Forced visitation

June 8, 2014

Years ago we encountered this notion among social workers charged with the care and protection of children:  if one had molested another, the social workers might still insist on visitation between the perpetrator and victim, if the workers had any reason to believe the children might be biologically related, even if the victim and their parents did not want the contact.  It was an eye-opener for me, the idea of forced social intercourse.

There’s another context in which I’ve seen this:  someone who insists on contact with another even though it’s pretty clear to the other that the person who wants the contact doesn’t like them;  why would I want to have social intercourse with someone who doesn’t like me?  I wouldn’t.  That situation I can simply leave behind and move on.  What makes it tricky, in my experience, is when the other person insists that they like you when they clearly don’t.  Then it’s more difficult, especially because when this happens, it seems to happen with a person who is so disconnected from their true self that they may not even perceive that they don’t like the other person.  And if they’re structured within themselves in a way that we commonly label as narcissistic, they may even see the other person as not liking them instead.

It’s tough, because people who are incapable of treating others reasonably may themselves incur great hurt from the responses they get from the people they unreasonably treat.

In any event, in these cases, I react to my sense from the behavior and underlying self, not the person’s words, about whether they like me, and I don’t want forced social intercourse in those contexts either.  Whether the person doesn’t like me because they feel intimidated by me or because they see me as intolerable competition or they just don’t happen to like the person I happen to be, or for any other reason, I don’t want an interaction that is predicated on pretending that something is the case when it isn’t.

In the context of social intercourse with people who claim to but don’t actually like me, they are usually wanting something from me (and too much from me, as it turns out), whether or not they are aware of it, and what comes across to me is that I am being asked to enter into their distorted view in order for them to draw a benefit to themselves from me, at my expense.  In a word, as my younger son puts it, they are needy, and they want me to meet their extremely large needs.  And the fact of the matter is that I can’t, whether or not I want to try, and I would harm myself if I did what they want.  And I’ve learned that by having tried.

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16 Responses to “Forced visitation”

  1. Matthew Brooks Says:

    I think judging people by their behavior and the impression of their underlying self makes sense, and at that point if the cost is too high or if the interaction is senseless (eg. artificial), then I withdraw myself as is appropriate. I know a few people like that currently, and I’m polite but inert; I don’t give them anything substantial to latch onto.

    This also reminds me of a similar problem I have that I don’t really see a way out of. My grandmother is in an institution near where I live. My grandfather (her husband) died a few years ago, and her kids (4 of them) have more or less abandoned her. Anyway, it gets to the point where she’s quite lonely (needy) and she has latched onto to me and my family. She’s a good woman and we’ve always gotten along well, but I never felt obligated before. It’s gotten to the point where it feels indirectly like a forced interaction. We live 45 minutes away and we visit every week. My wife and I have plans to move out of the area that we’ve been looking forward to that are on hold indefinitely.

    The frustrating thing is that it’s not even her fault. In a normal, healthy situation where she was living with one of her own kids, she wouldn’t be this needy. The force is coming from the failure of the third party.

    • Diana Moses Says:

      Thanks for the comment.

      I hear you about the consequences of other people’s failure to do what one could reasonably expect under the circumstances and what would be helpful; and how if you’re the kind of person who isn’t comfortable being equally, shall we say, oblivious, irresponsible, or otherwise unavailable, you end up doing a lot, maybe more than is really okay. But the alternatives seem worse, so we try to find a way to handle it all, I guess. I sometimes see it as my Cinderella syndrome.

      On the problem solving end of things, would it make any sense for your grandmother to move elsewhere (to another institution elsewhere)? Either where you’re planning to move or near one of her children? Or are her children in the vicinity and just not helping out?

      • Matthew Brooks Says:

        We’re planning on moving half-way across the country; she’s lived here practically her entire life and she doesn’t want to leave for somewhere new. 2 of her children are in the area; a third said she was going to move back but never did. It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the basic gist.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        I can see your problem. And older people can get disoriented when they move, I’ve heard, even when the move is desired by them, so one can’t really say, “Try it, you’ll like it” and know it will turn out that way. Is your extended family aware of the difficult spot that their needs and choices have put you and your wife in? Or would they not see it because of their own limitations?

      • Matthew Brooks Says:

        I’ve been explicit about their moral responsibility to their parents. They just can’t/won’t. I don’t think they all know I have plans to move, but that’s not really the point. They shouldn’t/wouldn’t do it for me anyway.

