Tag Archive | Self-Worth

Attachment Disorder – Early Detachment from Mother

Attachment Disorder is not really a diagnosis. You will see it labeled as Reactive Attachment Disorder but I find that it does not always fit neatly into a box. It can be seen as a personality disorder, as chemical dependency, as depression or anxiety. I see it more as a symptom of a client’s mental health. What I am talking about is a child who was separated from mother at birth and this can be for a variety of reasons. One case the mother was mentally ill and had a breakdown on the delivery table between baby one and two, the children were sent to foster homes immediately.  Another case the mother was sick and the child was separated from her for a certain amount of time. The mother might be a drug addict or alcoholic. The mother might have mental health problems and are unable to bond with baby; severing the trust/mistrust stage. I am going to share a story about Bill.

Courtesy of Ashevilleacademy.com

Bill is a child who was born with “yellow jaundice” as they used to call it. He was left in the hospital for a week and his mother was sent home (hospitals are not attune to the effects separation will have on babies – maybe they are now but they weren’t long ago).  Bill’s parents were in a Domestic Violence plagued marriage (father as batterer) and when his mother tried to escape with him, his father caught up with them and kidnapped Bill for six months. The mother did not know his whereabouts and as the parents were not divorced yet, the police could not do anything about it. The father ended up abandoning the baby and then the police brought the baby to the mother. During the divorce proceedings, however, Bill was given to the grandparents. The mother was able to see Bill once a year and tried to reunify with him without success on several occasions. Bill had lost an ability to attach to the mother and the mother was ill-equipped to understand how to recreate a bond with him. It was too late.

As an adult, Bill dropped out of school and became a drug addict for many years. During which time he had many children from various women. He did get clean but never sought out treatment. His children are all over the place and he has no ability to connect with their mothers so that he can have visitation with them. His finances are utilized on the family he did finally stabilize with – another woman who was also a drug addict like him. A woman who also never sought out treatment and came from a family of addictions, sexual abuse, and depression that never went treated. She was seriously neglected and thus probably has attachment issues as well.

I am not treating Bill but a family member shared this story with me. They were concerned about his mother who desperately wanted a relationship with her son and grandchildren. He seems to be a loving father but has never been able to connect with his mother. In fact, he appears to do whatever he can to go against the mother. Along with being a drug addict, he was reported to be a pathological liar. His mother knew this but when she would try to confront him about things he would start crying and throw a fit (as a child). As an adult, he turns the story around and tells her she is crazy and needs help. He will vehemently deny things even those which are obvious. For example: the mother reported that she tried to explain to her son that he was feeding too much candy to the children. The son, standing in the driveway with candy all around him said that he and his wife had stopped giving this to the children. When the mother pointed out the obvious, he stated that the reason it was on the ground was that the children didn’t want it anymore so they through it there. The mother continues to feel isolated and detached from her son because she can’t have conversations with her son unless it is to praise him for something. It is a relationship based on lies. She worries about the life her grandchildren are leading.

People like Bill, who were raised with a separation from their parents, have difficulties bonding with them. Often they are able to bond with the caretaker (who had them the most) but reject the mother. Even the bond that they will have with the caretaker is filled with lies and deception. As Bill was a drug addict, he stole from his caretaker. The caretaker enabled him to continue with the lies and deception because he would tell her that the money he “used” (meaning stole) was to pay for diapers or gas for his car. Even when Bill spent time behind bars, the caretakers coddled him and took him in upon his release. As Bill never spent time completing his treatment, he has never made amends to his caretakers (paid them back) and owes his mother a large sum of money for an attempt to do rehab.

Attachment is severed the minute the baby is removed from the womb. The baby needs to develop an immediate bond with the parent, thus they are given to the mother, after delivery to soothe the baby. Children are okay being in a nursery and sent to their mother’s from time to time for feeding. This is the first stage of learning individuation/separation. The longer the baby is separated from the mother, trust begins to be severed. Without trust, the baby begins to self-soothe and if they are emotionally intelligent can withstand some trauma but if not, they will collapse completely.  Some adult children who talk about being separated at birth and were emotionally intelligent (good survival skills), have attachment issues but I find they are easier to work with in therapy. As I am not an expert on this, I can only go with the cases I have worked with successfully and these are survivors.

I have found that if the birth parent is reunited with the baby – early on (a week or two later) attachment can be supported, yet attachment as an adult is difficult. In these cases I do see self-soothing with an oral fixation. Early detachment from birth mother that is severed completely (adoption or long term foster care with few caretakers) can heal with the consistent caretaker as well but often there is self-soothing here too. Both of these scenarios might show obesity, or a fluctuation with weight but it also might be a smoker. More severe situations of detachment from birth mother and multiple caregivers will show Chemical Dependency and Conflict Disorder or even Reactive Attachment Disorder. This is a more extreme self-soothing and self-sabotage without the resiliency levels to repair the attachment or want to repair the attachment. Some people may get clean and sober but repel psychotherapy because then they have to attach to themselves through self-awareness. Often it can be more painful to try and attach to self than to live their lives in pain (i.e., denial). I have heard a few clients who abandoned therapy make the comment “I have lived for years with [this chaos] and have been just fine why do I need to dredge up all this history?” I suspect this is the case with Bill and probably his wife. People who seriously need psychotherapy have learned to find coping skills that they feel are appropriate but often it is isolating themselves in a cocoon to protect from others.

