What’s Wrong With My Father?

“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” – Peggy O’Mara

She walked back to her room and closed the door. It was nicely decorated. There were streams of ribbons colored in black, grays, white, and various shades of pink for a color accent on her wall. The ribbons were dotted upon with vintage postcards, mostly black and white, along with other decorations that dangled to create movement. It was a sanctuary. It was some place to capture her imagination, to allow her to leave her current world, a place where she felt in control.

She sat on her bed. She was mostly in shock but after 16 years of emotional abuse, she felt overall just numb. She had just started realizing that her father was…not normal. She had not yet begun to realize though that she could be the same. That 16-year-old girl is me.

Before I had walked into my room I now remember the defining moment when I first thought “Something is wrong with my dad.” I had come home from school and was working on homework, or not. My dad usually came home at 6. He would make stops once or twice at a buffet to get food for himself and me bottles of a particular water that I liked to drink throughout the week. This week my father forgot his wallet at the cash register. I was unpacking the goods as the accusations began. “It’s your fault that I left my wallet. I buy this water for you and then I leave my wallet because of you!” he bellowed. I shrank, all too familiar with the displacement of anger being directed at me…again. I walked back to me room and sat on my bed. There are more times than not that my father succeeded in making me believe that something was my fault when it really was not. This was not one of them. By that age, I knew I was not to blame and that his primary reason for going to this place was to pick up the buffet food, and only got the water for me out of convenience. It was also not my fault that he left his own wallet that he was handling himself at the restaurant.

The other defining moment was when I was in college. That’s when shit got real. I had a bad case of reverse culture shock when I studied abroad my senior year in college. I returned to Poland, where my father was living, for Christmas vacation after my study abroad experience, completely shaken up. It was the worst winter of my life. I would only like to scratch the surface here. I had a missed my flight from Thailand and had to reschedule a new one back that also included an overnight train from Germany to Poland. I got off of that train completely exhausted. “Hi, I’m here- can you pick me up?” I asked my father. “No, I can’t pick you up. You know how to take the bus” he retorted back.

I picked up my three bags and made my way over to the bus stop. When I finally got home I quickly realized that my father was already drunk; he was also an alcoholic. I tried not to be around him that much when he was like that. So I did what I usually did. I went to my room. Later that night I overhear hear him on the phone with his friend wailing “Oh, my little girl is here back from school, I couldn’t wait to see her.” I thought to myself “Really?” You really couldn’t wait to see me that much that you didn’t pick me up from the train station? You really cared that much that you couldn’t see how hard it was taking three bags on a public bus? You really cherished the time that we were going to spend together by getting drunk before I even arrived?

Yea, I was not fooled that time either. But I still play the fool. I couldn’t help but internalize the feelings of worthlessness onto me. I didn’t know any better as a kid. I know better now as an adult. But I don’t feel better all the time. I feel that pain and sorrow. I struggle with feeling like I am worthy enough to be loved. I struggle with feeling like I belong anywhere.

I see these images of young fathers braiding their daughter’s hair, beautiful brides walking confidently down the aisle with their strong fathers and can’t help but be selfish and think about myself. Of course, I am happy for them, but at the same time, I feel the familiar sharp pain that has haunted me my entire life. It’s the reminder that I don’t have that, not because I didn’t have a father, but because I had a father that would not want to do that with his daughter.

I know why I feel numb all the time. Because I don’t feel I deserve love from others. So I choose to pretend that I don’t feel anything. Any what’s worse is beyond that I just feel worthless. Whenever anybody even responds with empathy or sympathy to my story I play it off with “Oh, thanks but I can speak normally about it because I am far enough away from it now.” I think back to those words and think “That’s not the truth.”

I wish I can end this story on a positive note, one with an uplifting ending. It’s what I’m used to doing already, right? But, I don’t want to. I’m not pretending and making this uplifting because I don’t feel like that right now.  And that is okay.

Written by: Anna (Creator of Echo’s Corner)

“Everybody Loves Me”: A View on Donald Trump

“Donald Trump’s campaign has gotten so ridiculous that Stephen Colbert is now regularly bringing on a cartoon version of the Republican frontrunner onto The Late Show” states German Lopez in Vox article (April 5th, 2016) describing one Colbert’s tactics to take comedic jabs at the Republican presidential front runner. It is funny. We sit back, watch, and chuckle. If we weren’t laughing, we might be crying. If there are two groups of people that are doing well during this year’s presidential campaign it might as well be the comedians and media outlets. CBS Director Les Moonves has been quoted in Politico as saying “It may not be good for America, but its damn good for CBS” (February 28, 2016). Trump has single-handedly managed to almost dominate the news-waves, facebook’s trending stories, and twitter feeds.

And we can’t get enough.

The American public is fascinated with this perplexing figure. Reporters, pundits, everyone who gets a taste of some of the unsavory commentary and behaviors that Trump has displayed has spent some time trying to make sense of it, or at least figure out why. Is this starting to sound familiar? Jeff Fluger from Time Magazine reports “Frank Bruni of the New York Times touched on this aspect of the Trumpian personality—what he called an ‘epic neediness’—in a way that makes Trump, improbably, almost a sympathetic figure: “I was and am transfixed by … the scope and intensity of his hunger for adulation,” Bruni wrote. “It’s bottomless, topless, endless, insatiable. He gazed upon a teeming arena of admirers and neither their presence nor their numbers was quite enough” (March 14, 2016). To Trump, any attention seems to be good attention, and it is never adequate. The same goes for any narcissist.

