An update

This week is hectic so I probably won’t be writing much. I started talking on more work; I’m thinking of taking another online jobs and putting my studies/thesis on hold (haven’t been able to concentrate on it anyway) and saving up enough to move out as soon as the Covid situation eases up.

I looked into some online ESL teaching jobs, but apparently my video bandwidth is not great, and that market is currently saturated as a lot of people lost their jobs and started doing this. Maybe I’ll stick with editing and take on more work; it’s a bit hard and mentally exhausting, but doable.

In any case I feel more motivated now, which is definitely a good sign.

Lately I’ve noticed that I get triggered sitting opposite to my dad at mealtimes. I don’t know why, but it’s pretty upsetting and making it hard to eat. My dad makes these pig noises when eating at home; it’s really revolting sometimes. But I think the other part is, maybe I feel a bit of resentment. Like, maybe it reminds me of how my dad acts like everything is hunky-dory as long as he gets his warm meals cooked and ready on the table every day. He couldn’t give a fuck if anyone else has a problem as long as he gets his own needs met.

Since I was a kid, my mum has had chronic illnesses that gave her a lot of pain. My dad seemed completely oblivious to it, and just expected her to work and take care of the house as usual. I think he just has limited empathy. It made my mum mad, and she openly fought with him many times over the years. But I feel like those fights are just superficial pseudohostility. Deep down, on a subconscious level, she’s still seeking his approval desperately, as always. She still plays the role of diligent wife and mother, rain or shine, despite her complaints and threats.

Throughout my childhood she took out her anger and dissatisfaction on me instead, with silent treatments and contempt and disdain towards me. Of course many years later she gaslighted and minimised it all away. But I won’t doubt my own perception anymore. I remember that sense of viciousness and hate in her tone and in her eyes, directed at me. I’m not an idiot, I know what I saw.

Even if they never did or said any of their outright vicious/insulting stuff, it’s still clear that they are emotional narcissists. Always putting their own feelings ahead of mine (or anyone else’s), and finding justifications for it. Someone said that covert narcs are the worst – they are nice to everybody except their own spouses and children. Other people don’t impose needs on them, but family members do. And as a narc’s child, simply having any needs at all is like an affront and attack on them. They really make you pay for it.

At this point I think I’ve accepted that my parents are neurologically damaged. They are so allergic to any slightest thing that makes them look bad, that they become delusional and deny reality, and they are actively hostile towards anyone (like me) who refuses to collaborate with them in their denial. I’m just grey-rocking them like a motherfucker these days, and it works pretty well when I’m able to hold me anger in. They’ve mellowed considerably in their old age, so there are no active conflicts at least.

I still pitch in with the housework. My mum is actually pretty reluctant; she says she “feels bad” letting me do stuff. It’s funny – she never felt bad all those times when I cried, when I was in visible distress, when I needed her help and validation, when she hurt me with her insults and cutting remarks, when she neglected me and treated me as invisible. As a kid, my crying – for whatever reason – would just make her roll her eyes impatiently, as if to say, “Are you done yet? Why are you so sensitive and difficult, you are making me annoyed. You look pathetic.” Sometimes she said those things out loud. For many years I stopped crying altogether, because I wanted Mummy’s love.

So, now to hear her say that she “feels bad” about me washing a few dishes. I wonder if she just feels uncomfortable when I encroach on her (house)wife-mother role duties, and she interprets that feeling as guilt or “love” towards me. I’ve dealt with her long enough to know that she interprets all her feelings to paint herself in the best possible light. On the other hand if I cause her to be anxious or uncomfortable, she would turn around and blame me: “Why are you doing this to your poor mother?” (Usually whenever I went to her for help or support with a problem I was having.)

“Mum, this isn’t about you, it’s about me. It’s about my problem.”

At which point she would just accuse me of sounding like a broken record. Even though objectively speaking she’s the broken record. But she never realised how repetitive she sounds, because in her reality, everything is in fact about her.

Reluctantly, I’ve become an expert in narcissistic personality now. I never wanted to waste so many brain cells on this shit, psychological warfare and mindgames, but life left me no choice. Anyway, I have been going on the trauma and abuse subreddits quite a bit lately, crying with people’s stories and lending support when I could. Mostly crying though.

