Much Ado About Gratitude

I have been struggling these last weeks to complete a post about an altogether different topic. At last, I decided to scrap it. It’s not the story I need to tell right now. The stories I need most to tell are my own, and if I could beg your indulgence, I have one to share. This has been an exceptionally challenging year for nearly everyone. Now, with the holidays here (and today being Thanksgiving), I admit the search for gratitude has been like searching for a needle in a stack of needles. Then, in an instant, life in the strange and unexpected way that it does showed me that instead of searching for one needle in a stack of needles; it may serve me better to appreciate the whole pile.

I remember holidays growing up. I remember how Thanksgiving at times was an enormous production. There were years we had two or three long tables set up in our house for people to sit and eat. One year, my mother single handedly prepared a meal (which included a 26 + lbs turkey) for over 20 people. My father worked odd shifts, and I was far too young to be of use (save staying out of the way). She brought out the good china, the silver cutlery, centerpieces, the nice silk table cloths, spent hours slaving over pots and piles of ingredients; and despite the hours of work she would put in, no matter how good the food was or how beautiful the table looked, someone had a complaint.

The trouble was all of the fine china, silk table cloths and silver cutlery in the world couldn’t draw the attention from the elephant in the room; the shadow of dysfunction that pervaded our home and loved to ruin the holidays. I remember my mother standing alone in the kitchen washing piles of dishes and hearing the laughter of my other relatives in the other room. Seeing pictures from these holidays years later, it occured to me that she was seldom if ever in them. If I pan back further, I realize that those photographs are small prints that create a much larger photo mosaic. 

Speaking of small prints, I laugh as I write this, because I’m willing to bet that very few people can say that either they or another family member still owns a Kodak Carousel slide projector. I’m certain my grandparents bought it in the late 60’s early 70’s. Every 10 years or so, we dig it out of antiquity, set it up and look at all of the old slides. The last time was somewhere between 2010 and 2013. I was living in a condo in Alexandria, VA with my family and in the early years of my sobriety. We set it up on the dining room table and projected the images onto the wall. Not long before, my uncle had found a place where they could convert photographs into slides for the projector, so we had some new additions. I can still hear the fan in the machine, the shuffle and click as the wheel turned, not fully comprehending that each shuffle and click was the rewinding of time with a sole purpose to come back forward.

Each image had a story, and that story begot other stories. I listened in earnest, still unaware that what I was being told was my own personal Book of Genesis. My great grandparents made their exodus from eastern Europe in the early 1900’s to come to the Promised Land., which turned out to be Trenton, New Jersey. My mother’s paternal grandparents were simple people, humble people. My great grandfather Ignaz worked in a factory, my great grandmother Pelogna spoke splintered English, practiced folk magic and once threatened a local brothel owner with a pistol. Yes, I know. You’re thinking “don’t you mean broken English?” No, I don’t. The only word I can think of that could describe more broken than broken is splintered. Despite the language barrier, she always managed to make her point.

There aren’t many stories about my mother’s maternal grandparents. Michael and Helen arrived in New Jersey around the same time as my other great grandparents. The difference was Michael and Helen were from a more rural part of Poland. Mind you, rural doesn’t mean “rustic” or “backwater”. It would be more likened to the class of people living on the English moors whereas Ignaz and Pelogna would be likened more to urchins from the streets of London; at least that’s how they were viewed. My mother called Helen “Stonewall Jackson” because my mother swore she was made of stone. “Her face would crack if she smiled!” my mother would say. I imagine it was true, since every image of her showed nothing but a stern, stoney visage. She died in the house where I grew up.

My grandmother was one of four children, and she was never one to speak of her family history. She was immensely proud of her sons, tore up my mother’s application to be a stewardess for United Airlines and appeared to me in a dream to tell me of the birth of my second son. She died three years before I was born.  My mother told me that I would talk to a lady with white hair and a blue gown in my room when I was a little girl. I wish I could remember those conversations.

My grandfather was one of eight and a teenager during the Great Depression. He once fist fought a neighborhood kid in a Jacobian battle for a broken vacuum cleaner to bring home and fix for his mother. He always smiled in photographs, and my mother once pointed out that my smile is his. He spent many weekends fishing in Barnegat Bay. I can point out the place in the inlet where he lost his boat (and nearly his brother) when a squall came through. A part of me deeply regrets never having  the chance to fish with him by the lighthouse. He was born on September 16, 1915. I’ve truly only fallen in love with two men in my life; one was born the day after my grandfather’s 58th birthday, the other died on what would have been my grandfather’s 93rd birthday. My grandfather died March 25th when I was eleven. The first person to greet me at my first AA meeting was born September 18th and died on March 5th at the age of 58. My grandfather was never a subtle man. 

My mother and I sat at the kitchen table during dinner and started going over the slides again.

We projected the images into each other’s minds with stories and questions. 

She had called last week and insisted we eat on nice paper plates, and I indulged her. After dinner it only took me about 25 minutes to finish the dishes, and we kept going over the slides.

After she and my father left, I sat in my living room and cried.  I had found my gratitude.

I was grateful for splintered English and folk magic.

I was grateful for fist fights for vacuum cleaners. 

I was grateful for my mother’s insistence on paper dishes and the way her hyper criticism shows how fragile, how vulnerable she really is. 

I’m grateful now for all that these things have given me:

An understanding of the language of my ancestors 

The will to fight

The ability to see past aesthetics and appreciate the beauty of simplicity 

Integrity, and no longer having to compare my insides with another’s outsides

Compassion and empathy 

Not feeling an iota of shame for where I’ve come from

What’s greater still is that the photo mosaic is still creating a larger picture. As time passes, they will expand to the pictures of my children, their children, and on and on. 

