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Our pasts matter: looking back, moving forward

By:  Linda Hartoonian Almas, M.S. Ed

Recently, I’ve spent a fair amount of time reflecting on my life, especially my childhood.  I’ve also spent some time writing about these reflections.  I can’t say exactly what caused me to embark on this mental “roots” journey, but I can say that I identified some remarkable realities, along the way.  These realizations helped me understand my vulnerabilities.

This, in turn, brought clarity regarding what may have made me so attractive to an individual with psychopathic features.  It helped me understand what it was about my past that encouraged me to allow a large portion of my adult life to be swallowed whole by disorder and dysfunction.  It matters less what form it took or what type of relationship occurred.  What matters more is the growth we can achieve from viewing our lives in retrospect.

Why now?    

Perhaps this sudden reflection has to do with my vast amount of experience measuring life by way of the middle.  Now officially in my 40’s, not just 40, mid-life often brings reflections and reassessments.  Good or bad, we tend to examine where we are and where we are going, in relation to where we have been.

It could also have something to do with the 4th of July holiday approaching.  For me, it signifies another mid-point in time.   As a teacher, my mother gauged the summer’s progression in terms of this holiday.  July 4th signified the middle; so many wonderful days still ahead, yet so many that had vanished into memories.  Summer fun still ruled, but its finality lurked somewhere in the not too distant future.  Now, I see things as she did then.

As a member of a mid-western farm family, my father often discussed crop expectations by this date, as well.  He always said that the corn should be at least “knee high by the 4th of July.”  Half-way there (more or less.)

Regardless, one shouldn’t think I’d need to start writing a memoir for this epiphany to occur, but putting pen to paper caused me to realize just how much the pieces of our pasts influence our futures.  Whether good or bad, our histories, core values, and experiences matter.  They significantly influence our choices and impact our decisions.  It is a phenomenon most of us do not give a second thought, but probably should.

The early 70's, July 4th. Every bit of where we have been, influences every bit of where we go. Our pasts matter.

 

Why us? 

By the time we make it to Lovefraud, we are usually, at least, in the beginning phases of understanding psychopathy.  We may even have fairly good handles on our situations.  Nonetheless, we ponder.  What was it about us that placed the targets on our heads?  What allowed anyone to believe that we would be responsive to potentially fatal doses of abuse and manipulation, like puppets on strings?

Perhaps we were convenient, they gave it a shot, and we responded.  It could be that simple. We could have been sitting at dinner with friends in a crowded restaurant.  Overhearing even portions of our words could have clued them in to our availability, or lack thereof.  They often “troll” for victims, possibly making many attempts, prior to finding us.  We could have been at work.  The likely scenarios are virtually endless.

Maybe we looked lost, desperate, or were exhausted from earlier unhealthy relationships.  Maybe we gave off tremendous vibes of happiness or intense positive energy.  The more we have to give, the more there is to take.

Why are we, so often, such strong individuals?  Why do others tend to view us as “least likely candidates?”  Why do we commit to those who harm us, remaining attached to their drama for so long?  To a large degree, I believe it has to do with our beginnings.

I truly believe that our values, beliefs, and early life experiences factor into the selection process.  We don’t escape our pasts; good, bad, or otherwise.

So much of my history made me vulnerable.  Retrospectively, I had several strikes against me.  At the same time, that very history afforded me a solid foundation that nothing can permanently damage.  For that, I am thankful.

I never saw it coming

Early on, I formed a life plan and worked hard to bring that plan to fruition.  Over time, it changed and took various forms, but I always worked hard at whatever task was in front of me.  Regardless of the specifics, I was certain that if I did everything “right,” I could accomplish whatever I chose.  A little simplistic, but not a bad approach.

Just as I began to execute my plan, I would experience the proverbial “shot from behind.”  I was hit with a bullet of destruction that I never saw coming.  Who I was began to die, and would keep dying for many years.

I began living a life that was a lie, but I was not consciously aware of what was happening because it wasn’t my lie.  I knew that much was wrong, but did not know how to change it.

I gave freely and was completely forthcoming.  That’s not to say that I handled everything perfectly.  I did not.  However, until I understood the trappings,
the force working against me was impenetrable.

