Family Problems and Solutions

Clinical experience and research show that adult children of narcissists have a difficult time putting their finger on what is wrong, because denial is rampant in the narcissistic family system:

“The typical adult from a narcissistic family is filled with unacknowledged anger feels like a hollow person, feels inadequate and defective, suffers from periodic anxiety and depression and has no clue about how he or she got that way.”—Pressman and Pressman, The Narcissistic Family

It is common for adult children of narcissists to enter treatment with emotional symptoms or relationship issues, but simultaneously display a lack of awareness of the deeper etiology or cause.

The narcissistic family hides profound pain.

Such families tend to operate according to an unspoken set of rules. Children learn to live with those rules, but never stop being confused and pained by them, for these rules block their emotional access to their parents. They basically become invisible—neither heard, seen, or nurtured. Conversely, and tragically, this set of rules allows the parents to have no boundaries with the children and to use (or abuse) them as they see fit.

The following are some common dynamics of this profoundly dysfunctional intergenerational system. (Keep in mind there are always degrees of dysfunction on a spectrum depending on the level of narcissism in the parents.)

SecretsThe family secret is that the parents are not meeting the children’s emotional needs, or that they are abusive in some way. This is the norm in the narcissistic family. The message to the children: “Don’t tell the outside world—pretend everything is fine.”

ImageThe narcissistic family is all about image. The message is: “We are bigger, better, have no problems, and must put on the face of perfection.”

Children get the messages: “What would the neighbors think?” “What would the relatives think?” What would our friends think?”These are common fears in the family: “Always put a smile on that pretty little face.”

Negative MessagesChildren are given spoken and unspoken messages that get internalized, typically: “You’re not good enough”; “You don’t measure up”; “You are valued for what you do rather than for who you are.”

Lack of Emotional Tune-InNarcissistic parents lack the ability to emotionally tune in to their kids. They cannot feel and show empathy or unconditional love. They are typically critical and judgmental.

Lack of Effective Communication. 

The most common means of communication in narcissistic families is triangulation. Information is not direct. It is told through one party about another in hopes it will get back to the other party. Family members talk about each other to other members of the family, but don’t confront each other directly. This creates passive aggressive behavior, tension, and mistrust. When communication is direct, it is often in the form of anger or rage.

Unclear Boundaries. 

There are few boundaries in the narcissistic family. Children’s feelings are not considered important. Private diaries are read, physical boundaries are not kept, and emotional boundaries are not respected. The right to privacy is not typically a part of the family history.

One Parent Narcissistic, the Other Orbiting. 

If one parent is narcissistic, it is common for the other parent to have to revolve around the narcissist to keep the marriage intact. Often, this other parent has redeeming qualities to offer the children, but is tied up meeting the needs of the narcissistic spouse, leaving the children’s needs unmet. Who is there for them?

Siblings Not Encouraged to Be Close.

 In healthy families, we encourage our children to be loving and close to each other. In narcissistic families, children are pitted against each other and taught competition. There is a constant comparison of who is doing better and who is not. Some are favored or seen as “the golden child,” and others become the scapegoat for a parent’s projected negative feelings. Siblings in narcissistic families rarely grow up feeling emotionally connected to each other.

Feelings. 

Feelings are denied and not discussed. Children are not taught to embrace their emotions and process them in realistic ways. They are taught to stuff and repress them, and are told their feelings don’t matter. Narcissistic parents are typically not in touch with their own feelings and therefore project them onto others. This causes a lack of accountability and honesty, not to mention other psychological disorders. If we don’t process feelings, they do leak out in other unhealthy ways.

Not Good Enough” Messages. 

These messages come across loud and clear in the narcissistic family. Some parents actually speak this message in various ways; others just model it to the children. Even if they display arrogant and boastful behavior, under the veneer of a narcissist is a self-loathing psyche—that gets passed to the child.

Dysfunction—Obvious or Covert. 

In narcissist families, the dynamics can be seen or disguised. The dysfunction displayed in violent and abusive homes is usually obvious, but emotional and psychological abuse, as well as neglectful parents, are often hidden. While the drama is not displayed as openly to the outside world, it is just as, if not, more damaging to the children.

Reviewing these dynamics, one can see how this kind of family can look pretty but be decaying at the same time. If you recognize your family in this description, know that there is hope and recovery. We can’t change the past, but we can take control of the now. We do not have to be defined by the wounds in our family systems. As Mark Twain defines the optimist, I see the recovering adult child: “A person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness.”

We can create new life that will flow through us to the future and stop the legacy of distorted love learned in the narcissistic family. If we choose recovery, we can defy intergenerational statistics.

We Can!

Psychology Today

People with narcissistic qualities tend to view life in black-and-white: a world of only losers and winners, victims and victimizers. They loathe feeling like losers or victims. In the case of parents with narcissism they often shunt those roles onto their children.

Why? Because people with narcissism need to be fed. A person with extreme narcissistic tendencies is like a balloon with a hole, endlessly leaking esteem, always needing a refill. Such a person’s air supply: attention. And who better to provide attention than the captive audience of one’s children?

If you had a parent with narcissism, you may have been trained to focus not on your own feelings and needs, but rather on those of your parent. Parents with narcissism may wheedle, confuse, or bully you into attending to them, ignoring their lies, and tiptoeing around their vulnerabilities. They generally need your life to be about them. Some people with narcissism, feeling empty at their core and lacking a healthy sense of self may steal from your very relationship with yourself.

But you aren’t a child anymore. You have power and options you never had as a child. Here are six ways you can take back your life after a narcissistic upbringing:

 SEE BEYOND THE NARCISSISTIC FACADE

People with narcissism tend to be pretenders. Dwelling in a cyclone of shame, they live in mortal terror of anybody saying the emperor has no clothes. They fear being seen as flawed or ignorant and hate feeling powerless or embarrassed. These fears tend to drive their behavior. To avoid feeling flawed, they have to be the best and insist on perfection from others. To avoid feeling ignorant, they act like know-it-alls and rarely admit they are wrong. To avoid feeling powerless, they act larger than life. And when they feel embarrassed, their volcanic rage may erupt, burying anyone in their path.

When you know this, you can see what drives their outlandish behaviors. You don’t have to take it personally, wondering what you did wrong.

IDENTIFY DISTORTIONS AND DOUBLE STANDARDS

When people with narcissism make a mistake, they tend to blame others. When you make a mistake, they blame you. When they succeed, they cite their superior character. When you succeed—thus temporarily stealing the spotlight they so crave—they may take credit for your success, call it a fluke, or diminish it by pointing out other times you have failed.

People with narcissism tend to distract and disguise. Like kids caught with their hands in the candy jar, they may try to confuse, belittle, bully, or otherwise avoid responsibility for their actions.

Don’t be taken in. Pay attention to what they do, not what they say. Their words are often attempts to throw you off and make you feel small or doubtful while making themselves feel big. Their arguments are generally not to be taken seriously or even responded to, because if you refute one argument, they may simply come up with another and another.

When they are abusive, manipulative or withholding, see it for what it is. They are using you to avoid their own issues and satisfy their urges. They may feel entitled to do so. This is not healthy. Nobody is entitled to abuse or use another.

IF YOU ARE DRAWN TO PEOPLE WITH NARCISSISTIC QUALITIES, BE CLEAR ABOUT WHY

If you have been drawn to people with narcissism, it may be because it is simply a familiar dynamic. But it can also reflect an unconscious hope that if you can find a person with narcissistic tendencies who happens to treat you well, it will make up for what you didn’t get years ago from a parent with narcissism. It is an understandable wish. Yet relationships with people with narcissism are often disappointing and superficial because people with narcissism generally don’t care about treating others well.

You don’t have to deny your desire for justice, validation, or reparation. But you can never get back lost years, nor are you likely to get an apology.

If you feel unfulfilled in a relationship or wonder if a friend or partner has narcissism, ask yourself why you are with them. Do you hope to change or reform them? Do you hope someday they will see how good you are and mend their ways? Pursuing relationships with people with narcissism may simply postpone facing the painful recognition that your parent couldn’t be there for you. Accepting and mourning that unfortunate truth can allow you to focus on what is best for you and pick healthier relationships.

You don’t have to deny your desire for justice, validation, or reparation. But you can never get back lost years, nor are you likely to get an apology. You will almost certainly never be rescued if you wait for it. The only person who can make it right is you, by your choices and by how you treat and view yourself.

USE YOUR VOICE

Let’s say, for example, you give a person with narcissism a holiday gift, and they give you nothing. The person with narcissism then says something like, “You’re just trying to make me feel guilty because I didn’t get you anything.” This is classic narcissistic behavior, shifting the attention to you and putting you on the defensive. Simply knowing they are doing this may be enough to help you gain perspective, and you might choose to say nothing. But if you feel that you are shrinking in stature, you may feel better about yourself by speaking up. For example, in a situation like this you could:

Confront it by saying, “No, that is not why I gave it to you. But now that you mention it, do you feel guilty for not giving me anything?”

