Adult Children

It’s always uncomfortable to see someone go off the deep end. If the person is a neighbor or someone in a psychiatric facility, there is always someone to call, their doctor or a local emergency service. But what if someone is having a meltdown on an online forum? An anonymous person in a foreign land? An anonymous person who wants to make vitriolic personal attacks on YOU?!??

First of all, if you’re thinking this might be about a particular person or situation, this is Thanksgiving week, and holidays are well known as stressful times, times when there are an unusual number of suicides, so it could be about anyone. Too many times, a family history of alcoholism is behind all of it.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family where alcohol was not used. But I have known people who did grow up in alcoholic homes and have seen the agony it caused in their lives. Friendship with these people was not easy. At times they turned on me, accusing me of alcoholism or whatever issue was uppermost in their minds. At other times they turned on themselves, attempting suicide. But they could also be outgoing and entertaining. At first I was curious about them, how they got that way and what they could do about it. Now I avoid them like the plague. I am an intensely private person; I like long silences and avoid the limelight, while they seem to need constant excitement, reassurance, and contact with people. They are heartbreaking and they soak up your energy without giving you anything in return.

But as someone who worked in social services and mental health for waaay too many years, even while someone is engaging in a vicious personal attack on me, I can’t help but sense their pain and turmoil, and try to throw them a lifeline before running like hell in the opposite direction.

So what do I recommend for someone whose life is out of control?

Not pop psychology, “the study of the obvious by the incompetent”, with its glib assertions, and often destructive sex role stereotypes, not to mention a thinly veiled contempt for the people it describes, while the author rakes in millions from their shattered lives. People in pain will grasp onto anything, whether true or not, whether it helps them or not.

There is Adult Children of Alcoholics, very helpful for some:

We lived life from the standpoint of victims. Having an over developed sense of responsibility, we preferred to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. We got guilt feelings when we trusted ourselves, giving in to others. We became reactors rather than actors, letting others take the initiative.

We were dependent personalities, terrified of abandonment, willing to do almost anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to be abandoned emotionally. We keep choosing insecure relationships because they matched our childhood relationship with alcoholic or dysfunctional parents….

Even more self-defeating, we became addicted to excitement in all our affairs, preferring constant upset to workable solutions….

Their solution seems to be something called “reparenting” which I’m not thrilled about–it seems like psychobabble to me–but maybe it’s the glue that holds together the real value, a support group for those who need people around them constantly and have exhausted the emotional resources of their friends and families.

Then there are the more educated group of writers, often adult children of alcoholics themselves, who do have credentials, but have made a study of the subject out of personal interest, and not to make millions by poking fun at someone else’s pain.

The best one I have seen is: Children of Alcoholism: A Survivor’s Manual by Seixas and Youcha.

Then there is the immensely popular Codependent No More by Melodie Beatty, preview in google books.

Another, a little simpler, is Adult children of Alcoholics by Janet Woititz, which has the advantage of having some information online:

The 13 Characteristics of Adult Children

1. Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal behavior is.
2. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.
3. Adult children of alcoholics lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
4. Adult children of alcoholics judge themselves without mercy.

and so on.
Reading a few reviews on the Amazon link will give more recommendations.

Finally, there is a more useful set of paradigms.

Wegscheider (1981) developed the family role identification theory that has become the primary paradigm for researchers and clinicians addressing alcoholism and ACOA issues. She labeled her four family roles the Hero, the Scapegoat, the Lost Child, and the Mascot. The child fulfilling the Hero role within an alcoholic family appears competent, serious, and overachieving to others, but often feels inadequate and guilty. This child usually assumes responsibilities greater than those of same age peers, and tends to engage in a wide variety of care-taking behaviors. Heroes receive self-validation through the feedback of others. This child serves the purpose of bringing esteem to the family system through his or her accomplishments. Heroes are generally well organized, and tend to assume control or responsibility for situations and others. This child often becomes a pseudo-parent/spouse (Goglia et al., 1992) as s/he grows up.

The family Scapegoat is the child who typically presents with oppositional or defiant behaviors and attitudes. The significance of this child to the family is the opportunity to focus the blame for problems on a source other than the alcoholic. As the family’s “bad seed,” s/he is frequently blamed for the negative atmosphere in the home. Consequently, s/he often develops a preference for non-family activities and is typically the first child to adopt peer group values. This tends to happen at an earlier age than for most children and often leads to involvement in anti-social or destructive behaviors.