The wall Bill has built between he and his mother deflects any self-awareness by pushing her away with his invisible shield that spits out swords that pierce her and shut her up. This keeps the relationship under his domination. He controls and manipulates her so that if she wants a relationship with him, she must obey his clues. It is my understanding that his mother has felt afraid of her son on occasion but more specifically when he was on drugs.

As a therapist, I often wonder about the relationship between early attachment and shooters that we see, almost daily now, around the country. I can’t imagine that someone who has a healthy attachment to their mother would have this level of a lack of empathy toward their fellow human beings. I read “School Violence: Facts vs. Fiction” by Dr. Dewey Cornell, many years ago now and the main issue I took away from this was perpetrators being bullied. I don’t recall the discussion of Attachment Disorders because at that time I was not as conscious of this as an issue as I am now. Therefore, if he did mention it, I clung to the bullying instead which was more easily identifiable in my consciousness then. Now, however, we are dealing with much more than school shootings. It is adults who have taken over from the plight of teen angst and wish to have their moment of glory or retribution to those who have harmed their psyche in some perceived way.

As Narcissism and Attachment disorders or early attachment being severed are closely linked if not synonymous, it is important to make people aware of this in the field of mental health, medical fields and social work. Educators could benefit from these teachings as well but this must be handled more carefully with this professional. I find that teachers tend to play psychology professional when they learn about the mental health world. Thus, they are constantly diagnosing and even telling parents what medication a child should be on. More often than not, they are incorrect. Nonetheless, more education needs to go out to professionals dealing with children and parents and adults in general. Hospitals can benefit from learning about early attachment and find ways to keep the child and mother together as much as possible. They will be able to better detect situations when brought into pediatric care, rather than trying to quickly put into a box (assess a more holistic picture of the child). Mental health clinicians will have a better grasp of their client. Social workers will be able to better understand the placement of the foster child and detect a need for therapy earlier on – rather than waiting for the behavioral issues to begin showing itself.

Attachment between mother and child is imperative. Nine months in a womb means that once they are delivered we must, as professionals, be more prudent in assuring that early attachment is protected.

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A Narcissistic Family: Lies, Lies, and More Lies

Meet the Valour family, (names changed to protect the victims). There is the Narcissistic Mother, aka the martyr, the chameleon, the adaptor over the years as it suits her. There is the Father or the placator (someone who gives in to the demands of the Narcissist to keep the peace). He, however, is the one who doled out the physical punishment to his stepchildren. There are five children total, one son from a previous marriage who was rarely in the home. There are two daughters (Jenny and Joan) who are stepchildren to the father and then came two sons (Ronny and Frankie) from the Narcissistic Mother.

Jenny was the oldest and ended up being abused the most. She suffered physical abuse from the stepfather and emotional abuse from the mother. She never knew whether she was coming or going, with so many mixed messages growing up. She was beautiful but not as smart as other people’s children, which she was often told. She was old enough to hear “TMI” that her mother enjoyed confiding in her but not old enough to make decisions for herself. She ended up with Severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and got pregnant as a teenager. She married an abusive male from the wrong side of the tracks and got divorced a couple of years later. Her child was given to her Narcissistic mother to raise, because the father of the child disappeared and the courts determined Jenny would end up on welfare.  Jenny’s story is the most compelling here because she became the proverbial “black sheep” of the family and it is her life that will be betrayed to others as the decades went on.

Joan was Special Needs or Borderline Intellectual Functioning. She wasn’t abused as much because the family felt sorry for her. She would become the placator (child) and spent most of her life living with her parents – because she was told by her mother that she couldn’t live in the world by herself. She ended up with a child out of wedlock because she was desperate to have a baby. That baby grew up to have a child out of wedlock as well. As the placator, Joan tells lies to suit her mother or herself and this deflects any responsibility onto herself. She presents as a narcissist because she has no self-awareness.

Ronny ended up the family hero and went on to retire from the military. He exhibits in narcissistic ways because he was entitled as a child. Nothing he can do is wrong in the family’s eyes so he is unable to empathize or take criticism from others.  He is perfect and assumes the world revolves around him when people are with him. That is what he learned growing up. He is a very caring person but very detached from the family. He raised several children but his wife sought to compete for his attention and thus kept the children from Jenny and keeps tight rings around all of them now so that they are one great big enmeshed family. Joan is allowed entrance but only because she continues to elicit sympathy from everyone. Jenny lived most of the time in another state, as well, so the children did not see her much and gifts were given to them (as far as she knows) but there was never acknowledgement so she ceased to send them. She is not sure if the gift giving ever attempted to create a relationship or not.

