pattern feels like taking a sledgehammer to their very soul, change isn't going to happen.
      But what I do know is: Change can still happen, a link further down the chain. If you're an estranged adult child, you too were raised by an abusive parent who was probably an authoritarian follower. You too are trying to do your best by your own children. And you too learned some of your parents' abusive behaviors, where they're hiding in your blind spot. You're at risk of estrangement from your own children, not because you're "teaching your children estrangement" or whatever nonsense the flying monkeys toss at you, but because it's human nature to get fleas. No matter how good a parent you are, find a therapist and do some heavy drilling. Turn the lens on your blind spots. Have the courage to face yourself, even the broken, jagged, armored parts you don't want to exist. Because if you don't face them, your children might have to.
    • [1] Contrast this with forums for estranged adult children, where discussions about wanting to hurt, humiliate, or punish their parents are almost nonexistent.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Required reading for people with normal families.

Charles Van Doren Testifies Before the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce about deceptive practices on games shows in the fifties. 

 I would give almost anything I have to reverse the course of my life in the last year. The past doesn't change for anyone. But at least I can learn from the past.
I've learned a lot about life. I've learned a lot about myself and about the responsibilities any man has to his fellow man. I've learned a lot about good and evil -- they're not always what they appear to be.
I was involved, deeply involved, in a deception. I have deceived my friends,  I lied to people. I lied about what I knew and then I lied about what I did not know. In a sense, I was like a child who refuses to admit a fact in the hope that it will go away.
Of course it did not go away. I was scared, scared to death. I had no solid position, no basis to stand on for my self. There was one way out and that was simply to tell the truth.
It may sound trite to you, but I've found myself again after a number of years. I've been acting a role, maybe all my life, of thinking that I've done more, accomplished more, produced more than I have. I have had all the breaks. I have stood on the shoulders of life, and I've never gotten down into the dirt to build, to erect a foundation of my own. I have flown too high on borrowed wings. Everything came too easy.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

How Narcissist Mothers Keep Flies Off Their babies

Fly enters door attracted by milk coming from Bottle (A) .
Slides down trough  (B) 
 to platform (C)
Is tickled in the ribs by revolving tickler (D)
Laughs until he falls over into one of the buckets in endless chain (E)
Is hoisted over into bottle of hair tonic (F)
which raises a beard on his chin and 
Goes to platform (G)
Where he shaves himself with rusty razor
Looks in mirror (M)
And discovers he has contracted the barbers itch
And scratches himself to death along board (G)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

You can't get there from here.

When people tell me they had a narcissist parent, two words come to mind.  "Squandered Potential." Narcissist always take more than they give, and they take their half right out of the middle. Which is to say they take the best for themselves and leave crumbs behind for others.
As I come nearer to the end of my life. I can't help but look back with regret. Knowing that I am blameless for the chaos that consumed my family takes little of the sting out. It won't bring the dead back to life. It won't fill the coffers that were left emptied. It will only silence the chaos in my head.
I posted a comment on a blog about how we can't make people love us. And we can't make people do the right thing. And we can't. No more that we can stop the world from turning or stop the tide's ebb and flow.
The smartest thing is to do is also the easiest. Let it go and let the powers that be sort it out. Treat the people that come behind us with the compassion our elders found impossible to bestow on us.  And hope that our children will pay it forward and pay it forward again, until the hostility visited on us as children is  just a memory.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Missing Missing Reasons of estrangement by Issendia.....

I don't think the reasons kids don't want to have anything to do with their disordered parents will ever be covered quite as well as Issendia has covered it in her blog.

