My grandmother visited my childhood home a few times a year and I alllllwaaaays looked forward to her arrival. She was radiant, popular, and very important. On rare occasions in which I appeared calm and not needing- she would reward me with a glimmer of her light and a smile. In that moment, I felt warm, seen, wanted, and a teeny bit less unsafe. I. had. earned. her. affection. Yaaay. I would say I spent 90% of my time with her, feeling the chill of her deliberate shadow. When she did openly appear to approve me though, so did the rest of her family. So cool. Right? Total Acceptance. Only, not!
But then, I would get a feeling or a need and her “light” would be abruptly turned off or away. Emotional whiplash– one moment enjoying approval and something like connection (for having randomly pleased or amused her) and the next, feeling demoralized, abandoned, anxious. There was no doubt that Grandmother’s approval was essential– but I could not grasp or even come close to meeting the elusive requirements. I am by nature; intense, anxious, uncomfortable, almost always tired and hungry and also a “picky” eater. … a real asshole. Actually, those things do not make me assholey. I do believe that my reactive behaviors to being collectively treated as bad and unworthy, made me one, for sure.
I was the cautionary tale, the youngest of cousins/grandchildren and with not even a mother to count on as a trusted ally. The division was clear. Those pleasing to grandmother and those who did so less– or not at all. My actual being challenged and frustrated my mother– which caused her mother anger with me, and this upset all of the people. What. A. Mess.
My sister, a favorite of Grandmas, the oldest of the cousins and grandchildren, embraced a role as diminisher of anyone, daring to express or elicit differing and/or difficult feelings. This is how the family version of peace was maintained. Observable discomfort was openly judged, mocked, shunned. Literally, nobody overtly objected to this style of management. For a moment, I almost feel compassion for my sister. She was, after all, probably only trying to secure her space, on the more favorable side of the crosshairs.
My sons’ father comes from a similar family dynamic. Silent treatment and ghosting are classic and unifying tactics for those unable to tolerate honest expression of pain: pain which they personally experience OR pain which they caused another. BECAUSE —
Pain and difficult feelings are caused only by assholes
felt only by broken, delusional, losers.
Honest, open expression of pain is strictly inadmissible.Much Love,
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