August Mowing



The lawn is tempurpedic,

My tennis shoes sinking into luxury

Of crackly, misshapen leaves,

Delicate green shoots, and

Green-velvety moss,

Like an exotic quilt

Crafted by God.

My line is steady

Though not straight,

The rusty blade cutting

As it is able,

While softer blades

Bend gracefully

To avoid the offending

Machine, and acorns

Shoot out like ricocheted shots

In the warm autumn light.


Blue yet cloud-filled skies

Embrace me, and

I accept God’s grace,

Undeserving as I am,

Unyielding as the acorn,

Yet striving to be grass,

With the plush moss

Of forgiveness.

The sun in my eyes

Both blesses and curses,

Embracing and empowering hope,

Yet blinding me at times to the path.


Up and down, back and forth,

I mow what may be the

Last of the grass, not of leaves,

The ground soon enough

Hardening, whitening, freezing.

In the autumn of my life,

I still remember the golden spring,

Perfume of lilacs and birds’ song,

Azure, carefree skies,

And nights of angels

Sparkling a message of love and possibility.


I’ve stumbled and fallen,

Losing my balance, my center,

Distracted by those possibilities,

Betrayed by lilacs and songs,

Yet I press on the strait,

Though crooked, path,

Soft earth clumps rising

To slow my movements,

Mulching my way

To Judgment Day.


The good and bad

Ground in the same

Inexorable blade,

Fertilizing the earth

So that new souls

May rise up and

Bend, or break,

Yield, or stand oak-like,

Some falling,

Others steadfast.

The rains will come again,

And the pristine snow,

Bitter cold

Decimating the land

While miniature souls

Await spring sun,

God’s message


“Rise up! Rise up!”

Never knowing when

The mulching begins,

Or ends,

Never knowing…

Yet trusting God’s soft

And pliable power.

©2015 Linda L Labin, PhD


Love’s Labors

Love’s bossed

Love’s cost

Love’s dossed

Love’s frost

Love’s ghost

Love’s host

Love’s just

Love’s knots

Love’s lost

Love’s must

Love’s nuts

Love’s plots

Love’s quest

Love’s rest

Love’s sauce

Love’s tossed

Love’s vast

Love’s wasp

Love’s xhaust

Love’s yet

Love’s zest

©2015 Linda L Labin, PhD

Bats in My Belfry

Bats in My Belfry

After a particularly hairy break-up with my very own, personal, live-in toxic narcissist, I moved 45 minutes away to a tiny 2 BR walk-up just across the river from the college where I was teaching. Moving is one of the most exhausting and debilitating exercises, and it does not get better because you’ve done it a lot. Ending a 10-year-plus relationship with a “soul-mate” who had informed me that he had “never loved me,” and restarting my life was like ripping out my own entrails through my red, runny nose. Moving meant pushing the gooey mess left of my colon into tons of heavy boxes and dragging each and all up Mount Everest.

My friends had pitched in with the moving, hauled my bed frame and mattress up to the 2nd floor apartment and even set it up. We found sheets and pillowcases so I’d at least have a place to sleep once I calmed down from the hyperactivity of moving. So, after dealing with my new landlord, arranging for utilities and satellite TV and so on, trying to find the barest necessities (like coffee, cups, towels, coffee maker, etc.) hidden in the over-heated, taped treasure boxes covering every inch of horizontal space, I felt like an old wash rag, rung out and hung out to dry.

My friends left to deal with their own lives and I ordered pizza.

I set up the TV and the floor lamp and found paper plates and grabbed a beer from the tiny fridge. I love new pizza joints, but always try their pepperoni and extra cheese first. If they can’t do the king of pizzas, I assume that their culinary ineptitude will simply escalate with more exotic concoctions. As I awaited the pizza, I washed up and tried to find something to watch on TV—on the VCR or DVD player, really, since the SAT wasn’t set up. Luckily, I found a murder mystery I hadn’t seen—or it might have been a vampire flick…

The pizza arrived, I paid and tipped the delivery “boy,” who was closer to middle-age than boyhood, and he welcomed me to the neighborhood. Sitting on my nearly-new sofa, watching a movie with lots of dark, steamy alleys, moody music and an occasional shriek, I tasted the excellent pizza, washing it down with a Bud Light (or two). It was an old-fashioned, home-made pizza with hand-rolled dough, real Mozzarella and Provolone cheese, and large slices of pepperoni. Just smelling the thing made me put on 20 pounds! Ah, sweet relief…

As I returned from the kitchen with a second helping of beer and pizza, a dark body swooped down at my head. “Shriek! What was that?” I asked no one. Maybe I had heat stroke or something; it was a dreadfully hot day and I had no air conditioning in the upstairs apartment cobbled together from an old general-store storage room. The 5×3 foot bathroom opened onto the living room, and one bedroom was on the other side of the living room (down two steps). My very long but narrow kitchen was the largest room, with tons of light from nearly wall-to-wall windows. At the opposite end of the kitchen lay the other bedroom, used for storage. After 9 pm, the only light pouring through the windows came from the corner streetlight and the color-changing stoplights.

