Two flavors, same ending
Think about an experience that went much better than you anticipated.
My mom’s funeral was certainly an example. Here’s our current one. When Brandon called the marina to book our Thanksgiving week there, he was told that it would cost us $70 per night. We arrived on Tuesday. Check out his conversation with Teresa in the marina office.
Teresa: How long do you want to stay?
Brandon: As long as we can afford to. We’re hiding from family.
Teresa: How about $175 for the week.
Brandon: Yes. Thank you.
Quote of the day
When Brandon told me about that conversation, I totally cracked up. I told him I was calling his comment—“We’re hiding from family”—the Quote Of The Day.
You may be thinking, Who were you hiding from? Well, Peaceful Readers, check out this shocking, Thanksgiving-flavored story about The Sociopaths—my in-laws.
On the Sunday before Thanksgiving last year, Brandon and I went to the lake to sail with friends and to bring our boat home from our weekend there. While we were driving from church to the lake, Brandon received a weird phone message from his dad, saying that they needed to drop off birthday gifts for Logan. Uhhh, sociopaths, we made it real clear that we’re done with you. Besides, Logan’s birthday was two months ago. We called Logan to warn him that his grandparents might be showing up and reminded him not to answer the door.
As we were driving home, we called Logan and got the low-down on some truly bizarre drama that Brandon’s parents pulled that afternoon. After what must’ve been a dizzying drive-by visit to Bed, Bath & Beyond, they dumped unwrapped “gifts” on our porch in a disturbing attempt to lure their grandson to the door. A towel. A lamp. A coaster. A blanket. A strange photo frame filled with photos of Logan as a toddler.
They banged on the door for a while and yelled for Logan to answer the door. When that didn’t work, they drove off. Sort of.
The stakeout and the yell-fest
Actually, they drove up the street and parked their car for their Sunday Sociopathic Stakeout. They watched our porch until Logan brought their strangely-timed birthday gifts inside. Then they drove back to our house to bang on the door and yell for two hours.
What kind of people would try to lure their grandchild to the door/porch with gifts? What kind of people would do a stakeout up the street, followed by two hours of yelling and drama on someone else’s porch—when the teenager’s parents weren’t home? People without a conscience would. People who don’t take no for an answer would. People who view other people as possessions would. People who get their entertainment by toying with their victims would. The sociopaths would. And they did.
Is that sick or what? I described them as heroin addicts in this post. Thankfully, Logan understands that his grandparents don’t get to come in our house—and why. So he played video games in the back of the house and then took a nap during all the banging, yelling and drama. Touché.
The sociopaths eventually left. After Brandon and I got home, I threw all the “gifts”—I mean garbage—in the trash can or took it promptly to Goodwill.
We knew what they really wanted. Why would they bring birthday gifts to Logan the week of Thanksgiving, Peaceful Readers? And why would they include photos of him as a toddler? As a manipulative, drama-laden buy-off attempt, in hopes that we’d attend their Sociopath-Sanctioned Soiree—Andrew’s extended family’s annual Thanksgiving dinner/reunion/thingee. Not happening. We’re not for sale. And we don’t make nice-nice with sociopaths anymore.
The way they look
I unpacked this holiday stuff in the Holidays and Special Events section of this post, and it boils down to this one sentence:
The essential image
I didn’t really get this holiday thing with [my mother-in-law] until Matt, our counselor, said: “If you don’t come, it makes her look bad.”
Ditto for her sidekick—my father-in-law.
Holiday invitations and drama
Since we walked away from The War Zone, my father-in-law has been calling Brandon to “invite” us to each holiday event—and to harass us. When did he call us, pray tell? The day before or the day of each event. Why?—you may wonder. That way, (1) he could put on the drama at the event and say that he invited us but we didn’t come, (2) he could elicit plenty of pity from the casual observers and accomplices, (3) he could punish us by waiting until the last minute to issue his dramatic invitation/sociopathic summons, and (4) he could remind us that the routine harassment wasn’t going away and neither were they. Blah, blah, blah. And blah.
Why didn’t Brandon ever tell them to stop inviting us? I asked him this question. More than once. Truth be told, it’s because he’s a smart cookie. Remember, the sociopaths live in Oppositeville. They always do the opposite of what their victims want, particularly when it’s Punishing Time. Brandon very wisely decided to wait them out. And it worked.
This Thanksgiving was the third one since we left The War Zone. I’m ecstatic to report that the sociopaths left us alone this Thanksgiving—for the first time—and for my favorite holiday, no less. Hallelujah! Perhaps they thought—by not inviting us to their colorful, well-attended abuse-fest—that they were punishing us. We will gladly receive Said Punishment for the rest of our lives. Gladly. Bring it on.
I like how Brandon described it in his email to his friend George, from The Trauma of Child Abuse, part 4.
The funniest thing is… they think somehow [that] group ostracizing would bring pressure when it is actually giving me the one thing I always hoped for: to be left alone.
When you’re dealing with sociopaths, their casual observers and accomplices, there’s nothing better than The Silent Punishing. The sociopaths rewrite the story and decide that they’re the ones who are rejecting us, so they get to think they’re in control. Also, they get the satisfaction of thinking that they’re the ones who defined the current campaign—Reject The Ungrateful Victims, also known as The Silent Punishing. Carry on, soldiers.
It’s time for me to review this thought from the first post in this Grieving series.
Yes, I’m obviously in denial about my need to grieve The Sociopathic Extended Family Nightmare chapter. For now, I’m still doing my Happy Dance about our escape from The War Zone. More on that later….
While writing this series, I realized something. I already did the work of grieving about that chapter. I walked through all 10 steps of How to Unpack a Trauma or Loss while I was writing the Sociopaths series. I just didn’t realize it at the time. So I’m considering the New Normal that I wrote about in the Epilogue to be my perpetual Happy Dance. (See the Warning section of this post, as well as the following post, to see how love and wisdom are rightly applied to sociopaths and other evil people.)
