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August 24, 2022

“Our Survival From Abusers: A Case Against the Good and Happy Times?” examines our difficult enmeshment with toxic individuals.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.

How many of us have encountered advice from well-meaning, but often clueless individuals, offering their perspectives on enduring a toxic person, because, among other things, “life and time are precious?”

“Remember the good, happy times.”

Beautiful, in theory, not so great with a disordered Narcissistic abuser.

Those good, happy times?

Also known as intermittent positive rewards.

Also known as abusive.

We are encouraged to stick with that insufferable, perhaps, abusive person, all in the name of love, family, doing what we “should” because we “owed it” to that person to make the most of whatever time was left.

“Remember they’re old.”

“You’ll miss them when they’re gone.”

“Do right by them.”

And of course…

“Remember the good, happy times.”

But what were those good, happy times? What was the euphoric recall- or the euphoric amnesia that keeps us from admitting that things weren’t really so good, so happy, or so healthy, after all?

Let’s break these sentiments down a bit; let’s decipher the pressuring, maybe, gaslighting, subtext.

“Remember the good, happy times:”

(“Remember they’re old.”)

Abuse can often get portrayed as something for which only the strong, vital, and young perpetuate. Surely, a sweet four-foot ten grandma wouldn’t be vicious, right? Only the most obvious, snarling villain, wearing, appropriately enough, a torn and stained “wife beater” undershirt would be capable of creating misery, torture, and violence, right?

“Vulnerable adults” or “Senior citizens,” yes, get a certain respect and ranking. We, overall, recognize that they have special needs, wisdom, and issues that can make us protective and accommodating of them. We forget and forgive, perhaps, past cruelties of such persons, because we disconnect their younger selves causing damage from their older, current versions who may be still inflicting sadistic actions, while hiding behind their age.

Many “vulnerable adults,” indeed, can worsen their bitterness and their abusive streaks with age. “Collapsed Narcissist,” for example, is an often-used term to describe many nursing home residents who are beyond “ornery.” They are hateful, spiteful, and resentful of how their lives turned out, and of how “everyone” abandoned them, so much so, that they become hellbent and gleeful about exacting revenge on those who fail them, according to their often demanding and unrealistic specifications.

It can become personal in its cruelty is a way that is discombobulating.

Indeed, these older abusers can feel entitled, above reproach, and free from obeying facility rules, let alone, treating others with human decency.

This, of course, is not to say that all old people are evil. There are some truly loving, kind, helpful, and wise Seniors out there. I’m speaking of a special group of older people who weaponize the age card. Something about them is far from feeble; they can display manipulative tactics of helplessness, forgetfulness, and being filter-less, all to fulfill their own plans.

They can get away with it because “they’re old.”

And we, after all, are supposed to defer to that old designation.

What To Remember About These “Good, Happy Times…”

Perhaps, this older person we’re entangled with, was never kind or loving, in either their younger or their older years. Perhaps, they were abusive from start to finish, without any explanation, not that any explanation justifies abuse in the first place.

Perhaps, there were no good or happy times, or, at least not enough of them.

Many of us can get tied to an abusive older person, like a parent, or a grandparent, because there was just enough sprinkling of what appeared to be good and happy times. Birthdays. Holidays. Special occasions. Times in which they were loving and kind to us.

An “and” kind of approach. A cognitive dissonance kind of thing, one can argue. This and this, two completely opposite situations, involving behavior and experience can be true at the same time.

No problem there.

The challenge is to get comfortable with the uncomfortable premise that 1) maybe nothing about them was real, 2) maybe only one situation was real and true, and, of course, there’s a third option, that neither experiences, nor portrayals of them were real and true.

I know. Maddening.

Yet, that can be the necessary wake up call we need to remind us that an old person doesn’t always show up as loving.

And if, for our own wellbeing, that means we need to cut ties, we have not failed in the situation. If a person is toxic, there’s no age limit on that. Deliberate, sadistic abuse is not acceptable… even from an elder. Our health and sanity deserve the right to be prioritized and protected.

“Remember the good, happy times.”

(“You’ll miss them when they’re gone.”)

Ah, great. Here we go.


That’ll shut down an argument, huh?

Call it “F.O.D.,” “Fear of Death,” like “FOMO,” “Fear of missing out.”

It’s the great anxiety of designating a person to be so important, so sacred, they will be miss-able when they die.

And here’s a tricky thing; we can, and do, miss toxic people when they die. We grieve them. We have regrets concerning them. All of the “shoulds” come out to play, torturing us for being the awful excuses for human beings who “let” our own pettiness get in the way of the more important matters of life and death, of appreciating this human soul, flaws and all, even IF they were nothing but cruel and hateful to us in our lives.

There is the ultimate preferential treatment going on here, isn’t there?

What To Remember About These “Good, Happy Times…”

Exacting some unrealistic, unattainable, and, for that matter, undeserved preferential treatment, making their impending death more important than our lives, lived in the present, is not our purpose in life. And it’s ridiculous and cruel for anyone to expect that of us.

Death doesn’t erase the experience we endured, be it good or abusive. And because we can tend to have a warped perspective, convincing us that their life is more valuable than ours, we can minimize the bad and idealize the good to epic status.

Was it really that bad?

Was it really that good?

Both questions can be confusing and painful to honestly assess and answer. And then it’s difficult to live with the answer.

Challenging the “good and happy times” may show more of an underbelly than is comfortable to face.

But facing it, beginning to take the tiny step of facing it, can be liberating.

Perhaps, we didn’t have a happy childhood after all. Perhaps, we knew there was something “off” about a certain person.

Perhaps… there’s something to our perspective on our own lives.

That perhaps is powerful.

“Remember the good, happy times.”

(“Do right by them.”)

Translation? Sacrifice yourself, big time, even to the point of placing yourself, your life, your finances, and your health in harm’s way, just so the “good and happy times” can be allowed to be created and protected for the abuser.

Turn your frown upside down, all so the toxic person will be saved from ever frowning themselves.

What To Remember About These “Good, Happy Times…”

Let’s just put it out there. “Their” definition of “doing right by them” means we are willingly putting up with abuse.

From anyone. From everyone. Just taking it.

Because it benefits them.

Does that sound sane to you?

Remember, our abuse and mistreatment can be beneficial to someone else’s agenda. Someone wants to control you and I; someone wants to exploit and use us. And there are endless ways that can happen. It’s disturbing.

There can be a payoff for someone else if we are stuck in am impossible situation in which we are constantly trying to “do right by them.” It will never be enough; it’s designed that way. We keep trying, spending ourselves, exhausting ourselves, and someone else can reap that benefit. Endless amounts of attention, resources, finances, sex, protection from negative consequences, and a warped kind of companionship are some of those benefits. We experience it, however, as one-sided. Somehow, these toxic and abusive individuals never quite get around to “doing right by us,” do they? It’s haphazard and spartan, at best.

That’s the point; that’s the red flag. That’s the lesson.

Are we learning it yet?

Remember Ourselves:

We can easily get amnesia when we forget ourselves in the middle of the toxic promise of happiness. We can pin that on someone else, while abdicating ourselves in the process. We get lost.

The antidote, easier said than done, is to remember ourselves. That requires self-awareness. That requires self-valuing. That requires we not get swept away with the obligations and expectations unhealthy people place upon us.

We must remember.

Who are we? What do we want? Is it what we experience from this person and the life choices associated with them? Do we forget ourselves when we love, serve, help, and obsess about them? Is that what we want?

Is that our good and happy life?

Copyright © 2022 by Sheryle Cruse


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