Apr
15

Anger at Parents~A Pathway on the Journey to Freedom

By

Freedom, wholeness, mental health

This post has been inspired by Sarah who left a compelling comment on my last post. I have copied and italicized her comments and answer them point by point.

~Sarah~ “What if you are an adult child of someone who was abused as a child who never sought professional help?  My parent was depressed and put us through so much as a children yet I don’t feel I can call it abuse as we weren’t sexually abused or physically.” 

~ Darlene~ Abuse is not just physical or sexual. Having said that, the word we use to describe our situation past or present is not nearly as important as it is to get help and shine some light on the situation.  I try to use terms such as emotionally unavailable, or emotional abandonment but it all comes down to not having had a sense of value instilled in us.  I was well fed, and well clothed.  On the outside I imagine that we looked like the perfect family, yet my first major depression was at the age of 10. It may have been easier for me to blame sexual abuse for all my problems, but I have met so many others who share my story of struggle and depression who had never had either sexual OR physical abuse, that I began to realize that my problems went deeper then the type of abuse. I think emotional abuse is extremely hard to cope with no matter what you call it. How does a child understand the things that you are describing here Sarah?

~Sarah~ “this parent uses their abuse as an excuse for why they weren’t emotionally present and as a reason for all the irresponsible choices they made for us as children.  As an adult I’m dealing with anger towards them for the way they treated us and the poor decisions they made. This parent is still focusing so much on their childhood and is seeking sympathy from their children for what they missed out on.  This parent fails to see how much we missed out on when they didn’t seek help.”

~Darlene~ my mother constantly told me that I had it so much better then she’d had it. And that was true. My mother was a better mother then her mother was to her. The quality of my life was at least 10 times better then the way that she grew up. It never occurred to me to say “SO???” Does the fact that her life was worse than mine justify that she didn’t take proper care of me?

I was taught my whole life that I was responsible for my own feelings, and I found this a difficult concept to grasp. I didn’t think I had the right to be angry with my parents. I sought help via support groups in my early twenties and it was drilled into my head that my feelings were my choice, that I was responsible for who I was as an adult, that I could not blame my past for my present. I believed all those things and I tried positive thinking, affirmation, self help books etc. Many of these things helped for a little while, but they were more like a Band-Aid for a critical wound.  I was shocked when my last therapist told me that there was such a thing as “justifiable anger” I had never once thought of that in relation to my parents OR to my past.

~Sarah~ “The (adult) children are afraid of confronting the parent about their behavior out of fear they will be really upset.”

~Darlene~ The most important thing for me to say on this point is that the fear I had about standing up to my mother, was a fear left over from childhood and I didn’t realize that fact. I was so afraid that my mother would abandon me, or reject me if I told her how much she had hurt me.  In my therapy process I realized that as a child, rejection and abandonment means death. As an adult it just hurts. As a child, my mother’s love, attention, acceptance was the most important thing in the world and I tried very hard to get it. As an adult I was still trying very hard to get it.

~Sarah~ I’m contemplating seeking therapy as I’m at a point in my life where I have no idea how to deal with this situation. 

~Darlene~ It was in therapy that I learned my value. It was in therapy that untangled the mess at the center of my soul and realized the truth. In the end, I had to learn how to re-parent myself. In the end, I was able to find the real me, the individual that I was born to be and move forward with my life. I left depression and dissociation behind me for what I believe to be forever.

It isn’t that I blame my parents for the struggle that I have had. Realizing where they had failed me was only a pathway on the journey to wholeness and freedom.  What I’m trying to get at in this blog is that in order to get to the bottom of my depressions, and mental health issues, I had to see where I was squished, where I was invalidated and unsupported and where my emotional growth was stunted. I had to acknowledge those things before I could get to the “me” that was hiding underneath the confusion and emerge into wholeness and freedom.

~Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

 

Categories : Family

26 Comments

1

My situation was much like Sarah’s except that I have long gaps that I cannot recall though I remember things before and after the gaps.