Maybe it’s all the sobering self-work, but I find that I am actually feeling more emotional empathy these days, at least for other trauma victims. I really empathise, some of them suffered much worse shit and are in much worse living situations, and I just feel so sad that all these beautiful, strong people (although they don’t always know how strong they are) have to go through the hell that they went through. It isn’t right, but it that’s the way it is.

Maybe one day, someday in the future, I might get well enough, and be able to do some kind of counselling or support work. Work to help people who have been through trauma to be free of these daemons. It’s a pipe dream, I don’t know, I don’t even know how I will turn out. That would be wonderful, meaningful work though.

Hyper-sensitive and addicted to drama

Came across this article on the Narcissism Meets Normalcy blog: “Are You Addicted to Drama, Drama, Drama?” It became fodder for a bit of honest self-reflection.

I’ve been feeling myself going over the rails these past few days, emotionally. I’ve also mining my past for connections to my present behaviours/dysfunctions. The insights have been both illuminating and infuriating. Here I’ll throw out the stuff that’s purely rage-inducing but unhelpful, and only look at the things that I can work on.

One question I repeatedly asked myself is: why? What did I do that caused them to be so dissatisfied with me? After puberty my parents stopped hitting me physically, but I recall many times being scolded and getting into arguments. I can never remember what caused them. I remember feeling a lot of pent-up anger and having temper tantrums, which just led to being yelled at even more.

Recently they were clearing out my old CDs for the move, and commented on how many I had (it filled about half a cardboard box). I could still hear the resentment in their words, as if owning two dozen CDs was such a crime and they were being so “benevolent” for begrudgingly allowing it. It reminded me that they haven’t changed much after all.

In a word, they created drama with me, because of how unhappy and dissatisfied they were with themselves. They had to find some fault with me, and blow it up into this huge thing, and then resolve it and make themselves look like the heroes at the end. It was very much a case of “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away”.

Now in their old age I can see that they’ve mellowed; their peak narcissist days are over, and they’ve stopped picking fights. Conversely, now I’m the one who’s over-sensitive and hyper-vigilant. I notice the barest tiniest trigger in every mundane word or action – not only in them but also in other people – and sometimes I feel so angry that I have to sit down and cool off for quite a while.

The dinnertime argument that led to the start of this journal was one such example. I can see that I’m addicted to drama, thanks to this kind of conditioning. Peace and harmony feels alien to me; I could only tolerate it for a while before it becomes boring, uncomfortable, and I have to go and actively run back into the safety of drama, drama, drama. Even if it’s only in the form of internal conflict – the war going on in my head.

The truth is, shamatha meditation always calms me down, even those sessions that seem “unsuccessful” by comparison. I know this, but oftentimes when I’m stuck in inner turmoil, I just refuse to drag my ass out onto the cushion and meditate. The drama has a pull on me, an addictive quality that takes deliberate and considerable effort to resist.

I was feeling on cloud nine four months ago, reading and listening to Tibetan Buddhist teachings and immersing myself in the tutelage. For the first time in my life I found faith, and a kind of contentment with myself that I’ve never felt before. But that didn’t last long; I soon slid back into self-doubt. I wondered if I was spiritual bypassing and it was “too good to be true”. I looked to other people for clues – at best they were sceptical and wary of my sudden woo-woo hippie carefree enlightenment attitude, at worst they were openly critical of organised religion as a tool of power and control. Most people took no stance, which I interpreted as discouragement and not being understood.

It’s as if my brain automatically filters out all the positives, and zooms in on the negatives. Neutrals are also regarded as negatives. And negatives give me fuel to generate more good ol’ drama.

As I sit here now reflecting, clear-headed, I can see I was progressing in the right direction, but the allure of drama sporadically drags me back. Nobody is by my side at this juncture, but maybe that’s what I need, maybe everyone is giving me the space and peace of mind to carry on unencumbered.

Reality check

This post is just for the record. In case I ever lose my memory again in the future. I wish I had kept a diary in my teens. But back then my parents were notorious snoops and convinced me that privacy was unnecessary.

I’ve noticed for some time now that my dad has very selective listening skills. In the past it was most obvious during arguments, where he would catch one or two words from my speech and then take it out of context and go off on his own tangent. I used to think he was doing this intentionally just to piss me off, but maybe it’s a neurological incapability.

