Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hatefulness as a Gift of Love, Part II: a Case Example

In Part I of this post, from 2/7/12, I described my belief that parents somehow still love their children even if they act out a hateful, nasty, and/or abusive family role.  This is naturally something people who have parents like this have a great deal of trouble accepting, and understandably so.  If I were in their shoes, I am absolutely certain I would have come to the exact same conclusions they do. 

Still, as adults from dysfunctional families tell their stories to me in psychotherapy, I always hear of those rare times when their parents were not hateful but actually loving.  Sometimes such parents even will unexpectedly express their love directly, although often in a way which undermines their own credibility.  But why would anyone believe the professions of love of someone who generally tends to treat them horribly?

I mentioned that I would describe some of the “maternal” behavior that a woman who has been corresponding with me described to me, and translate some of her mother’s behavior and verbalizations into what I think was really being expressed covertly.  So here goes. (I will not be discussing my correspondent’s childhood, but only what has been going on in the very recent past). 

Her mother was getting old and was no longer able to live by herself, but was driving everyone crazy with various demands about whether or not she should be placed, or where she should be placed if she were sent to a nursing home. 

She had given her daughter power of attorney over her affairs in the eventuality that she became incompetent, setting up a situation in which my correspondent (I’ll call her Mrs. T.) was in a position to make major life decisions for her mother. It was also completely unclear whether the mother was developing dementia or how severe it was if it was present, which meant it was also unclear whether or not she was competent.

Mrs. T described the events as they unfolded, writing at various times (reproduced with her permission):

She [Mom] reacts extremely poorly to anything short of immediate subservience and submission on my part, and yet, she has appointed me to be her "power of attorney" in the eventuality that she becomes incompetent.  She was turned down by the only nursing home that she agreed to go to and, as of yesterday afternoon, was turning down offers by the hospital social worker to set up any in-home physical therapy.  The county social worker fears that because of her intelligence she will not be found to lack decision-making ability. 

I want to keep loving thoughts towards her (after a lifetime of anxious helplessness, guilt and overt/covert hostility) [Mrs. T had been reading my posts on disarming borderlines and spoiling behavior]. 

Now I must decide whether or not I want to be the person who puts my mother in a nursing home and have her hate me or to decline and leave her well-being to chance.

I was told that my mother was angry and acting out for about an hour this morning.  She was ok when I came to the hospital this afternoon and we had a good conversation, including my explaining to her that the POA authorized me to "put her in a nursing home" and that I was resigning.  She actually said that I should "give it back" after I said that and she said it in a friendly way.  The hospital social worker showed up and tried to immediately serve me with the "activation" paperwork. . .  She left to make me a copy of the POA…  My mother started acting out again.  I eventually left.  I came back in the room briefly while she was on the phone with my brother "trashing" me and I told her that I just wanted her to be safe.

She called me tonight after I was home and told me that she never wants to see me again and that I am a bad daughter because I haven't confided in her and because I have shared information about her with the social services people.

Tonight she cited her Sicilian upbringing as a reason for being an unaffectionate parent… My mother called my husband yesterday to thank him for watering her plants and told him "good bye." My mother has told me that she never wants to see me again.  My brother tells me that she has also said "I do not have a daughter" etc. She has called here several times, mostly leaving messages asking for my husband, but I was home and did answer last night about 10:35 and she spoke to me but was clearly not happy about it, demanding that I send an attorney there because they were "killing her." 

She did not trust me to do the simplest thing correctly.  Even to be in her presence was to be under her dominion and control.  I could not wait to leave the minute I got there even though my intentions had been good in going to visit her.  She harangued me non-stop for bringing her groceries.  "I thought I told you not to...."  "Didn't I tell you not to...." She would write letters thanking for the groceries, and other kindnesses.

[After Mom leaves the hospital:].

Right now she is in a nursing home two blocks from my home.  She does not speak to me when I go there and bring her flowers or rub her feet.