At one point I had not spoken to my mother in 15 years but that pushing away did me more damage than good. We finally reconciled and had the talk Darlene is suggesting and it was amazing. It freed both of us to have the great relationship we now have.

2

I wanted to tell you that your conversation with Sarah in that post was excellent and really touched me. My on going struggles with my parents and their NEED to be first, best and most important regardless of the feelings of others have been an ongoing challenge. My struggles with abuse, their denial, their cover ups, their claims of ‘fairness’ between two children were nothing but icing on a cake full of holes.

I have learned that talking to them does no good – everything gets blamed back on me for being ‘too’ emotional, sensitive, dramatic, blah blah

I do love them but I do not want or need their toxic presence in my life, just as I would help my brother if he asked but his presence in my life is not required. The negative, the abuse, the lack of caring helped make me the opposite, and that still bothers them! LOL That I CHANGED and am so DIFFERENT! Cracks me up.

I know what kind of parent I am NOT going to be for my son, the kind of aunt, friend, wife…they’ve set a great example of what not to do and be. Still is hard though when I try to be nice and caring and they stomp me out, brush me off and basically don’t care.

3

Thank You Darlene!

Wow, all I can say is Thank You, Thank You, Thank You! You are amazing!

This blog has helped me more than you’ll ever know. I’ve been struggling with increasing anger over the last few years and it’s been eating away at me. Not feeling like I could call what happened to me in my childhood as abuse made me feel as if what happened was normal or not that bad. I often felt/feel I am being selfish harping on these issues. Just like you I’ve often found ways to temporarily heal by putting a bandaid on the “wound.” I like you have felt like my anger isn’t justified and that I need to just get over it, I haven’t really truly given myself permission to be angry.

When you mention fear – I’ve often wondered what it is that I’m so scared of? Why am I scared to confront her with my feelings? You hit the nail on the head when you said because I’m afraid of abandonment or rejection. EVERY time I confronted my parents as a child with my feelings or confronted my parents actions I was met with a fury of criticism, anger, and often being told something must be wrong with me it was never them it was me. I think those memories are what keep me from telling my mom how I feel. I fear the anger, I fear the rejection, I fear what upheaval will happen within the family, and mostly I fear I will be left as the cause the one responsible to blame for the upheaval.

As an adult I’ve often wondered why I feel like I’m working so hard to maintain a relationship with my mom. I always call, send gifts, flowers, all kinds of things to show her I love her yet she makes little effort in return to do these things for me.

I totally want to say “SO” the next time I hear that it was harder for her than it was for me. Her bad past is NOT a reason or an excuse for why our childhood was the way it was.

Therapy is where I think I’m headed next. Thank you for providing such an informative insightful blog, and thank you for sharing your story with me and others. The value of other people understanding what you are going through and validating your life experience is worth its weight in gold.

4

I know I’ve failed my own children, so this really hit home. We’ve spoken about some things, my elder daughter and I, and Dan. But I know my son suffered..and still does. I lost my 3rd child, my son Aaron in 94. He was on drugs, was clean for about 3 months, then he died in an accident. I blame myself for his loss some of the time. But that won’t bring him back.
If onlys don’t help the present much..

5
Christina Enevoldsen
April 15th, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Darlene, this made me think about my own parenting. Well, I’ve been thinking about it for some time, but this reminded me of it. Do you have any guidelines or suggestions for how parents can talk to their adult children concerning things they wish they could do over? As I’m healing from my own hurts, I’m realizing more and more ways I’ve hurt my own children. My kids are in their twenties now and I’m good friends with them. We talk about everything, even the ways I’ve messed up. But I was just wondering if you can suggest ways parents can make it easier for their children to heal. I’ve learned one or two things:
1. Don’t make your kids your confession booth or your therapy session. If you bring up your faults, make sure it’s for their benefit, not to ease your conscience or sort out your own issues.
2. Create an atmosphere that invites (not pressures) your children to talk to you about sensitive issues, even ones that are hurtful to you. Let them guide the discussion and be sensitive to their responses. If they seem uncomfortable with what you are saying, stop. Be wise about the type and depth of information you share. They don’t have to know everything about the situation to heal.

