Bunny Boiling Close Call

If you aren’t yet familiar with it, “Bunny Boiling” is a term referencing a scene in the movie Fatal Attraction.  The movie stars Glenn Close as a person who is supposed to have Borderline Personality Disorder.  (I don’t agree with that assessment, but that’s the consensus.)

There’s a scene in the movie where Close’s character, Alex, in retaliation for a perceived slight from the object of her affection (Michael Douglas), takes his family’s pet rabbit and boils it on the stove.  No, I haven’t watched this scene.  I would freak out or throw up or something, so I leave it to others to write about it.  I learned about the term on the excellent site Out of the Fog, which provides support and resources for people in relationships, whether chosen or unchosen, with people with Personality Disorders.

What it boils down to (sorry, bad pun) is that the disordered person, for whatever reason/non-reason, takes something that is precious to the person they want to hurt, and breaks/destroys/kills it.  It’s not a pretty thing.

And that’s one of the reasons I don’t think “Bunny Boiling” is a feature of Borderline Personality Disorder.  In my experience, Borderlines rarely if ever take out their anguish on other people in planned, complex ways.  Borderlines turn their pain in on themselves, via self-harm that may either be physical such as cutting/overdosing, or in exposing themselves to danger, usually subconsciously.  Some Borderlines have rage attacks and level their explosive anger at people they love, and some hit or throw things.

But they are usually contrite and filled with self-loathing after these spontaneous outbursts, and that’s when self-harm becomes a risk.

Please note: The characterizations of Personality Disorders you will see here are a combination of my own clinical experiences, cross-checked with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V.

Contrast that with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, where the person does not feel disordered at all.  Rather, s/he expects the world to put her on a pedestal and worship her.  If she thinks she is not getting enough adulation, she will attempt to emotionally cow everyone in her inner circle, using an arsenal of weapons such as intimidation, gaslighting, temper tantrums, physical and/or emotional abuse, and disregard of boundaries.  She is not above stealing from her own family, and she is not above….Bunny Boiling.  Outside the family, she is all smiles and sunshine, usually a pillar of the community, craving (and getting) admiration and accolades at work and in the community.  The family is powerless to gain support from the community, because if they try to get help no one believes them, because the disordered person is SUCH an angel, anyone who speaks against her must be the devil incarnate.

I’ve noticed some overlap here with Antisocial Personality Disorder.  Both Narcissists and Antisocials tend to have no remorse for the sometimes heinous deeds they do.  They will willingly steal, and feel that it’s merely what they deserve to have, after all.  They both use others for their own designs. They lack empathy.  Neither type has any problem with destroying things belonging to other people, although they do it for different reasons.

Narcissists will destroy things belonging to loved ones because they feel they are not getting the attention or adulation they deserve; therefore they will steal/break/destroy/kill something of special value to the loved one or family.

Antisocials don’t need a motive.  They do destructive acts because they enjoy it.  I have had some horrific experiences with Antisocials, and have observed them torturing animals and getting sexual pleasure from it.  I’ve had Antisocial children in my pediatrics practice as young as five or six, who purposely set the house on fire or set the family cat on fire, etc.  Therapy did not help.  It’s tragic and terrifying to see this developing over time in a youngster.  I know that some of you who are reading this will be angered by my characterization of Antisocial Personality Disorder, and accuse me of demonizing it, but what I am describing is from my direct experience, so I can’t soft-pedal it.

I have written a lot about my mother and my anguish at trying to escape her abuse, only to get sucked back in.  I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself around this, and I am starting to see the way the roles have played out over my lifetime.  My mother is the Disordered One who has absolutely no remorse about tormenting me, kicking the dog, breaking precious fragile one-of-a-kind handmade objects, and saying shockingly denigrating things about my father in front of selected other people.

I am the scapegoat, the one she takes her anger and frustration out on, and then is furious that I don’t adore her the way she envisioned being adored by her child.  For my part, I desperately seek ways to appease her and make her love me, or at least accept me, or at least stop treating me like a contemptuous piece of shit.

My father is the “Winged Monkey,” a term taken from the Wizard of Oz.  The Wicked Witch of the (East or West, can’t remember) had a band of Winged Monkeys that she sent to retrieve Dorothy and crew when they escaped.  In a Personality Disordered family/relationship, a Winged Monkey is the person who, after the scapegoat has fled, goes to her and explains that Mom really didn’t mean to say what she said, she was tired, she was aggravated about something at work, she had her period.