        It’s frustrating but, without excusing it, I’ve realised that sometimes people just can’t help themselves. My grandfather struggled early on (in and out of an orphanage); worked hard from an early age, went to university, then to war, then started a family and held it together. He and my grandmother were exceedingly competent to the point where I think their kids never had to develop responsibly themselves; because in their formative years (and beyond) there was always somebody there taking care of things. “Is and isn’t produce each other”.

        I think also. along those lines, even as adults their children felt/feel somewhat stifled being around them.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        I agree with the sentiment in your observation “that sometimes people just can’t help themselves.” Like trying to get bread from the hardware store (although nowadays there are plenty of stores who carry both, I think). I can see an impact of environment and “nurture,” but in some families, one child has a sense of responsibility and another doesn’t. Maybe we grow up in micro-environments, I don’t know, and some of the kids in the family are nurtured differently from others. But some people really do seem to start off with different “wiring,” and I’ve read about that, too, so I wouldn’t discount “nature” as also being a factor.

      • Matthew Brooks Says:

        Part of “nurture”, or one’s developmental environment, is also one’s siblings (eg. birth order).

        I think you’re right that nature is part of things too; whether somewhat different genetic programming or a different (hormonal?) environment in utero. It’s less discernible tho.

        In either case they’re both expressions of (spiritual) movements at work; (“an alternation of increase an decrease” in this or that, like we see with the seasons).

      • Diana Moses Says:

        It’s always a challenge to figure out why we end up in the families we do, even when it’s by birth.

      • Matthew Brooks Says:

        “It is what it is”.

        I dunno. Why does the universe select for a tree of a kind to grow in a certain spot? “Explanations” ultimately seem either short-sighted or tautological.

        The system is naturally self-selecting and mutually determining.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        Not sure what the explanation is, but I have wild roses and black-eyed Susans and bleeding hearts and ferns and other plants popping up in my yard — I am happy to accept it as “help” in gardening/yardwork, regardless of else it can be viewed. I do dig out some of the kinds of flowers that tend to take over, though. Not sure how to see that either — Nature abhors a vacuum?

      • Matthew Brooks Says:

        Everything in its right place.

  2. Matthew Brooks Says:

    Also, why is your blog on Icelandic time?

  3. Matthew Brooks Says:

    Btw, I don’t know if you were referencing me here in your original post, but if so I’d like to clarify a few things.

    I would say I do like you, but that’s somewhat beside the point, actually. I respect your intellect and your spirituality. I think we have similar ideas on some things and somewhat similar depth, even if we’re on opposite sides of the yin/yang and generational divides. It’s like a meeting of the minds. I think you’re wrong about some things, obviously, but I also think I know where you’re coming from and I don’t take it personally. Our disagreements are generally somewhat generational/gendered and you come by it honestly.

    If the ‘competition’ were intolerable tho I wouldn’t come. I feel it’s the opposite, actually, which makes sense given the generational dynamic (ie. “The times, they are a changin'”), and maybe you were projecting. Thus, your implied/stated desire for disengagement might actually make sense.

    I’ve noticed that men and women debate differently too, and I can see how you might take my often persistent disagreement with you as an indication of a dislike. It’s not that. I don’t think it’s treating somebody unreasonably merely to disagree with them. I argue the merits; they have a mind of their own.

    To that end I think there is also some spiritual value to engagement here, like a cosmic meeting, at least for now anyway (in future when events unfold more actively, the time for passive engagement will have passed).

    • Diana Moses Says:

      I didn’t actually have you in mind. I haven’t been troubled by the way you and I interact. I find it interesting that we can see many spiritual matters so similarly and yet come out so differently on social and political matters — that must shed some light on what determines — or doesn’t determine — what. When I have dialog with someone, sometimes I can “see” a whole lot during the exchange. I am not sure what that comes from. It’s like, when it’s in person, that the conversation flies. I think I get that with you sometimes online. It’s interesting that that can happen even if we disagree a lot on substantive social and political policy positions.

      • Matthew Brooks Says:

        Ahh, okay good. I feel silly and also relieved.

        I think I know what you mean about “see”ing. It’s like there’s a frequency to an interaction, and certain frequencies resonate more clearly. I’ve noticed that with my twin sister sometimes. When I’m with her it’s like my mind is uninhibited (an unblocked channel) and elevated somehow.


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