So I eagerly bought and read Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man by Mary L. Trump. Of the ever-expanding library of books on her uncle Donald written by burn victims and spurned former enablers inevitably left in his wake, Mary’s perspective as both member of his family and clinical psychologist piqued my interest. That Donald’s younger brother, Robert, was tasked to run point on behalf of their family to quash publication of the book only served to further whet my curiosity. And not just mine. The book sold more copies in the first week than Donald’s ghost-written Art of the Deal has in all the years since it was first published. Oh, and then Robert died — probably from complications caused by COVID-19 that his brother, the President of the United States, has barely acknowledged, completely failed to contain and has arguably made worse, given that any other cause of death short of overdose, suicide or embarrassing accident would not carry the shame with it necessary for a superficial family like the Trumps to cover up and deny in order to keep up appearances.
Though the book chronicles the creation of Donald and ultimately culminates in the emergence of the ruined creature we’ve all come to witness loosed upon our world, it’s more an insight into the monster makers themselves, the systemic forces that shaped him and the role Mary’s father, Fred “Freddy” Trump Jr., played in particular as a kind of catalyst. I’d wondered about Freddy ever since first hearing him mentioned by a piece PBS Frontline did on each of the 2016 presidential front runners; the eldest of Donald’s siblings scapegoated and ultimately driven to self-destruction — it resonated with me.
Over the past few months now Mother’s continued to send scrappy packets of childhood memorabilia and rediscovered photographs hewn from old family albums. And each time I respond with a simple “thank you” token of appreciation for the gifted materials. But sometimes I’m tempted to write a longer letter.
This is a photograph of me, “you’re so selfish” Sister, “you’re too sensitive” Brother and Mother’s adopted daughter obediently smiling for posterity. It’s one of a cache of similar nostalgia Mother stuffed into a Happy Birthday card that she appears to have begun mailing directly with a stamp and return address sticker before tearing off the return address, marking a black “X” over the tear where it was and, I assume, instead sent it through Father who dutifully left it on my doorstep to find. Pretty standard procedure as these things go.
This video resonated with me in many respects: the mother who remains a victim of her own childhood, who emasculates her son’s father in front of him, who hates her son’s girlfriends, her son’s fear of abandonment fostering dependency, his confusion, anger, etc. and how to take responsibility and begin healing in a way the mother never did.
The first strategy Sam mentions is the child isolating themselves from the narcissistic parent, reaching away for and adopting other, more suitable parental figures. This has become my strategy by consequence as much as by choice.
I’ve always said that my siblings and I essentially raised ourselves, Mother being more like an absent roommate than a parent and us, mere meal tickets used to wine and dine her boyfriends on the child support garnished from our father she unceremoniously discarded. Brother went to school wearing shorts and rubber boots, whatever he could find. I, myself, duct taped my shoes and tried to modify old clothes. Sister was excellent at scrounging for edible things not deemed off limits to create inventive food items from. All while we were berated as ungrateful, spoiled brats that didn’t do enough for Mother if we were paid any attention to.
One of the final exchanges Mother and I had from several years ago, illustrating a narcissistic response to boundary-setting and probably drawing to a close this series of blood-letting.
At this point in my recovery, the anger that fueled my interest in understanding narcissism in order to heal from and move beyond the destructive role it’s played in my life seems to have been more or less exhausted. Oddly enough, EMDR therapy seems to have helped diminish the bad feelings and ruminations or maybe that happened to be coincidence. Perhaps the shared experience of Donald J. Trump exemplifying to a staggering degree textbook traits of a severely malignant narcissist as he stumbles about on the world stage to everyone’s horror has led to demystification of the disorder through sheer burnout. In any case, the dull ache of loss and emptiness I once felt has become a quiet space.
As such, this entry has been collecting dust with my waning motivation to develop it but I feel that it’s important to complete this dysfunctional family portrait in their own words if only to see it all laid bare, ending properly with the source from whence this transgenerational madness flows and revolves around.
When I was first introduced to Mother’s boy-husband, Motherfucker, in my early teens, he was a chill dude. Pulled up in a Volkswagon van, followed The Grateful Dead. Earlier same day her and a co-worker of theirs – I think his name was Bernie or something, had a lazy eye – were tonguing their goodbyes as she had apparently settled on this one of many suitors. That’s how chill Motherfucker was. And, when he was stoned, he returned to that chill, half-decent state of human-beingness. It was almost nice.
But as the years with Mother progressed, he became an increasingly neurotic, insecure, extremely passive-aggressive rageaholic. Even when Mother visited with female friends, this guy would take a day off work to monitor her behavior. Her friends hated him. My friends hated him. In the mornings, he would just silently glare at me with this angry eye I could see through the crack between my partly opened bedroom door and the frame, clenching his jaw. Weird. My siblings and I would make ourselves scarce when he arrived home from work because we didn’t know what kind of mood he would be in but a bad mood was a safe bet. He didn’t like us and moved out once because he couldn’t stand us.
For those of us estranged from our families during the family fetishized holidays shoring up the end of the year, the pressure to forgive and forget can be especially pronounced. Society at large tells us that – to borrow a turn of phrase from the poet, Alexander Pope – to err is human; to forgive, divine. And that the victim is the perpetrator, the betrayer, the pariah should forgiveness be withheld — to be pitied, subjected to public scorn and, ironically, unforgiven for being unwilling to forgive. Rather than emphasis on understanding and compassion, this is institutionalized blaming of the victim that I think most of us were raised to believe, wrongly.
Like many (if not everyone) recovering from narcissistic abuse, I deal with my share of flying monkeys: enablers manipulated into serving the narcissist as their minions who seek to restore the status quo. And I find few things more validating than reading, hearing or seeing the recordings from other survivors of exchanges with the narcissistic abusers and flying monkeys that they’re dealing with. So this Flying Monkey Autopsy segment is for sharing and deconstructing my own contributions with a dash of reflective analysis for good measure.
The first flying monkey cooling on the slab is from my final email exchange with Sister.
Re: So Much For An Easy Morning
So Much For An Easy Morning
This is the email subject under which Sister begins her message to me.
Translation: You’ve inconvenienced me.
Hey bro, So I was wondering why I hadn’t seen any of your posts lately; guess you decided to unfriend me. You’re such an idiot sometimes.
I had removed Sister and several dozen others from my list of so-called Facebook friends that I felt I didn’t have meaningful relationships with or were professional contacts that I felt didn’t belong connected to a personal account of mine.
Translation: I don’t give you permission to leave me.
Never mind what precipitated my decision to unfriend her. She’s telling me from the get go that my reasons aren’t important to her. Only the results.