Corterie of “Cute”: Signs of Narcissism on Social Media Part 1

Please note that this post is in no way intended to diagnose a personality disorder

With the prevalance of social media in today’s world, a lot has changed with regard to the way we interact with eachother and the world. Still, that pang in your gut when you see a social media profile could be telling you something….

Admittedly, I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I love that I can keep in touch with distant friends and relatives and connect with people I may not otherwise have come to know. I hate that likes and shares have become such an integral part in validation for so many. That’s not a judgement; I step into the trap myself sometimes, and I get as irritated with myself as I do when I stub my toe on a piece of furniture. Be that as it may, social media is as omnipresent as my end table and I have to be mindful of my footing. The overwhelming majority of my social media interactions are pleasant. I give it it’s due credit, but only it’s due credit. I understand that for others, social media presence is incredibly important, especially for those looking to promote businesses and other projects. It’s reach is near limitless, as are the possibilities. However, when you’re dealing with someone with narcissistic personality disorder or someone with high narcissistic tendencies, the world of social media darkens considerably. The first and most important thing that must be understood is that when dealing with narcissists, they are singular in their purpose, and that purpose is narcissistic supply. Supply is sine qua non to a narcissist, and in this day and age, social media provides a most bountiful harvest, and how could it not? It goes without saying that we all tend to try and put our best foot forward when it comes to social media presence, our best face for Facebook. Since social media platforms allow anyone to construct any image they choose, a narcissist, who can only survive by creating a false self, may as well call the platforms “Fakebook,” and “Instasham,” because in essence, that’s what they are; the grandest of the grand facades.

So, with everyone being so selective as to what they show on social media; how do we see bona fide NPD or highly narcissistic tendencies play out? After doing a lot of research and drawing from my own experience, I can site some examples. Keep in mind, I am not a diagnostician, nor do I claim to be. What I offer here is guidance, not gospel. Some situations need to be taken in context. Some people self disclose a great deal on social media, others use the various platforms but tend to remain as private as possible. If a friend, family member or potential lover is for instance starting a business, they will likely employ social media to bolster their product. For example, if you start dating a personal trainer, of course they’re going to have a lot of work out selfies and won’t be covered from neck, to wrist to ankle. These posts will undoubtedly invite thirsty responses; it’s the nature of the beast. If a person primarily uses their social media accounts for business promotion, they may not share the pictures from your hiking trip last weekend. We have to find the balance between our emotional and logical thinking.

What then are some of the things to look for if you think you’re entangled with a narcissist when it comes to social media?

First, they conduct the interactions online very much the same way they would offline and begin the narcissistic cycle of idealization, devaluation, discard and hoover. The added bonus for the narcissist is that social media is a great method of triangulation, and I’ll get more into that later.

Phase 1: Social Media Idealization

If they have added you to their social media platforms, you will be showered with hearts, likes, comments etc. Ne’er a post will be ignored.

Phase 2: Social Media Devaluation

If you are in the devaluing phase or are on bad terms with the narc in question, all of that will dry up. They may even temporarily block your account without explanation. It’s the social media version of a “silent treatment”and they will likely unblock and invite you back once idealization begins again.

Phase 3: Social Media Discard

You are completely blocked from all social media for the foreseeable future, until of course, they want to hoover you.

Phase 4: Social Media Hoovering

Hoovers can be positive or negative. An example positive hoover is employed when the narcissist wants to get back in your good graces and start the idealization phase again. You find you’re unblocked, because they hearted that latest selfie and either commented or privately messaged you that “you look great and I’m glad to see you’re doing so well” or something of the like.

An example of a negative hoover is they’ve unblocked you and plastered pictures of them with their latest entanglement all over their pages just to rub your nose in it.

It is important to note that these things do not only occur in romantic/sexual entanglements. They can happen with a narcissistic friend or family member as well. A narcissistic parent during idealization may post pictures of you in your childhood and gush about what a wonderful child you are. Before long, they’ve forgotten you exist and move on to a sibling or other family member, especially if you’re grey rocking or trying to maintain no contact. 

How can one avoid the cycle? What if you are already entangled (or believe you might be) and are unsure if what you are seeing is plausibly deniable or just part of the normal ups and downs of any relationship?

The answer to this is simple, know what the red flags are and pay attention. I will try to cluster these red flags as they would apply to different dynamics (romantic, platonic or familial).


1. Access Denied

You have been seeing eachother for a significant amount of time, maybe a few months and they will not let you anywhere near their social media. Now, some people have accounts out there that they hardly use. However, if they’re checking out and commenting on all of yours and other’s public posts, they are clearly using their social media account. Another variation of this would be they request to see more of your social media, maybe make your posts/accounts more public, while they keep everything private.

2. The coterie of “cute”

It is the title of this post because it is one of the most glaring yet overlooked (no judgement, I’m guilty of this myself). They allow you on their social media, and you check out a few posts and notice that out of 100 likes on that last selfie, 85 are tarted up, filtered,  well angled profile pictures of the opposite (or same, depending on preferance) sex. You get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, and for good reason. They want you to be very aware that you are not the only filly/colt in the stable. You will also notice that posts from these profiles get the most attention. If you dare ask who they are or how they know these people, you may be given a dismissive answer such as “oh, just Facebook friends/people I follow etc. They mean nothing” (which is true, since the only person that means anything to a narcissist is themselves). You may also be given the sharp response of “why are you so insecure?” or “what, am I not allowed to have friends?” Granted, they could just be social media friends and followers. However, you can’t help but notice they interact with them as if you don’t exist (they’re flagrantly  flirtatious, doting etc.) and you never receive that same treatment (or you don’t anymore). As I mentioned above, narcissists need supply. Social media is a great way to get a quick hit, it is also a great method of triangulation. Remember what I mentioned above about you not being the only filly/colt in the stable? The goal here is to covertly play on any insecurities you may have. Even if you are normally a pretty secure person, something about these interactions makes you feel uncomfortable. If that is the case, go with your gut.  

