Fibromyalgia | 15 Years Later…

Orchid and Droplets

Recently, as in today, I have been listening to the music of Wardruna, a Norwegian band focused on sharing Old Norse traditions, reclaiming it from those who have misappropriated it. Let’s make it quite clear, I am rather ignorant of many aspects of Old Norse traditions.

The closest I came to learning anything about Old Norse tradition was taking a course on Germanic languages (thank you, Professor Robinson) and studying the rune poems to learn about the runic alphabets. That’s it.

Still, I found myself entranced by the voice of Einar Selvik singing the poem “Völuspá,” which tells the Norse creation myth. Certainly, I understood nothing of the words, but the passion of his voice brought tears to my eyes. Such is the power of music.

Völuspá tells not only of the birth of world, but also its death and rebirth.

Fifteen years ago, I realized that something was terribly wrong. I felt tired, sick, and in pain. For two years, I searched for an answer. At various points, I was convinced that I was just psychosomatic, it was all in my head–it didn’t help that my doctor was dismissive of my condition and did little to help. Ultimately, I learned the name of my condition: fibromyalgia.

I wrote quite a bit about my journey with fibromyalgia between 2011 and 2015. For the past six years, I have remained relatively quiet on the topic and this blog for a variety of reasons. However, I would like to share with you a little about my journey.

Contrast Petals

If I think back to 2008, when I first received my diagnosis, my mind immediately remembers the laundry list of medications I was asked to take just to function. I spent more time at hospitals and clinics than at any other time in my life. I joined a support group that caused me to realize that there was some other way that I wanted to live…

I wanted to find a path to living a life that held meaning to me and not one defined by my illness. I believe I found it.

I became vegan (now pescatarian), started meditating, doing yoga, and taking walks regularly, and began scaling back on the medications I was being asked to take. Ultimately, I went from taking approximately eleven medications to taking three. And for the past four years, I take only one…and it’s not for fibromyalgia. Instead, I go regularly for acupuncture or massage to help with pain management.

Choosing to Do Things Differently

Living with fibromyalgia means living with uncertainty: uncertainty of what one can do, how one will feel, etc. It is understanding that one’s sense of self-efficacy will be shaken if not shattered. There is nothing quite as humbling as waking up to realize that one can neither move because of pain nor remember a particular word (or two) due to brain fog. One’s body can become an enemy as it seems to work against one’s mind. As a result, one’s self-concept may begin to unravel–it certainly did for me.

I’ve spent the past decade redefining myself, constructing a new self with the fragments of self that survived pre-fibromyalgia, filling in the missing parts with who I have become. Certainly, everyone changes over time. However, developing a chronic illness in adulthood, in particular, means having to accept a change in a well-established sense of self-concept as well as deal with the potential fallout of being ill. A long-term battle between who one is and who one used to be can ensue.

Blossoms…Warmth

So, what can you do?

Choose to experience life differently.

For a long time, I was unhappy with my very nomadic life of living for only few years in any one place. However, now, I believe that my nomadism has been beneficial to my understanding my life with fibromyalgia. With each new place I have lived, I have had a chance to experience the world in a new way. Eventually, I came to the thought: why not remain open to experiencing myself differently, not just the world?

The challenge was no longer to hold on to an old concept of self, an old identity–it was to see and embrace a new aspect of self. Who am I now? How have I changed? What have I learned? Where do I want to go now on my journey?

Choose to ask yourself questions that open yourself to a newer you.

I realized that there was nothing to fear in being different from who I was. In the uncertainty of my condition, I found certainty. Having fibromyalgia has taught me (repeatedly) to be mindful of my physical and mental limits. It has confirmed for me certain goals and allowed me to discard others. I have become a kinder person to myself. Also, I am very curious about how my illness will continue influencing my perception of the world around me.

Remember: be who you are, embrace who you will become. In the interim, work on creating a life full of meaning for you. Let it be a life not defined by, but informed by your challenges.

Look forward to your rebirth.