Frankie died early on as a child so he is the saint in the family. No one ever talks about him because it is too uncomfortable to confront one’s emotions. It is as if he never existed. Jenny tries to create a space for him but the family changes the subject. The father died a decade after his son, and when this happened, the high standards that were expected in the family ceased to exist. This is because the Narcissistic mother focuses too much attention on getting attention from her descendants. Rather than being the mother she once was, who also expected these standards, as it might make her look bad, she allows lowered standards to appear cool and modern.

Thus the family has become like every other family in America with very low standards. The second generation of girls have tattoos all over their bodies. At family events, people show up in whatever they feel like wearing. The third generation toddlers have mohawks and pink hair. One family is raised in filthy conditions. Their parents feed them  daily amounts of sugar through soda and candy to pacify them. This is because their parents raise them like toys and are afraid to set standards. The latter family is Jenny’s child and grandchildren, whom Jenny’s mother raised.

The mother enjoys taking comfort in harming her daughter Jenny. She loves to hear negative things said about her and Jenny’s bitterness and anger have become much darker and deeper over the years. While Jenny has tried to do therapy and create a better life for herself, she feels she has never really found happiness. Her child (whom her mother raised) became a drug addict like his father. He had multiple children from various women, two of which he never sees or has anything to do with.  While he finally did become a “dry drunk,” which means clean but without a mental health support system, his life continues to be a mess.

The lies are the denial that goes requited generation after generation. The matriarch or the Narcissist, who perpetuates the lies, with gossip and tales to feed to the others about her favorite target: Jenny. This has trained the others to feel it is acceptable to lie about Jenny or create stories about what she is like. As they see this anger and frustration coming from Jenny whenever she is at family events, she continues to feed into their beliefs about her created by the Narcissist. Jenny was the scapegoat from the time she began to find her sense of self, as a teenager, and this coat of arms has never been removed. This web of deception in this family will never change unless the descendants begin to question things. Why should they though when the Narcissist adores them and praises their every move.

Family gatherings in the Valour family consist of everyone, but Jenny, adoring themselves and being adored by the Narcissist. No one is honest, is allowed to have opinions, but generally they don’t speak up about their beliefs – if they have one – because they have learned to appease one another.

The Valour family has no courage, no self-awareness, and no empathy. They have empathy for others in their desire to look like good people but not amongst their own kin. They have all ceased to individuate from the mother, with the exception of Jenny who has been outcast. In order to keep her sanity, she continues to try and develop a stronger sense of self but struggles with this daily. She made the mistake of returning home, assuming she was stronger and more prepared but ultimately finds herself collapsing each time she tries to develop some connection with her nieces and nephews or grandchildren. Every attempt she makes is thwarted by their mothers who have developed a bond with the Narcissist in order to be accepted by their own partners.

This type of family is not an exception. I learn about very similar stories of families like this month after month in my office. Either it is the mother or the father who can be the Narcissistic parent. I am often surprised to hear just how far the Narcissists will go, as I learn different ploys these parents will use to take advantage of their children. Some go as far as sexually abusing their children, because they can. I have heard of a parent who put their kids in another house down the street, so they could have their own life (without a parent in the other house and often without enough money to live on). Anything they can get away with, the Narcissistic parent will. Social services have been called out in many of these stories I have heard about. However, as Narcissism is not well understood and many social services staff are not clinically trained (at the master’s level), they are fooled by the Narcissist and close the case. In Jenny’s child’s story, the house is not filthy enough to remove and the unhealthy food is not a reason to remove either. As long as a child eats (even if it is McDonalds everyday), they are eating. As long as the house does not have feces on the floor, needles lying around, and maggots in the food, it is not considered a reason to remove. Having worked in social services for eight years, I know that my standards and the standards of most of us are not a reason to judge others for their stupidity.

There are always the same roles within the Narcissistic family. The spouse placates his/her spouse to keep the peace and generally is the most miserable emotionally (because they have no spouse).  Often the placating spouse stays with the Narcissistic partner because they become too weak from the emotional entrapment. Next there is the prime scapegoat (there can be more than one), the hero (often the opposite sex of the Narcissistic parent), and the child who placates the parent who is the Narcissist and is generally the sidekick of the placating parent.

If you were raised like Jenny, in this type of family, it is important to get support from a therapist who understands Narcissism. Unfortunately, not many do because there are not many trainings on this topic. Most people assume the Narcissist is the CEO or the egotistical person. There is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the Narcissist but why would they go into therapy when there is nothing wrong with them – the fault lies with the scapegoat. I have known people who went to family therapy with the Narcissist and the therapist became fooled as well and the children were blamed. I have also known where the Narcissist was brought into the room – so the therapist could meet them and became emotionally trapped by this person causing them to deflect from their own client.