At the time, I failed to understand that disorder lurks in places we often don’t recognize.  It found me and I unknowingly welcomed it into my world, allowing it to deceive me, attempt to thwart my plans, and try to destroy me.

I was exhausted, as bits and pieces of me disintegrated.  Still, I was unable to stop it, simply because I did not understand that the disorder was incapable of
seeing anyone else’s reality.  Once I did, its hold disintegrated.  Even in the thick of serious conflict, its strength was gone.

Cleared for take off

It was the fall of my 23rd year.  I was excited to finally be leaving the flight instructing scene for bigger and better, but did not know that I was about to be stopped dead in my tracks.  I finally landed the coveted “multi” job.

All aspiring young airline pilots needed “multi” time, or time in multi-engine aircraft, in order to get airline interviews.  It was the mid-nineties, and the airlines wouldn’t even look at pilots without at least 250 hours in this type of equipment.  That was the magic number.  Someone, somewhere, decided that with that and about 2000 hours of total time, we were in.  I was on my way.

Being a young woman, it was fabled that all l had to do was not completely blow the ILS (instrument landing) approach in the simulator, and properly answer a few fuel burn, rate of descent, and “people” questions.  Obviously, this was an oversimplification, as airlines really do want to hire safe pilots.  However, rumor had it that I’d be in the left seat (captain position) at a “major” in no time.  I certainly didn’t want to waste any time.  I wanted to find out first hand.  However, for me, something else was in the cards.

The beginning of the end

At the age of 20, I decided to pursue aviation, one of my life-long interests.  Likely still in rebellion over not having been given free access to the family car, I decided that I would fly airplanes.  I was a good kid who kept out of trouble, but I was about to declare my independence.  I was about to take a risk; a concept that was completely foreign to me.

In my young mind, I was done playing it safe (sort of.)  I was going to explore uncharted territory.  Who needed the law degree my parents suggested I pursue?  Who wanted to teach school, as they encouraged?  Not me.  I would fly.  I was rebelling, with a slight delay.  For the most part, it was the first time.  Yet, even at that, I tried to do so somewhat productively.  I hoped my rebellion would lead to a lucrative career.

It was either that or become a police officer, another life-long interest that raised eyebrows.  Ever since Cagney and Lacey hit prime time television, I knew I wanted to do that job.  My plan became more exciting when I announced that I’d eventually like to try to fly for a police agency.  Double whammy.  I longed for the adventure that I felt I lacked.

What I did not know was that this “hole,” this temporary, post adolescent quest for adventure, excitement, and novelty, even if it was “productive,” made me perfect fodder for an individual with psychopathic features.

Strike one.  I was restless and seeking adventure.

Early life   

I grew up in middle class suburbia, on the outskirts of one of our nation’s largest cities.  My mom was a teacher and my father a school administrator and social services director.  We had a nice house, in a somewhat prestigious community.  Each of my parents took great pride in their work, family, and home.  To me, life seemed perfect.

Everyone got along.  We handled any conflicts head on, with words, love, and understanding.  My sister and I were both active in sports and the arts.  My
parents emphasized being well rounded, and valued education.  We both graduated from the same all girls, private college preparatory high school.
We were given all of the opportunities they could afford.

Although we worked to gain an understanding of and appreciation for money, my parents paid for our undergraduate degrees, as well as my sister’s law degree.  However, we were, in turn, expected to  succeed.  They also taught us to live within our means, and expected that we demonstrate that understanding.  While they were firm, they were also our greatest supporters.  We always had their time, attention, and emotional support.

We were taught to value life, respect ourselves and others, to be honest, and to consider the feelings of others.  Coming of age in the 60’s, they were also very open minded and encouraged us to be tolerant and empathetic.

Things were good and we were happy.  Our models were healthy ones.

Strike two.  I didn’t know or understand dysfunction.

Location, location, location   

There were some in my hometown’s surrounding suburbs who thought that the kids in my neighborhood were “rich,” simply because we lived there.  Although all of our needs and many of our wants were met, my family was not wealthy.  It was happenstance that my parents chose the neighborhood while it was still affordable, as was the case for a large percentage of the families there.

