The evolution of human culture and religion over the last 20,000 years, explained to you accurately by a bum (me) and better than any egghead professor has ever done.

So the 150 Dunbar number represents the approximate size of tribes for an overwhelming majority of our evolutionary existence and here’s why: Ready?

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In this post, I’m going to explain human cultural evolution and the origins of religions better than any priest, professor, scholar or anyone else who’s ever lived.

For real. I’m not kidding.

I’m basically a bum. I never finished college. Few people listen to me when I have anything to say and yet, I’m really, truly, actually going to explain what’s up with human history and not in a simplified, cliche way. I’m going to explain it in a kinda academic and biological way.

So

The Dunbar number. Let’s begin with that. It’s around 150. This represents the maximum number of people we can form tight relationships with. I’ve read a bunch of theories on why our brains are wired this way and they’re categorically lulz, so I’m going to explain it to you.

150 represents a genetic “sweet spot”

Bear with me.

This isn’t a politically incorrect posting but what I’ll say next might rub a few the wrong way. No matter, because it’s the truth.

We want our genes to dominate the world. Every single one of us do, whether we realize or not. So do the genes of every plant and every microbe. We’d love nothing more than to reproduce ourselves to the point of dominating all life on earth…..but we’re social animals and we reproduce sexually. We need the assistance of others (womp womp trombone) So our genes have evolved to pair with those LIKE us. Truth. That’s our instnict. Like us BUT (big but) we need diversity. We’re wired to not normally be attracted to our siblings or first cousins………..but………..once you get beyond that – 2nd, 3rd, 4th cousins – that’s the “sweet spot” This is why speciezation happens; why species break off into other species. This is why Lions and Tigers don’t mate with one another unlesss they’re in captivity. We crave maximizing genes that are similar to ours. There’s exceptions within this rule. The “tall dark stranger” is likely a pretty ancient archtype, representing the stranger who is welcomed into the tribe. He serves a purpose. If he can prove himself, his “other” genes can be a long term benefit.

Now, someone might read this and say “oh no no no. Genetic diveristy is healthy” That may be. I can’t seem to find any evidence that reproducing with your 30th cousin has any healthy advantage to reproducing with your 10th cousin but maybe it does. But that is not what our INSTNCTS want. Instictually, we want to maximize our genetic footprint and tha times mating with similar kind.

So the 150 Dunbar number represents the approximate size of tribes for an overwhelming majority of our evolutionary existence and here’s why: Ready? ….ok….

For a tribe to survive, you need high levels of altruism. You need people who are willing to gather more beerries or vegetables or firewood than they consume. You need hunters who aren’t going to steal the beast they kill and eat it all themselves. You need a willingness to sacrifice. You need a guy on lookout who’ll yell and warn of of an attack even if that means he gets killed. You need altruism.

And this worked in the 150 range without much additional help. Sure, I’d prefer that my dad be the tribal chief instaed of my second cousin, but I’m OK with my second cousin. He’ll look out for me and my familiy. There’d be a little bit of tension. I’ll be a little angry that he’s giving more stuff to his kids than to us but that’s OK. I might marry one of his daughters anyway so it’s good. I’m OK with that arrangement. 150. That’s my crew. We’re in this together. If I’m the arrow head maker or I cure the meat, I’m more than willing to work overtime for my crew because we’ve gotta survive and their fate it my fate.

But now……..

Suddently, my FOURTH cousin is chief. Hmmm. Hmmm. He’s a little less like me. The odds of me marrying his daughter aren’t too good and I’m definately seeing less of a cut from the takehome carcases than I was when my second cuz was in charge. Hmmm. Those tensions, where people are less sure that they’re being treated fairly, are increasing, particularly among those less related to the center of power.

And so the tribe splits. I’ll take my crew over this way and maybe we’ll even have some conflict over that herd of deer we’re tracking. Me and my crew split. Now we’re back to around 150 are so and altruism is restored. I’m now more motivated to perform. I’m less concerned that I’m not getting my fair take from Mr. 4th cousin tribal chief man.

With me so far?

That process repeated itself thousands of times through our existence as hunter gatherers.

During this time, “religion” was likely the admiration of ancestors. I’d bet my left foot it wasn’t worship. There was probably idealizing but probably not worship. “Great grandpa Uff was a great tracker of the deer and brought us to this land. We should live in his footsteps and traditions,” we’d think and say but he likely wasn’t worshipped.

There was a guy who’d give a toast at the feast every month. He’d make the first cut in the meat JUST LIKE our ancestor Uff did, and in doing this, we were remembering him……….but that guy wasn’t a “priest” He was just passing along traditions.

But then……..something important happened……..

Larger groups were outcompeting smaller ones. Groups who had more speicalized tool makers. 10 or 15 guys each worked on seperate parts of the arrow head production and they were producing many more and better arrowheads, even on a per capita basis. Bigger hunting crews, where each guy had a speiciality, could bring down bigger game and more of them, even on a per capita basis. Once the transition to agriculture came, this specialization become even more intense.

Are you with me? Larger, more specialized groups WON. They could outcompete smaller ones.

Now that plots of land were being more rigorously protected, guys who could build walls and olive presses came into play. Armies with more speicalized groups of archers, spearmen etc. They were more successful……

But now….

We’re moving past the 150 dumbar number. Now we’re dealing with groups in the thousands and that number rose and rose from around 15,000 years ago until today. You had larger groups of people living under the same political tent.

So how did the problem of my 4th cousin being chief get solved? Or 5th or 8th cousin? I don’t really know those guys. I want MY family in charge. How do we solve that problem?

Well, it wasn’t solved entirely. Clan competition exists to this day. In medieval Europe, aristocratic houses fought with one another and broke off approximately along the 150 dunbar number. In Rome, clans fought for power even at the level of guys on the street. You had “gangs”

So it wasn’t solved entirely….

BUT, you were still able to get these larger groups of people working together…..

Religion did that. That’s right. Highly ritualized religion was able to provide the cultural glue, to keep people together who would otherwise tear one another apart.

The guy who used to cut the meat, just like Grandpa Uff did at the feast, was now the priest, repeating far more ancient traditions. Those people over there may be my distant, distant cousins, but our great great great GREAT grandfather was the same guy, and he starts to take on far more divine powers. He wasn’t just a good guy who knew how to track deer. No. He was DIVINE and he’s still looking down on us sternly, to make sure we all obey his rules. We are his decentants.

The increased ritual nature of religion kept people together. Circumcision would be a great example of this. You may be my distant cousin, and if we were hunting and gathering, I might not be real happy with how you split up the felled mastadon. I might even start a little civil war with you. But we are “brothers” now, as we have undergone the same rituals, take part in the same ceremonies and worship the same gods.

Ritualiized, religion was SUCCESFSFUL. It proved to be a successful mechanism for bonding larger groups of people together.

Those of you who think in terms of how illogical or oppressive a religion might be are missing the bigger picture. There’s a reason why no atheist, purely rational based culture ever won out. You need glue in a society to maintain that altruism and religion provided it. The bigger the group you had to hold together, the more intense the religion needed to be.

Make sense? You’re welcome.

Discussing childhood emotional abuse can feel pathetic

I’ve spoken to quite a few victims of childhood abuse and heard some horrible stories. Rape at the hands of people who were supposed to be protecting them, severe and arbitrary beatings, malnourishment, being left in the care of random and predatory people, having to sleep in horrible places and other things that are difficult for me to imagine. Emotional abuse can be much harder to pin down and might be even be thought vague. Furthermore I’m a grown man. It feels pathetic and on top of it all, my ideas of “abuse” are not modern. I’m not a Dr. Spok advocate or someone who thinks that making your kids feel bad is necessarily abuse. I’m not even sure that parents who beat their kids in bygone years were abusing them. It was a different time and kids had to be acclimated to harsher conditions.

Speaking about my emotional abuse feels a little pathetic, even though the abuse was extreme; even though what I experienced and witnessed as a kid was horrific.

I’ll alienate a few millenials here….. Much of what I hear from that generation about abuse makes me roll my eyes. Of course, this is a minority but still. Spoiled and coddled kids seem much more likely to claim emotional abuse than anyone. Some of the stories I hear from them are ridiculous (some). Not having every word or action “validated” doesn’t seem like abuse to me. Kids need discipline. Discipline, structure and “no” are not abuse. to my way of thinking.

From the time I was 6 years old (and likely earlier) my mother would throw raging, thrashing, teeth bearing fits at us kids. She’d scream so loud her voice would crack. I witnssed hundreds of these outbursts from her when I was young. They were more extreme and violent than any outbursts I have ever seen from anyone since. There was no structure or discipline in our home, only punishments meant to maximize shame. She’d stand in our doorways and torment us for hours before we were old enough to read. She’d tell me how terrible it was that I forgot my coat and school and how poor we were. (we werne’t poor) She’d torment my sister for her weight.

I’ve heard abuse described as defining kids by their faults and using it as a reason not to parent. That sounds right. What do you call standing in our doorways and berating us for hours until we were in tears over ] trivialities? Trivialities that were certainly connected to the atmosphere in our home.

She would scream at the top of her lungs at us kids for……..fighting with one another. She’d claim she couldn’t take it anymore; that we were such nasty children. She would scream at and torment us for screaming at and tormenting one another. We behaved torwards one another as she behaved torwards us. And she was able to see herself as the victim in this.

It’s hard to explain the mind warping nature of our household or how radically different it was from our peers. It’s only well into my adult years that I have been able to come to terms with how completely psychotic our childhood home was.

Growing up, it hardly occurred to me that our mother was anything other than the amazing, superior woman she ceaselessly claimed to be. It is only with time and distance from my family that I’m able to accurately see her for what she was and is – A fairly “trashy” woman, who’s only interests were gossiping, feuding, smoking her cigarettes, telling self-aggrandizing stories, watching her soap operas and berating her children.

The worst part of it was the illusion of normalcy (and even superiority) I wasn’t able to conceptualize how horrible her treatment of us was. I knew nothing else but anger, rage, feuding, cutting into people, beratting those closest to you, making a spectacle of yourself and putting on a display for hohlidays and other public events (wearing nice clothes to church etc) That was ideal behavior to my childhood mind.

I was “encouraged” to stay outside of our home well before I was 5 and ended up in some horrible situations with older kids. When dad wasn’t home (which was often) our house was a complete insane asylum but that is all that I knew.

There was literally NO affection from our mother, save awkward hugs and smiles she’d give when relatives were around. If she didnt know perfectly well that her behavior towards her children was abusive, she knew others would see it that way if they could and I’ve come to understand that the different to her is irrelevant. She has always felt enttitled to treat her kids like garbage and project an image of herself as caring mother. She even feels entitled to our complicity in her decipt and P.R.

