When Elisabeth Fritzl was freed from her basement dungeon in 2008, I was fascinated. Mesmerized by this dark tale of a father imprisoning his daughter.
When author Malika Oufkir appeared on Oprah to tell about her auto-biographical book, Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail, I was mesmerized and immediately read her book.
When Goodnight Mr. Tom aired on PBS, I was fascinated. I related so strongly to the little boy who withdrew, cowering and shaking at the sight of The Belt.
When I watched Now Voyageur I was enthralled by Bette Davis’ escape from her controlling mother who so closely paralleled the females in each generation of my family.
When I read about the dynamics Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church infamy created in his own family, I was fascinated, taking copious notes.
But why? That’s what I wanted to know. Why was I, the product of a supposedly wonderful loving family, so mesmerized by stories of abuse and captivity. Was I twisted? Warped? A sicko?
Or was it something else?
The answer came in 2013 when I “stumbled” (Thank you, God!) across the topic of narcissism. Suddenly, everything made sense. I wasn’t warped at all! My intuition drove my fascinations. My intuition had been trying to show me the truth.
To a far lesser degree, the stories that gripped my attention paralleled my life. I too cowered, shaking, always listening for the bellows of rage. The thump of fists hitting furniture. I too had been held captive for twenty-six months, sometimes relegated to the basement, in my teens. The dynamics were the same, though the severity much less.
As I wrote, “Although psychologists disagree on whether narcissists are born or made, in my experience they’re made. Definitely made.” If you research the biography of Fred Phelps, you can see how the seeds were sown.
But what fascinated me is how he treated his own flesh-and-blood. His precious children.
I remember the day I spent researching Fred Phelps, founder of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. The backpage of my “Narcissism & Other Shit #1 of 7” notebook is filled with notes and scribbles noting the parallels between his family dynamics and rules..and mine.
According to Fred Phelps’ children recollections on www.blank.org/addict/chapter7.html…
- They weren’t allowed to participate in any activities at school. Check!
- No outside friends were allowed. No one was allowed to visit and the children weren’t allowed to go anywhere. No birthday parties or anything. Check!
- When one daughter escaped, the family snatched her away from her new life and brought her back. / Check! This happened at the age of 24 when they forced me to quit my new job and sit on their cold floor, coloring the scuffs in their furniture with markers as punishment for welcoming unsuitable male attention. Even after I moved into my new condo at age 31, I was terrified of making one false step lest they force me to sell my condo and move back in with them for their “protection” and “guidance.” Now I realize, I’d been devalued so this probably wouldn’t have happened. But the terror remained. It was my husband who assured me, at age 33, that they had no legal leverage over me to compel me to move back home. Who knew!?
- They had no sense of personal boundaries. Check!
- One son lost his thrill for life and submitted totally. Check! The last Winter before moving out, I was sinking deeper and deeper into depression. Life was hopeless. I’d never have a life of my own. I sat in my parents’ basement, washing their laundry on the weekends, head in hands, repeating over and over, “Don’t exist. Don’t exist. DON’T EXIST!”
- Phelps crushed the dreams of his children. Check! I dreamed of moving out, traveling, going to fiddle camps, visiting Austria and Ireland. Verboden! Even my dream of being a fiddler was crushed as Dad sneered at my newbie squawks and appropriated my new hobby by suddenly deciding he was a fiddler too! (All narcs appropriate skills, hobbies, interests, etc. from their victims, btw.)
- Conditioned to cringe at his anger and disapproval. Check!
- Made to ride a stationery bicycle. Check…only in my case it was a self-propelled treadmill so ill-designed that using it knotted the calf muscles from the sheer effort of making it “go” while it jerked, stopped and slipped
- Everyone is so angry, they over-eat. Check!
- “I was supposed to get…a degree, stay home and live happily ever after.” Check! The more I think about it, I believe this was indeed the unspoken, unacknowledged plan.It suited their needs. They had no empathy for mine.
Another aspect of the stories we enjoy is when they end well for the victim.We like to think our story will end well too. We’ll be rescued…and justice will be done.
Elisabeth Fritzl was freed and her father/jailer imprisoned for life.
Malika Oufkir was freed.
And Fred Phelps? Well, he died…excommunicated from the very “church” he founded.
But I found the most satisfaction in the story of how his son, Nate Phelps, finally escaped. But before leaving, he did one last thing.
He climbed the stairs to the room where his father slept and he…screamed. At the top of his lungs. And left.
I envy him unspeakably. And If I ever get the opportunity, I’ll show Nate Phelps how screaming SHOULD BE DONE…even if I have laryngitis for the rest of my life. It’d totally be worth it.
Follow Your Fascinations
My point is that your gut, your soul is trying to speak through your fascinations. Is there a tale of one kind of abuse or another that fascinates you? Pay attention!
You’re not sick. You’re not twisted. You’re not warped. It’s your intuition talking. It senses the parallels where your cognitive mind is in deep denial.
For example, tomorrow I’ll be publishing an article about mind control. That was a fascination of mine! I ran across it, quite by accident, in my research on narcissism. Turns out…it was true! Narcissists are master mind control handlers.
Your Fascinations. Listen to them. They’re trying to show you the truth!
What are your fascinations? Share it them in comments!
Photo by fabrisalvetti