Until Next Time,

Diedre

Today On My Kindle:

Feeling Good About Yourself Shouldn’t Be A Reward

Ajigaura Beach, Ibaraki, Japan

Rewarding oneself is not particularly uncommon. We reward ourselves for a variety of reasons, usually after accomplishing something considered a goal or an important task. If a quick internet search on the topic of rewarding oneself proves anything, it is that, at its core, people are seeking reasons to feel better about themselves.

How we choose to reward ourselves also varies. However, some examples are going out to eat, shopping, or taking a vacation. Using food, in particular, may tap into childhood experiences, where food may have been used either as a reward or punishment, based upon behavior. Ultimately, how you choose to reward yourself for your achievements is how you choose to reward yourself.

Lately, I have been reading about motivation and engagement, particularly within the workplace. After all, I spend a great deal of my working, and understanding how and why I am working is important to me. Just so you know, I tend to be a more intrinsically motivated person, which has its benefits and drawbacks. Regarding engaging with life, I am finding my flow.

Journeying toward the within is lifelong. When I first started this blog, just over a decade ago, I little knew my direction, only that I was moving towards something or self that was different from what I knew or had come to accept. Ten years later, I have come to realize that…

I have spent a long time thinking that feeling good about myself was a type of reward. It wasn’t something that I was allowed to experience on daily basis. It was a treat, as it were. I could reward myself with feeling good about me and my life after I had accomplished something meaningful, after I became someone useful, etc. Feeling good just because I exist wasn’t a concept I inherently understood.

This, of course, may seem rather strange, considering my background as a therapist. Being a therapist doesn’t mean, however, that you have your own psychology completed sorted. After all, therapists need therapists, too. It may be far easier to see the problems of others and understand how to effect positive change than to see and make changes in one’s own life.

I am certain that I am not alone in this thinking pattern of feeling good as a reward. It is telltale of a life defined by expected perfection and overachievement. It can mean a life of never feeling quite good enough and of rarely, if ever, acknowledging what one has done…because there is always some way that one can improve or that something more that should be done. An accomplishment becomes a brief signal that for a moment you can feel good about your existence.

Such a difficult way to live life…

Kashima Shrine Gate, Japan

Feeling good about yourself can be an everyday experience. It comes with acknowledging your existence as being meaningful–that as you are, you are worthy. Worthy of what? Worthy of self-love, self-care, self-regard, self-trust, etc. The life you have built up until now is yours to do with as you will. It isn’t a race that you either win or lose. It is simply a life, one that can be lived positively (if not always happily).

So, where do we go from here? Well, I have a couple of recommendations:

  1. Start simple – Think/write about how you have been viewing you and your life up until now.
  2. Inform yourself – Learn about ways you can improve enjoying who you are in your everyday life.
  3. Step back – Take time to yourself, just for yourself, to do something/experience good.

I enjoy reading. Here are some books that I have been using to help my journey:

Feeling good about yourself, if it is unfamiliar to you, may be likened to forming a new habit. Let’s be real, it will take time, consistency, and a patience. There are various theories and approaches to how one can form a habit. My recommendation is to keep it simple and focus on the moment you are in and how you are feeling.

You may not always feel great about your thoughts and your actions. However, you can always feel good about who you are and your existence.

Check out this interesting article on rewards by Gretchin Rubin (PsychologyToday.com): “Why We Shouldn’t Reward Ourselves for Good A Habits…With One Exception.”

Until Next Time,

Diedre

The Silence of Passing Time

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Veins stark against skin.

Winter’s shadows, vision dims.

My voice, ticking clock.

The other day a younger friend said, “D, I wonder why your life has been filled with so many challenges.” We’ve known each other for almost four years. It’s a fair statement. It’s true, my life, over the past five years and longer, has seen its share of ups and downs.

Still, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Who I am now is a far better person than who I have ever been. And the person I am crafting myself to be will better than who I am now. This is the process of choosing personal growth above all else.

