#129 Son trashes mom, upsets others, during eulogy / Did I empower a mother to inflict abuse on her son?
DEAR ABBY: Someone gave a very inappropriate eulogy for someone my family cares about dearly. Is it worth it to say something to him? “Alton” lost his mother, a really good person who was loved by many, and he attacked her during his eulogy. Alton shared quite a few details about his mother’s life that no one needed to know. But the bottom line is, she was a good person who made some mistakes toward the end of her life.
Alton is arrogant and mean and has a long history of verbally attacking family members. People are still talking about the eulogy. There were individuals at the service who called him names, and a few walked out in tears. Word spread to people in other states within minutes after the service ended.
ls it worth pointing out to an arrogant jerk that his eulogy was appalling and has caused a lot of anger? Should one of us step forward and say something to him, or just chalk it up to “once a jerk, always a jerk”? - COULDN’T BELIEVE MY EARS IN ARIZONA
DEAR COULDN’T BELIEVE YOUR EARS:
I vote no, because I seriously doubt that anything you could say would shame an arrogant, mean jerk into admitting he made a mistake by speaking disrespectfully of his mother at her funeral. A better way to handle it would be for those who were offended to avoid him. A deafening silence may convey the message more loudly than words. —Abby
Hi Couldn’t . . .: So much to address. You ask, “Is it worth it to say something to him?” One might also ask, “Is it worth saying something to you? Are you willing to give up blaming and badmouthing so as to recreate (get) his point of view and acknowledge your cause in the matter?”
What you’ve described reveals that those you relate with do not communicate openly, honestly and spontaneously. Depending upon how powerful you're willing to be, it could be said that you've used your leadership-communication skills to attract and train a den of withholders which has resulted in thousands of breakdowns in communication. To support even one member of a group (in this case Alton) in holding onto anger is a set up. In this case, you unconsciously have set him up to restore your integrity. None (yes, not one single person in attendance) have been a safe space for Alton to share what’s been on his mind, apparently for decades. Once an upset is communicated and gotten it’s disappeared. No one had the skills to get his anger therefore; he had no choice but to dramatize it, in his mind during the only venue available. That many were shocked and upset reveals how few really knew her. It’s obvious that most everyone has been in denial about, and therefore enabling, her abuse of her son. Just who was he addressing? He was addressing the collective-you that stood by and supported her abuse. It appears that many left the service with their beliefs intact rather than with compassion for what life must have been like for him.
Re: “Alton is arrogant and mean . . .” Some might consider your judgmental, accusatory, behind-the-back badmouthing of Alton as not only arrogant and mean but also self-righteous and spiteful. Your angry attack of him is the way your mind protects you from having to acknowledge your cause for the outcome between Alton and his mother.
For example: A responsible loving supportive person would have interrupted* Alton and said, “Alton, forgive me for interrupting, but I’m having a hard time getting and being with your anger because it’s coming out as blame and make-wrong. I’d feel better if I knew that you are communicating these negative blaming thoughts to disappear them so as to get to the source of, and complete, your anger with your mom; if not, you’ll walk away from this service dragging around the same anger and resentment, perhaps for years. You’ve done us all a service. You’ve revealed that we all have been carrying around hundreds of withholds in our relationship with each other; especially, I’ve withheld my judgmental blaming thoughts I’ve had about you. I’m wondering if you’d be willing to allow some of us to share our thoughts about your eulogy so far? If you’d like, I’ll moderate so as to preclude any blaming or abusive communications. Once everyone has shared their thoughts about what you’ve shared, once everyone has created some space to get what’s been on your mind all these years, then you can continue. I think you’re doing an excellent job of demonstrating what it will take for us all to complete our relationship with you and your mother and us with each other. ”
Re: “Someone gave a very inappropriate eulogy . . .” This is a self-righteous judgment.” What you mean is that he didn’t say the things you expected and wanted. Within what’s typical for a eulogy Alton’s was unique, however, most people don’t say what’s on their mind; like yourself, most are addicted to trashing others behind their backs. He chose to use the opportunity to deliver some long overdue withholds and to inform those who have been in denial all that she was and was not. His communications were absolutely consistent with the adversarial communication model used among your family and friends, he just verbalized what one or more were thinking. You could have told him up front, "Nice stuff only. No trashing. Can you do that? If you'd like, I can sit with you and get any anger you have about her."