6

You are all going to laugh at me, but I broke a nail today, and it was so bad that I couldn’t type.. ROFL.. and had to run to town to get it fixed. (talk about being transparent)

So I am going to answer these brilliant comments tomorrow, but tonight I do have to tell you that I just read on someone’s facebook page that the comments on this post are riveting! Isn’t that cool??

I will write tomorrow, Darlene

7

Fantastic Post!! We try so hard as children to please our parents. We want approval and acceptance. We try hard at school and sports and the everyday living as a kid. When we are not acknowledged for our efforts we try harder and harder. We try so hard we lose the focus on other parts of our lives and sometimes wish we were someone elses kids or go into our own little world where we feel safe and are accepted. This trying harder and harder pattern is used by our abusers to keep us “squished” and in our place. The problem with trying harder is we get good at some things. Our abusers can’t stand that. We might show them up so they abuse us more so we really can’t think or have thought of our own. If we ever found out how pathetic that our abusers are we might not love them–see the circle. The biggest problem is if we don’t change our core beliefs we continue with the circle and start with our own kids. My son wrote a great post last night about the very thing. I had picked on him so bad that it had him in such a spin he was so sick and fed up at the age of 8. How pathetic was that.
Darlene said “As a child, my mother’s love, attention, acceptance was the most important thing in the world and I tried very hard to get it. As an adult I was still trying very hard to get it” At 45 I was still trying to show my Dad I was “good enough” I worked hard-to the fault of being a work-aholic. I was a good father to the fault my kids hated me for pushing them so hard. I was a good husband to the point my wife hated me and wanted to leave me because I was so emotionally abusive. I also hated being me.
All this because I tried harder and harder. Did my parents openly know what they were doing, probably not. I wasn’t sexually abused or physically abused but ended up in a pit of despair and depression.
I am working on changing my core beliefs and I am having a better relationship with my family. Do I push for better–not anymore and I can see my family blossoming.

8

McProdigal ~ This is a cool story of your journey with your own mother. It gives me hope for my relationship with my Mother. Thanks so much.

Angelina ~ Well your post reminds me of the saying “that is the story of my life” I am happy to say that it is my old life! My mother is famous for “divide and conquer” playing one kid against the other..
Thanks so much for your comment and I agree with you, it is so important that we don’t repeat the cycle and become the same kind of toxic parent that we HAD.

Sarah ~ It is cool to have your comments on this post that I dedicated to you.. LOL Thank you for inspiring this post. =)

Darlene Ouimet

9

Vivian ~ I am so sorry for your loss. Although we can’t go back and change the past, I try to just do better today then I did back then. I keep striving to be a good example for my kids, and I am willing to admit the mistakes that I made and try not to get defensive about it. It has been a long haul to make things right, and it isn’t finished yet, but all we have is one day at a time. Just the fact that you are aware is huge! Hugs, Darlene

Christina ~ During my process of healing from dissociated identity and chronic depression, (and the sexual abuse at the bottom of it) there were a lot of changes that my family went through too. My kids were between ages 7 through 13 and I had been nothing but “mom” and suddenly I insisted on being of equal value. I saw all kinds of mistakes that both my husband and I had made with the kids! I am going to write about all that eventually.
I want to tell you that I LOVE the things you have learned about parenting!! These are fantastic points and excellent advice! Sounds like you are an awesome parent. I think that just talking to our kids ~ talking WITH them, and not AT them, makes it better for them, no matter what age they are.