Admittedly, most of us probably didn’t do much to terminate the stereotype.  Perhaps, some even behaved in manners that perpetuated it.  I remember my friends and I claiming to hate it, acting offended by their suggestions.  However, I’m not really sure anyone was truly bothered.  It was the 80’s.  We were growing up in times of excess, as members of reasonably successful, hard working families.

This attitude, however, influenced what we wanted for our futures.  It influenced what I wanted for my future.  We had it good and we knew it.  We liked things as they were and wanted the same for ourselves when we came of age.

We were also the first generation to see most of our mothers enter the professions and pursue advanced degrees.  Whether they stayed in their chosen fields or ultimately stayed home to care for their families varied, but either seemed acceptable.  Regardless, it appeared to be a choice.  Collectively, our adults placed high expectations on us.  As a group, we were expected to thrive.

Strike three.  I was ambitious and expected a lot from myself and those around me.  I assumed all others wanted the same.  I was wrong.

Grounded

Every day, I am thankful for how and where I grew up.  The combination encouraged me to set the bar high, and in spite of any amount of adversity, to keep it there.  That does not mean that every day feels successful.  That does not mean that every day is successful.  However, I try to keep the tools I need to succeed handy, in order to deal with whatever comes my way.

Sometimes, I think different circumstances would have better prepared me for the dysfunction that walks among us.  That, however,  is not anything I can change.  Each of our circumstances are highly individual and most of us had no control over them.  Whether we created our own adult experiences as the result of our exposure to dysfunction, lack thereof, or any of the many other hundreds of reasons, really does not matter.  What matters is what we take away from them and how we choose for ourselves in our futures.

I enjoyed my mental journey back in time.  It was energizing to recall the neighborhood pool, the town’s  July 4th celebrations, family holidays, friends, and all that I held as gospel from an innocent time.  I needed to revisit pre-school, a time when I was afraid to leave my mom’s side.  I needed to hear Dad’s guitar playing Simon and Garfunkel music again, even if only in my mind.  I laughed, remembering my ability to recite all of the major bones of the body at the age of four (Dad taught high school biology at the time and thought it was pretty neat that I could start with the cranium, advance to the scapula,  clavicle, and eventually end with my tiniest lower phalange, five minutes later.  Anyone who enjoyed that also got to listen to me explain photosynthesis.)  Somewhere, my tiny little voice is on tape reciting and “teaching.”

Symbolically, I traveled to a place I needed to visit; one that is probably healthy for each of us to check in with every now and then, regardless of what we find when we get there.  Why?  Because our pasts matter.  If we understand them, we will be better equipped to steer our own futures.  No strings attached.  No puppet masters directing.

 

 


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40 Comments on "Our pasts matter: looking back, moving forward"

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“Our pasts matter” – it never ceases to amaze me how this site always has an article or comment that goes right to the heart of my issue.

I went to see the counselor yesterday. After taking some basic info and listening to me for about 20 minutes she has come to the conclusion that my “problem” stems from severe abandonment issues from my childhood. It is not about my spath at all, it’s all about abandonment.

This assessment confused me, since I didn’t feel abandonded at all. My parents worked but we had an extended family and one of my grandparents were always there.

In order to get some other input on this I called my sister last night and we had a long conversation on our childhood. She had already told me she believed our father was emotionally distant and I had conveyed that to the counselor. Is that what she meant? In our recollections I did have to agree with her that my father was there physically when he was not at work but was somewhere else mentally. I also knew he did not like small children but only learned this after I had had a child. Were there some traumas when I was much younger that I didn’t remember?

Most of the HAPPY moments in my life come from my childhood. If they are taken away from me by some deep delving into my past I would rather die.

If I knew how to start a new thread I would. I would like to know if anyone out there has seen a “professional” and what they did to help them. Mine does not see any “addiction” issues with my spath, only abandonment. Now I am more confused then when I went and again need your help. Any advice would be appreciated.

I do plan on seeing her one more time so I can get clarification on a few things she said but the appointment is not for two weeks. Thanks again for all your help.

Stormy,
your therapist sounds like she is giving you canned advice.

Yes, your upbringing is very much involved but the spath is also the current cause of your current symptoms.

Your upbringing is the cause of your choice to have a relationshit with a spath.