The Missing Missing Reasons

MMembers of estranged parents' forums often say their children never gave them any reason for the estrangement, then turn around and reveal that their children did tell them why. But the reasons their children givethe infamous missing reasonsare missing. 
My sons consistently refuse to reply to my emails and let my calls go to voicemail, or barely speak if they do answer. They accuse me of being a terrible person, but won’t elaborate about exactly what I’ve done. Well, sometimes they do, but it doesn’t make sense, at least to me. For example, it’s hard to be part of the birth of my grandchild if I didn’t know that I was going to have one! All this started because of a personal email they felt entitled to read on my computer.
 — Elizabeth Vagnioni, "Why Some Grown Kids Cut Off Their Parents"
What were the other reasons her sons give? Not knowing about the birth of her grandchild can't be the only one. What was in the email that caused both her sons to cut her off? We're supposed to be distracted by the hinkiness of the sons reading the email, and never notice that Vagnioni just told us that she knows exactly why her sons cut her off. Pay no attention to the missing explanation behind the curtain.
I was abandoned by my daughter 6 years ago this June. I received a text message that said, "The keys are under the mat I have moved out, don't coming looking for me I never want to see you again you have ruined my life". I... got home and found my husband standing in her empty room. [....] She had a prepared speech that she emailed to me - she did [not] even say Mom or Dad anywhere in it - it was **** or my husband's first name. She stopped communicating with me about 1 year after - but each time I asked why I got the prepared speech or some slung together four letter words that I didn't appreciate. [....] [All my husband] said was "She's 18, I was expecting this." I wasn't.
 — A mother's account from Abandoned Parents: The Devil's Dilemma
What was in the "prepared speech"? Why did her father expect her to move out at 18? The mother has two different sources of explanations at her fingertips, and she turns to neither. Nor does she repeat so much as a scrap of her daughter's allegations.Sometimes when I've tried all I've had back is pages and pages of abuse. It kills me and my husband when we have to read what a despicable person I am-how I'm evil and twisted and negative-and a thousand other things too.
I sent an email to the middle son-asking WHAT we had ever done as after all these years no-one has EVER spelled it out to us.
The reply last night was unbelievable. The things he said were cruel, vindictive and completely untrue. He remembers thing in a totally distorted way and he believes 100% that this stuff is true-no matter how much we try to tell him he has it wrong.
 a member of a group for estranged parents
 What was in the "pages and pages" that her sons wrote her? Why did it count as "abuse" and not as an explanation? Were her sons really able to fill multiple pages with nothing but, "Dear Mom, You're despicable, vile, twisted, and negative. I hate you. I really, really hate you, because you're vile. And twisted. And negative. You're a bad person, and you should feel bad. I feel bad because you're so bad."? Or was there anything solid in there, anything at all, to explain why they thought their mother was despicable?
In the same vein, members who confront their estranged children report that their children "screamed at them" or "used such foul language that I was shocked," but don't repeat anything their children said. The mother who wrote "A letter to... my estranged daughter" describes her daughter's voice as "A small, frightened whisper, which, though I knew it to be in your voice, didn't seem like you at all", but doesn't say what her daughter whispered; the letter is marked by the complete absence of the daughter's words, even as reported speech.
When members do say what the allegations were, they paraphrase heavily, choosing the most trivial offenses and trimming away all context. Elizabeth Vagnioni said her son accused her of not being part of his child's birth, even though he hadn't told her he was having a child. The accusation is stripped of all seriousness because it's so bizarre, an impression created by the total lack of context. Another estranged mother, the woman quoted above whose sons sent her "pages and pages of abuse," said,
Last night he scraped the bottom of the barrel.
 When I was on holiday with him and his second wife and his kids (not hers) three years ago. I was there as a babysitter to do them a favour-although I had to pay for two weeks car rental.
Apparently, I had called [insulted] his ex-wife (who he walked out on five years earlier for another woman) and get this-
I CALLED [insulted] HIS DOG!!!!! Which by the way was a bit disturbed and he eventually he had to re-home it.
She establishes that she was doing her son a favor at the time, that he had no place being insulted by anything she said about his ex-wife, and that his dog (whom she called a "lunatic badly behaved dog") deserved the insult. What's missing is the context of the insults—whether her son has had trouble in the past with her bad-mouthing people and things he cares for, whether her insults were veiled criticism of him, whether the insults she quoted were two in a vacation-long stream of insults and he was tired of her insulting everything and everyone, whether this was the straw that broke the camel's back... One allegation, out of context, shaved down toreductio ad absurdum.

Why Do They Do It?