I looked from wall to ceiling to floor. Nothing. I checked the bathroom, bedrooms, kitchen. Nada. Was I just wiped out mentally from the brutal emotional battery my ex had treated me to during my last week in hell? I sat down, grabbed my pizza, and once again a dark body swooped at my head—or the pizza—and I was now officially terrified. What the devil was that? Again, I did a thorough survey of the apartment, finding nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nada. Nada y pues nada… as Hemingway would put it. The nada, the nothingness of my life opened like the abyss. If I gazed too deeply, I knew it would swallow me up, just as Nietzsche had warned.

I turned on every light and searched high and low, under furniture, in drawers and closets and cupboards, even the empty cupboard under the built-in bookcase in the living room. Nothing. By now, I was sweating profusely, from the exertions of the day but also my recent repeated runs through the rooms and the fear that began to scream at me (in my head). Outside, it was pitch dark. Inside, the apartment was so quiet I could hear my clock radio ticking in the other room. What in hell had I got myself into? Maybe I should find a funny show to watch…

Should I call the police? Without knowing what was going on, and beginning to fear for my sanity, after escaping a man who had been systematically gas-lighting me for the past few years, I had no idea where to turn. I was certainly NOT going to call HIM. My friends had done yeoman’s service for me that day so I wasn’t going to disturb them again. If I sat still, the thing would fly and swoop just as it did if I stood up to move around the apartment. It could be a bird, I thought, but this thing moved much faster than any featherweight I had ever seen. And a bird would cry out, wouldn’t it?

The ordeal continued, for I knew that I would not sleep that night unless (until) I discovered what was going on. Desperate, I called my new landlord and asked for help. Twenty minutes later, he and his wife arrived, he with a broom and she carrying a tennis racket! I wasn’t sure now if I was in a Marx Brothers film or in the Twilight Zone. Or, maybe I truly had lost my mind and this was all a hallucination! Maybe Edward had finally succeeded in driving me bonkers. I wanted my Dad, but he was 1000s of miles away in Florida. I didn’t want my Mom that night, since she would have given me the “I-told-you-so” speech for the zillionth time.

My life now relied upon “the kindness of strangers.” I sat on the couch in a funk as my new landlords searched the “empty” apartment. They found nothing, and then I noticed the odd looks they were exchanging and the guarded glances turned toward me. The questioning began anew: “What happened? When? Who or what was it? Are you sure? How much beer have you had? Etc. ad nauseum.” They must have thought I had had a breakdown or something. I began to suspect the same thing. What could any of us think?

The wife sat in a chair, talking to me in a soothing voice as he wandered the apartment again, with only a tennis racket for protection. She left the room to see what he was doing in the spare room. That’s when I began to smell the odor of meat cooking. Frying, really. I called for the landlord, frightened that the noises were coming from a fire within the walls perhaps. I hoped frantically that they too would smell the burning flesh. If not, I might have to resign myself to living in a padded room.

They noticed the smell but no flying, swooping monster appeared to verify my claims. They asked if I had left the stove on, when it was obvious that I had just ordered a pizza, and hadn’t unpacked any cookware, for crying out loud! I was now officially annoyed, a feeling that was beginning to overwhelm the feelings of fear. Time passed, punctuated by my ticking clock radio. They did one more quick look everywhere before leaving.

As we stood at the door, my incredulous landlord asked me to turn off the floor lamp. He then reached inside the glass shade which was open at the top and screwed to the pole part of the lamp, revealing the source of my fright. A baby bat! With all of the uproar of moving and opening and closing doors and cupboards and cabinets, it must have been awakened in some dark hidey-hole and got disoriented, perhaps. My landlord speculated that it must have landed on the floor lamp bulb for warmth and was disturbed by my movements in and out of the living room.

Case solved! Unfortunately, the “cooking” smell turned out to be the poor little creature being burned to death by my floor lamp! So, I really did have “bats in the belfry” after all, but this one was real, and I wasn’t crazy! At least, not that night. What I had heard and experienced was real, and I was relieved that I had not simply imagined it all. What a story! I couldn’t wait to share it with Edward…oh, wait. He was no longer in my life. We had nothing to share any more. That was a good thing, right? Right?

© 2015 Linda L Labin, PhD

Psychic Roadkill

dead hawkPsychic Roadkill

When you’ve been hurt, destroyed by a narcissist from hell,

You feel like you’ve been run over by a semi loaded with heavy logs,

Psychic roadkill on life’s bitter highway.

No exit, no rest stop, no parking in the median, speed limit zero.

Armed with new-found knowledge of surrender,

You drag your psychic carcass up the hills of dawn,

Hoping to escape oncoming traffic, semis loaded, speeding to the exit.

Will you make it before being struck again, and again, and again?

Psychic roadkill on life’s bitter highway,

Fighting surrender.

Speeding to redemption?

Or oblivion?

Picking up pieces of your soul

Scattered by the careless driver

Sucking up your love, trust, memory,

Stealing your heart and hope.

When will it end?

When you have no more love, trust, memory?

When you have no more heart or hope?

When you’ve lost your soul on the narcissist’s interstate?

No road signs here,

Just forgotten corpses

Of lost love and corruption.

Just bits of betrayed dreams.