It is a tricky situation to be in when you are a therapist. You have to be able to know it, smell it, hear it, taste it, (metaphorically) when you see it. Narcissists have a similar language that they use (I hear certain phrases over and over again). It is always emotional abuse to the victim and as I mentioned earlier can sometimes include physical and sexual abuse and even torture. Thus there needs to be more trainings available to social workers and therapist who are practicing in social services, the medical field, in private practice or for counseling centers (both at the academic and community level). The client will often present as bewildered and confused; who know something wasn’t quite right with their parent. With their Narcissistic partner they will think that they (the client) was at fault and will constantly be apologizing when explaining their relationship. We, as clinicians, must always listen and believe and trust the path the client is walking down. We have to look for the things they cannot see and ask questions to understand more. Most of all, we have to normalize their pain. It isn’t important that you meet the Narcissist. If you can feel (your instincts are saying) that this looks like one, it probably is. Never diagnose the person who is not in the room but you can state “This sounds like…” and help the person to get resources to better understand what you are seeing. If the person is a Narcissist, the client will identify with this when they read articles on this topic. They will also be able to better explain to you, as the clinician, their symptoms from learning more about it.

A terribly misunderstood topic, that needs to be more widely understood; so that we can help to identify and bring healing to our clients.

Narcissists, Players, Charlatans, Why do we believe them?

Forty years ago, hundreds of people went to their death in a country called Guyana. Back in 1978, I was a teenage girl in high school and two years later wrote my first paper on the topic of “Religious Cults” which would transform my life. On May of 2011, I published “The Child of the Narcissist,” on my blog post and began working with survivors of narcissism in my practice. There are different phases that I see. One is the denial phase which is when the person has not yet let the person go. Second, is the acceptance phase which is when they are in realization stage and feel angry, frustrated, duped, taken, had, and wonder “How could I have been so stupid?” Or the child of a narcissist will say “Can they be helped?,” or “Am I destined to become this way?” Thirdly, I see the healing stage when they begin to set boundaries and take back their power and their life. The third stage is a place that they will be in the rest of their life because you must always be conscious, mindful and awake when you meet someone that seems to have certain qualities.

The people of Jonestown are no different than a woman who meets up with some guy who is playing her. People who fall for a narcissistic type are vulnerable, desperate and yearn to be loved and accepted. These type of people – narcissists/players/charlatans (parents are a different category because you aren’t choosing them, though this could be argued from a metaphysical perspective), are very aware of their power over men and women. They have learned – from the cradle – that they are entitled in some way. This can be from a self-imposed entitlement to protect themselves (by self-soothing) or an entitlement given to them by a parent. I have known and learned of parents who say their child is perfect and will do whatever it takes to protect them. This takes away from a child learning when they make a mistake. It takes away from a child growing and evolving over time. A friend’s father was a criminal attorney in Los Angeles and he once told me that mother’s would take second mortgages out on their homes, sell their cars, jewelry, whatever assets they could give up to pay his fees and get their kids off. My mother told us that if we went to jail we would rot.  When I watched the movie “Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones,” I remember noting that he was engaged in animal cruelty as a boy.

When you read a little of Jim Jones biography online, you learn he was reading about leaders at a very young age such as Hitler and Stalin, all the bad guys who believed in creating what they believed was a utopia and that many people fell prey too. Jim Jones would no doubt have had many more followers today with our liberal movement – in a polarized society – because he was very big on racial equality that was not quite so popular in the 60’s and 70’s.  He adopted kids and called them a “rainbow family,” he hung out in the ghettos of the inner city where he embellished them with empathy and support. He was very much into inclusion vs. segregation. Today’s society would be worshipping a guy like him. Social Media takes advantage of people but it also worships people and generally, it is the one who seems to have the most “likes” for fame or infamy. We don’t care who it is, as long as they seem to “do the right thing.” We are more gullible now than we were then because people were much more suspicious at that time. However, those who were desperate and needy and wanting to be loved and accepted would take what they were offered. They were offered a man calling himself a Reverend. At that time, there were many charlatans on Television, though most preyed on White victims who were gullible. I remember watching a glimpse of these things while flipping channels and thinking to myself how dumb these people were.

Players or Narcissists or Sociopaths that women fall prey to are generally just local yokels that have an allure about them. Most people will think Narcissist and talk about CEO’s or Presidents or World Leaders but the vast majority are just everyday people. Many have no money at all. They just talk a good game. I have seen them on the streets of Oakland and I am not just talking about pimps and drug dealers. I have met a couple in my personal life. Now, I just hear about them in my office. Women give up their money, their families, but most of all; their sense of self. These guys are handsome but not necessarily, the woman feels that there is chemistry, often he “blows up their phone,” which makes the woman think he cares.