More recently, a couple years ago I went with them to the cancer centre to have a meeting with the Head Nurse Bonnie. She was asking him questions and he would just ignore her and instead ask his own questions. I had to step in and solicit the answers from him. At one point Nurse Bonnie and I exchanged an awkward/apologetic smile; I wonder if she thought maybe it’s starting to affect his brain.

He likes to blame it on his English, but his English is fine. It’s his listening and response skills that are problematic (or at least more so than his linguistic skills). After that incident I’ve observed him, he does this in our native language too. In person as well as on the phone.

(By the way this is a common narcissistic trait. These people have an impaired ability to pay attention to anything that’s not related to themselves.)

The other week he drove to the dentist by himself, and parked near a fire hydrant and got a hefty fine. These days he says often that he has cognitive problems caused by his medication.

Honestly his driving has always been shit. Ever since I was a kid, he and my mum used to argue whenever we had to go somewhere, because he has no sense of direction and often got lost or drove the wrong way on a road that he’s been on a million times before. One year he got into an accident during a work trip and injured his hand. I get the feeling that he tends to “zone out” a lot, like he’s not all mentally there sometimes. Of course that’s just a guess.

He has trouble finding things, like if you ask him to retrieve something from the pantry he will spend forever looking for it. This is a pretty stable trait that hasn’t gotten worse with age as far as I can tell. He’s always been this way.

In my teens he used to criticise me all the time and call me “half-blind” and “clumsy”. I wonder if it’s an example of projective identification – think of it as projection‘s shittier cousin:

(1) In psychoanalysis, projective identification is a defense mechanism in which the individual projects qualities that are unacceptable to the self onto another person, and that person internalizes the projected qualities and believes himself to be characterized by them appropriately and justifiably.

– Wikipedia page

I actually did end up being half-blind and clumsy in those days, thanks to a crippling anxiety and painful self-consciousness; walked around all the time feeling like I was constantly under the microscope, everyone just waiting to judge and criticise me. #TheScapegoatLife

Projective identification differs from simple projection in that projective identification can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, whereby a person, believing something false about another, influences or coerces that other person to carry out that precise projection.[12] In extreme cases, the recipient may lose any sense of their real self and become reduced to the passive carrier of outside projections, as if possessed by them.[13] This phenomenon has been noted in gaslighting.[14]

[Ibid]

Wow my teen years were not a great time; no wonder I’ve blocked so much of it out of my memory. I feel so sorry for therapists who have to do this work for a living and regularly deal with all this shit that their patients fling at them. It must be utterly draining.

I mean idk, I got the distinct impression that in those days my parents took delight in shaming me for my shortcomings (shyness, clumsiness, etc.), rather than trying to help me overcome them or at least accommodate them in me. Although they of course denied this when I brought it up. I’m just saying that’s how it came across, I felt the viciousness and the way they distanced themselves from me and threw me under the bus.

Especially when I behaved thus in front of outsiders; it felt like they were hyper-vigilant of outsiders’ attitudes, and if they felt other people judging me or something, they would use that to further shame me in private. I didn’t feel like they adequately protected or defended me from this kind of exposure or lack of understanding/sympathy.

I’m starting to wonder now if this current “personality” that I have – my entire conditioning – is just an emotional landfill created by them, a receptacle for everything they hated in themselves and wanted to excise, they simply dumped it onto (into) me and called it day.

The same goes for my so-called “positive” traits as well. My intellect, obedience, and filial piety – probably the three things most people notice about me from a brief acquaintance. None of these say anything meaningful about me. It’s fair to say I just want to get away from this conditioning and be free of it. This is not the real me.

The more I write,

the more I’m getting the sense that my parents were a pair of psychos, trying to convince me that I was the psycho. They seem a lot better now by comparison. But I feel like I can’t trust my own judgement anymore. I just feel so betrayed, and honestly a bit disgusted. But I’m still living under their roof and supported by them for now. I guess I will keep my head down and talk with them as little as possible, until I move out.

Unclear expectations and hazy memory

Lying awake at 3 am, feeling wave after wave of some painful feeling washing over me, threatening to crush me. Probably grief? Heartache? I held onto an image of H.H. the Karmapa in my head. At some point the blackness I saw through closed eyes turned translucent, almost like it was removeable, and so did His Holiness. His image has gotten me through some rough times lately – it’s the only thing I have, and probably the closest I’ve come to ever feeling love for anybody. What I thought was “love” for my parents, turned out to be more of a trauma bond.