Challenges can be presented or self-generated. However they present themselves in my life, my goal is to face them and learn from them. Since 2015, I have been confronting the special challenges of my mother’s aging process. It is a delicate and difficult situation for her as well as her children. It is a part of the human experience. As we become elderly, the likelihood of our needing support from those around us increases. Typically, we look to our children, who are likely middle-aged (around ages 40 to 60). I am 42. My sisters are 48, have children and are experiencing being in the sandwich generation, having to provide care to their children and parents. With the pandemic, the situation has only become more stressful for them.

Self-portrait, 2020

Back to my younger friend, who, in her twenties, has yet to but will likely experience the challenges that come with parents aging. Our conversation took place just three days ago. Since then, I’ve spent time pondering about the other challenges I have faced since we met: issues related to fibromyalgia, dealing with seasonal affective disorder, working through likely C-PTSD, rebuilding financial stability after being mostly unemployed for 6 years, and choosing to be in a romantic relationships that included narcissistic abuse.

Those last two points were completely self-generated. So, I’d like to address them.

Yes, I am dealing with the fallout from a 10-year-old decision to leave my position as a full-time employee, move to Italy, and become a full-time student. There are many reasons why I made the decisions, some relating to health, some relating to relationships, and some relating to fear. I do not regret it.

Looking back, would I have made the same decision? Yes. However, I would have gone about the process differently. Thus, I gladly accept the responsibility of rebuilding my professional life and financial wellbeing, and I am enjoying the process of doing so…even if the path is not always easy or clear.

For all the knowledge I have related to psychology, it is true that I have not always chosen relationships that promoted mental and emotional wellbeing. I admit that I have not had clear and healthy personal boundaries. It is easy to find an answer as to why by looking at my childhood. However, my goal is to look forward. I know my past fairly well. I’ve spent decades unraveling it. So, the work now is setting boundaries within self and with others. The challenge for me is learning that I don’t have to deal with abusive behavior just because I am used to it. I can walk away from it. It’s taken me a while to get to this point, but the most important part is: I am here now.

I’ve been hibernating for several years, silently listening to the passing time. I’ve been busy rebuilding my inner strength and outer resources. I am not where I aiming to be. I am, however, much farther along the path than when my younger friend met me.

So, to my younger friend, thank you for your question and concern. Your question positively provoked me to this craft this response.

My life of so many challenges is one that leads me to continue my self-exploration and healing. It would be and will be great when there are fewer. For now, I gladly face each that life presents.

Until Tomorrow,

D

On silence, healing fibromyalgia, dealing with narcissism, and learning a whole heck of a lot about myself

First, thank you to my followers, both new and old, for continuing to bless me with your support.  I have not been around much, nor have I posted much of anything personal. Still, you continue to stick with me. Thank you!

 

“If you have nothing [nice] to say…”

Over the past year and a half, my life has changed dramatically. Some of those changes were good, others were not so good. Still, I try my best to take changes as they come, learn from them what I can and keep taking steps towards achieving my goals. In my opinion, that’s the most effective approach to living my life.

Part of the process of accepting change is observing change. And I truly believe that observation is a silent process. It’s hard to observe and act at the same time–at least it is to me.

So, I’ve been in observation mode, mostly observing myself and my reactions and actions in dealing with myself in my environment, as well as just the environment itself. I’ve spent a lot of time in my head and subsequently in my body, i.e. I’ve been sorting through my mental blocks (negative self-talk/thinking) and how they impact my health and prevent me from quickly reaching my most important goals.

On the subject of health: I’m glad to state that my health has been truly awesome, and that my fibromyalgia symptoms have diminished significantly. I’ve had fewer flares, fibrofog moments and have been getting enough normal/restful sleep (between 7-9 hours). Also, I’ve been walking for about 1 hour almost daily and have recently started the BeachBody On-Demand 30-Day Free Trial that has a great deal of exercise programs for people of all levels.  If you have fibromyalgia and are interested in starting or improving an exercise program, I would say check it out because it allows for you to select programs by type: cardio, muscle building, less than 30 minutes, slim and tone, dance, low impact, and yoga. Personally, I am sticking with less than 30 minutes, low impact, dance and yoga.

