Nov
16

Are there Excuses for Emotional Abuse and Child Neglect?

By

Is there an excuse for emotional abuse and child neglectSometimes it strikes me that my blog may not be “fair” to my mother because I had two parents and the truth is that my father did as much damage in my life as my mother did. Although I want to write about my father, there just isn’t much to write. My father was emotionally unavailable and emotionally absent and by definition my father was emotionally abusive.

My father didn’t contribute much to my life at all. He didn’t pay attention to me, he didn’t affirm me, he didn’t communicate with me in fact I don’t know what role he did play in my life other then financial support while I was growing up. 

I think that my father is dissociated. The “disconnected from the world and from himself” kind of dissociated. Perhaps he has dissociative identity disorder and since that is what I had, I know a lot about it.

My father is passive and apathetic as though nothing matters and nothing impacts him. He refers to himself as easy going. I think that he is passive abusive and as I said emotionally abusive.

Why was my father so apathetic when it came to me? Why did he behave as though I didn’t matter and communicate that message to me through so many of his actions and inactions? Growing up, I didn’t think that it was about HIM. I thought that it was something that was wrong or missing in me.  Realizing that he was dissociated at first made me say “OH YA that makes sense” BUT it didn’t go any distance towards my freedom from the pain I had always had in relation to my emotionally unavailable father.

People say things like “well at least he didn’t beat you.” And I never knew what to say to that. That statement is a guilt trip. It is like saying …“well you should be grateful that he didn’t do anything violent like some fathers do”.  People say things like this as though the good about the fact that he didn’t beat me cancels the bad about the rest of what he didn’t do. Good does not cancel bad. Good is Good and Bad is Bad. Two different things.

In this blog ~ “Truth is Truth”

My father didn’t care about me.  He neglected me. He didn’t engage with me and he wasn’t interested in my life. I don’t remember conversation with him when I was a kid.  That is emotional neglect. I don’t remember any conversation with him that was about ME as an adult either. 

I found the following definitions of Emotional Abuse on the US Department of Health and Welfare site.   

Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance. Emotional abuse is often difficult to prove and, therefore, child protective services may not be able to intervene without evidence of harm or mental injury to the child. Emotional abuse is almost always present when other forms are identified.

And These from the Department of Justice in Canada;

Neglect is often chronic, and it usually involves repeated incidents. It involves failing to provide what a child needs for his or her physical, psychological or emotional development and well being. For example, neglect includes failing to provide a child with food, clothing, shelter, cleanliness, medical care or protection from harm.3 Emotional neglect includes failing to provide a child with love, safety, and a sense of worth.

Emotional abuse involves harming a child’s sense of self. It includes acts (or omissions) that result in, or place a child at risk of, serious behavioural, cognitive, emotional or mental health problems. For example, emotional abuse may include verbal threats, social isolation, intimidation, exploitation, or routinely making unreasonable demands. It also includes terrorizing a child, or exposing them to family violence.

My father didn’t protect me from my mother.  I don’t remember my mother hitting me with a belt when my father was at home, so he may not have been aware of some of that physical abuse, but this one time she slapped me as hard as she could across the face because I was late getting home.  The truth about that situation was that my father forgot to tell her that I had called and that he had given me permission to stay later at my friends across the street. My father stood there with his mouth hanging open when my mother slapped me.  No one comforted me.  No one supported me.  He didn’t protect me. He didn’t say anything to her in front of me to validate me or stand up for me. I was hit and it was a mistake ~ but so what?? Who cares about Darlene? She is “just a child”. 

My father failed me. There is just no denying it and believe me I tried to deny it for most of my life. I tried to tell myself that he was busy and that he had an important job. I told myself that his mind was elsewhere and it needed to be so that he could provide for us. I was in effect telling myself that his actions were correct… that he had many things in his life that were far more important than I was and that I was the one with the problem for feeling unworthy and unlovable.  

But really, are there excuses for emotional abuse and child neglect?

The truth is that it doesn’t matter even if my father had some unknown disease that caused him to completely detach from me for some unknown reason… the damage was done and it is the damage that needs to be dealt with instead of excused by finding out the answer to the WHY questions.

Deciding that my father fits the description of being dissociated did not contribute in any way to how I was able to heal from the damage that his lack of interest and emotional neglect of me caused.  Like the above definition states ~  “Emotional neglect includes failing to provide a child with love, safety, and a sense of worth…” And that IS the damage that was caused by my fathers inability to have any kind of real relationship with me.

