A personal message about parental alienation.
Below are a few pages from the first stages of writing my new book on parental alienation. It’s such a very tough subject, that it has taken me years to clear the emotional space to write about it. I also know that, as a writer, I need to share my experience with readers, even before it is finished. Giving voice to my feelings and opinions is a big deal. For a Mom who has lived through parental alienation, with the utter devastation of being severed from her children — well it is important to make known that I am alive and well and that I count. Let me know what you think.
We Have a Choice Between Altruism and Narcissism
The title of this book is LOVE GONE BAD: A story of Autism, Narcissism and Parental Alienation. I wish I could come up with a better title, one that conveys there is hope, but during the course of my writing I couldn’t find another title that was compelling. The book is based upon my life, and how I came to understand the interplay among autism, narcissism and parental alienation.
But there is hope in this book too, especially if you are struggling with the same problems I faced. There is a silver lining to being victimized by a narcissist. You were targeted because you are extremely empathic. You are an easy mark when your empathy is not used for a higher purpose. But in service to altruism, your empathy makes you a Super-Hero. It is through altruism that empaths shine. At least for me, consciously embracing my altruistic side saved my life from the abuse of narcissists.
Covid 19 Wake Up Call
My adult life is sandwiched between two international wake-up calls — 9-11 and the current Covid 19 Pandemic. Before 9-11 I was busily building the life of a mom, wife, grad student and professional. You know that phase, don’t you? It’s where you fully believe in yourself so that anything you put your mind to, you can accomplish. This belief comes with the notion that if you just work hard enough and you are kind enough, it all works out.
With 9-11, my simple belief system began to fall apart. I realized that I was working too hard, that my marriage was crumbling, and that my fears were growing that it would all soon be unmanageable. I fretted over my children, both of whom have disabilities (autism and learning disabilities/mild TBI). I hired several helpers to maintain the heavy schedule I had committed to (i.e. house cleaners, yard workers, drivers, tutors). The girls were in private schools to accommodate their disabilities. I worked full time as a psychologist, and yet managed to take them to piano lessons, and soccer practice, and Girl Scouts. I orchestrated it all with the help of my office manager, who also did double duty as babysitter and chauffeur on occasion.
It might have been a bit easier during those years before 9-11, if my husband, Howard had been able (or willing) to help, but he wouldn’t. It was all he could do to go to work, eat, sleep and watch TV. I remember one Sunday evening; I was working in the kitchen making meals for the week to put into the freezer. I had just thrown a load of laundry into the washer, because my life had become nothing more than multi-tasking, as I struggled to keep up with the family demands. Howard walked through the kitchen, not stopping to say a word or offer help. So, I asked.
“Howard, on your way to the garage, would you grab a pound of hamburger for me?” I asked.
Howard stopped and looked at me with a blank stare. Then he said, “Why are you always telling me what to do?” He was a little annoyed.
I felt a bit guilty about his annoyance that I was asking for help, but I decided to take his question literally. “Well,” I paused. “I guess I am always telling you what to do” I agreed. Then with only a small pause, I said, “That’s because I plan everything for our family, so that it all comes together. If I didn’t make these meals for the week, you wouldn’t have any food. If I didn’t buy the children’s clothes or school supplies, I am not sure you would know where to shop for them. I schedule all of the medical and dental appointments too. I manage all of the household helpers such as babysitters, house cleaners and yard maintenance people — since you won’t even mow the lawn unless I remind you. So, yes I am always telling you what to do because I need help and you never offer.”
He kept staring at me, so I continued, since I never can fathom what is behind those blank looks. “I guess I could turn it all over to you to manage, or you could appreciate what I do and offer to help. Or, you could just do as I ask and not make a fuss. I need a pound of hamburger, please.”
Howard said nothing. He gave me the blank look again. But he did return with the hamburger.
Something snapped inside of me when New York City’s Twin Towers went down. My life wasn’t real. I was dancing as fast as I could to create the illusion of a life, but there was no love, no real substance. My marriage was hollow. Even my children were burdens that I stressed over and yet saw them slipping away, in spite of my attempts to love them and provide for them.