And the scapegoat, not wanting to believe that Mom is such a mean person, capitulates and returns to the abusive situation, hoping that this time will be different, and resorting time and again to appeasement behaviors to try to make Mom proud, so that THIS time she’ll be as nice to me as she is to everyone else.  And since this is just another cycle-of-abuse situation, there is often a “honeymoon” period where everything is lovely, because Mom really didn’t want me to leave–she just wanted to throw me out.

I’ve tried all kinds of strategies to get away from my mother.  I’ve been in therapy since 1984.  I’ve utilized the Geographic Solution, even moving to the other side of the world to get as far away from her as I could.  Hell, if they offered a one-way trip to Mars I’d jump at the chance.

There I was, on the other side of the planet, enjoying myself immensely, assuaging my guilt for enjoying life by calling Mom on Sundays and Thursdays.  Then the Winged Monkey struck again.

He didn’t mean to do it.  He just got awful sick, and they are awful old, and I couldn’t just let them flounder.  Could I?  So I packed up my stuff and came back to the States after four glorious years abroad, and moved into the barn.  No bathroom, no kitchen, but it’s a roof and it has heat, and I’m damned well not going to live in the house with THEM.

Except now, as of about a month ago, it’s not THEM who live in the “real house,” because my Winged Monkey has moved into the nursing home, and it looks to be for the rest of his life.  It is a tragedy.

Last Tuesday I was visiting him, as I do every day, and I brought along Noga, as I do every day.  She has become the unofficial Therapy Dog at the nursing home.  When we finally get to my dad’s room, after greeting all the residents and staff along the way, she cuddles up to him in his bed,

Noga, the Angel Puppy

Noga, the Angel Puppy

and he buries his hand in her silky fur.  Sometimes he cries.  If nobody stops her, she will lick his ears till he convulses with laughter.  She is his angel.

Last Tuesday Mom was looking distracted and a bit agitated.  She asked me if she could take Noga for a walk in the park that adjoins the nursing home.  I didn’t see any harm in that, and I thought it might be therapeutic for Mom, as it was a beautiful day for a walk.  I handed over Noga’s leash, and turned my attention to Dad, who was having a rough day as well.

Half an hour later, Mom came striding into the room with Noga gunny-sacked under her arm.  Her hair (Noga’s) was a mess and her harness hung around her neck.  I took her–she was shaking and grabbed onto me with her claws, terrified–and I noticed that the part of the harness that was hanging from her neck was a part that normally goes over her leg.  The harness had been completely off, and hastily thrown on–not put back on properly.

“What happened?” I asked Mom, keeping my voice even.

“I don’t know, she got out of her harness,” says Mom, avoiding eye contact.

“Did she get scared and pull back?  Did she see a rabbit or something?”  I was hopeful there would be some rational explanation.

“No, she just got out of her harness,” Mom repeated.

I got a chill in the pit of my stomach.

First it was a group of four little shot glasses my dad had made, that he and I used to use every afternoon.  They disappeared, and I found them behind the refrigerator after much grilling.  Two of them are still whole, but the fridge is huge.  I’ll have to wait for someone to help me, but for now they’re safe.

Next it was a really beautiful porcelain vase that my dad and I collaborated on–he threw the vase, and I painted it.  It disappeared from its place on the shelf, and all the other pieces of pottery have been rearranged to fill the gap.  She “doesn’t know” what happened to that either, and she’s not budging on this one.  I think she sold it.

And now, I can only be grateful that whatever occurred to induce her to bring Noga back to me intact–whether it was a moment of remorse, or fear, or whether Noga simply would not leave her–she brought my Angel Puppy back to me.

Although I don’t fool myself that there will be no more “Bunny Boilings,” I will do my best to keep Noga safe, and not to let my own pattern of appeasement deliver her over to….her.

 

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26 Comments

  1. oh laura, she sounds exactly like my mother (which is why i haven’t spoken to her in 6 yrs). i used to always go back to her after a few months, thinking im being to harsh and she wasn’t that bad and so on. well, when i was 36 i finally decided that the only way to keep me safe was to not have her in my life.

    i know you have to be in her life, because you love your dad, and you want to be there for him and to help him. so im so sorry you must still be the scapegoat. and im even more sorry for how she terrorized you and noga. try to deal with her as little as possible, and with as little emotion–just try to stick to basics–getting info you need, etc. but limit your exposure if you can. i know you know that, but if it helps that i said it, then repeating it was worth it.

    stay healthy, stay strong. ❤

    Reply
    • Kat, it really does help that you said that! It really helps reinforce what I do know already, but the little abused baby part of me really wants her mommy….except there isn’t any mommy, just a mom-ster. I’m glad you’ve been able to successfully go No Contact. Believe me, the first moment I am able to, I am Out Of Here. Where to, I’m not sure, but Not Here. And in the meantime, yes, minimum contact, logistics-based, Dad’s-needs-based. Thanks so much for your support xoxoxoxo

      Reply
  2. I’m glad your angel is okay. You are in a really tough spot.

