Saturday, November 03, 2007

My Answer to SHUT UP

Family Trauma Unsolved

I thought I'd post my current understanding and lessons the incident last Easter has brought to me so far. It's sort of an open letter to my husband's family--namely his son and daughter-in-law, but since they are never going to see this, it doesn't really matter. They have closed their hearts and minds to facing this situation and/or helping us face it.

If you have had problems in your life with older or younger family members, perhaps this will be beneficial to your understanding too.

First of all it has been most baffling. We have always loved, generously supported and encouraged our kids not to mention helping them when they were having troubles in life, and their have been a number of difficulties. It was a terrible shock to realize that they can't seem to pull it together enough to return the attitude of loving & caring, and generosity. That has been a big disappointment to say the least. I realize today that kids are not grateful, anymore than they have ever been in any period of history. But I thought that our kids were different than that.

It's all centered around a MasterMind group with a couple of other people. The one woman was a close close friend of ours that we treated like a sister. She had been in an active social relationship with us for a number of years; a relationship that included abundance consciousness and prosperity thinking as well as financial and other support (we gave her a substantial loan to start a business a number of years ago which she has not paid back yet.) She told my husband about a workshop she'd been too, was enthusiastic and encouraged him to go. He took his son (who was working with him in the business) and his son's wife. The group was started locally to continue the growth and prosperity thinking generated by this workshop.

I was invited to come along with my husband to the first MasterMind group which was for the purpose of setting up the group and group goals, etc. I was surprised that they included me but I was very happy about it. I felt included, loved and supported and was willing to give them back all the love and support we all generated with this group. And I was looking forward to learning from them as we all advanced our business and prosperity consciousness and activities.

We had a couple of meetings -- maybe three --and I was thrilled with the power of the group. I was filled with joy to be in a close relationship of give and take with these people, especially our family. I was so encouraged I began to think about starting my own business (I am in the writing field and wanted to start a publishing company) even tho I am at the age when there is little I can really do in the employment area.

The group meant a great deal to my husband and to me also, since we are approaching retirement age and had very little to look forward to as far as new and exciting career possibilities, at least by ourselves. But this group gave us the loving support (we thought) to look to the future with expectation, excitement and renewed hopefulness and excitement. It was also, we thought, a way to be more involved with our friend and our younger generation in a more spiritual way.

What happened then was a big shock that we has still not understood or come to grips with. The stranger (to us) in the group called me the day before the next scheduled meeting and basically told me that the group talked about me behind my back, took a vote and decided to remove me from the group. I was shocked and devastated. I told her these were our family, even our friend who was like a sister to us, and we had a long history with them with support and sharing many other issues than just financial. Their basic bottom-line was they felt "uncomfortable" with me there since I hadn't attended the workshop. (Even tho it was partially my generosity that allowed them to go to the workshop in the first place.)

After feeling totally disrespected and rejected by this woman, I became angry. Now, I am not an angry person. I am usually a caring, loving, forgiving person who bends over backwards to try to get along and wouldn't think of hurting anyone's feelings on purpose. But this cut me to a level that totally enraged me. I think it had to do with having a stranger call and brush me off on their behalf without a word from any of them. In fact, I had seen my stepson several times in the days prior to this event and he didn't act like anything was any different. And I spoke with our close friend the night before this, and she didn't act like anything was any different either, never mentioned a thing. Basically they were ignoring the situation to save themselves further discomfortable.

So after this unexpected, shocking phone call, I simply said, "OK," and hung up. I didn't attack this person at all, altho I think she was instrumental in further developments and most likely encouraged these people to cut us out of their lives and handle the whole situation with the silent treatment; and possibly gave them the idea it was okay not to deal with the situation except from a self-centered point of view. I can't imagine on what planet that is good plan...ignore the problem and the person who is making you uncomfortable and everything will be fine? I don;'t think so. I don't think she has a clue as to how she destroyed our family and our lives.

Then my first reaction was to question my husband if he knew about this? The first thing I distinctly said was, "Did you know about this? If you're in on this, I am divorcing you right now!" He was as shocked as I was, though his son had mentioned to him (not me) that the group was uncomfortable with me being there and they were thinking of asking me to leave the group. (They could have come to me with their concerns but they chose NOT to do it in a kind way, not even face to face.) The point is, my husband and I were part of the group by then, and a group decision should have included us, not gone behind our backs in a cowardly way.