It is not surprise that Trump’s behavior has been so mind boggling that the world has taken such a keen interest. To some, though, these patterns are all too familiar. We are not laughing. Behind the smoke and mirrors of the banter, the jokes, the outlandish remarks and actions the truth is not so hard to see. For those of us who know better, it is a grave matter at hand. Vanity Fair, with the help and inclusion of many clinical psychologists and other scientists, has bravely published an article compiling evidence of Donald Trump as possessing Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Even though by law doctors cannot publicly diagnose an individual or reveal treatment of others many have spoken up to try to being light to this situation. “Textbook narcissistic personality disorder,” echoed clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis. “He’s so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of his characteristics,” said clinical psychologist George Simon, who conducts lectures and seminars on manipulative behavior.” (November 11, 2015)

If anyone has ever had experience with a narcissist he or she knows the revealing patterns of a narcissist: grandiose sense of self, lack of empathy, entitlement, hypocrisy, manipulation, and so on, Donald Trump exemplifies most of them. Vanity Fair continues with “He’s very easy to diagnose,” said psychotherapist Charlotte Prozan. “In the first debate, he talked over people and was domineering. He’ll do anything to demean others, like tell Carly Fiorina he doesn’t like her looks. ‘You’re fired!’ would certainly come under lack of empathy. And he wants to deport immigrants, but [two of] his wives have been immigrants” (November 11, 2015). Getting down to the nitty-gritty of the disorder, it is characterized by patterns of narcissistic injury followed by narcissistic rage. “One theme that comes up again and again is Trump’s acute sensitivity to being seen as a billionaire rather than a billionaire! He has sued over it again and again. Trump is so worried that people won’t think he’s worth he’s rich enough that he nearly doubled his net worth on a form he sent to the Federal Election Commission” states Wendy Kreger on her opinion piece at Psychology Today (October 18, 2015). Narcissists are simple creatures in the end. Question me, and I will devalue you.

The most perplexing scary part of it all is not Donald himself, but the fact that so many people are putting their trust, and vote, with him. The world can be a scary place knowing that there are one or a few narcissists that an individual has to deal with. What does Trump’s popularity say about America in general? The question begs to go beyond the politics of today but also the psyche of the American people. Polls have shown that Trump supporters vary all across the board, there are only a few distant trends, as pointed out in USAToday, individuals who lack higher education, or as Trump says “I love the poorly-educated (February 24, 2016). So what gives?

Zoe Chace explored the various motives for Trump supporters in an episode of This American Life entitled “That’s One Way to Do It” (February 19, 2016). The segment is called “Sex, Boyhood, and Politics in South Carolina.” Zoe kept returning back to interview this high school aged boy who is an unlikely supporter of Donald Trump: raised in a conservative evangelical Christian family, and also happens to be gay. She proposes “He was using Trump to reconcile two very irreconcilable things about himself: deeply conservative, super gay. Trump for some reason is Alex’s safe place.” She presents this theory to him, and he does not deny this might be true. The show continues and new interviews come out where whether or not Trump is actually in favor gay marriage begins to blur. Yet, Alex still supports Trump, maybe even more. After speaking with Alex’s parents a new theory begins to emerge. This is critical as to why others may be choosing him as their candidate. Alex’s father states “Because Trump shows power, and Alex is about power…There’s something powerful about Donald Trump and that appeals to Alex.” Alex himself concludes “I have this sort of, like, gravitating pull towards people who are successful because I too want to be successful. I don’t focus on wealth, I focus on power. Because as Kevin Spacey says in House of Cards, you know, a fool goes after money, but someone that really seeks to control, goes after power.” It’s the power vote.

Are people drawn or infatuated to this delusion of power and wealth? Do they think his outlandish tactics will be successful in shaking up the political system that people are displeased with? “The questions that we have can hopefully give us some insight into the reality of this world as well as to the narcissists that surround us” as Jeff Kluger states in his piece for Time Magazine. “Still, watching the behavior of The Donald on the stump can at least get us thinking about how to deal with The Donalds in our world—a campaign season divided will last well beyond election year” (March 4, 2016). Time will tell. There is hope. But this is also a reality check.

Written by: Anna (Creator of Echo’s Corner)

 

Citations

Lopez, German. (2016, April 5). “Trump’s Campaign is so Cartoonish that Stephen Colbert Talked to a Literal Cartoon Trump.” Vox. Retrieved from:
http://www.vox.com/2016/4/5/11368342/donald-trump-cartoon-colbert-late-show

Collins, Eliza. (2016, February 29). “Les Moonves: Trump’s Run is ‘Damn Good for CBS.’” Politico. Retrieved from:
http://www.politico.com/blogs/on-media/2016/02/les-moonves-trump-cbs-220001

Kluger, Jeffery. (2016, March 14). “What Donald Trump Can Teach You About the Narcissists In Your Life.” Time Magazine.  Retrieved from:  http://time.com/4257499/trump-narcissism-2/

Alford, Henry. (2015, November 11). “Is Donald Trump Actually a Narcissist? Therapists Weigh In!” Vanity Fair. Retrieved from:
http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/11/donald-trump-narcissism-therapists

Kreger, Wendy. (2016, October 18). “Does Donald Trump Have Narcissistic Personality Disorder?” Pyschology Today. Retrieved from:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stop-walking-eggshells/201510/does-donald-trump-have-narcissistic-personality-disorder

Hafner, Josh. (2016, February 24).  “Donald Trump Loves the ‘Poorly Educated’-and They Love Him. “ USAToday. Retrieved from:  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2016/02/24/donald-trump-nevada-poorly-educated/80860078/

Glass, Ira & Chace, Zoe. (2016 February 19). Episode 580, “That’s One Way to Do It: Sex, Boyhood and Politics in South Carolina.” This American Life. Retrieved from:
http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/580/thats-one-way-to-do-it