I have absolutely nobody right now. It sucks like hell. I just have to bear with it.

*

Lately I’ve been frequenting the subreddit r/AsianParentStories. A pattern I’ve noticed is that APs enforce crazy rules on their young-adult children: 9:30 bedtime/curfew, no hobbies/gaming/dating/inviting friends over etc., just really insane stuff.

Growing up, I don’t remember my parents enforcing clear rules on me. Rather, it felt like I was just supposed to know what they wanted telepathically. And if I didn’t, I was punished for not being able to read their minds. It all felt very Kafkaesque, looking back now.

There’s no concrete proof of any of this. I’m surprised when I read APS and RBN subreddits that people are able to recall incidents from childhood so clearly. I mean, my memory for academic stuff and books are good. But for events – especially events from my own past – it’s atrocious.

My recollection of childhood, my teens and college days (when the parental emotional abuse was at its worst) is one big ball of haze. It’s worse than an impressionistic painting. Things that happened a few years ago, or even a few months ago, feel like a distant lifetime to me. Even things that happened three days ago; I have to make an effort to recall.

I suspect this has something to do with the constant gaslighting and denial. Honestly I’m a bit worried that in the future if I find a therapist, I would struggle to explain things properly to them because my memory is so bad, and they would think I’m confabulating or paranoid or simply blowing things out of proportion. I feel that I’m not, but … am I?

A few recollections from teens/uni days:

  • One time I came home from school, hungry, and grabbed a cookie. My mum gave me her sour look and said: “You’re eating that? You’re so fat already!” It made me so mad I threw the cookie away and went on a hunger strike for the next two days. The worst part is, she didn’t even notice. Two days later my dad was picking me up from school, I was feeling weak, but he didn’t notice anything wrong either. Finally I couldn’t hold it in anymore and told him. He was shocked, and went home and heated up some leftovers for me.
  • As a teen most of the time I hid in my room and listened to music. This displeased my parents and they waged a war against my music. Told me I was spending too much time on it and affecting my grades (even though I was a straight-A student). Limited my time on the computer and threatened to take it away. Outwardly they told other people: “We don’t care about her studies, we let her do what she wants.” I honestly believed them and thought I was the problem, although I wasn’t sure why/how exactly.
  • When I got to uni I finally had some friends, and would go out to gatherings in the evenings sometimes. Often came home to both parents ambushing me angrily, and I was completely bewildered. At the time I thought: you always told me to make friends, and now that I finally have friends, shouldn’t you feel happy for me? But there was always something wrong – I didn’t reply to their call/text or inform them when I’m coming home or something; I honestly cannot remember the details. I don’t remember them ever setting a curfew or a “protocol” about phoning them; maybe they did and I forgot. But I remember a few times explaining to them: “I’m not intentionally being a bad kid, I’m just unclear about what you want me to do.” And my mum replied: “You are 19 years old, you should know what you are supposed to do without us telling you!”

So, basically, she still didn’t explain anything, but somehow it was still my fault for not understanding.

Looking back now this all seems so insane. The fact that I was a teenager living at home, and my mum was a stay-at-home housewife, and neither parent noticed that I didn’t eat anything for two days. Granted, two days is not a long time. But still. Even if lunchtimes were at school where they couldn’t see, I still spent all my time after school – including dinnertimes – at home. Didn’t it seem strange to them at all?

My mum probably didn’t speak to me during those two days either. Silent treatments from her were frequent back then, after an argument she would just not speak to me, until eventually I couldn’t bear it anymore and went grovelling to her. Regardless of whose fault it was (I can’t even remember what we fought about in those days), she would never apologise or speak to me first. That all seemed exceedingly normal and nothing out of the ordinary to me back them. Wasn’t everyone’s mums like this?

Even after I became an adult and got a job and moved out, I carried this “filial child” goody-goody mentality with me. I thought there was something inherently wrong with me. Sure my parents were a bit bossy, but all parents are like this, they reassured me. I even believed they were more relaxed and lenient than other parents, like they said. Fuck me I was such a brainwashed naive child.

Last night before I went to bed, I could hear them in their room sound asleep, snoring. And I thought to myself: of course they would deny any wrongdoing and say they only had my best interests at heart, how else would they be able to sleep at night? Seeing all that I see, all the dirt below the carefully crafted surface.