The real emotional healing came with self validation. I realized that just because my fahters actions and ill regard for me showed that I was invalid and unimportant in his life did NOT prove that I was invalid and unimportant.  The fact that my father didn’t hit me or even yell at me did not make him a good father.  The way that he regarded me fits the descriptions of emotional abuse and child neglect. The fact that he didn’t even bother with me is the fact that I had to deal with. The damage that he caused to me by his emotional neglect and passive abuse is what I had to face in order to overcome that damage.

My father was emotionally unavailable and emotionally abusive. His lack of contribution in my life was his fault and it defines him. NOT ME. 

Please share your thoughts about the subject of child neglect, emotionally abusive or emotionally absent fathers, focusing on the damage instead of the reason or anything else that you wish to share here.

This is the truth that set me free.  

Darlene Ouimet

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Categories : Family

94 Comments

1

So absolutely true. Any type of abuse speaks volumes about the abuser, NOT the victim. It took me years to realize this fact and place the shame where it belongs.

2

I can match your father with mine. Yeah – even when he was physically present in the room, he wasn’t present in the sense of being engaged with me. My mother wore the trousers in their relationshop – and he wouldn’t have lifted a finger if she didn’t tell him to.
If anything, my father was more like a rival sibling – he was in competition with me for attention from my mother. I can remember getting particular toys – such as a train set – which clearly met his need/want – and which he subsequently broke. When he did engage with me, it was to tease me till I cried. As an adolescent, getting ready for my first job, he undermined me and put me down.
When I was finally forced to disclose my abuse, I have no memory of what action he took – if any. I can’t remember if he had anything to say.
Thoughout my early life – into adulthood, I do not remember receiving a single present that he had thought about and bought, himself, for me. Any conversation that I had with him would become a competition – whatever I had to say, he had to trump it in some way – a habit that continued though to his death. When I married, he competed with my husband for my attention.
I didn’t trust him, I didn’t respect him – and I have a hard time believing that I loved him – but I did love him. I loved him enough to care for him in his last year of life, rather than have him go into residential care. But I was relieved when he died. And that was when I started the process of getting ready to heal.
More recently I have learned that he was fearfully abused as a child himself by my grandmother, who was extremely violent. Whatever he carried forward into adult life, it did not include the realisation that his job as a father was to protect and nurture me.

3

This is a really interesting post. I have focused so much attention on my mother and what she did(does)that I failed to consider the role my father and step father played in the abuse I suffered. I have read about the enabling father and how he sits back and does nothing. Both of my fathers were this way. But one thing that occurs to me is that somehow abusive mothers seem to gain strength from this silent partner. It’s like the father’s lack of objection or concern justifies the mother’s behavior and makes her feel entitled to do what she wants to to the “bad” child. Instead of the father being a support to the child, he is a support to the abusive mother.

4

One thing that jumps out at me is how they admit that emotional abuse can be hard to prove and therefore act on. And I also think there is a lot of abuse which is not even seen as abuse legally and is in fact considered normal. I am also thinking about how hard it is often for parents to ALLOW their children to have it better than they did, even when it is clearly in the child’s best interest. My father was typical in beliving that anything he suffered “didn’t hurt him” (denial), therefore it’s ok for the next generation not to be protected from that kind of harm. I hope I don’t offend anyone by what I am about to say. I come from a religious tradition where it is considered admirable and holy to mutilate baby boys (circumcision). If you’ve ever been to one of these events you can see how much the baby is suffering. His first week in the world, where he is expecting love and kindness, someone puts a knife to his genitals. We are told that the child doesn’t remember it, but then the rabbi makes a “joke” about how he moves every fifteen years so none of the boys grow up and recognize him! When this happened to my nephew, all the women in the family were crying and all the men said, “Well, it didn’t hurt me, I survived, and there are worse problems in the world, anyway.” So fathers continue to allow their sons to be hurt. This is not called abuse, people never ask if there are long term consequences, it is legal and even called a religious duty. I am not meaning to focus on this, but it just comes to my mind as an example of one way I saw my father and other men in my family dedicated to institutionalized ritual abuse. It was a scene that has stuck in my mind and what I find most disturbing is how much it was taken as the right and normal thing to do. How many other abuses pass as normal and even desirable?

5

Darlene, This really resonates with me. There is a big difference between reasons and excuses. There were a lot of reasons why my parents treated me the way they did but those reasons didn’t relieve them of their responsibility to give me the things I needed as a child. There is no excuse, they were responsible and they blew it. They are still blowing it because they still refuse to take responsibility and acknowledge their actions and what they did to me. If they would acknowledge their hurtful actions, then they could received my forgiveness and our relationship could mend. I do forgive them. I do know they had problems, they still have problems, they are a mess; but I can’t continue in a relationship with people who hurt me and never acknowledge it and never accept their portion of responsibility in our relationship. It isn’t safe.