Re: “. . . and he attacked her during his eulogy.” When I think of what life must have been like for him, to have been dragging those thoughts around each day, with no one to communicate with, no one to get is anger, his upsets, I’m moved. He was totally incapable of getting into communication with his own mother. This begs the question, what must a mother do and say to her son to cause that much anger? Keeping in mind that abuse begets abuse it’s obvious that she had inflicted horrendous abuse on Alton; assuming of course that he started out as a precious loving adorable child. Even worse, what must it have been like for him as a child to be treated so abusively and not have one relative come to his rescue. It appears that not one relative stepped forward and addressed the abuse she was submitting him to daily.
Re: ". . . his eulogy was appalling and has caused a lot of anger. . ." No. He merely triggered everyone's unresolved anger, the anger towards him they had been stuffing, the anger they had all been dragging around into each and every conversation for goodness knows how long.
You’ve experienced that his eulogy communications were abusive, that they didn’t feel good; this gives you an opportunity to see what your "supportive" communications (verbal, non-verbal, and psychic) must have felt like to him all these years. That is to say, everyone has the exact same amount of support skills. Some people’s support skills inspire harmony while other’s skills cause friction. Just because you and the others were unaware of the effects of your communications doesn’t mean you didn’t produce the results. The situation reveals that there were thousands of conversations that took place behind his mother’s back, conversations that if they had been delivered responsibly would have cause a different outcome.
Re: “Alton shared quite a few details about his mother’s life that no one needed to know.” I disagree. If many were shocked or surprised at what Alton shared then it revealed that many didn’t know her as well as they thought; they were in fact burying her act, not who she was.
Re: “But the bottom line is, she was a good person who made some mistakes toward the end of her life.” This is true, however, the same can be said of everyone in prison. It’s no secret that many parents have murdered their child’s very aliveness while appearing to be normal to the community. You’re invalidating Alton’s experience. You’re making excuses instead of acknowledging the communications of yours that supported this outcome. If you look you’ll see that there was a fork in the road, one in which your communications resulted in more of the same abuse to Alton; that, or, you chose to remain silent when intervention was required.
It used to come as shock to get feedback for the way I had communicated with another. My knee-jerk reaction was to shut them down. “You’ve gotten my communications [you’ve had to put up with my machinations (conscious or not)] but I don’t want to get yours.”
Re: “Alton . . . has a long history of verbally attacking family members.” Again we ask, What must a family do to cause such anger? To get the answer you’ll have to go back to when he was a beautiful loving happy child and locate the first incident that was the turning point, from which he never recovered. Put another way, if I were to give you the assignment to raise your child to hate you (and apparently all of your friends and relatives) what would you have to do and not do—only do it consciously, not accidentally. Then ask, what must relatives and friends do (and not do) to support a mother in raising her child to be so full of anger? Remember, this time around you'd have to consciously choose to do what you’ve done and not done.
Re: “There were individuals at the service who called him names,” And, you supported (elicited/condoned/were the space for) them in doing so. Trashing another simply can’t happen in the space of a person who operates from integrity. No wonder he’s so full of anger, those who supposedly knew her are still taking her side, and still communicating abusively (non-verbally) to him, blaming him for what she and they did to him. Their lifelong pattern of badmouthing has had a debilitating effect on him.
You ask, “Should one of us step forward and say something to him?” No. None of you have the communication skills to get into communication with him, to recreate for him his experience. You’re all addicted to enabling abuse; as you intuit, such a conversation would not feel good upon completion. You could send him a letter letting him know that you won’t be interacting with him until he can tell you he’s completed 25 fifty-minute sessions with a therapist, BUT, it would be more make-wrong unless you included in the letter that you also will be doing the same amount of therapy so as get to your cause in the matter. In other words, shunning without letting the person know your requirements on how to get back into communication with you is abusive because it doesn’t take into account your cause in the matter, of what you did to drive him/her out of your life.
With aloha, Gabby
* Had you interrupted him, instead of non-verbally condoning his presentation, the outcome would have been entirely different.
Show these communications to everyone concerned.
Check back occasionally for minor edits (last edited 3/2/12)