There was no help with homework, save for when parental help was necessary with projects. None. But endless “talking to” about hwo disappointed she was, how other kids made their parents proud etc etc….this from a woman who was an average student and non athlete herself. She thought she’d have “two kids and they’d be smart jocks” Our average scholastic performance was probably pretty impressive given our circumstances.

Nothing was ever enough. Nothing was ever sufficient. Time with my mother when no one was looking, was either expressions of dissatisfaction (often extreme and hostile) or tales of how fantastic she was. All of it. There was either distant contempt or aggressive hostility. Those were the only two modes. There were no other modes. She despised her children and learned to dispise us more with every car ride and diaper change she “had” to do. Any accomplishment was treated like a good start, on our road to be something approaching the all-American children she had a god given right to…..and I couldn’t WAIT to give her credit when anything good happened. I couldn’t WAIT to tell her what a wonderful mother she was or how righteous was her indignation at anyone and everyone she was doing battle with.

She hated when we were in the house as we interuppted her phone gossip and would bother her with our needs so we were encougraged to be out of it as much as possible. When we were there, it was in front of the T.V. or in our rooms. She hated us ever being home from school (and said this to my dad explicitly. She sent my sister and I to school with active staff infections on our face. We were held in the nurses office until she game to get us. Being sick invariably made her angry. Failure or trouble invariably made her angry. Everything made her angry and contemptous. Success would be met with her self-praise as a “wonderful mother” We heard that phrase more times than I could count and believed it. We had a “wonderful mother” and were so beneath both her and her expectations.

She broke her kids completely. Of us 4, one has a somewhat normal life while the oldest 3 (me included) never got off the ground as adults. We have few to no friends, sporadic job histories, horrible romantic relationships (or in the case of my two sisters….none at all), credit problems, addictions.

The emotional needs of our mother was and is the locus of energy in our family. It’s the “Reverse Parenting” phenomenon to an extreme degree. She is a sadistic woman, who enjoyed breaking her children. Help with homework, “bonding” time, kind words etc did not exist when we were children. At all. I’d estimate that our mother spent 30+ hours per week feuding. The amont of time she spent gossiping on the phone was extraordinary. On top of this, she’d make cassette recordings of more gossip by the dozens and mail them out. She fought with with everyone; relatives, neighbors, clergy, parents of friends and a substantial percentage of people she came into contact with. She wouldn’t just argue. She’d obsess.

I’m 42. I have a tested IQ of 128. I’ve seen well over a dozen therapists and none have labeled me psychotic. I understand what is going on. I’m not delusional. No psychologist has suggested I’m sociopathic or narcissistic. Despite having done some horrible things in my life, I am literrally crippled by guilt, every minute of the day. I don’t do well meeting the needs of others because I don’t feel capable; instead, holing up in my corner of the world and trying to meet a few of my own needs while causing as little harm as possible (and often failling) I’m attractive (excuse my immodesty) tall and in very good shape and yet I have no life to speak of.

This “giving up” on life also describes 2 of my other 3 sibblings. We have absolutely failed to thrive and for the same reasons. We are unable to connect with the world around us in a healthy way.

Since complete seperation of from my family, my head has cleared up some. I’m more reserved. I act appropriately. I’m less impulsive. I dont’ feel that the slightest misset on my part will lead to certain doom (I still struggle with that) It’s as though the “spirit” of my mother has started to leave me and I’ve been able to see that outlines of what the demon was….and compensate for it.

But I digress. The point I wanted to make with this post is how difficult emotional abuse is to resolve. It’s much easier to understand someone who was beaten regularly as a child than “mom was mean to me” It feels a little pathetic to say. The pain I have caused others is my fault. They aren’t obligated to compensate me for my upbringing. They aren’t obligated to cut me slack. Emotional abuse is so damn difficult to come to terms with. It has been for me anyway.

And it’s difficult to discuss. It’s difficult to discuss how mind warping our home was and is. I feel pathetic when I do it.

Part 10. Perception, random examples of insanity and random thoughts.

I want to do a somewhat random post today. All of this is emotionally difficult to write (as I’ve said repeatedly) and I can rarely do more than a few paragraphs at once. Some of the family anger and resentment comes back to me, even if I’m only thinking about it. We’ve all been emotionally trained to never even THINK something bad about Brigid, lest hellfire rain down upon us and I’m sure a bit of that sense still lingers. This is tough but therapeutic.

I don’t like ranting and just recounting the crazy and abusive things I’ve experienced and seen from Brigid. I prefer to think of specific things and tie it into a larger picture. I intend to that in this post and speak of perceptions that Brigid and other members of our family have, but this post is moderately ranty anyway.

I want to describe a mother I’ve heard about. I’ll call her P

She used to scream and yell at hear kids all the time. She’d emotionally torment them. She’d stay at home while they were at school and brood. She’d smoke, watch soap operas and maybe run a few errands but she’d brood. She was always going over the problems she had with others in very very intense ways. It’s what P would think about when she woke up in the morning and she’d continue obsessing all day.

Maybe her husband had said something to her, that indicated her kids had complained to him. This made her angry. They were trying to get between them, she’d decide. Maybe one had problems in school and wasn’t performing well. Maybe one hadn’t done their chores correctly. She’d brood and brood all day. Then they’d come home. Her anxiety would go up just as soon as they came in the door. They’d have so much weird stuff to say and all of the things about them that bothered her would come to mind and make her angry. After spending all day brooding, literally everything they did was bothering her. One tried talking to her and she couldn’t stand it. Didn’t they have something better to do? They should be better kids; better students or better athletes. Eating her food. They were basically ungrateful parasites and disappointments.

All of this stuff was bothering her but she had to find a reason to really go at one of them. She’d really been thinking of her daughter’s willfullness. She was so stubborn. So P decided to walk upstairs and go to her room. It was locked but P had brought her screwdriver to pop it open. There she stood in the door, looking around at all the things she didn’t like. Then she tore into her

“I need to talk to you about a few things” she’d say, in the kind of voice you might see on T.V., when the police detective had just discovered his partner was taking bribes. It started with a low, serious, soloum tone and then she opened up witih her anger and rage. Her daughter would say she’d do better at school but that wasn’t enough. Next it was her weight and how she knew she was eating more than she should. P thought about the little fight she got into with dad the night before. He’d “felt sorry” for his daughter. “Oh boo, hoo” P thought. That brat

15 minutes. 20 minutes. Her glances of disgust, then turning her head to the side with shakes, as if to say she didn’t know what was to be done about this mess. She let her use the car but may have to rethink that.

After berating her for a good hour, her daughter began to cry and P would try to hide a grin. “Shows her right.
,” she thought. Maybe she’ll think twice before complaining to dad or telling him something that might bother him. Her daughter’s tears only wet her appetite for more. She continued until she was a sobbing mess

OK. So I’m obviously talking about Brigid but wanted to give some distance. If a mother like that was described to someone in our family, they would agree that this was a sick, manipulative and abusive mother. There’d be no question. In fact, my eldest sister could describe the layers of abuse at work in this theoretical scenario. (She studied psychology) If this was a cousin or friend of ours, tears would probably follow. Indeed, Brigid herself would likely act shocked and horrified to hear about a mother treating her kids that way. If she became aware of someone treating their kids like that, it’s very possible that she would do something big and dramatic. Huge amounts of gossip and feuding would certainly follow.

What I have described was a very, very common occurrence in our home. Something closely approximating that very scenario played itself out more times than I could estimate (certainly in the hundreds of times)

I can’t say for absolute certain how Brigid thinks back on those events but I can say for *almost* certain.

The unhinged, crazy, angry emotional predator doesn’t think they are unhinged, crazy or emotionally predatory. They see themselves as victims. The crazy guy on the street corner who shakes his fist at everyone and yells at them thinks they all deserve it. When they avoid him, he tells himself that they are scared of him because he is intimidating and they cannot handle the truths he directs at them. The person who slams their horn in traffic believes they are stronger than the people who wait patiently. They think they are more “raw” and “intense” I’ve talked to enough of these people to understand how their minds work.

When our childhood is called to mind, what Brigid thinks of is “all that she had to deal with,” the phrase we’ve heard over and over and over. Every personality quirk of ours, every problem, every thing she had to do. That is what she thinks of. Every fight that broke out between her kids or with her, is remembered as yet another trial and hardship The fact that she started those fights doesn’t occur to her. The fact that she had 4 healthy children who were desperately seeking her affection and approval, and who behaved very well for others doesn’t get factored in. She had “so much to deal with” It is such an absurd axiom in our home. The cult of poor Brigid.

Brigid’s late brother was exactly the same way. Positing themselves as heros and victims in all circumstances is a starting point of everything. Every feud they engaged in was obviously merited

When Brigid did things like walk up to the alter and chastise a priest during mass for not mentioning her son’s name as she thought he should have, or of screaming at her father-in-law in her own home, over a religious dispute that she started out of nowhere, she thinks of strength. She was “strong” and “determined” enough to do that. The wild inappropriateness of her behavior doesn’t compute, nor does how others may be responding to her insanity. Like the crazy fist-shaker on the corner who watches people walk out of their way to avoid him, so Brigid believes that those who take issue with her outbursts are just weak.. Brigid can understand the crazy person throwing fits as crazy but cannot see herself that way. The fact that she caused these disputes doesn’t register. She is unable to imagine how her kids were absorbing this rage and responding to her. She cannot conceive of how she victimized her children.

Didn’t her daughter eat more than she should have? Well……..OK, maybe she shouldn’t have been *quite* that mean about it but whatever. “GEEEEEET over it,” because Brigid is a “GOOD OLE IOWA GIRL!”, never minding that she gets over absolutely nothing and hordes grievances against people like it’s her reason for living.

“Maybe” she’ll say to herself “I shouldn’t have yelled THAT loud,” but what was she supposed to do? Should she have allowed the priest to continue mass without mentioning her son’s name in the rundown of that weeks events that few were even paying attention to? What option did she have? She certainly wasn’t going to be one of those wimps in the pews who’d just sit there and take such a monsterous personal insult as that! She is strong. She is Mombo. She is the goodoleIowagirl. Should she not have called the grocery store and complained about a swear word she heard from an employee when they were talking? Should she not have blasted away at this or that person? When her brother was behaving in ways she didn’t like 1,200 miles away, was she supposed to NOT spend hours on the phone, gossiping and complaining to everyong and freaking out over everything?