Use humor by taking their accusation about you trying to make them feel guilty and saying something like, “Well, is it working?”

Be honest and direct by saying, “No, I gave you a card because I wanted to. And now that you mention it, I do feel hurt that you didn’t give me anything.”

Remember, hard as they may try, people with narcissism can never take away your truth, experience, or feelings. They can dispute it, threaten you, and deny it, but they cannot make you give it up. They are projecting on you what they can’t feel in themselves. Don’t take it on.

SEEK BALANCE

Being raised by a person with narcissism can throw your life out of balance. One way to regain healthy balance is to do the opposite of what your parents did. For example:

If you received much criticism and scant praise, you may need to sidestep criticism (including self-criticism) and increase self-acknowledgment.

If you have been compulsively driving yourself in reaction to people with narcissism who called you lazy, you may want to slow down and focus on quality of life. Conversely, if you have been under performing in reaction to pressure from people with narcissism, you may want to push yourself beyond your present comfort level.

If you have felt deprived, allow yourself to desire and receive more.

If you were not allowed to say no or point out what was wrong, you may need to spend time saying no and focusing on what should change in your relationship, family, workplace, or society.

If you have been giving people with narcissistic qualities the benefit of the doubt to your own detriment, you may want to start questioning their actions and believe in yourself, perhaps seeking the guidance of a therapist or friend as you do so.

TRUST YOURSELF

Your parents may have shamed you when you experimented, asked questions, or expressed your views. This may have led you as a child to become more dependent on them or alienated from yourself. Even in adulthood, you may second-guess yourself, struggle to make decisions, and shy away from taking risks that could enhance your life.

When you have to make a decision or when a challenge arises, ask yourself, “If I knew I was absolutely trustworthy, what would I do?” Then assess how you can make that happen. By assuming you are trustworthy, that your feelings are valuable, and that your intuition is reliable, you can see that you have within yourself all you need to handle challenges—despite what your parents may have tried to make you believe.

If you were raised by a parent with narcissism, you are not alone. Millions of adults have had a parent with narcissistic tendencies. No matter how you were treated as a child, you deserve to be seen, heard, and do what is healthiest for you.

Good Therapy

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The Roles We Play by the Green Serpent.

A thought provoking article, tells it as it is!

“Some things become apparent when gathered with true elders of the Craft, especially when talking about the community as a whole.

So many of the same questions come up, many of the same complaints, and if you only hover on the surface it sounds like conversations in other aspects of society and culture, what you hear is “What the hell is wrong with kids these days?”

But it goes far deeper, and it isn’t limited to kids, not by a long shot.

I listen and I hear and I am learning to understand the questions and what they truly mean and I think I am coming closer to some startling and devastating answers.

The questions that I hear are the same no matter who I talk to.

Why is everyone always at each other’s throats?

Why doesn’t the public take us seriously?

Why are events just glorified craft shows?

Why don’t people support events that are truly spiritual ones (with no vendors)?

Why are all of the events indoors?

Why don’t the elders police behavior especially during rituals?

Why aren’t we teaching the young in an open way instead of pushing them to books and youtube to gain their knowledge?

Why does every pagan event look like a cross between burning man and a renaissance festival?

Why does so little actual working take place at these gatherings?

The answers to this multitude of questions and even more like them are actually all the same few answers.

The Masquerade

The Pagan community has a contingent of people who are role-playing in religion instead of actually being practitioners.

These are the folks that are all about playing dress up, pulling out their cloaks, their giant pentacles, their glue on puck horns and their Gandalf sticks and parading around pretending to be Queen Ambrosia the Fae and hoping that no one asks them to bless the altar. Typically they are known by a nickname. Not a magical name because those are kept very private and guarded because there is extreme power in names, but a nickname and man, I have heard some doozies over the years. I was once introduced to a guy who called himself Odinstaff… Really.

These folks while mostly nice and generally harmless make us and our faith look like a carnival. To quote Eric Draven from The Crow. “A whole jolly club, with jolly pirate nicknames!”

I think that people into the whole pagan thing as an elaborate live action role-playing adventure should be allowed to do their thing but I think in order to move forward we need to stop catering to them.

Nothing to See Here

A certain percentage of practitioners don’t actually have any practical or useful knowledge and their egos are too big to admit that out loud. They can’t bring themselves to go back and actually learn the basics and so when asked to lead or share, they instantly find a dozen excuses such as the intensity or personal nature of their rites, or that they were sworn to some kind of code that doesn’t allow them to divulge their Way.

These folks because of their secret, feel truly powerless. For the most part I believe that they actually want to be a part of the Path. They want to learn or to know but they got in over their heads when they were young and they can’t bring themselves to admit that they know very little. These people are usually very kind and would do anything for someone else but they are not extending themselves the same courtesy. Especially when there are genuine teachers available if you are willing to actually dig through the chaff to find one.

The saddest part about these folks is that they themselves would make fantastic teachers, healers and possibly leaders but they are frozen by fear that they don’t know what they are doing.

The Great and Terrible

Then there are those who put themselves in a place of power. They were not chosen to lead, they do not have the experience, the personality or the empathy to be a true, healthy leader but they exploited an opportunity or created one and got lucky and suddenly they were at the head of the table and then their egos took over.

All it takes is a rudimentary understanding of psychology and some basic observational skills to see that these folks hold their places by bullying, threats, passive aggression, blaming the other guy and a heaping dose of  “Oh poor me…” martyrdom.

Nothing that they do is for the benefit of the community. They will claim to teach only to bring on students to be used as ego boosters and lackeys who are too innocent and hopeful to realize that the knowledge they stand to inherit is all Hollywood façade and shadow puppetry.

Their way is THE way and all other paths have terrible weaknesses. They are self-taught at best and at worst, making it all up as it goes along and nothing they do religiously is ever done for anything except for effect.

These people are one of the great dangers to our faith because they are dug in, entrenched and can only be uprooted by a community of elders and warriors willing to stop playing patty cake and getting serious.

The Silent Minority

This is the group that breaks my heart.

It took me a while to pin them down because I suspected that they existed for a long time but I really didn’t want to believe it because of what it would mean. But over the last year as I have been talking to more and more people, I have gotten several of them to speak up and what I learned stunned me to my marrow.

Many members of the community don’t believe.

They do not believe in a Goddess, in any permutation, nor a God, Horned or otherwise. They do not see Nature as a matronly spirit, they do not look to the universe, to Hecate, or to Bast or anyone else across the dozens of pantheons represented in the Craft.

They are scared, they want to be a part of a community that accepts them and the way they look or the way that they act. One that will care for them, defend them, hold them when they are hurting and will listen to their woes but they carry no belief in their hearts or souls whatsoever.

They want to. Some of them need it. Some of them are so desperate for it that they are harming themselves hoping to find clarity and they are looking to their elders for guidance and praying that someone will show them a path that makes sense and feels complete.

And what do they see? The folks listed above.

They don’t see the Goddess. They see her followers badmouthing and backstabbing each other.

They see events that could easily be mistaken for flea markets. They see giant pentagrams and guys who have joined the community because “Witch girls are freaky and easy.”

They see out of control egos and manic people screaming “Look how damaged I am! It’s my birth sign’s fault! Feel sorry for me!”

Missing is the pageantry that they imagined. The breathtaking beauty that their imaginings promised them. The powerful experiences that would lead them closer to a Mother and perhaps even give her a name that would resonated in their breasts.

They come hoping for a transformational and uplifting experience and found a poorly scripted reality show that has gone on for about twenty seasons too long.

I think it is time to cancel that show.

I think it is time for the elders to step up, speak out and begin to change things.

Because if we don’t, we will find ourselves in one of the categories above.”

Green Serpent – liftingserpents.wordpress.com 

The Cyberbully within Paganism

I have copied this excellent article from the site of Sorita D’Este as this matter has become a huge problem within the Pagan Community. Cassandra and I have been on the receiving end of this and so have other genuine hearted friends of ours.

A couple of days ago I wrote about Cyberbullying on my Facebook profile as the result of a few friends being targeted by an individual who has developed an obsession after being pulled up for aggressive debating within a particular community some months ago. Cue an article in my news feed from a pop-magazine discussing the hashtag #iwillnotbedeleted campaign starting on November 12th, which is a cyberbullying awareness campaign. Cyberbullying is real. I have experienced it, most of us have at one point or another – some of us are just thicker skinned than others, or able to numb ourselves at such constant attacks.

When I mentioned to a friend that I am writing this article they warned me against doing so, because it might “make you more of a target Sorita”.  Well, if it does, I can only hope that this (which might be the first of many) article on things which bother me, will be here and available to someone who needs it when they need it, and that it will somehow contribute to someone else not having to experience what I have experienced, and what I have witnessed over the last 20 plus years.  So I am going to share this everywhere, and I hope you do to.