Pam

6

Libby
Thank you for sharing. These details add lots of perspective for everyone. Of all the posts that I write, it is the father ones that people have the most difficulty with. These posts about Dad stuff get shared the least of any of my work.

Hi Robin
something I have noticed over the years is that sometimes abusive mothers are trying to get the attention of these passive abusive men in any way that they can. Having said that, you are right that in the world of abuse, silence equals consent.
Thank you for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene

7

I thought I loved my dad and I thought I respected him. Up until a few years ago I thought that I thought he was the greatest Dad. I think I loved the idea of a dad or maybe I loved that he didn’t hit me; I am not sure anymore. I have realized that I didn’t know anything about my real feelings and that I successfully created all this denial about what my life and my family was really like. I focused so much on trying harder instead of looking at why I thought I had to try harder. I had so much guilt in the way too. I see it all so differently now.
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Sophia
Yes good points. I agree that many parents don’t want their kids to have a better life. My mother had this combination of wanting (and succeeding) to give us a better life then she had but at the same time seemed so jealous of anything I accomplished and treated me like competition and as a threat to her. My father just didn’t care.

About Circumcision; I think that is a really good example of the “fog” that I talk about and about the cycle of abuse. There is lots I could say about that!
Hugs, Darlene

8

Hi Darlene,

my relationship with my father is quite confusing. Pretty much all my life I’ve felt much closer to him than my mother. I didn’t feel like he did harm to me like my mother did.

The blind spot here was that I blamed myself for becoming hooked on hardcore internet porn (arguably addicted) around age 13, instead of focusing on the fact that I first found it in the “recent files” list of my father’s computer (and kept being able to find it already on the computer for some time after – probably years).

This “little secret” of mine was the cause of undescribable torment over the years. Coupled with the hyper-fundamentalism they indoctrinated me into from birth (not to mention the palpable sense of disappointment — nearly anger — from my mother when I first started having girlfriends), and the blatant rejection when I eventually chose to stop pretending I wasn’t having sexual relationships, I’m still completely f**ked up regarding sex. The hypocrisy of my father telling me they didn’t want me sharing a bed with a girl under their roof while knowing what I know about him is somewhat bitter, to say the least. (I actually suspect he was acting on my mother’s orders when he said that. Not that it really matters).

In fact, there — I’m still making excuses for him now. Because my mother has the market well and truly cornered on emotional abuse, I think that’s why I felt (comparitively, at least) like I could get on with my father better. At least he wasn’t constantly nagging, pumping for information, belittling, etc etc etc.

But the other thing I came to realize fairly recently, is that he was complacent (not sure if that’s the right word….. as in, he stood back and let all the emotional abuse happen). And it’s not like he didn’t know — I remember asking him quite often why my mother acted how she did. I don’t remember what he said. Nothing of any use, anyway. Basically “don’t let it get to you” I think. (He’s apparently able to do that for himself).

It’s probably only the last few years that I’ve started to move away from the “hero-worship” I still had for my father (despite the porn, and the hypocrisy etc) I don’t know if I just wasn’t paying attention before (or perhaps wasn’t as aware of identifying unhelpful/abusive type statements), but he’s definitely said to me “at least I didn’t rape her” about my sister when she’d apparently been upset about something he’d said or done. Also “get over it” is a big favorite of his. ***SARCASM*** — I wonder if that could possibly have anything to do with why I can’t move on from anything?!?!? ***END SARCASM***

Stupid parents. A couple of months back, when I lost the plot completely and called my friend from high school (he’s a paramedic, and one of basically two male friends that still keep in contact with me — I’ve pretty much stopped bothering with all friendships) crying like a baby and saying I didn’t want to live anymore, he came up and hugged me and let me talk, and I just let it all out (about my parents). He knew I had depression, but I’d never told him the degree of it, or said anything about my parents part in it. (They were out of the house at the time).

When I first called I’d asked him to come and take me to hospital, because I was afraid to be alone. But once I’d talked it out and calmed down, I didn’t want to go — I just wanted to go to sleep. My parents had come home while we were talking, and he went to talk to them for a bit (I believe he just told them I’d asked him to take me to hospital. I didn’t go with him because I didn’t want to see them). After he came back and I said I didn’t want to go, he was (understandably, I guess) worried and it took a long time to convince him it would just stress me out again, and that I couldn’t see anything useful coming from it. But he said in passing during that conversation “But won’t your parents be worried?”.