Hugs! Darlene

10

Darlene I was just able to read this today I had seen where you had posted it yesterday but my internet kept crashing but I am back up and going ..

thank you so much for writing this I can so relate. Actually I can relate to Sarah and to what you said. Right now I am in that place where I am facing this head on and the reality is that I am the only person that can stop me from living a life in recovery and wholeness. That is the biggest key of truth that we have to see .. As adults it is our own selves that holds us back not other people and not even our past but we hold ourselves hostage to these things. Why? It’s like you said about the fear of facing your mother it is that fear that we carry from our childhood into adult life! We have to break that cycle of fear! For me breaking that fear means not allowing my dad’s moodiness to dictate my own mood in other words standing up for myself even if he does bite back with words at times still I don’t back down to him yet I am still respectful to myself and to him. In other words it may cause me a moment of being upset but I don’t carry it around like a cross that he nailed me to. Instead I just brush it off yet at the same time I never back down! I don’t have to fear my parents. And I refuse to live in fear! I woke up the first of this year and said “No More Enough is Enough!”

I mean we don’t have to grab our parents by the ears and take them out to the wood shed to sort of speak lol but we have to have that courage that does not let us back down. Truth is never easy to face and many people can react violently to the truth however it is truth that destroys the prison cell that we have dwelled in for so long. So for a long time my parents didn’t want to talk about it and if we did my mom usually blamed me for it, but you know I finally got it across to her a few days ago that my dad was the adult and I was the child no matter what I was doing or saying .. dad was still the adult! And she finally agreed with me. I didn’t back down to her but I didn’t bully her about it either. I just told her the truth. I told her that I was not trying to condemn her or my dad I was not judging them whatsoever. But however I was stating the truth. The truth does not condemn it sets us free. And you know I think by me being firm but loving towards my mom on this matter has helped her in many ways. Because she has really been more open about everything that went on when I was a child. She has also been more open about her own childhood and how her dad was. In which I think this has helped her in many ways.

Use to my motivation was nothing but anger but not justifiable anger. Yes we do have a right for justifiable anger but any anger that motivates us to react abusively towards ourselves or others is not justifiable. This does not mean that we don’t have a right to bring into accountability the actions our parents took against us instead it means that by dealing with it rightly we can establish a form of respect for ourselves and in some cases for our parents as well. Not every situation is going to lead us to being embraced or having a bridge built between the abused and the abuser. In some cases it is best to stay the distance from the abuser. In such instance is where the abuser refuse to see their wrong and correct it. It doesn’t often happen but it can.

The man who molested me when I was 10 years old, though I hold no vile feelings against him now yet I don’t go out of the way to link a connection with him. I don’t hate him yet at the same time I have to have that distance totally. It is out of respect for myself. And that is not being selfish. That is just being honest. I am not hateful nor rude if he does cross my path I just make it as brief as possible.

In the situation with my parents yes I am trying to build that bridge of connection for two reasons one I am seeing where it is helping them as it is helping me and two they are my parents. Like I said not every situation can this happen. That does not mean that we failed it only means we can only build bridges if there is an opportunity presented to do so. In many abusive situations there is not an opportunity to rebuild a connection simply because it could be harmful due to the fact the abuser is still abusive or it could be that the individual who was abuse just can’t handle such a connection. Forgiveness is not based upon reconciling instead forgiveness is between you and God. At times reconciling can happen but forgiveness is never based upon that.

Again thank you for sharing this!

11

Hey Jimmy,
I would like to point out to those of you who don’t know, that Jim is my husband. I was not the only one that had a process to go through in this family.

Jim, I am thrilled that you are posting on the blog! This is such a great comment. The progress that our family has made would never have been this great if you had not been willing to step up to the plate and get your own stuff figured out. I really hope that you comment often; you bring such honesty and a willingness to admit just how bad it was and in doing that you bring a real message of hope and encouragement. Change is possible!