The decision to walk away from the sociopaths
protects us from their attacks, chaos and lies.
It took us from The War Zone to our Safe Zone.
And the peace feels so, so good. At bedtime the other day, I told Brandon that I feel safe at home. That’s a big statement, in light of what we’ve been through. All the emotions I described in How a Sociopath’s Victim Feels are history.
It’s over. The abuse and the grieving. Thanks be to God.
Two flavors, same ending
The abuse, The Showdown and the fall-out with Pam, The Almighty—a malignant narcissist—took place simultaneously with the decades of drama and abuse from the sociopaths. On my side of Our Perfect Family, the abuser threw down the gauntlet—“You’re not welcome in my house”—followed by The Final Edict: No more contact. On Brandon’s side of Our Perfect Family, we walked away from the abuse and have been provided with occasional surprises—I mean sneak attacks—by the sociopaths and various new recruits into their lifelong campaign: Attacking Brandon and What’s Her Name.
Yep. That was our lives.
Until it wasn’t.
The one doing the talking
I totally understand why Relative A and Relative B don’t have any contact in many families. I totally get it. And the person who does 99% of the talking is the abusive nightmare in the scenario. The casual observers and the accomplices hang around the wacko—I mean the bubbly, entertaining, dramatic, pity-siphoning sociopath and/or narcissist—drinking in all the lies. Oh well. I’m shaking my head.
The misguided call to reconciliation
Well-meaning, sometimes-misguided people talk routinely about reconciliation. Peaceful Readers, reconciliation can be a beautiful, healing thing. But sometimes The Call to Reconciliation equals A Call to Dangerous, Chronic Abuse. Please speak and write about this issue—reconciliation—with caution and proper disclaimers. Please. Because there is evil in this world. All you have to do is turn on the 6 o’clock news to see that obvious truth (although I advised you against watching the news in this post and my position hasn’t changed). All I have to do to know that there is evil in this world is to look inside my own heart at times. I’ve committed great evil. Maybe you have too.
Evil in this world
When I state that “there is evil in this world,” I’m talking about people who habitually commit evil deeds without remorse or regard for the consequences toward others. I’m talking about people who choose evil over good. I’m talking about people who seek to control others—usually not all others; only particular, carefully-selected others. Vulnerable others. Trusting others. Often, one or more of their own children. Sometimes, the evil people choose to control/use/buy/sell people who will make them money or will provide them some sort of power base or social status.
Lisa Wolcott’s post, “How to Spot—and Handle—a Sociopath,”—my go-to article about sociopaths—describes this evil in practical, day-to-day ways. See Portrait of a Sociopath and more in the first series here on Choosing Peace.
There are such evil people in the world—as evidenced by crimes against persons that landed them in jail or behavior that landed them in this blog. What that means is that there is evil—not occasional evil but chronic evil—in some of the families of this world. In reality—in some of the families in your neighborhood. More families than we can possibly fathom.
People who were fortunate enough not to grow up with that scenario—The Evil In The House scenario—are sometimes ill-equipped to offer wise counsel about reconciliation to those of us who weren’t so fortunate.
Don’t get me wrong. I think reconciliation is a wonderful thing—when it doesn’t involve an evil person or an issue of safety or wellness.
Wisdom and discernment are essential.
We need to seek the Lord’s guidance in all things—through prayer, through his word and through the Holy Spirit.
See Romans 16:17-19 about wisdom, deception and avoiding troublemakers. See Hebrews 5:14 about the importance of developing the discernment necessary to distinguish good from evil. See Isaiah 5:20 about people who call their evil good and call good evil. That reminds me of my in-laws (see this post). See Galatians 6:7 about reaping and sowing (i.e., natural consequences). See Matthew 12:33-37 about how our words reveal what is in our hearts. Likewise, see Matthew 7:15-20. See Psalm 51:6 about wisdom and truth. See Jeremiah 33:2-3 about the mighty, two-way communication of prayer. See Psalm 5:8-12 about those who seek God, contrasted with their enemies. See Psalm 34:13-15 about truth, peace and prayer. See 2 Timothy 1:13-14 about the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. See John 14:26 about the Holy Spirit’s helping and teaching.
A call to peace
If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all people.
Romans 12:18, New Heart English Bible
Let’s unpack that important Bible verse close to home. Am I living at peace with all people? No. We are not at peace with my siblings. We are not at peace with the sociopaths, their casual observers or their accomplices. Is this a problem? No. It is wisdom. Is it possible for healthy people to be at peace with evil people or their fans? No. It isn’t. That’s why the verse above states “If it is possible….”
I think our story demonstrates these truths.
A call to courage
We aren’t called to be door mats for evil people. We’re called to be courageous.
If you haven’t seen the 2011 movie Courageous lately, I highly recommend it. We watched it this past weekend. It’s filled with important truths, likable characters, action and good, clean humor.
I said to Brandon last week that it’s unnatural to have to protect yourself from your sibling and/or from your own parents. It’s very unnatural, but it’s also not at all uncommon. It’s a reality that many, many people have to face. People like Brandon and me.
And periodically during this kind of mess, you ask God these common questions: “Why me?” “Why so much pain?” “Why, God?” And, more specifically, “Why did I get stuck with my parents and my siblings?” “Why?” “Why didn’t I get good parents?” “Why…?”
For me, the answers came at the right time, after a certain point in The Healing Journey this year.
Coming next: Next time on Choosing Peace, you’ll read about my wrestling with God after my mom died.
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: Jeremiah 17:7-8
Song for Healing: “Wisdom Song” by Laura Woodley Osman