3. No Photography Allowed/No Labels

You and your interest are hanging out together and you take a selfie of the two of you. While you’re on your phone opening your Facebook app, their eyes go wide with horror before they spout off with “don’t post that on Facebook!” An inquiry as to why might yield some story about a crazy ex who stalks Facebook posts and they don’t want you involved in “drama.” This could be plausible. However, if you scroll back on their profile and see pictures of them and their exes or other opposite (or same depending on orientation) “friends,” you might be dealing with a narcissist. You may get the “I don’t do the labels/”Facebook official” routine. Again, looking back, they have previously changed relationship status with someone else.

4. Clapping Back:

Just because someone is narcissistic does not mean they are completely devoid of skill or talent. They may exaggerate their achievements, however, I’ve known some very narcissistic people who are very talented. What you will often notice on social media is someone narcissistic doesn’t really want friends, they want fans. They may post about their latest venture and revel in congratulatory messages and well wishes, which is okay. Who wouldn’t? The problem seems to arise when it comes time for others to shine.


Your friend is boosting their business/project on social media. As anyone who wants to show love and support would do; you like, comment, subscribe, and share to show your support. Congratulations, you’re a supportive partner. Now, say you have a YouTube channel, a business page or a blog, you have followers and feedback from people, but your significant other is conspicuously absent and silent. Is it really that big of a deal? Sometimes, yes and sometimes no.

I once invited a friend to “Like” my blog page on Facebook and they told me that they don’t follow people’s business or side gig pages. It may sound harsh, be they really don’t follow people’s business pages. They have friends since childhood whose pages they don’t follow and could care less if anyone follows theirs, so it’s not really a big deal. Now, if my friend expected or demanded that their friends support their projects on social media meanwhile showing no support for anyone, that would be a problem. As I said; some people want friends, others want fans.

It is a big deal when you notice that your significant other publicly supports many other people and won’t show any outward support for you (be aware, platonic friends and family members will do this as well). They want you to support their venture as much as possible and help their project get exposure, yet they barely make an effort to do the same in return.

This is a hallmark of trauma bonding. They want you to feel self-conscious and/or inferior. They could also be attempting to triangulate you with other people so you’ll both be vying for their attention. Another possibility to consider is they’re threatened. They feel the success of another person in their circle might diminish theirs. Narcissistic and extremely self-centered people do not enjoy sharing limelight (unless it benefits them). Remember those “likes,” “shares,” and “comments” are a form of supply, and they guard supply like Ebenezer Scrooge guards money.

What to do:

If you’re uncomfortable with the online interactions and you get the dismissive or sharp responses such as the ones listed above; you may want to consider not pursuing a romantic relationship with them. If your boundaries cannot be respected nor your feelings taken into consideration, this will likely not be a healthy relationship. If they refuse to allow photographs or will not do anything publicly to show they’re with someone (online or offline), they’re likely either hiding someone from you or you from someone else.


Below I will link to a couple great articles and resources for further reading.

A great article that explains in more detail how narcissistic/disordered persons use social media
A great video from author H.G. Tudor describing in chilling detail, from the first person, how narcissists employ social media for the primary goal of garnering supply

I will be back with Part 2 – Narcissistic Friends on Social Media

An Uncomfortable Truth (Women and Predation)

There’s a dangerous misconception in our society that women cannot be predatory and that men cannot be victims.

This is something that absolutely needs to change.

I recently read a post from the Huffington Post UK that happened to come across my Facebook news feed:

As I read the stories of these male survivors, I was not only saddened by their experiences and the aftermath thereafter, I was infuriated by the lack of action on the part of law enforcement, lawmakers and society at large for their flagrant disregard of the these men.

So, with that in mind, there are some uncomfortable things that we need to discuss.

Women CAN be predatory and abusive, and they can be predatory and abusive towards men.

Just as an experiment, I did a Google search for “abusive women.” The first page of the search yielded 10 results, 7 of which were directed toward abused women, three were directed toward abused men. On the second page, 8 links were directed toward women, two toward men. So, of the first 20 hits of a Google search for “abusive women,” only 25% of those search results were links to information about abusive women. The remaining 75% of the results were links to information for women involved in abusive situations.

page one of my Google search results for “abusive women”

This is a problem.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1  in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner,  1 in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner, 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime, and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed. Those are some pretty staggering numbers. Here’s where things get interesting, though:

According to the NCADV, 1 in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner. Data is unavailable on male victims.

Oh, and why is that?

Well, FBI defined rape as:

“the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will”.

FBI Unified Crime Report, 2010

The FBI in 2012 redefined rape as:  “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

In short, until 2012, we lived in a country where a man was relegated to implied consent simply because of his anatomy. In other words; according to the law, a man could not be raped.

What’s worse is the statistics I gave above are inaccurate. The NCADV cites the statistics from the 2010 CDC Report, specifically the National Intimate Partner Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS).

I’d say that’s pretty shoddy work on the part of a national coalition.