First, the guy comes on to them like a shy but clever puppy dog. He seems to lap up their words and embellish them with praises or just appear to be listening. He picks up on certain words or sentences that, at first, seem to show he gets them but later it becomes a weapon. How does this guy have such a great memory? Some of these players will wine and dine at first or at least until the check comes and they realized they have forgotten their wallet and make a feeble attempt for an excuse. A very liberal guy I dated once, waited till the bill came to make me aware he had no chivalry because he believed in women’s liberation. There will be jokey texts that are the beginnings of sarcasm but it seems cute and funny at first “Oh, that is just his personality,” they will tell me. Then the guy begins to push away and this is when the game begins. He is playing this game of cat and mouse, building more and more power with the person. I’ve watched my own cats play with a spider (a hopeless tiny thing) until they finally just kill it and then they walk away – they don’t even eat it.

The woman is really trapped when she tries to play his game. She begins to think she understands him. She spends her waking life thinking about him and wondering how she can get him back. In therapy, I hear long stories about how much she knows him, how two can play that game. It is sad to sit with a victim who is clueless. It is sad to listen to them talk for hours and hours about this person and wonder when they are going to get it (don’t think I just sit there though, it takes time to help a person who is in the throes of a player). I will say to them, “Do you think he is in therapy now talking about you?” or “Do you feel he spends this much time thinking about you all day?”

Stonewalling: when the player has given you way more space than you bargained for and you begin to think you are over him yet you spend every moment wondering. This is the crucial part where I try to talk to women about blocking him and moving forward in their life. It is just a hint to them at first, when they pretend they are ready to move forward. In reality, I know they are not going to block him because every day is a possibility. He knows this too. Especially when the woman needs to share something they found online – just a cute little note “That I know he would like.” This lack of impulse control shows they are now capable of ruining their own lives. They share it; get some snarky comment and the woman takes the bait. Now she is being punished and begins to enjoy it in an unconscious way. She will try harder the next time to say something more meaningful. I wrote email after email trying to profess how liberal I was becoming for a guy once. He continued to tell me I wasn’t liberal enough and wasn’t doing enough.

When you try to hint to a woman that “I hope your spouse doesn’t find these messages, [to the other guy/gal]” and they don’t seem to care this is when it is clear that they are going to get hurt. I had a woman who spent years chasing a guy who spent those same years ganging up on her till she ended up with nothing. She was dumped in another state with no transportation or money to get home, not once but twice. When women are trying to heal or become a survivor the anger is now transferred onto the guy. “How could he do something like that when he knew [x,y or z.” It is not part of a “good person’s” mindset to bring harm to someone. Hence the confusion on the victim’s part.

Jim Jones received accolades before he went to Guyana. In 1960, he was appointed to the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission. He was speaking out on radio and Television interviews. By 1977, he received the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian award. The NAACP and the Urban League lapped up his praises; especially when he used their own words to play them. At that time, he was a savior to the inner city, just as Hitler had been for the Germans or Stalin and Marx had been for those seeking a philosophy that seemed to indicate a better life than what they had. Still today, people seek out the wisdom of Hitler, Stalin and Marx and many other people.  No matter what travesties these people caused in history there are still some people who continue to argue why they were right. Jim Jones had a collection of people by the time he got them on a plane and shipped them over to a little known county. And this was all before social media. Imagine what he could do now.

Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. There is a difference though between your ego and your instincts. One is a gut feeling and the other is YOU. If it is all happening to soon, too quick, too fast, stall and step away. Don’t think about him, think about your life and what is important to you. If this person’s story doesn’t add up, it won’t – no matter how hard you are trying to make it total. When you are spending too much time trying to protect someone from others, you know they are wrong for you. A person who is right for you will just fit easily into your life. You won’t have to explain anything. No matter how alone you are it is much better to wake up by yourself and know the day is yours than to wake up to a text message that gives you a stomach ache for the rest of the day. Being alone and having a life that is yours is much better than having a life of constant agony. Being able to choose what you will do today is better than having someone choose it for you.

When I wrote my paper on Religious Cults, back in 1980, I was 17 years old. I was about to become pregnant and married to an abusive man. I had lived in a narcissistic household that was both emotionally and physically abusive so, I began as an adult with severe PTSD. I spent years in and out of relationships, some I see were narcissistic, some were good men that I wasn’t ready for and some were just not a good fit. In the meantime, I was in years of therapy. I spent years in college and then university. I went to many self-help teachers and absorbed their lectures. It wasn’t until 2012 when my very good friend and spiritual teacher died that I was forced to grow up and face reality; truly on my own for the first time. I had to be my own teacher with no one to depend on. This is when life took on a new meaning for me. This is when I finally got it. I understood integrity to self; more than ever before. I understood boundaries and my responsibility in making the choices I made. It didn’t mean my life became easy, far from it, but it meant that I no longer settled. It meant that I made choices on my own and didn’t fall prey to others wishes or demands. It means that I am alone and without many friends because integrity can be a lonely life – until you meet people of like minds or those who respect you for who you are. But went I look back at the life I have lived before, I wouldn’t choose that one over this, “a lone” life, for anything in the world. Yes, I wish I had figured this out sooner, so I would have had a different life but I didn’t and I accept that this is where I am meant to be. I accept that the people I am here to teach are those who made choices like me (you can’t con someone who has been conned).