I would be hesitant to go to a therapist that doesn’t understand abuse, narcissism, psychopathology, cluster b pd’s, etc… You need someone to help you tie together your childhood in your past to your current choices today. That connection is the key.

When I first left the spath someone asked me if there was anyone I could trust. I said, “my parents, I know I can trust them.” HA! It took a while to realize that they were the cause of my vulnerability to spaths. My mother was a stay at home mom, for most of my childhood but it made no difference. She wasn’t “there” for me.

Stormy,

I don’t know your details, such as whether there are any constraints on whom you are able to see for therapy, but I would be loath to embark with anyone who is not only drawing such big conclusions but articulating them to me after 20 minutes of intake.

I also wonder about the fact that your next appointment is weeks away. You should be able to call your therapist and ask him/her to explain this more rather than have to wonder for weeks. Through the years, I have had a number of therapists and all of them have offered to be available by phone in between appointments.

I say all this believing that our pasts do matter and exploring these themes with a therapist is a great way to understand more. I just don’t think I could respect or trust someone who has my whole case boxed up in 20 minutes.

I hope this works out well for you!

Stormy

My first therapist fell asleep. Still tried to charge me for the session. The second one insisted that I go on drugs or he wouldn’t see me. About halfway into the session. Third one was honest and said he didn’t understand what I was talking about. I quit looking after that.

Make sure you stay proactive like your doing here.

Here are 7 common traits of people that get caught up in relationships with bad people. See how many of these fit you.

http://recoverfromemotionalabuse.com/7-w-recording-2/

Wound #1 The wound of not believing in yourself ”“ you’ll believe the lies an abuser tells you over and above your own heart and mind
Wound #2 The wound of not trusting your own perceptions ”“ so you end up seeing your world through his eyes
Wound #3 The wound of not feeling lovable just as you are
Wound #4 The wound of self-sacrifice ”“ much as you know it doesn’t work, you can’t stop doing it
Wound #5 The wound of invisibility ”“ you’re programmed to be unseen, and unheard
Wound #6 The wound of not being your adult self ”“ you’re still that unsupported little girl, frozen in time
Wound #7 The wound of shame ”“ somehow you carry the blame, and the shame, for everything that happens.

Stormy, I’m in total agreement with everyone else: RED FLAGS OF THERAPY!!!!

Instant assessment.
WEEKS before next appointment

No, dear one, this one doesn’t “get it.” Yeah, there may be mild abandonment issues that the spath was able to hone in on, but that is an impossible assessment to make in 20 minutes, or the first session.

Did you try calling your local domestic violence/abuse hotline? Yeah, yeah….I know it’s kind of drastic, but drastic times call for drastic measures. It might take a couple of days for them to get back to you, but they sure will point you in the general direction of Good Choices For Counselors.

Brightest blessings, dear one

The first time “I” went to therapy, I was told that I was a masochist and he was a sadist and that the therapist thought we deserved one another….

Here, try these little pills and see me in two weeks…
I DONT THINK SO. And, it didn’t happen either.

First off, I am NOT a masochist although I might have to add that I think “IT” is a sadist…

however, the point of the matter is: I am not going to, at no time, ever, be spathanized by a therapist. NO WAY.

Shop carefully, especially if you have medical insurance covering your treatment. You want it to HELP not pull you down and look for one who ‘gets it’ about the relationship or you are just spinning your wheels. Your insurance provider is a good place to start researching for another referral.

It’s not about ‘abandonment issues’; it’s not about anything but THE SPATH EXPERIENCE.
If you get a counselor who does not understand that, keep looking.

It took me a while but I finally have someone who is VERY understanding because THEY have had it happen to them.
Most counselors don’t or can’t understand all this, at least according to my searches for a therapist. And, of course, for me, that seemed to only add to and intensify the difficulties I was originally having, by having to work through the maze of the psychological world. Don’t give up though; keep trying…it works when you get the right one.

Blessings to you Stormy…

Dupey

Spoon, thank you for the 7 indications…..those were my “symptoms,” each and every one.

For everyone……turn up your volume and SING the words if you know them, EVEN if the tears come on:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkwJ-g0iJ6w

Truthspeak

It’s from Annie Kaszina. Follow that link she puts out an email about once to twice a week. And your welcome.