Ouch. This bit is hard to write. Because the answer was “no”. I’m pretty sure I knew straight away (even if I didn’t answer him instantly) that the answer was “no”. Or at least, even if they did, they wouldn’t do anything about it. All they seem to care about is that it doesn’t affect THEM in any way. In fact, since I got to the stage of feeling like I did need to go to hospital (several months ago), and had people telling me that I had to tell my parents….. well I was going to write “they’ve done nothing but make things harder”. That’s not strictly true, my father did pay attention to some of the things I said (like how much the noise of the TV bothers me — they crank it to infinity, but he started muting the ads if I came into the room. He’d also tell my mother to do so occasionally. She remained as oblivious as ever).

Anyway, as I wrote that (them not caring so long as it doesn’t affect them), it actually makes sense why I had the thought that I did around that time — that even if they came home and found me hanging, it probably wouldn’t take them too long to convince themselves how troubled I always was, and how they did absolutely everything they could to help me, but how I wouldn’t let them etc. (And even if they couldn’t convince themselves, I felt pretty damn sure that that’s what they’d be going around telling all their friends).

Sorry. That’s probably the darkest thought I’ve ever had. But it felt true. I’d managed to forget about it for a bit, but it came back out while writing that. In fact, I think it was me telling my ex-girlfriend that one on the phone that precipatated the breakdown that led to me calling my paramedic friend in the first place — not unsurprisingly, she got upset, but started yelling at me all my deepest fears: that everything WAS all my fault, and that my parents DO try their hardest and do everything for me, and that I must just not WANT to get better etc etc etc. I started crying in a way I never have before, then just blindly started dialing numbers until I got someone. Not a great night.

So. Where was I? Oh yeah. My friend asking the question “won’t they be worried?”, and what my instant answer was, was a definite “light-bulb” moment for me. (I can’t really remember if it hit me straight away, or took a while to sink in?)

But anyway, the mental wheels eventually got to the place of “hmmmm, I guess maybe parents SHOULD be a little concerned if their only son has had to call a paramedic to take him to the hospital?” I think it was just my friend’s (well-intended, if uninformed) assumption in asking the question…. in fact, I think he was asking it to try and convince me to go to hospital, so that I wouldn’t worry my parents. But unfortunately, I knew that so long as they didn’t have to do anything, that would be the end of the matter.

*****SELF-CENSORED******

(there we go Darlene, I’m trying to save you a bit of time – many a rough swear word wanting to come out there) 🙂

Might be a bit to clean up earlier on the darkness front though I suspect.

So yeah. Much damage. My father has spent a lot of time over the years telling us about his dysfunctional upbringing (which it definitely was, unless he’s just blatantly lied about everything — but I don’t think so). But despite being at least somewhat aware of things (he said to me once “I know we’re part of the problem”), unlike my mother (although who knows? she could be completely aware, but just choosing to maintain the fantasy), he still stood back and let my mother do what she wanted, and also actively propogated fundamentalist religion & hypocrisy.

Top stuff dad.

As a final thought, I went to the govt “abuse/neglect” links you posted Darlene. Certainly re-affirmed my belief that I was abused as child (in fact, still am). But hopefully not for much longer — appt tomorrow to try and get on disability pension (with a support worker!!! Finally someone who’s on MY side when I try to take on the red-tape spewing, rule-changing behemoth that is the welfare system in this country!) and then hopefully to find a small, low-income rental place (same support worker is helping me with that process too), and then maybe I’ll find the courage to cut all ties and see where that gets me. Not exactly feeling positive about all this, but hey. I’ve been utterly stagnant for years — finally throwing some big fat rocks into the pond.

Oh, the final thought was going to be that on the govt abuse site, yet another example of my extreme femininity (I’m a male, btw) was that I fit the female profile of response to abuse. Sometimes I can see it (my strong feminine side) as a positive thing, but sometimes it just gets old. (Those same two only male friends I still have both call me gay for liking some of the things I do. Many of the girls in the youth group I grew up in thought I was gay. I used to be blatantly homophobic, and this bothered me intensely then. I’m significantly better in that regard now, but having a few gay friends has now made me painfully aware of just how homophobic the world at large is. And when one of them asked me what my life with parents would have been like if I was gay, I said “I’d be dead.” I still believe that — the amount of s**t they’ve given me over what they see as the “normal” kind of relationship — no way I could’ve dealt with what theyd’ve dished out if I was gay. I’ve gotta get new friends. And new family).