I think my greatest challenge is that I consume news and, as a person of colour, it stresses me out…then again, who isn’t stressed when watching the news. Still, it’s important to stay informed, and I try to do so without being inundated.

So, what have I learned during my silence? A whole heck of a lot. Here is a list:

So, that’s it. It’s good to be writing again.

Until Next Time,

D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIBROMYALGIA & BEING A SOCIAL PARIAH: REINVENTING YOURSELF AFTER LOSING EVERYTHING (PART 2)

typing on the computerWhat if you never had fibromyalgia? How would you have lived your life up until this moment? What dreams would you have already fulfilled? Better still, who would you have created yourself to be?

Here’s the deal, regardless of whatever your chronic illness is, there are likely many questions like the ones above that you have asked or are actively asking yourself right this very minute.  It’s human nature to wonder about the possibilities, especially when it comes to your own life (and if you aren’t wondering, please, ask yourself why).  Maintaining our curiosity, that element of wonder, about ourselves and our the world around is key to making any significant change in the way we live.  When we shut ourselves down and shut out the world, we are essentially denying ourselves access to the power that subjective and objective knowledge can bring to furthering our self-understanding.  And increasing self-understanding means increasing our ability to achieve self-mastery.

When we think of self-mastery, we may think of complete control of the self, i.e. control of thought which leads to control of actions, which means better ability to respond (not react) effectively to the world around us.  Simply put, self-mastery, self-understanding, and self-awareness go hand in hand, best summarized by this quote:

Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

14533091400317-e1453308786450If you have fibromyalgia, then you know that one of the first thing you lose is control.  You lose control over your body and your mind.

The physical activities that you used to do with ease now prove difficult. The memory that you once prided yourself on now has sticky notes all over it marked fibro fog.  That’s just the way it is. There’s no shame in it. Having fibromyalgia means 1) losing control over the physical vehicle that transports who you are (body), and 2) losing control over the mental vehicle that relays your who you are to the world around you and to yourself (mind).  Of course, the severity of the loss depends of the severity of your fibromyalgia…and your engagement in self-care.

You’re Not Broken, Just Different

Anyone who knows me well knows that I do not believe in regret. Truly, I don’t. I believe in lessons learned.  I think regretting your life, in any shape or form, does not help you to move forward from wherever you are, especially when you have a chronic illness. The fact is the past is in the past. Yesterday is already the past. And today will be the past quite soon. So, here are the only questions that you need to ask yourself today:

What step(s) will I take to move my life forward today?

What step(s) have I taken to move my life forward today?

They are really simple questions with big implications. They imply choice.

You did not have a choice in having fibromyalgia. You do have a choice in whether or not you will allow it to control your life. Although you may feel broken, unwanted, used up, without purpose, or simply helpless, you are not.

You are not broken. You are different. 

The person you knew yourself to be is in the past, along with yesterday and all the days before that.  The high points and the low points of that person is gone. Keep her or him in your memory with fondness, but do not dwell.  Like how you may think fondly upon your teenage self or child self, think so upon who you were. But get excited about who you are and who you are crafting yourself to be.

Remember how when you were a teenager or a child, you couldn’t wait to see what type of adult you would be? Perhaps you became that adult, perhaps not. Either way, it’s time now to tap into the curiosity, to apply today that wonder that you had about the unknown you. It’s time to tell yourself that there is nothing to fear in being someone you don’t know or cannot yet imagine.

This is the first step in reinventing yourself: getting to know the new you. 

How do you do this? Ask yourself the first question I proposed above (What step(s) will I take to move my life forward today?), then take the quote above as inspiration: watch your thoughts. Listen for an answer. What does your new self want to do? Be curious about that self. Work to understand that self.  Be kind to that self.

Look out for Part 3: The Naysayers & Other Emotional Vampires

Read Part 1:  Reinventing Yourself After Losing Everything

Motivation…Oh, Where Did It Go?

Image found on GIS

Image found on GIS

I’m stuck…sort of. It’s the end of August in Rome and I’ve been living through Attack of the Mosquitoes and Sweat World.  The fan I had for two days died. It’s not its fault. It was pretty old.  Still, I need a new one.