My mother was on a hunger strike when she was in the hospital prior to the emergency mental detention/initiation of the guardianship process.  She is now refusing to eat in the nursing home, except for food which I bring her. I have told my therapist for a long time, and my mother's "thank you" notes in the past confirm, that she credits me with "keeping her alive."  I, however, see the other side of the coin, i.e., that if I cease my efforts, I will be a murderer. On Weds. afternoon she disowned me to my face and a day later is playing the "I'll only eat food you make me" game.

I left there assuming she still can't chew, as she told me that she had been to a luau the night before and ate nothing, not even water, not even the coconut cream pie....(I said words to the effect of couldn't you just mouth that and swallow it...???)  Anyway, very long story short.....b/c my mother dislikes me talking to people about her, I called the nurses station after I left and spoke to Ann and told her I had brought cottage cheese, yogurt and OJ and she tells me that my mom had eaten a pasta w/sausage lunch no problem....... one of the last times I saw her, she said "You need lessons, you need lessons" and when I asked why, she said my meatballs were too hard, then ate part of one and contradicted herself, said that one was ok.  shoot me now.

So, I am responsible for her survival.....just like I was always made to be responsible for her happiness (there is a no win situation for you with a woman who was constitutionally incapable of being happy...) So, I am trapped.  And, if I stopped bringing her food and she lost weight, and died, it would be "all my fault."

Without turning her head to look at me, my mother said to me "You didn't get any sleep at all last night did you?" Today, while talking to my husband about this feeling of always being under scrutiny, with his help, I made the following observations:

1) with her I was always under close observation......nothing I ever did went unobserved, nothing I ever did was free from commentary, judgment or mischaracterization
2) she did not ask as one might, "are you tired?" but instead she made a gross exaggeration  (any sleep at all)
3) she made her observation in the form of a leading question.

For most of my life, I would have 'taken the bait' and defended myself with an "Oh yes I did" kind of answer which would have just started an argument or occasion a global statement by her to the effect of "you never get enough sleep" "you don't take care of yourself" etc. OR a criticism of me along the lines of being a hot house tomato or thin skinned if I objected to the criticisms. 

This may seem like a small observation, and yet, it helps to describe the type of relationship I had/have with her.....she was intrusive, and yet, her intrusions did not feel like expressions of love or concern, they were simply opportunities for her to chide me, condemn me or make me feel inadequate or incompetent as a person.....I don't think I am ever going to "heal" from this.
 I do not remember her ever kissing me. 

She said, the other day, as I was leaving, words to the effect (and this is very very very rare) "You know I love you very much, don't you? You make life liveable."  This was after telling me earlier that she did not want to be alive this time next year, among other things.  I believe that by providing her with homemade food, so she doesn't have to eat the nursing home food, she feels cared about by me. 

In reading this, the things that jumped out at me the most was the fact that Mom is constantly giving off double messages to Mrs. T. about needing and loving her.  The positive messages, however, could easily be interpreted as having a negative ulterior motive behind them - like Mom is only saying them to manipulate Mrs. T.  This negative interpretation comes about for a number of reasons:

First, the positive messages are expressed way less frequently than the negative ones, and are rarely said directly to Mrs. T.  They are said to third parties or written in notes.  Second, expressions of concern are expressed as criticisms, and their frequency make it appear as if Mrs. T is constantly being judged in the negative.  Third, Mom seems to imply that Mrs. T. is responsible for Mom’s happiness, and that Mrs. T always fails her, making Mom’s misery Mrs. T’s fault.  So, of course Mrs. T interprets them in the way she listed above as her three “observations.”

I believe that the negative comments and the spin Mom seems to put on her positive comments represent Mom’s “role” of spoiler in her own family of origin – manifestations of a false self.  The positive comments and the underlying concern represent what is going on covertly, and are what I believe to be manifestations of her true self – the way she really feels.