Now if you are not familiar with the MasterMind principles, you need to look it up on the internet and see the steps...they are basically having to do with sharing hope and spirituality with a group of other people to help them attain their aspirations and goals in life based on love and spirit. You would think that people who wanted to be in a group like a MasterMind group would be willing to extend their spirit and love.

The rest of that weekend my husband and I were devastated and heart-broken. He said at one point, he felt like he had died. It was perhaps the biggest jolt I have ever had in my life. Even with my ex-husband who treated me terribly it was not hidden and sneaky, it was in-my-face cruel from a sick man and I didn't expect better behavior from him. I always knew he was incapable of loving, caring behavior, and I was able to divorce him and not stay a victim of his abuse and lack of care & love. It's not that easy to divorce your kids and grandkids, especially when you love then and want to have a harmonious family life to make the last decades of your life enjoyable with love and caring family.

Next, I got an email insisting that these people didn't "intend" to hurt me, that they "loved" me. I didn't buy that, because it certainly didn't feel like love. I let them know that I was hurt and angry. And basically the whole situation escalated to them attacking me for having feelings. They think since they didn't intend to hurt someone, that they are obviously not responsible for the resulting hurt.

I tried to explain that even if you don't do something to someone on purpose to hurt them, you can still care about their feelings and apologize as a way to show you care. What if I had been hit by a car and had my leg broken? Because they weren't personally to blame for running over me, then they couldn't say they were sorry I was hurt? That's ridiculous. We can use any situation to show that we care about someone and their feelings no matter what we did or didn't do or how we did it.

They were unable to do that. When I tried to explain my feelings, I was continually verbally attacked (on email) by my stepson's wife and finally blamed, threatened, and told to SHUT UP.

I think this is appalling way to treat another person, let alone an older family member. It is a serious discrepancy between believing you are a loving, spiritual person and being unable to be kind & compassionate let alone spiritual and loving. How can a person reconcile that kind of behavior that is inconsistent with their belief systems? That's just not honest.

We were basically kicked out of the family, no longer invited to holidays and birthday parties--especially our grandchildren's. And the silence of the extended family members on this subject, while they say they care and want it resolved, has shown an unstated yet overwhelming support of the younger generation's verbal abuse and subsequent silent treatment of us.

If people can't see the need for a healing and an apology on the part of the person who was abusive and rejecting, then they are a part of that abuse and rejection. Keeping out of a situation just proves a lack of care also.

In fact, when I tried to tell my stepson's how hurt and horrible we felt, he and his wife took that as an unprovoked "attack" and used it for further rejection of us. I apologized to everyone for anything I might have said when I was in extreme emotional pain and anger because of my reaction of their treatment of me.

Their excuse is that they are "uncomfortable with emotions." So is that an excuse to force me to carry all the hurt and anger for the whole situation? My feelings go way beyond uncomfortable. And no one is able to acknowledge that. They take my feelings as an attack on them. Or take the position that I have no right to my feelings because they don't want to acknowledge their part in the situation.

I never even tried to force them to say they were wrong to want to have a MasterMind group the way they wanted it--just for the members who attended the workshop. They could have stated that sooner or told me about it in a kinder way, asking for my understanding and respect while extending it to me.

They weren't wrong to want something and to feel something and to try to deal with it. But there is a difference in doing something wrong, and doing something wrongly.

They could included me and my husband in a discussion by the whole group (of which we were a real part) in a compassionate way, asked our cooperation and compassion for them, and handled this in a mature, mutually beneficial way. Instead, they admitted that since they knew it was would be painful for them to confront me, they had the stranger in the group call me and tell me on their behalf because that would be the easiest emotional way to do it. Easy for them maybe. No so easy for us.

They basically didn't consider my feelings whatsoever and decided to put all the emotional discomfort onto my shoulders especially for reacting. So I get to suffer for the whole group of them, so they can be fine. This is what I resent the most. I am being sacrificed for the good of everyone else. No one on earth has the right to ask that of another person and pretend it's okay. It's just not okay. You can't base your feelings of OK on making someone else not OK. I won't work. It's not real. And it won't ever be over until someone takes a real look at it and becomes willing to deal with the fall-out from the whole thing.