Now, after 2012, we now acknowledge that men can be raped, and according to the NISVS 2015 report, the numbers are as follows:

  • Nearly a quarter of men (24.8% or 27.6million) in the U.S. experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime with 3.5% of men experiencing contact sexual violence in the 12 months preceding the survey.
  • About 1 in 14 men (7.1% or nearly 7.9 million) in the U.S. was made to penetrate someone else (attempted or completed) at some point in their lifetime.
  • Approximately 1.6% of men were made to penetrate through completed forced penetration, 1.4% experienced situations where attempts were made to make them penetrate someone else through use of force, and 5.5% were made to penetrate someone else through completed alcohol/drug facilitation at some point in their lifetime.
  • In the U.S., 0.7% of men (an estimated 827,000 men) reported being made to penetrate (attempted or completed) in the 12 months preceding the survey.
  • About 2.6% of U.S. men (an estimated 2.8 million) experienced completed or attempted rape victimization in their lifetime.
  • Approximately 1 in 10 men (9.6% or an estimated 10.6 million men) experienced sexual coercion (e.g., being worn down by someone who repeatedly asked for sex, sexual pressure due to someone using their influence or authority) in their lifetime.
  • Almost one fifth of men (17.9% or approximately 19.9 million men) reported unwanted sexual contact (e.g., groping) at some point in their lifetime.

Look carefully at those last two bullet points. 1 in 10 men experienced sexual coercion and almost one fifth of men reported unwanted sexual contact. You’re not going to tell me that all of their perpetrators were men. What’s more is that these surveys only cover sexual violence, they don’t even mention other issues such as emotional or financial abuse and the disparities in the family court system when it comes to alimony, child support and child custody/visitation.

As a woman, I am going to speak to the women, because this needs to be addressed.

Calling Out Bad Behavior

There are things that women really need to stop doing.

  1. Women need to stop assuming that guys “want it” all the time from every woman he is with or sees. Newsflash, ladies. Sometimes, he’s too tired, too stressed, in a bad place emotionally, or is just “not in the mood,” just like us. If your guy is in the mood and you aren’t, he’s supposed to respect that and leave you alone. It works the other way as well. This also applies when dealing with guys you’re not in a relationship with. You having a vagina does not make him interested by default. There’s nothing cute or funny about taking advantage of a man who is intoxicated, whether it’s your husband or a guy you met at a party. If a man were to do that, it would be considered rape. If a woman takes advantage of an underaged boy, that’s sexual abuse. If you touch a man’s genitals without consent, that’s sexual assault. You have no right to coerce or manipulate a man into engaging in sexual activities with you. You cannot justify your behavior by saying “well, he had an erection.” If a woman is raped and has an orgasm, her lack of consent to the act isn’t negated by her body’s response. The same concept applies to men. We also have to acknowledge that men have a greater disadvantage when it comes to dealing with sexual assault, because while it’s okay for a woman to pulverize a man that is trying to assault her (and I’m not saying they shouldn’t, we all have a right to defend ourselves), men are not in the same position. If a man were to physically fend off a woman in order to thwart unwanted sexual advances, he could be charged with assault. We also have to change the way men are responded to when they talk about rape and sexual assault. When a woman talks about being raped or assaulted, she is a victim and requires compassion and justice; when a man talks about being raped or sexually assaulted, he is a punchline. Ladies, we can do better than this. We have to.
  2. Women need to stop weaponizing their vaginas. If you’re genuinely not in the mood, that’s fine. However, when withholding sex is used as a punishment or a bargaining chip, it’s not just manipulative and wrong, it’s actually abusive. Imagine for a moment how you would feel if HE refused you affection because you decided to have a spa day with your friends instead of hanging out with him and watching football. There’s a difference between not being intimate because there is an unresolved issue in the relationship and withholding intimacy because you’re not getting your way, and likewise using sex TO get your way. If there is a problem in the relationship and you want to deal with that before physical intimacy, that’s fine. Just make sure you communicate that. Furthermore, if you can’t resume intimacy because of the issue, end the relationship. To sum it up, if you tell your guy that if he chooses to go fishing with his friends instead of walking around the mall with you holding your purse, he won’t be getting sex; that’s wrong. If the only reason you’ll engage in sexual activities or intimacy with him is to get something out of him, that’s wrong. Look at it in the converse; would it be okay for someone’s husband to “make” his wife have sex with him in order for her to get money to spend time with her friends, new clothes or a vehicle? Of course not. It’s not okay to use sex to get those things either. Whether it’s a dating couple, a married couple, two people who met and happened to hook up; sex is something that is supposed to be mutually beneficial, mutually consented to, done because the people involved desire to be intimate with each other and the people involved are equally respected.
  3. We need to allow men autonomy in relationships. Ladies, when you get into a relationship, people would tell you to be suspect if he wasn’t allowing you to spend time with friends and family or made you give up hobbies or engaging in self care. It’s just as much of a red flag if a woman does it to a man. Jealousy and possessiveness is part of the human condition, and in small and manageable quantities can make us feel wanted. However, a man that’s insanely jealous or possessive is considered abusive and toxic. The same standard applies to a woman. Relationships are meant to be balanced; Yours, Mine & Ours, not “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine” and that applies to time, money and body parts.
  4. We need to learn to keep our hands to ourselves. Men are raised with “a man never hits a woman” drilled into their brains. Woman are seldom if ever told not to put their hands on boys. Even in my own childhood (and I’m not proud of this) myself and other young girls would pinch, slap, hit and kick boys. Sometimes pull their hair, drag them around by their clothes; things that if a boy had done to a girl would get him in a lot of trouble. We weren’t defending ourselves, they didn’t do anything to provoke or deserve it, we just did it because we could. Society is ENTIRELY too permissive when it comes to a woman getting physical with a guy. So, I’m going to say this as loudly as I can: WOMEN, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO PUT YOUR HANDS ON A MAN JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE ANGRY AT HIM OR YOU THINK IT’S FUNNY. PERIOD.
  5. We need to stop ending relationships with “don’t get mad, get even.” I know, we’ve all heard the adage a thousand times “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” (which is actually part of a quote from a play, but I digress). Again, we need to do better here. Be aware that I am not talking about situations where there are issues of abuse or criminal behavior. I’m referring to situations where those issues don’t exist and things don’t work out. I understand that rejection is difficult, whether it’s the ending of a relationship or someone just not being interested. There could be other issues that make it more difficult. I’m not saying it’s not okay to be hurt, I’m not saying it’s not okay to get angry, what I am saying is we have to recognize that there is a difference between justice and revenge. Justice is leaving the relationship, justice is (where divorce/cohabitation is involved) a fair and equitable division of assets and responsibilities (that includes the children). Justice is not leaving him penniless because it didn’t work out. Justice isn’t holding the kids hostage or using them as a weapon. Whether it’s a husband or not, justice isn’t slashing his tires and destroying his property. Justice isn’t ruining his reputation where it isn’t warranted. None of those things benefit you in the long term. If he wasn’t faithful, leave, work on your trust issues and find someone else. If things didn’t work out between the two of you, irreconcilable differences, as it were; leave peacefully and don’t make your children pay for the breakdown in the relationship. They didn’t ask to be brought into the situation, and if the father of your children is willing and able to be present in the children’s lives, allow him to do that. If it was a guy you were dating and he broke up with you, get on with your life. We have to admit that a double standard exists. If a girl broke up with a guy and he slashed her tires, followed her around to see if she was talking to other men, made fake social media accounts to spy on her, tried to sue her for exorbitant amounts of money and kept their children from her; he’d be labeled a monster. Why is it okay when a woman does this? In fact, it’s not only regarded as okay, we make jokes of it. This behavior has to stop.
  6. We need to stop making men the butt of the joke. I remember some years ago being out by myself one day and seeing a group of friends, mostly couples. One woman asked her significant other an honest question, and he made a cruel joke at her expense, and it made her feel awful. The women immediately comforted her, and the other men told their friend that he was a complete asshole for what he did. On another occasion, I was out and saw another group of maybe three or four couples, and one of the women spent the majority of the night berating her significant other, and everyone in the group laughed. At first, he tried to laugh along, but eventually it was pretty easy to see that he was humiliated. No one went to comfort him, no one told his girl that she was being a real bitch. It was just sort of okay for her to act cruelly and make fun of him for almost an hour. If you are with someone that you feel the overwhelming need to make fun of all of the time, especially publicly, maybe you need to be with someone else. If you do nothing but incessantly complain about or criticize your boyfriend/significant other, then why are you with that person? I understand, we all need to vent, however, that venting needs to be confined to maybe one or two confidants, and it’s never okay to embarrass or put your boyfriend/husband down in public.