For example, Mom complained bitterly about the groceries Mrs. T. brought to her, but would then write letters thanking her.  Then, to top it off, she refused to eat any food except that which Mrs. T brought to her. She even credited Mrs. T. with keeping her alive, although she “undid” this at different times by accusing Mrs. T. of “killing” her and by predicting that she will soon be dead.  She tells Mrs. T she needs cooking lessons – again while refusing to eat other people’s food. (Except occasionally. Just to throw everyone else off).

After a lifetime of avoiding kissing Mrs. T., again Mrs. T naturally discounted Mom’s statement, "You know I love you very much, don't you? You make life liveable." 

Mom “disowned” Mrs. T. several times.  Each time, Mrs. T. felt like Mom was going to do what she said, despite the fact that it never actually happens.

At one point, when the patient was sitting with her in the hospital, Mom said, "Sorry this was so boring for you." I told Mrs. T. that I would wager that Mom had said this with a tone of voice that was dripping with either sarcasm or hostility, as if Mrs. T. were an ungrateful daughter who does not appreciate all her mother had done for her, and who resented Mom for inconveniencing herself - or something like that.  

Alternate translation: "I know this is no fun for you and I'm a pill to be with, and I really do hope it wasn't as bad for you as I think it would be."   

Sounds insane I know, but when patients who are subjected to this sort of figurative insanity think back, they may find they can remember times when Mom was actually loving in some strange way. Double messages are the norm in the BPD family. 

Last I heard, by the way, Mom ended up in an appropriate facility, Mrs. T. retained power of attorney, and they are still speaking.

In my post of July 6, 2010, Distancing: Early Warning, I wrote: When parents act in an obnoxious manner like this that pushes their adult children away, this is referred to as distancing behavior.   Parents who know they were abusive, even if they do not admit it, may secretly believe that their children are better off without them. Hence, they engage in distancing to push their children away, thereby protecting their children from themselves

It's a version of self-denigrating sentiment expressed in the famous quote by Groucho Marx: "I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member."

Groucho Marx on "You Bet Your Life"

However, the parents also secretly long to have a healthy connection with their children, so they cannot seem to bring themselves to just cut off all ties directly. Their own conflict causes them to give off the double message that are inherent in distancing behavior: come here but get the hell away from me. Or as the singer Pink so aptly put it, “Leave me alone, I’m lonely!

Mrs. T.’s mom obliquely refers to her own upbringing as the source of her difficulties being a good mother when she blames her “Sicilian upbringing” as the reason for her being an “unaffectionate parent.”  What transpired in that upbringing, and how much Mrs. T knows or does not know about it, is something Mrs. T. and I have not discussed in great detail.  I am willing to wager that the story of Mom’s background is powerful and moving.  Such stories always are.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Assuming Facts Not in Evidence II - Sleeping Medications

As I described in my post of January 31:

One marketing technique used by big Pharma to mislead physicians is the engineering of a journey of ideas that have never been proven into the clinical lore as if they were established facts.  So-called experts who are paid off by drug companies make presentations at continuing medical education conferences or write "review" articles for medical newspapers or throwaway journals in which they mention these so-called "facts."

In these situations, conditional phrases are said or written as a quick aside in order to leave the speakers and writers a loophole just in case a member of the audience challenges them about overstating their case. Should this happen, the speakers are then able to point to the conditional language they used and “remind” the audience that their use of this language indicates that they are not making spurious claims.  

Most of the time, however, no one in the audience will make such a challenge. The audience is left with a dangling implication that the statement is an established fact. The non-discerning physician comes away with the “take home lesson” that the assertion is true.  Research has shown that most people only remember one or two salient points from a paper or an oral presentation anyway.

I have also written about how I suspect (but cannot prove), that drug companies begin to actively spread negative information and even disinformation about drugs as soon as most brand-named drugs in a certain class become available generically.  As I wrote in my post of October 19, 2011:

Pharma-inspired or paid-off writers denigrate highly-effective drugs (antidepressants and benzodiazepines) that just happen to have gone generic, in hopes that doctors will prescribe more expensive, potentially more toxic, and less effective brand-named drugs (particularly atypical antipsychotics). 

