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What will the neighbors think? — 24 Comments

  1. Joyce,

    It seems like the more we hide the truth the worse it gets. Generation by generation the problems we hide become more compounded. It was the same in my family. My grandfather either molested or outright had intercourse with multiple girl children (including one of his own daughter’s, who finally pulled a knife on him). NO ONE EVER talked about this.

    I finally brought it out in the open when I was in my early 20’s, and NO ONE would talk to me about it, and were angry. Things have changed over time, and we have talked. But So much damage was done, to so many of us. We didn’t know to stay away from him. We didn’t know why we grew up seeking affection from bad men. We didn’t know why we were all of us so hurt, confused, and angry.

    All because we needed to hide the truth. I don’t even know if it was from the neighbors. It was from OURSELVES. Trying to live in a rosy untruth seemed like a better proposition than the glaring light of reality?

    I find the light of reality is MUCH better to read by!


  2. This topic really hits the nail on the head. Shame and secrets go hand in hand. The more you hide something, the more shame controls you. Abusers tell their victims that they must keep a shameful secret. That’s how abusers control their victims: by shaming them.

    I think that it’s more complex though. There is some kind of projection happening because the abuser is not really ashamed. If they were, they wouldn’t abuse, right? But they make the victim feel all the shame that they refuse to feel.

    My ex-spath kept many secrets and he asked me to keep secrets for him. He literally kept everything secret. He told me not to disclose our address to any of his friends. In our neighborhood, he told me that he wanted to use MY last name, so people wouldn’t know who he was. We lived there for 18 years and he used my last name. I was groomed to believe that keeping his identity secret, was normal.

    Imagine my surprise, one day, when I was talking with my gay frienemy, K. (I met K through a family member and Spath supposedly didn’t know K.) In a conversation, K, used my Spath’s FULL name, including his MIDDLE name, which I know I never would have told anyone. So how did K learn Spath’s middle name? I didn’t ask.

    During Spath’s last con, I realized that spath was well acquainted with, not only K, but also various members of our neighborhood. His demand that I keep his identity secret was just a ruse. He had minions placed everywhere, in my life: my family, my neighborhood, my “friends”. His pretense about them not knowing who he was, was so that he could use them against me and I would never guess that HE was behind their malice.

    Never keep secrets.

  3. Slim, you are totally right on…and we do keep those secrets, or pretend there is NO ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. when of course there is not only the elephant, but a huge pile of elephant POO and the longer the elephant stays in the room the worse the smell of the poo gets.

    I was raped by my biological father when I was about 19…it wasn’t about sex, it was about humiliation and control, When a friend took me to the police, I had also been pretty well beaten up about the head and face, nose broken, eyes swelled shut and the cop asked me “did he rape you” and I SAID NO…because I was ashamed. I finally was sneaked out of town by a friend and fled to safety.

    My mother, however, even knowing that my sperm donor would lie when the truth would fit better, did not and claims to not to this day believe me.

    It was a big secret and a shame, and I never told anyone for nearly 30 years….and I confided in my late husband who had known my sperm donor and HAD NO DOUBT that I was TELLING THE TRUTH…

    I hid Patrick being in prison, I told myself that it was that when he got out and went straight I wouldn’t have tarnished him in the community and he could come here and live and no one would know…LOL Yea, only his parole officer, every cop in the county and they would tell their families who live all around me. BIG SECRET! There are just some secrets that can not be kept.

    Yea, when we keep the secrets we are conspiring with them….and I realize I have done a lot of that. I can’t go back 48 years and tell the cop the truth, but I am no longer shamed by what my sperm donor, I don’t call him father because that title is an EARNED one, not just donating sperm, did. He had no shame, but he sure didn’t want the truth to get out!

    Sky, the secrets they keep don’t always make any sense either….just like your spath not wanting to use his own name.

    I hired a guy once that turned out to be a psychopath I think, he was to live in a mobile home on my farm and feed and look after a few animals….I found out that he was STARVING the animals and TORTURING my guardian dog….I flung him off the farm “by the short hairs” so to speak, his wife left him…and come to find out the name he gave me was his first and MIDDLE, not his last. I found papers after he left,, they left a BIG MESS, and it gave his real name. I found he had lied to me about a LOT of things.

    I’ve had people try to rent houses from me when they gave me fake references, I fell for it big time a couple of times, and my husband fell for it once….I’m glad I sold my rental properties, they were a pain in the rump!

    But I am done keeping anyone’s dirty secrets and done with people who lie to me…if someone is not HONEST, RESPONSIBLE, AND KIND they need NOT apply here for friendship.

