Friday, December 20, 2019

Educated: Bad Messages about Abuse

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover.

I read this book recently for a library book club, and it's awful when it comes to abuse. I told the book club, she needs to learn more about abuse and should be warning about sociopaths and narcissists, and I was upset that she left nieces and nephews with a severe abuser with nary a word [as far as the reader is told]. People nodded and agreed with me. Sure she is to be congratulated on getting out and taking the steps to better her life, but I didn't like the messages about abuse and life that this book had to tell. Maybe it hit too close to home, maybe something about the book struck me as not truthful.

This book is written in the same strain as Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. I wrote on this book before: Hillbilly Elegy: Blaming the Poor in America

The general theme is the same, down and out person, in this case with physical and mental abuse added to the poverty, escapes and rises up the ladder of success. It's part of the perseverance porn genre. These books always seem to have a conservative political "up by the bootstraps" theme. It's very strong here. Tara manages to teach herself trigonometry and to get into college even not knowing what the Holocaust was. Tara takes the education world by storm and goes to college after being poorly homeschooled, and goes on to earn a Master's degree. Just like JD Vance, she gets a few lucky breaks along the way that are understated, in this case a professor-mentor takes her under his wing.

She definitely worked hard and I liked the part of the book describing her pursuits of knowledge and education. Homeschooling is definitely a problem and is something I believe should be made illegal. It's a tool of too many abusive parents among the few homeschooling parents that may offer anything resembling a real education. Tara was kept at home to be her father's mule in the scrap-yard with plenty of injuries waiting to be had.

However a lot of the book seemed "untrue" and this beyond outraged family members calling a would be escaped scapegoat a liar. Some reviewers on Amazon and elsewhere question the book, how did her badly educated and functioning mother and father suddenly become multimillionaires from a holistic health company that made essential oils, salves and homeopathic remedies? Was she really that isolated when she was allowed to sing and act in community plays? How did one relative survive a hole to his brain as described in her book, and others a slew of severe burns--in one instance she claims her father's face burns so badly it appears to melt, car accidents and more without modern medical care and survive? How did her mother survive a severe brain injury with no modern intervention and then have the health and mental ability to run a large business?

 I joked at the book club maybe the whole book was an ad for her mother's miraculous salves behind the scenes. I saw enough of the holistic health world to know homeopathy and herbs grown on the side of the mountain are not equivalent to the modern medical world. I definitely tried different remedies when I was with the fundamentalists myself. More then one tried to convince me to give up modern medicine and evil "sorcery" named "pharmacology", but I knew it would mean death in my case.

What gets me is she keeps returning to a very abusive family and in the end still yearns for their love and wants to be with them instead of any real recovery, so the book bothered me greatly. It also gets annoying how much love is pushed, as if all of us should love abusers in one of the lesser offensive quotes of the book, stated above by Oprah. "You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye." Here recall my last post about emotional repression, part of the messages of society is you must love family [god/etc] no matter what they do to you. Ponder the messages of this book and why it was written. It's her right to express her emotions, but I realize something is very wrong here, as the focus is "loving abusers" between her and Oprah.

Her odd words that "I knew my father always loved me" are strange indeed as in the book, she tells tales of her father directly endangering her life from the work he had her do, and directly endangering the life of her brothers where at least two are severely injured. I think in some places this would be known as a "double bind" message, someone writes a book where someone does everything to destroy them, allows a brother to beat her to the point of almost being maimed for life, sets them up for severe injuries, denies them medical care and an education and uses them as a slave for years and goes up on a national stage and tells us how much this person loved her.

Her sociopathic brother keeps beating the literal snot out of her, puts her head in toilets and even once commits an extreme bloody horrific crime against an animal, and none of it is reported. Her parents know about all this and do absolutely nothing. There is one scene where he is beating the shit out of her at a bar, but instead of her protesting or yelling for help, she pretends it's all a joke so others don't intervene.