Ok, that’s enough from this (occasionally) proud feminine male. When I think about how a lot of the guys I’ve known in my life tend to act, then I feel proud of it. As it says in my HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) book however, western culture is not one where you’re going to be automatically culturally revered for being a highly sensitive male with a strong feminine side. So for now I try to keep it to myself for the most part. It’s probably why I tend to feel so much more comfortable talking with girls than guys (if I know them and feel safe, at least. Significantly harder at other times!!!) 🙂

Hope everyone’s going well

J

9

Hi Pam
I especially like your last sentences; you said “I can’t continue in a relationship with people who hurt me and never acknowledge it and never accept their portion of responsibility in our relationship. It isn’t safe.”
Exactly,
Hugs, Darlene

J.
Your example of hypocrisy is valid in so many of our lives. About picking sides or making excuses; I finally realized that for me that was such a spin. Today I know that they BOTH abused me and that they worked off each other to do it and even to keep it confusing. It doesn’t matter if that was intentional or not however because the key is in realizing the damage that was done in order to heal from it. It took me a long time to give each of my parents equal responsibility for the damage in my life but it was another building block in my quest to see the truth.
Hugs, Darlene

10

Thanks Darlene.

I think I’m at least more aware of my father’s part in the abuse now. I guess it’s just been that when I’ve felt completely trapped living here (in terms of being dependent, struggling to hold down work etc), being able to (at least sometimes) just have a comparitively normal conversation, and not be actively given s**t/controlled seemed like a comparitive blessing.

Hadn’t really considered the idea of working in tandem to keep things confusing (whether intentional or not). I do know it hurt that much more when it was my father who said they didn’t want me sleeping with a girl in their house (because he’s generally seemed more open-minded, I didn’t expect it to come from him). And I guess also because I felt like I was finally trying to see myself as an adult with the right to make his own decisions about such things (instead of having to pretend/skulk around/look for deserted places where a car could be parked etc) that they would act accordingly (or something).

I think that was the big one in terms of realizing the extent of the control they could (and would) exert over me. I don’t think I talked to them for months at that time. Actually, I don’t think I’ve mentioned on here before, but at some time in the past (long before realizing the full extent of the brainwashing etc) I told my mother that if I ever had children, she’d never see them. It may have been more about how her parents treated me (controlling, manipulative etc) at that time — maybe it was easier to see and name when it was a generation removed from me or something. Don’t really remember exact details of what was said from then on, but she cried, and I apologized (of course).

Oh well. Moot point at this stage anyway — I don’t think I could ever bring myself to have children. Too f**king much of my mother in me. But hey, you never know, right?

Anyway, probably would need to be able to take care of myself first, before I start thinking about that. Oh, and I suppose a sexual relationship of some description would be a requirement too. (So definitely no need to worry about it at this stage) 🙂

(Me and my bleak humour).

I seem to vaguely recall similar things a few times throughout my youth — me saying something, my mother crying, me apologizing. Hadn’t specifically joined the dots re how much I hated my ex-gf crying (always felt manipulated). Although, I think she WAS a manipulator. (Why the f**k is it so easy to find exactly what you already know and hate in relationships?!?)

I guess it’s just the brain going “oh this feels familiar. therefore it must be right/normal” or something. (Not very helpful there, brain!!)

Just considering the fact that I’ve basically stopped talking to (or even looking at) my mother if I can possibly help it, but not so much my father. I think at one stage I was thinking to myself “I’ll just cut off contact with my mother”, but I think even I was able to realize that wasn’t realistic. Actually pretty afraid about my father coming gunning for me (emotionally speaking, not weapon-ally) if/when I do cut contact…. never really attracted his full ire before; not sure how I’d respond. (Freeze, I guess, just like I have every time my mother starts up on me).

I guess I’m kinda holding on to the knowledge that I can f**k things up for him pretty bad any time I choose by telling my mother about his internet habits. I know she feels very strongly against such things, so pretty damn sure that’d cause significant grief. Actually, I think in the past, I’ve felt sorry for him that he’s married to such a cold hard bitch. And made excuses for him — given that he was regularly physically abused as a child, of course he would’ve taken any chance to get away from his home etc. Don’t know why I bother (making excuses). I’ve also made plenty of excuses for my mother — her mother’s just as big a bitch as she is (that one’s true, but here I am trying to break the f**king pattern); which leads me to my next excuse — social stigma of mental illness etc in her day/less access to any help for mental health etc.

Ok gotta stop there. The excuses are messing with my head too much. I’m doing what I can do. They aren’t. Just going on their merry way (or at least trying to convince themselves it’s merry).