    Reply
  3. Wow, I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach throughout this. What a close call. I hope Naga recovers. What a very twisted, ill woman she is. I have read some association of bipolar being a result of childhood trauma in susceptible individuals, and you certainly had your fair share of it. How you still can be around her is amazing to me, you are an angel.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Lori. Noga is in her bed chewing a rawhide chip with great gusto, none the worse for wear, thank God. Takes more than a Wicked Witch to keep an Apso down! Me, otherwise. I am SO not an angel–I pray for God to take her away and leave me alone, every day. I try so hard to get away from her, and the injured baby in me keeps dragging me back. I pray for this whole thing to be over in the best way possible, for everyone, even her. I feel sorry for her because she has not felt satisfied with anything even for one moment in her life. Maybe ONE. She is, after all, Scarlett O’Hara.

      Reply
  4. Wow, so glad your baby is ok. That’d be it for me, no more walking my dog.

    Reply
  5. you know..one thing i always think when reading about people like your mother and mine, is that there was a name for them long before they had any type of ‘formal’ diagnosis…and that word was ‘Bitch”.
    your dog is lucky to have survived this incident and i pray you can keep her safe.

    Reply
    • You’re right, but I have to add a modifier to the “female dog” word: FUCKING bitch. I scream that all the time after an encounter with her, and sometimes even in her presence I will chant it under my breath, as if it might give me protection of some kind. I guess it feels empowering or something. Maybe I should be calling down divine protection instead, but it seems that the term “fucking bitch” has become a shield. I worry about it though: I don’t want to “become my enemy,” and one of the things she has always done is to scream obscenities at me. What do you think?

      Reply
  6. Whew.
    Sometimes we can do things for pets or children that we cannot do for ourselves. I went No Contact with my parents 25 years ago. I could not have done it for myself, but for my sons’ sakes, I was able to get the heck outta Dodge, and have never once regretted it.

    I hope that as you look for ways to protect Noga from your mother, those same ways work to protect *you.* She is indeed an Angel Dog.

    Reply
    • Wow. That takes a lot of guts to go NC. I admire your strength! My own son has mostly done it (from my mother) on his own, especially after she abused me right in front of him. They then started despising him and calling him nasty names in my presence because he wouldn’t visit. Once Grandpa is gone, a lot of this will clear up (I hope). I know I’ll have to deal with getting Grandma out of the house and into some suitable living situation where she can beneficently reign. This has been an avoda of epic proportion, and I am holding the Creator accountable!

      Reply
  7. Glad Nola is safe!!

    Reply
  8. teddymear

     /  March 2, 2014

    Noga is an absolute beautiful Lhasa Apso. The first fur baby we got for our daughter was a Lhasa and she was the exact same color as Noga. They are such precious babies. Please, do yourself and Noga a favor and cut as much ties off from your “mother” as you can. You deserve so much more in this life Laura. I know you still yearn for her love but she is so messed up that she only thinks of herself and her own sick motives. She is not going to change and I know that you know that. I would also move off her property. She knows your comings and goings and she enjoys that. The less the two of you see of each other the better. Blessings to you, Noga and Dad for a beautiful day. Hugs~Mear 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks, Mear. Apsos are the best, aren’t they? I used to have German Shepherds and I miss them, but Miss Noga is much more portable 😉 and takes up less room in my bed!

      I actually own this part of the property, but I do have to change the locks ASAP because last time I went on vacation a whole lot of things disappeared, and I have another out-of-the-country trip coming up.

      Yeah, I’m minimizing contact, being politely distant, and doing the minimum as far as having anything to do with her. Yet I have to be careful since she is vindictive and would not hesitate to do me any sort of evil. Yech. Can’t wait for this to be over.

      Reply
  9. I am so relieved Noga came home safe and I am so terribly sorry for the situation you are in. Your mother, unfortunately, will never change and for this I am also sorry. I can only offer my prayers for you and you Dad, and Noga that all will be well for as long as you have this situation.
    Blessings
    Susan x

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Susan. Prayers are very much needed and appreciated. Yes, Mom has not changed since before I was born, and I have no expectations that at age 87 she would “see the light.” She’s the same nasty little girl she was when she was a nasty little girl, and I’m sitting as far away from her as I can get. Who knows what’s in her tiny mind…I just have to do whatever I can to keep from getting bitten.