This book was triggering to me, though I did not tell the group that part, and I remember how I had to fist fight like a boy to protect myself from my abusive brother [father was too]. I wrote about this on my going no contact with my brother, but a lot of my childhood and teens was dodging his fists, pinches, slaps, and threats of physical harm. Unlike her psycho brother who was farther on the spectrum of evil, while I had some fun times with my brother, when we were younger, there was the very "dark" side of things too. This book was hard to read, and I almost quit, because reading scenes of her getting knocked down, kicked about, slapped and threatened brought back some of my own abuse.

In my case, I was large and could dish it out like a boy and did when I had to, once giving brother a bloody nose and also tossing him into a dishwasher breaking the door off but I spent my childhood and teens, having brother hit me, wrestle me, kick me and under constant physical duress from him. Remember the example he was given in terms of treating me. I believe things would have been far worse if I had not been so big in size and close to him in age.  He did not touch me when I was over 18, knowing I'd call the cops on him but the threat of violence was always there, if that makes sense. I was nearly 50 in 2018, with a slight tinge of worry over his misspelled words about wishing he could come over to my house to slap me.

Sometimes I wonder about "popular" books like this that give very bad messages about abuse. This book, was the extreme of someone sitting there and taking it. She never fought back until she ran away to go to school. Even after her no contact, she never questioned the system she came out of. I don't know if she is someone who will progress or not, but these seem to be issues that impact her book negatively. The love stuff with Oprah doesn't shock me as the societal theme of family at all cost even with one that has left, Tara has no interest in questioning the myths of religion or family, that all parents "love" their children no matter how they treat them. How many remain in abuse now, being told Mom or Dad "really love" you? No "bootstrap" book that sells success to the masses will ever question family as the bastion of love, no matter how toxic that family is.

I understand people being at earlier steps of abuse recovery or even the time when you just don't know. That applied to me. So with all of Tara's "education" and contact with academics and celebrities, how come there is no warnings about narcissism or sociopathy in this book? Why are there so many limited and missing messages about abuse and CPTSD? Where is her concern for the younger family members left behind in the grips of the family?  If the book is more about her success in education and "educating herself", then her lack of education about abuse or wanting to find out more, is glaring.  Something feels sugar-coated to me.  One interesting thing about the Dad was that he was a hard core conspiracy theorist, which is now common among fundamentalist Christians of all types, this type being Mormon.

She is not in recovery at all, kept going back for more--her brother beat her even when she was 18 and long out of the house and she never called the cops on him. She still pines away for her psychopathic religious family at the end of the book going on about forgiveness, does not protect the younger generation as far as the readers know--her psychopathic brother who is the animal murderer and beater of women has a huge family. Tara also refuses to criticize the extreme fundamentalism and religion that imprisoned her and denied her an education. Watching her in the videos, something about her rubs me the wrong way.

From a book review on Amazon: "Tara is unlikeable and unrelatable. You'd think that after having studied at Cambridge and Oxford, she'd call the cops after finding out that her crazy older brother Shawn had stabbed a pet to death, or any of the other times when he threatened to kill her or has gone as far as to physically maim her. You'd also think that she'd stop going home (every single semester) since every time she goes back, she endures more abuse. You'd think she'd either call the cops or just cut contact with her crazy family once and for all."

Emotional Repression From Abuse and Religion

Crimes of Emotion: Emotional Toxicity and Repression in Christian Fundamentalism.

From the video above:

"Our emotions play a huge part in our ability to navigate daily life,and the distorted emotional responses drilled into us by relentless rehearsal in the abusive environment can disrupt our functioning at the most subtle levels"

All my life every emotion was invalidated except by very few. Every ACON knows the results of being made into a narc puppet where you are trained to shut down all "unacceptable" emotions" and how this pans out in one's life leaving you as a target to new narcissists and dividing you from yourself. Narcissistic parents shout, "I will give you something to cry about!" and "Why are you laughing like that?" They tell us how to feel, aka smile at Mommy and Daddy's work party and pretend like life is great or else!

