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Audio VideoFollowing on from A-C in the last lesson, today we’re in D-G.

Deception – Concealing and misrepresenting the truth. Understandably upsetting, we tend to see family members in a certain light (and also give them more chances), so if they deceive us, it destabilises our personal security if a lot of what we derive ours from, is for instance, believing that a parent is infallible. When other people know [about a deception] but you don’t or you’re the last to know, the sense of betrayal causes you to feel distrusting or even quite wounded.

Denial – A TFM or even an entire family can be determined to not accept something that’s true into their consciousness, which can cause you to be an outsider, especially if what they’re denying is an affront on your truth. It could be that the TFM is denying something because they don’t want to face the truth but then don’t realise how suppressing and repressing their feelings is manifesting itself in their behaviour, or not recognising how denying something that you both went through feels like a betrayal. If you keep trying to get them to stop denying it, they’ll dig their heels in and you will feel invalidated and round and round you’ll both go. Another major source of tension is when the TFM has done something to you and flat-out denies it.

Disordered – The TFM has a personality disorder or certainly behaves in a manner inclined in that direction which can be pretty devastating. Narcissistically inclined does a lot of damage for instance. You will keep clashing if you keep trying to appeal to them as if you’re coming from the same level of awareness or have the same empathy reserves and abilities.

Disrespect – The TFM has a lack of respect and courtesy for you although might expect you to extend what they don’t. Can be extra annoying when it seems as if they do it for others but not for you or they don’t see disrespect as disrespect.

Dogmatic – The TFM is harsh and inflexible with a my way or the high way attitude. They have a, Different is wrong attitude so you having a different set of values will be a very sore point. Also likely to treat you like a child even if you’re well past that.

Drainers – Somebody who is primarily emotional and mentally draining. It can be because they’re really negative so they suck the energy out of you or because they pile all of their issues on to you to ‘detox’ or see you as being responsible for making them feel better. Note though that how you respond to certainly family members, so feeling obliged, trying to please, guilt etc, will drain you.

Dumping & Charging Up – This is a Drainer activity. Tapping you up for ‘support’ or even help that they don’t take and after offloading, they feel rebooted and ready to go and repeat exactly what they were complaining about.

Embarrassing family – It’s not wearing white socks with black shoes (although that might cause you to roll your eyes); a TFM who causes you embarrassment deliberately, even if they deny it, does not handle good feelings well, even yours. All attention is treated equally so even if it’s negative, at least the focus is now on them. They’re a nightmare to invite anywhere because they cause ructions and get into squabbles with family, friends, the waiter,  the handyman, crew on a flight – anyone. They have incredibly poor boundaries, a lack of filter, and a lack of empathy for the people they affect. Behind some of their behaviour can be a disorder (being a narcissist or narcissistically inclined) or mental health issues which you (or they) may not be aware of but it seems that yours and even their happy moments or certain types of situation are triggers for acting out, in public. They can appear to want access to what’s yours to test out your loyalty and love and then they ruin it for the both of you. If it’s your parent, you no doubt have a long list of memories that while some you might be able to look back and find the humour in them, you have become understandably distrusting [of them]. Even though they apologise, the pattern is repeated causing you underlying anxiety that you may not be aware of. If you’ve stopped inviting them (or limited the invites), they will forget the many times they’ve been included and behaved very badly and remember the few times you rightfully drew your line. If you keep ignoring their behaviour and hoping that they will behave, it causes you a great deal of pain. You will also feel conflicted if you feel obliged to invite them or are scared of repercussions.

Empathy issues – A person who cannot empathise or who has limited ability to empathise is going to be a tricky person, family or not. Empathy is about the ability to recognise where another person’s coming from. The more you try to extract empathy from an empty or near empty well, is the more you will bankrupt you of your self-esteem.  Not all people with empathy issues are disordered but they are certainly very self-involved and unhappy underneath. Empathy issues can also arise when a family member thinks that you haven’t been empathetic even when you have or have certainly tried. They then show their annoyance with you (possibly passive aggressively) or you get accused of something, but part of this issue stems from them having a predetermined idea of what they think you should have said and done. And yes, sometimes it might be that you were not empathetic. It might have been unintentional or it might have that you due to underlying tensions, you just didn’t have the energy for it. Empathy tensions can be especially frustrating though if the person who accuses you of not having empathy is the person who doesn’t have any.

Emotional blackmail – The covert or overt threat of a TFM punishing us if we don’t do what they want.

Emotional abuse – The TFM uses a combination of weaponry such as criticism, verbal abuse, gas lighting, neglect, covert and overt intimidation to control a person by causing humiliation, shame and fear. If it’s not physical abuse but you are being treated with cruelty and violence, it’s emotional abuse. Abuse does not need to leave bruises on the skin.

Entitlement – Closely linked with expectations (see below), it’s a sense of having a right to something and in every TFM situation that rumbles on as well as in any other type of relationship where you keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result, entitlement on some level, plays its part in the issue. In short, we decide that we want something or that something ‘should’ be a certain way, we work out what we feel are the conditions for it, it doesn’t happen, we feel aggrieved because based on what we decided, we have been and done what was needed. We either chase for that debt and/or eventually blame us for why what we wanted did not happen. A TFM will wind you up if they believe that they deserve certain privileges, even when these encroach on your well-being.