It amazes me how drug companies have only now been releasing negative information (that had apparently been held back from the public previously) about SSRI anti-depressants -since they have been available since the mid-1980’s.

I had seen this sort of thing done before to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which are demonized as being far more addictive than they actually are.  Interestingly, this demonization of the drugs started anew with the introduction of three new sleeping medications (Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata) that, although slightly different in chemical structure than benzodiazepines, do exactly the same thing in the brain.  (Ambien has gone generic, but Pharma sells a delayed-release version that is still brand named.  As we shall see shortly, this type of formulation directly undermines one of their claims - that the new drugs are safer than the old ones).

Benzodiazepines include such popular drugs as Valium, Librium, Klonopin, Ativan, Xanax, Dalmane, and Restoril.  Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata  are technically not benzodiazepines, but they might as well be.  They are called non-benzodiazepine benzodiazepine receptor agonists.  Loosely translated, this means that they affect the same nerve cells in exactly the same way as benzodiazepine benzodiazepine receptor agonists.   

They offer no advantage in terms of addictive potential, side effects, or efficacy.  In fact, they offer some real disadvantages.  They are far more likely than the old benzo’s to cause people to do things in their sleep that they do not remember the next day, including cooking large meals and even driving significant distances!  Also, if you take Ambien and force yourself to stay awake, you get really high.

As an aside, most of the public, and many physicians who should know better, believe that some benzodiazepines are tranquilizers, while others are sleeping pills.  An old joke asks, “What is the difference between a tranquilizer and a sleeping pill?”  The answer: marketing. 

Most outrageously, the drug companies successfully lobbied the government to have benzodiazepines excluded from the Medicare drug benefit program – the only major class of drug so excluded – while not excluding the new, more expensive brand named sleepers!  This law has finally been changed to allow for the old drugs, but that change will not take place for some time.

Pharma shills have fanned out to convince everyone that the new drugs are both safer and more effective than the old ones.  With success. I frequently see physicians who seem to think that benzodiazepines are the scourge of the earth due to their addictive potential prescribing the new drugs with abandon (not to mention prescribing much more serious drugs of abuse such as stimulants).

Now, that the new drugs are better and safer is one of the widely-disseminated “established facts” that are not really facts at all.  Again, I am going to pick on an article in the psychiatrist newspaper, the Psychiatric Times.  I do so reluctantly because this publication often prints more balanced articles, but lately it has been just feeding me blatant examples of points I’m trying to make in this blog.

The article in question appeared in the January 2012 edition of the paper and was entitled, “Treatment of Insomnia in Anxiety Disorders.”  It was written by Gregory Asnis, Elishka Caneva, and Margaret Henderson.

In discussing pharmacological treatment of insomnia, they say, and I quote, “Not only are the non-benzodiazepines effective [that part is true], but there is a notion that they are safer than benzodiazepines.”  They give two reference here I will discuss shortly.

A notion?  Notice they are not actually saying here that the drugs are safer.  As I mentioned above, they do try to leave themselves an out.  However, the authors go on to make a stronger statement: “Although head to head studies comparing these classes of hypnotics have been minimal [If that’s true, than how can they draw conclusions], a recent metanalysis supports the findings of reduced adverse effects for the non-benzodiazepines.”  They give a third reference.

They explain that the new drugs have a shorter half-life, and therefore cause less residual daytime sedation, and “other  [unnamed] adverse effects."

Without even looking at the reference, they are already spouting complete bullsh*t here that strongly suggests that the new drugs are better.  So what about half-lives of the drug?  Half life is the number of hours it takes for the body to excrete 50% of an ingested drug from the body.  In truth, the different old benzodiazepines on the market have a wide variety of different half lives. 

Some of them such as Xanax have a very short or even shorter half life than the new drugs.   Some have a mid-range half life such as Tranxene. Some have a very long half life like Klonopin and Valium.  If daytime sedation is a problem, the doctor can either reduce the dose, or prescribe a shorter acting drug!  There is no need for the more expensive alternative.  If you take a delayed release preparation so you sleep through the night, then you would face just as much daytime sedation as if you took a benzo with a longer half life!