Theramin Tree compares high control religion groups with dictatorial gods that mandate certain emotions and love and how they operate the exact same as narcissistic families, that shut down emotional honesty and put compliance and conformity first.

This video reminded me of one subject I wrote about earlier, where I believed my drinking of the fundamentalist Kool-Aid was related to my earlier narcissistic abuse.  Others told me what to feel rather then emotions being able to lead the way.

  As I age, I have been dealing with serious problems regarding emotional repression. There's few places to express any and trying to seek after authentic ways of being are difficult.  This area is so reticient to the max. Think "Minnesota Nice" married to extreme Midwestern reservation. I haven't even seen an argument in public in 15 years. There was no getting used to this.

You never know if someone is really mad at you or not. The other day online, with an online support group of understanding people, I wrote, "I wish I had friends to cuss with!" Well I do with Mr. Peep, but there was something that overtook me, where the cloaking from Aspergers and survival fear, made me more of a repressed reserved person to the extreme. It's like I am two people, around him I will joke and cuss, and am loud and talkative, but in public and social situations, I feel like I am measuring words with teaspoons, and it has gotten worse as I got older. Also the going deaf does not help.

Some of this is happened because I didn't want narcissists to feed. Vulnerability in too many cases meant the predators came in, but now I feel so shut down.

Some people tell me "find your tribe" but whoever they are, they aren't talking and emoting around here. Tribes are found far easier online. Some ACONs may find that learning to feel their emotions outside of the mandates of negative religions and families is a process.  We also realize the lessons missed in expressing emotions around regular people to the point it's even hard to show positive ones. At least we start listening to ourselves and our "inner voice" instead of those who tell us to shut up constantly.

Those who deconvert, realize how much their religion gave them an image of a "good Christian" they were supposed to follow and how this was tied into emotional repression. The demanded constant "thought policing" of Christianity now pisses me off. Prayer even seems to be a demanding "numbing" ritual that focuses on thoughts instead of actually "doing" something. It upset me how I was trained to control my own thoughts as "not being good enough". "Don't be mad at mother, be forgiving!" "You shouldn't have negative thoughts about others, it's wrong!" even if said negative thoughts are sounding the warning cry! "Give people the benefit of the doubt" and so forth.

Then as we are told to shut down other emotions, the demands to produce fake emotions is constantly there.

For Christians, this is centered around being nice, and kind and "gentle" especially for women who are told that meek, mild and "having a servant's heart" is the way to go. If you are a brash, loud, more aggressive person, this is like being shoved into a box that is too tight.

The one demanded emotion is love. In Christianity we are told to "love" everyone. Thinking about this while some people are lovable, and add great things to your life, I thought about how I was told to love people who treated me like crap. Love itself gets degraded when it's expected to be shared with everyone.

Speaking up for yourself was considered "sin", so much was centered around being a doormat. Often, I felt guilt inside because I did not love everyone, I felt neutral towards most, loving towards friends or kind strangers or cute children, but there were people who did not bring out feelings of affection. Even yelling at someone who almost drove into you, was considered "sin".  Somehow I was supposed to manufacture this new "persona" of loving benevolence towards all, the problem is that it was fake. The "love everyone" stuff puts toxics in charge and makes doormats of others when one is told to shut down their own thinking about how they truly feel about someone. If you think about this, teaching people to have no preferences breaks down alliances between them and gives a church organization far more control. 

One thing mentioned in the video is how we are told to love God, and there is this idea of producing an emotion for what I believe now is an imaginary being, that never takes the time to interact with us. Somehow we are supposed to drum up intense feelings of affection for Mr. Silent Treatment. What does this do to the human psyche to drum up intense feelings for a Being that simply refuses to talk back? Here too, we have entered the realm of manufactured emotions. How can you truly love and know someone outside an imaginary sense if they offer no personality or words back?

