The Scorpion and the Tortoise; Ancient Life Lessons of Character

“The scorpion was hamstrung, his tail all aquiver;
just how would he manage to get across the river?”

The scorpion had a problem, a big problem; he wanted to get across the river and can’t swim.Tortoise_and_Scorpion Luckily a tortoise is nearby and the scorpion tries to entice the tortoise to cross the river with the scorpion on its back.

The tortoise wouldn’t think of it. “You’ve a less than ideal reputation preceding: there’s talk of your victims all poisoned and bleeding.”

The scorpion cleverly replies that stinging the tortoise would also kill himself, and who would be so foolish? After some hesitation the tortoise agrees to bring the scorpion across. The scorpion certainly had a perceived sensible argument, so the tortoise ignored his inner voice.

But just a few moments from when they set sail,
the scorpion lashed out with his venomous tail.

As the tortoise was drowning he asked the scorpion: “Why?” Now they are both going to die.

“I don’t know!” cried the scorpion. “You never should trust
a creature like me because poison I must!

I’d claim some remorse or at least some compunction,
but I just can’t help it; my form is my function.”

“It is better we should both perish than that my enemy should live.”

I was thinking about this ancient story while driving to a meeting with the parenting coordinator and Ex. From Sanskrit to Aesop, children throughout history and all over the world, have been taught that one is, and always will be, true to their nature. It’s your character, your personality.

Only eight days prior to this mandatory meeting, Ex had yelled at me that he was never going to sit face-to-face with me, yet I was on my way to exactly such. This could be interesting and I was certainly going in with mixed emotions.

Part of me knew exactly how this was going to go; Ex has something to gain with maintaining a favorable impression with the parenting coordinator, so he was going to be exceptionally charming and I would have to calmly bring to light his manipulations and hope the parenting coordinator is smart enough to see through them. The scorpion wants to get across the river and so he did, at least he attempted.

I walked away from the meeting thinking about a high school history lesson;

“Franklin, you have some GREAT ideas, let’s form a committee about it” – Stalin to FDR

Despite Churchill’s warnings, FDR said “… I have a hunch Stalin is just not that kind of man…”. FDR felt a lot was accomplished, yet Stalin plundered Eastern Europe while the US essentially single-handedly rebuilt Western Europe.

That is exactly how our meeting went. Superficially it seemed a lot was accomplished, but when you look deeper that sense evaporates. Committees were formed; “I’m working on it,” “I will look into it,” Ex said. If this wasn’t about the well-being of the children, the parallel would have been amusing.

“I’m working on it”

Yes, this was what he said about facilitating a relationship with the mother. For healthy psychological/emotional people this would be appalling!

Early on in the divorce proceedings things are highly emotionally and every (healthy) parent will admit they could have handled certain situations with the children better. We all make mistakes.

However, if this behavior continues 2 ½ years into/after the divorce it becomes deeply disturbing. That parent is either still consumed with hate for the other parent, or has severe psychological problems and never gained the developmental ability to share or form secure relationships.

It takes a village to raise a child. Children have many relationships; with parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, teachers, friends and spouses/children later on in life. So many people make a contribution to a child’s life. When a parent has trouble with ‘facilitating a relationship with the other parent’, they need to have control over the social and emotional life of the child, with the subsequent long-term consequences and abilities for that child to form (future) relationships.

When a parent is secure in their relationship with their child, they welcome the relationships they have with others, and there is no need to control and possess the child like it is property. There is no need to be ‘working on it’. Because that is really deep down what it is; control, possession and insecurity.

My guess is that Ex is still ‘working’ on it, as the solutions discussed have as of yet not materialized. Realistically, he can be ‘working on it’ for a long time.

“Looking into it”

My jaw dropped, I couldn’t believe my ears. I was at a loss for words. He couldn’t seriously be saying ‘that‘, it had nothing to do with reality.1150946_605933376125603_910446225_n

This discussion was one of the most blatant examples of ‘externalization of blame‘ I have ever seen. It left me speechless for a moment. The evidence was so crystal clear, like 1+1=2, yet he came with, very weak, arguments that it was ‘my fault’ and could not possibly have happened during his access time.

The Parenting Coordinator stepped in and Ex agreed to ‘look into it’.

In reality it was a really small issue. A psychologically healthy person would have said something along the lines ‘let me fix that for the well-being of the kids’ and it would be done.

This response is an ingrained defense by Ex, he literally can not help himself, like the scorpion couldn’t help stinging the tortoise. Current research is very clear that ‘externalization of blame’ is positively correlated with aggression and lack of empathy, it is the core of psychopathy.

Now why is that so harmful to (young) children? Kids rely on their parents and adults to teach them about the world, about morals and values, how society works. When an adult, or even worse a parent, distorts reality through externalization of blame, it fundamentally undermines their self-esteem and perception of the world around them. They learn not to rely on objective observations and factors, but on the distortions of the person of authority, who are asking them to “smell the color 9”.

And psychopaths are charmingly good at distorting reality. At the end of our meeting I told a funny story to the Parenting Coordinator. Ex jumped in and made himself part of this story. Even to me it seemed plausible he was around when it happened, while I knew he hadn’t. I started doubting myself. I had to go back and check the records to be sure, and sure enough, Ex could not have possible been present during the incident. I now utterly understand that the DSM requires the diagnosis of psychopathy to be made based on records, not on interviews. Or that the FBI requires a computer analysis of the words used, not rely on the interview itself.

From committee to action?

So now what? These issues were raised with the Parenting Coordinator for a reason. I will have to raise them again after some time and hope ‘for the best’.

People don’t change unless they really want to change. A person with a personality disorder can not change, as they do not accept that anything is ‘wrong’ with them, and if nothing is wrong with you, why would you want to change?

Am I disillusioned? No. Belief in human goodness may want us to believe that somebody will change, but I accept that is not going to happen. I accept that Ex is what he is. Now it is about managing the situation.

We will have to see if the committee has ‘sprung into action’ on at least 1 subject.