Let me share another story from about 10 years ago. My parents and I were having another one of our fights. Me vs. The United Front. The conversations I have had with both parents at once have been almost invariably awful, all throughout my life. In this one, I brought up my belief that I didn’t think we ever had a healthy parent/child relationship. Brigid discussed my senior year in high school, where I’d done well and won a bunch of awards. “What about high school of those awards you won?” she asked “We were so proud of you” she said, in a very particular way that she’ll say such things, with a scrunched face, tragically looking off into the distance and tears.

According to Brigid, we had a good parent/child relationship because I was doing enough to make HER happy. That is how she sees everything. I was doing enough to make HER happy. The idea of the parent (her) being the primary driver of health or illness in a parent/child relationship never crossed her mind and hasn’t to this day. The idea that she had a primary hand in the problems we had at the time? ha! GEEEEET OVER it, says the GOOD OLD IOWu girl. Assessing herself and how her behavior was effecting her kids and grading herself on that scale? Not a chance. Her mind does not work that way. The wiring isn’t there. We had a good relationship for awhile because I was making her proud

You certainly wouldn’t have known that at the time. She fought with me relentlessly. When I started developing a muscular physique, she one time came down to the basement as I was doing pushups and yelled/cried at how upset she was that I was getting strong “I don’t LIKE IT!’ she exclaimed. Life with Brigid is a regular flow of such mind blowing neurotic moments. In her incessant push to keep me and my dad at odds, she’d drive my car the few times he put gas in it. His doing kind things really bothered her and she’d let me know it. There was still 0 help with homework and no involvement in school. When I was doing well and winning awards, she once ordered me into the kitchen and said (paraphrasing but almost exact)

“You know, I know you’re feeling really great about all those awards you won but your dad and I deserve lots of credit for that. I hope you realize that and don’t get too big of a head”

She was bothered by my increased self esteem and sense of accomplishment. That bothered her.

As was the case throughout the rest of my childhood, pleasant, encouraging interaction with Mombo was 0 then. Life with her during my later high school years was hostile, feuding nutcase city. I ran cross country and was average but one time….somebody told her they thought I ran like a deer.

“We finally found something you do well” she told me. “We’ had found something. This, coming from someone with no athletic prowess at all. She told me that while growing up, she thought she’d have “Two kids and they’d be smart jocks” The B/C high school student who barely made it through nursing school and was never good at sports was entitled to smart jock kids and apparently, we needed to understand what a disappointment we were to her.

These are only a few of the examples of the level 10 insanity that defined my relationship with her during my later high school years but we supposedly had a good relationship because I was making her happy. This is how Brigid sees every relationship in her life. What are they doing for her? Her “favorite” kid would change based upon who was accomplishing the most and the others would be made to feel envious.

I was able to accomplish things IN SPITE of her. I was accomplishing things because I’d made friends and had a romantic relationships with a girl at camp. I had found a few people who LIKED ME and who VALUED ME. This filled me with a great (if very chaotic and unwieldy) sense of self and that translated into performance. My Freshman year in high school, I was taking remedial classes. Below average classes and getting B,C’s and even a D or two. By my senior year, I was taking almost entirely honor’s level classes and getting almost straight A’s. I missed High Honors once, only because of an inexplicable C I got in accounting (and my teacher never bothered explaining it to me)

During this period, her parenting advice to others went into absolute overdrive. She was the mother of the century. I heard the term “wonderful mother” incessantly. Her kid (me) had won a bunch of awards in Junior Achievement and did well in school. She apparently decided that she was now an aristocrat. I once saw her walk up to the mother of my classmate in church and comment that she was mildly jealous because her kids made the paper more often that we did. It was said in a chummy sort of way, as though they were peers; trading nods at what it’s like to have superior kids. The woman I’m referring to has 4 children, 3 of whom went to Harvard and the 4th to UNC on a track scholarship. All 4 were state champion athletes and the 4th was a national champion. They all graduated at or near the top of their classes. There should be a photo of Brigid next to “Uppity” in the dictionary. It’s only with age and distance that I’m able to see what an obnoxious, neurotic and embarrassing person she is. That was my “normal” growing up. That was the adult in my life, setting the example.

What I have described is obviously a narcissistic sociopath and emotionally abusive mother. OBVIOUSLY. This is another “water is wet” argument but that is not how Brigid sees herself. Narcissistic sociopaths think they’re fantastic. Brigid doesn’t care how she effects others. That’s a strong statement to make but it’s the absolute truth. Worse than that, she enjoyed emotionally smashing her kids. I witnessed enough of her chuckling after we’d break down in tears from her beratement to call that a safe conclusion. She got a charge from emotinoally breaking her children. To the degree that she cared about hurting her children, she liked it.

If a divine and all knowing presence were to come to her and say

“Brigid, you have been an horrific mother to your children. You have behaved in perverse and unnatural ways toward your own offspring. They have suffered far worse from you than you have ever suffered from them. You should be ashamed and beg their forgiveness”

She wouldn’t care. She’d only care if this divine and all knowing presence was going to let anyone else in on that knowledge. Despite her endless raging and abuse; her making up horrible stories about her kids and telling them to others because she was pissed, endless chastising. complete lack of anything motherly, not even looking after her 5 year old kid….letting me wander around and get watched after by creeps and all of the other insanity she subjected us to……she would not care. I have never once seen her express remorse. I’ve seen her often bothered by getting caught but never sadness that she had caused harm.

Despite all of her insanity and harm, I can only recall her apologizing to anyone once……I’ve described this incident elsewhere, where she was shouting at me for something that I absolutely didn’t do and was able to prove that I absolutely didn’t do. She grudingly apologized and then took my car from me the next day over something ridiculously trivial, then told me “and you made ME apologize yesterday”

Brigid doesn’t apologize. She’s that type. She’s a GOOD OLEEEE IOWA girl and apparently, good oleiwu girls don’t apologize when they mess up. Everyone else is supposed to GEEET over it. Grudges, anger and the like and hers and hers alone.

Brigid and D both require a “clique” of people around them who are emotionally subjugated to their insanity. The roll my grandmother played in the life of D is exactly the same as my siblings and dad play in Brigid’s life. It’s essentially identical. Even if they don’t join in with her insane feuding, they try to be as sympathetic and “on her side” as possible. She was and is an epic failure as a mother and horribly abusive to her children but……OBVIOUSLY. As I’ve said before, a professional psychologist would come to essentially the same conclusions I have, but her family excuses her. She is held to almost no standards of behavior. My sibblings trip over themselves to be sympathetic to her. I still feel that impulse. It’s very difficult for me to step back and look objectively at how she has behaved throughout my life because the impulse is very strong to forgive and forgive, or at least see all that she has done within the context of something good. “She does her best” is the phrase her kids most often use. When consideering her behavior during our childhood, terms like “She was just really busy” and such are common.

It’s an objectively absurd and enabling/victim type of thinking. Brigid wasn’t so busy that she couldn’t spend hours per week fighting with her kids and many hours more gossiping and feuding elsewhere. She didn’t like her kids. That was the problem. She hated being a mother and blamed her children. She felt “trapped” with the responsibilities of raising her kids and she wasn’t even able to face that reality head on. A cult of personality was necessary to compensate for her failure. She wasn’t bad. She wasn’t even average……….no, she was a superior mother and we all must subscribe to the cult or face the consequences. Despite being told how horrible we were and everything was, there was never any family therapy because Brigid knew darn well that a therapist would see her as the problem. She didn’t care if she was the problem.

And she didn’t “do her best” unless “her best” is synonmous with “whatever she felt and feels like”

Like those around her late brother, the slightest examples of good and decency by Brigid are made to seem AMAZING.

She has brutalized everyone into dealing with her that way and this is the biggest root of disfunction in our family. Nobody is allowed to come to terms with how abused they were and only one of us have shown any ability to thrive outside the toxic greenhouse of our youth. The atmosphere of our family necessitates that Brigid be seen as the hero and victim, who’s approval is the greatest thing one can hope for. Stepping outside of that paradigm means stepping outside of the familiy.

Part 9 The appearance of normalcy. The worst and most damaging part of our childhood.

So far, this writing has taken up 10 or so hours of my time and I suspect will cost me another 20. Piecing this all together is a process. Describing the insanity of my mother and our childhood home in one sitting is impossible and I suspect that this blog wil evolve and be edited over many years as I remember more and make better sense of it all.

I’m sure this writing seems scattered, random and strangely paced and likey will for the first several months after publishing or longer. The volume of insanity I’ve experienced from Brigid is very hard to put down coherently. Drawing conclusions would have little credibility without touching on some of what I’ve experienced and yet, discussing only some of them (as I’m doing) creates what looks like a rap-sheet or tattle-tale rant. Adding to it all: This is emotionally difficult to write, much less write coherently. But it cannot be otherwise. It would take a detached, omni&ever present observer of our family over the course of 4 decades to write a smooth narrative and I am no such thing. My personal biases and bitterness, and even overcompensating for these things in parts have certainly worked their way into this story so far.

For quite some time, I’ve been relatively certain that the most damaging part of our childhood was not our mother’s neurosis and abuse. That may be hard for someone to swallow who’s read up to this point. It was an atmosphere so toxic that a hollywood scriptwriter couldn’t make it up.

Over time, what was most damaging to us kids was the appearance of normality. With a few exceptions, Brigid was careful to never do anything (or miss anything) that would have provoked serious intervention. Social workers weren’t a thing in the suburbian Newtown of the 1980’s.

The innumerable, raging, teeth bearing outbursts at us while we were still toddlers isn’t the behavior of a normal mother having a bad day. The complete lack of affection, touching (the good kind anyway), assistance and all the normal things mothers do, wasn’t normal. Feuding constantly with her children, then feuding more on the phone for hours per week, then adding to the feuding with her audio recordings, then feuding with our dad and a significant percentage of the people she came into contact with……

Not normal at all, or anything other than terrifically abnormal.

but……

We lived in a nice home with a nice yard. Our father had a good and respectable job. Their friends were also middle or upper-middle class people, as were most of our relatives. We went to a good school. There were cars to take us where we needed to go and all the trappings of a normal life.

We would have been better off, having grown up in a trailer park and going to a lousy school. We would have been forced to come to grips with the abnormality of our situation. We would have understood that there were better things to strive for than our circumstances. We could have made sense of ourselves as kids in difficult circumstances often do. Limited or haphazard structure that was obviously limited or haphazard, would have been a far better thing than the emotional pressure cooker of psychosis that Brigid delivered, capped and sealed tight by an outward appearance of normal.