"So their children's words can't reflect badly on them" is the obvious reason. Members who have aired their children's grievances outside the endlessly enabling warmth of estranged parents' forums have been stung by people who took their children's side, and they've learned not to give their opponents ammunition.
But it runs deeper than that. Many members truly can't remember what their children said. Anything tinged with negative emotion, anything that makes them feel bad about themselves, shocks them so deeply that they block it out. They really can't remember anything but screaming. This emotional amnesia shapes their entire lives, pushing them to associate only with people who won't criticize them, training their families to shelter them from blows so thoroughly that the softest protest feels like a fist to the face.
But it runs even deeper than that. Posts in estranged parents' forums are vague. Members recount stories with the fewest possible details, the least possible context. They don't recreate entire scenes, repeat entire conversations, give entire text exchanges; they paraphrase hours of conversation away. The only element they describe in detail is their own grief or rage. Nor do the other members press them for more information.
Compare this with the forums for adult children of abusers, where the members not only cut-and-paste email exchanges into their posts, they take photos of handwritten letters and screenshot text conversations. They recreate scenes in detail, and if the details don't add up, the other members question them about it. They get annoyed when a member's paraphrase changes the meaning of a sentence, or when omitted details change the meaning of a meeting. They care about precision, context, and history.
The difference isn't a matter of style, it's a split between two ways of perceiving the world. In one worldview, emotion is king. Details exist to support emotion. If a member gives one set of details to describe how angry she is about a past event, and a few days later gives a contradictory set of details to describe how sad she is about the same event, both versions are legitimate because both emotions are legitimate.
Context is malleable because the full picture may not support the member's emotion. If a member adds details that undermine her emotion, the other members considerately ignore them. For example, one woman posted that she felt wounded and betrayed because a few days beforehand, her daughter had agreed to let the mother and one of the mother's friends drop by her house to visit. On the day of the visit, the daughter said she wasn't up for a visit. She had gone to the doctor so the doctor could examine her incision for infection. She had gotten the incision two weeks earlier, when she had a C-section while miscarrying a near-term baby the day before Christmas. The mother was broken because her daughter accused her of being selfish. The members all agreed that the daughter was the selfish one, that she had no right to speak to her mother like that, and that she should be more supportive of her mother in her mother's grief for her lost grandchild.
Emotion creates reality.
In the second worldview, reality creates emotion. Members want the full picture so they can decide whether the poster's emotions are justified. Small details can change the entire tenor of a forum's response; members see a distinction between "She said I'm worthless" and "She said something that made me feel worthless." Members recognize that unjustified emotions (like supersensitivity due to trauma, or irritation with another person that colors the view of everything the person does) are real and deserve respect, but they also believe that unjustified emotions shouldn't be acted on. They show posters different ways to view the situation and give advice on how to handle the emotions. In short, they believe that external events create emotional responses, that only some responses are justified, that people's initial perceptions of events are often flawed, and that understanding external events can help people understand and manage emotions.
The first viewpoint, "emotion creates reality," is truth for a great many people. Not a healthy truth, not a truth that promotes good relationships, but a deep, lived truth nonetheless. It's seductive. It means that whatever you're feeling is just and right, that you're never in the wrong unless you feel you're in the wrong. For people whose self-image is so battered and fragile that they can't bear anything but validation, often it feels like the only way they can face the world.

What Can Be Done About It?

I'm sorry.
When denial runs that deep, when avoidance is that in-ground, a person can't be separated from it any more than they can be separated from their bones. It's why I aimed this site at estranged adult children and outsiders: because members of estranged parents' forums can't be helped. Their entire system of defenses is designed to make them unsavable.
From my own experiences with a former friend who had the same difficulty absorbing negative input, I can tell you that by framing criticism very, very carefully, with lots of positive input and as little emotion as possible, you can coax someone to accept little slivers of negative feedback. But you have to explain it so gently that they don't understand how serious the situation is, and in a few weeks they're back to their old selves.
You can also train them by addressing each problem in the moment. As soon as they do something wrong, you tell them what they did and give them immediate consequences, like ending the visit. Each time you do it they'll tantrum and spray abuse in all directions, but with repetition they'll learn that doing thing-they-like X causes thing-they-hate Y. Maybe they'll stop doing X. Maybe they'll stop visiting, and they'll tell the rest of the family how controlling and cruel you are. Maybe your mental health will survive the tantrums and abuse and escalating tactics long enough for them to pick one or the other. It's like training a toddler, but without any hope that the toddler will grow out of it.
There's a reason the members of estranged parents' forums are estranged.
If you're an estranged adult child and you're looking for a way to get your parents to hear what the problem is, I'm sorry, but you have your answer already. They don't want to know. They may be incapable of knowing. There are no magic words that will penetrate their defenses.
The good news is that you're free. You can stop now. If you need permission, I'll give it to you: You are hereby allowed to stop trying to get through to your wilfully deaf parents.
Please stop.

