What do cults, narcissists and the infamous Turpins all have in common? They isolate their victims. And not just physically. Intellectually. Relationally. Spiritually. Emotionally. Every way.
Why? To create a very limited reality of their own design so they can keep you stupid, naïve and thus, controllable. To make sure you don’t see how normal people live in case you should yearn for it and, horrors, slip their shackles.
Let me tell you an embarrassing story from my own brush with isolation. In fact, this whole article is personal stories! (Hope you don’t mind, but I find personal stories more instructive than contextless concepts.)
In my teens, I was given a clock radio. But like everything in life (including nail clippers — long story!), the narcissists set rules on my new clock/radio:
- Thou shalt not listen to any stations except Classical Minnesota Public Radio.
- Thou shalt turn off MPR when A Prairie Home Companion is broadcast.
- Thou shalt turn off the news when it comes on the radio at the top of the hour.
I’m not kidding. You can’t make this shit up.
Now, in the fullness of time, the Bill Clinton / Monica Lewinsky brouhaha (to put it nicely) burst upon an unsuspecting public. Awhile later, my father isolated me for one of our cringeworthy father/daughter sex talks. (Where was Mom!?!) Rubbing his face in seeming great distress, Dad proceeded to “educate” me about oral sex. I say “educate” sarcastically because all I remember was something about “sucking” and “she’s swallowing.”
Now as an adult, I can only wonder at why he did it, how badly he did it and how typically one-sided this sex ed was. Worst still, it had absolutely no context. Why did he bring it up? Why at that particular time? Was there another option besides swallowing? Was there a male-on-female version of oral sex? Was it something I was supposed to learn how to do? Unlike most of our sex talks, this one was surprisingly lacking in “Thou Shalt Not’s” but, like most of our sex talks, long on unspoken shame and short on details. (There are different sexual positions!?! Who knew!)
It would be over a decade before I was able to figure any good reason why he had suddenly found it necessary to bring up fellatio at that particular time. For years, I had assumed Bill and Monica were having ordinary, bedsheet scorching sex. Ahem, apparently the entire nation knew something I never knew. Because, you see, I wasn’t allowed to listen to the news. Like the girl I read about who grew up thinking “oral sex” meant French kissing, I didn’t know much.
That’s what isolation does to you. It makes you utterly naïve, stupid, out-of-it, weird. Embarrassingly weird. Unable to carry on normal conversations with your peers because you simply don’t know who or what they’re talking about. Unable to connect with your dates. You continue to be mentally isolated even after escaping physical isolation. My husband still patiently answers my naïve questions (and never makes me feel like a weirdo! Awwwwww.)
Being that weird hurts. But it fulfills the narcissists’, cult leaders‘ and Turpins’ need to keep you stupid so they can control your reality and thus, control you. If you are never exposed to normalcy via any medium, you never develop deep dissatisfaction with your lot in life and long to have what normal people have. Freedom. Friends. Normal clothes. Regular hairstyles. Consequently, you never seethe with righteous anger, never formulate an exit strategy, never cultivate an outside-of-the-family support system to assist with your final escape. You remain in their clutches, grateful for the crumbs of happiness they occasionally throw you. Stockholm Syndrome aka all those trips to Disney the Turpin’s flaunted.
But when you finally get free of the isolation – watch out! I call it delayed adolescence. Oh, it took me a long time! Because I still obeyed my parents even when they weren’t physically present. But gradually, with the encouragement of my husband, I started to explore life. Normal life. American life. That’s where the Turpin adult children now find themselves. My fear for them is not that they won’t acclimate to American life, but that they will go too far, throw themselves into everything — virtues and vices alike, with no self-control in an attempt to be cool, to escape the embarrassing photos we have all seen of them. I don’t know how it will be for them, but here’s how it was for me.