A lot of it can be tied to the abandonment issue. Even if both parents are there it doesn’t mean that they where there emotionally for the child.

But the spath issues do need to be addressed. PTSD, trauma bonding and the like. It’s all tied together.

Yesterday while I was on my daily walk along a dirt road, it dawned on me that it could really help us let it off our chest if we could just bring back all our past trauma memories (relations with psychopathic authority figures, bullying, verbal, physical abuse, manipulation, and anything psychopathic we may have been subjected to). I felt it could help us make a mental cleanse in order to externalize all the feelings, that lie dormant in our subconcious minds so that we can begin our healing from our present trauma on a clean slate.
I’ve had the misfortune of growing up with some psychopathic authority figures. One of them was an aunt whose goal in life was to pursue money. She met a rich landowner, a millionaire and she cast a spell on him in such a way that there was no better woman for him in the whole world. She had a lover on the side for many years until the death of her husband (she married him while he was dying to inherit as much as possible from him). He had three sons and she feared a legal encounter with them so her lover helped her with the bureaucracy to keep their money safe. She was even keepting money under the tiles of her house. Well waited until I had come of age to invite me to spend some time with her on the summer of 1987. She made sure I was over 18 years of age to avoid any troubles with the law. She made it all appear as if she was interested in seeing me and taking care of me and offer me a nice and sweet vacation. She cooks quite well so she would say that she would feed me such good food that I would look like a queen, as she would literally put it. I accepted her invitation and went to Marbella (Spain) and stayed one month with her. At the time I didn’t know anything about her machinations, but today I’m aware of what her intention was. She wanted me to keep company with her ‘rich’ partner so that she would have plenty of time to spend with her lover. She would make me stay with her partner until late at the hottest hours of the day, from 12 to 3pm and she would leave at 11:30 or so to prepare lunch as she said. In actual fact, what she wanted is to have her lover come to the house and stay with him, and feed him (that explains why shopping early in the morning at the food market meant buying large amounts of food, boxes of fruit and vegetables of all kinds and a lot of fish and meat, etc which left me wondering). Her lover apparently had family of his own, he was a divorcee and had a few nephews and brothers, etc. I’m not aware if he had offspring of his own). Anyway, I got a heatstroke as a result of spending the long evening hours at the beach at her request and fell ill for three days with a high fever, I felt so bad I thought I was going to die. She even told me that I could die and cited a case of some other woman dying from the same condition as mine. Fortunately I got better and I think the thought of leaving in just a few days probably played a role in my healing (you know what I mean, part of my bad condition was due to the evil psychopathic energy going all around me). That first visit was followed by many other visits through to the year 1992. During those years, she tried to teach me shoplifting being the experienced shoplifter that she was, I don’t know about today (I have been no contact since that year). On another occasion she planned a car accident so that her partner would die with me and my sister in the car to make it appear as if her partner had two young lovers with whom he had spent his money (all to save face before the eyes of her partner’s offspring should they decide to question her inheritance as he had a lot of money and she feared they could ask her for proof of his existing capital). In other words, she wanted to have an excuse and proof of how her partner was a womanizer and was hanging around with young girls spending his money so that she could not be found accountable for any money that his sons might request. In the end they didn’t ask her for any proof. She gave him part of the money because she cannot get around that but she kept most of the capital owned by him. To cut a long story short, she gave them just a quarter of the pie and she kept the rest of the pie which amounts to many millions. She got away with it. On the same day of her partner’s burial, her lover moved into her house. I was flabbergasted and appalled. The guy was repulsive. He treated her disrespectfully and once he told her: ‘if you leave your assets to your family, I’ll cut your cunt open). I think the were planning to fatten me like poultry because one day, she would insist I eat a soup that she had made which I remember had a fatty look to it and it had a smell I found disgusting. I threw it away when she was not looking, but she kept asking me whether I had eaten it and even stated with a pathetic smirk that I had thrown it away. How did she know? she didn’t see me. or is it that she knew I knew? Do psychopaths know when you are on to their game.

Thank you Truthspeak for this beautiful song. I didn’t cry but I felt an internal shift that filled me with hope.

Blessings

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