The balance of power weighs heavily on my mind, as it has since I got into the field of psychology. I owe a debt of gratitude to John F. Kennedy University for teaching me about countertransference and transference issues that one would face in the professional world. I also owe a debt of gratitude to all the teachers and therapists who helped guide me along the way. The victims of Jim Jones massacre began an eye-opening experience, to myself as a young girl out on a farm in Ohio, that have continued to remain in the back of my mind as I grow and have evolved into the person I am today.

Voice to Voice or Skin to Skin: Ritual of Connection

I have always loved Nicole Kidman and her ability to portray so many different types of people. She is a lot like Penelope Cruz, another favorite of mine; in that neither are afraid of experimenting and both have been involved in productions from different countries. This week I was reading an article on the Huffington Post, where she was being interviewed about her marriage which is celebrating its twelth anniversary. She mentioned that she and Keith [Urban] do not text to talk to one another, because of all the misunderstandings that were obvious to them from the onset. As she went on, she noted that they have a phrase “Voice to Voice or Skin to Skin,” is their only way of communication with each other. I thought this sounded very sweet and touching and something I wanted to share with the couples that I work with.

I have been taking continuing education with the Gottman couples trainings and use this method when working with my couples. We talk about Turning Towards Each Other, rather than away from one another when communicating is taking place. Voice to voice, you may not look at each other (except as Nicole noted when they do Facetime) but you are clearly hearing and participating in that moment. Of course, it is possible to Stonewall (and be on your computer at the same time) but then your partner would pick up on this very easily. When you are texting to someone it is very anti-social and disrespectful of someone (this is me not the Gottman trainings talking). The person is not there on the other end at the exact moment that you send the text. You can’t feel them, hear them, see them (other than a photo), or even sense them. You can misinterpret them and I have found that it is easy for my client’s to be stalked by their partners in this way. Usually this is noted when they tell me that he “blew up my phone.” When I first heard this, I have to confess, I thought maybe their battery had died from too much usage on the phone. But kidding aside, this is not an intimate form of communication. It is a cop out, when it comes to communication.

If you want your relationship to last, you can’t take it for granted and so you must value this investment and continue to work on it. The most important thing I have found is building an “Emotional Connection,” with your partner because A. Women are turned on by this and aren’t likely to stray, B. You begin to know each other more deeply, which causes you to feel you can trust and depend on the other person, and C. You are developing a “We” instead of an “I.” The last one always gets my goat. If I hear one partner saying “I am going away this weekend for vacation,” I will say “Aren’t you taken your wife/husband?” naturally they will say “Well, yeah,” so I say then I think you meant to say “We are going away…” and talk to them about the importance of respect in a relationship.

Look at the difference between Nicole Kidman’s marriage to Tom and now to Keith. I went through my young adult years with the first two (I don’t know much about Keith Urban) and always remembered how sad and detached Nicole and Tom looked in photos. I don’t think I ever saw them smile – together. Sure, Tom always had that Hollywood smile whenever taking photos and he pushed it out there even when he was next to Nicole on the carpet (though it never seemed quite as authentic as his Risky Business or Top Gun smile). Nicole never once, that I recall, ever really had more then a grin on her face. It was because of this that I was not at all surprised when they got a divorce. Now, I don’t think I have seen one photo of her and Keith, where they don’t look like they’ve just had “Skin to Skin” right before they walked out onto the carpet. I’ve heard Keith Urban interviewed saying that he feels like she is still his girlfriend after twelve years. This tells me that they keep their relationship fresh and are invested in a quality relationship. I once read Nicole stating in an interview that she thought it was romantic to see a cemetery plot with the couple buried next to each other and imagining what a delightful marriage they must have had. It seems morbid in a way but it shows the depth that she was hoping for in a man. Someone she would be with until the end. I don’t think there will be any question whether these two will last forever.

What type of play are your creating in your relationship? How are you keeping the marriage alive or exciting? Maybe you aren’t worth millions and globetrotting around the world (though this makes it way more difficult than balancing a budget and raising a couple of kids), you actually have an easier opportunity to make your relationship last. What can you do for fun? Riding bikes as a family (or couple), hiking together, praying together, cooking together, taking a bath together (as a couple of course), etc… These are what we call Rituals of Connection (or Creating Shared Meaning), one of the “The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work,” by Dr. Gottman. Rituals are those sacred moments in your family’s life that are created by the two of you for your relationship and for your kids. Having a motto such as “Voice to Voice or Skin to Skin” is a Ritual of Connection. It is an intimate boundary that this couple has created that they won’t steer away from because it has kept them together for twelve years.