Like life with narcissists, you are told to love your mother and father no matter what they do to you, and the same applies to God, "Though he may slay me, I will trust in him" Job says. That is the epitome of what we are told to all say when it comes to our abusers. God can do anything to you, let your life become a bombed out crater, betray, remain silent, indifferent, show no love or response to you [since it does not exist the way they say it does] and you are to remain a smiling cipher singing songs of praise at your evangelical or fundamentalist church. So Theramin Trees brings up great points about how our emotions are repressed in both toxic religion and in toxic families.

"People who've been subjected to different kinds of abusive environments often show highly convergent themes in their descriptions of their experiences. Years ago, when I began talking in depth with people who'd been recruited by religious and pseudoscientific high-control groups,

hearing them recount their experiences was like hearing a gigantic tuning fork resonating at my own pitch.

Their observations about life inside a high-control group echoed private observations I'd made about my life inside a narcissistic family.was the same divisiveness, where loyalty to the dictatorship came before any personal relationship between other members;

the same social isolation tactics, trying to sabotage external relationships with friends or lovers,

the same attempts to maintain child-like dependence.

Parallels have repeatedly been noticed between scriptural tales of vengeful, dictatorial gods and abusive relationships, noting the same threat of dehumanising brutality, the same capriciousness generating erratic, inconsistent demands. the same sense of all-pervading invasion into every aspect of the target's life, with no boundaries and no privacy. The details of abuse vary from situation to situation, with different levels of intensity or sadism.

but the essential underlying mechanics merge.

At their core, all abusive environments are about gaining coercive control over others.

So, it's not surprising that abusive individuals and groups of all kinds -religious, political, academic, familial, romantic -converge on the same manipulative tactics to get people to sacrifice their autonomy and authenticity, and submit to fixed roles."

  I've realized with age, I have been dealing with serious problems regarding emotional repression. It may be the area I live in, it is so reticient here, it drives me nuts. The other day online, with an online support group of understanding people, I wrote something like I wish I had friends to cuss with! Well I do with Mr. Peep, but there was something that overtook me, where the cloaking from Aspergers and survival fear, made me more of a repressed reserved person to the extreme. It's like I am two people, around him I will joke and cuss, and am loud and talkative, but in public and social situations, I feel like I am measuring words with teaspoons, it gotten worse as I got older. Also the going deaf does not help.

 Is it just me or do people seem more like closed books?  It's harder to get to know people, openness is long gone. I've dealt with some awful stuff in some circles, where classism seems to rule, and some of these folks don't believe in emotions or openness. In fact their first instinct is to shut me down and this can be over the most mild of opinions and I am not yelling or showing anger. I've had two recent instances of people shutting me down, like I was invisible. One lady who was an ally at one group I was at, came to me to talk to me how both I and her were shut down at a political book discussion we both went to. She was upset. I told her I wondered if the community book discussion group on a political topic was actually being held and financed by a conservative group. I mentioned the phrase "economic inequality" and the consensus people came running to shut me up. It was nice to be validated though by someone else who saw the manipulations going on.

In the second case, I was at another discussion group in my community, there was a wealthier high status boomer going after me, talking to me like I was ten years old. She was new to that discussion group, and was issuing edicts and rules on us all. Everyone's heads were bent down and I knew I'd have to fight back.

Sadly like what happens too often the leader of that group, was bending to a would be narcissists demands and throwing the rest of us under the bus. Later I would be told by the group leader referring to herself, "I didn't enforce the rules properly" so the narcissist's shaming methods worked. A group that previously had no problems was thrown into chaos by a would be narcissist.