No exit, except on the shovels of road crews

Scraping up remnants of your soul

Heedless of your pain and scars,

Immune to your suffering and despair…

© 2015 Linda L Labin, PhD

A Brief History of Marriage


big girlMuch discussion and drama about the Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage, as may be guaranteed in the Constitution, is based on religious prejudices and faulty (or false) information. Scientific experts can be consulted for an explanation of gender and sexual orientation, and the consensus is that some people are born gay or bisexual and others are born heterosexual. For those getting their panties in a twist about this issue, I say, deal with it, cookie.

Personally, I don’t care what people are into sexually and emotionally, as long as they are consenting adults and do not harm others. It’s no one else’s business, neither the government nor some so-called righteous people who use the Bible or Koran as a bludgeon against others with whom they disagree. Morality is an issue between the individual and his/her God (or no one, if they are atheists); ethics alone is an issue between individuals and society. Once you understand that basic tenet of philosophical discourse, reasonable people can communicate, educate, and make the world a better place.

For those who wish to point to passages in Deuteronomy and Leviticus as excuses to condemn others, I would remind you that, according to those books, most of society today qualify as sinners deserving hell-fire and damnation. When those rules were written down, the Hebrews were in danger of dying out and had assumed strange rites and activities that were harmful to individuals and their society (worshiping false idols, human sacrifice, widespread sexual promiscuity, etc.). To encourage procreation in a paternalistic society, leaders sought to condemn any practices that prevented survival—homosexuality, masturbation, anal intercourse, and even contraception were viewed as evil for that reason.

Remember that when you allow menstruating women into your church or synagogue, or you have Sunday morning bacon and eggs, use condoms, and enjoy lobster and crab—all condemned as evil by the ancient Hebrew leaders. We must put scriptural injunctions in the socio-historical context of their creation or risk seeming hypocritical and mean-spirited.

My view is that

  1. God must allow or be ok with homosexuality because He is the Creator and He doesn’t make mistakes. We are all God’s children and deserve respect and compassion, for none of us is without sin or perfect. It is present in nature and has existed since we crawled out of caves (or, crawled around IN them!). Life is hard enough without forcing your ego-driven image of God down everyone else’s throat.

  2. The Ten Commandments, which laid down the absolutely most important tenets of the Jewish and Christian (and Muslim) faiths, says nothing about this issue. The most important instruction about marriage is “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” because it undermines the marriage contract (which is the foundation of society). Period.

  3. Jesus told his Apostles to follow the law of their fathers (the Moseic code, which includes the Ten Commandments), but he adds that the most important is what people now call the Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt love each other as God loves you.”

That said, I hereby offer some facts about the history of co-habitation, pair-bonding, and marriage. You might want to fasten your seat belts, ‘cuz we’re in for a bumpy ride (as Margo aka Bette Davis said in the classic film All About Eve).

According to wikipedia and various English dictionaries, the term marriage derives from Middle English which comes from the Old French marier (to marry) and has its roots in the Latin marītāre which means “to provide with a husband or wife; marītāri is a verb meaning “to get married.” A relative, “matrimony” derives from Old French matremoine from Latin mātrimōnium which is a combination of “mother” and “action, state, or condition.” In other words, the term is rooted in the condition or state of a mother who has a partner to care for her and her children. These terms do not make their appearance until 1250-1300 AD (or CE, as the PC police dictate).

So, this condition did not even have a name for 1000s of years. Anthropologists explain that prior to farming communities and civilization, people simply lived together. They call it pair-bonding which is a term defining two people who bond to assist each other in the raising of their (presumed) children. In agricultural (rather than hunting or herding) communities, men and women worked side by side, working the same tasks except for those requiring exceptional physical strength or childbearing. These were mostly egalitarian arrangements between equal partners, with no need of state or religious sanction and was probably not restricted to opposite-sex relationships.

Many ancient and some modern people, such as Native Americans, some African tribes, Muslims, and Mormons, also recognized other arrangements, such as polygamy (several wives), polyandry (several husbands), “ghost marriages” (where another woman assumes the role of husband), homosexual bonding, and other relationships. While many anthropologists define marriage as a union between a man and a woman so that her children are recognized as legitimate offspring of both, this “definition” is focused on the narrowest meaning to benefit a paternalistic society that values men more than women and still views female adultery as far worse than males’ betrayals.

Based on her research in Sudan and India, anthropologist Kathleen Gough argues that marriage should be defined as “a woman and one or more other persons.” She later added the construct of legitimacy to agree with other scientists who assume that marriage is not about sexual access but is rather a method of caring for helpless offspring who require many years of dedicated service by a parent or parents. Legitimacy seems a result of ego, not wanting to raise another man’s child.

Edmund Leach sees marriage as conferring certain rights, summarized here:

  1. To establish a legal father and mother to the children.

  2. To give husbands and wives a monopoly on the spouse’s sexuality.

  3. To give partial or monopolistic rights to the partner’s services.

  4. To give partial or total control over property of the spouse.

  5. To create a joint fund of property, a partnership to benefit the children.

Following a sociological view of marriage negates any notion that it must be between a man and a woman exclusively. Modern science and adoption agencies have made possible a variety of marital and parental arrangements never dreamed of hundreds of years ago. If the modern concept of marriage is that it is a mutual agreement between two people who love one another and who wish to live together “’til death do us part,” with parenting as an option rather than as a requirement, I see no reason it should prevent gays from following a normal human urge that straight people have enjoyed for centuries.