Texting is not intimate and it was created for emergencies, not for relationships. There was a time when we did not have cellular technology, and even a time we didn’t have pagers (or telephones). We have taken advantage of texting and it has caused our world to become anti-social. People are out in the real world less and less and when they are there, they are on their phones. Another thing that gets my goat is seeing people at a natural park and they have their heads down, staring at their phones or are taking some darn “selfie” because they are not capable of “stopping to smell the roses.” Life is a challenge which you must undertake and if you make the choice to have someone by your side, respect them, love them, nourish them and for heaven sakes, communicate with them [LIVE]!

 

Stop and smell the roses,
taste the nectar of sweet.
Peel back the petals,
tickle your feet!

Take a walk amongst the flowers,
place blue bonnets in your hair,
Sing songs of he love’s me not,
two step with the air!

Stop and smell the roses,
Spend some time,
Tend to your bushes,
Pay no mind.

As you walk amongst the flowers,
peer down at your feet.
There’s no time to smell the roses
when you’re six feet deep. 

Hershe Moore

 

Social Services – Did you ask the children, alone?

Before the police informed us that Jennifer Hart was the one with her foot on the accelerator I already knew from this photo it was her. When the story first broke, this was one of the photos we were shown and it hit me immediately. I could see the narcissistic tendencies begging to be shown as if to say “Look at me!” She is leaning forward asking for the most attention while her partner is leaning back, wanting less of the light. Her brood of four (out of six are under her) and you can see the command she holds over them. Sure you might say, it is easy for me to say now that we know all the details.

I am an ex-social worker with eight years at CPS (Childrens Protective Services) in California. Now I work in private practice and specialize in working with victims and survivors of emotional abuse (from a Narcissistic parent or partner). I always tell my clients and I will say this about Jennifer Hart as well. I am not diagnosing your parent or partner (or Jennifer). I am just saying that it sounds like this person has narcissistic tendencies. It is not ethical to diagnose someone we have not met. Most often my clients come in and tell me their parent or partner is narcissistic based on what they read online. I always check their stories out by looking for the tell tale signs. The language of the perpetrator (they all seem to use the same phrases, like they all speak Narcissistic French), the walking on eggshells of the victim, it is always the victims fault and the perpetrator is never sorry or never takes responsibility. The victim/survivor has lost their sense of self after years of emotional abuse and being told it is their fault and trying desperately to make their parent or partner right or hold them up on a pedestal of some sort. Sometimes there is violence and this usually occurs when the narcissistic person has been pushed up against the wall (metaphorically) by their pathology by the victim or in Jennifer Harts case, her perceived threat of her ego by CPS. The violence happens to re-assert their power.

These perpetrators have been working on their externalized stories and behaviors since early childhood, sometimes even infancy.

In this case though, what bugs me even more is whether or not CPS even spoke to these six children, ALONE. In the last article I read, which came from the New York Times  they mention the reports from CPS being released in court. I see in this article where CPS spoke to the parents but I see know mention of speaking to the children. Maybe they did and it is not shown here but it begs the question.

The reason I speculate this lack of efficiency is that these children, we have been told in several articles, had no problems going to teachers or complete strangers (neighbors they did not know personally). One photo shows the little boy going up to a police officer in “the famous photo.” Why was he crying that day? People had all kinds of comments about this before he was killed but now, looking back, why was he crying to a police officer? The children, we have been told, went to these neighbors asking for food. They told these people that they were being starved or abused. In the NY Times article the teachers have stated that they got tired of telling CPS because of the retaliation that the children would face as a result of their home visits. This again begs the question: “Did CPS ever speak to any of these six children alone?” They should have spoken with all of them alone and even separately. I am not just saying that because now we know they are dead. I am saying this because this is their JOB.

Obviously a parent or caregiver is not going to say “Sure, I beat my kids,” or “Sure, I starve my children when they are bad,” or “Yeah, I have sex with my children.” This is the reason you always talk to the children alone. You talk to them at school, you talk to them in their bedrooms or take them for a walk outside their home or sit in your car. Anything to get them away from their parents ears and give the child a chance to feel as if they are not going to be in trouble. Then, you don’t go back and tell the parents, “Well your kids said …” and walk out the door.

In this case, the parents (according to NY Times reports of CPS statements) punished their children for having a penny in their pocket and lying about where they got it. The kids were punished for five hours (forced to lay on their beds) for lying about eating all the pizza. What made me think again of the narcissistic behaviors was this statement:

In a 2011 episode, Hannah told a school nurse that she had not eaten. Jennifer Hart then became angry and shoved a banana and nuts into the child’s mouth. When confronted about this, Sarah Hart argued that Hannah was “playing the food card” and should just be given water.

All of this is serious neglect because it is out of the ordinary or unusual punishment. The paragraph above screams out narcissistic language, but all alone would not. However, most people in our profession don’t put a lot of their attention on the subject of narcissism. What she was doing here was shutting her adopted daughter up for what she said, to keep her from speaking again. What her partner was doing was placating her partner (agreeing with her to save their marriage). Sarah, however long she had been with Jennifer, had learned to keep the peace by keeping her happy.