My manuscript remains unfinished and I toy with a few stories in my mind. At the same time, I think about getting older and failing to meet external expectations.  I wonder about my internal expectations.  What do I expect of myself?  How do I define that?

It’s hard remaining in that in-between state, that cocoon, like waiting to be born again, except it has nothing to do with Jesus. I’m there, I’ve been there for some time now, and I know I’m getting close to the end of that stage…but it’s terrifying.  It’s terrifying knowing that it’s impossible to go back, or stay where you are, or do anything else other than move forward.

Still, terror can maintain stasis, paralyzing the motivation to either fail or succeed–yes, you can be motivated to fail.  The more we try to push terror away, the more intense it seems to become.

So, I’ve decided to embrace my terror. All aspects of it. The terror of success and of failure that is embodied within.

I’ll have a talk with the twin parts of myself: talent and self-sabotage. I’ll let them know that it’s okay to be terrified.

I’ll let them know…

It’s okay to fail as long as I (we) continue aiming to succeed. 

Until Wednesday,

D.

 

3 Tips to Getting Unstuck from that Rut

 

Image from MadameNoire.com. Click to read their article, "The 'Itis: Foods that are making you sleepy at work"

Image from MadameNoire.com. Click to read their article, “The ‘Itis: Foods that are making you sleepy at work”

All right. I’ll admit it. Somehow I managed to get myself in a rut. It’s not a pretty situation. Seriously, especially as someone with a background in psychology. I should be able therapize myself out of this…right?  Of course, but it’s not easy.

1inexplicable

First thing first: Identify the sticking point. 

What I mean is, examine the period before recognizing that you are stuck. Try to identify any factors that may have contributed to this experience.  In my case, it’s been this trip back to Rome which has caused a massive disruption to my physical functioning.

Image found on Google Images

Second thing second: Write your desired state of being.

Take a moment to write how you would like to feel in this moment.  More than likely, you’re not enjoying being in this rut. You want to get out, right?? So, write down how you prefer to feel and what you prefer to do.  Explore all possible helpful factors, looking at what has been helpful in the past and things that you have wanted to try. Perhaps you found that going out for a daily walk always helped you to feel more focused and in touch with your life. Perhaps you’ve wanted to try rock climbing, take a cooking class, go on a meditation retreat, etc. Identify what can shift you out of where you are now.

India-yoga-world

Third thing third: Just do it.

Yes, it’s Nike’s slogan, but I think it’s the ultimate weapon in getting out of a rut.  You just have to do it. Identifying where things started to go south, and then exploring ways to shift your emotional states are wonderful in helping you understand that there is a way out.  Still, nothing beats just getting up, getting out and just doing what you have to do.  To materialize what you say you desire, how you say you want to live, and who you say you want to be, you must take positive action.

Found via Google image search.

Found via Google image search.

Positive action is anything that helps rather than hinders, anything that enhances you but does not impinge upon the well-being of others, and anything that moves you closer to your goals.

For me, this is my first positive action: writing this post today.  By writing this post today, I am taking action to make positive change. It’s a small step but an important one because I am keeping a promise to myself and to you, my readers. (By the way, thank you so much for taking the time to read my writing. It means a great to me). 🙂

My second will be to clean my room. It’s my personal belief that your physical state (both self and environment) reflects your internal state. So, if your space is cluttered or disorganized, etc., then so is your mind. So, on that note, it’s time to take stock of my physical state. 😉 It’s amazing what cleaning and clearing your physical state can do to free your mind. Really…try it. 

Now, the above steps are aimed at those who are in the emotional/psychological place to take them.  There are many times that ruts are really depression or beginning of depression. It’s important that you take what you are feeling/experiencing very seriously.  I suggest visiting a counselor/therapist/psychologist to understand whether you are just having a challenging moment or if you have entered into a more severe situation.

Until Next Time,

D.