The concept of marrying for love (companionate marriage) is a relatively new phenomenon, emerging about the time that concepts of individual human rights, middle-class, and capitalism in Europe and America emerged. Some argue that industrialization broke down the ties between extended families, necessary in an agricultural society, and encouraged the nuclear family as a norm. So, notions of romantic love first began to appear in Medieval society, with knights and ladies, but this was always adulterous by nature. Women then were married to men chosen by their fathers or rulers, to procreate and to enhance family land holdings. Romance only entered the picture if a married woman caught the eye of a “knight in shining armor” who would write her poetry, sing her songs, give her gifts, and woo her. These romances were not necessarily consummated, and the consequent anguish of this fact made them all the more enticing.

It is interesting to note that the Catholic Church began to insist on priests officiating at weddings around the same time the Age of Chivalry introduced notions of romantic love. For centuries, marriage was not “officially” sanctioned by church or state; two people agreed to marry and that was all that was required. This was always true in pre-Christian eras and continued to be true for poor people. For those with property and money and for those deemed nobility or royalty, however, marriage was settled between the heads of families with appropriate documents. Up until the 20th century, daughters were considered the property of their fathers until they married, at which time they became the property of their husbands. Women did not even have rights to their own children.

Christian Views of Marriage

The more “civilized” people became, the more restricted life became for girls and women, as paternalistic societies used government and religion to control them. Even now, many so-called Christians argue that women should be subservient to men, as they are lesser beings! That attitude comes from the writings of Paul, not Jesus Christ, who saw women as equals to men. These are the same “believers” who castigate gays, yet Jesus never denounced anyone. I don’t understand this irrational fear of others’ love lives.

Those against same-sex marriage argue that marriage has ALWAYS been a SACRAMENT* established by God between one man and one woman, but that is not historically accurate, as I’ll show. Marriage was not considered a sacrament until 1184 when the Council of Verona decided to make marriage dependent on church sanction. For thousands of years before the time of Jesus and for over a thousand years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, people followed the custom described in this article, often without parental consent. Nevertheless, churches throughout Europe in the Middle Ages were the only authority recording marriages, along with births and deaths.

Because so many people were marrying and re-marrying without divorce or the death of spouses, the 1563 Council of Trent decreed that the validity of marriages depended upon the wedding taking place before a priest and two witnesses. They permitted divorce in the case of adultery, but denied the innocent party the right to re-marry until the other spouse died! The Counter-Reformation Catechism of 1566 for the first time defined marriage as “’the conjugal union of man and woman, contracted between two qualified persons, which obliges them to live together throughout life’” (wikipedia). How odd they failed to mention children in this authoritarian prescription. (2015-1566= 449. So this “universal” view of marriage, for thousands of years, is actually only 449 years old…).

Prior to the 16th century, the church performed weddings in the vestibule+ of the church, emphasizing the marriage contract and betrothal as legally binding. Following the Council of Trent, the ceremony was moved inside the sacristy> in order to affirm the belief that the partnership of a man and woman for life, to procreate and educate children, symbolizes the mystical marriage of Christ to the Church. The mutual love between spouses was/is viewed as a replica of God’s eternal love for mankind. For Catholics, then, divorce violates a sacrament ordained by God. Religious scholars point to Hosea and other prophets of the Old Testament for examples of adultery, which violates the marriage bond, as a metaphor of those who are not faithful to God (yet He forgives them).

One effect of the Protestant Reformation was that the role of recording details and setting rules for weddings was taken over by the state, although churches continued to express their ongoing part in this endeavor. Following the Reformation, most Protestants saw/see the purpose of marriage as a vehicle for intimate companionship, rearing of children, and mutual support—not as a SACRAMENT but rather a COVENANT between spouses before God. Some competing notions of marriage (bold emphasis mine):

  1. The Protestant Reformationists followed Martin Luther’s vision of marriage as a “social estate of the earthly kingdom…subject to the Prince, not the Pope.”

  2. John Calvin taught that marriage was a covenant of grace that required the power of the state to preserve its integrity. His view required state registration and church consecration.

  3. Anglicans (in America, Episcopalians) believed marriage was a domestic commonwealth (a common good) so that state, church, and family were inter-connected as “an earthly form of a heavenly government.” This was valid until Lord Hardwicke’s Act of 1753 requiring a formal church ceremony (to curtail Fleet Marriages<).

  4. The 18th century Age of Enlightenment returned to the pre-Christian view of marriage as a contract “to be formed, maintained, and dissolved as the couple sees fit.” This was also the era when individual rights and the notion of equal rights for women became popular.

  5. In the 19th century England, Wales, and Germany recognized civil marriage as an alternative to church weddings. By the 20th century, marriage is a private, voluntary contract and the role of churches is diminished. Now, most Protestants permit divorce and remarriage.