Not only that, but the shorter the half life of a sedative, the more addictive it is.  Furthermore, the shorter the half-life, the more the drugs are likely to cause “rebound” insomnia if suddenly discontinued. So, if the authors of this article are touting the importance of short half lives, perhaps they should also mention these facts, which are well known among addictionologists.  Funny that they did not, isn’t it?

So what about the meta-analysis?   I’m glad you asked, since I found it and read it.  It says quite clearly that, in the studies they are pooling, the drugs were analyzed irrespective of their differences in half life, potency (how the drugs compare in strength milligram to milligram) or dosages.  

There were no indications in direct comparisons indicating that the new drugs were safer.  There were some “indirect comparisons” (whatever those are) that were made that seemed to indicate that the new drugs were slightly safer, but again, since half life, potency and dosage were not considered, what the hell does that even mean?

Also noteworthy is that the studies meta-analyzed were in people who did not also have an anxiety disorder.

As for the other two “references,” one of them clearly attributes the results of studies that showed fewer side effects in the new drugs to their shorter half-lives.  The other never really clearly states that the new drugs are preferable to the old benzodiazepines at all, although it also discussed issues concerning drug half lives.

Let the buyer beware, baby.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ve Have Vays of Making You Talk, Part VII: Begging the Question

In Part I of this post, I discussed why family members hate to discuss their chronic repetitive ongoing interpersonal difficulties with each other (metacommunication), and the problems that usually ensue whenever they try. 

I discussed the most common avoidance strategy - merely changing the subject (#1) - and suggested effective countermoves to keep a constructive conversation on track. In Part II, I discussed strategies #2 and #3, nitpicking and accusations of overgeneralizing respectively. In Part III, I discussed strategy #4, blame shifting. In Part IV, strategy #5, fatalism.

This post is the third in a
 series about strategy #6, the use of irrational arguments  (previously: non sequiturs; post hoc reasoning). Descriptions of this strategy have been subdivided into several posts because, in order to counter irrational arguments, one first has to recognize them.  I will hold off describing strategies to counter the irrational arguments until after I have finished describing some of the most common types.

Irrational arguments are used in metacommunication to throw other people. Listeners either become confused about, or unsure of the validity of, any point they are trying to make or question they are trying to ask.  Fallacious arguments are also frequently used to avoid divulging an individual's real motives for taking or having taken certain actions. 

The third major logical fallacy I will describe is begging the questionA person begging the question merely insists that an assertion is proved without offering any proof at all. If someone offers some evidence that the assertion is false, the beggar states that the evidence must be incorrect. After all, since the assertion is true, any evidence to the contrary must be faulty. 

It might seem that the absurdity of this kind of reasoning should be quite ob­vious when it occurs, but it can be quite subtle. Often an inter­vening argument for the questionable assertion is made by the beggar, which is then refuted by the disputer. The beggar then goes on to offer yet another argument, which in turn is refuted. This process continues until the beggar suddenly announces that he or she has won the case - by ignoring all of the previously refuted arguments and merely re-offering the initial unproved assertion.

I first truly understood this process one day in college when I caught myself doing it. I was engaged in a friendly argu­ment with a fellow student over the relative merits of the space program during the sixties. My friend took the position that going to the moon was a complete waste of money, because there were important human needs here on earth for which the money could be used. I was and am of the opinion that scien­tific knowledge is valuable for its own sake, but at the time I was unable to formulate a convincing argument for that posi­tion. Instead, I advanced the oft-used argument that the space program had yielded important scientific by-products, such as Teflon, that were quite useful here on earth.

He countered that Teflon could have been invented for far less money by doing research on nonstick surfaces instead of moon flights. I then countered with, "But this way, we also get to the moon!"