I more often choose to write about the history of magic, witchcraft and folklore, and the practices they inspire today – but tonight I have decided to speak out on what I consider the violent, abusive and damaging way in which a tiny minority of people in the Pagan and occult community abuse the internet today.  I have been involved in esoteric and religious communities on the internet since 1996, and have in one way or another been involved in managing or facilitating such communities since 1997.  I have seen a lot of frustrating behaviour, but in recent years the internet has actively and openly become a tool for bullies in the contemporary esoteric movement to disrupt, hurt and discourage others.  I am well aware that one blog like this cannot stop cyberbullying, but it can help towards raising greater awareness of this type of abuse which is often overlooked.  Members of Pagan, Wiccan, Witchcraft, Occult and other esoteric societies are not only targeted by outsiders who have issues with our beliefs or practices, but also by others from our own traditions and communities.

I like to go back to basics a lot with my own magical practice – and the tenet: To Know, To Will, To Dare and To Keep Silent often takes center place.  This blog brings together elements from this approach.  This article does not present binding spells or curses as tools to deal with Cyberbullies as it is my opinion that those reading this who are equipped to use magic to fight Cyberbullies will already have the knowledge and skills to do so without my input.  And those who don’t should focus their attention on the mundane defences first, and restore balance to their lives before resorting to magic.

And before I continue – If you are one of the nincompoop power-tripped cyberbullies out there who are hiding behind a mask of innocence or anonymity, you will probably think this blog is about you. It is not. � This blog is about me, and every other Pagan, Witch, Priest or Priestess, Esoteric and Magical Practitioner who has been on the receiving end of your bad behaviour.  This blog is about taking back power. Raising awareness.

TO KNOW

What Cyberbullies do:
Bullies are, of course, like everyone else, unique.  Cyberbullies use the internet as a tool to get their kicks, and typically engage in:

  • Repetitive behaviour with the intention of harming;

  • Creating cruel rumours and stories with the intent of damaging the reputation and friendships of the individual they are targeting;

  • Impersonation, pretending to be the individual they are targeting or someone else, to get close to the individual and gather information they can use against the individual;

  • Excluding and isolating their victim, in an effort to weaken their self-esteem and cause them hurt.

Cyberbullying is a real problem.  It has led to suicide, self-harm and real emotional distress for victims.  Not everyone has the pleasure of good friends or family to support them, and not everyone is thick-skinned enough to shrug it off.

Why people become (Cyber)Bullies.

These are among the top reasons noted as reasons why people turn towards Bullying behaviour, in spiritual and secular communities:

  • They are processing their own trauma or stress;

  • They feel powerless, and are looking for ways to exert power over others;

  • They are suffering from low self-esteem;

  • They are looking for attention, and don’t know how to get that in a positive way;

  • They are acting on Peer Pressure;

  • They gain social standing and popularity through their actions;

  • They lack education, and with that, social or cultural understanding.

Bullies are not born Bullies, they become Bullies.  And Victims likewise.  It is possible to stop being a Victim, and it is possible to stop being a Bully.

Don’t want it shared?  Don’t share it!

We have to take personal responsibility for our on line interactions and for our safety too.  Would you leave the keys in the ignition of your brand new sports car, with the door open in the middle of a big city?  Would you hand over your personal banking details to a complete stranger, with a copy of your passport?  Apply the same common sense to all your on line activities – don’t share things on the internet, if you don’t want it to be on the internet.  Even private spaces are not necessarily private –a private Instagram account with hundreds of followers, or a secret Facebook group with thousands of members. Be realistic.

TO WILL

What to do if you are targeted by a CyberBully

If you feel that you are being bullied on line, here is some simple – but effective (and important) advice.  The advice is straightforward, but following it when you are being bullied by an experienced bully is not easy.

  • Do not respond.

  • Report them.

  • Block them.

  • Starve them of that which they crave – attention, feedback.

  • Do so on all the social media platforms you use.

  • Talk about it to a trusted friend who you know in person, and if necessary get advice.

Also: Inform yourself about the laws in your country, and if you believe that laws are being broken, or that you or your loved ones are in physical danger, do not hesitate to report the situation to the authorities.

If you continue to interact with a Cyberbully you are giving them what they want – feedback, attention; and worse you might show them that their behaviour is getting to you.  This is what they crave.  Worse, you may yourself be seen as being abusive if you continuously interact with them, especially when you are upset or angry, as you might write things you later regret.  Continued interactions could also make it much more difficult if you need to make a complaint or if it does get serious and you have to involve the authorities for action to be taken, as Bullies are often very good at manipulating things to fit their version of events.  So just don’t.  I know it’s hard, but when you are tempted to engage, shut down your computer.  Go out for a walk, take some exercise, do some housework, listen to some music, take a bubble-bath, de-stress.  Then go back to the message.  Read it again, and if you still feel emotional, take control and follow the advice: Ignore, Report and Block.

But STOP – Not everyone is a Bully!

The internet is a wonderful resource, and it connects millions of people.  It is very much part of the “real” world we live in today. Just because someone wrote something you disagree with, just because they expressed an idea or shared a lifestyle choice you are not comfortable with, does not make them a bully – it makes them different from you, and it makes for an opportunity to learn and grow.  Make sure that you are not labelling someone a bully just because they see the world differently from you.  If what they are sharing is legal, but uncomfortable for you, you can reflect on whether you have something to learn, and if not you can still decide to unsubscribe or block the individual if you don’t want to see the stuff they are sharing.

Online communication also lacks the personal interaction that face-to-face contact offers, and if someone is technologically illiterate to some extent they can easily post something in an inappropriate place or an inappropriate way.  That doesn’t make them a bully!  All of this can lead to misunderstandings. I am sure you can all think of messages you sent, or received which had some auto-correct or predictive texting mishap attached, I certainly can!  Or even, when you wrote something to a friend or as a status update on twitter or facebook, only to receive rather strange responses to it, before realising that your message was somewhat misleading or had a double meaning, depending on how you read it.

So before you scream “BULLY” first take the time to ask:
1/ Why am I reacting?
2/ Is it a misunderstanding?
3/ What do I know, based on my own experience, about the situation? Is there someone I can speak to find out more?

If you are unsure, respond to the message or comment you received – and ask for clarification. If it wasn’t a misunderstanding, act appropriately.  If it was a misunderstanding, you will save yourself and others a lot of anguish.

TO DARE

Dare to Question what you are told.
In Pagan and other occult circles, we love to think we are all individuals, that we have free will and are able to think for ourselves and make our own decisions. If you fall into this category, make sure that the Bully is not using you as part of their campaign. The strategic online Bully might be using you to create a false sense of consensus, which they will use to further isolate and break the self-esteem of their target.  And a social media drama does seem to attract at least as much, if not more attention, than a cute kitten meme these days!

How often do you read something on social media written by one of your contacts about someone you don’t really know in which it is stated or insinuated that the person is inferior or has done something terrible?  The attack might even be veiled in clever humour making fun of the person’s beliefs, mental health, practices, appearance or the way they dress or speak.  These tend to be viewed as less offensive than poking fun at someone because of their race, size, gender or sexuality, and therefore acceptable, but it is not. It really is not. How often do you respond with a “like” or another form of upvote when you read something like that? Why?

A particular bugbear of mine in this regard is seeing attacks made by Pagan and Witchy friends on the beliefs and practices of other majority faith groups and in particular Christian Church groups.  While these are not generally targeted at an individual, it is still unnessary verbal violence against members of that faith group.  The excuses given for such memes are often generic statements such as  “they did it to us first” or some such.  Really?  This kind of attacks are often created in the form of “fun” memes around the Wheel of the Year festivals and often display misinformed and misrepresented facts, which are not helpful to anyone.

Don’t become an unwitting accomplice.

Supporting these kinds of posts (whether by liking, commenting or sharing) on social media gives the Bully confidence.  It also contributes to the feeling of isolation the person or persons they are targetting might feel.  So please stop, think and act responsibly.  Peer pressure can be hard to overcome, but don’t unintentionally become the Bully’s associate. How about this for a dare? – Make a decision to never share, like or comment on posts which are attacks on other people or groups, nor to share, like or comment on posts that contain sensitive material which has been shared with malicious or otherwise vindictive intent  Instead, report it.  It might not be about you, but imagine if it was.

TO KEEP SILENT

Know when to speak, how to speak and when to Shut Up.

Back to basics. If you experience online bullying – do not interact or respond to the Bully!