      Reply
  10. This just makes me want to cry. I am so sorry that your dog and you suffered this.

    Reply
  11. Laura, this was the most disturbing blog that I have read today. What makes children of 5 purposefully set fire to house and the dog? It freaked me and imagine you have met such kids and dealt with them! The more I read such things the more I realize that how important is love and acceptance to the children. Somehow I have developed a belief system that all mental disorders have a root in childhood, I do not know how much I am right?

    The best part is that Noga is back. Her face looks so angelic that it will take a real devil to hurt her. Take care of you and her.

    Reply
    • ashualec, I am sad to report that there are such children, and they seem to be born that way. I have literally witnessed them pulling wings off of butterflies when they were only crawling babies. Their parents come in crying, wondering what they did to make their child that way. This is in contrast to abusive parents, who generally place the blame for, oh, anything at all on their child, who might appear fearful and stammer words they were taught to say. Others are defiant, knowing they are going to “get it” when they get home or even when they get back to the car, but they have a strong sense of self and refuse to be squashed. Then there are the ones like me who stare at the floor and refuse to say anything, because I have a tender, sensitive soul and cannot stand the abuse that is sure to come if I say anything, and even if I do say anything she will tell the doctor that I have an “overactive imagination.” LOL now I am a big girl I go to the doctor by myself 😉

      Noga has forgotten her scare, or so it seems. She is right back to being her normal angel self!

      Reply
  12. There are children of five who will set fire to a parent’s bed because
    that parent is sexually abusing them.

    There are children who will set fires in an attempt to draw attention
    to their families and to the abuse.

    I have been in a very painful stage of my therapy.

    My Mother was extremely abusive and I also did everything I
    could to escape her.

    Sadly, she is with me always because children internalize the
    external world as a strategy for making sense of it.

    If a child of 3/12 is frightened enough to create alternate self representations
    as a strategy for protecting itself the actual self is frozen in time and many
    of the alternate selves are frozen in moments of time.

    I have had the good fortune to have a psychotherapist who is
    covered by my insurance. The fact that this is rare is a crime.

    I was diagnosed by my Kaiser psychiatrist with Dissociative
    Identity Disorder and it does not respond to medication.

    It affects the part of the brain that makes us human and that wires
    adaptive changes based on the “self” as it interacts with a changing
    body and environment.

    This is the part of the brain that we are talking about when we talk about
    personality.

    It is this part of the brain that behavioral psychiatry ignores.

    We are not a set of behaviors. We are a point of view.

    At this juncture in my treatment I have begun to remember
    portions of my childhood that predate the abuse and I now
    understand that something happened to my Mother when
    she became pregnant with my Sister.

    The thing that changed her only got worse after
    my sister was born.

    The day of the first split, the day that the real abuse
    began, is a day that I can now remember and place in
    context.

    After all of these years I can forgive her because now
    I understand.

    The woman who gazed down at her three year old and
    praised him for coloring so well was not the same
    woman who held a hot iron to his arm when he was
    four.

    She was not a narcissist.

    She had been suffering from a post-partum psychosis
    that went untreated and ultimately destroyed the lives
    and the potential of everyone in our family.

    For me, what is crucial is the knowing…because
    by knowing I can understand, and even though
    my pain and grief are terrible right now I may
    be able to finally get past this and salvage
    the time that I have left to enjoy the gift
    of being alive.

    Thank you so much for boldness of this Blog.

    We live in an irrational world that confuses
    wealth with virtue and functions on
    a mythology that places the majority
    of us under accusation of being unworthy
    and therefore deserving of less of the
    resources that we need in order to
    understand and to thrive in a complex
    global civilization.

    The political question of the day is the
    question of whether the people will
    put an end to the pathological
    narcissism of the ruling class.

    No child would choose a Mother who
    starves and beats him, just as no child
    would choose to go hungry in a shelter
    for what we call the homeless.

    These children are damaged through no
    fault of their own.

    We cannot thrive in a culture that will not
    meet its own standards for justice.

    Becoming sane means knowing that I do
    not deserve to suffer and that I no longer
    have to accept needless suffering as
    inevitable.

    It means knowing that I am a human being
    and part of the divine.

    It also means knowing that my mother was
    too.

    That you for letting me reply…

    Rob Goldstein

    Reply
    • Wow. When I hear stories like yours, Rob, I wonder what I have to complain about. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I wish you great success in your recovery. All the best to you,
      Laura

      Reply
  1. In reply | Art by Rob Goldstein

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