The Mary Crawfords of This World

Screen cap of Mary Crawford from the film "Mansfield Park"
Screen cap of Mary Crawford from the film “Mansfield Park”

by Nora Woodhouse cross posted from her blog A Heart Like Mine

Editor’s note: The Mary Crawford that Nora is discussing in her blog is a character from Jane Austen’s novel “Mansfield Park” An explanation of the character of Mary Crawford and quotes by Mary for those unfamiliar with the writings of  Jane Austen. An important part of recovery after leaving the world of QF to be able to recognize the toxic people in your path.

I have once again arrived at a place where I am angry at yet another well meaning individual.

Maybe I am not so much angry at them as I am at what they represent in my life. All the years of well meaning people saying and doing incredibly hurtful things because they didn’t understand, didn’t know better or because they thought they did know better. You can usually see the concern, pity or look of “I’ve been there I get this”. You can see that they want to fix things, want to share, and their intentions come from that place. However they are the Mary Crawfords of the world and as Edmund in Mansfield park sensibly says “She does not think evil but she speaks it”. I frequently say that there are many occasions when people with good intentions end of being harbingers of bad things, more so than those that truly intend on doing so.  And the problem is what to do with them? Ideally your are supposed to see the good intentions behind whatever they are saying, obviously ignore the advice but then what? What do adequate boundaries look like when you meet a Mary Crawford?

Boundaries are necessary and Mary Crawford’s good intentions do not excuse them of responsibility for what they say. How you approach things depends on the type of Mary C you have encountered. How solid your relationship is with them will guide your decision in regards to how you  communicate that you see the good intentions, but inform them that some of it caused hurt or is misguided. Be gentle but strong (Christina Enevoldsen words) when dealing with an Mary Crawford. They often have no idea that they have been insensitive, completely misunderstood, or missed some of the greater complexities of things. However it is not your job to educate them or to help change their general lack of awareness; if you have the time and energy to do so great! If not let them be on their way.

A Mary Crawford’s advice is also often reflective of their own story. We are all guilty of this from time to time because we generally try to relate to others through our own experiences. However the difference is that a Mary Crawford is not conscious enough to share things without projecting herself onto you, which is different than a shared experience that serves for understanding or empathy. This projection also tends to be paired with a sense that their experiences have given them answers- the right answers. Somehow they always know best, but they are not drawing on anything outside of themselves. Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park seemed to exist in her own world, and could not incorporate others differences or differences of feeling and thought into her understanding. This is especially true if the Mary C is going through their own difficulties in life, and their expressions to you will be especially influenced by this.

Can a Mary Crawford be a flying monkey? I think there is that potential if they were to meet a Narcissist, to be sucked in, turning their well intended advice towards the narcissists target.

In situations in the past I have played the role of the nice girl (nice girl syndrome), and thought feeling angry at any Mary Crawford was petty because “they didn’t mean it” and that I was just taking it too personally. But just because I understand where someone might be coming from does not mean that I let them walk all over me “unintentionally” like a door mat. I was brought up with the idea that it was my fault if I took something personally, and that when others behaved in a hurtful or bullying manner- to let it go because engaging them would only make it worse. But with bullies and Mary Crawfords who are not conscious of their behaviors (or even if they are) it may take a very firm “stop it” to get their attention. I have learned this with my family when Vaarsuvius went about on a smear campaign. Engaging them on certain points- fruitless. Telling other families members in simple statements that V does not speak for me- priceless. Simple statements that are clear and concise can be key- there is nothing extra to extrapolate from them so no fodder for a narcissists victim campaign.

No more nice girl! I get to say when someone has hurt my feelings or was perhaps not being thoughtful. It doesn’t make me one dimensional- just angry . It makes me gentle and strong; and it makes it so I will not become a  victim of well meaning  persons ie. Mary Crawford.


Nora is a member of the SASBN

More about Nora:

I am a former country girl and abuse survivor. I enjoy blogging because I find it personally therapeutic. It also allows me to share my experiences with others, and bring to light issues of abuse. I am a stay at home writer with a husband and house full of furry critters. I write under a pseudonym for my personal safety as well as to negate any potential legal trouble over sharing my story.

She blogs at A Heart Like Mine


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