More than just normal, we were told repeatedly how great we had it. Stories of other parents behaving terribly filled the air and occupied our time on car rides. We had “Mombo,” the slayer of evil and enforcer of good throughout the land. I can’t speak for my siblings but I’m as certain as can be that they can relate to what I’m describing.

We didn’t live in a household with a mentally ill, highly narcissistic child abuser. We lived in a oasis of privilege and fortune. The screams and psychotic, arbitrary emotional scenes must have been merited and just and good, because there was our nice home and dad with a good job. There was our nice school.

And there was our mother, Brigid, both hero and victim, striving valiantly to correct endless wrongs in the world. How fortunate we were.

. Individual human behavior may be unpredictable but how people behave in groups rarely is. Cult-of-personality dictators and cult leaders behave the way they do for reasons. The rest of the world must be evil to justify the subjugation. They must be under constant threats, both from home and abroad for their brutality to be accepted. The world they create for their subjects must be superior to all things or their violence has no meaning. There must be constant surviellance, information gathering and a power structure that is absolutely beyond reproach. It can be no other way when the leader sees all things as theirs and existing for their greater glory.

Autocratic political systems have long been a fascination of mine. I even understand their benefits. I know why the people of Rome turned on Caesar’s assassins who hoped to restore the republic. I understand the slavish devotion people had to the great Khan or Chairman Mao and I understand why they needed parades and marches and great, theatrical displays of grandeur. I know why rulers do these things on a very fundamental level.

Unfortunately our brutal cult leader was a petty and insane woman of mediocre intelligence who lashed out anyone she thought was unable to return fire.

Our home was North Korea, plopped in the middle of 1980’s America.

For anyone seeking to understand the crazy of our home, this was the most important thing. Had we grown up in an outwardly broken home, had Brigid left and gone back to Iowa (as she discussed fantasising about out the phone) had our parents been divorced, had we seen social workers or come face to face with the pathology and addiction, I am 100% sure that we would be leading better lives today, as traumatic as all that might have been at the time.

It would have been far better to know that we were being fed poison; to KNOW that it was poison and do what we could…..and what children from broken situations have always done………to seek out other things. This certainly wouldn’t have been ideal. A nurturing, healthy home is ideal but an easily identified broken situation is better than what we had. We gorged on the Toxic sludge well into our adult years and thought it was manna from heaven. In a way, it was the worst of all possible outcomes.

This is the part that I struggle with emotionally. I hate self pity. When talking to other victims of child abuse, I hear stories of really horrible things and I’ve drawn a “theory” that I cannot find any study data on. The earlier they were able to figure out that their circumstances were bad, the better off they are.

I’ve spoken to people who were beaten, raped and slept in the other room while someone killed themselves in the next…..really awful stuff. Trying to explain the horrible effects of our prolonged “garden of eden” view of our family and how much this added to the psychosis is difficult and makes me feel petty. I never heard anyone kill themselves in the next room. I never starved. I was never passed around in foster care……….

None of us have ever been allowed to come to grips with the broken home we grew up in; instead, choosing to see this toxic greenhouse as somehow good.

Collectively, our family has the conscious of the completely insane person, who has experienced so much failure that they are unable to avoid admitting that SOME things about themselves may not be perfect. “Yea, I’ve got a few problems. I’m not perfect” says the bi-polar predator who’s been in jail 6 times and has 12 restraining orders against them…………..before discussing how they have been victimized by everyone and are in their own way, really superior. This is the collective conscious of our family…..unable to grasp the extremes of what we have gone through or how radically different it was than what our friends and peers experienced.

Part 8. The remarkable similarities between my mother and her schizophrenic brother

Note: I’ll refer to Brigid’s deceased brother as D. D died a few years ago but I’ll refer to their similarities in the present tense (“are” instead of “were” etc) During the course of my childhood, my siblings and I were treated to more discussions about her oldest brother than I could estimate. In the mid 80’s, he had moved back in to live with his mother (our grandmother) and stayed there until his death a few years ago. The tension between them put an end to our summer visits after I was 9 years old.

He was horrible we were told. He was a parasitic narcissist. He was a liar and a cheat. She wasn’t beyond lying when running him through the mud to us. (A habit of hers with anyone she feuds with, including her children) She once told me that Santa Clause had given him coal for Christmas. He slept with prostitutes and loose women. She would spend hours on the phone with friends and relatives, talking about D. Her problems with him were a centerpiece of conversation in our home. Out of nowhere, she’d launch into anti-D tirades. I remember once eating breakfast, when Brigid suddenly said “Ya know, I know you’re supposed to love your relatives. That’s so important, but I DON’T love D (said with a signature shout and a pained look on her face). I DON’T!!!” followed by tears. These kinds of random outbursts about people she was feuding with were a staple of our household when dad wasn’t around but nobody was spoken of more than D

After my first divorce, I went on one of many loser adventures and ended up living with him and my grandmother for three and a half years. I quickly realized: He and Brigid were strikingly similar people. At the very least, their “quirks,” or unusual personality traits were startlingly similar.

They both have had limited to no success in living independently at any point in their lives (a characteristic I share) They were both doted over by their mother. They both obsess over the wrongs they think have been done to them throughout their life. They keep lists of grievances that they think have befallen them. They will talk about the flaws in other people for as long as they’re allowed to. They both talk endlessly about each other with a hatred that would be hard to get across in the written word. They are both prone to lying (another trait I share). They gesture similarly. When telling stories, they both move their shoulders up and lean their head to the side. They both get “beady little eyes” when angry. They are both prone to extreme outbursts. They are both very cowardly in their willingness to confront people; instead, usually badmouthing others relentlessly, then claiming to speak on behalf of many. They need to “gather an army” of support in their problems with people. They are both remarkably greedy and jealous. Other’s succes is a bother to them. They enjoy not only getting more than others but that others would receive less. They would both fit the term “uppity.” They both crave status in a way that comes across as obnoxious to others. They both have great difficulty bonding with members of the opposite sex. They both enjoy telling stories where they’re the hero at the end and there’s something even more specific about this: They not only both enjoy telling stories of personal heroism, but stories where they describe everyone around them praising their heroism. They are both prone to neurotic and bizarre acts of vengeance or showing their displeasure. For example: Several years ago, Brigid was feuding with my younger sister. For Christmas, she sent her a ziplock back of dogfood for her dogs. A few years prior, my uncle took down Brigid’s wedding photo in their home, packaged it and sent it to their youngest brother.

Neither ever sees themselves as anything but heros and/or victims. You will never hear either express remorse at their own behavior, incompetence or the pain they have caused others. They both seem entirely without a capacity for guilt.

Both Brigid and D also seem to be of the opinion that talking about a thing and offering advice made them experts, even if in practice they were miserable failures. D was a horrible amatuer auto mechanic. He had a very rudimentary understanding of cars made between about 1970 and 1985 and it was very rudimentary. I saw him purchase several vehicles with the intention of “restoring” them but they were hardly touched. He enjoyed the idea of restoring vehicles but was totally incapable of doing it. One time, a young girl got a flat tire outside of his house while I was there. He was unable to place the jack properly and the car fell on top of it, ripping through her door frame. He had no idea what he was doing, save for a few things involving volkswagons. But he would talk about cars and offer advice for hours and hours and hours on the phone. He would throw out random descriptions of things and discuss having “rewired” just about everything. For every hour he spent working on a vehicle, he spent at least 20 on the telephone, discussing working on vehicles. He had two friends who would listen to him talk for awhile and several others who seemed to tolerate him for a few minutes before hanging up. Brigid’s relationship to parenting was nearly identical to D’s relationship with fixing cars. For all practical purposes, she spent no “parenting” time with her kids. The ratio of time she spent screaming and berating her children vs. helping us, teaching us, encouraging us, etc. cannot be calculated because for all practical purposes, she did none of the later. Apart from taking us places that we had to go, Brigid spent no positive parenting time with her children at all

And yet….

A favorite topic of her phone conversations was offering parenting advice. She would discuss mothering techniques with friends and relatives for hours at a time. Communicating with female friends and relatives was as central to her as communicating to guy buddies was to D. She’d talk about bedtimes and how she introduced her kids to vegetables before fruit. I remember first becoming aware of Brigid’s predilection for lying when she’d recount our vacations to Iowa. She’d tell friends about taking us out to farms, riding horses and all sorts of things that were meant to sound like rural farm life. Brigid went to great lengths to present an image of herself as a parenting expert in the “good ole'” style of things. In truth, she was a completely incompetent child abuser.

Both D and Brigid would tell the very same stories of expertise to their same-gender friends and relatives over and over and over and over. I recall how vividly this stuck out to me when I was with D in LeMars. The same stories of expertise and advice……..repeatedly. Denny should have never been let near a car and Brigid should have been kept away from children by force of law, but both went to great lengths, cultivating an image of themselves as elite-level expert in their respective areas of expertise/incompetence.

There was something specific that stuck out to me when I was around D. This “thing,” as I’ll describe, is not of any great consequence but very interesting. Perhaps someday, someone with knowledge of genetics and behavior may come across this and arrive at a conclusion:

Both LOVE movies with a theme of girls (or guys for D), doing girl stuff, giving each other nicknames, talking about their girl adventures together, forming little clubs etc etc. I witnessed this growing up. When Thelma and Louise came out, Brigid became mildly obsessed with it. It wasn’t just a fun movie for her. She personally identified with one of the characters and gave one of her friends the name of the other. Over the following years, there were several movies with this type of theme. Fried Green Tomatoes and the Ya Ya Sisterhood come to mind. These weren’t just movies she enjoyed. They were movies she obsessed over. She’d give herself the name of one of the characters and assign names of the other characters to her friends. When Thelma and Louise came out, Brigid wore a water pistol around her neck everywhere, even to work. D was the same. Movies like Second Hand Lions and The Bucket List would be watched over and over and over, often several times in a day. He’d identify with one of the characters and describe his friend as the other. It was good ole’ guys doing good ole’ things together and having a good ole’ time Both of them loved movies with this theme. Obsessively.

