"Cutting Loose: An Adult's Guide to Coming to Terms with Your Parents" - Halpern

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Spring Butterfly

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I had started this book sometime ago but wasn't ready for some of the theory and concepts. After reading the book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend some of what I'm reading in this book now makes better sense.

The theory behind the book is that we each have an inner child as well as an adult and interacting adult to adult not only with parents but with others in general is critical to growth. Understanding the inner child of ourselves as well as both parents is addressed.

It would take great strength of character and boldness to be the adult in the examples used in the book. The Boundaries book laid the foundation for the strength needed for the next level of growth.

Some highlights:

It is guilt, not compassion when her actions lead you to feel enormous unease, as if you’ve committed a malicious injury, when all you’ve done is behaved other than how she would have wanted you to behave. It is guilt and not compassion when you feel the discomfort of a transgressor for acts that really harm no one. It is guilt and not compassion when you end up feeling callously selfish for simply doing something that pleases you though it takes nothing of importance from her or anyone.

You must be prepared to weather the possibility of mother’s anger, of her accusations and of her withdrawal of love. You must be prepared to test whether you can survive feeling guilt-racked and abandoned. Where does the strength come from to bear the threat of her anger, her blame, your anxiety and your fear of losing her caring? It must be remembered that while it is the child within you that is locked into the old reactions, there is more to you than that shaky, desperate child. You are a grown person, with complex skills, countless experiences, and a capacity for much more actual and emotional self-sufficiency than the child in you knows about.

When you act without malevolence in your own behalf, and that action is counter to mother’s wishes, her guilt provocations must be met by a firm position that you refuse to be held responsible for her suffering. And this must be coupled with an insistence that her claims for attention and interaction be in the context of her recognition of you as a separate person and her respect for your right to say no.

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You have this empty place in you that your father’s weakness left unfulfilled. His not having a strong hand to clasp yours and introduce you to the world has left a crevasse in your confidence you may not yet have found a way to fill or bridge. So there is an unfinished task. Some perceive this task as finding a strong person they can identify with, learn from, be guided by and thus fill the crevasse. They are lucky, because this is an achievable task that may lead to an enriching goal. Many others see the task differently (and I use “see” here not as a deliberately thought-out view of the job that needs to be finished but as an unconscious, automatic perception). They see the unfinished task as having to “cure” and strengthen their weak father, and if they transfer this task to other men, then by definition these men must be weak in order to be strengthened! The pull to complete this job is powerful and basically unachievable because, as you may see now if you are caught up in this, you are not out to succeed in this task but simply to keep working on it.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2015, 12:41:07 AM by eclipse »
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sweet p

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whoa SB! this is good stuff!!!!!!!

It is guilt, not compassion when her actions lead you to feel enormous unease, as if you’ve committed a malicious injury, when all you’ve done is behaved other than how she would have wanted you to behave. It is guilt and not compassion when you feel the discomfort of a transgressor for acts that really harm no one. It is guilt and not compassion when you end up feeling callously selfish for simply doing something that pleases you though it takes nothing of importance from her or anyone.

this is all very validating. i hate the covert abuse because i'm constantly second-guessing myself. the truth is that my instincts are right and good. when i feel enormous unease around a person, that means something is not right. and if i examine my contribution to the relationship and find i have not done anything to feel legitimate guilt over, then the problem is the other person!

When you act without malevolence on your own behalf, and that action is counter to mother’s wishes, her guilt provocations must be met by a firm position that you refuse to be held responsible for her suffering. And this must be coupled with an insistence that her claims for attention and interaction be in the context of her recognition of you as a separate person and her respect for your right to say no.

 :yeahthat: why do we feel resposible for their suffering?? is it because we think we have the ability to make them happy? if we behave how they want us to? lack of respect for our right to say no is the biggest PD "tell."

thanks so much for posting this SB. i like when you post excerpts from these books (boundaries is the other one i'm referring to). it's very helpful!

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Spring Butterfly

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Thank you - I'm so glad you find the highlights helpful. :)

In answer to your question about why we feel responsible and the ability to make them happy, that may go back to the beginning of the book talking about infants instincts for survival. The talks about an infant emotional bonds to the mother. Here's a few excerpts from that portion of the book:

Our helplessness as infants places our survival in the hands of our caretakers. We are dependent on their ministrations to our physical needs, and we are dependent on their loving concern if we are to maintain a sense of contentment, well-being, and feeling welcome in the world. It does not take us long to learn that our experience of well-being depends on the availability of our parents’ loving attentions, and it takes us only a little longer to discover what we must do to keep that affection available and to avoid chasing it away.   ...

Through this “infantile empathy,” mother’s unhappiness, anger and anxiety are also directly transmitted to the infantus in the form of tension, discomfort and fear. So our stake in keeping mother happy starts early, and our repertoire of behavior to achieve this grows as our understanding and knowledge of what makes her happy expands with time.   ...