Eastern Religious/Philosophical Views

In Judaism, marriage follows the laws of the Torah which dictate that it is a contractual bond between a man and a woman, one which requires the woman to be with one man exclusively. Unlike Catholic views, procreation is not the sole function of marriage, but Jews are expected to follow the command to have children. The biblical tradition of polygamy was banned officially in 1040. Hinduism sees marriage as a sacred duty entailing both religious and social obligations, and ancient Hindu literature recognized many types of marriage, from impulsive elopement to “normal” marriage to demonic abduction. The Buddhist considers marriage a secular affair, not a sacrament, and followers are expected to follow civil marriage laws of their own governments. Some followers of Islam still practice polygamy, marriage to child brides, and other customs at odds with western beliefs, although many Muslims have accepted monogamy as the “norm.”

The Ancient World

The ancient Hebrews saw marriage as a domestic affair and not a religious one, so priests or rabbis were not required. A wife was highly valued and well cared for, and when the Hebrews were nomads, husbands often allowed wives to retain their independence with their own tents. Although the Old Testament is replete with polygamy, the Talmud required that when a man took another wife, he still had to provide for his first wife—food, clothing, shelter, and sex. If he didn’t provide these things, she could divorce him. As a paternalistic society, the Israelites imposed fidelity on wives, but not husbands. Adulterers were subject to the death penalty.

Ancient Greeks had no civil ceremony but a mutual agreement and living as husband and wife were sufficient (we also see this in English common law). Men tended to marry in their twenties, after military service and becoming financially sound, while girls married in their teens. Aristotle thought that the prime of life for men was 37, while for women it was 18. Life expectancy was much lower than in the present day, so marrying a young girl ensured time for childbearing. Women had few rights and had to maintain house and children, yet these offspring were considered the property of the husband. Love between equals for the Greeks meant between men, since women were viewed as inferior creatures to be used for childbearing and maintenance of a household.

The Romans had conventional marriages with witnesses at a ceremony, and even divorce had the same requirement. By marrying, a woman lost all inheritance rights from her own family but gained them from her husband’s. Wives were under their husband’s authority in this type of marriage. The option of “free marriage” allowed a woman to retain her family rights of inheritance but she was subject to her father’s authority. Men tended to marry after their military service and when financially secure, but girls as young as 12 were given in marriage to these older men. As in ancient Greece, life expectancy was short, so younger women had a better chance of producing the requisite heirs. I suspect that another reason to choose 12-year-olds and teenagers was to ensure obedience and malleability.

Same-sex marriages have taken place for thousands of years, and Emperor Nero married two men, Sporus and Doryphorus, during his reign. This practice was not outlawed until about 342 CE. Roman laws also began requiring consent of both bride and groom, leading to a better status for women. Many Christian rulers were just as promiscuous as the Romans—Charlemagne had many marriages and concubines and only married his then-lover in time for the Pope’s visit, when he was crowned The Holy Roman Emperor. The founder of the Macedonian dynasty, Basil I, married three different men—a monk, a son of a wealthy widow, and Emperor Michael!

The ancient Germanic and Celtic tribes surprised their Roman counterparts by practicing some degree of equality—the bride and groom were the same age, with the same maturity and full growth (no pre-pubescent weddings), so the spouses were equally matched and robust, according to Tacitus. Recent archaeological research has revealed that the Vikings were more egalitarian than previously thought. The 7th-century Visigothic Code of Law declared that the prime of life for men and women was 20, and they were expected to marry at that age or later.

The spread of Christianity across Europe did not halt political polygamy, the practice of warlords and princes marrying several wives to acquire property, seal a treaty, prevent war, and so on. The practice of arranged marriages made love incompatible with marriage (as seen in the courtly love tradition). This attitude continued even into the New World. Church leaders considered passionate love between spouses as unseemly and called the husband’s authority into question. However, the Enlightenment tended to encourage married love.

The earliest Christians (1st century CE on) were opposed to marriage because it distracted one from the path to salvation. The ideal Christian would be like Christ, according to these believers, remaining single and virginal. Paul was a staunch defender of this view, although admitting that it was “better to marry than to burn” (1 Corinthians 7:9). He did not see the double meaning of that statement, I’m sure. Married couples were on a lower rung of the salvation ladder. Later Christians, like the Shakers, attempted to live according to these early dictates, but they tended to die out after the first generation, because they had not allowed for the fatal effects of non-marriage and non-childbearing!

St Augustine, who had been a lusty libertine par excellence in his youth, sternly ordered that married couples should have sex only to make babies and should avoid sex for pleasure.

From the early Christian era (30-325 CE) and among non-Christian tribes in Europe, then, marriage was essentially a private matter with no ceremony required. By the 12th century, women were expected to take the surname of their husbands. That custom is often followed today, and most people would be surprised to learn that it is not a law in the US and never has been. It wasn’t until the end of the 16th century that parental and church consent were required for binding marriages. Those areas of Europe with strong ties to classical Celtic and Germanic cultures, which were not as rigidly patriarchal, allowed women a higher status than they had in Eastern Europe where the Judaeo-Roman traditions were stronger.

In the last few hundred years, as universal education and equal rights under the Constitution have enlarged our understanding of life, love, and marriage, once-entrenched attitudes have changed. Women are no longer seen as the property of men, science has established that homosexuality is not a mental disease but a natural phenomenon, not a choice but a genetic condition, and our society has matured beyond the anti-miscegenation laws banned in 1967. The Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex unions should be accorded the same rights as opposite-sex unions, so why not focus on your own salvation, as it were, rather than attempting to dictate how others should live?