Isolation always backfires. It drives you to explore and try all the verboden things. As my father said, “Each Christian generation is followed by a rebellious generation.” In other words, he had prepared his false reality years before I “rebelled” so he could again, play the saint while painting me as evil. That’s thinking ahead, Dad! Very classy stuff! Very far-sighted! How’s that victim-playing going for ya?!
Starvation breeds addiction. I’m a news addict. Mainstream news. Alternative news. American news. British news. DailyMail news. Arts and Entertainment news. UFO news. The Husband’s-News-Now-Streaming-Live-From-the-Chair-Next-to-Me. (He’s a news addict too.) If it’s news, I’m interested. Oh! I may not believe every word but I want to know what’s being said. Even the false flags and red herrings. The true, the untrue and the half true. I want to know e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Isolation does that to you.
Then there’s the quest to realize long held, long denied dreams and wishes. Here’s a weird example. For as long as I can remember, I wanted pierced ears. But Daddy always forbade it, quoting a Bible verse prohibiting “mutilation of the flesh.” I got my first piercings in December 2012. (Dad angrily ignored it!) My second set of piercings were done on my never-to-be-forgotten thirty-fourth birthday. It was amazing! Michael and I stayed in a hotel and he treated me to new piercings, new earrings, an amazing hibachi dinner and the most delicious Pinot Grigio I’ve ever tasted.
Yes, that’s right. Alcohol. Horrors! Growing up in a cult-like family drives you do everything you can to destroy the pride the narcissists took in you. To destroy their bragging rights that “Lenora’s a teetotaller.” Oh no she’s not! And she watches the dirtiest comedians too. Are you proud of me now? No!?! Good!
So let’s talk about porn. I hail from a family where cleavage or even just a slightly low neckline is erased on their VHS tapes or covered with Post-It notes in books/catalogues. They take “modesty” to extremes. In fact, the first time I shopped for clothes alone with no maternal control, I hyperventilated with excitement that finally I could choose my own style! (I’ll never forget the time Michael tried to show my parents a video on YouTube. In the background of the video, a male jogger jogged past. Mother bowed her head. Then a female jogger went past. Dad bowed his head. There they sat, staring down at their laps, neither of them were watching the video. It wasn’t “righteousness.” It was batcrap crazy ridiculousness (which pretty much sums up cults!))
As you might imagine, I’m gleefully indulging in my long-forbidden love of Fine Art and Great Masters or, as my family calls it, pornography. (Good grief!) If Rembrandt and DaVinci are “porn,” I like it.
Of course, I’ve seen a smattering of regular video porn despite my Dad’s dire and highly imaginative prediction that if I ever saw porn, I’d become addicted. Ha! Here’s my take on porn: Can’t stand it! Bleh! Never saw anything so dumb in all my life! How is it a turn on to see a woman, her face grimaced in pain, being jack-hammered by a performing, sweating man when I know there’s no way in Hell she’ll ever orgasm. And seriously, you cannot look intelligent or dignified when you’re asshole is in my face and you’re humping like a demented rabbit to an uninspired nauseating soundtrack of “Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me.” (Whaddya think he’s doing, Lady!?!) Seen one dick, seen ’em all. Porn must be a male thing because it’s simply not a turn-on. In fact, quite the opposite! Shudder. I’m not impressed, not turned on and definitely not addicted. So sorry to disappoint your dire predictions, Dad. (But the people who find themselves in the sex profession fascinate me, as people, as victims, as unique psychological studies.)
The Turpin children and anyone who’s been isolated for a long period of time have a rich cornucopia of discovery awaiting them. Culture, music, art, architecture, flavors, dance, experiences, travel, history, poetry, sports, theatre, languages…oh! the list goes on and on! We as society must be understanding as these “weird” people learn modern culture, our current turns of language (yeah! we can swear now!), adopt flattering hairstyles, choose new wardrobes, etc. Been there! Done that! Our acceptance of them will help them not go too far, too wild in their quest to “fit in” for the first time in their lives.