Another time when begging the question was used on me was when I was a trainee (resident) in psychiatry.  Back in the Stone Age when I trained, most of the faculty members were Freudian psychoanalysts.  When anyone dared question psychoanalytic dogma, they were told that they needed to get into therapy to find out why they were "resistant" to the ideas.  Of course, the concept of resistance is itself a psychoanalytic concept, so the statement was in fact begging the question of the validity of a psychoanalytic concept. 

Interestingly, the analysts' short sentence contained not one but three logical fallacies.  It was not only begging the question, but was also a non-sequitur (perhaps the person was questioning the dogma for some reason other than subconscious resistance), and a personal attack as well.  Personal attacks, or ad hominem arguments, are another fallacy I will discuss in a future post.

Begging the question is a maneuver that occurs most often when people are being questioned about their motivation but do not wish to reveal the true reasons for their behavior to others -  or perhaps even to themselves. They may assert that they behave in the way they do because that is how they truly wish to be­have or because they have no other options.

If listeners pre­sent evidence that the behavior seems to be something that is bringing them a great deal of grief or if they offer other options, beggars will then either just ignore what the other person has said, invalidate it by making a snide comment, engage in a game of "why-don't-you-yes-but," or begin the process of-making further refutable arguments and then returning to the initial assertion as if it had been justified.

A good example of begging the question occurred in the case of a poorly educated employee of a large manufacturing concern. Despite a horrendously abused childhood and a lack of formal schooling, he had managed to rise to a fairly responsible posi­tion with the firm. Then suddenly, through no fault of his own, the position was eliminated. Because of further bad luck com­plicated by his own aggravating behavior, he was gradually de­moted and shifted to a department that he despised, and continued to go downhill until he had become a glorified file clerk.

The more responsibilities were taken from him, the more upset he became. The more upset he became, the more poorly he per­formed in his job. The poorer the performance, the more re­sponsibility was taken from him, and so on. He felt that his supervisor wished to get rid of him because he was being paid far too much for his present position, but also believed that the supervisor was blocking his transfer to another department in which he might get a more responsible job.

I wondered why, if it were really true that he was unable to get out of the department and find a job with which he would be satisfied, he did not seek employment with a different firm. I conceded that such a move would be quite difficult considering his lack of education, but pointed out that he had not even at­tempted to look.

He replied that he did not wish to leave the firm. He stated that, in fact, he loved working for this company; it was just his department he despised. I pressed on. I pointed out that he had already told me that he could not get out of the department because of his mean supervisor. Why was it so important for him to stay with the same firm? He replied once again that he would not leave the firm because he loved working for it.  The conversation went something like this:

"The firm seems to be very important to you. What is it about working for the firm that you love so much?"

"They've been very good to me."

"Well, they certainly have been good to you - in the past. At the moment, however, you've told me that they are not being very good to you at all."

"That is the department that is being bad to me. I have no complaint with the firm."

"I know that, but you have told me that you are stuck with the department. Don't you think you might find a differ­ent firm that you would also like?"

"Yes, I might be able to do that."

"So why are you so intent on staying with your present firm?”
"I want to get in twenty-five years with the firm."

"What makes that important?"

"It is important to my self-esteem" [a possible non sequi­tur that I let go].

"So you'll consider leaving when you have been there twenty-five years?"


"So there must be another reason why you feel you must stay with the firm."

"I don't want to give my supervisors the satisfaction of driving me out." [This is another assertion that does not make very much sense. Why should avoiding making them smug be worth daily torture at their hands? I avoided touching on this also].

"Do you really think they care all that much?"

"Probably not."

"So why stay?"

"I've told you. The firm is very important to me. I love working for the firm. Okay?"                                                                          

The last statement was, of course, merely a restatement of his initial position that did nothing whatever to shed light on why the firm was so important to him. This is exactly what is meant by begging the question.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hatefulness as a Gift of Love, Part I

Lorna Smith Benjamin, a well-respected researcher on the relationship between interpersonal psychology and personality disorders, has a saying that “Every Psychopathology is a Gift of love.”  In other words, she believes people develop maladaptive traits because, as she explains on her website:

“… problem patterns…are the result of one or more of three copy processes started in relation to an important early caregiver…Those are (1) Be like him/her (identification); (2) act as if he/she is still around and in charge (recapitulation); ( 3) treat yourself as he/she did (introjection). Sometimes the copying is in negative image (e.g., be the opposite)…The purpose of the copying is to seek reconciliation, approval, love of the internalized representation of that original object (person). People unwittingly act accordingly to the "rules" laid down by these early relationships and even when they believe they hate the original copy person. Every psychopathology is a gift of love.”