Going Foreward

I am all about gender equality. Women want fairness and equity in the work place, at home, among society, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, we cannot demand equality in all things and then duck and cover or finger point when it comes to being equally accountable.

Evaporation (Dissociation as it relates to C-PTSD)

Some call it detachment, dissociation or disconnection; I call it evaporating.

It wasn’t until I started researching C-PTSD that I understood the phenomenon of dissociation. Having been physically abused in childhood, I don’t remember dissociating when the abuse was happening. In fact, I remember many of the beatings rather vividly. As I got older, I confronted aggression with aggression instead of passively enduring it, which I suppose is it’s own form of dissociation. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that a form of dissociation was occurring under very different circumstances. However, before I describe it, please indulge me for a moment while I provide some context:

I discovered my enjoyment of writing as an adolescent. I had to make up a short story in the sixth grade, and my teacher was very impressed with it. Once in high school, I had several composition books full of angsty teenage poetry. As I matured, so did my writing. I brought some of my poetry to open mic venues in my early twenties and was a contributing member of a poetry and erotic fiction website where much of my work was well received. Writing gave a voice to a part of me that didn’t have one. I found that when I wrote, I had the time to organize my often cyclonic thoughts and present them in a linear and authentic fashion. What’s more is that when people are truly interested in something, they will read about it, and they will pay attention. That’s not always the case when one speaks.

I had abandoned my writing for more than a decade. I would jot down a quick poem here and there, but most of my writing was dedicated to either my college course work or my early recovery work. I had vacillated from the prose and poems that gave life to a very real and very vulnerable aspect of myself. After my divorce and a few nightmarish years that followed, a dear friend told me about a very small and very gentle room where he played guitar and I could most definitely read poetry or short stories. That room saved my life.

Now, with that in mind, imagine this scenario:

Two women, mother and daughter, are sitting in a bedroom and they’re having a conversation. The mother observes that the daughter doesn’t seem quite herself and asks if everything is alright. The daughter takes a breath, tries to gather her thoughts and begins talking about her feelings of isolation and loneliness. She utters maybe a sentence or two, and the mother proceeds to hijack the conversation, talking about how lonely and isolated she is and goes on for over an hour. Imagine that this happens every single time the daughter tries to open up about her feelings.

That very situation (and several others like it with different people) have happened to me many times. Speaking about my deepest and most difficult feelings is a very vulnerable spot for me, and I’m still navigating vulnerability. So, when I’m about to open up, or just begin to and someone derails me, something very strange happens.

Have you ever wiped a surface with a damp cloth and saw how the moisture left behind in short time just vanishes? That is exactly what happens and what it feels like during that period of dissociation. I can feel a part of myself literally wiped over and that authentic, vulnerable self evaporates into thin air. I am alert during the conversation; I am responsive, engaged, my feedback is meaningful and pertinent, however, I’m not completely “there.” Part of me has evaporated. I feel as insubstantial as a veil of mist or a wisp of smoke.

In those vulnerable moments, my truest self, my most vulnerable self was negated, and I can actually remember at times thinking to myself “I may as well be invisible” and in a sense that is exactly what I did. I learned to become invisible.