However, this does not mean you have to remain silent: you simply need to know how to respond appropriately – and in most instances that will simply be to report the offensive material to the relevant social media platform and then to block / delete the individual from sending you more such.  Do not delete what they send you, because if they later resort to more serious behaviour, it might be useful to illustrate the extent of their abuse to the relevant authorities, so keep copies and records. If you or anyone else, is being physically threatened, in any way – whether insinuated or directly, or if you feel unsafe for whatever reason; report the incident to the police or your local law enforcement.

The Big Lie.

In recent years there have been a couple of notorious esoteric-related “hate blogs” which have been set up by individuals hiding behind (apparently) anonymous facades with the intention to disrupt, hurt and isolate individuals within particular communities using the Big Lie tactic. The “Big Lie” (große Lüge) which was a technique coined by the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and later developed by others to promote the idea that if one had to lie about something, one should tell lies that are so big they would be believable.  The idea being that it would become impossible to believe that it’s not true – and this is especially the case when a Big Lie is mixed with other well-known factual information.  So question what you are told.  Question why you are being told about it.  And repeat.  Then decide what to do.

In Conclusion

Over the years I have been involved with social media I have had to ask myself many times whether or not I have been to harsh with someone, and sometimes whether my behaviour has been warranted or not.  In the end, it is important for us to evaluate our own behaviour, to take responsibility for own actions, take remedial action and become more self-aware.  These are all essential steps on both a spiritual and magical path.

Bullying is not acceptable. Ever, on line or off.  Look at yourself and do what you can to stop and eradicate it through your own behaviour and your own interactions.  Reach out and support those who are being bullied, even if they appear to be strong people surrounded by friends and family, your support – even if just saying “I am here if you need me” will make a huge difference.

And if you are on the receiving end, please stop, evaluate and act: Ignore, Report, Block– and take further legal action if the Bully persists.

If you read this article because you are currently experiencing online bullying, please also consider exploring the following resources:
https://www.bullying.co.uk/cyberbullying/

https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/how-to-report/index.html
https://cyberbullying.org/report
https://www.thinkuknow.org.au/report-cyberbullying

 

The Long-Term Effects of being Raised within a Cult

What Do We Need to Know About Being Born or Raised in a Cultic Environment?

Cult As Family

Father, mother, and children typically comprise the traditional family system. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and close friends of the parents may also be involved to varying degrees. There also is some form of structure or hierarchy, typically with parents deciding and implementing child-rearing practices.

There is much variability in the thousands of groups associated with the term cult, although in general the role of the leader becomes central in the cult family. The leader takes on the role of father and/or mother, deciding how children will be raised. Parents function somewhat as middle managers in the rearing of their children.

Severing of Family Bonds

Parents become relatively powerless within the structure of the group.

In some groups, the bonds between parents and children are actively severed by the leader removing children from parents and sending them to cult-run schools or giving them to other adult members to raise. Shaming of parents in front of their children serves as another way to weaken the family bond.

And as Whittset and Kent have noted:

A common observation about cults is that leaders usually go to great lengths to destroy dyadic bonds among members. …Viewing many high-demand cult leaders as narcissistic, clinicians are likely to state that leaders have insatiable needs for attention and admiration. … Coming to similar conclusions, sociologists emphasize the threat to group cohesion generated by family attachments.

Effect on Children

Children raised in these environments often have a distorted view of family.

Children also tend to develop a divided identity, one outwardly compliant with the cult’s rules, an identity the child is taught is good; the other inwardly rebellious, an identity the child is taught to consider is evil.

Cult As Socializing System

The cult environment may be viewed as a socializing system, which is much more influential on children than adults because children in this setting are in the process of developing their sense of self, their view of the world, and their identity, while adults who join a cult have an identity formed outside of the cult.

There is a consensus in the cultic-studies literature that adults who join cults bring with them a pre-cult personality and identity that they can then reconnect to when they leave the cult. In contrast, the very personality of SGAs (second-generation adults—people born or raised in a cultic group) is constructed within the cult.

Isolation

High-demand groups vary in degree of isolation from mainstream society.

Some groups limit all interaction with outside society: living in isolated communities; homeschooling their children; refusing outside medical care; eliminating access to mainstream news, television, books, music, and so on.

Other groups allow members to live, work, and go to school in mainstream society; however, they still exercise a high degree of control over how members interact and interpret their experiences outside of the group.

Physical vs. Psychological Isolation

Although the degree to which children are physically isolated from mainstream society may vary depending on the group, the degree of psychological isolation for children in the group often does not.

Children are taught that the world inside the cult is good, while the world outside is evil.

Even when children do come into contact with outsiders, their behavior is often scripted and dishonest.

While adult cult members have also been indoctrinated to fear and distrust the outside world, the impact of the indoctrination is magnified in children because they have no pre-cult identity or experience.

Lack of Multidimensional Influences

Children raised outside of cults come into contact with many different individuals, personalities, and belief structures.

In contrast, children in cults are raised in a restricted environment that limits the amount of contact outside the group and fosters a sense that there is only one way of being and believing.

Suppression

Cognitive Suppression

In many cultic situations, however, where children receive punishment for questioning adults (not to mention leaders), they quickly learn to suppress autonomous thinking. As a consequence, children’s cognitive development is stunted”.

Further, Furnari stated, “Children who are naturally striving to accomplish normal developmental tasks such as identity, safety, and independence, are labeled ‘possessed,’ crazy, or bad”.

And according to Langone and Eisenberg, “They are socialized into an environment that denigrates independent critical thinking, maintains members in a state of dependency, and fosters a private insecurity by attacking members’ while demanding that they not protest and show a positive front to the world”.

Emotional Suppression

Cultic groups dictate what emotions are acceptable and what emotions members will express, with anger and grief typically not tolerated. Therefore, children have little experience with self-regulation of emotions and effect.

Suppression of emotions is as important and potentially harmful as cognitive suppression because the two are intimately connected and have a tremendous impact on each other. People can more accurately observe precisely when they are emotionally involved—that is, reason works better when emotions are present.

Creative Suppression

Creativity remains a somewhat elusive idea. However, in general, it can be agreed that creativity has to do with freedom of thought and emotion, combining and recombining information/knowledge in unique ways, and the creation and use of symbols.

Symbols are a mechanism through which one can communicate, but they are also used to represent and enable one to cope with emotions.

The expression of emotions is coercively denied within the cult environment, which interrupts the individual’s process of creating symbols and meaning. A former member recounts the following:

A child in a cultic group experiences the loss of her mother. In an attempt to grieve and cope with the loss, she uses drawing as a creative medium through which to explore her emotions. A person in leadership finds the drawings, shreds them in front of her, and punishes her for (1) feeling sadness for something that was obviously God’s plan and (2) indulging in selfish pursuits that do not further the needs of the group. Her creativity, her ability to process difficult emotions, and make meaning of the experience have been denied.

One powerful way in which children use creativity and symbols is through play. Many cultic groups discourage play in children, labeling it “foolishness” or “distraction.” High-demand groups may also label creative expression as self-indulgent.

Personal talent is often utilized by cultic groups; however, it is exploited to further the group and leader.

There is an important difference between using one’s creativity to create something and using one’s talent to create something. In a creative endeavor, the output is the unique expression/understanding of the person who created it. In contrast, the output in cults reflects the expression/understanding of the cult.

Creative Suppression: Effect on Children

Those who study child development agree that creativity, especially play, is essential for healthy cognitive and emotional growth in children. Play increases attention span, problem solving, cognitive flexibility, recognition of emotions in others, and bonding between parent and child.

Play is defined as “any activity freely chosen, intrinsically motivated, and personally directed. It stands outside ‘ordinary’ life, and is non-serious…. These are all things that are not allowed within cultic environments.

Looking at play through the lens of neuro-science, play increases neural connections and brain growth. Therefore, children who do not have the opportunity to play show impaired brain development.

Studies indicate that lack of play impacts the ability of children to develop self-control, to internally regulate emotions and behavior, and to experience joy.

Unpredictability

One prominent feature of cultic leaders is a pattern of behaving unpredictably. This unpredictability tends to trickle down from the members to the children.

Consistent with trauma theory, this unpredictability creates hyper-vigilance in children and interferes with their ability to develop a sense of safety and security.

Structure of Cults As Conducive to Abuse/Neglect

Most concerning when one examines abuse and/or neglect within cultic groups are

How the structure of these groups is conducive to abusive dynamics

The physical and psychological isolation of these groups

The normal avenues through which abuse may be identified are frequently not available (e.g., doctors, teachers, friends).

Because children have been taught that the world outside the group is bad, they might not disclose abuse to outsiders (Note: This is an important consideration for those professionals, such as social workers, family lawyers, and scholars, who may come into contact with these children).

When SGAs Leave the Cult/High-Demand Group

SGAs (those born and/or raised in cults) leave high-demand groups in one of three ways:

Leave on their own without their family

Leave with their family (either voluntarily, or involuntarily because of age)

Forced by the group to leave

The manner in which SGAs leave will have an impact on their recovery.