Increasingly, we can take care of ourselves—but our dependence on our parents for having good feelings, particularly about ourselves, decreases much more slowly. The emotional umbilical cord not only remains uncut but often twists into a Gordian knot that ties us fast to our parents’ reactions to us. At times we may come to take a rebellious stance against our parents’ demands or to rail bitterly against their shortcomings. But this is only another indication that powerful, energy-draining emotions are still revolving around our parents. It also matters little whether we live thousands of miles from our parents or under the same roof, whether we rarely see them or see them every day. In fact, it sometimes doesn’t matter whether they are dead or alive. What does matter is that we may be caught up in a dialogue or interaction with them that stunts our growth and restricts our autonomy.   


A lot of it makes sense and I'm finding it very deep psychologically, takes a bit of pondering to get my head around their theory.
· Every interaction w/ PD persons results in damage. Plan accordingly, make time to heal
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Emotion Overload

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This book looks interesting to me, but the reviews state it is more for people that want to keep a relationship with their parents.  Since I'm NC, that doesn't seem to helpful to me.  What do you think, SB?

And I got the boundaries book in the mail yesterday!  Finally ready to dip my toe into that area.

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Spring Butterfly

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The boundaries book is probably more fitting because it deals with boundaries in general, and boundaries is not something that generally those raised by PD people were taught. This other book is most definitely geared to understanding an adult relationship with parents and touches on controlling and dramatic mothers but it is not written from a NC or PD perspective. My next book in queue is the Wizard of Oz and other narcissists :)

Edited: see comments below as the book does acknowledge NC situations depending on if the parent accepts your individuating and growth as an adult. A parent may be so rigid and controlling they cannot allow your individuation and adulthood and may even get to the point of setting themselves into an adversarial role. 
« Last Edit: January 11, 2017, 08:40:33 AM by Spring Butterfly »
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Spring Butterfly

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Various quotes that helped me in my journey:
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In viewing your family’s patterns of interaction, the most important question is “What is my role in the family’s emotional system?” You and your family have cooperated to give you a particular part in the family drama. What is that part? Why was it assigned to you?   

...One factor that can be helpful is to anticipate that whenever you stop your song and dance, even for a brief while, there will be an inevitable reaction. Anticipating this reaction means a certain amount of preparedness. If you are going to step outside the family system to find yourself as a separate person you have to ask, What can I expect to happen? What responses will I get from the family as a whole, from each member individually, from inside myself? Without this anticipation you may be surprised by the backlash, and in that stunned state you will easily fall back into line.   

...But there is one particular type of parental rigidity that severely limits any possibility of change, and that is when your parent’s discomfort or disapproval with your ending the song and dance hardens into an adversary position. In this context, your most innocuous attempts to define yourself as a separate and autonomous person can bring enraged and outrageous accusations that you are trying to victimize and hurt him (her). Your most well-meaning or neutral words and actions can be twisted, to your stunned disbelief, into something evil and malicious. This angry, recriminating stance, when it is not a reaction to actual malevolence on your part, can thwart any attempts at rational communication and can quickly propel you into a state of wall-climbing frustration. Entering a dialogue on this basis becomes a new song and dance that is even more futile and unrewarding than the previous one, because all his or her reactions will be based on the simple precept, “I’m good and your’re bad.”   

...When you stop trying to win his (her) nurturant caring by being a compliant extension of him, when you no longer exalt him, when you stop following his pre-scribed script, he will react with the indignant certainty, “If you are not a part of me, you’re against me.”   

...He (she) may be willing to write you off rather than submit to such an obviously unfair demand on your part, and unfortunately you may have to let him do just that.   

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If you never got on well with one of your parents and you have left that parent behind on your journey in such a way that the thought of that parent arouses anger or self pity or any emotion … you are still attached. You are still stuck.   

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But when a parent of a young adult says, “I want you to do what’s best for you—I can bear the loneliness,” there are clearly two messages emanating from that one mouth. The first represents the mature parent, aware of his offspring’s need to develop his own independence and strength; the other is the message of the little child, afraid of abandonment and separation, using a guilt-provoking maneuver to stifle the offspring’s bid for separateness.
Quote
These final steps in ending the song and dance, then, mean not only bypassing the child within your parents and responding to their maturity but also being ready to cope with the hurt, angry, anxious child that may begin to scream because you are no longer gratifying them in the old familiar way.

This book has helped me separate and individuate, to cast off responsibility for others emotional wellbeing. It is up to others to care for and nurture their inner child, not me. Understanding the concepts has helped me be free to live my life . . . Finally free. It's a good feeling whether you're in contact or not to be able to just let go.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2016, 10:27:27 AM by Spring Butterfly »
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Spring Butterfly

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The last few chapters wrap up with these thoughts.