Actually I thought recently, if I want to start taking action to prepare myself for cutting off, I should start scanning photos of my youth that I might want. (No precedent to back up this theory, but I can fairly easily imagine ones of me “disappearing” once I cut off…. or even if not, can’t imagine them suddenly turning around and saying, “Sure! Have the photo albums!” if I decide I want them at some point).

Gonna be an ugly time. I guess I could try to see it as “good to have a backup” to start with. Might make it a bit easier to get through. And then I think, am I just trying to make it too hard for myself (in terms of getting emotional looking back at photos) so I have an excuse to bail on my plan?

And what even is my plan? I guess basically thinking, if welfare & housing app’s go through, just bail without even mentioning it, and then change my phone number etc, just so I can give myself space to adjust to being on my own for the first time. (Figure I’ll need a long time to get used to it).

Then (VERY vague plans here – I guess because I can’t know in advance how I’ll respond to moving out), if I can eventually start to feel safe, build a routine etc, maybe I’ll get to the stage of feeling able to write/say the things I need/want to say, and find out if there’s any chance of reconciliation (well, not that really — if they could respect my wishes enough that it’s not highly toxic for me to have any contact with them is the best I can really imagine).

But there’s no way I want to invite the s**t-storm of trying to stand up to them while I’m still living here. So that’s roughly what I’m telling myself at this stage. But I guess I have at least slightly considered the (quite probable) possiblity that there’d be no turning back in any way if I cut off. I truly believe my mother lives in such a fantasy world that she’ll never come out of it (far too painful for her to have to look honestly at her life I very strongly suspect), so not holding my breath on that front. And I guess starting to face the fact that my father is so completely whipped that I’d be stunned if he did anything (or stood back and watched while someone else did anything) that caused my mother to have to look at herself. And maybe he needs to look at himself too. In fact, definitely.

I guess I’ve resigned myself to the high probability of disownment etc. Not too long ago I was of the viewpoint that if there was a way to get the hell out of here WITHOUT completely burning all bridges, I’d do it, because (assuming here that I haven’t ALREADY been cut out of the wills! Hadn’t actually considered that possiblity before) in my view with what I’ve put up with, I’ve f**king earned it!!! But, I VERY strongly suspect that any monetary reward would be conditional on not rocking the boat. Somehow, I suspect cutting off all contact would probably qualify as boat-rocking — if only because it would be difficult to explain to their friends. (They’d probably just lie and tell them I’m fine).

Well this was originally going to be a very short reply to your post Darlene. But I remember you’ve mentioned several times before that you’re not worried about length of posts. (At least I’m pretty sure you did.) And plenty of processing going on, so I’ll try to see that as a good thing.

Last thing I forgot to write earlier — pretty scared of moving out, cutting ties, and then freaking out completely on my own and feeling trapped/alone etc. Oh well. Worry about that if it happens I guess. And at least I will have tried.

Oh, and I haven’t read the other comments yet, but I’ll second really liking what you quoted from Pam. I think that’s pretty much the stage I’m finally getting to.

Thanks everyone

11

Hi Darlene, I have only this past year realised that I was subjected to severe child abuse, emotional and physical by my adoptive mother. She was relentless. I also recently realised that my adoptive father was afraid of her too. He stood by for the most part and let her away with it, except when he sometimes went to the cupboard and took out the canes and broke them. She made me go to the shop and buy a new and hit me with it when I got back, for no reason! I had such a bad opinion of myself that I believed no one could even like me because of the things she said. I pushed all the good people out of my life systematically and ended up in abusive relationships. I am 56 now and only beginning to like myself. I survived. Still so much to learn. Thank you Darlene and everyone.

12

Hi Gabrielle
I totally relate to what you have shared. I didn’t realize so much about the truth in my childhood that today it seems crazy that I never made the connections except that I know how all this works! Sometimes I struggle to find the way to write about it because the blanket of fog is so hard to see through ~ not for me now, but for me before and I know that I am trying to get others to see through theirs. I believed everything said to me and all that I was accused of too. I totally understand that.
Thank you for sharing and welcome to emerging from broken!
Hugs, Darlene

13

Darlene.

Great post!! The emotional and mental that I suffered from my parents has been the hardest aspect of my recovery. First to just identify that it happened – their were only emotional scares, nothing I could show others.