Now I am at another crossroad with the “novel” Corona Virus. I can’t even sum up what is happening for me at this crossroad, since I haven’t gone through it yet. We are still quarantined, with no end in sight to the pandemic (not to mention a cure). But the last couple of weeks are giving me pause to recognize a familiar feeling, like the one I had during 9-11-01. There is an awareness that it is time to rise to an even higher realm of enlightenment and service to others. What that means for me, or any of you, remains to be seen, but I suspect it is a powerful force moving through our collective consciousness.
Interestingly, as the radio hosts and the politicians and the scientists tell us to stay home and protect our families and ourselves, I don’t have a family to protect. I lost my children to Parental Alienation efforts. I lost many friends and most other extended family members too. They all fled from the 12 years of damage that was unleashed on me when I separated from Howard. (I have explained a lot of this in my previous book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS,” and I will expand on some it in this book, as I explore narcissism in “Love Gone Bad.”)
I do have dear ones to protect, however. Those that come to mind first, when I hear the admonition to keep loved ones safe, are my dog Simon and my three cats, Neo, Trinity and Seven of Nine. We have all grown older together during the many years following my 9-11 transformation, as you can see in the photo of Simon and I at the top of this chapter. Gone are the days when Simon would run into the bushes for his ball, or splash into the river in order to fetch a stick. Gone are the days of rescuing a treed cat, who strayed too far on an adventure. Now the cats nap lazily in the sun, while Simon and I take leisurely walks on the Marine Drive Trail. Gone is our youth, spent on fighting for our freedom, but the love is still there. That’s what is so precious about this photo of Simon and I — the unspoken but obvious loving connection between two Earth beings.
I think the transformation that is coming with the Covid 19 Pandemic is far different than the 9-11 transformation, at least for me. I had the living daylights scared out of me when Howard, my neighbors, and City Hall came after me with a vengeance. I was harassed, stalked, assaulted, sued, and my children were threatened. To give you an idea of how horrendous the abuse was, I spent $550,000 in legal fees, hired 16 lawyers, to handle over 21 legal matters in the span of 12 years. It was nothing short of a miracle that I made it — even though my children did not. From my 9-11 transformation I learned that I could fight for myself instead of being a helpless victim.
This time, with the Covid 19 Pandemic, I don’t need to prove that I am a warrior. I have already learned how to fight, how to protect myself, how to survive ruthless people — even how to survive the loss of my beloved daughters. This time, fear is not the driver. Nor is competing or winning. Of course, I will fight to survive again if I have to, but the isolation imposed by the government in order to stop the spread of this deadly virus — this isolation is very different than I experienced when I was on my own to fight a human enemy. This isolation is providing me the opportunity to shed the last of an unusable human belief system, so that I can embrace a new spiritual me, who is creative, aware, and available to others.
Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor . . .
Ironic, isn’t it that in order to write about narcissism, it is inevitable that I should come to compare it to altruism? I have been intuitively drawn to this dichotomy for a long time. In fact, a light bulb went on for me when I stumbled upon a succinctly worded description of these two sides of humanity, while visiting the museum at the World Trade Center, in New York City, just a year before the Towers fell.
At the museum, I perused the history of this great city, and I learned of the famous poem written by Emma Lazarus in 1885, commemorating the installation of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. Most Americans know the last few lines, but the entire poem is a statement of just how important it is to embrace our altruistic nature, especially at a time like this with a terrible disease wreaking havoc around the world — regardless of race, religion or political persuasion.
Please read these inspiring lines carefully. We have a choice, to compete and conquer, or to come together for the benefit of all. It’s time for empaths to shine your light on the world and show what altruism can do. It will be amazing.
The New Colossus
Not like the giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightening, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
–Emma Lazarus, 1885
What’s in the new book?
There are many chapters to come in this story of parental alienation involving people with narcissism and/or autism. For now, I want to share the beginning of the writing journey. I am inspired to clear up some important mysteries on this topic.