So why, with all these reports, with Jennifer taking the six children out of school and then home-schooling (to have more control), did CPS never take the children out of the home in three states? It still begs the question – Did CPS ever talk to the children alone? If so, why didn’t they believe them? It is pretty rare that a child is going to lie when confronted by an authority figure and in this case, they had already gone to someone who made a report to CPS. They were brave kids, begging for help and no one ever did anything to help them except the mandated reporters and neighbors.

Hint: This is the reason CPS, that mandated reporters and neighbors often don’t report, because they see you are not doing anything about it. Hint: To mandated reporters and neighbors, don’t give up because you are starting a paper trail and eventually CPS will do their job when their hand is forced. AND, if it is not too late.

In my practice, here in Ohio, so many times my clients (who are adults now but some who are still children and had dealings with social services) tell me they never once spoke to the social worker. I often hear “They spoke to my parent,” or “They spoke to me in front of my parent (s).” One young person said to me “What is a social worker?” when I explained this they said “I never spoke to anyone.” I of course spoke to the social worker about this and made it clear that they needed to speak to the child, alone. What are they afraid of? If the social worker is intimidated by the parent, parents, or caregiver, call your supervisor and ask for support or contact the police and ask for them to “keep the peace.” I found you often had to tell the police exactly what they were supposed to do, even though they collaborated with us all the time. Sorry, I am not bashing them but that is what we had to do. Social workers get intimidated by these calls that they make, when confronted by the perpetrator. They are not policemen and are not always strong or street smart and sometimes are newbies.

In this case, there was mention of Jennifer drinking. Narcissism is a character trait of addictions. Obviously, since their only priority is getting a fix (drink or drug). Ironically, the last photo of Jennifer is in a convenience store buying food (bananas – again bananas – it appears) and two other items which I can’t make out from a video surveillance camera. She has a look of disdain on her face. Unlike the other photos of her, where she is aware she is getting publicity that she wants, she is unkempt (like most people are these days). She is not wearing a bra, she doesn’t have her hair fixed nicely, she has her hand in her pants (to feel secure when you feel insecure). CPS had now been trailing them for three states. She had the kids in home schooling but still they were onto her. It sounds as if the day or days before (the murder) the car was in the driveway but no one answered the door. You can’t knock the door down or even have the police go in unless of course there is perceived danger at that moment. They might have called out a “health and safety check” which the police do when you know they are there and not answering the door.

In all these states mandated reporters were doing their jobs. The neighbors were being a “village” and protecting the children in their own defenseless ways and calling CPS and making anonymous reports. Still nothing happened.

Narcissistic violence is generally spontaneous, not planned out. When I hear clients talk about these scenarios where they had confronted the perpetrator, it is an act on the victims part of standing up for themselves or saying the truth but not expecting it to have any effect on the perpetrator. Usually they would hear “You don’t know what you are talking about,” or some other type of criticism. In these circumstances where violence occurs, the victim continues to push the button (or in this case, CPS doesn’t give up). Violence can be accidental even, such as throwing something and it happens to hit the victim. They could be pushing the victim and they fall down and hit their head on the corner of a table or dresser. Spontaneity means it is not pre-meditated and so they haven’t planned the attack.

In this case, I am reminded (as many adult survivors of abuse can recall) of my parent slamming on the breaks to get us to behave. There were instances of pulling the car over so they could effectively reach back and slap you or wail on you if it was really an annoying behavior. But, Jennifer stopped the car and then here is what I imagine. My theory is she made some last remarks to the children that probably sounded like this “If it weren’t for you…, I have had it with you kids. This is all your fault.” Then with all her self-centered egotistical pride she pushed down on the gas and let it rip.

For all of you, who, like me focus on the “Why didn’t they open the car door and jump out?” The children and partner were probably too paralyzed in the moment to do anything because they were in shock those brief seconds and then it was too late. If they could live to tell us, they would probably say “It all happened so fast.”

 

Special Note: I have since been given a copy of a report that was put together by OR CPS. This was thanks to another social worker who read this article. Yes, they did in fact talk to the children alone (in this state) but still felt compelled to say “insufficient evidence.” I have since shown it to another social worker whom I once worked with. It is hard to understand what another social worker is thinking or know how much experience they have had in the field or how much training they received (or what their degree is). Hard for me to read the mother stating that she held the child’s head under water, while the other mother helped and think “insufficient evidence.” This is an inappropriate punishment for a little girl. She admitted this. Along with other information given above, there were countless reasons why these parents needed the children removed, court involvement and then decide whether or not they should be returned. Yes, they spoke with the children alone but as the Minnesota teachers said, every time they contacted CPS, the children suffered more abuse. By the time they got to Oregon, they probably weren’t quite eager to talk to someone who wasn’t listening. Obviously OR wasn’t. The children didn’t even admit to the abuse that they had already told people before, which the social worker new about, as it is stated that they did in the report. This would have been a red flag for me. But reading this entire report, about 13 pages and then seeing the conclusion, I am dumbfounded that the children weren’t removed for that report alone.