Envy – Seeing you as being similar and feeling bad about you having or doing what they want. They might feel as if it’s unfair, that they’ve done more than you or the same. Likely seeping out through passive aggression. Not acknowledging the differences and where they need to step up. Likely to blame you for their feelings.

Excessive attention seeking – We’ve all done something that on reflection was attention seeking driven but the person who does it a lot, especially when you’re on the receiving end, is going to get your back up as it can feel manipulative and embarassing. It’s a crying wolf issue that as a result of damaging credibility, you won’t know what’s real so they might decide to be annoyed with you for the occasion when it was legit and you didn’t react.

Excluded from invites – Conveniently forgetting to include you on the invite to a gathering that you feel you should have been included on or typically have been in the past. Exclusion from something can often be the first painful clue that a family member is pissed off with you about something that they haven’t expressed directly with you. Extra annoying when they claim that they don’t know why you think that they have a problem with you. This tension can also stem from a family member thinking that you should have invited them to something or even another family member thinking that you should have invited the person you didn’t invite, even if they didn’t want to come or are not remotely bothered.

Expectations – These represent our strongly held beliefs that something can, will and should happen. Unmet expectations – the gap between these and reality is disappointment – whether they were verbalised or not, acknowledged or not, realistic or not, are connected to every single TFM situation. Particularly in families, it is us in effect doing the same thing and expecting different results that can keep us in a TFM situation long past its sell-by-date. Unmet expectations from family also get transferred to other relationships which can lead to all sorts of issues. Tensions will also arise when a TFM’s expectations of you are unfair and unrealistic.

Family politics – Basically, lots of agendas, some competing, along with too much focus on power and status which can result in a lot of tedious discussions, brown-nosing, he said/she said, talking behind backs, telling people what they want to hear (and then reneging) sitting on the fence, ‘sides’, triangulation, favourites, pussyfooting and the list goes on. A TFM who seems very political can cause you to feel uneasy around plus they tend to make drama, often thinking that this one is against them and yada yada.

Favouritism (real and imagined) – One sibling favoured over another – this can be due to direct statements as well as observations about inequalities. Gender favouritism particularly in previous generations is rife.  One set of rules for one child, a different set for the other. What compounds this tension is when the favouritism is bloody obvious yet they deny it! Projecting inferiority – very common for the one who thinks that they were inferior to be thought of as superior by the supposed favourite. It’s also visiting one family member but not you, even though you’re down the road.

Feeling taken advantage of – If it feels as if you’re being used, you are. If it feels as if you’re being treated like a soft touch that’s likely to be the one who always says yes even when you don’t want to, or you feel as if you’ve been deceived in order for the TFM to have an advantage over you, resentment is going to build. The TFM is very much in the wrong but what feeling taken advantage of always reveals is boundary issues stemming from trying to please at too much of an expense to you.

Flying monkeys – Everyone who has family members who do the bidding normally of one particular (normally controlling, narcissistic, tyrannical etc) has different names for the sibling(s) or other family members who do the main TFM’s dirty work (I used to wisecrack that mine were like the nanny and dog from The Omen), often digging for information, telling you off (even though it’s actually none of their business) and even siding up with them, not because they even know what the hell is going on but they’re looking for validation (and also are afraid of not towing the line). You may love this family member but feel unable to trust them due to fears that you’re being manipulated via the main TFM.

Ganging up – Can be inferred when it seems as if the family or a section of the family are uniting as a group against you to take sides. Not unusual for it to be denied but as I always say to kids and adults, it is very intimidating and upsetting when a group of people all seem to be verbally piling in on you. May feel abandoned and be angry with other members for not sticking up for you.

Guard dogging – The TFM is super defensive and no one can say anything or cause even the tiniest issue with a specific family member without them rolling in all guns blazing.

Gossiping – Likely to be talking about someone behind their back. It might involve disclosure of sensitive material, bitchiness, judgment, or talking about stuff that isn’t even confirmed as true. This is hard enough to go through at school or with our peers but can feel even worse when family do it. Can also be about elder family members tutting about you behind your back or comparing you to, for instance, their own child.

Guilt and guilting – Whether it’s you feeling as if you’ve committed a wrongdoing or it’s them, feeling guilty about something whether it’s real or imagined can be a very big source of tension. It affects our mentality, attitude and behaviour so we may not be entirely aware of how we’re coming across plus it can start to feel oppressive when someone keeps acting guilty or saying how guilty they are because we can end up feeling responsible for their feelings even if they’re in the wrong. There’s also the not so small matter of people who try to guilt and obligate you into doing what they want – yep, another form of emotional blackmail.

Journal PromptJOURNALING: Are any of these issues familiar to you in your TFM situation? See if you can summarise the specifics of what the particular issue is. Is there anything here (e.g. abandonment) that you think represents baggage that they’re bringing into the situation that’s affecting their behaviour and how they’re feeling and perceiving things? Explore your thoughts and feelings on this – use Unsent Letters and other resources if it feels as if there’s a lot coming up. Is there anything in this list that you hadn’t recognised it in your TFM situation until you read about it? What were you telling you before this? How does it feel to recognise something for what it is?