This obsession with movies is something I can personally relate to. I wonder about the genetic mechanisms involved here and similar personality traits. The ability to fantasize and take on roles outside of our reality likely had some kind of evolutionary advantage and led to various types of creative output (although Brigid and D are not at all creative people) Perhaps this had some advantage in group bonding, where association with idealized figures would provide a platform for shared ideals. I’m not sure

When I was young, I was obsessed with Star Wars in a similar way. This was when I was 6 or 7. I was Luke or Hans Solo or whomever. Later, I became one of the G.I. Joe characters or the Ghost Busters. I’d say that one of them was sleeping in my room that night and assign other characters as roommates to my siblings. These weren’t just stories to me. They were things I emotionally fell into. To a much lesser degree, this fascination with fictional characters continued. By my early 30’s, my interests had moved to real human behavior and I became more interested in how these films were produced and what they were trying to tell us. In any case, this movie obsession was something I shared

Lines from movies and T.V. skits are a big thing for both of them. Brigid also developed a fascination with “Field of Dreams” with Kevin Costner. She posted a photo of him above the washing machine. The line “Is this heaven?…..No, this is Iowa” was something she repeated over and over to her friends on the phone. “No, this is IOWAAAA!!!” followed by gleeful laughs. Both Brigid and D laugh intensely at their own punch lines and seem to imagine that their levity is lighting up a room.

Brigid made a big deal about Iowa growing up (as discussed in other parts ot this writing) She described it in idealistic terms although looking back, I think it was more to advertise herself as wise in a folksy kind of way. After her Field of Dreams fervor died down, she began to describe herself as…”I’m just a GOOD OOOOLE’ IOWA girl!!!” (capitalization for volume emphasis). I suppose those she was talking to were supposed to imagine a few girls on the back of a hay wagon, throwing their cowgirl hats up in the air to the final lines of a Patsy Cline song. She’d say this with a pronounced southern accent. So far as I’m aware, the state of Iowa has no known accent at all, save perhaps for a touch of the Dakota, Scandinavian “Ooh Gosh” in some of the northern parts. She’d often take on a southern accent when doling out condensed, one-liner folk wisdom, such as “GEEET over it” (A mind-boggling piece of advice coming from Brigid….discussed in more detail in other parts of this writing) D was exactly the same. There was nothing about his behavior that was particular to Iowa. The unique parts of his personality were just crazy but he had a pronounced notion of geographical distinctiveness. As he lived in Iowa, this expressed itself as his town being different from other towns. He was LeMars boy,” which was very different from the towns 7 or 14 miles to the west or east. According to D, the people in those towns had very distinct ways of going about their business.

LIke many strange things she did and said as I was growing up, I wonder what her friends thought of these bizarre quirks of hers. When I was very young, Bill Cosby comedy became a big thing for her. Her favorite line was “I brought you in this world and I can take you OUT!” which was a reference to his son. She never said this to us in a threatening way but it was repeated so many times that it’s fair to consider how this reflected her view of her children. In these and many other instances, sayings by people she’d heard are a centerpiece of any conversation you’d have with either of them. Distilling any event or idea of conversation into a catch phrase is the “juice” of most conversations for both of them. Most recently, she’s enjoyed telling people about her “North Korean friend”, who claimed that there are “hill people” and “ocean people” In truth, this was a bit of wondering I did when I was talking to her but Brigid and D both have the habit of borrowing and making things up so frequently that they’ll often forget who they heard what from

In parts of this writing, I’ll speculate and this is such a part. Communicating degrees of certitude in writing is tricky. What I have witnessed or experienced from Brigid are real historical events while my interpretation and thoughts on what motivated her are obiously opionion and I hope the reader is able to differentiate. Some of my opions are as solid as the earth being round – Brigid did not develop normal emotional bonds with her children – while others (what I’ll say next) are less certain

I want to revisist some of the particular characteristics of Brigid and D: Their raging outbursts. Their bearing of teeth when angry. Their constant making and breaking of alliences that center on mutual adversaries. Their unusual level of of showmanship and “big upping.” Their extreme concern for status and credit. Their lack of self-awareness or ability to see themselves as others do. Their need to subjugate those around them. These characterstics call something to my mind: Chimpanzees and other human primate cousins

My mother and her late brother are/were obviously humans but these traits are interesting to consider. With the rapid advancement of culture and tool use over the last million years, our brains have evolved unusually fast. Evolutionary scientists have linked the speed of this evolution to mental illnesses and personality quirks that don’t seem to serve much purpose. Our genes haven’t had time to “level” out and steady themselves in mental development the way they have physically. The traits I’ve just described are not specific to Brigid and D. I possess a few of them while other current and former members of our family exhibit most or all. It’s as though certain parts of the outer, more recently evolved brain region hit a glitch on my mother’s side of the family and some of the traits that distanced us from our primate ancestors of long ago didn’t genetically kick into gear.

Part 7. Was I a bad kid? (were we bad kids?)

As I’ve written about elsewhere, there are certain ideas our family subscribes to that border on religious. At or near the top of that list, is the idea that Brigid had “so much to deal with” when we were kids. SO MUCH. My goodness. Until I was 12 or so years old, I really believed that the wife on an airline pilot was the life of a martyr. If I exaggerate some it isn’t by much. I REALLY thought something similar to that. She was ALL ALONE!! and by her self, for 3-4 days at a time……..in a nice house with a car and everything she needed and 4 healthy kids who really wanted to  please her and people she could call etc etc……but still…… the “all alone and by herself” part got lots more play. At school, I had a classmate who’s dad was an airline pilot and I saw her as something like a fellow refuge. I remember trying to talk to her about how difficult things must be for her and her mom. I was seriously angry at my dad from the ages of about 8-10 or so.

The other, even more significant tenant of the Brigid catachism was that we were really bad kids who gave her lots of grief. I want to examine that part of our family theology and I’ll examine myself primarily:

I was an awkward kid. I was an impulsive speaker and obnoxious. I always had something to say and didn’t make friends easily. At school I underperformed. I didn’t keep a very clean room. I fought with my siblings I was forgetful.  If I had other flaws I can’t recall them but they wouldn’t have been very significant.

Our fighting with one another was tops on the list of things Brigid “had to deal with,” and as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, that was 100% her fault. 100%. The fact that anyone in our family sees it as anything but her fault is a  gauge of their neurosis. Our fighting being her fault is another “water is wet” argument. It cannot rationally be argued. We treated one another exactly how she treated us. With this in mind, her notion of having had to “deal” with our fighting is some blend of delusional, deceptive, self-absorbed and manipulative. A more accurate view of our household is that Brigid was constantly fighting with everybody including her kids, who were then fighting with one another. That was not something Brigid had to deal with. That was something she caused and that we had to deal with……….as little kids. Without question, on that issue the “have to deal with” was on our end.

Now for the rest: 

Much of my awkward obnoxiousness was the result of an insane home life, obviously. I had only a very rudimentary idea how to connect with others in a healthy way. Underperforming in school was also connected to insanity at home. What right does a woman who was an average student herself, have to complain about the average performance of her kids, who she did not assist with schooling at all? I think that most would agree that “none” is the answer to that one.

The fact that I was awkward and didn’t make friends easily: 

 How would a normal mother respond to that? They’d likely spend more time with their kids and do their best to make them feel loved. The lack of this was certainly a significant part of my awkwardness. The only way to get attention at home was to support Brigid in her feuds and “perform” or speak out and I applied this model generally.

Not cleaning my room well: I can’t be sure why this was so. Maybe I was just born with dirty-room genes. My older sister was more abused than I was and she kept a clean room, so who knows? I suspect that some of that had to do with a deeply held belief that any expectation of Brigid’s was likely to end in failure, blow ups and baratement. I was like the horse who got beat so often, it just lies down and gives up……..but let’s forget about that for a moment.

For arguments sake, let’s imagine that I was socially awkward, didn’t keep a clean room, was absent minded and underperformed in school because I was born that way. And furthermore, let’s play make believe and say that Brigid was a loving and attentive mother, who helped with schooling, provided a stable home life and set reasonable expectations for her kids and good examples of behavior. Let’s pretend…..and let’s pretend that even in spite of her loving and attentive mothering I still didn’t clean my room well, was average in school and socially awkward. In the grand scheme of things, this would fall into the “So what?” category.  There isn’t a morality in existence that says screaming and berating your kids for this is ok.  

Brigid screamed at and berated her kids because she could.   Because nobody was there to stop her.   Because Brigid will hurt people if she thinks she can get away with it,  as i have seen her do with scores of other people. 

Only in Briglandia, could all of this be understood from the standpoint of Brigid victimization. She was absolutely not up to the task of mothering. She hated it and treated her kids like garbage, which caused more problems that she was able to see herself as being victimized by.

The idea that we were bad kids, who gave her so much grief is absurd.

I’ve spoken to my dad about Brigid a few times as an adult.

He’s a die hard “split the difference” kind of guy. I imagine him in 1940 Germany or Russia as a committed National Socialist or Bolshevik (respectively) but he may not have been real enthusiastic about it. He only would have turned half of his neighbors in. In Cotton Mather’s Massachusettes, he would have been unhappy about burning some of the witches at the stake.

Dad took the pro-family, somewhat nurturing position in the parent duo, but assumed that SOME of Brigid’s grievances must be true; maybe we weren’t as awful as Brigid was saying and maybe she had some problems but she couldn’t be THAT bad. If she was that bad, what would that have obligated him to do?  Seeing his wife as the child abusing psycho she was felt too extreme.  Better to split the difference. Better to believe that when he was away, Brigid was maybe a nurturing and dutiful mother while we were kinda disobedient kids who did little but give her grief. To dad, we became half awful children and Brigid was half a tragic victims of her own kids. It was the reliable path of lease resistance. It was also ridiculous.  My dad’s ability and willingness to adapt to absolutely anything is epic.  I’ve heard him repeat the “lots to deal with” narrative in recent years. 

In truth, Brigid had absolutely 0 claim to being a victim of circumstance. None. She was living a very fortunate life with 4 healthy kids and did everything she could to squeeze guilt out of everyone around her.  She was the spoiled brat toddler of the family. 

As I’ve discussed in “remaking the past” Brigid likes to pretend that she was an active parent. It’s another example of a narrative she has put time into creating, being more significant than the truth. She has spent a great deal of energy promoting narrative A and thus,  is entitled to others believing it. 

We were most definitely not bad kids. We were desperately anxious to please our mother. We were given very little support, direction or attention. Brigid CHOSE to have an adversarial relationships with her children, just like she chose to spend her time feuding instead of parenting. Nothing about her kids behavior or her circumstances necessitated that. Brigid fights and feuds with everybody she can because that’s what Brigid does.

Let me pause here to discuss my thoughts on discipline:

I’m very pro-discipline. The Dr. Spok, constant affirmation method of child rearing seems to have yielded very poor results. Kids need discipline. They need direction.