Fibromyalgia| Life in Chaos? 3 Steps to Creating Routine in Your Life

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Know this Feeling? (Image from GIS)

At this point, if you’ve followed my blog, you’ll know that my life is far from what one might call normal.  Still, it is my reality.  A part of that reality is having to deal with the inconsistency of my chronic illness, i.e., fibromyalgia.  There are some days that I feel great, like I could go run a marathon or two, and there are some days when even the thought of opening an eyelid seems like too much of an effort.

With such fluctuations in one’s daily experience, it can feel hard to create a sense of order to your life.  After all, what’s the point of making plans for the next day you’re never sure how you are actually going to be?

Over the years, I’ve engaged in an internal psychological warfare, trying to force myself to feel better when I don’t, blaming myself for real and imagined shortcomings, and even giving up on myself when I fell short of my expectations.

The path to living peaceably with fibromyalgia is far from smooth. However, over the past year, I’ve been working on letting go of my self-frustrations, allowing myself to feel whatever I feel, and strategizing how to take small steps that move me healthily along my path.

Image from GIS

Learn to Enjoy Life. (Image from GIS)

So, here are 3 steps that I’ve found useful to keeping internal order even when everything else feels like it’s in utter chaos:

  • Do 1 Thing the Same Way Every Day: Choose one helpful thing that you will do every day no matter what. Don’t cut corners.  Why? Because it helps to create a 1)sense of routine, 2) shows you that you can do what say you will, and 3) moves you a further step along your path.  So, what are some possibilities?  Depending on where you are in your journey, it could be as simple as taking care of your personal hygiene or working on a personal project (for me, that would be writing).  It’s up to you.  As long as whatever you choose moves you closer to your life goals, then it is A-OK.

 

  • Make Lists: If there is one thing that bothers me most about having fibromyalgia, it is dealing with brain fog and memory issues.  In the past, when I felt like my mind could not focus or I could not remember something important, I would really come down hard on myself. I took a massive blow to self-esteem because I did know how to accept and strategize around my illness.  Now, I make lists, especially if I know there is something important coming up. I would suggest having a bulletin board in a place where you cannot avoid seeing it, and posting your lists there.  If you’re not into the bulletin board idea, then I would suggest posting it on your refrigerator…after all, you have to eat at some point.

 

  • Write Down What You’ve Done Each Day:  At the end of the day, even if you didn’t move from your bed, write it down.  Write down who you spoke to, if you took your medications, if you made it out of bed, what daily goal you accomplished, and any and everything else. Write it down.  I do not mean that you should journal–although journaling is not a bad idea. I mean that you should take notes on what you do or don’t do each day.  It will help you to understand your personal patterns.  If you do this long enough, you can see how your symptoms might be impacting how much of what you can do in a day.  It doesn’t hurt, so try it.

 

I cannot promise you that following these steps will change everything in your life.  I do believe, however, that they are the beginning steps that will take you closer to where you would like to be.  Remember the key thing is consistency.

It doesn’t matter what you decide to do–how big or small it is–just be consistent.  Learn to appreciate the small steps you can take, so that when you are able to take larger steps, you understand the magnitude of your accomplishment!

Happy Fibro Friday! 😉

Is Your Family Narcissistic? 12 Ways to Know (PsychologyToday.com)

Read: “The Narcissistic Family Tree” by Karyl McBride, Ph.D.

Does your family…

  1. Keep Secrets (Never air your dirty laundry.)
  2. Focus on Image. (What would other people think?)
  3. Give You Negative Messages.  (You’ll never be good enough.)
  4. Lack of Parental Hierarchy.  (You are made to parent, become the emotional support for your parents, etc.)
  5. Lack of Emotional Tune-In. (Parents have told you that they don’t need you or don’t care what happens to you, etc.)
  6. Lack of Effective Communication.  (Triangulation/Gossping, see last post).
  7. Have Unclear Boundaries. (Personal space invaded. Perhaps even identity stolen, literally and figuratively.)
  8. Have One Parent Narcissistic, the Other Orbiting. (Leaving children with no other source of support)
  9. Discourage Siblings From Being Close. (Does it feel like your siblings are in a constant competition with you or between themselves?)
  10. Negate/Displace Feelings. (What feelings? Who has them? Why are they necessary? J/k…but this is what it’s like).
  11. Give You “Not Good Enough” Messages. (Whether spoken or unspoken, you learned that there was/is/will be a way to match the ideal that your parent already is.)
  12. Thrive on Dysfunction—Obvious or Covert. (Was emotional, physical, sexual abuse a regular part of your life…but no one seemed to know it…even your own siblings?)

