Rationale for No Contact

Finding the answers to questions I’ve had all my life

Photo by Alfred Kenneally on Unsplash

About ten years ago I married a guy who promised me the chance to do the “spoiled rotten housewife” routine. That has always been a dream of mine, and I moved about a thousand miles away from home and family in order to have it. I was fine with that, though at first I couldn’t put my finger on why.

This guy turned out to be a jerk, to say the very least. But I’ll save a description of that for another article or two. For now, I prefer to look back on my “marriage” to him with the tiniest hint of gratitude. He did indeed provide me the chance to play house. He gave me a very generous spending allowance, with which I bought fabric for sewing, and books. Lots and lots of books, mainly self-help psychology.

Questions growing up

You see, I’ve had so many questions growing up and I was never satisfied with the answers I was fed. How could I possibly have been responsible for my mother getting in trouble back in high school, before I was born, before she had even met my father? But somehow, in her brain, I was.

She also convinced family and friends that her problems were all my fault. And they believed it. To this day, these otherwise intelligent people actually believe my mother’s twisted view of reality. In spite of any physical evidence to the contrary. They can testify in court, swear on a stack of bibles (proverbial and otherwise), take their conviction to the grave. I really am the horrible, selfish, ungrateful, wolf in sheep’s clothing my mother has described to them. In all my studies, I’ve never been able to figure out how my mother and others like her pull that off. But they do.

Projection

Psychologists have a name for it — projection. It’s a type of identity swap. My mother watched me very carefully, like an actress studying for a part, and mimicked me. She took on all my sweet, tender qualities and gave me all of her ugly ones. Weird as it sounds, it’s surprisingly easy to do that to a little child who doesn’t know any better.

Look at it this way. Suppose you run across a narcissist or sociopath who has an aversion to being fat. Everybody knows that fat is not perfect. Everybody also knows that narcissists are the models of perfection. So they can’t be fat. But they fear it, as though it threatens their very existence. So they say, “No I’m not. You are.” And just you watch. Sooner rather than later, a friend or child in their sphere of influence will actually gain weight. Thus, my mother felt better about herself.

My Mother Revealed

As I entered my teen years, I began to notice the joy my mother found in hurting other people. After she had injured a guy I only knew as Mr. Somebody-or-other, and was close to being exposed as the creature she really was, I found myself responsible for what she had done. The hard part is, I never found out what I was being blamed for. She would talk about me to others with the strict instruction, “Don’t tell her!” So these people would look at me strangely, avoid me when they could, and they never told me why. The blank expression on my face made me look and feel even dumber.

Very early on, quite possibly when I kicked her in utero, my mother dubbed me the “family idiot” — the girl who simply did not have the mental capacity to do anything right. A painfully honest appraisal of my condition in childhood forces me to admit I fit her description to a tee. What can I say? I went along to get along. In truth, I had to. Cooperating with my mother, in whatever form she wanted that to take, ensured my survival.

When I thought I was safe

So when I got married, moved a thousand miles away and started buying books, I came across some very interesting information. One by one, I was finding answers to all those questions.

One of the books I bought held the last puzzle piece to the definition of what had happened to me. In chapter four of Martha Stout’s Sociopath Next Door, I read a story I was very well acquainted with. Dr. Stout described a broad named Doreen, but I always called the story Pam’s Punch Bowl. Shopping for this punch bowl was the one time I saw this particular game played out from beginning to end. Usually I got dumped somewhere in the middle of it, so it was interesting to watch the whole thing. Another really good thing was that, for once, I wasn’t the person my mother had targeted.

Pam’s Punch Bowl

So. When I was about eighteen, relatives got together for some reason lost to memory. The whole boatload of us went out shopping. The boys went one direction, and I climbed into the back seat of Pam’s car with my mother, my paternal grandmother, and two aunts.

On this particular shopping trip, Grandma was on a mission. She had been saving her money for some time, with the intention of buying Pam a special gift — a punch bowl set. Pam did a lot of entertaining, and my grandmother thought she would find it useful.

My mother and I followed her into every shop, closely examining each offering alongside her. Grandma wouldn’t rest until she had found the perfect punch bowl. And it took quite a while. This one wasn’t big enough. That one didn’t have enough cups. This other one would work, but it was the wrong color. That one had beautiful etching, but it was plastic and she wanted crystal.