    • Joyce, the shocking part was to find that he really WASN’T hiding his identity from everyone. He just wanted to make me think that he was. The truth was, that they (the minions) knew his evil nature better than I did.

      I no longer try to see what the lies are. I can simply tell that someone is lying and that’s enough for me. The rest is usually uncovered in time.

      Secrets are a big red flag. Thank God I learned to watch for that one.

  4. Yea, that’s what I mean, WHY would he want you to think he was hiding his identity? CRAZEEEE making! It doesn’t make any “sense” to me at all, probably not to you either. LOL

    Patrick used to FLAUNT his bad behavior too…he was not supposed to let our foster son drive our cars because he was NOT covered by the insurance, so what did he do? Let the kid drive and then brought home the TICKETS the kid got and hung them on the wall…of course they were “hidden in plain sight” but I didn’t notice them because they had posters of all kinds on the walls.

    I mean WHY???? Just to defy me I think…In any case it didn’t make sense then and still doesn’t to some extent…(head shaking here)

    • Joyce,
      He told me that often times, people will turn on you for no reason, so it’s best that they don’t know anything about you. It was a tell and it was the 180 rule.

      The truth was exactly 180 degrees the opposite of what he was saying.
      The truth was that HE was going to turn on me, so it was best that I wouldn’t know the truth about ANYTHING. So the truth was a tell: people will turn against you for no reason and he was one of those people.

      This is what I mean when I say that the truth is an exact 180 of what they tell you. He told me he was hiding his identity from his friends and neighbors, but actually the opposite was the truth: they knew him and they knew that he was planning on murdering me. He could brag to them and they wouldn’t spill the beans because they were complicit.

      The whole idea is so preposterous that nobody would imagine it, least of all me.

      And nobody, who doesn’t understand psychopaths, would believe me if I told them. Because WHO DOES THAT?

      Furthermore, he kept me in fear of the neighbors when actually I should have been afraid of him. He redirected my attention away from the real danger. He kept me paranoid, afraid to make friends, afraid to have people over. It was about keeping me isolated. So he could have complete control. And it all started with a SECRET.

  5. ps, you are right, when the stories don’t match up from day to day, and you realize someone is embroidering their life history or “white lies” (I really don’t think there ARE “white lies” a lie is a lie) it is something to make you perk up your ears and look for “bigger lies.”

  6. Sky, back when we first met and I heard your “crazy” story about your x killing pilots by tampering with their airplanes, I thought “man that lady is off her rocker” but as I got to know you, and investigated the National Transportation Board investigation into the “accidents” you told me about, and how they were caused, I thought OMG!!! This woman’s story is scarrier’n mine! LOL There was NO way you could have known how those “accidents” happened unless he told you how he did it. And of course the way he did it there is no way he would ever be convicted unless there was more evidence than your testimony.

    Some people don’t believe me either, so welcome to my world! LOL Even my therapist and my attorney didn’t believe me til they saw the EVIDENCE.

    And you know there ARE people out there with made up “I’m a victim” stories…or my x was a killer….but usually the truth can be sorted out if we will just take a bit of time.

    Saw a 48 hours show last night were a mother was a pit bull in bringing her son in law to trial for murdering her daughter….she was a “sweet little old lady” PIT BULL and she succeeded by never giving up. He was convicted of 2nd degree murder and will do 10-18 years, he hasn’t been sentenced yet. No one believed that mother either, until the end she MADE THEM BELIEVE HER.

    It isn’t important to me any more that ANY one “believe me” because I am learning to VALIDATE myself, but when we have first suffered the trauma we want sympathy, compassion and understanding from people, we NEED that validation…and when we don’t get it it hurts. But eventually we learn that WE can validate ourselves and don’t need someone else to believe us to know it is the TRUTH.

  7. Oh, BTW there was video testimony of the mother on the witness stand and the defense asking her if she “stalked” and “harassed” the defendant, and she proudly said “Yes, and I’m proud of it.” LOL Then she said “if he’s afraid of a 72 year old lady, then he’s not much of a man.” LOL

    The defense attorney tried to make the murderer the “victim” of the harassment of the real victim’s mother whose daughter he had strangled probably in a fit of rage.

    Interestingly enough, the program pointed out that the guy did not have any family there to support him. Interesting. The 57 witnesses against him though, described the “typical” narcissistic greedy cheating lying creep that approximates a psychopath. I imagine he may have alienated his family if he had one. His “friends” all testified for the prosecution.

  8. Joyce,
    I’d be interested in learning more about that granny. Can you point me into the right direction where I can learn more about her tenacity?