If you're looking for a therapist, find one who knows this stuff

[Some trivia for you: Dr. Benjamin started out as a student of Timothy Leary, way back when he was a respected academic interpersonal psychologist and before he went off the deep end as a hippie guru telling everyone to “turn on, tune in, and drop out.” Don't hold it against her].


That people may mistreat themselves because of loyalty to their kin group and a sense of altruism in that context seems to me to be due to a biological imperative (see my post on kin selection), albeit one that we can consciously choose to ignore.

This idea is understandably difficult for most people to wrap their heads around.  Self destructiveness as a sort of altruism?  (I explained some patterns associated with this phenomenon in my posts of 2/6/11 and 2/11/11).  The idea that the biological forces of kin selection may lead individuals to act in hateful and/or frustrating ways to other people for altruistic purposes within the kin group (although certainly not altruistic to outsiders) is even harder to swallow.  But the idea that individuals are willing to sacrifice their own children as a gift of love to the family system is the most difficult of all.

I think that the attraction of the Biblical story of Abraham nearly obeying a command from God to kill his own beloved son, not to mention the story of God being willing to sacrifice his only Son for the good of humanity, stems from the pervasiveness of this phenomenon within our species.  Certainly, the common willingness of parents to send their children off to war illustrates how powerful this human tendency is.  

The military in this country honors the mothers of fallen soldiers as “Gold Star Mothers.”  The government gives them a folded flag and a dead son or daughter, and usually they somehow consider it quite an honor.

That parents somehow still love their children even if they are acting out a hateful, nasty, and/or abusive family role is something my patients often have a great deal of trouble accepting, and understandably so.  In order to explain their parents strange hatefulness, which I also refer to in my post of July 6, 2010 as distancing behavior, they have usually come to the conclusion that their parents are heartless, evil, insane, or stupid

If I were in their shoes, I am absolutely certain I would have come to the exact same conclusion. Still, as they tell their stories to me in psychotherapy, I always hear of those rare times when their parents were not hateful but actually loving.  Sometimes such parents even will unexpectedly express their love directly, although often in a way which undermines their own credibility.  However, because of the total context of the relationship, these positive acts and statements are discounted.  Again, discounting such contradictory double messages is perfectly understandable.

Why would you believe the professions of love of anyone who generally tends to treat you like sh*t?  That would really be insane. Why should you believe them when there is so much evidence to the contrary?

And who knows if they are not doing those positive things for you on purpose to set you up once again for disappointment?  Letting you start to hope that they could finally be the parents you always wished you had, only to dash those hopes to pieces.  Like waiting for your estranged father to come and pick you up as he promised, when he has broken such promises time and time again.

Still, what does one make of a mother who, for the first time, admitted to her adult daughter that she had severely verbally abused the daughter when she was very young, but then told her not to bring it up again because she would deny ever having admitted it?  

And therapists tell patients whose parents do this crap that they have “trust issues” as if somehow that indicates that there is something wrong with them.  If such patients did not have trouble trusting people, then there would be something wrong with them.

I have been corresponding with two women whose mothers are described as having many traits that are suggestive of the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.  While they both really want to believe that beneath all the horrible distancing behavior their mothers really did and do care about them, they of course find that the idea induces a lot of cognitive dissonance.  Again, I do not blame them one bit for thinking that I am just a little bit crazy for thinking so.

In part II of this post, I will describe some of the “maternal” behavior that one of them described to me, as well as translating some of her mother’s behavior and verbalizations into what I think is really being expressed covertly.