She played overly diplomatic and seemed to take the side of the other person. I even said at one point, "Don't you think they were even a bit overbearing?" She said she didn't enforce the crosstalk rules enough, and I responded "Why do things have to be so rigid and controlled for such a small group, well for future people you need to make it more clear you are following the AA like no cross talk rules." She said something was in the "Covenant" of the group and that's part of the program. [One odd thing is during the original argument, I said, that was the ideal, and I know the only time I interrupted was to ask someone to speak up]

She conceded to me, that you have to do what is right for you, and keep your boundaries. I said I will and for her to be careful of toxic personalities. I said, "I am not going to take disrespect from anyone, and do not regret walking out." Husband backed me up and said "this lady took things to the extreme, she was spending 100,000 to make a 10 dollar point and would not let up." I left the room and tried to redirect the conversation multiple times.

Oddly she then claimed that others had complained about the "crosstalk in the group" and that they had been interrupted too often and did "not feel safe". I never saw this. My husband who was there said, "I never saw that happen." I said something about how conversation flows can be hard for Aspies, but I never interrupted anyone's turn to talk, and knew I had to waited my turn and did and with my hearing have to focus on words anyhow. At this point I said the group is "too rigid" then for me. I think she wants us out of the group. I said at this point, "Maybe the group is too structured for me, and it's not for me." I told her these extreme rules destroy connection. She then suggested other activities.

The extreme rigidity in this community is taking a toll. The toxic person gained control. The group leader wants to please the people with power. Toxic people will use rules to wrap people up, and claim they are breaking rules to get others to dissuade them. I notice people go running to to please personalities like this.

I ended up walking out of the room and have no regrets in doing so. The me of yesterday would have sat there and taken it, trying to please but the me of today knows there was reasons for my anger.

 There seems few places now in American society where you can "be yourself". I feel uncomfortable in some higher class circles where they seem to want a higher level of control. It's horrible around here, especially among the corporate "professional" and wealthy people. Formal registers of speech are shoved down my throat. My personality does not fit among their circles. The endless rules and formality are stifling as hell. The pecking orders and competition do not allow for honest sharing.

It is a mine field for an Aspie too. I think here I need to listen to myself more on the type of people I am trying to communicate with and have made the decision to limit some of the socializing, why go out time and time just to get hurt again?

Some here have chided me for my negative view of boomers, but I am sorry to say, while there are some allies and good boomers, I have noticed it is mostly women who are 15-20 years older who are invalidating me, treating me like I am 10 years old and practicing unrestrained classism and ableism. Around here, the majority of the boomers I am talking about are very religious and politically conservative. There's others that would fit the neo-liberal label too.  I don't think I am imagining this and I have seen differences in Silent Generation people who sadly are now growing very aged and millennials in how I am treated.

The "OK Boomer" meme exists for a reason. Some people I think got tired of being lectured to, and sadly too many of them feel they have the right to tell you to be silent and to invalidate you. I am learning to avoid people like this. Around here, their numbers are legion too. They are people that can make one feel extraordinarily lonely and silenced.

There's unwritten rules some types follow where emotional repression is the name of the game, don't act too boisterous, or tell jokes, or get too pedantic, stick to business only and everything must be conformist or emotionally flat. There's a lot of people wanting to repress you emotionally now and using a variety of tools to do so. There's this feeling inside that my fire burns too hot, and just by opening my mouth I'm burning them. I refused to submit to the one making demands and walked out of the group and the room when they wouldn't leave me alone. The Cluster B scent is strong, and I'm running for the hills.

There is huge disconnection being forced in people where we are always to be striving fitting in and jumping endless goalposts and hoops. Rules of communication I have noticed are very severe in higher class circles, and that seems part of the emotional repression to me too. That too works to deaden emotions and where people are taught to wear masks and to not have real connections.

Many people who deconvert too, talk about how in their churches, emotions were policed, being too sad, or upset was not acceptable. Once at a church I said I was upset over being sick, and was chided over not having "trust in God". Everything there the message was to close down all emotions, and conform. Depression, anxiety, angst, anger were all seen as "sins" and against God. The "holy" Christian was always happy, eager, smiling and joyful.