    I also recall a movie about a woman whose son was killed by her daughter-in-law. The military never investigated until she demanded justice. Which she finally got, many years later. But not until her marriage disintegrated. IMO it was no loss because her husband was the one who encouraged the boy to marry the murderess. He encouraged their son to defy his wife (the boy’s mother), because he didn’t like a woman calling the shots.,

  9. YOu know me, Skylar, my short term memory for names stinks! L:OL But it was on 48 Hours (or Dateline) this past week, Friday night I think, you ought to be able to find it on their sites, the granny was a Stewardess back in the day and I think I remember the girl’s name as Nicky…I can still “see” the bull dog look of determination and pride that she had brought the killer to justice as she sat on the stand and her SILs lawyer tried to make her out as the BAD guy for harassing that poor widower! LOL

    Actually I would guess that the lawyer’s tactics of trying to make her look like the bad guy backfired…because you know, I bet the jury could empathize with the poor grief stricken mother who went after her child’s killer (it took 7 years) and I bet the cops were glad to get her off their backs too…she was relentless in going after them to make them do their jobs.

    Turned out the SIL had a mistress right up to the wedding day, then after the marriage they kept on seeing each other. The “girlfriend” was interviewed and admitted to the affair, and said she knew it was wrong but he was so “magnetic” and that now she was sorry for what she did in having the affair. I hope she has seen the error of her cheating ways in knowingly having an affair with a guy like that. AND you know if he had married her, it could have been HER body they found strangled and dumped.

  10. This is a very important discussion because SHAME is what dysfunction thrives upon. Without shame, then there’s nothing to inflict upon a victim. It was the defining moment that I was asked to keep a secret from a good friend BY her partner when he asked me for my prescribed medications. “Just don’t tell _____, okay?” I had come along in my recovery well enough to recognize what he was doing and that he had possibly done the same thing with other friends and neighbors. And, asking people for their prescribed medications was NOT going to be a secret that I was willing to keep from a friend, regardless of the risk of telling her.

    The “family standing” in a community is The Most Important Thing, Ever, in a family dysfunction – I can clearly remember hearing about how “sick” my mother was and that this term, “sick,” was the designated description of her being drunk.

    Keeping secrets is the first prong to instill shame, IMHO. In the lyrics of a song, there is the line, “Secrets can kill,” and it’s true. Riding in a car with my mother when I was 11 years old to the liquor store nearly ended in tragedy. She was already drunk and brought her vodka out to the car and promptly passed out. Had she been driving, the results could have been fatal. I was so ashamed, at that point, that I pushed her across the seat and drove home, myself.

    Keeping secrets isn’t the same as choosing not to gossip. I don’t give anyone any personal information, here – it’s simply not necessary for anyone to “know” what I’ve experienced and how I’m sorting it out, now. But, if someone asks me,directly, I’ll answer truthfully. 😉

  11. By calling your mothers “condition” “being sick” is the ultimate DENIAL…you knew what her sickness was, even at that tender age, and you knew that she was causing her own “sickness” rather than it being a germ or a condition over which she had no control.

    As long as your mother’s “sickness” was ENABLED by the family, community and your father, there was no hope she would get sober. As long as they “pretended none of this was true” the problem continued.

    By the time I was old enough to recognize what a drunk was, my great grandfather was dead and Uncle Monster lived in another state, so though my family situation was the “dry drunk” (no actual alcohol, just the emotional dynamics) so I didn’t have a “sickness” to put the responsibility on that I could pin point…I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like to grow up in that situation.

    We had a car wreck here Halloween night in my state, a PREG mother with her 2 kids in the back seat, hit a tree and a group of tricker’ treeters and a woman ran out and tried to calm the drunk woman, who then deliberately ran over her THREE TIMES and when the adult son of the hero woman tried to help his mother, he got dragged about 75 feet, and the drunk woman was backing up to run over the injured woman on the street to kill her. Another civilian ran a vehicle between the drunk woman’s car and the injured woman, and it took about six people to subdue the woman who had a blood alcohol level of .20 *(nearly 3 times the legal limit to drive in my state) also sounds like she may have had some drugs on board to me….she got only a $17,000 bond and is now out on bond. I can’t believe they set her bond so low. Wonder if it was so oshe could go home and “take care of her children”? After all she’s such a great mom, taking them out trick or treating when she was soooo “sick”

    Those poor poor children….and the one in her belly getting drunk and brain damaged along with her.