The Lost Child’s behavior reveals a withdrawn child prone to solitary pursuits away from the activities of other family members. These children do not generally develop adequate social skills, and tend to compensate through the formation of a vital and active fantasy life. The Mascot is an individual who relies upon humor when facing uncomfortable feelings, thoughts, or situations. The function of the Mascot is to bring relief to the family that is experiencing adverse consequences related to parental drinking, and the behaviors of the Scapegoat. The Mascot becomes keenly aware of his/her influence upon others, and develops beliefs that the best way to survive is to give people what they want or need–at the expense of developing an awareness of what the Mascot feels, wants, or needs.

The process of adopting one of these roles is initiated in an effort to satisfy the survival needs of each family member (Huberty & Huberty, 1986; Ruben, 1992) as well as the family system. The roles adopted by children in alcoholic families tend to emerge initially as effective behavioral responses to persistent feelings of fear, anger, shame, insecurity, confusion, guilt, resentment, loneliness, powerlessness, or rejection (Murphy, 1984). These responses are engendered through the presence of an alcoholic parent, and the child’s effort to manage what is typically a progressively worsening family situation.

Difficulties emerge for children from alcoholic families because of the rigidity with which they adhere to their role. They engage in the behaviors consistent with their family role both inside and outside the home (Perkins, 1989), and tend to perpetuate their role into adulthood (Harris & MacQuiddy, 1991). The lack of flexibility in response to the specific and changing demands of their environment increases the likelihood their behavioral responses and decision-making will be relatively ineffective.

Something should also be said about boundaries here, but I’m not sure of a particular author to recommend. One common side effect of the alcoholic family is that the children somehow don’t differentiate between their emotions and the alcoholic parent’s emotions.  They may feel embarrassed for their parent’s actions while missing the point that they have no control over those actions.  The parent may confuse them further by claiming the child or the spouse is responsible for the parent’s drinking.  I’m not sure what else to say about this except to perk up your ears when someone makes the bizarre claim that they have no autonomy over their own actions and that someone has forced them to do something.  Is someone holding a gun to their head?

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Now, there are some things that cannot be said on some blogs, but this is my blog and I can say them here.

1. Sexual abuse of children is wrong. It is called pedophilia. It is illegal. It is hurtful. Yes, it has been practiced in various cultures historically. So has slavery and torture. I would like to think we as a culture have made progress in protecting the weak from abusers. I will not be using the phrase “child brides” to whitewash pedophilia so that destructive people  don’t have to feel socially awkward. I will be using the word “pedophilia”.

2. Genocide is genocide.

3. “The Taming of the Shrew” is not a model for healthy gender roles. A person who believes women should be silent, obedient, and subjected to brutal treatment is deeply disturbed.

4. Dressing up like a woman in order to act uneducated and stupid perpetuates ugly and damaging stereotypes of women and is deeply offensive. What would we think of someone who dressed in blackface and pretended to be an obnoxious black person in order to discredit blacks?

Is a person on a forum who takes issue with pedophilia, genocide, brutality against women, and offensive gender stereotypes merely being provocative? Or is the person who uses a forum to promote these practices being provocative?

More to the point, for those who have a blog, what kind of world do you want for your children, your grandchildren, and yourself? Because the comments you allow or disallow, for or against hate, shape the world we all must live in.

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A FISA scenario–doing it for the LULZ

By now, everyone knows that Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s email got hacked. And why?  Some anonymous comments on various blogs said they “did it for the lulz“. That is, for amusement.

And now the McCain campaign has issued a statement:

This is a shocking invasion of the Governor’s privacy and a violation of law. The matter has been turned over to the appropriate authorities and we hope that anyone in possession of these emails will destroy them.

Well, that’s a switch.  Palin has prided herself on transparent government.  Now she MINDS if someone reads her Email?  If she doesn’t have anything to hide, why does she care?

But I agree. It’s a violation of privacy and it’s Not A Good Thing. Sarah Palin’s email should be private unless someone can show a good reason to read it and produce a search warrant.

The same should be true for EVERY citizen of the United States.  But it isn’t.

The FISA Amendments act of 2008 allows the U.S. government to hack your computer and your email–also your house, your car, your office–without a warrant.