So as a result of me venting to my stepson on afternoon (I felt he didn't have a clue how badly we felt and how this disrupted our whole life) his wife called my husband and told him that her husband wouldn't be able to work with him anymore. He wasn't even able to tell his Dad directly. I never attacked him personally, was just telling him how horrid I was feeling. I apologized to him for anything I did or said that might have hurt his feelings. Even though he obviously doesn't feel the need to apologize for anything he might have done or not done.

I later heard my husband get on the phone, crying and begging his son not to quit yet, they had a big job coming up and he couldn't do it alone, etc. and that he needed him. The answer was evidently "No." My stepson took several jobs after that working for other people, several of which he wasn't satisfied with. I guess it only occurred to his wife, after he was unemployed a while that she might be able to get a job herself, which she finally did.

Anyway, I never tried to convince these people that they were wrong to feel the way they felt, that they were wrong to try to do something about it...but there is such as thing as doing something WRONGLY, or in the wrong way. They chose to solve their own uncomfortable feelings by blatantly hurting someone else and then telling that person she had no right to her feelings of hurt and anger, and further rejecting her. And insisting that they didn't do anything wrong.

Part of this is the "new age" thinking -- that no one can hurt our feelings without our permission, that in effect, we choose to be hurt and it is 100% our own responsibility. That's only true to a certain extent.

The other half of that is being responsible for everything we say, think, believe and do. There are always consequences to everything we do. Being ignorant of that or insisting it isn't true doesn't make it less true. And we aren't off the hook if we are in relationships with other people because being in a relationship sort of means that you are willing to relate, to be responsible enough to be willing to help heal a situation you are part of in some way.

These people think they can heal the situation in their own minds by ignoring the fact they rejected and hurt us and acted in an unkind, non-compassionate way and then insisted they had the right to do that, saying over and over that they weren't wrong. They set us up to believe we were loved and accepted and then they pulled the rug out from under us and since then their treatment of us has proven that they didn't love and care about us after all. It was and still is a big shock.

And there are still long-reaching consequences. For one thing, the children (13 and 10) loved us and benefited from our being in their lives. We have participated in helping raise them and cared for them when they were babies and spent time with them going places and doing things that were enjoyable for us as well as them. That's gone.

We helped all of them over the years with emotional and actual activities of support in their lives. And now we are not able to do that anymore, and as we approach old age and all its difficulties we have no possibility of receiving any help from them with our lives. The in-laws that were also our extended family are not available to us anymore either. (We could stay friends but basically I am still grieving so much, I am afraid I would just burst into tears if I saw one of them in person. And I have been requested not to talk about the situation so they won't have to feel any bad feelings about it either. So I have to spare their feelings but keeping my own feelings to myself. Some basis for on-going friendship.)

It's like that book I read one time, "Do I have to give up me, in order to be loved by you?"

I am asked to keep my feelings of misery to myself so that everyone else can feel comfortable. I have to say NOT OK, so that they can pretend they are all okay, & spiritual and loving. I don't think so.

I didn't asked them to admit they were wrong, I asked them to care about my feelings.

And they said repeatedly NO with their actions, lack of action, and silence and in some cases verbal attack.

So, there are still far reaching consequences of this. It has definitely altered my husband's and my life. He can't continue to work the business by himself. So he has to downsize it or give it up. As a result we can't make ends meet anymore, so we have to sell our property, shop and house and find a more affordable way to live...this is property, houses and shop that we intended to leave to the kids someday...if not them, then the grandkids. But it's gonna be history soon. A house and shop that were my husband's dream and he built with his own two hands and planned to enjoy for the rest of his life with and share with his family. Too bad for everyone.

EVERYONE LOSES HERE. This is not a win/lose thing, it's a LOSE/LOSE situation for everyone. Too bad. It breaks our hearts and no one else realizes it or seems to care.

On top of that, we have cut these people out of our will and are leaving everything to each other. They are getting the same thing they are giving us...nothing. We have given and given over the years, not just to them but to others. I would hope that they could "forgive us" if we expected a little kindness back which is normal not pure selfishness. I can see that was stupid of us to expect the younger generation to be grateful for what they have received and to be willing to give something back. We have obviously been barking up the wrong tree.