Here’s what I think a parent’s job is: Making their kids feel part of something larger than themselves. Bringing their kids into a larger social unit. After teaching them how to function successfully in their family, introducing them to the larger social world. Kids have an innate desire to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Father’s who beat their kids with belts 100 years ago probably weren’t abusing them. (most of the time anyway) Life was harder and kids needed to be acclimated to tough conditions. The son who was set to inherit the farm needed to learn discipline or others might suffer. That’s my opinion anyway. My idea of “abuse” is not modern.

As kids, we were very deliberately made to feel like failed tryout applicants to a team. Nothing was ever enough. Everything was bad. Brigid is a trashy women, who’s Gary joy in life is hurting others.  The only thing that mattered were our flaws. If we accomplished something, we got to hear how “wonderful” Brigid was as a mother and how much credit she deserved.

When us kids fought, we’d point out the slightest flaws we thought we saw in one another. We’d put each other down or claim the other person was up to something manipulative. That’s how Brigid interacted with us. Pointing out the flaws in others and attempting to dominate them, as though “I’ve got the goods on you buddy”………..this is the world I knew. That’s how you dealt with other people. You stayed on the attack, lest they attack you.

My eldest sister was actually a great kid and I was a good one.   None of us approached “bad” 

Despite all the crap she had to deal with from Brigid, she did OK in school and made friends. She fought with us (our youngest sister mostly) because she had more grief and rage and shame dumped into her by Brigid than you could imagine.

I think back on Brigid standing in her doorway and berating her for her weight for hours at a time when she was 6, 7, 8 years old. She’d cry and Brigid would just keep at her.

What kind of mother does that? Can someone hypothosize a situation, of any kind imaginable, where that is anything other than monsterously abusive? If anyone reads this and thinks I am overreacting, please write me and let me know.

As I grew up, I continued to underperform in school and had social difficulties but never got in serious trouble. I was a mediocre athlete and average student. My room wasn’t perfectly cleaned. I raked a massive yard of leaves in the winter, mowed it in the summer and shoveled snow in the winter. I didn’t ask for much or expect much.

I was given NO help with school, never put in front of a therapist, had absolutely no intimacy with either of my parents. I was yelled and screamed at to the point of tears on a regular basis for………I can’t even remember what.

We were good kids. Objectively speaking. We were good kids, who really wanted to please and were desperate for affection, guidance and appreciation. Brigid on the other hand, was an absolutely awful mother. She is a sick woman, who used her kids desire for acceptance against us. May she burn in hell and suffer greatly beforehand.

Part 3 and 4 and 5 and 6. The Early Years, Brigfeuding Incorporated and a few other things

Note: This post is scattered and unedited

# Are you a glad mommy or a mad mommy?

## The Air Force Years.

Deconstructing the archeology of our personalities is difficult. There is a “forrest for the trees” problem, made worse by us being the trees. How our experiences mold our genetic wiring is hard to deconstruct and harder still when considering how we may have effected those experiences. Figuring out how that fits together when we’re very young adds another level of complexity and yet, I remember much and some sense can objectively be made of it all.

I’ve rewritten this opening several times. The first 4 years of my life, before moving to Connecticut certainly had an impact on me and I have a long memory. I recall much before I reached my second birthday. Much was strange and unusal about that time but I want to avoid retroactively imposing the emotional atmosphere of the later, nightmare years of my youth. As would be expected of someone that young, I was less certain of what was going on and my ideas of right/wrong or good/bad were still being formed.

All my memories of Brigid then weren’t bad. I remember lying to her once, when I said that a coloring book that my older friend had colored had been colored by me. She was understanding that I’d wanted her to think I’d done something well. I recall her telling me that I couldn’t have ice cream when the truck came down the street. I cried and she comforted me. She told me it was OK and that I could have some the next day. She read to me often. I know that I was brought to swimming and violin lessons. She also took me to a gym occassionaly, where I’d jump on a trampoline.

I remember my dad as a pleasant but occassional figure. This is why I struggle with this time period. Was he distant or do I only remember it that way? I’m not sure. I remember him taking me to see Slim Goodbody in town. I remember enjoying his company before even moving to Omaha. When we lived in Minot (where, coincidentally I begin writing this) I remember him picking me up and playing with me. I remember being in the snow with him. He was a b-52 pilot in S.A.C at the time and I remember him in his green flight suit and aviator sunglasses

“Are you a glad mommy or are you a mad mommy” was something I’d ask when I’d had an “accident.” I’d hide somewhere, afraid my mother would be angry. I only know of this because it’s something Brigid enjoyed telling well into my adult years. Telling stories of her kids in weak and vulnerable positions is something she’s always enjoyed doing. I was obviously afraid of her moods and continued to be throughout my childhood. Her moods dominated the landscape of our home. I was scared that she might be angry. I DO remember that.

I don’t recall how my toilet training went during this time period but I’ve been told often that it didn’t go well. I dont’ remember having problems until kindergarten and I wonder why I don’t remember. I’m not a big fan of Freud but there was likely truth in his thoughts on potty training. It’s the first pass/fail obstacle a child must overcome and they must do it on their own. Apparently, I was remedial.

I also remember being alone often. Several years ago I digitalized a number of photographs for my parents and they seemed to confirm this. I’d be on the bed or in a chair watching T.V. Photo moments of playing with Brigid or being held were close to nonexistent and I suspect such moments were rare beyond the camera’s lens. That was certainly not part of her parenting later and I can’t recall it being part of things then. I was often in the care of an older girl. We’d play together outside. The practice of allowing older kids to look after me unsupervised, was a big part of my childhood that I’ll discuss more later.

My oldest sister and I would ride big wheels and other riding toys outside our house on the sidewalk. By ourselves. I would have been 3-4 years old and she would have been 1-2. I think back on that. Parenting likely tended less towards hyper-vigilant safety in the late 1970’s than it does today but……..still. I bet that was unusual even then. Even in Omaha Nebraska.

The first hysterical fit that I remember Brigid throwing was in Omaha. It was after she’d stepped on a bee. I was with my sister. We all began walking back to the house and she told us she might die. I remember the horror of that moment and the crazy look on her face. Upon returning home, the hysterics continued until she got her shot and all was well. Hyesterical tragic doomsdaying was a constant with Brigid then and all throughout the time I knew her.. Unfortunate things didn’t happen and we got throught them. Things were HORRIBLE and likely to get worse. People might die and terrible horrible awful things either were happening or were about to.

During that time, dad got hit by a semi in his Fiat and I saw him on T.V. Brigid told us how he almost died over and over and over. I heard that story well into my teen years. He almost died then. It was a miracle he didn’t. Shocking her kids in that kind of way was a regular thing. Tragedy was always upon us or just around the corner.

I remember being scared often in Omaha but not only of Brigid. I was scared of other things. I was scared to get into the back of a helicopter during an air show on base. I was scared to ride a horse the neighbors had brought for the kids. I was scared to swim without my arm floaties *and* the ring floatie I’d pull over myself. I was scared to get out of the car when my friend M and his dad went hunting. He had a gun. I was scared to go on the trampoline. I was scared often. I was more scared than other kids but I wonder if that’s because they were often older than me. I was timid. This is interesting to think back on because later in life and to this day, I’m less timid than most about basic things: heights, water, physical altercations, standing up for myself, spiders, planes, public speaking etc etc. I’d say my level of timidity is a standard deviation or so below average but not then. I was always scared.

## And on to Connecticut

in 1979/1980, Dad got a job with Eastern Airlines that moved us to Connecticut, but we first spent 5 months living with our grandparents (Brigid’s parents) in LeMars Iowa while he got things settled in CT. I remember that very well. We later spent three weeks per summer there through most of my elementary school years. It was always peaceful and I always felt safe. There was a park across the street and downtown was a mile away. Brigid was always on her best behavior when relatives were around. There were no fits and craziness. She’d do things with us kids in the presense of others that she never did otherwise. She’d sometimes say nice things to us. She’d take us for walks and smile at us. When Princess Diana got married, she dressed my sisters up in wedding dresses and let them stay up late to watch. Once for my birthday, she took me out to eat. It was just her and I. These types of things never happened when other adults weren’t around but they’d happen in Iowa

Small town Iowa had a very communal feel to it. Everybody knew everybody and I picked up a sense of that even at a young age. It was safe and I always felt a part of something. Our grandparents would buy us toys and help us assemble them. Iowa was a great part of my childhood but lookking back, the main reason for this was probably that Brigid’s raging fits weren’t a part of things. Basic A.B.C parenting took place. We had adults around us who smiled and seemed at least moderately happy that we were there. Us kids rarely fought with each other.

My sense of self as a child was always that I was very, very insufficient and bothersome to my mother. In retrospect, this isn’t surprising. It would have been hard for a kid in our household to feel otherswise. There was also an ever present sense that “Things are wrong.” Things were not how they should be and not how they should be in an extreme way. Things were BAD, but I can only first recall a conscious sense of this after moving to Connecticut. At first, we lived in a big yellow house. I started kindergarten halfway through the year and had some problems. I recall my first “accident” in the bathroom. Brigid had to come get me and wasn’t pleased. I didn’t know how to stand in line for awhile. I was an awkward kid.

What I write next, I do so hesitantly. There are parts of my early childhood that I”ve only recently come to grips with and this is such a part:

We lived next door to several older boys. I was 5/6 at the time and they were 8-10 years old or so, with an even older figure who’d be with us ocassionaly. This crowd was tasked with walking me to the bus stop daily and I was encouraged to go play outside with them as much as possible. Brigid’s practice of having older kids look after me unattended continued.

Before going any further, I want to note something: I had two seperate instances of abuse by older boys between the ages of 5 and 8. That might seem unusual but less so when I consider the circumstances. I was a very timid, awkward and submissive kid who was eager to please, and I was looked after unattended for very long periods of time by whoever was up for the task.

This group of boys weren’t as bad as abuser number two a few years later. What happened was that one of them would tell me to take my clothes off, then the other boys would laugh. One of them would bite my naked rear end. I came home in tears several times. I suspect I was too ashamed to tell what happened but I only remember crying while running away from them. In a strange display of youthful bravery, I once started throwing rocks at them and chased them into their house, where I continued throwing rocks at their garage door. Brigid knew they made me cry. She saw this on several occasions and yet, she kept sending me outside to be with them and letting them walk me to the busstop. I even remember trying to clue my dad in on this once. I remember walking him to the busstop and trying to tell him that something was wrong but I forgot what I said. I’m sure I was too ashamed to tell anyone that these kids were making me take my clothes off and doing odd things to me. Well up through my teens, older boys and groups of boys terrified me. Absolutely terrified me.