Another Example, and an Expert's Analysis

A mother posted on a mixed forum, asking for help understanding a new estrangement from her daughter. She and her husband, the daughter's stepfather, had been estranged from the daughter and her family for several years, until a surprise visit they paid to the daughter's house brought about a fragile reconciliation. At a time of escalating tensions, the mother and stepfather had a run-in with the daughter at their grandson's soccer game.
I brought [a bag of used] clothing and was talking to another mother re giving her daughter (son on team) some of the clothes if they might fit. [....] Within approx. 5 min [daughter] appears behind me and say I want to talk to you NOW! I replied just a moment. NO NOW she raises her voice. I turn from lady on bleachers and say I'll be with you in just a moment when I finish speaking. Then she goes beserk and starting verbally attacking me. Note I have no idea why or what she is talking about. I say to her it seems we are not able to communicate and perhaps my husband and I are not able to either because I do not know what you are talking about @ which point I walk to him. I never say anything and she goes off on him.
The fight ended with her daughter cutting her off again.
When other members of the mixed forum asked her about her history with her daughter, she said she had no idea why her daughter had previously cut her off for eight years. She also said her adult children came to therapy with her
to give them the oportunity to share any and all things that had bothered them during childhood during divorce and the teenage years in order to move forward as an ADULT respectful relationship---I got things like you packed corn chips in lunch every time and didn't change that up when they didn't eat at school. REALLY is that all you can come up with????? Seriously!!
Another member replied,
If you don't mind, I'm actually going to go back to the "corn chips" issue for starters... Is it possible that your DDs brought that up as a way of saying that you don't seem to pick up on certain cues? Like the fact that they never ate the corn chips didn't prompt you to try something else or ask them what they'd prefer? By the same token, and in more serious matters, perhaps your estranged DD feels you don't pick up on sone important cues now? Like maybe she mentions that her dad might be coming b/c she doesn't want you all there together, as I discussed above? And you're just not gettting it?
The mother replied,I read your posts to DH and at some points he was laughing just because of this way of connecting. Because of the not picking up on the cues comment. Just FYI I am so hyper vilient [vigilant] re picking up on most everything due to my past that it is a hoot sometimes. If there is the most remote chance of something I usually always pick up on it.
Another member, a 60-something grandmother and licensed psychologist who worked as a guardian ad litem, had a reply so perfect and thorough that I'm going to let it stand as the conclusion to this article.
Of course you know why you are cut off.
According to you, your daughter stood in front of you at the baseball game and TOLD you why. I presume she used words you understand in a language you both speak. Thus you DO know.
I can understand you did not like the delivery method. But the delivery method does not affect the MEANING of the words, nor does it invalidate her feelings or opinions. You may feel justified in turning off your listening because you didn't like her delivery, but that's not helpful at all for you. It's like refusing to accept your paycheck because you want it printed on a pink check not a green one. The money is still the same. [....]
I can understand that you may not agree with whatever it was she told you is the problem--but again, that does not mean there is no problem. She told you in a language you understand what the problem is, and you understood her meaning. That you disagree with the problem is immaterial. It's still a problem whether you agree with it or not. It will be a problem forever until you deal with it. Saying, "I don't understand the problem" when you really mean, "I don't agree this is a problem" will not make the problem go away. It will make the person who DOES think it a problem go away--and you had a 8 year cut off demonstrating that principle.
If your daughter thinks it's a problem, IT IS A PROBLEM, whether you agree or not. SHE--not you--has the final say on whether she has a problem with you or not. Here again is a power struggle between you: HER: "This is a problem", YOU: "I see no problem". Guess who's going to win this debate? Not you. [....]
This game of 'I don't understand what happened' when you have been told in words what's wrong is really counterproductive. Yes, it permits you to shield your ego/self esteem from criticism and 'exposure' of your inadequacies in the relationship--but it loses you the relationship.
In order to solve the problem, you have to decide what is more important to you: your daughter and grandchildren, or your ego and belief that you are innocent of doing anything but little insignificant wrongs. It's very common, especially for people from abusive backgrounds who were not adequately nurtured as children, to stop protecting their egos--way to threatening. And many--especially if they have other emotional outlets (such as a supportive spouse and friends)--will choose ego over a relationship. It's easier and more comfortable--but ultimately very self defeating and impoverishing.
(The mother never replied.)
(But she did keep going to her grandchildren's games uninvited and cornering her grandchildren to talk to them.)