In some ways, it’s not a bad trait to have, I had even learned to do it at will even when not “triggered,” so to speak. I could at one point be an active participant in a conversation and in a second slip away undetected. I could be among a group of chattering people and fade into the background and quietly observe. In those instances I came to enjoy the ability.

The problem is that, like most trauma responses, it becomes maladaptive. There are times when I do need to be heard, especially when trying to express difficult, painful emotions or experiences. C-PTSD gave me hypervigilance and a heightened sense of awareness, so I know when someone really isn’t paying attention. There’s an almost tangible connection I can feel when someone is truly engaged, and once that connection is broken, the evaporation happens. When it does, whatever it was that I was trying to express evaporates with it, and I have yet to master the ability of bringing myself back to that place where I can again be vulnerable.

Understand, this is not a common response to a normal and unintended interruption or distraction such as a waitress coming to the table asking if we need anything or an urgent message/phone call where I know irrefutably that the other person truly is engaged, it’s just that this temporary circumstance necessitates distraction.

No, what I’m talking about is when someone engages and then later intentionally cuts the connection, as would be the case with someone extremely self – centered or narcissistic. It’s probably one of the reasons that stronger empaths in due time will out a narcissist. We don’t just identify behaviors, we can actually “feel” the effect of their covert behavior at a visceral level.

This handy yet horrid trait has also given me the ability to separate the terminally narcissistic from the often times self – unaware, maybe just a little selfish human who just doesn’t realize what they’re doing. The litmus test comes when I mention to them how that experience felt for me. Someone high on the narcissistic spectrum will likely not respond well, and someone with an all out personality disorder will usually display the tell tale signs of narcissistic injury.

The other benefit of this ability is that it has made me an exceptional listener; an empathetic listener. I know what it’s like to try to express the deepest, darkest, most vulnerable parts of myself and be shut down or negated. Therefore, I wouldn’t intentionally do it to another person, much less someone I love. I know too well why a molting animal hides while it sheds its skin. Human vulnerability is the most unique and most fragile. We are the only species on this planet that walks with it’s most ill protected parts forward; and whoever’s design we are, I believe they knew exactly what they were doing when they created us this way.

Until next time……….

The Infinity Mirror

The term “infinity mirror” refers to an optical illusion where two parallel or nearly parallel mirrors repeatedly create smaller and smaller reflections that seem to recede into infinity. I use this term for something altogether different.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. Psychology refers to this as “repetition compulsion;” a phenomenon where people tend to recreate events or circumstances over and over again, especially those that may have been distressing. Interestingly, the word “compulsion” is defined as:

“an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one’s conscious wishes.”

So, what happens when this is not merely a maladaptive coping behavior?

It has been theorized that people do this because there is comfort in the familiar. Perhaps it is done to somehow change the outcome of the original circumstance we try to repeat. Perhaps we didn’t have a good relationship with a parent, so we seek out significant others who remind us of our parents and try to settle the score that way.

For those who have endured years of trauma and abuse, this propensity to in essence retraumatize is not easy to arrest and reverse. For those who have spent their formative years in a constant (or near constant) state of hyperarousal and hypervigilance, this compulsion is not just about coping (for example compulsively using alcohol or gambling, although that can be part of equation), but rather it rewires the functioning of the brain. This repetition is not born of maladaptiveness, it’s the baseline and normal level at which the person functions.

To put it another way, you may recall the quote made by Bane in the film The Dark Knight Rises:

Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, moulded by it.

The Dark Knight Rises

The same is true for those who began developing Cptsd early in childhood. The chain of events for me was not normalcy then trauma then maladaptivity. There was only ever trauma. Survival mode was the only mode, and it is not some psychological theory. It creates a measurable, tangible effect on the development of the mind. In my experience, repetition compulsion pervaded every aspect of my life; be it friendships, intimate relationships, employers, the list goes on. I recently had a conversation with a friend where we spoke about a propensity to “step in bear traps.” When dealing with repetition compulsion, I not only stepped in the traps, I couldn’t function in a world where there wasn’t a 95% chance that I would step in one. A world without bear traps was beyond conception, and in some ways still is.

In my previous post “Beating Retreat” I had mentioned that abandonment is a key factor in Cptsd. I had (or so I thought) confronted my abandonment issues when I began my recovery from alcoholism nearly twelve years ago, not to mention the work I had done in therapy in my late teens – early twenties. As it turns out, I hadn’t addressed it, I had only transmuted it. As a child/adolescent, I dealt with fear of abandonment through isolation and intimacy avoidance. I spent much of my childhood alone in my room, and when in the company of my peers, I would assimilate as to avoid anyone ever really getting to know me. If I didn’t get close to anyone, I wouldn’t be abandoned. Simple, right? It would appear so, if it weren’t for the fact that preparing for impending abandonment is literally written into the coding of my brain. Instead my pendulum swung in the complete opposite direction. When the inevitability of abandonment arrives, I roll out the red carpet, give it the presidential suite, leave a little mint on the pillow after turning down the bed and make it a full breakfast in the morning. All of this to challenge it to a boxing match the following night. Why? Because if I can’t control it by avoiding it, I could try to battle it; and I do it like a gamer running back into the same boss fight in the hopes that the rare item drops (that rare item being acceptance in any of its forms).

Of course, it never does.

And fueled by nerd rage, I’d replay the battle over and over and over again, and though I never truly win, at least it proves that I can take the beating.

It didn’t matter how many tutorials told me it was futile. I could have a chorus of voices screaming at me that the item I was looking for would not be dropped by this boss, hell it wasn’t even an item in the game I was playing. Somehow, my faulty wired brain couldn’t conceive of that notion; and how many hours did I invest trying? Well, to date I have racked up 350,400 played hours. You do the math.