*

I used to think my problem was shyness. After going out and “flooding” myself socially for a bit, I’ve realised it’s something deeper. More of an inability to form long-term relationships, a fear of intimacy. In children they class this as attachment disorders. The diagnoses of personality disorders is basically the equivalent in adults.

Sam Vaknin, who has done extensive research into narcissistic personality disorder, has written about something called an “inverted narcissist”. Typically the child of a classic/malignant narc who was completely engulfed/enmeshed by the parent, and grows up to seek out narc partners (replicas of the parent) and live vicariously through them.

One particularly eloquent IN says that she can only be in relationships with other narcissists, as she finds normal (neurotypical) lovers boring and lacking in excitement. Frankly at this point I would rather kill myself than ever get involved with another narcissist. But I do remember once thinking that my closest friendships were still unsatisfying because they never go deep enough. I wonder if I was looking for some kind of enmeshment.

I could feel myself reserving a part of me (hiding it) in past friendships and relationships. Most were short-lived; with lovely normal people, we could be friends for a while, but eventually I would feel the strain of “keeping up appearances” more and more over time, and eventually we would drift apart, or break up over an active conflict. My longest more stable friendships tended to be with people who are super easygoing that I could “boss around”, or otherwise assertive people with whom I let them boss me around. Often I could feel a keen sense of inequality, that sense of “I could never join a club that would have me as a member”.

So for me, relationships have been unsatisfactory. They could never fulfill me and I could see how it was my fault. And at the same time I could see how I wanted relationships as a form of fulfilment, that I cared about me more than I cared about them, even when they were the dominant party. This is how I’ve come to adopt J. Krishnamurti and many Buddhist teachers’ view that love out of a “defiled” mind is never true love. Only an egoless being can really love without craving or self-preservation.

Of course, in conventional society there is a healthy compromise, where the desire to connect and share is equal to or greater than the ego-grasping. That’s where most neurotypicals are at. I don’t feel I really deserve a relationship until I can at least reach that point; I wouldn’t get much out of one anyway, where I am right now.

I just feel so heartbroken that what I believed was “unconditional love” and “selfless sacrifice” from my parents, were in name only. Nowadays it irks me when they do nice things, like clean out the coffeemaker or make me food. It feels like everything come with strings attached. Next time I get into a fight with them (if ever), they will be sure to use it as their weapon, i.e.: we do all these nice things for you, so you have to put up with our emotional abuse without complaints. That’s not how it works, right? In love, you’re not supposed to keep tabs. It’s not a transaction, or is it?

Getting blamed for things

As a kid whenever I had arguments with the parents, I always ended up getting the blame for causing them. Honestly I can remember maybe a small handful of things at most that I did that were deathly terrible enough to warrant the level of ire directed at me. At best my mother would say something like ‘all three of us are stubborn, we are all at fault’, and I remember feeling really thankful for her diplomacy.

As I got older I realised I’m actually not stubborn at all. The stubbornness was a refusal to back down because I did nothing wrong. But I had to bury my truths without even a fair hearing in order to keep the peace.

One particularly poignant argument, I was so mad that I raised my hand and hit my mum. On another occasion I had called her a bitch. But the hitting incident, my mum said afterwards, her hand on her chest: ‘You’re making my heart bleed.’ Probably a line she learned from some horrible Chinese drama she was watching at the time.

I felt bad about hitting her. But at the same time, I didn’t feel guilty. I couldn’t understand why my mother seemed to always be pushing my buttons. Hitting her and calling her a bitch were my last-resort attempts to get my immense frustration across to her, in my own childish way. I admit they were inappropriate and I shouldn’t have done that.

Honestly when she said her heart was bleeding, I didn’t really feel it from her demeanour. All I felt was melodrama. Was she the emotionally aberrant one, or was I?

Some time ago when I was living in Italy, she sent me a long message out of the blue. It was a sober equivalent of a drunk text. In it she said, she was watching another family drama series, and the mother-daughter relationship in it reminded her of us.

She went on about how she was sorry for mistreating me and causing me pain. No specifics; I wasn’t even sure what she was referring to (this was before I made the narcissism connection). She ended with her usual ‘I love you and you are my treasure’ spiel complete with heart emojis galore.

I didn’t know how to respond to it. I remember thinking, why does she only seem to do this when triggered by some TV show? Honestly I felt the same lack of depth in her confession. The same lack of depth that I carried around with me in my own relationships, that I used to deal with other people, the world, even with them.