Often, children raised in cults are isolated from family members who are not in the group. As a result, if SGAs leave on their own without their family, they may not know anyone outside of the group.

Even SGAs who leave with their family are often leaving the only people they have ever known outside the family.

Additionally, SGAs are not only losing an entire relational support system, they are in many ways losing an entire world. They are losing the only belief structure/world-view they have ever known.

Selected Practical Concerns

Children raised in cults may not have a Social Security card, driver’s license, or high-school diploma.

They may have no one outside the group to use as a reference for a job or for school.

They may have little or no experience with use of currency.

Grief and Loss

Personal losses including their sense of self, childhood, and their family

Loss of spirituality and a loss of meaning in life

Feelings of Shame and Isolation

Relational Adjustment, Dependency, and Boundaries

SGAs have been raised in a strictly controlled environment, where individual, independent thinking has been suppressed, and where they have depended on a strong leader to direct their lives.

Children raised in cultic environments have come to depend on outside reinforcement; thus, their ability to develop a sense of independence and internal validation has been severely hampered.

When leaving these environments, SGAs may find themselves in relationships that mimic this high degree of control.

For example, in the case of the Branch Davidian children, Perry and Szalavitz (2007) observed,

But none of the children knew what to do when faced with the simplest of choices: when offered a plain peanut butter sandwich as opposed to one with jelly, they became confused, even angry. Having never been allowed the basic choices that most children get to make as they begin to discover what they like and who they are, they had no sense of self. The idea of self-determination was, like all new things for them, unfamiliar and, therefore, anxiety provoking.

“Harsh Conscience”

In her work with SGAs, Lorna Goldberg identified what she terms the “harsh conscience” as a clinically significant recovery concern:

Within cults, there is often a demand for absolute perfection.

Consequences for lack of perfection are unpredictable and often harsh.

There is a lack of consistent modeling of non-manipulative compassion and negotiation.

Children internalize the harsh views of the cult and the leader.

This combined experience results in a lack of a loving conscience that acknowledges and accepts the inherent imperfection of being a human being.

One former member gives an inside glimpse of this “harsh conscience”: From the outside she was a driven, successful young woman. She excelled in school and at work. She had a good marriage and good friends. However, she reported feeling plagued with feelings of inadequacy and failure. Every correction on a paper, every missed phone call, every mistake was a monumental failure. She expected at every turn a catastrophic consequence for each misstep. She was unable to internalize any success, instead believing that it was only a matter of time before she made a mistake and was revealed to be the failure that she knew she was.

I.C.S.A.Home

Children Raised In High Control, Destructive Groups

Introduction:

The issues faced by children born and/or raised in a destructive group tends to be all-pervasive, particularly if the group experience was communal.  These issues, while similar to those faced by adults (former members) who had a “prior life”, are far more consuming.  Therefore, the resolution of these issues require a different approach and understanding

Issues Faced:

1. Identity Issues.  The child/adolescent/adult has no other identity than the one “imposed” by the group.  Usually this person is developmentally delayed

— Destructive groups ignore the stages of human development/maturation.  They seek to “create”/make the perfect disciple, and use verses like “Raise a child in the way he should go…”  Proverbs 22:6

— Young adults who leave destructive groups frequently attempt to regain their childhood.  They may comment, “I was never allowed to be a child.  I never could do the things other kids could do.”

— In the “world” maturation is guided by parents.  It is prevented or controlled or stifled in high control groups.  So when the child/adult person goes out into the world, chronologically they are beyond the age of “guidance” by society, yet they are expected to act and respond as an adult.

— Self determination and individuation is diminished preventing normal decision-making for their age.

2. Ethical Issues.

— Often the child/adolescent/adult person has no moral compass or internal boundaries and there is confusion at the deepest level.  Typically, the ethical framework was built on a religious world view that has been abandoned.

— In the group beliefs and rituals were externally imposed.  There was no real opportunity to determine or begin to “own” a personal belief system.

— Thus, the child/adolescent/adult person often gets involved in circumstances not healthy for them.  They have inadequate decision-making skills.

3. Social Identity/Isolation Issues.

— The child/adolescent/adult person is frequently afraid to tell anyone of past because of stigma of “cults.”

– It is often difficult for them to speak about their past due to the ‘stigma’ of cults

— Because of issues of inconsistent or abusive authority it is difficult for the child/young person to trust.

loneliness and isolation has been very much a part of a child/adolescent/adult’s life

4. Emotional/ Psychological Issues.

— The child/adolescent/adult frequently feels intense guilt for having left (or been taken) from the group.

— Fear is also a large part of the child/adolescent/adult’s life.  The group has told them that to leave is to invite God’s wrath.  The world is also a scary place to the child/adolescent/adult .   Strangers, authority figures, the organized church are all feared at some level.

— The child/adolescent/adult may also feel intense anger at the group for “ruining” their life and family, or they may be angry at God for “allowing” this to happen to them.

5. Social /Cultural Issues.

— Bible based destructive groups create their own culture ( practices, rituals, music, dietary “laws”, ways of worship, etc.)  and world view ( a way to look at the world and society) that is often radically against any culture outside their context.

— Children/young people born and raised in such groups are particularly unprepared to function within a world they do not understand or comprehend, even though they speak the language fluently.  They don’t understand social cues (respecting positions of authority, personal space, standing for older folk, etc.), socially “appropriate” actions (thank you’s, respecting other’s property, knocking, etc.), culturally determined abstract concepts (politically “correct” language, “rites” of passage, equality, etc.).

— The child/adolescent/adult frequently does not know how to set up a bank account, how to handle money, credit, large purchases, etc.

6. Education Issues.

— Education is usually woefully deficient.  Frequently, the child/adolescent/adult will be behind their peers educationally.

— At school, the child/adolescent/adult is often fearful of others, yet desperately wants to fit in and be accepted.  This is more so than with others raised in the “world.”

— Often, education is approached in one of two ways.  Either the  child/adolescent/adult is extremely motivated to succeed, work hard, and do exceptionally well, but at the expense of dealing with issues (they are like time-bombs internally).  Or they may give up on school feeling overwhelmed by the tasks at hand.  The group has told them they won’t do well because they left the cult. This is often a self-fulfilling prophecy.

7. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Issues.

— Many child/adolescent/adult who leave high control, destructive groups suffer from PTSD.  This presents a whole host of issues that must be addressed individually with each one.

Solutions:

— They need to learn social skills (appropriate attachments, follow through, using others financially, etc).

— They need to learn skills to think critically and wisely.

— They need to learn appropriate boundaries, reasons for them, and then internalize them.

— In many instances life skills will need to be taught to the child/adolescent/adult.

 

They young adult needs to deal with the spiritual dimension.

— They have been living in a “supercharged,” black and white spiritual environment.  They have been told what to believe, who to believe, when to believe, etc., in a context (the group) with clearly defined boundaries.   Now they are in what seems to be a totally open-ended environment.  Spiritual issues can be addressed at the  child/adolescent/adult persons own speed.

There may be a need to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in extreme abuse situations.

— While the symptoms of PTSD will ease over time, they do not go away of their own.

— A trained counselor in PTSD will need to be consulted to overcome this disorder.

— Usually through counseling (and sometimes medication) the young adult can overcome PTSD.

For the child/adolescent/adult person who still has family in their former group there are a number of things they can do.

— In some instances it will be impossible to have a relationship with any family member still in the group.  The child/adolescent/adult person needs to be very realistic at this point.  This may be because he/she does not want to have any relationship, or because the group will not allow it.

— It is important to not “bad mouth” the group.  This will only create further barriers.

— It is important, as much as is possible, for the  child/adolescent/adult person to try to understand where their parents/siblings are coming from, why they joined the group, and why they are so crippled.  The group has not only damaged the  child/adolescent/adult person’s life, but also their relatives’ lives.

— The child/adolescent/adult person needs to have limits/boundaries set for what kind of interaction they will have with their relatives still in the group.  This may involve what can be talked about, where they can meet, etc.

New England Institute of Religious Research.

How Cults Rewire the Brain

A neuro-scientist told me that she is pleased by the recent surge of interest in the brain but concerned because sometimes speculative theorizing is passed off as knowledge. This is especially so in the area of cults, where even the traditional psychological research base is limited.

An assumption of modern science is that every mental event is connected to a brain (and/or other biological) process. If so, why bother with neurological speculations, especially in such an under-researched area as cults? Why not restrict our focus to more accessible mental events and stick with familiar psychological models?

The answer is that sometimes psychological models cannot account for what we observe. There was a time, for example, when psychological models tried to explain schizophrenia. Although life events and internal psychological experiences may influence the behavior of schizophrenic, we now know that biologically autonomous processes underlie the disorder. Schizophrenia is not caused by a schitzophrenic mother “.