Here’s how it works:

  • Within 7 days of the hack, they are supposed to apply for a certificate that says they will tell a FISA court they are hacking you.  They don’t have to say who or where they are hacking. They don’t have to give a reason.  They can be doing it just for the LULZ. They are allowed to change around the date on the certificate.
  • Then the FISA court has 30 days to determine whether it’s approved. FISA courts approve 99.9% of the certificates.  Surprise, surprise, surprise.
  • In the remote chance that the FISA court does not approve it, the government can appeal.  Then the government can continue to hack your email for another 60 days until the FISA court makes a decision. So that means the government can hack your computer and your email without a warrant (they are waiting for a “certificate” to do it–remember?) for 97 days, right?

Nope. Because of this loophole:

  • Time limits for court decisions can be extended if it’s in the interest of security.

And if the court tells them they can’t hack your email, then what? Like in McCain’s press statement about the hacking of Palin’s email,  “anyone in possession of these emails will destroy them”? No, I’m afraid not.  The government can keep all the information it obtained illegally.

But what about the 4th amendment, you may ask. Doesn’t the bill of rights make it illegal for telecommunications companies to participate in that?  How does the government get away with that, you may ask.  Easy.  AT&T. Verizon, and Sprint just spent $53.6 million on lobbying and campaign contirbutons.

A politicians email got hacked and everyone is making indignant statements. But can you imagine an ordinary American’s email getting hacked by the government and a politician coming out with a statement like this?:

“This is a shocking invasion of  Americans’ privacy and a violation of the constitution. The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 has been turned over to the Congress of the United States for repeal and we hope that any government agency in possession of these citizens’ emails will destroy them.”

Here’s what will probably happen instead.  They will find one individual to take the rap for the Palin incident.  As long as that person has an extra $53.6 million laying around to lobby the government and contribute to politician’s campaigns, they’re not going to have any problems. But I hope that whatever they do to that individual, they also do to the government, the FISA courts, and the telecommunications industry. Vigilante actions by governments are just as bad as vigilante actions by individuals, maybe worse.

The year before I entered a university, they had a rule about privacy.  If a female student had a male visitor, the door had to be open.   One night some students went over to the college president’s little on-campus mansion and removed the front door.  Took it right off. The guy woke up in the morning and his residence was wide open.  “We wanted to make a point about how it felt not to have privacy”, said one of the students. The point was taken and the rule revoked.

Let’s hope that Sarah Palin–and all Americans–get their computer security back soon.

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If you could find the Free Speech Zone, what would you say?

The Free speech zone at the 2008 Denver convention was a lot harder to get to than I thought. As I was crossing a street, a guy in plain clothes with a coiled wire stuck in his ear asked me where I was going. Did I look lost? As a matter of fact, I had just heard about something called “tent city” where there was a lot of free speech going on.

I found out later there was a huge event going near Confluence Park, but this guy directed me the other direction, up a dead end sidewalk. Three wheeled bicycle taxis, the kind they have in New Delhi, were carrying passengers with plastic identification credential cards hung around their necks. Everyone else was walking.

After twenty minutes or so, I arrived at a very controlled entrance. Only the people with the credentials were getting past that point.

A conversation with another security person directed me further along the sidewalk. Turn at Seventh street and go to Auraria, he said.

After another twenty minutes or so of walking, I found myself alone in the middle of nowhere, and there it was. The cage.

Only a 360 degree view made possible by the miracle of YouTube can do it justice:

I checked the speaker’s schedule, and by some streak of luck, it was my turn to speak. (Yes, it’s full size in case you want to download it and zoom in to read…. J. Stalin’s topic: “This is awesome”; A. Hitler’s topic: “I agree completely.” )

My words of wisdom, spoken across the empty, unbroken expanses of concrete? “El corazon tiene razones que no tienen razon.”

The silence was deafening.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Free Speech Zone cage thingy at the Denver convention

Following a rumor about a free speech cage at a place called “tent city” I went looking for some interesting anarchists or something equally colorful I could listen to so my Denver Convention experience would be complete. I didn’t find my anarchists, but after a twenty minute walk that led to a closed-off section of a six lane highway, I did find the official free speech zone–surrounded by a cage.

IN this video you can see a small platform with a microphone inside the cage. In front of the platform is a rather intriguing speakers schedule.

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What a free speech zone looks like in Denver this week

Free Speech.

Does free speech means you can say whatever you want as long as it’s away from anyone who might be disturbed by the content of the message? I don’t think so. The whole idea of free speech is to have your message out where people can hear it.

Here’s where today’s march for Hillary supporters was shunted to.

This is what a marching permit gives you in Denver this week–at least for Hillary supporters. Down an alley and into this bit of sidewalk. A huge parking lot separates the marchers from anyone who might inadvertently catch a glimpse of a Hillary rally sign.