Grandma was so excited as she browsed. She chattered on and on about how much joy she would find when Pam threw her next party and she could serve her guests in the elegant style this punch bowl would provide. I was happy too, just watching Grandma’s eyes light up. I glanced over at Mom, and I saw steam blow out of her ears. Mom was never very long on patience for things that didn’t benefit her somehow. Who knows? Maybe she thought the punch bowl should have been hers.

When Grandma had finally made her selection, we got back to Pam’s car and carefully placed the box in the trunk. Holding the lid open, Pam’s eyes went wide with delighted wonder. My mother said out of the corner of her mouth, “I think it’s for Gina.”

Gina was the other aunt who had come with us and, put nicely, she and Pam didn’t get along. My mother knew this, and apparently decided to see what kind of fun she could stir up. When Pam heard that the punch bowl was intended for this person she did not like, I watched her face abruptly change from joy to sickly green, as if she had smelled something that turned her stomach.

On the way home, Pam went on and on about what impractical, useless items punch bowls were. She explained that you could use a salad bowl instead, that dragging them out just once or twice a year could not justify their expense, that their size made storage nearly impossible.

My mother “tried to help” by feeding Pam straight lines. “They do look nice sitting on the table. Storage is easy if you know how. You can’t beat it for impressing a crowd.”

I had been watching my grandmother all this time, and I got increasingly worried. Her lips drew a thinner and thinner line across her face; her brows wrinkled with frustration and anger, confusion and sorrow. When she could stand no more, she blurted, “Pam, I got that punch bowl for you!”

No doubt, my mother inwardly yelled, “Score!” And she’s probably laughing about it today. Here, in one fell swoop, she had attacked and destroyed the giver and receiver, as well as the gift itself. Why? I think this story pegs her as what Milton called an envious sociopath. Other than pure jealousy, she didn’t need a reason to destroy someone else’s gift.

But the game wasn’t finished yet. She still had to finish off Pam’s reputation. At home, she related the whole incident to my father. She described my aunt as a fool, herself as a thwarted hero. She said, very sorrowfully, “I guess the only way to get Pam to shut up is to come right out and say, ‘Shut up, Pam.’”

Then she went to my brother. “Pam feels just horrible about what happened. I’ve tried to cheer her up, but she just won’t listen. Go over there and see if you can help.”

Impetus for No Contact

So, I was elated to see this story written up in a book by an expert on the subject. I felt validated. I was seeing things clearly. I was not the crazy one. There really was a reason for events like these to make me uncomfortable, to frighten me. As I progressed through the book, I began to recognize my mother as a very dangerous person, someone I should cross the street to avoid. Someone with whom I should share nothing.

Up to that time, I had called her two or three times a week. I told her of my frustrations, my feelings, my joys. She called me once in a while too, but only to rant about something that was wrong in her world.

I heard about a clergyman who had been caught doing something wrong. “Therefore,” she assumed. “Your faith is very misplaced.”

I also got all the gory details of a friend’s daughter who was in prison for robbing her mother blind to support a drug habit. “I’m so glad you would never do that to me,” she said. What she really meant by this was: “I’m jealous of the attention this other woman is getting, so I want you to do something horrible so I can steal her thunder and take her attention for myself.” Not many people are able to recognize this story-telling technique as a sneaky way to make others “get fat.” That’s probably why it’s so easy for her to get away with it.

She also griped about how (bigoted epithets deleted) were overrunning the country and destroying her way of life. These stories made me physically ill, and I had decided that if I heard one more of them, I would hang up on her.

No Contact

From my end, severing contact with my mother was actually easier than I thought it would be. I simply quit calling her. I ignored the phone when I saw her name on caller ID. I just stopped giving her the attention she fed on. As I ignored her, I discovered how much life-force she had been extracting from me. Without her influence, I had more energy than ever before, I was less nervous, more confident.

At the time, the decision to go No Contact seemed rather sudden. I know she must have been surprised. But looking back I can see how I had been moving forward day by day — finding this article, receiving advice from that friend, and gaining the strength and courage necessary to make the final break.

At this writing, I’ve enjoyed eight blissful years of peace. I now have the time and emotional energy for healing the damage she caused, and for the personal growth she never allowed me. I’m in a very good place now, and life is sweet without my mother in it.

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AJ Wood

AJ Wood

Good work! You’ve found my personal journal. I tell the truth here, and I find the process incredibly healing. You might too. So go ahead. Take a peek.