Are there phenomena within the cultic studies field that we might better understand if we considered brain research and theorizing? Two come to mind: (1) susceptibility to influence, (2) trauma.

We are influenced by a cacophony of external and internal events every moment of our lives. Some forms of influence, however, are systematic and directed by human beings pursuing strategies designed to induce us to behave, think, or feel as they wish, e.g., advertising, propaganda, hypnosis, and some forms of “engineered” cult conversion. Different people will respond differently to the same influence strategy. Even in tightly choreographed influence scenarios, such as the Moonie recruitments of the 1970s, most people do not respond as the influencers would like. Why, for example, do some recruits wind up fund-raising for Reverend Moon after a few weeks of indoctrination, while others don’t? Perhaps an unknown percentage of the “converts” have brains that are wired in a way that makes them less able to resist the indoctrination strategies of the group. There is, for example, a body of research that suggests that hypnotic susceptibility may, to a degree, be an in-born trait. Perhaps that susceptibility has a biological component that must be considered in order to understand fully why A becomes a convert and not B. Perhaps other forms of susceptibility to influence may have biological components, e.g., the capacity to think critically in environments that purposely overstimulate the brain. Some tantalizing research exists. But much more investigation is needed before we will be able to speak with scientific authority.

Another promising area for neurological research is trauma. Trauma, of course, is by no means limited to cult situations. However, those who have worked clinically with former members report significant levels of trauma among former cult members and especially among those born or raised in cultic groups.

Increasing evidence suggests that experiencing trauma affects brain structure and function. These changes may better account for maladaptive behavior, such as persevering in actions that continue to produce painful outcomes, than psychological models, e.g., the person unconsciously “wants” pain and suffering. A forthcoming issue of our organization’s magazine, ICSA Today, will include an interesting essay, “Why Cults Are Harmful: Neurobiological Speculations on Interpersonal Trauma,” by Dr. Doni Whitsett of the University of Southern California School of Social Work.

Dr. Whitsett suggests that those born or raised in severe cultic environments may develop maladaptive mental templates, or what attachment researcher John Bowlby called, “internal working models of attachment” (IWMs). These templates, which are thought to be based at least partly in brain structures developed early in life, may affect some cult children throughout their adult lives.

Let me close with a note of caution. Neuroscience is and ought to be a science. Scientists propose theories with empirically testable hypotheses. Theories with hypotheses that stand up under empirical testing gain credibility, but the theories are always provisional and never “proved.” This is especially so with theories of human behavior because so many interacting factors affect everything that we do. “Brain” factors may help account for certain phenomena that psychological theories cannot explain. However, brain-behavior research is still in its infancy. If we are to speculate about neurological factors in cult situations, let us acknowledge from the start that we need to know much more than we know now if we are to help cult victims in practical ways.

 

Understanding High-Functioning Autism

Autism is a widespread condition and I have clients, friends and family who have been affected by this condition. Researching this subject and how to deal with the individuals affected can assist in coping with difficult relationships.

What is it? 

Autism is a disorder in the development of a persons’ social and communication skills. While that is a basic answer, it gives you an idea of the areas of life that ASD can affect. The range of severity will vary and how that manifest in each individual will be drastically different.

High Functioning Autism doesn’t exhibit itself easily to those that aren’t already aware of an individual’s diagnosis. The ticks, fears, social and sensory issues, along with mild communication struggles are often easy to overlook if a child is labeled high functioning. Their delay in speech and language may not be as obvious. Many people only see the current state of a child and have no idea what progress they have made in the past.

Some signs of High Functioning Autism

Delayed initial speech but functional communication as child ages.

Above average intelligence and logic at an early age.

Difficulty in social situations – inability to understand or relate to peer groups.

Lack of social comfort – seeming “mature” for their age. Not being able to understand jokes, sarcasm, humor, or typical roughhousing among peers.

Obsessive actions regarding appearance, cleanliness, fears and social situations.

Sensory issues. This applies to oral, vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile, auditory, and visual.

Shortened attention spans.

Prone to tantrums or meltdowns when overly tired or overly stimulated.

Research: Parenting Chaos

At this point in history, there is disagreement about how many people on the autism spectrum are on the high or low-end of the spectrum (or whether most people with autism are “somewhere in the middle”). It is clear, however, that the lion’s share of media attention goes to folks at the high and the low ends of the spectrum—that is, the profoundly disabled and the very high functioning.

Myth: People High Functioning Autism Are Unusually Intelligent and Successful

If the media is to believed, the high-end of the autism spectrum is peopled largely by eccentric geniuses—Bill Gates and Albert Einstein are often mentioned, along with Dan Aykroyd and Daryl Hannah—who by and large do very well indeed, though they march to the beat of their own drummer. The reality, however, is that “high functioning autistic” and “genius,” “business tycoon,” and “Hollywood star” rarely go together. In fact:

People with high functioning autism, while they may or may not be unusually intelligent, rarely have the kind of intense motivation for public success that sends a Bill Gates to find funders or an Einstein to find a publisher.

They may also have significant challenges which stand in the way of living a comfortable life, succeeding in work or romance, or achieving a sense of self-worth. Those issues are made more challenging, in part, because they surprise and upset others who don’t anticipate odd behaviors or reactions from people who “pass for normal” in many situations.

While people with more severe autism are not generally expected to just suck it up and get through difficult moments, people on the higher end of the spectrum are expected to do just that.

Lastly, people with high functioning autism are, in general, very aware of their own difficulties and extremely sensitive to others’ negative reactions.

Fact: High Functioning Autism Is Very Challenging Every Day

Here are just a few of the issues that get between people on the high-end of the autism spectrum (including those diagnosed with the now-outdated Asperger Syndrome) and personal success and happiness:

People at the higher end of the spectrum are just as susceptible as people in the middle or lower end of the spectrum to sensory dysfunctions. These include mild, moderate, or extreme sensitivity to noise, crowds, bright lights, strong tastes, smells, and touch. This means that a person who is bright, verbal, and capable may be unable to walk into a crowded restaurant, attend a movie, or cope with sensory assaults, shopping malls, stadiums, or other venues.

Social “cluelessness.”

What’s the difference between a civil greeting and a signal of romantic interest? How loud is too loud? When is okay to talk about your personal issues or interests? When is it important to stop doing what you enjoy in order to attend to another person’s needs? These are tough questions for anyone, but for a person on the high-end of the autism spectrum they can become overwhelming obstacles to social connections, employment, and romance.

Anxiety and depression. 

Anxiety, depression and other mood disorders are more common among people with high functioning autism than they are among the general population. We don’t know whether the autism causes the mood disorders, or whether the disorders are the result of social rejection and frustration—but whatever their causes, mood disorders can be disabling in themselves.

Executive functioning describes the skills we use to organize and plan our lives. They allow typical adults to plan schedules in advance, notice that the shampoo is running low, or create and follow a timeline in order to complete a long-term project. Most people with high functioning autism have compromised executive functioning skills, making it very tough to plan and manage a household, cope with minor schedule changes at school or at work, and so forth.

Emotional disregulation. 

Contrary to popular opinion, people with autism have plenty of emotions. In fact, people with autism can become far too emotional in the wrong situations. Imagine a 16-year-old bursting into tears because of a change in plans, or a grown woman melting down completely because her car won’t start. These are the types of issues that can arise for people with high functioning autism, who are capable of doing a great many things ONLY when the situation is predictable, and no obstacles arise.

Lots of people have a hard time with change, but people with high functioning autism take the issue to a whole new level. Once a pattern is established and comfortable, people with autism (by and large) want to maintain that pattern forever. If a group of friends goes out on Wednesdays for nachos, the idea of going out on Thursdays for chicken wings can throw an autistic adult into a state of anxiety or even anger.

Difficulty with following verbal communication.

A person with high functioning autism may be more than capable of doing a task—but unable to follow instructions provided. In other words, if a policeman says “stay in your car and give me your license and registration,” the person with autism may process only “stay in your car,” or only “give me your license.” The same goes for instructions given, say, at a ballroom dance class, at the doctor’s office, or by a manager in an office setting. As you can imagine, this can cause any number of issues, ranging from serious problems with the police to inadvertent mistakes at work.

As you can see, the term “high functioning” does mean what it says. But high functioning autism is not an easy or simple diagnosis to live with. For those caring for, employing, teaching, or working with people on the higher end of the spectrum, it’s important to remember that autism is autism.

Very Well Health

High functionin autism can be hard to spot; few people with HFA exhibit obvious autism-like symptoms such as rocking, flapping, or really unusual use of voice or language. This is one of many reasons why people with HFA (sometimes called mild autism or — until 2013 — Asperger syndrome) may be diagnosed as teens or adults rather than as young children.

Why Autism Can Be Hard to Diagnose

There are a number of answers to that question.  For example:

Higher intelligence and language skills may have masked certain symptoms.