14

Darlene, J
I think it may be that for some survivors, a father who did not engage in overt abuse – or who was the “weaker” partner – we kind of pull our punches. Because we are sensitised to weakness or powerlessness we overlook the fathers’ responsibility to some extent – we make excuses – I know I did. I amanged to “overlook” my fathers’ sins of omission, his immature behaviour was something I would joke about – and not recognise it for what it was – passive aggressive abuse. His teasing of me was not “fun” – it was awful as it only ended when I cried – his competing with me for attentions wasn’t funny, his breaking of my toys definitely upset me -and it was abusive – his behaviour was inappropriate at best and horrendous abuse at worst. Just because I recognised, intuitively, that he too was damaged, may have explained hi inability to be a dad – but it did not and does not excuse it. He knew better – in fact, he definitely knew better – he was a qualified mental health nurse and later a teacher of nurses. He was the one in denial – and he carried thatthrough to his death – he never, ever understood that all I ever wanted was a Dad.

15

The fog…. that’s a good way to put it. I notice on the link the govt defines female genital mutilation as abuse, but not male! FOG.

16

It’s hard for me to see my Dad in this light because he was a victim of my Narcissistic Mother too. She drove him into severe depression, suicidal thoughts and so on. Running from the home was his only option at that time.

His mother was N also so he had zero tools to make an assessment of what was happening.

Even after she died he remained in denial. One day I gave him a wake up call. He admitted that he was just “trying to survive” – and he was totally unaware of what she was doing to me. I said to him “what makes you think that YOU were her only target?” He got it.

17

About my father. Both my brother and I lived in a delusion for a long time that our father was wonderful but our stepmother was bad and mean, and if only we didn’t have her around things would be great. We wanted so much to believe that dad loved us and was a great father. I only recently busted through the fog and saw that he was as responsible for our pain as she was. He chose her, brought her into our lives, defended her, insisted that we respect and accept her as our MOTHER. My brother still needs to see my dad as innocent of any wrong-doing. An interesting twist is that our stepsister wished with all her heart for the opposite scenario, that she could have had her mother without my father, whom she saw as depressed and weak. I now also see the ways that dad hurt us independently of the dance he was doing with our stepmother. Not really wanting to list it all here now. Yaaarrrgggghhh, so much nonsense is entrenched in “normal,” sentimental, socially acceptable parenting!

18

This is what my sperm donor did to me my whole life.The only difference is my mother has been there for me.He made me feel so worthless that I was going to commit suicide and he didn’t even care about that.He never tried to help me,just turned his back on me.That was almost 4 yrs ago.I have nothing to do with him,I cut him out of my life.That doesn’t even bother him.But I’m doing alot better now and he’s the one who’s missing out.Because he won’t see me graduate from college or get married.He won’t even know if I have a family of my own because he’s not part of my family.He’s worthless,not me.

Shane

19

Hi Mike
Welcome to Emerging from broken! Many people agree with what you have shared! I worked with a woman who had serious depressions and all of it was caused by the emotional and mental abuse she suffered from her childhood. We had all the same issues and she had never been physically hit or abused in any other way then emotionally/ mentally and she struggled more than I did with her recovery.
Hugs, Darlene

Libby,
Yes… all of us really just wanted a dad.
Hugs Darlene

20

Hi Barbara
Regardless of the reasons we had an emotionally absent parent, the damage remains the same. It IS hard to see a parent in this light but I could use all those excuses for my mother and I did. She was raised by extreemly dysfunctional parents and lived in danger her whole life and no wonder she was such a control freak ~ it was her survival mode. However, making excuses for her was what kept me from facing the truth about the damage casued to me. My father had all his own excuses for being emotionally abusive and I had to set those aside too in order for me to heal.
hugs, Darlene

21

Hi Shane
I am sorry that you had such a horrific father.
hugs, Darlene

Sophia
Excellent comments. This is exaxtly what I am trying to get at in this blog post article.
Thank you for posting
Hugs, Darlene

22

Hi Mike & Darlene,

It still surprises me to hear people say that about emotional/mental abuse being harder. I always assumed it was the other way round — in fact, it was a fairly common thread for my brain to guilt me with seeing as I was never physically or sexually abused, but “only” emotionally/mentally (and even acknowledging that with the word “abuse” is a very recent thing).

So thank you for being so clear on that. I don’t at all want to trivialize the horrors of physical/sexual abuse, but it does seem I’ve been more than willing to trivialize the effects of the abuses I suffered. Hearing you guys say this I think helps me to balance out the extremes of my former viewpoint.