And we are moving away to a place where there is other family that love us, accept us, and care about us and our lives. And the people who have rejected us are not welcome to come visit us there. At least not until they realize the situation they helped create with their unkindness and cold-heartedness and decide to help heal the situation some other way than verbally abusing us, giving us the silent treatment, and saving their own feelings of OK'ness for themselves.

It took more than us to create this bad situation, and we can't be expected to fix it by ourselves. That won't work.

Also, when trust is gone, it takes a great deal of effort to re-establish it. And one half of the participants aren't able to do it alone. It takes full cooperation from everyone. Cooperation that no one has been willing to show us whatsoever.

I don't know what else to say, but let people know that unconditional love can't be taken for granted when you do something hurtful to other people. We can love you and forgive you, but we can't associate with you as long as your unkind attitudes towards us stand. It's not just the past, it's every day on into the present and the future that we have been rejected and treated cruelly. So if you want something from us again, even freedom to cut firewood, please consider asking first and thanking us afterwards. We would rather be allowed to extend generosity not have it taken from us.

Remember just SAYING you love someone, believing in your own spirituality and lovingness isn't all it takes. Love and spiritually based living takes ACTION. Put your beliefs into actions. Actions speak louder than words. You can say you didn't intend to hurt us, you can say you still love us, but threatening, verbally abusing, and/or ignoring us not to mention telling me to shut up, is not a spiritual or loving thing to do. And the rest of the family that is ignoring this type of abuse, well, all I can say is, if you stand by and let a family member you supposedly care about be abused, then you are part of the abuse.

I can no longer be the person in any situation that disregards my own well-being so that everyone else can be fine. You all are not fine. We are not fine. And pretending it's all fine, is not okay.

Parents, while it is our JOB to give unconditional love and support, are people too. As far as I am concerned, you all are willing to treat strangers kinder than you treat us.

I forgot to add the most important part: Around Father’s Day Nic wrote to me telling me she didn’t realize that I wasn’t over this by now and asked what it would take for me to get over it. I innocently thought she meant it…she was willing to patch things up and offer to do something for me to help me handle this on-going situation--still painful and hurtful for me, even more-so in some ways because the insults are on-going, they are not over, they exist in the here and now, they still stand--the judgment, condemnation and unkind, non-compassionate sentiments towards me. So I said I would like an apology for my feelings being hurt. That is when she got verbally abusive, insisted she didn’t do anything WRONG. She told me that if I thought she was a bitch now, that she would show me what kind of bitch she could really be--in capital, red letters--I took this treat as a threat. She also stated that she didn't know how my husband could stand me all the time...and my husband loves me and completely sympathized with my hurt and angry feelings. He has his own hurt feelings too having had the rug pulled out from under him in his business as well as losing his family life with his kids/grandkids. Then she TOLD ME TO SHUT UP.

I would like to mention too that when I yelled at Daniel out in the shop, I was not attacking him…I said absolutely nothing blaming or condemning him, I was telling him how horrible and broken hearted Ed and I had felt. If he went home and told Nicole that I “ripped him a new one” and that he felt so unwanted, he was picking up on what I was feeling−that Ed and I felt unwanted and I definitely felt aggressively and coldly rejected. I was reacting to what they had done to me or rather the way they did it…the whole group…people should not do potentially hurtful and destructive things to other people without expecting to deal with the fallout. They had no right to expect me to contain all the misery, hurt, pain, and anger all by myself and keep them out of it.

They are a part of this…and being brushed under the rug like a pile of dirt hurts. If it was okay for them to feel uncomfortable why is it so horrible that I have feelings? If I made one of them feel unwanted by ranting about how horrible I felt, why is that wrong (and not something I did to them on purpose anyway) and making me feel not only unwanted but rejected, judged and condemned is okay?

Part of my life…the part where we socialize with family and extend love and receive love from relatives−kids, in-laws, grandchildren−has been stolen from us. I, for one, feel horrible on-going grief.

If I reacted badly at first, I did apologize to everyone. That's the difference. I was reacting not attacking. And I was sorry if I hurt anyone's feelings.

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