The ability to do well in school, communicate effectively, and pass an I.Q test with flying colours, are all impressive — and may set parents and teachers down the wrong path when looking for reasons for a child’s unusual issues or behavior.  Even general practice pediatricians can miss signs of autism when a child is able to communicate intelligently using spoken language. In some cases, kids’ strengths carry them through early elementary school with only minor issues, but become serious concerns when schoolwork becomes more abstract, demanding, and verbal — and when social interactions become more complex.

The individual may have been born before the diagnosis of Asperger syndrome or high functioning autism was included in the diagnostic literature.

There were plenty of kids with symptoms consistent with HFA before 1988 when Asperger syndrome was added to the diagnostic manual along with other “milder” forms of autism.  These folks may or may not have received a diagnosis of something other than autism (autism would have been far too extreme a diagnosis for a high functioning individual) — and they may never have thought of seeking a new diagnosis as an adult.

The individual may have developed means to hide, manage, or overcome his or her symptoms.

People with high functioning autism are, by definition, of average or above average intelligence.  If they are told often enough to make eye contact, stop rocking, flapping, or talking about the same things over and over again — they are often able to either hide, control, or actually overcome the need to present overt symptoms.  When that happens, the obvious external signs of autism are not present, making a diagnosis very tricky indeed.

Some research suggests that women and girls are under-diagnosed with autism.

While 4 times as many boys and men are diagnosed with autism than women and girls, the reasons are not clear.  Are girls really less likely to be autistic?  Or are their behaviors (apparent shyness, discomfort with public speaking, difficulties with motor coordination, confusion over social communication in situations such as team sports) considered “feminine” rather than problematic?  Or do girls with high-functioning autism actually behave differently from boys with autism, tending to be less aggressive, more imitative, and more likely to work hard to “fit in?”  While the reasons are not well understood, it seems clear that being a female on the spectrum may make you less likely to receive a diagnosis.

Individuals from poorer and/or minority backgrounds are under-diagnosed with autism.

There seem to be two major reasons for this disparity.  The first and most obvious is that people with less money have less access to behavioral health-care — and so are less likely to be able to access services, particularly for a child who is not obviously autistic.  The second reason seems to relate to cultural differences: in some communities, the “oddness” associated with high functioning autism are not considered to be particularly problematic. And, of course, for recent immigrants, it’s not surprising to hear that their child is not fitting in perfectly with American or “First World” cultural norms!

Does your “adult-child” with Aspergers (high functioning autism) often resist your guidance?

As the parent of an adult child with Aspergers, you may have discovered that as he gets older and feels the need to assert his independence, it may be harder and harder to take advice from you. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s important for our older children to learn to solve their own problems, especially as they become our adult children. Still, it’s tough to see the effectiveness of, “Because I said so,” recede into the distance.

If you see a continuing need to be involved in your child’s life as he grows into an adult, you may need to acknowledge that he is becoming his own person, and find appropriate ways to influence his decisions. This can be a real challenge.

Individuals with Aspergers often have trouble with subtle distinctions. They may think, “Adults are independent. Being independent means making my own decisions. If I take my mother’s advice, I’m not acting like an adult.” So, what do we do when we want to respect our adult child’s quest for independence and still help them over or around the obstacles he will likely face?

Are Autistic People capable of being Manipulative?

Being autistic makes you more empathetic (Sometimes), socially disabled (To some degree, almost always), and occasionally verbally impaired (Often).

Absolutely none of those make you act like a good person.

It’s more difficult for an autistic person to learn the social nuance to be particularly manipulative, but it’s a far sight from impossible.

If you feel like you’re being played, act cautious. Anyone can try to take a gamble on deceiving you, including those with a natural handicap in that department.

Higher-functioning autistic people do arguably have a mild advantage, as a matter of fact, in that they tend to learn their social habits through mimicry instead of as a natural subconscious process.

In other words, they mechanically can dissect the rules of engagement. This makes miming emotions, leading people on, and controlling them while using your gimp as a facade extremely easy for the opportunistic and craven-minded.

Nobody is incapable of being dishonest, rare developmental cases aside.

It’s good to trust others, and better to be on good terms with them. However, you should never take someone’s developmental flaws as a guarantor of their behavior.

Autistic people can also lead others on without really meaning to – often, in those examples who become manipulative, it’s very possible they just act a certain way to reap the rewards and never consider the implications of those actions. The same as normal people, really, just with the occlusion of a hazier understanding of social rules of engagement making that moral quandary easier to fall into.

So if you think someone who you know, who is autistic, is trying to control you or others – confront them. They many not realize that they do it.

And if they do, then you deserve better than to be their puppet. Feel as sympathetic as you want, but the people who you care about should care about you enough to put your best interests before their schemes.

That last bit is just a general rule, but it applies here.

None of this means that autistic people should be especially distrusted.

It just means that they work under the same rules of trust as you or anyone else does.

The following article is written by the mother of a son with Aspergers. High Functioning Autism and I am sure many can relate to this:

“There is a dark side to raising a child with these challenges. My son’s honest expressions can be downright mean. He will say that I am lazy. He will say that I don’t ever do anything. He will say that I am selfish or a hypocrite. Of course, he is a teenager and I am sure from his narrow perspective what he says is truth.

Meltdowns are more frequent now than in the past. The physicality associated with his meltdowns now reminds me of when he was 3, more than when he was 10. These meltdowns are more disturbing and scary in the body of a 5’11” young man than they were in a small child. The glimmers of the sweet boy I remember are few and far between.

There are a lot of aspects of life that we as humans do not include in the stories we pass down. We don’t talk about the messier and darker aspects of common life occurrences. A great example is our tendency to remain silent on the terrifying nature of postpartum depression and psychosis. We don’t want to admit that even the most joyful parts of life can come with a dark lining.

As a parent of an Aspergers child, I live in a strange world. Strangers do not understand and even from friends and family there can be a lot of judgment. I have been told that I am not consistent enough with my son. I have been told that I am not disciplined enough. Even when there is no overt comment, there is the change in body language, tone of voice and the distancing by people who are affronted by my son.

On the other hand, my son judges me as inadequate, unfair, lazy and hypocritical. He expresses hatred for the help that I sacrifice to give him. I stand in the middle making the decisions as best I know how. This is an emotionally draining position.

My NT son sees all of this and so he asks if I regret having my Aspergers Son.

“No!” I responded without hesitation, “Raising him is challenging and there are times that he can be such a jerk but I have learned so much about myself and life through this process. I have learned to look beyond the external and set aside a lot of my preconceived judgments. I have learned to make my decisions based on who I am and who I want to be, not based on what that decision will get from others in the way of approval, acceptance, etc. It has made me so much stronger. I am proud of the person I have become and if this is the road that it took to become this person, well that is fine. I love him because he is my son, not because of what he can give me and I believe that he is an amazing person traveling his own tough road.”

That statement reflects the decision I have made. I don’t always feel the feelings that would inspire that statement therefore I don’t despise the mother that said she hated her son. I am thankful that my NT son didn’t ask me 20 minutes earlier. I don’t know that I would have regained my balance enough to answer the way I did. Just because I don’t act on the dark moments doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

My Aspergers son is mismatched to the world we live in. It seemed that My son is the round peg to the outside world’s square hole. I thought I was accepting this fact.

I have realized that I my acceptance was conditional on a belief that I could fill in the gaps between the outside expectation and my son’s reality. I believed I could make the world accept my son and acknowledge his successes. I had a distorted perception of who I needed to be in my son’s life.

I can never do or be enough to make my son and the typical world’s expectations mesh. Accepting my limitations, opened a new path. Instead of seeing the world as rigid, I saw flexibility. As I expanded my view beyond the world of the public school structure, I could see the endless variations that our world allows. My role is to guide my son as he creates his path in this world and finds his purpose.

My Aspergers-son is an important part of my life, but he is not my whole life. I did not cease to exist when he was born. Additionally, there are other small lives in my care. The loudest need cannot drown out the other needs. My son and my typical children learn from how I live. How can I tell my son that I believe that he can be an independent adult and then do everything for him?

When I give my focus to the moment at hand, I honor all the parts of my life. My time with my husband is for him alone. My time with each of my children is sacred and preserved. The time I set aside for caring for myself is spent doing ONLY that. This is a practice I have yet to perfect but the practice alone has increased my self-awareness and increase the balance between the various aspects of my life.”

Asperger’s Mum.

“Poison Goes Where Poison is Welcome”

The New Word on Gossip

EVOLVED TO CHAT

From cocktail parties to family reunions, the water cooler to the professional convention, we all enjoy the guilty pleasures of talking about other people. But gossip is more than just idle chitchat, it’s also how we arrange our world as social animals. Nigel Nicholson, Ph.D., discusses the evolutionary reasons why humanity is a beehive of communication.