*Sacrament: A formal Christian rite such as baptism and the Eucharist instituted by Jesus as a means of grace. This original definition logically leaves out marriage because Jesus never identified it as a sacred rite.

#Covenant: A binding agreement made by two or more persons or parties. A formal sealed agreement or contract. This reference to a legally binding contract retains the historic origins of marriage.

+Vestibule: A small entrance hall or lobby of the church.

>Sacristy: An interior room that houses the sacred vessels of the church and vestments of the priest.

<Fleet Marriage: A clandestine or irregular marriage (involving under-age spouses or bigamy, for example) performed at Fleet Prison, Gretna Green, and other places.

Select Sources:

Code of Hammurabi (1700 BC).

Confessions of St Augustine.

Council of Trent:

The American Heritage Dictionary.

The Holy Bible.

©2015 Linda L Labin, PhD

Thought For the Day

[Don’t forget to check out yesterday’s TFD]

How do you make a selfie without looking like a psycho?

Am I the only one with this problem?


©2015 Linda L Labin, PhD

Dracula Is The Iconic Toxic Narcissist

Dracula Is the Iconic Toxic Narcissist

When I speak or write about toxic narcissism, which is, I believe, the source of all evil in the world, I often mention that toxic narcissists are like ‘psychic vampires,’ in that they suck the souls out of good, compassionate people in the same fashion as mythical (I hope) vampires suck the life blood out of trusting victims. That construct leads me to examine here the idea that Dracula, the epitome of vampirism, is also a perfect icon of toxic narcissism.

First, some definitions for those unfamiliar with this issue. The American Heritage Dictionary defines narcissism as “1. Excessive love or admiration of oneself. 2. Psychoanal[itical]. An arresting of development or a regression to the infantile stage of development in which one’s own body is the object of erotic interest.” The condition is named for the mythical Narcissus: “A youth who pined away in love for his own image in a pool of water and was transformed into the flower that bears his name.”

In Greek myth, humans are punished for their acts which offend the gods. The human is a doer and so must act on need or desire and the doer must be punished. Often they are punished even for the deeds or obsessions of the very gods they worship. This case brilliantly exposes the destructive nature of self-loving humans. Narcissus was a young man so lovely and perfect in his physical beauty that everyone fell for him, men and women, but no one seemed to meet HIS standards. One girl he rejected was so hurt that she withered away to nothing but a voice, one heard only if someone else spoke first; her name was Echo.

Because of her pain from his rejection of her pure, unselfish love, Echo asked the gods to punish him, and they did. He fell in love with his own reflection, discovered in a pool of water in the forest where he liked to gambol and gather admirers. The image he saw was perfect in every way, but when he tried to embrace this loveliest of boys, the vision of beauty disappeared, again and again. In one version of the myth, he pines away beside the pond; in another, Narcissus continues to embrace the beautiful image until he plunges into the pond and drowns. In both versions, he destroys himself waiting for the love of his life to accept him, and a flower, the narcissus, blooms where he died. The gods often brought life and beauty out of horror, just as spring flowers emerge after the seeming death brought by winter.

Salvador Dali, Narcissus

Salvador Dali, Narcissus

Like most Greek myths, the story of Narcissus is meant to teach us of the dangers of selfish love to the exclusion of all others. I suspect that a narcissist in the 21st century would not recognize that moral. Instead, s/he might think that Narcissus’ only mistake was in not surrounding himself with compassionate givers whose worship of him would have—should have—reinforced his narcissism. He would never die, as long as someone gave him the attention he deserved and required—rather like a toxic Tinkerbell for whom you must clap and clap and…


The term toxic narcissism, given to individuals identified as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder, goes beyond the simple vanity of Facebook and Twitter and selfies (oh, my!). When this selfishness is not just a passing self-interest but a modus operandi aimed at ensnaring loving and compassionate people who think that caring for others will earn them love, the condition becomes toxic to these victims. It is toxic because the narcissist brings nothing to the relationship except need and dependency—and control. Like Dracula sucking the life out of those he feeds on, toxic narcissists feed on the love, compassion, the very humanity of their victims. Both leave victims to suffer and die alone. However, if the victim unmasks the handsome Count or the attractive narcissist, s/he will be met with lethal violence—Dracula will not stop until his opponents are dead (or he is); likewise, the narcissist tries to gaslight victims so that they doubt reality and their own sanity and escalates to character assassination for fear that victims will reveal the truth about them. Sunlight (God’s gift) kills Dracula while truth (the light of reason) destroys the psychic vampire.

Like psychopaths, sociopaths, and antisocial personalities, narcissistic personalities have an inflated sense of their importance and superiority as well as a deep need for admiration and attention. At the same time, these dependent daisies have no empathy for others and suffer no remorse for their heartless self-aggrandizement at others’ expense. Dracula and the promiscuous narcissists never feel guilt or shame as they move to victim after victim, never satiated.