The slap and the b-word were probably the realest reactions I ever exhibited. They were at least as real as the love I had for her at my most naive. It’s not a glamorous admission, but I’m sick of being mandated to love. I’m sick of being held moral hostage – that if I don’t feel this, that, or the other feeling, that I’m somehow an irredeemably bad person.

How can you make me into a bad person with your horrible training and your head games, and then turn around and accuse me of turning out this way? Isn’t this what you wanted all along?

Anyway. Now I’m done with running away from these bad feelings. I can clearly see this part of my conditioning – to make me feel so bad that I couldn’t handle it on my own, and I had to seek out maladaptive ways of escapism and distractions to anaesthesise myself. Now I have to turn towards the pain and feel it, feel all of it. I have to acknowledge the bad parts of me and dissolve them into the aether.

I’ve been feeling like shit the past few days and I’ve handled it badly. In fact I’ve dropped everything just to deal with these emotions 100%, and I still regressed into old habits and it’s terribly shameful.

I will not give myself more reasons to hate myself.

I will not let shame drag me down into inaction. Mistakes are a learning experience, not a reason to give up.

I will not subsist on empty hope and ‘wait for myself to feel better’.

I feel more convinced now that the path of Buddhism – seeing into the true nature of my emotions – is the only way forward. I don’t know how else to deal with it from this point.

Life was not meant to be comfortable, or comforting. In fact my parents tried to disown all the uncomfortable truths, and turned their lives into neverending drama.

If I survive this period of loneliness and metamorphosis, I will be okay.

I am bigger than all my daemons.

The Water Torturer

The Water Torturer’s style proves that anger doesn’t cause abuse. He can assault his partner psychologically without even raising his voice. He tends to stay calm in arguments, using his own evenness as a weapon to push her over the edge. He often has a superior or contemptuous grin on his face, smug and self-assured. He uses a repertoire of aggressive conversational tactics at low volume, including sarcasm, derision—such as openly laughing at her—mimicking her voice, and cruel, cutting remarks. Like Mr. Right, he tends to take things she has said and twist them beyond recognition to make her appear absurd, perhaps especially in front of other people. He gets to his partner through a slow but steady stream of low-level emotional assaults, and perhaps occasional shoves or other “minor” acts of violence that don’t generally cause visible injury but may do great psychological harm. He is relentless in his quiet derision and meanness.

The impact on a woman of all these subtle tactics is that either her blood temperature rises to a boil or she feels stupid and inferior, or some combination of the two. In an argument, she may end up yelling in frustration, leaving the room crying, or sinking into silence. The Water Torturer then says, “See, you’re the abusive one, not me. You’re the one who’s yelling and refusing to talk things out rationally. I wasn’t even raising my voice. It’s impossible to reason with you.”

The psychological effects of living with the Water Torturer can be severe. His tactics can be difficult to identify, so they sink in deeply. Women can find it difficult not to blame themselves for their reactions to what their partner does if they don’t even know what to call it. When someone slaps you in the face, you know you’ve been slapped. But when a woman feels psychologically assaulted, with little idea why, after an argument with The Water Torturer, she may turn her frustration inward. How do you seek support from a friend, for example, when you don’t know how to describe what is going wrong?

The Water Torturer tends to genuinely believe that there is nothing unusual about his behavior. When his partner starts to confront him with his abusiveness—which she usually does sooner or later—he looks at her as if she were crazy and says, “What the hell are you talking about? I’ve never done anything to you.” Friends and relatives who have witnessed the couple’s interactions may back him up. They shake their heads and say to each other, “I don’t know what goes on with her. She just explodes at him sometimes, and he’s so low-key.” Their children can develop the impression that Mom “blows up over nothing.” She herself may start to wonder if there is something psychologically wrong with her.

The Water Torturer is payback-oriented like most abusive men, but he may hide it better. If he is physically abusive, his violence may take the form of cold-hearted slaps “for your own good” or “to get you to wake up” rather than explosive rage. His moves appear carefully thought out, and he rarely makes obvious mistakes—such as letting his abusiveness show in public—that could turn other people against him or get him in legal trouble.