Triangulation: Don’t be a flying monkey…

Self-portrait: Today. (May, 2015)

Self-portrait: Today. (May, 2015)

Somehow I missed the fact that April was National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month in the US–do they even have such a thing in Italy? I ought to find out.

As I prepare to return the US next week, especially to my family’s home, I have been reflecting on family and communication.  To be specific, I have been trying to strategize a method to deal with pervasive triangulation.

What is triangulation? Simply put, it is a method of communication that is passive-aggressive, such that information is rarely stated directly between the two (or more) people involved . In a real life family situation, it would sound something like this:

Sister: “So, I heard from Mom that you took her car without asking. Didn’t you know that she would be upset?”

Brother: “Well, I heard from Dad that Mom told him that you didn’t do well on your last exam and that you’re just a failure waiting to happen.”

In other words, information that should be stated directly from “Mom” and “Dad” to the “Sister” and “Brother” is instead being communicated just between the siblings. Neither Mom nor Dad state their (negative) feelings to their children, rather they have the children do it for them, which in turn tends to create disharmony between the siblings.

This method of communication is standard in families where narcissistic tendencies feature actively in either (or both) parent.  Triangulation serves to control communication, foster distrust between siblings, continue drama and undermine self-esteem.  The idea that parents can be trusted to maintain privacy is annihilated, and a lesson is learned that information is a useful weapon.

I’ve experienced three decades of this type of communication…enough to know that there is only one person who benefits from it: the parent(s) with narcissistic traits/tendencies/personalities.

Approximately 10 years ago, I decided not to get involved in it anymore.  When family members approached me to listened to “what so and so did,” I declined the conversation and redirected the person to speak directly with that person instead of me. I have no interest in being a flying monkey for anyone.

What pray tell is a flying monkey?  Well, let’s do it this way:

You know you’re a flying monkey if…

  • You listen to gossip about others and then spread it (usually from a family member about another family member).
  • You take up arguments on the behalf of someone (usually a family member).
  • You bully others on the behalf of someone (usually a family member).
  • You feel a sense of belonging when you gossip/argue/bully others for someone.
  • You take an intense interest in keeping tabs (spying) on the doings of others for someone, and then spend time gossiping about the “failings” of the people upon whom you have spied.
  • You are invasive. When visiting other people’s homes, you will go through their belongings and then report back to someone about it, particularly focusing on what the home lacked.
  • You are inauthentic in your dealings with other people. You seek out information from them to share it with someone else…and you are more than likely to use it against them.

I could go on with this list, but let’s leave it here for now.

I imagine some people wouldn’t even know themselves if they stopped being flying monkeys or stopped using triangulation, etc. And not knowing yourself can be a very scary experience.  Still, if you are either instigator of triangulation or complicit by acting as a flying monkey and perpetuating this type of communication, please work to find another way.

It is possible to speak directly to someone about your feelings.  You don’t have to use others to do your bidding.  At least, know that you are choosing to triangulate, especially using your children or other family members, you are engaging in an emotionally abusive act.  Children, particularly, need to learn how to express their feelings in a direct way.  This type of communication breeds secret-keeping, low self-esteem, and a compromised ability to trust self and others.

It is possible to allow other people to do their own dirty work.  It’s not your job to speak on someone’s behalf (unless that person is a child and is somehow unable to speak).  It is never your job to engage in aggression for someone else.  Why should you? Why would you want to?

Just to wrap this up (finally), please, take a moment to consider your method of communication today. Do you triangulate? Or are you on the receiving end of it? Or do you foster it?

Until tomorrow,

D.