Recent clinical studies have revealed that the brains of those identified with these disorders lack gray matter in the area of the brain associated with empathy, compassion, emotional and cognitive functioning (the left anterior insula). Behind the facade of ultra-confidence, however, lurks a self-loathing infant whose self-esteem is so fragile that it cannot tolerate even mild criticism. These people are deeply unhappy, always seeking out loving worshipers who reflect the narcissist’s self-deluded image. Dracula’s folklore explain him as one of the ‘undead,’ lacking a soul because he has sold it to the Devil. That’s why mirrors and crosses are anathema to him, reminding him of his despair. Monsters never suffer guilt, satisfying their blood lust until they are staked or beheaded (like a rabid animal).

The joke in psychiatric circles is that toxic narcissism is the only mental disorder that leaves the person with this condition alone while treating instead all of his/her victims.

Narcissists disrupt every area of life, from personal relationships to school to work to raising families to all areas of social interaction. The narcissist learns early how to mask his/her true desires and goals while assuming a mask appropriate to situations or victims. They are accomplished liars and manipulators, always playing the victim when their true nature is revealed. Once unmasked, they attempt to destroy the truth-teller to prevent others from knowing what they are. They can be paranoid about other people’s opinions of them, assuming that everyone is as interested in them as they themselves are. While Dracula has no job or school and his only ‘family’ consists of his ‘brides,’ he brings death and desolation to everyone in his path. The brides never become ‘wives’ because they were taken in youth, so will never age, but they will never be a partner to Dracula, only servants to his desires. He gleefully deserts them to save himself. Likewise, the narcissist throws everyone under the bus, because nothing is his/her fault. Both have cult-like followers.

According to the DSM-5, narcissistic personalities are extremely likely to exhibit other symptoms: substance abuse, mood and anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, and others. Toxic narcissism is more common among men, while borderline pd seems more common in women, as they tend to be victims of child abuse (associated with bpd) more often than men. Some individuals with NPD can be ambitious and capable, but their inability to tolerate setbacks or disagreements make it difficult to maintain long-term professional achievement. They are easily distracted and expect others to give them what they need because they’re ‘special.’

The cause of narcissistic personality disorder is unknown but research suggests that some are born with an oversensitive temperament that is encouraged by excessive parental admiration and praise without realistic feedback. Alternatively, these children may be victims of excessive criticism for bad behavior, unpredictable care-giving by parents, and even severe emotional abuse. Researchers have found that narcissism runs in families, but it is unclear whether there is an inherited tendency or that family structure and interactions re-create the same patterns generationally. In Dracula’s case, his father was away fighting the Ottoman Turks invading Wallachia (Transylvania) and his mother died of the plague when he was a child. To ensure a peace treaty with the Turks, Dracula’s father left him as a hostage to the Turks when he was a child. By all accounts, the boy was brutalized in every way imaginable. (Here, I’m speaking of the real-life Count Vlad Tepes, known as Vlad the Impaler, who was a brutal leader but a national hero in Romania).

At first, they are attractive and charismatic and shower their new-found victim with ‘apparent’ love and gifts and seeming adoration. But once they have ensnared a loving and good person, they become more demanding and more ‘entitled,’ jealous, and increasingly abusive. It may be verbal, emotional, even physical, and they will return with half-hearted (unfelt) apologies and explanations that make the victim take the blame. As the narcissist isolates the victim, from friends and family, and even from the victim’s own sense of self and reality, the narcissist, who actually has low self-esteem and a lot of self-loathing on a subconscious level, begins to devour his/her source of emotional nourishment by shaming, gaslighting, and emotional ping-ponging. They are such expert liars and manipulators that their victims begin to doubt their own sanity and reality. Most never realize that they’ve been innocent victims, and never see what these narcissists truly are, until the relationship (finally) ends.

Dracula doesn’t own a mirror yet his hair is neatly parted and combed. He sleeps in a coffin, yet his suits are always neatly pressed and shoes are shined. He is suave and sophisticated; when he arrives at a party in England, all eyes are on him. He mesmerizes his victims and has a strange psychic link to them, even before he has taken their blood. Most victims die, never knowing what he is. A few, like Jonathan Harker, may escape and Dracula then shows his monstrous side. As Harker tries to save his fiancee Mina, Dracula becomes more aggressive. Harker must hunt him down in his lair and drive a stake through his heart to free the love of his life. Modern-day narcissists practice character assassination to prevent victims from revealing the truth about their dark side. Victims must refuse contact with these monsters or risk returning to the horrors of their emotional crypt.

We are all, to some degree, narcissists; it’s in our DNA. As humans, we have the unique experience of memory, time, and expectations of the future. We believe that we are God’s highest creation and that that ‘fact’ means that we can do anything we want to each other, other animals, and our long-suffering planet. I’m not saying that’s a good thing; often our ‘stewardship’ has been filled with rapine of nature’s (God’s) gifts. A big part of essential narcissism is its absolute necessity for survival. If we did not love ourselves, we would perish; without self-interest, who would seek out food, shelter, clothing, and love?

Humans are the only creatures who are born and who remain utterly helpless for years. Researchers even argue that babies (human and animal) are cute and adorable because that is an evolutionary trick to ensure survival of offspring. Symmetrical features, cute, puffy cheeks, and physical beauty have always been viewed as perfection and goodness. Subconsciously, even animal mothers reject offspring with abnormalities because resources are limited and those with physical or mental problems will not survive. Thankfully, humans have evolved beyond that reptilian aspect of survival. Mostly.