WE’VE ALL SEEN BOTH SIDES OF GOSSIP. ONE SIDE is the warm feeling you get from spending time with a friend and sharing stories about mutual acquaintances. The other side is the stomach-churning anger, shame and frustration you feel when you realize someone is spreading bad news about you. We want to be on the right side of gossip, but sometimes it illuminates while other times it just burns.

When it’s good, it binds people and communities together. As anyone who has lived in a small community knows, gossip is something that people who share a collective identity do naturally. But rampant individualism, the fragmentation of our lifestyle and the pervasiveness of competitive striving can drive gossip and rumour down more poisonous channels.

If you want to gauge the health of an organization, tap into its grapevine, taste a sample or two, and test the toxicity. Companies that think they need to eradicate the rumour mill to clean up the culture have got it the wrong way around. Gossip is inevitable and blameless–the problem lies instead in its content, which reflects precisely what is going on in people’s minds.

Evolutionary psychology argues that human nature -our psychological architecture as much as our physical form–was shaped to survive and reproduce under a particular set of conditions. This was the existence of clan-dwelling primates, who subsisted by foraging and hunting in a savanna-like environment. It is only in recent biological times that we left the world of clan-dwelling primates for the world of agriculture, city settlements and, eventually, business organizations. We inhabit our high-tech world with Stone Age minds because there has not been enough time to change our psychology to match our environment.

In evolutionary psychology, several elements conspire to give gossip pride of place. First is the physiological capability of speech. Evolution gave us a stunning ability to vocalize by allowing the windpipe full access to the thorax and vocal chords. The second element is language. We have brains endowed with speech centers that allow every growing child to perform the greatest miracle of learning in nature–the acquisition of nearly 13,000 words by the age of six, rising to 60,000 by adulthood. This is what psycholinguist Stephen Pinker, Ph.D., has called “the language instinct.”

Thirdly, the large and complicated brain that evolution gave us to create language has also mastered the politics of complex social living. British psychologist Robin Dunbar, Ph.D., discovered a direct relationship between primate brain and clan size; we are prodigiously equipped mentally to master the subtleties of a social network of up to 150 people.

Our mental design also includes a Machiavellian intelligence–the ability to empathize and read signs that indicate each other’s motives and emotions. This is essential for “cheat detection,” a key skill in the human tribe. These tools allow us to gossip. But what role is played by over-the-fence chat in the fate and functioning of the human animal? There are three very essential functions of gossip: networking, influence and social alliances.

NETWORKING

As social animals we are status-conscious, and for good reason. Navigating the social pathways of the tribe requires a good understanding of its complexity. There is an extensive stream of research, summarized in the work of sociologist Lee Ellis, Ph.D., and epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson, Ph.D., showing that among humans, as in other primate species, being of high rank confers an important array of benefits: health, wealth and happiness.

But attaining these benefits and avoiding failure is difficult. One reason is that social hierarchy is multidimensional. People deploy a wide repertoire of talents to compare themselves with others. What’s more, social structure is dynamic; it changes all the time.

Various media keep us in touch not only with the fate of the notorious and celebrated, but also with the ever-shifting ideas and fashions that form the currency for social discourse. The media give us material to discuss and tell us about our own location within this labile lattice of relationships. It is no different on the local level. The position and importance of people in your circle of influence are constantly shifting.

The second function of gossip is influence. Even when our social position is apparently immobile, we retain an active interest in making sure we do not lose it. When we find an opportunity, we try to advance a good opinion about ourselves to those who can help us.

However, it is not enough to do good; you need a reputation for doing good for it to count in your favor. Like it or not, we all are confronted with the task of selling ourselves and making sure other people have a positive impression of us.

Self-promotion is not always a conscious strategy. We do it whenever we meet a stranger. It’s in the way we engage in small talk and mobilize our facial expressions to convey interest and sympathetic sentiments. I once spoke with the leader of a jazz band who told me that many superb musicians don’t get the recognition they deserve, while there are many high-profile stars of lesser talent.

Not everyone is equally good at self-promotion–or equally motivated to put the effort into it. Introverts have figured out that if they leave socializing to the extroverts they’ll end up at the bottom of the pile. So they learn how to practice the arts of self-promotion, though it doesn’t flow as naturally for them. Extroverts see that everyone is playing the same game-and assume the world is full of extroverts like themselves.

ALLIANCES

Often times we use gossip for the sake of what seems to be pure one-on-one pleasure. This pleasure derives from the third function of gossip: alliances.

Human gossip follows the same asymmetries as a monkey picking lice from another’s fur; the weak groom the strong more than vice versa. People supply information to whom they are attracted and with whom they wish to align themselves. When I give you a tidbit of gossip–“remember, it’s a secret”–I am also telling you that you are valuable enough to be a recipient–and that you should think well of me for doing so. We use information to form advantageous alliances that we hope will provide some stability, and ideally an upper hand, to our place in the social hierarchy. When we gossip, of course, all three functions are being served at the same time. Go to any professional conference-which are huge circuses devoted almost exclusively to official and unofficial gossip-and see how people move among their networks seeking both influence and alliances. To experience a sense of powerlessness and exclusion, go to one as a complete outsider.

THE DARK SIDE

Many people link gossip with malice; indeed gossip can be vicious. John can raise his own status with Jane and boost Jane’s own sense of self by telling her something bad about Steve, a known enemy of hers. Steve, without even knowing this is happening, can be damaged.

But Jane is also likely to go away thinking that Steve’s predicament could happen to her. Although gossip can strengthen the bonds within a community, sometimes it becomes a covert contest between winners and losers. In an ever-shifting matrix of alliances, people will always be looking for an advantage, which leaves others at a disadvantage.

Negative gossip about third parties, who of course have no opportunity to defend themselves, is a dangerous game that can rebound on the gossiper. To be good at malicious gossip requires a high degree of subtlety and skill. The trick is to appear to be sympathetic to the victim while holding him below the waterline with implicit denigration.

Most people find this distasteful. Much malicious gossip is conducted unconsciously, an act that requires self-deception. But humans are especially adept at it; it helps us to maintain consistent social performance, according to Robert Trivers, Ph.D., one of the originators of evolutionary psychology. In the world of gossip, self-deception often takes the form of genuinely believing one is on the high moral ground of charitable sympathy, looking down on one’s slowly sinking victim.

MEN DO IT TOO

It is said that women gossip more than men do. Perhaps they only do it better. Men just call it “networking.” (I have witnessed more than once that ‘ineffectual men’ will place themselves in the centre of a group of women and stir up malicious gossip to create divisions and make themselves feel powerful).

What does tend to differ by gender is the content of gossip. Men are much more interested in who is up and who is down (hence sports-page obsession), as befits their predilection for competitive game-playing. Women tend to gossip more about social inclusion and moral alignment-who’s in and who has merit.

What Darwin called sexual selection–the search by females for good male genes, and by males to advertise their quality–drives men toward competition and a single-minded focus on instrumental action. It drives women toward the dynamics of intimacy, emotions and social relations.

A key element of gossip is storytelling. We have a narrative instinct that is an essential aid to social insight and action, and a great vehicle for learning. Children are irresistibly drawn to stories, and we use them to instil all the most important ideas about the human community, its daily dangers and rules, plus moral fables about how to succeed and be happy.

In daily life we ruminate in narrative voice–telling ourselves moral tales in which we are the hero or innocent victim of some chain of events. In so doing we consistently make attribution errors-placing a human agent as the key element in a chain of events when in reality the true cause was something impersonal or random.

Collectively the same thing happens in organizations–especially when management becomes defensively tight-lipped at a time of impending crisis. Nature abhors a vacuum and the gossip rushes to fill it.

Leaders and politicians have to be reminded that openness costs less, ultimately, than the impact of false stories and the time it takes to rub out the stain they leave. But the reticence of public figures and the public’s appetite for news stem from the same hardwired motive to avoid loss and safeguard our interests. It requires a community of trust for gossip to be good for us all.

Psychology Today

Whether gossip be positive or negative, constructive or destructive, it will tell you a huge amount about the mind of the person who spreads it.

 

Escaping from entitled men

Most if not all of us have experienced this behaviour…. a thought provoking post. 🙂 x

Druid Life

One of the more curious crops this summer has been a root cellar’s worth of entitled men to deal with. Just to make it clear, they are not all now in a root cellar, although it’s a charming idea. Some I’ve had to deal with directly, some I’ve supported friends as they tried to deal with, and saw a lot of the trouble caused. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Entitled men – men who believe they are entitled to a great many things they are certainly not entitled to – are fond of making women responsible for things – usually for things said women have no control over. We are to provide unconditional love and support and ask for nothing in return (Gods help us if we do ask) and they are free to act in any way they like and consider themselves blameless and free of all consequences. They get…

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