This is what Democracy looks like.

UPDATE: For video of the cages, barbed wire, stun guns, etc. prepared for protesters, here is the link. My favorite, after a 40 minute walk I find the actual “Free speech zone and test the live mic. And here is the YouTube I made of the occasion for posterity.

The FBI wants to interview your neighbors and work-mates

Are your neighbors starting to look at you funny?   Do strangers seek you out and chat you up for no particular reason? When you sit down in the company cafeteria, does everyone suddenly get up and leave?

Maybe you’re not really paranoid. Maybe the FBI has been asking everyone about you because you are the subject of a “preliminary terrorism investigation“. The guidelines for who can be investigated are in the process of being reviewed before they are finalized next week.

…the new policy would let agents open preliminary terrorism investigations after mining public records and intelligence to build a profile of traits that, taken together, were deemed suspicious….(F)actors that could trigger an inquiry would include travel to regions of the world known for terrorist activity and access to weapons or military training, along with the person’s race or ethnicity.

A group of senators has asked for more time for the public to study the rules before they are implemented.  Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island

said the guidelines would let the FBI use “a variety of intrusive investigative techniques” with no evidence of possible wrongdoing. The techniques could include: long-term FBI surveillance, interviewing neighbors and work-mates, recruiting informants and searching commercial databases for information on people “all without any basis for suspicion.”

Senators Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. and  Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, who are members of the Senate Judiciary committee, also asked for the guidelines to be delayed.

Somehow you can just know the Americans being spied on aren’t going to be blue-eyed Rebublican Buddhists.  Good for Senators Leahy, Specter, Durbin, Feingold, Kennedy, and Whitehouse.  Where are the rest the senators?

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Text of FISA constituent letter from Senator Dick Durbin

Text of constituent reply letter on FISA Amendments Act of 2008 from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL):

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July 25, 2008 [Nijma][address] Dear Ms. [Nijma]: Thank you for your message regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue and share your concerns. Protecting both the security and the freedom of the American people is among my highest priorities. We must ensure that the federal government defends the people of the United States from external threats while preserving the civil liberties that have helped make the United States the greatest and most enduring democracy in the world. On July 9, 2008, the Senate passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (H.R. 6304) which I opposed, and the President signed the measure into law the following day. On the positive side, the legislation establishes clearer protections for Americans, including the requirement that all electronic surveillance of U.S. citizens – both inside and outside the United States – be approved by the FISA Court. Information obtained about Americans can only be used for proper intelligence or law enforcement purposes, and the procedures for using information obtained about Americans must be approved annually by the FISA court. However, central to the debate on this legislation was the issue of whether or not telecommunications companies that participated in illegal surveillance should receive retroactive immunity from prosecution. I opposed retroactive immunity for these companies and supported an amendment to the Act that would have prevented them from obtaining immunity retroactively. The amendment was unsuccessful. After the amendment failed, I voted against the final bill, but it passed by a vote of 69-28. While I still oppose immunity for the telecommunications companies, it is my hope that the other provisions of this new legislation will strengthen the protection of American citizens so that electronic surveillance is conducted in a manner consistent with the rule of law and the Constitution’s commitment to civil liberties. Thank you again for contacting me. Please feel free to keep in touch. Sincerely, Richard J. Durbin United States Senator RJD/td P.S. If you are ever visiting Washington, please feel free to join me and other members of the Illinois Congressional delegation at our weekly constituent coffee. When the Senate is in session, we provide coffee and donuts every Thursday at 8:30 a.m. as we hear what is on the minds of Illinoisans and respond to your questions. We would welcome your participation. Please call my D.C. office for more details.

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Comment on letter:

The big talking point here is opposition to telecom immunity–I have pointed out before that the fourth amendment is not very talkable, especially in brief or casual conversations, in spite of the outrage in the blogosphere on the subject, although Durbin does mention rule of law and civil liberties. Echoing Obama’s hints of a quid pro quo, Durbin has hope that “other provisions of this new legislation will strengthen the protection of American citizens” without enumerating what provisions he agrees with.

Obama, who voted against Senator Dodd’s filibuster and for the FISA bill, said the bill “provides an important tool to fight the war on terrorism and provides for an Inspectors General report so that we can finally get to the bottom of the warrantless wiretapping program and how it undermined our civil liberties.”

My prediction is that the report to congress required by this legislation will trigger a new round of public debate on the subject, this time under a new president who might feel less inclined to defend business as usual and a little tired at having to continuously defend it in the face of continuing public pressure.

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