Quote
The degree to which any parent can accept us in a new role, and in a way that differs from their expectations, is largely dependent on where they are on a continuum of flexibility-rigidity. When you change your end of the song and dance in accordance with your need to be true to your own inner rhythms, you are testing your parents’ flexibility. You will soon discover the boundaries of their ability to change and to accept you as who you are and not how they’d like you to be. Most parents, perhaps after an initial period of bewilderment, anger and a redoubling of their efforts to force you to resume your old, expected responses will after a while give up, accept the new arrangement, and may even come to be pleased by it.   •

But for some parents the initial confusion and anger never end; they are so hardened into an old position with you that your change is an intolerable threat. Their disapproval will be powerful and rejecting, their demands will be strident, coercive, even emotionally (or financially) blackmailing. As you withstand their aggressive or seductive campaign to bring you back into step, their rage may increase enormously, possibly even to unreasonable and threatening proportions.   •

But there is also the danger of letting the relationship drag on and on without any real signs of a changed response on their part. Wishfulness may even cause you to see changes where there are none. Permitting the relationship to continue indefinitely with you responding in your new way and your parents persisting in their old reactions can be a product of a renewed unrealistic hope that they will change, and this in itself can become another song and dance based on the same old magical expectation. Of course, if you change and they sustain their old pattern and this does not bother you, nor push you back into the old interaction, you may have a viable modus vivendi even if you and they are not on the same beam. But if there is no evidence of change over time in their responsiveness, and their response is distasteful or hurtful, you may, in doing justice to yourself, have to face the sad option of cutting this basic tie.   •

In any event, it marks the end of any frequent, regular expected contact, and an abandonment of further attempts to wrestle emotionally with your parents about the nature of the relationship. It is a unilateral declaration of the severing of old patterns and of the end of any attempt on your part at a close bond.   •

But there is one particular type of parental rigidity that severely limits any possibility of change, and that is when your parent’s discomfort or disapproval with your ending the song and dance hardens into an adversary position. In this context, your most innocuous attempts to define yourself as a separate and autonomous person can bring enraged and outrageous accusations that you are trying to victimize and hurt him (her). Your most well-meaning or neutral words and actions can be twisted, to your stunned disbelief, into something evil and malicious. This angry, recriminating stance, when it is not a reaction to actual malevolence on your part, can thwart any attempts at rational communication and can quickly propel you into a state of wall-climbing frustration. Entering a dialogue on this basis becomes a new song and dance that is even more futile and unrewarding than the previous one, because all his or her reactions will be based on the simple precept, “I’m good and your’re bad.”   •

This is where I think so many of us are in our efforts to individuate. The comments about severing the tie isn't about no contact although the book acknowledges that happens sometimes whether initiated by the parent who cannot accept their offspring as an adult individual or whether initiated by the offspring. (I can't use the word child when it comes to referencing adult offspring) Severing the tie is more about "severing of old patterns and of the end of any attempt on your part at a close bond" and lowering contact to an acceptable level. We do so from a position of an adult who while acknowledging their child within is hurting continue to speak to the adult in our parents. Any interaction continues adult to adult, never from our child inside seeking approval or from a parent scolding or berating them.

There is also a great summary on various types of therapy, what to expect and what is the goal of each form of therapy.
· Every interaction w/ PD persons results in damage. Plan accordingly, make time to heal
· Individuation is the key to emotional freedom
· It's foolish to expect of others what they have no capacity to give
· If others were self observant, introspective, this forum would not exist

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all4peace

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I'm glad to see this referenced in a present thread. SB, I read your first post in this thread and it is very timely for me. Especially this one:

Quote
When you act without malevolence in your own behalf, and that action is counter to mother’s wishes, her guilt provocations must be met by a firm position that you refuse to be held responsible for her suffering. And this must be coupled with an insistence that her claims for attention and interaction be in the context of her recognition of you as a separate person and her respect for your right to say no.

and this one:

Quote
You have this empty place in you that your father’s weakness left unfulfilled. His not having a strong hand to clasp yours and introduce you to the world has left a crevasse in your confidence you may not yet have found a way to fill or bridge. So there is an unfinished task. Some perceive this task as finding a strong person they can identify with, learn from, be guided by and thus fill the crevasse. They are lucky, because this is an achievable task that may lead to an enriching goal. Many others see the task differently (and I use “see” here not as a deliberately thought-out view of the job that needs to be finished but as an unconscious, automatic perception). They see the unfinished task as having to “cure” and strengthen their weak father, and if they transfer this task to other men, then by definition these men must be weak in order to be strengthened! The pull to complete this job is powerful and basically unachievable because, as you may see now if you are caught up in this, you are not out to succeed in this task but simply to keep working on it.