Most humans have a selfless, compassionate side that protects the innocent and helpless and cares for those with difficulties of whatever sort. We see selfless acts daily as firefighters rush into burning buildings, military men and women fight wars to protect our country (wars they didn’t start), police risking their lives to protect us from the bad people and the crazies who assault us with their feed-me mentality. For Christians, the best example of totally unselfish, self-sacrificing love is seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. None of us ever reach that level of agape.

We learn in the playpen and in the schoolyard that there are ‘takers’ and there are ‘givers,’ and it is that basic war of narcissism vs compassion that is the history of this planet. I’d like to believe that narcissists can change, but it’s impossible. To misquote Gertrude Stein, a thorn is a thorn is a thorn. To change, you must admit that there is a problem, that you are the problem, that your approach to life, your expectations of others, your need to control, to be admired, to be cared for like the psychological infant you are, are THE PROBLEM. The narcissist sees no problem, just people who don’t appreciate his/her awesomeness. Too often, the ‘givers’ try to change themselves, believing the lies of the narcissist that love and compassion and caring belongs only to them and that no one else DESERVES them.

Because of their belief that they are so deeply flawed that others cannot accept or love them for themselves, narcissists try to protect themselves from painful rejection and isolation by controlling how others see them and behave around them. If someone confronts them with their true selves, narcissists react with disdain, disbelief, rage, and defiance. They will then do everything they can to assassinate the character of their victim, fearful that s/he will reveal the beast behind the mask.

Below is a table I’ve prepared comparing Dracula (Bram Stoker’s fictional character, not Vlad Tepes) and the toxic narcissist (one with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder with or without co-morbidities). Some characteristics may seem repetitive but are included for emphasis or clarification.

Characteristics Dracula Toxic Narcissist Notes
Raison d’être Vampire Psychic vampire To feed off others
Sucks out your life Blood Soul Love, compassion, sense of self
Dependent Human blood Attention, care Façade of independence
Attractive Charismatic, mysterious Charismatic, adoring Well-groomed, attentive
Manipulative “Come to Me” Conditional love Do as I say or else
Jealous You belong to me I know you’re cheating Projection of own faults
Abusive Kills victim Kills victim’s spirit Blame, shame
Reality Shift Turns into a bat, fog Gaslighting Victim doubts own memory, sanity
Self-important, sense of entitlement Ruler, demands strict obedience Superior to all, fantasies of success “I’m special”
Appearance Opulent castle, good looks Materialistic, good looks Combed, pressed, flawless
Reality Coffin in crypt Self-loathing, ugly Monster
Mirrors No, lacks a soul Deceived by ego Cannot reflect
Excessive self-love Recreates self in brides Selfies, “I” and “me” You should be grateful I’m here
Need for followers ‘Brides,’ human helpers (Renfield) Sources for love Toxic Tinkerbell
Fragile self-esteem Fears sunlight Fears truth Exposure means death
Infantile needs “I vant to drink your blood” I must be loved, admired, supported I’m 2 years old and I am helpless (I’m the victim)
No empathy Destroys everyone Lacks compassion No remorse
Deceiver Shape-shifter Masks true self Chameleon
Revelation of truth Kills all who seek him out Destroys truth-teller Character assassination
Paranoid Only appears at night, hides coffin Everyone’s opinions matter Talking about me, hides true nature
It’s not my fault Vampire bit him and turned him Parents pampered me Generational vampirism
Isolation Dracula lures Harper to his Transylvanian castle Friends and family interfere w/plans Removes competition for attention
Victims Most die without knowing what he is Most don’t see what s/he is until it ends If you survive, you will protect yourself
What they fear Garlic, sunlight, cross Truth, victim success The light of reason
Followers ‘Brides’ enthralled to him, his needs Future victims, innocent friends deceived by lies Cult-like minions
Insight “The blood is the life.” Can’t see own toxicity Only my needs matter
Fantasy Kill, infect everyone Everyone loves me Irrational
Superficial Intimacy Sex via blood transfer Sex as control Promiscuous
Exploitation Uses money, law, British politeness Takes everything from victims, wants more Leaves when victim is empty, used-up
Emotional behavior Melodramatic, cape Extreme highs, lows Crying, tantrums
Self-loathing No mirrors! Deeply flawed, unlovable Fear of rejection, abandonment
Bad parenting Abuse, abandonment, used as hostage Praised or criticized too much Learns to manipulate others
Antisocial Abandoned castles Emotional walls Fear of criticism
Control of others ‘Brides’ not autonomous, bring victims to him Belittles others, downplays their accomplishments Competitive, must be the center of attention
Unpredictable Bat, fog, wolf Moody, changeable Like bipolars
How to destroy them Stake through heart Tell the truth No contact or risk renewal of vampirism

If you are or have been in a relationship with a toxic narcissist, a psychic vampire, RUN far, far away or s/he will drain every last drop of your heart, goodness, love, compassion, sanity, soul. Then you too will be an empty husk like your monster.

Q. How many narcissists does it take to change a light bulb?

A. Only one, but everyone on earth has to work to turn the earth around to unscrew the bulb.

A2. None. I like it in the dark. I’m used to having to do everything myself; you’re lazy and useless…

©2015 Linda L Labin, PhD (except images, whose copyright belongs to their respective owners)