Yes, sometimes we have to be warriors, but even the bravest of warriors enjoy peace time. The battle is the exception, not the norm. My challenge is that while all around me there may be peace, my brain doesn’t allow me to experience that as “normalcy.” The absence of it is foreign and uncomfortable. I have to retrain myself on a biochemical level to understand and accept that a relative calm is the real baseline.

The silver lining here;

the infinity mirror shows that while the image repeats, it also becomes smaller. The goal is not to see myself at the first image, but much further inward, to notice that over the years that repeating image in many ways has shrunken and give myself some credit for that. All the work I have done until now has not been in vain.

Until next time……..

Beating Retreat

“Battle Weary” Gary Ferguson – TK Productions 2015

As the days of COVID spring come to a close, amidst civil unrest and great uncertainty, the time has come for beating retreat.

Battles of late have re aggravated old injuries, and a time of recovery and reflection are at hand.

As I had gone deeper into shadow work, I had come across a name for my pain; the poison in Chiron’s wound:

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

While shedding a great deal of light on what I have been dealing with of late, the recovery process feels about as comfortable as unanesthetically removing a grapefruit sized tumor from the core of my being with a spork. Fortunately, I have a great deal of support.

Many have asked if they can be helpful and how, which I also appreciate. The difficulty here will be telling some of those who are well meaning to stay away.

If you’re unfamiliar with Cptsd, feel free to do your own research. For the purpose of this post I will tell you that trauma and abandonment are at its core. While I appreciate the well wishers and the offers for assistance, the criteria has become much more narrow in scope. Anything that draws me back into situations that remind me of that which I am trying to recover from are anathema to my needs presently. Not everyone can offer me the stability, consistency, and/or reasonable level of certainty I currently require. I don’t blame them, nor do I feel they have wronged me or let me down. Sometimes, things are as they are. Nonetheless, I need what I need and I have very little room to negotiate at this time.

The process will no doubt be a long one, not to mention daunting. I am, however, optimistic. I have a sneaking suspicion that as I progress on this path there will be a great deal of revelation and healing. What’s more is that as I go through these processes, I intend to write a great deal more. Authoring is not a panacea, however, it has always been a great means of catharsis. I plan on sharing more of my creative work as well as chronicling my journey. Part of my recovery entails opening up more, as I tend to withdrawal as a way to cope. Part of quieting my often boisterous inner critic is to affirm that my thoughts, feelings and experiences are not only valid, but may also be of some value to others who are in the same boat.

So, with this, dear readers, I ask for your well wishes, and your eyes;

as often as you can spare them.

In the meantime, it’s back to headquarters.

Coming Home


My dearest readers, let me first offer an apology for the length of silence and my neglect of my page.

I last published in January of 2018, and so very much has occurred since then.

As you might (or might not) expect, I have delved into more Jungian psychology, done a great deal more self exploration and confronted some stark truths, all for the greater good (I hope).

I have listened to hours of recorded talks and lectures by a clinical psychologist I highly respect and greatly admire, read more, and spent a good deal of time on my creative writing, poetry mostly. I’ve also toyed with the idea of creating an offshoot of this blog and sharing some of it there.

In the time I’ve been away, I felt a bit defeated in some respects, as far as this project is concerned. I’ve pulled this sight up countless times and I still have six drafts unpublished in the queue. My struggle of late has been questioning what it is that I really have to say and who gives a damn about it, frankly.

What do these articles accomplish? What value do they bring to those who may happen upon them? Is it vanity or arrogance that drives my desire to publish my thoughts and opinions? This warring dichotomy in my brain, one part saying “it’s okay to not know what you don’t know until you know it” the other “it’s okay to know what you know, even if people don’t want to hear it.”  I’m not being totalitarian here, please don’t misunderstand me. It has been my experience that the further I delve into myself, the more I confront, the more I see others fighting the same battles.

Then, the other voices of the committee in my brain chime in:

“You’ve been told you’re a talented writer, so why aren’t you writing?”

“If anything you have to contribute can be of use to another person you have an obligation to do so, otherwise you’re wasting your talent”

“At the end of the day, this makes you happy, and that’s okay.”


It’s a constant tightrope walk; feeling the desire to be useful and to contribute in whatever way I can yet not allowing that desire for usefulness become vainglory and false humility, to not be arrogant or dogmatic, to be steadfast yet not tyrannical. The lines between these concepts can get blurry, to say the least.

At the end of the raucous discussion in my head, the president of the committee uses its veto power, becomes rather authoritarian, bellows from the chair at the head of the table while pounding a fist and says “dammit, you love to write, so you’ll write!”

Meeting adjourned, and alas here we are.


As expected after a long trip, I have brought souvenirs, one of which I’ll be posting later today.

My deepest and most sincere gratitude for all of you who have read, followed, commented and will continue to do so.


Exit Eden


Having always vacillated between light and shadow, I would be lying if I told you that there weren’t times in my life where I lingered too long in both places.  Balance was a struggle for me, especially during the times in my life where I felt that I was not in a place where certain parts would be accepted. Even now, especially being an Empath, there are very few places where the shadows are free to roam.

The confines of my own thoughts, numerous hand written pages (now a blog) and a select few confidants gave those shadows safe haven. However, there was a place where the shadows were completely free;

Free of judgement,

Free of shame,

Free of being misunderstood.

It was my Dark Eden.

It was a sacred place to me, because within it I had vested aspects of myself that I never truly felt safe enough to express anywhere else. It had been quite some time since I was able to go back. As fate would have it, I was given the opportunity and was only too happy to return. When I arrived, it felt like I had never left. I was welcomed warmly, and though some things had changed over time, the most important things were exactly as I remembered them.  I felt like I had come home.