I suspect that their mother knew something of what was happening. Maybe, but maybe not. Before we moved down the street, she gave me a chest full of comic books and classic G.I. Joes figures.

That period of time is something to think back on. When we lived in the yellow house, I was 5 years old and was allowed to wander around by myself all over the place. There was a friend who lived almost a mile away and completely out of site who I’d walk to go see. i had other friends who lived a half a mile in the other directed and I’d walk to see them also. These days, I try to imagine a 5 year old kid walking down the street by himself. That was me. It certainly wasn’t a dangerous neighborhood but that still seems to odd when I think back on it. At the time however, it seemed normal to me.

It was at the yellow house that I remember forgetting things. I’m not sure if I had been absent minded previously but I started forgetting clothing items at school. And it was in Newtown at the yellow house, that I first remember Brigid being truly horrible. I don’t know if her insanity began there or if I just don’t remember it previously. I suspect it just increased.

I forgot my stocking cap at school once. When I came home and told Brigid, she screamed at me. SCREAMED. I was told my siblings would be unable to eat now because we were so poor. She took me in the car and drove 10 miles to school, where she got angry with the women at the front desk. She was furious with me. I was 5 years old and had lost a hat.
Brigid’s hysterical, screaming fits were a regular feature in our home and I’ll pause here.

I don’t know how to “build” into the extreme insanity that engulfed our home. I was too young to remember the exact stages where it developed so I’ll outline the issue now and add a second digression about her feuding with everyone else, then I’ll return to the 1980-1982 years. Throwing these two sub-narratives together towards the beginning feels a little clumsy but oh well.

**BRIGID’S FITS AND GENERAL AVERSION TO US KIDS**

Starting around this time, I remember Brigid’s fits being a regular thing in our home. “Fits” is the best word I can think of to describe them. The were insane. When dad wasn’t home, Brigid would often scream at us kids so loudly that her voice would crack and for very long periods of time..

There are a few reason’s why I dispise my mother as a human. On the top of that list ia that she is a bully of the worst imaginable kind. Of the 300 most horrific, unhinged, emotionally violent fits that I have ever seen anyone throw in my life, Brigid gets all 300 spots and likely many more than that. These were fits she’d only throw when no adults were around to stop her. They were never thrown when my dad was around (Although he got to witness quite a bit) and never, ever thrown when friends or relatives were watching. They were screaming, raging hysterical fits that she’d throw at us kids multiple times per week but sometimes, multiple times per day, depending on her mood. I try to think back on what her justification for these outbursts was and can only recall two things. One, was her ocassionally screaming at us for causing her and our dad to fight. The primary and most common reason for her raing outburst however was……………..that us kids fought with one another.

Brigid showed hardly any affection torwards us. Hugs, compliments etc were almost never happened. For all practical purposes, those kinds of things only happened when other adults were watching. They essentially didn’t exist when friends and relatives weren’t around. Teaching, helping, encouraging, assistance with homework, etc. were not part of our relationships with Brigid. Positive, nurturing time with our mother, when nobody was watching, wasn’t less than it should of been. It was nonexistent. When projects had to be done at school or trips to the library were necessary, she’d help but not otherwise.

Unsurprisingly, us kids fought with one another. We were rarely kind to one another and fought constantly.

We were treated to regular, foot stomping, teeth bearing , raging fits from Brigid with ocassional hitting, because we fought with one another and weren’t kind.

Her fits were certainly not her only negative means of communication with us. As I’ll describe in more detail later, put-downs were a part of most conversations and she would regularly tell us how bad we were for hours at a time. She’d stand in our doorways and describe what she thought was wrong with us for most of entire afternoons. Displeasing Brigid wasn’t just a matter of having something problematic pointed out. It usually led to very long discussions about everything she thought was wrong with us and how much grief this caused her.

But back to her raging fits….

For those who might read this and don’t know Brigid personally, I’ll now offer a glimpse into her unusual personality:

I was 6 years old when I first remember these fits, making her other children 4, 3 and 1 or so. She would throw these fits at us for fighting and getting angry at one another. Then she would often cry and scream “I never thought I would have such NASTY SIRLY NASTY children who are so CRUEL to one another” The volume an intensity of her voice cannot be communicated with written words. She would often cry “I can’t TAKE IT ANMOOOOOOOORE!!!” at a volume that caused her voice to crack and this would often be followed by tears of grief.

I hesitate to even point out the obvious insanity in of all this. Here were us kids, being screamed at for treating one another exactly the way we were treated by the primary adult figure in our life. We had very little idea what kindness and affection were because it was rarely shown to us. We experienced the raging anger of our mother, then fought with one another. Raging and feuding were what we witnessed and experienced. Kindness and bonding weren’t.

She would even call friends and relatives to talk about how her kids fought so much. She claimed she couldn’t figure it out. We were told how our cousin’s and friends got along with their brother’s and sisters’ well. We were told how disappointed the people she talked to on the phone were with us. (Making up things that others have said to her is another lifelong habit of Brigid’s that I’ll discuss later) We were made to feel that our fighting was a personal faillure and a constant source of stress to her……who’d fight and scream and shout at us for fighting and screaming and shouting at one another. Making it all the more insane, Brigid was able to posit herself as the victim in this vortex of rage and feuding. I remember feeling very bad and very guilty for how our fighting caused Brigid so much woe.

Attempting to unravel Brigid’s thought process here is difficult but very illustrative in understanding what makes her and our familiy so unique and toxic. In her “I can’t TAKE IT ANYMOOOORE!!!!” and “I never thought I’d have such NASTY SIRLY NASTY CHILDREN!!” fits, followed by the tears of self pity, there was something genuine going on I think. At some fundemental level, Brigid really, truly felt sorry for herself. She really, truly felt as though she was being victimized. As I’ll later discuss in “Brigid, D and the narrative life,” like her late brother, self reflection or considering how her actions may have negatively effected a situation isn’t something she’s capable of. Any problems someone might have with her are irrelevant because the problems she has with them are way more significant.

An overwhelming majority of people would have SOME idea that their screaming and fighting was leading to their kids screaming and fighting; that not giving affection and kindness had something to do with their kids not being affectionate and kind. At the very least, this same overwhelming majority of people would realize that they werent victims here. There’s probably people out there who just live in rage and angst and require the world around them to be raging and angsty, and this certainly applies to Brigid, but there’s another level to this with her. Aside from creating angst and rage, she was able to see herself as the victim of rage and angst….to the point of sobbing in puddles of “woa is me” tears.

and yet….

She very carefully avoided showing this side of herself to others. Her awfulness toned down by 90% when dad was around. Around friends and relatives, it all but ceased and there were displays of motherly affection. So, what does one make of this? I ask this question genuinely if anyone would like to offer an idea. Total self deception is an incomplete answer because she was clearly aware that others would no approve if they observed.

At some level, she knew very well how unacceptable her behavior was. At the very least, she knew that others would see it as wildly unacceptable. Here’s my best guess and I think it’s a pretty solid best guess:

Brigid’s tears of self pity were tears of frustration. I’m sure she knew that she was the center of the rage and didn’t really care. She had clearly objectified her children early on. The fact that the emotional atmosphere of our home was anger and rage didn’t bother her in the least. That’s how she liked things. As I’ll describe later, her intense aversion to family therapy is pretty solid evidence that the insanity in our house was something she craved and actively cultivated. It was what she needed, the way she needs feuding and anger in the rest of her life.

We were things, who’s value was in making her look good but who bothered her with our needs as children. As happens when someone is thought of as an adversary, everything they do is seen through a dark lens. Every time she had to drive us somewhere or pack a lunch or fill out a permission slip or change a diaper, she registered it as one more grievance against us; one more unpleasant thing she was being forced to do and her rage fits were her release from the pains of mothering. The self pity cries were cries of having to be a mother.

How she was affecting her children just didn’t play into her thoughts. How her anger, rage and lack of affection were causing anger, rage and lack of affection in her kids didn’t matter to her or she was unable to imagine it. Anger, rage and lack of kindness in others was something justifying her anger and rage. This would be abject hypocrisy of an etxreme kind between adults. When adding to this, the effect of this on her own kids, it takes on another level of sadism and insanity and then…..topping it all off, she was able to see herself as the victim in this mess, but I’m repeating myself now and will move on.

Into our adult years, when the topic of her behavior torwards us as kids was brought up, she’d respond with a blend of anger “I don’t want to hear it!” and repeating the narrative that she had “so much to deal with” which brings me to part two of this. How Brigid spent her time. For awhile, she got very into “my truth and you’re truth” as though, these vents were a schrodinger’s cats type of thing with alternate realities. She never denied doing this stuff because it’s the truth and denying what you have done to someone who experienced it is pretty hard. I suppose that would be to her credit. Her deception couldn’t go quite that far.

As this was the only parenting experience I had, I struggle to gauge how unusual what I have described was. My read on Brigid’s motivations are obviously my opinion but the instances I have described are entirely accurate. They really happened.

How abnormal was this? I’ve done lots of reading. I’ve talked to many grownups who experienced childhood abuse (I hate the term “survivors”) and have tried to get a handle on what “normal” is. My best estimation is that maybe 20% of mothers don’t develop normal, nurturing bonds with their children but even among that crowd, I’m convinced that Brigid’s insanity and rage were and are very unusual. Trying to gauge how abnormal my experience was at this time is difficult and I’d welcome feedback or thoughts from others.

When Brigid discusses her behavior during this period of time it’s usually in vague terms. Brigid avoids this topic fervently but to the degree it is discussed, a common refrain is that Brigid was “Busy” and “frustrated” We were told how difficult it was for her to have an airline pilot for a husband. (He’d be gone for three or four days, then home for 2-3.)

Help with homework was between rare and nonexistent. Time with her kids when she wasn’t driving us somewhere was also rare unless she was screaming at us. Fun outside or motherly talks and affection weren’t part of the atmosphere in our house. Apparently, she was busy and overwhelmed.

Brigid had lots of time for some activities however…..

# BrigFeuding Incorporated.

As I’ve described already, feuding and chastising was the primary vehicle of communication Brigid had with us kids. This is still the case. If she wasn’t badmouthing us or throwing a fit, she was normally badmouthing others. Connecting with our mother on a (I struggle for the right description here) positive, happy or nurturing level (<< best I could come up with) didn’t happen. The surest way to have bonding time with her was to talk badly about people she didn’t like or share negative information.

Brigid spent an enormous amount of time feuding with other people and gossiping.