    • Joyce, I’m no longer “amazed” by people’s choices and behaviors, just horrified. The pregnant mother that you described needs to be incarcerated and spayed. Eugh…

      Sky, you posted earlier a thought about the scapegoating of my mother’s condition, and I agree that this was the case, to a degree. I don’t know much about my father’s family history other than his mother (my paternal grandmother) was EXTREMELY stern and rigid. She didn’t approve of ANY of her offspring’s choices of spouses – there were 2 sons and 2 daughters, and she refused to attend the weddings of both daughters because one was of Mexican descent, and the other owned a gas station. The first uncle was involved with Perdue University development of specialized fertilizer and made millions during his lifetime. The other uncle who “only owned a gas station” also became a military pilot and purchased over a dozen “dirty” gas stations and ALSO became a millionaire.

      I think that my father didn’t know what he could and couldn’t “do” to cope with his bi-polar, alcoholic wife. He loved my mother as much as he was able to, even up to the end of his life. I’ve forgiven both of my parents for my childhood experiences. They never intended for me to develop in the way that I did. They were just messed up.

      What I’m having difficulty with is forgiving MYSELF for my own choices and decisions, regardless of my core-issues. It’s an ongoing thing.

  12. Truthy, I think you have hit on a very important thing here…FORGIVING OURSELVES. In my own case, since ANYTHING LESS THAN PERFECT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH…to fail in such a big way, and admit my failings means (emotionally) that I am NOT “good enough” since I am not perfect. You know that was a BIG hurdle for me.

    Of course INTELLECTUALLY I know I don’t have to be perfect, but EMOTIONALLY I feel a total failure if I don’t do things “perfectly”—- there is emotionally no “good enough” to be OK.

    I have struggled with this my entire life… if someone said “that’s a great job Joyce” I would say “thank you” aloud but I was thinking, “if they only knew the truth” I felt like an IMPOSTOR and that I had “fooled” people into thinking I was competent and accomplished when in reality I was a total fake, because I KNEW I WAS NOT PERFECT.

    I guess that would be kind of a reverse narcissism, wanting to be “perfect” (so I could be okay) but always knowing I was never gonna make it. LOL

    I’ve started to realize that emotionally, but it is an uphill battle. Knowing something intellectually and knowing it emotionally are two different things. Accepting that it is okay to not be perfect, to make mistakes, and to go on without beating yourself up. Sometimes I feel like one of those religious fanatics who beat themselves with whips and wear hair (rough) shirts under their clothes to punish themselves for evil thoughts (or whatever) but o n the outside, they look “normal”—yep, I’m trying to get that hair shirt off my back.

  13. I think we all grew up with the idea of “What will the neighbors think?” I’m at the point in life where I’m really not concerned with what the neighbors think. We all have our faults.

    • Phoenix, it’s good to “see” you, and the pivotal moment in my healing process was when my counseling therapist explained what shame-core beliefs were. After that, I read Bradshaw’s book, “Healing The Shame That Binds You,” and this explained how I became a “perfect victim,” in detail.

      Now, Bradshaw’s book initially addresses alcoholism and the dynamics, specifically, but anyone who has experienced childhood trauma can benefit from the information. In this book, I finally connected the dots (so to speak) on WHY I gave more importance to seeking the acceptance and approval of others, rather than having strong and healthy “Self-isms.”

      So, I’m feeling much more comfortable in setting boundaries and saying, “No,” when people ask me for something (like prescribed drugs) without feeling anger or resentment. I’m not a “bad person” for setting boundaries, and I always believed that “only bad people” turn other people down, or set boundaries. I’ve learned differently, at long last.

  14. Good to see you Phoenix, and I think to some extent that tendency to care more about what the neighbors think than we should is universal, but I think the AMOUNT of that caring varies widely. For example, the Japanese culture prior to WWII was so filled with this that if a person “lost face” they would kill themselves to “restore” that “honor” to themselves and their families.

    In the deeply religious Muslim world today there are still “honor killings” in the UK and a few attempts here in the US of young women who become “too westernized” where parents and brothers strangle or burn to death young women who “bring shame” on the family.

    While my family wasn’t to that extent of course, the “what would the neighbors think” was the PHRASE that was used when my mother especially didn’t want me to do X… not “no, that’s wrong to do because x-y-z” but “what would the neighbors think?” Then as I got older I realized that we had plenty of skeletons in the family closet, with some actively rattling, but the combination of the gossiping about other families’ problems and ignoring our own, and actually gave me the idea that it wasn’t so much about doing what was right or wrong, but just KEEPING THE NEIGHBORS FROM FINDING OUT.