Thank you so much, I love you, Darlene

12

Thanks Nikki for your comments!
As always you make great points! This is a journey and there is no perfect way to travel, but as long as we keep going forward things have a change to get better, and we have a chance to heal.
Hugs, Darlene

13

Darlene, I’m coming to this discussion a little late because my own recovery process just took me through a big piece of this last week. In a nutshell, a week ago I confronted Mother, in the form of a surrogate since mother is already dead, and she did not abandon me. What this is all about is that I saw my mother, in my little boy’s mind, drive my alcoholic father out of the house forever when I was seven years old. This coupled with my mother’s own frequent anger at me left me with a deep-seated fear that if I ever confronted my mother, or any other woman, I would be abandoned, and as you said above that could feel like death. I really just surfaced this issue in the past six months, and twice in the last six months I have confronted a woman, appropriately. In both cases I experienced not abandonment but the willingness to sit down and discuss the issue with me. It only took me 60 years to get this point, and I feel incredibly empowered.

14

Carl, how wonderful to hear from you. This is a fantastic story of healing ~ so glad you shared with us! When I get to read a story like this one, I am empowered too; it validates the process of taking risks in order to move forward and recover from the tough things in the past and it changes our bliefe systems by proving that the same thing we are afraid of doesn’t always happen. This is great! I am very happy for you and thank you for sharing! Love Darlene

15

Dear Darlene;I have struggled for years with numerous addictions,blaming myself for being so weak and unable to be like others[always had been compared to father or other men] falling short of perfection.I have come to realize that [yes] I am responsible for my behavior but not responsible for the numerous addictions as everyone that I carried was modelled for me and that each addiction served a survival purpose. I do not blame my parents for all of the abuse but I do hold them accountable. Your blog is so informative for other survivors even ones like myself who suffered for years in silence. When confronting my mother about childhood abuse,all forms, I was told that I deserved everything I got.Of course the child whithin me went into hiding for many more years.Today I am slowly healing. Thank you for your compassion……………CAL

16

Cal,
This is such a great comment. I too struggled with addiction, (and other types of coping methods) and they also all served to help me survive. I agree and love your point, that there IS a difference between blame and accountability. This is such a deep truth. Thank you for writing to me; for this lovely comment and for the compliment. I have such a heart to share this message and as you can imagine there is a good part of the world that fights the truth, and sometimes we get nasty mail. It is comments like yours that make it all worth it.
I hope you visit often,
Hugs Darlene

17

Darlene,

You brought up a point that was so interesting to me…that you were responsible for your feelings. Yes, you are but as a child you need to be heard and have your feelings validated or you don’t feel like you matter at all. That was the problem in my house, it was like we didn’t even exist. I had to fight for everything…I had to fight to be heard. I got so tired of it, that I gave up and just became compliant…I tried misbehaving to get attention and that didn’t work, so, I tried being really good to get attention…that also didn’t work…so, my belief became that I just didn’t matter enough….amazing how reading something can bring all that up so quickly. Thank you for sharing.

18

Hi Jenny,
It is interesting isn’t it? I never really thought about it this way for all those years; that if I was never validated as a child, and if my feelings never mattered, then how could I proceed any differently as an adult? This was so key for me! I was able to catch up to my real age with this kind of information, but wow, I had some untangeling to do first!
Thanks for commenting Jenny!

19

all these years of harboring this unnamed anger towards my mother and not understanding WHY, and feeling guilty for it. it took me until i started cutting to realize that my mother has been consistently invalidating my feelings as long as i can remember. this is the root of my depression, my anxiety, my emotional invalidation of others…i’ve felt crazy for SO long.

thank you for this. i’m really glad to know i’m not alone.

20

Hi Alice!
Welcome to Emerging from Broken,
You are absolutly not alone! We have a pretty big community here in fact. The current post on this blog is about this subject only way deeper into it with a lot more highlights, you can read it here “Damaging Labels and Dysfunctional Family History.” I am so glad that you have joined us! This blog is all about finding the way out of the coping methods and into taking our lives and our value back!
Hugs, Darlene