I hesitate to guess how much time she spent on the phone, prosecuting her feuds with whomever. She’d occassionally feud openly with someone but mostly, it was badmouthing them to others and she spent staggering amounts of time doing this. . I’m tempted to say that from the early 1980’s, it was dozens of hours per week but that is only a “hunch.” It was something she did whenever the opportunity presented itself. Brigid, on the phone, complaining about someone (including her children) was a constant thing. It was as common as the television being on. When our father wasn’t there, she was more likely to be doing that during waking hours than anything else.

Brigid spent hours per week feuding with her kids, many more hours per week prosecuting her feuds on the phone and then fighting with people occasionally in person. But this didn’t satiate the appetite of the Brigid feuding beast. She made many, many hours of audio recordings on cassettes and sent them to people.

Full disclosure: She did this mostly when we weren’t home so I only caught some of her many hours of recorded monologues. It’s possible that all the boxes with 10-12 or so audio cassettes that I’d see before they were mailed, contained positive, uplifting and spiritual messages to those she sent them to. The few hours of audio cassette making that I was privy to overhearing were more of the same psychoanalyzing and gossiping that she did on the phone but anything is possible. I can’t say for sure what 99%+ of her audio recordings consisted of but more of the same feuding seems about as likely as the sun rising in the east tomorrow. I’d call it a pretty safe bet.

More of my best guessing would say that she took to making these because our phone bills got too high and my dad limited her long distance calls. In the 1980’s, I’ll guess that a 2 hour audio cassette cost $1 and shipping was another 50 cents per. Whatever it was, it was likely cheaper than 10 cents per minute on the phone.

When Brigid begins talking about people she has issues with, she’ll keep going until someone or something stops her. Like her late brother, she’ll often begin badmouthing whoever is on her mind, immediately after meeting someone; often for the first time. It’s possible that an additional benefit of the BrigTown Recording division of BrigFeud inc. was that she didn’t have to worry about someone on the other end of the line changing the subject or hanging up. This his was a big issue for D when he’d call up his friends and try gossiping for hours. They’d wait for a brake in the monologues, then have to get going. I can’t say for sure how big of an issue that was for Brigid, but I’ll guess it happened more than she would have liked. With audio recordings, she could just talk and imagine the other person listening to it all and joining in her righteous indignation about whomever she was raging mad at.

I want to address this idea that Brigid was overwhelmed and “busy” from a logical, unemotional perspective. It’s complete nonsense. She spent staggering amounts of time feuding and gossipping. She spent huge amounts of time fighting with her kidss and engaging in direct or indirect fights with many other people.

Engaging in hostile relations with her children was something she CHOSE to do. Not spending quality time with her kids was a result of her not wanting to spend quality time with her kids. It had nothing to do with being busy or a lack of available time.

Brigid spent her time doing the absolute minimal A,B,C’s necessary to keep things functioning and avoid calls from the school but even that took awhile. She had to get organized in around 1982, just to make sure permission slips were handed in on time and appointments were kept.

Basic house cleaning, driving where necessary, watching tons of soap operas and phone time for telling weird stories to whomever would listen and feuding was the life of Brigid. Busy was never her problem. An overwhelming majority of mothers in the world have had to deal with far more trying circumstances than she did and have worked through it with far greater dignity.

Let me pause here for a moment and reflect: For those not intimately familiar with Brigid, this must sound so bitter and over-the-top. For those who know her but aren’t familiar with how she behaves when she isn’t putting on a show, this probably seems exaggagerated.

Perhaps you’re thinking “You mean, she NEVER helped with homework, or was affectionate to her kids or said kind things? That sounds like such an exageration!” I know it does. No. She really, truly did not. The entirety of her relationship with her kids was hostile. The only breaks in hostility were when others were around watching. She was kind so rarely it is hardly worth mentioning. She was never encouraging and never affectionate, save for holidays and events, when she’d ocassionaly smile and give off a little happiness. When family or friends were around who she was trying to impress, she would smile at her kids, hug us and occasionally say kind things. If you”d like to count that, feel free but otherwise no. When interacting with her kids, it was either anger and berating. or distant contempt. Asking her for help or trying to talk to her would be responded to with hostility.

“You sure you’re not exaggerating how intense her anger was?” I’m not exaggerting in the least. At all. Brigid would rage at the top of her lungs at her kids when we were toddlers. No joke. No exaggeration.

But back to life in the early 1980’s..

In the first grade, something interesting happened to me. Every year, there was an annual play that all three classrooms would do together. I was picked by the three teachers as “king” of the play, meaning that I sat on a chair on the stage, above all the other kids, and sang a solo. I remember the “tryouts” for this. All the boys were asked to sing a song and one of the teachers shuffled through us and came to me. Apparently, I was able to sing on key and she liked my voice. I could perform. My memory of my relationships with my peers and everyone else at this time was that I was very distanct, awkward and disliked. I was “apart.” Never part of the crowd of boys who’d wander the playground (groups of boys/men terrified me through my late teens) I don’t recall being liked much by teachers either but apparently, I was presentable enough and could perform sufficiently well that I was made the king of the play. I wonder how this related to my performing book recitations for my mother as a toddler. I remember repeating the lines of books back to her and how pleased she was. I’m fairly certain this set something in me that had mostly negative effects on my personality in later years. I was disliked. I was not worthy of attention or affection, but only of being ignored or chastised. I could however, put on a show. There is an element of deception in performance. You’re pretending to be someone you aren’t and it’s something I learned to do. I was the king of the first grade play.

Concerns about my underperforming in school began by the first grade. As already stated, my mother never helped with homework save for projects that required parental asssistance or trips to a library but otherwise, assistance with homework didn’t take place. What *did* take place were parent teacher’s conferences, after which, my parents would come home and sit on the couch with me. My mother would tell me how much better I could do and how unacceptable my performance in school was. My father would normally join in but in a less aggressive way; just restating that I was able to do better in school and should. It was also around this time that I recall the beginning of something I’ll call “The Brigid cult of Dad” My father was an ace student in his youth and went on to the Air Force Academy. Around this time, my mother began telling me how amazing and superior my father was in all ways and how much better in school he’d been than I was. Like most of the interaction I’ve had with my mother throughout my life, it was meant to shame me and did.

Loosing things continued sporadically. Once, I lost a jacket that my grandmother had purchased for me. I remember the how much it cost. $26. I rememeber this because my mother made me pay for it. Twice. I was required to pay $52 dollars and the logic I was was that I had to pay for the loss, plus the cost of buying a new one. I was given an allowance of $2/week and it was withheld for 6 months. I don’t recall what my replacement jacket was, but it was certainly not as “cool” as the polyester, black zip up her mother had given. Irrational and illogical punishments, meant to do nothing other than instill guilt were a regular thing.

Most people who’ve had emotionally abusive childhoods have told me that as adults, they’ve come to better understand their parents. Most abusive parents were themselves abused as children. I suppose I’d have some sympathy for people who were abused as kids and who then went on to abuse their own children as adults.

Here is what I know of Brigid’s childhood….

## Brigid’s childhood

***To almost the same degree that brigid mines and keeps negative information on others – her family especially – she goes to extraordinary lengths to hide information about herself. I only know of her childhood from the bits and pieces she spoke of and what her mother and brother’s told me. Brigid was raised in a small town of about 8,000 in Iowa. LeMars.

***She was raised as an absolute princess. She was dressed to the nines. When dolls, bikes or transistor radios came out, she had the best of everything and had it before anyone else. She never had to do a single chore. Her mother cleaned her room and her clothes were often washed when her father went to the drycleaners. She was never chastized, scholded or disciplined. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, she was given the extraordinary sum of $5/week in allowance. When both of her parents weren’t in the car, she sat in the front seat, 100% of the time. I was told a story of how her younger brother once attempted to sit in the front seat. Apparently, a complete meltdown ensued. There are other stories of meltdowns I’ve heard of but obviously can’t confirm. Someone at school borrowed her dress and didn’t give it back on time. Her youngest brother was allowed to put half and half on his cereal and she wasn’t. Apparently, these things were just cause for hysterical fits.**

***She was a B/C student in school and didn’t play sports. She was popular enough to be on the homecoming court as a sophmore in high school and that’s all I can say for sure about how liked she was by her peers. I’ve heard her claim that she was very popular and I’ve heard two people she went to high school with claim she was disliked by most but had her own “clique”***

***On more than one occassion, I’ve heard her describe her brother’s, growing up as “below me” and “servents,” in an obviously figurative way but I’m fairly sure she saw herself and her wishes as primary and above those of everyone else in her household.***

***Her nickname in high school was “Frigid Brigid” She was never known to be a party girl, a big drinker, someone who used drugs of slept around. She was whatever you might call the polar opposite of a slut. I’ll describe the commmon quirks that run through our family later and in more depth, but a very limited sexuality is one of them (I managed to miss that one….to put it mildly)***

Knowing what I know, it’s difficult to have much sympathy for her. She treated her children the opposite of how she was treated. Brigid seems to think that she is entitled to live by an entirely different set of rules than others. (which is really something, considering what a person of mediocre talent she is)

She was never yelled at or abused, unless you’d consider spoiling to be abuse. I’ve researched how spoiled kids tend to do as parents. For several months this was something I tried to find data on. The best I could find was a correlation between spoiled children and later lazy parenting. I’ve seen nothing to suggest a link between a spoiled childhood and becoming a raging, angry parent.

Spoiled child syndrome describes Brigid to a T. The universe is about them. Others are there to please them and for little else. To the spoiled child, their job is to complain and it’s up to those around them to make things as they like.

What’s most interesting about Brigid is that her parenting is something like the exact opposite of the parenting she received. She was NEVER chastised or disciplined as a child. Chastising and berating her children were essentially all that did when interacting with them. She was given everything she wanted, from clothes to toys to everything else. Brigid gave her children about as little as she had to, without it seeming overly weird.

Brigid was given the nicest clothes but dressed her kids mostly from the clearance rack at the cheapest stores she could find. Brigid was doted over and told how wonderful she was. Brigid did nothing but complain to her children.

I have no psychology degree and only know what I”ve been told about her childhood (although all sources say about the same thing, including her) but here’s what seems to be the case: Brigid was the center of the universe in her childhood home. She had to do nothing and was given everything. When she became a parent, she did all she could to recreate that situation. She was and still is, the spoiled brat toddler in our family and always has been. Her needs and feelings and moods are the responsibility f everyone else. She is responsible for nothing and can be blamed for nothing. Those around her must feed her gargantuan ego gratification needs because that is their job. That’s how she grew up and the only way she is capable of understanding herself or her relationships with those around her, including her children.

That’s my best guess but all that parts fit together with that theory. I can’t think of any other.