I thought more about that "commanded to love" video above. Theramin Trees nailed the whole process of love being forced and producing emotions at command. Natural emotions are shut down for produced ones. Often I struggle with the idea that people want me to be someone else then who I am. My emotions were controlled at narcissistic demand, and I was told they were wrong, they never were accepted, this would continue until I walked away. My abusive childhood taught me to suppress emotions and then add the layer that I had to learn to "cloak" massively to fit into society being on the autism spectrum. One therapist told me I was intelligent enough to figure out the code so to speak. I am trying to figure out still feelings that are about emotional disconnection.

Society had few answers for instance with someone with severe rare illness that deformed their body too. I am learning to listen to myself more but it's scary what I am seeing, I blocked out a lot in how I was seen and treated. ACONs as they are trained to "go to sleep" emotionally to offer narcissistic supply, may find the waking up process to be kind of scary, especially if they exist in a lower status position in American society. Socially I may struggle the rest of my life, others are telling me they are encountering the same thing, where they feel silenced everywhere.

I have learned to protect myself more but I am realizing as I have aged society has gotten far more closed down, there is far less emotional closeness and openness. The social "rules" have become far more oppressive. I don't feel very safe in a lot of places anymore. This worries me for my future. So wonder people are becoming more lonely and mentally ill in America.

Fundamentalism too was all about emotional repression. Repression is a word that I thought of as I deconverted. I felt REPRESSED. When I threw off the yoke of abusers and went no contact and walked away from so many, deconversion was bound to happen.The two are tied together. I was told to be this certain type of person among the Christians and told to be a certain type of person among the narcissists. I never measured up. I never was allowed to BE MYSELF.

I had to get honest about the emotional repression of Christianity, that told me to be this certain type of person. One thing I think about is how Christianity pushes this fake persona on people, and I know I wasted years now, trying to be something I was not. It also taught me like the abusive family to only display certain emotions and invalidated true feelings and thoughts. As time went on, I realized I was "not fitting in", I left all churches a few years even before my full deconvert, tired of the forced cheerfulness, tired of being told NOT TO FEEL, or that all feelings were SINS. We were given not only THOUGHT control but FEELING control. The religionists and narcissists all joined together to tell us what was proper to feel and what we had to close down.

Intuition and our connection to ourselves got closed down from their prison for the soul. I had to get real even about how I felt about their God. I didn't like it anymore. I realized I did not love God anymore, leaving the religion was like a divorce from a cruel persona that betrayed me over and over, with it's silence and indifference. Instead of loving the "dictator", or shaming myself to do a fake smile anymore and "force" myself to love it and believe, I was done. One thing I had to do as I recovered, was listen to my OWN feelings, and stop letting people tell me what to feel and think. Learning to own your own emotions and processing these things can be a process. We have to throw away these dictators of the soul to be our authentic selves. Don't ever let anyone tell you what to feel or what not to feel. I'm no longer a puppet being told to love something and someone who never talked back and being told to love people who treated me like a piece of garbage. Listen too and pay attention to those who are out to control your words and your emotions, they are people to be avoided.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Exploring Stamps

I've been getting into this stamp collector's channel called Exploring Stamps. I have been busy with my stamp collection. This fall, I got some rides to a large stamp club in a bigger city and joined this group. Winter I may not be able to make it so much but hope to return in the spring. Trading for stamps was fun. Stamp collecting is a rare hobby now, some say it is dying. I'm the youngest in the stamp group by far and one of the few women but I enjoy it and don't care that I am the exception. Overseas it does seem more vibrant then in the United States.

My stamp collection is different, and includes countries and stamps I like such as Iceland, Malaysia, and Togo. There's a lot of African stamps in my collection and a bird collection. Being on a fixed income, my stamp collection is not a big bucks collection done for investment, but I have stamps worth a little I found for cheap. There was this one man who recently died in the stamp club, they told me his collection was sold for $7,000 dollars but he bought stamps for mere pennies, so his collection "together" became of worth.

Unusual stamps are interesting, I don't own any of these but I have gold foil coin stamps from Burundi and some 3D stamps from Bhutan.