    All the years I HID where Patrick was from the community where we’ve been raised live now and even relatives went along with the “keeping the family secrets” and the “saving face” and pretending that our family is somehow superior to other families with felons.

  15. Truthy- I’m still around (lol) and good to ‘see’ you too! I learned from an article a while back about saying no. It’s such a small word and yet can be so difficult to say. Why is that? The article also went on to say that when you say no, politely turn someone down or kindly refuse something, you DO NOT need to provide an explanation to them.

    We really don’t, but we all feel compelled to for some (guilt ridden) reason to babble on even if we have to make something up. Just politely say “No, I can’t at this time, although I really I appreciate the offer/invitation.” The more you learn to say no, the easier it gets.

    Joyce- I agree that the amount of shame/caring “varies by user”. I understand about the Japanese culture and how honor is such a big thing with them. You absolutely did not dishonor the name. Even today there are families that hold fast to that. They may not follow thru to the extent of death, but to bring honor to the family or dishonor them is still a strong belief.

  16. Joyce,
    just now, reading the words, “what would the neighbors think?” made me realize that your mom was trying to instill a shame core in you. It was a manipulative way of making you feel self-conscious, as if you were being watched and judged.

    I say it was manipulative because she really didn’t care what the neighbors thought — based on her acceptance of her own and everyone else’s bad behavior. All she really cared about was controlling you by shaming you.

  17. Yeas, Sky, I absolutely agree that she was doing her best to instill a “shame core” in me, to make me think that what the neighbors thought was of HIGH IMPORTANCE…not what you DID, but what people knew about. It worked too….and funny thing was by age 30 I HAD IT FIGURED OUT THAT SHE HID “SHAMEFUL” STUFF with the best of them, was an Academy Award Winning Actress when she was embarrassed LOL In fact, I used to joke about it that she would NEVER let the neighbors see her bleed. LOL I actually felt proud of imitating her “never let them see you bleed” stance…”don’t make a scene, NO MATTER WHAT!” and “let’s pretend it never happened” were the family mottoes

    Thanks, Blue, it’s one of those things I have struggled with my entire life and now I am “in recovery” LOL

    • Sky, I think the shame-core beliefs can be passed from one generation to the next, as a matter of course. My mother was certainly ashamed, ALL of the time, but her drinking created dreadful shame for everyone involved.

      In retrospect, “shame” was a “normal” state of mind for my entire family, including grandmothers. My maternal grandmother was not of American nationality, and she was very, very intelligent – brilliant, to be precise, and she had a number of patents that she developed. BUT…….her family history (lineage, etc.) notwithstanding, there were some serious disorders within her genetic family. There seemed to be bi-polar disorder, NPD, alcoholism, and socipathy that ran through her family history. Add that to my maternal grandfather’s alcoholism, and there was absolutely NO chance that anyone in my family was going to be issue-free.

      I never spoke to my mother about what she did when she had been drinking, once she got sober. My feeling was that she was well aware of what her drinking had caused, and there would be no good purpose in my recollecting my own experiences – it would only have served to shame her, even more, and I didn’t even know about “shame core” beliefs, at that point.

      Having typed that, “shame” was a “normal” state of mind, as I typed above. If there wasn’t a sense of shame that was pervasive throughout the entire family, then something wasn’t “normal.” Although my mother certainly was narcissistic, abusive, and manipulative, I believe that she clearly understood that she needed to manage her own issues – when she stopped drinking, she actually began to recover.

      There was one point, towards the end of her life, when my mother described her lifetime of madness – she was aware that “something was wrong” and that she had no control over mood swings, her drinking, her meanness, and so forth. She actually asked doctors (as far back as the 1940’s) what was wrong, and they suggested that she take up smoking and drinking sherry to “calm” her “nerves.” Well……the rest is proverbial history.

      Shame is powerful. Shame can be a “permanent” state if a victim isn’t aware that such a condition exists. Shame is an in-road for “bad” people, and they will use shame as a surgeon uses a scalpel. Our own children will try to SHAME us into accepting their choices and enabling them.

      Yes………..shame core beliefs are very, very damaging, but they can most definitely be addressed and deconstructed.

  18. Truthy it sounds to me like your mother may have been self medicating with the booze for bi-polar and deep depression…that is fairly common especially before the advent of medication for depression and bi polar. I think my Uncle Monster, the alcoholic psychopath brother of my mother was also bi-polar and research currently is showing that many true psychopaths are ALSO bi-polar, and/or ADHD the genes for all three seem to be similar. So it is fairly frequently found that the co-morbidity with these three issues is not at all uncommon.

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