hooks and suckers

A friend is going through her own ACON-ish situation right now, although in her case, her mother probably has borderline personality disorder. The two disorders are very similar, and my friend's family dynamics are startlingly similar to mine. For that reason, she has been talking to me a lot lately, because she knows that I've BTDT (been there, done that) as far as crazy mothers go. Hey, at least there's some benefit to a crazy family - you can support other people with crazy families and all of you can reassure each other that you're not all alone. Yay!

The other day she was talking about a therapist she visits, and shared a visualization that the therapist had described to her. Caution: not for the squeamish.

Imagine looking down at yourself and realizing that your body is covered with hooks and tentacles. These things didn't all latch onto you at once; they were attached to you one at a time, over many, many years. You didn't ask to have these hooks put into your flesh. You didn't put them into yourself.  The suckers clinging to your skin restrain you and prevent you from moving about comfortably.

Picture yourself removing them one at a time. You have to work slowly. Some of the hooks go quite deep and you carefully detach them while trying not to cause more harm. It takes a long time, but you finally pry every last sucker off of yourself, and you throw them all away. 

It's not the most perfect analogy, but I do think there's something to the idea of the things dysfunctional parents do to their children being like barbs that stay embedded in their skin, causing more harm the longer they stay attached. To think of their tentacles holding their children back. We ACONs must work slowly, gently to undo the years of harm.  Some of the hooks and suckers take longer to remove than others. Some come away easily, and some are quite painful to extract. Some have been inflicted more deeply than others - we may carry some like shrapnel, buried within us for the rest of our lives. We may have to heal around them if we can't excise them.

Going no-contact helped me tremendously in getting enough time without new hooks being thrown at me so that I could start to remove the hooks that were already there. I don't know if I'll ever be hook-and-sucker-free, but I do know that I've removed enough of them to move about much more easily. And if I ever have to be around that hook-slinging octopus ever again, I'll remember to wear armor and be ready to duck.

octopus illustration via The Graphics Fairy
fish hooks via Clip Art ETC


  1. I don't know if any of you actually fish as a subsistence activity-as in, it puts food on your table.
    But this post is an excellent analogy. The pdparent will use a 20lb. test with a 5 lb. sinker and a treble hook to catch a ......minnow. They'll be dressed in their LLBean "best" with a very expensive rod and reel and that makes them "experts." They'd rather get caught up in the weeds/mud/blow-down etc., loose their sinker and hook than admit it's overkill. Hell, they'll try to fillet the hapless minnow (that's already sliced and diced, thanks to their "methods") if they get one and cut their "losses" than admit, the "loaves and fishes" just isn't gonna feed anyone.
    But hey, it LOOKS "good." It still doesn't WORK: NOT for the minnow and NOT for dinner. Never mind an appetizer for 1.
    Those hooks are a bitch to remove. (They run to the closest ER and "blame" the hapless minnow.) It bleeds. It hurts. They'd starve but would still be telling you all about what they "caught." It becomes a whale. And a whale of a lie.
    And we're hell bent on reality, not fiction. Take your time removing them. The best way to NOT have to 'deal' is do NOT participate.
    As in NC. Completely. It's painful enough to remove these hooks. They're well set. Many have been there for years. Don't add to them. You'll end up-guaranteed-with something unpalatable and essentially useless. And if you're gonna kill some living entity, you'd best be sure it's for a reason beyond "Because I CAN." Our parents were at the top of the food chain when we were children.
    However, we're all "grown-ups" now.

  2. I don't fish, but I love how you ran with the analogy!

    It's pretty amazing talking to my friend in her time of awakening. For years I've wanted to sit her down and say "you really need to reduce/cut contact with your mom. She's never going to change. This is really harmful to you." But you can't tell somebody to go NC, they have to figure it out for themselves. Right now she's LC to NC and plans on it being a temporary thing, athough she's open to the possibility that it may need to become permanent. It's wild how her process is almost exactly like mine 4-5 years ago. No matter how unique each person is and each dysfunctional parent is, there are some incredible universal truths and similarities across all families headed by a narcissistic or borderline parent.

    Her sharing this analogy with me was helpful because lately I've been hard on myself for some of my own personality flaws and struggles. It's important to remember that removing the barbs takes time and must be done gently.