If you are involved with a Water Torturer, you may struggle for years trying to figure out what is happening. You may feel that you overreact to his behavior and that he isn’t really so bad. But the effects of his control and contempt have crept up on you over the years. If you finally leave him, you may experience intense periods of delayed rage, as you become conscious of how quietly but deathly oppressive he was.     

This style of man rarely lasts long in an abuser program unless he has a court order. He is so accustomed to having complete success with his tactics that he can’t tolerate an environment where the counselors recognize and name his maneuvers and don’t let him get away with them. He tends to rapidly decide that his group leaders are as crazy as his partner and heads for the door.

The central attitudes driving the Water Torturer are:

– You are crazy. You fly off the handle over nothing.

– I can easily convince other people that you’re the one who is messed up.

– As long as I’m calm, you can’t call anything I do abusive, no matter how cruel.

– I know exactly how to get under your skin.

from Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft

I feel rageful

When you see behind the psychopath’s mask, and you realize the extent of the betrayal, the shock, shame, and sadness you feel give way and/or are accompanied by a burning rage. It is unique in the sense that it is very overwhelming and intense. It also lingers and comes in waves. This particular rage is also quite frightening because it can sometimes seem as if you are taking on the psychopath’s evil.

from “Working Through Rage After Abuse”

For the past couple of days I have been reading a book about the psychology of abusers, and it’s making me all kinds of rageful. Today I couldn’t hold it in anymore and screamed some profanities at my fridge and my friend (the self-absorbed one I mentioned previously). Not proud of it at all.

Apparently this rage is justified and different from ‘narcissistic rage’, it’s caused by anger at being unjustly treated in the past. That’s somewhat reassuring, but I’m not sure how much I’m convinced. I still feel like I’m turning into a psycho monster.

I actually felt so angry I ignored my dad when he was talking to me today. Now he got a taste of how I felt all through high school days, when he treated me like an invisible ghost and sucked up all the air in the room complaining about his all-important job and his petty grievances. HAH.

Honestly wish I could scream at him, tell him what he really is. But that would only backfire of course. In the past whenever I tried to be diplomatic with him, the way he stonewalled and shut me down in a completely illogical/unreasonable way was infuriating. In those moments I honestly understood why people get violent during fights and kill each other.

I’m taking a break from the readings. But seriously, fuck. How can someone who professes to love you, drive you to such insane murderous feelings?? This kind of so-called ‘love’ has to be a joke.

Fuck this life

Fuck the day I was born.

Fuck this unseen and indescribable reality.

Fuck people. Especially fuck people.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. FUCK.

Self-conscious vs. self-aware

Something I gleaned from Robert Masters’ book, Spiritual Bypassing.

I remember talking with a couple of fellow social anxiety sufferers a while ago, and they recoiled in horror when I mentioned the need to self-reflect. In their view, the reason they feel anxious is because they self-analyse too much. Which may well be true. Here I think we have to distinguish between the easily conflated concepts of self-consciousness and self-awareness.

Self-consciousness is awareness/worry of how other people see us. Self-awareness is awareness of how we see ourselves, or generally our thought processes/mental activities that go on in our big beautiful brains, where other people can’t see into.

Shyness and anxiety have to do with being too self-conscious, but not necessarily with being too self-aware. In fact I speculate that increasing one’s self-awareness (such as through vipashyana meditation, or critically analysing one’s thought patterns with CBT, etc.) can help one to see the wrongful and detrimental amount of self-consciousness that one is carrying around, and thereby alleviate it.

I was raised to value self-consciousness – my image and my behaviours – above all. You could say I was raised to be self-conscious as a substitute for being self-aware, which my caretakers were/are not and therefore could not teach me. But that plan backfired. I managed to retain a certain level of self-awareness. It was excruciating but it also saved me. Without it I would’ve been doomed.

But at the same time I suspect that the anxiety mechanism somehow blocks or at least discourages that kind of honest self-reflection, in order to sustain the habitual state/response and keep itself alive. Maybe that’s why some people have the mistaken impression that it’s a bad idea to ‘know thyself’.

Also, they might be conflating self-awareness/-analysis proper with rumination, which is a kind of heavily skewed and circular self-critique that tends to be highly negative.

Overall I believe that ultimately the truth, insight, and understanding can never be a bad thing, and you can never have too much of it. But it’s a minefield trying to tell the real deal from the plethora of duds out there, as well as meeting the right timing, pace, conditions, etc etc.