22

reading this article was such a blessing. I have been struggling to find out what is wrong with me by myself. Only 3 weeks ago I realized that my mother was sexually molested at a very young age, a victim of home violence, /she kept repeating this since I was probably 5-6/ and my father was also a victim of the latter. They poured all their anger over me, kept saying that I was not worth anything, their love, their time or attention, there was emotiional and financial control. To make matters worse I had an incurable eye-disease, for which i received diagnosis 2 years after I went to another country. Before and now, my father escaped in work, and my mother in spiritual stuff… so they both were gone most of the time…
It was only a couple of weeks ago, as I mentioned, that I realized that their irrational and immature behavior was not my fault… I realized it at the age of 30, 10 years I left their country and their home… and after gaining a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in psychology…
How do you identify the gaps, I was wondering? Do you use some strategy to figure out how they failed you… This is probably a stupid question,… having in mind that I have worked with a little reparenting and the inner child, I still feel very clueless…

23

Hi Riya,
Welcome to emerging from broken!
There are no stupid questions when it comes to unraveling the damage that has been done. There are some very effective ways of realizing how being so defined and devalued caused a false belief system to grow. I have written a lot about it here in this site ~ I hope you will read other articles as well. (you have found one of my really early articles, there are a lot more comprehensive ones in my more recent work with huge discussions included.)
As for ‘strategy’ I use some very specific methods in my coaching practice.
Thanks for sharing
Hugs, Darlene

24

Hi, Darlene,

Your website has given me some comfort tonight–thanks! It’s also given me some tears. My father died some years ago and I still cry and have a hard heart when his anniversary approaches. My childhood was so tearful and I’ve still never learned to talk to most men without crying or feeling inadequate, especially if they’re in leadership positions. Yet he was a good father in many ways. I do pray about this and still can’t seem to come to peace with it. Do you have any advice about how to move on and look back compassionately?

Thanks! Amanda

25

Hi Darlene, I just had to comment on this site because after I realized that the womb birth of me and the body and brain that held the womb despised me as soon as that brain found out I was a girl… I haven’t had a mother or anything like it ever… I didn’t have any problems getting rid of her and having NC is Wonderful… That evil person just can’t help itself and it’ll never stop… All through my teens all I heard all the time was you need to see and shrink and therapist and psychologist, this is mental & emotional abuse… Even though it knows that I’ve been seeing all of these for the last 15+ years, it still has the nerve to say I need help not the other way around. After my father passed away that evil thing did lots of stuff behind my back and related through the golden child how the evil was going to punish us (my sister & I) for my father having a heart attack, natural causes… threats & abuse… NC NC NC NC NC not ever.
I was hearing from Principles & Teachers how Intelligent & Talented I was and every time they would tell evil something like get her oil painting, evil would enroll me in ‘pottery’ not very creative, wasn’t my passion, then evil had more ammunition because I didn’t like it… Principle tells evil that if I just finished the 4 core courses in high school he would give me all my credits plus some & put my gpa at 4.0, when evil and I walked out of office, I was told not to even think about going to university and not to discuss this with your father cause it’ll just put him in a bad mood (evil used that one a lot to get us to shut up about what was really going on at home & school), and that was not the first time evil uttered the words don’t even think about going to university… I can always look back with compassion for my father, although he too was her pawn, because there were lots of things he did to show and tell me that he really did Love me! As for EVIL, my view is evil never had any emotions or compassion for me why the heck should I have anything other than “Absolutely Nothing”for evil ever”! I really LIKE NC it’s so wonderfully freeing!!!
Kelly

26

My father may have been a better parent to me than my paternal grandfather was to him, but how does that count as an excuse for all of the terrible things he did to me? An excuse that has gone beyond its expiration date.

The past is in the past, but that doesn’t have to define us! Unfortunately, my Dad has chosen his respective pathway and has remained there throughout his 45 yrs of existence. He succumbed to the style of parenting he was exposed to and as a result both his children avoid coming into contact with him at home. Weak and pathetic is what I would describe him for his lack of will to even think of becoming a better parent to me, who he claims fulfilled his dream of becoming a father. If I really was your dream come true, how come you turned out to be my worse nightmare in the flesh?

Your perception of love is what has led for us to never have what could have or should have been a fruitful relationship. I am sorry about your past, but that will no longer be a “free pass” for whatever it is you continue to do to me.

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