As anyone would be when revisiting a place that is special to them, I was excited to spend time in each of the places that I enjoyed the most, especially the heart of the garden, which was the most exquisite part. To most others, it would not look very appealing. Emily Bronte said it best:

“A source of little visible delight, but necessary.”

When I got there at long last, something new had appeared amid the darkness. A great tree, much like one in the Biblical Eden, and this too was a tree of knowledge. However, there was no warning not to eat it, nothing was “forbidden” here, so I picked the fruit and ate of it.

It was bitter, almost rancid tasting, and after I begrudgingly swallowed, something happened…

The most terrible feeling washed over me. I felt as if I were caught giggling at a funeral, and every onlooking pair of eyes glared at me as if I were the widow who wore red. I was confounded, and yes, angry. I had done nothing wrong, in fact, there was no “wrong” that could be done here. Then it occurred to me;

My shadows were no longer welcomed there.

The Empath (as well as the highly empathetic) sometimes endures a variation of what they call white room torture. It is a form of psychological torture where the prisoner is placed in a room where virtually everything is white. There is no sound, no color. Everything the prisoner touches, eats or interacts with is stark white. The lack of contrast and sensory deprivation causes the prisoner to feel isolated and lose all sense of themselves. This is how truly vital darkness is, and living in a world that would prefer we stay in the white room, where to be an Empath means love and light “or else,” our dark Edens become just as vital; and here I was being expulsed from this my most sacred and treasured place.

As the gates closed and locked behind me, I felt the most horrible rejection I had ever felt in my life. My blue-violet paradise was now a cold, grey tomb. It is a loss from which I’m not sure I will ever completely recover.

Solitude of the Mind and Conversations I’ll Never Have

“Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.” – Carl Jung


I adore Carl Jung’s work, not only as a renowned psychoanalyst, but as a pioneer of the exploration of the shadowed self. (And, of course, he’s an INFJ as well)

I have read this quote numerous times and always appreciated its meaning, however that meaning deepened and became far more personal to me in the recent past. When I came across this quote again recently, I recalled a discussion I had with a friend not long ago:

At one point he’d become frustrated because as he was talking, he would pause for a moment to allow me to interject, and I could only offer silence or a few awkward, fragmented words. People often get frustrated with me because of this. They think I’m holding out, holding back, afraid to speak my mind, afraid to tell the truth (and que es veritas, anyhow?).

What people cannot understand is in the midst of an intense conversation, I’m asked a question or expected to respond and a multitude of thoughts rise in my mind like the bubbles in a boiling pot of water. Add to this being an Empath; the onslaught of all of my feelings, all of their feelings, the rolling avalanche of all things past and the run away train of what is to come….

It’s a wonder I can speak at all.

And yes, in true INFJ fashion, I have mulled over the countless things I wish I could have said at the time, all the reasons I could not, and knowing that even if I had, the chances they would have been received the way I intended  are slim. It is truly a double edged sword; An INFJ that cannot quickly organize their thoughts coupled with the Empath’s cautiousness lest they say too much.  As I mulled this over, it was difficult to identify exactly how I felt, which sort of struck me. Empaths are experts when it comes to feelings, right? It wasn’t quite sadness or regret, it wasn’t anger or resentment, and then I came across this quote again, and it felt like a boulder landed on my chest.

It was loneliness, and not just loneliness, but several interpretations of it.

It was the loneliness you imagine someone felt watching a lover waving good-bye as a train left the station in one of those old movies. It was the loneliness a child feels watching all the other children play and not being invited to join in because they’re not very good at the game. It was the loneliness you feel when a group of people laughs at an inside joke that you’re not privy too and end up sort of feeling like the punchline.

It is a crippling and sometimes maddening loneliness, because yes, I want to be able to express exactly what’s happening in my mind at the time, but it could take weeks, maybe months to completely understand it myself. By then, the moment has long since passed, and it’s too late to turn to it again. This is why in a room full of people, even if it seems like I am having the time of my life, this feeling of perpetual solitude is draped over my shoulders and wrapped around me like an old shawl. Sure, I wear it well, but to most others it looks more like Linus’ blue blanket than anything else. I must admit, it does offer me a sense of security. It’s often easier to let others assume what they like rather than add to the confusion by trying to explain, especially when I haven’t fully grasped the concept yet myself.

And then what of this innate gift of mine? What am I supposed to do when I know that even the most accurate, concise phrasing of my thoughts are going to destroy the person? After some thought, or at some point in the future, I could have said to this person “look, I wasn’t lying or trying to flatter you when I said you’re a good person, because in many ways you are; but don’t think I don’t know, that I haven’t always known that you’re also a monster.”

(At this point, the dejection and cold rage would set in, and if it were possible for me to continue, it would go as such)

“If that bothered me, I wouldn’t be standing here having this conversation.”

(Now, you have to try and understand the context here, because while some people would possibly find some solace in those words, the person in question is not just some person. This would ultimately be my undoing, because in their mind,  a truly good person would NEVER accept a monster. It is the great “fuck you” of the ages. People always say they want to be loved and accepted for exactly what they are, but when that happens the one who does typically ends up being resented for it. Please note too that “monster” is subjective; it has more to do with the way this person sees themselves. Not that there isn’t a modicum of truth to it, but guess what, it’s true for pretty much everyone, some are just better at hiding it than others)

I could go on, but even now, I find it difficult to continue. There’s a sense of futility that I cannot for the life of me seem to shake. Plus, this is only one example. This has happened at least once with every single person I have been close to. There have been times when I was gifted the chance to revisit these thoughts and convey them. I am immensely grateful for those times. However, that is the exception, not the norm.

And so it goes. Maybe one day I will have the opportunity to finish this, maybe not. However, should the chance arise, I promise you, dear readers, I will try to see it through.