I also liked your point Mike about not having any scars to show others. (“Related to” is probably a better word than “liked” here). Actually I think I wrote somewhere else that the phrase “get over it” is a fairly common one from my father (not often directly at me I don’t think, but you hear it often enough in other contexts and it becomes pretty obvious how he feels). Also he definitely said “at least we didn’t rape her or anything” about my sister when he was complaining to me that she’d gotten upset about something. Pffffttt!!!! >: p

(That was an angry tongue-out face directed to my dad, in case anyone’s wondering) 🙂

Actually, this whole post just made me think of a part in Harry Potter where big floating brains attacked someone (Ron, I think??) and when he was getting healed later, the nurse said something like “Thoughts left deeper scarring than anything else” to explain why his wounds were worse than the others’.

OK, I think I’m done for now.

Wishing everybody love & light for their journeys!

23

J.
one of the most common themes with survivors of ANY abuse is that we seem to mimimize our own abuse and think that it was “not that bad”. People who have been sexually and physically abused do this too.
Deep down I always thought that I was a whiner and that I had no “right” to complain that things were “never that bad” but hey… that is what I was always told!
Hugs, Darlene

24

Yes, Darlene, emotional neglect takes so much longer to identify. Abuse is more concrete. Something happened, so it’s easier to see. Neglect is nothing happened, so we don’t notice it.

The “why” question is interesting, too, because of what it covers up. I just wrote a post at http://www.karenrabbitt.com that some might find useful.

25

J, It helped me to understand that the lasting impact of all abuse is emotional. My parents also, abused me in such a way as to not leave physical marks but they sure scarred my mind and soul.

26

It feels like a huge thing, realizing now that I was treated with NEGLECT. Emotional neglect, from family and culture. How can I say I was neglected when we had a comfortable home, money, food, clothes, medical care, educational and cultural opportunities. We certainly lived better than many people in the world. And I did get loving affectionate touch and attention, at least as a small child. But emotional honesty was very suspect in our household. How many times did my father call me “Sarah Bernhardt” because he thought I was over-reacting to something? How many times did my step-mother accuse me of crocodile tears because she thought my unhappiness was FAKED? They valued the appearance of a “normal” family above and beyond anyone’s personal happiness or unhappiness. I don’t even think they ever tried to assess if they were happy or not themselves, they just did assessed their level of social acceptability. Even as I write this, I feel like someone will ask me what the heck I am complaining about. All my life my emotional needs seem excessive to people, and that this is a problem, a fault that lies within me. They ask me why I can’t just get on with things, why do I also have to make a big fuss. I guess I just wished that someone would say that it was ok for me to have my feelings. Recently, I have decided that it is ok to honor my feelings, and make time every day to connect and feel whatever comes up, no matter how uncomfortable. It’s almost impossible to talk about this with others, there is so much resistance to emotional truth. I feel like my long-term reluctance to do things like build a career is actually a way of going on strike against the stultifying conditions of never having any validation. I just hope I can continue to honor my need for truth and emotional honesty in the face of the FOG that surrounds so many others. I am so thankful for this blog. Even here, I still fear that people will think I’m just whining!

27

Sophia
It IS a huge thing to realize. I was raised in an upper middle class family. I had all my physical needs met; food shelter clothing, education etc. I had dance lessons and went to brownies ~ we went to all the best resturants and I knew which fork was for which dish. I don’t remember much emotional affection. I think that we were viewed as a normalwell off family. I thought I was so lucky. I kept kicking myself because I thought I was so ungrateful for the way I had been raised. I thought that the good cancelled the bad (or is should have) but actually I was trying to erase the memory of the bad by trying to remember only the good. It has only been the truth that has set me free. I had to look at the good things and realize “so what!” they did not cancel the abuse!
Thank you for sharing. You are awesome. I never think you are whining!
Hugs, Darlene

28

Thank you, Darlene. It’s helpful to me to realize that people are complex and not just one way or the other. My parents were at times able to be affectionate, kind, supportive, good company. But they could also be judgemental, critical, and emotionally undermining and demanding. I do have to feel the depth of how that hurt me and created a false belief system, and not worry about seeming ungrateful for thw good things. In fact, they always accused us of ingratitude whenever we tried to express our distress at the wrongs that were done. Space needs to be created to allow for ALL feelings. At least now I know I can do that for myself and I can feel that it is correct to ask for that in all close relationships.

29

I also think that my parents tried to deflect any emotional responses or criticism they didn’t like by insisting that children had to be respectful and grateful to their parents, end of discussion. The truth is that we should have the right to not be hurt, no matter what other things the parents do for us. And this whole thing about being ungrateful and disrespectful, ooohhhh this makes me mad, because they chose to have children, we didn’t “make” them have us, did we?! And taking care of children and meeting their needs is a parent’s responsibility, not a FAVOR they are doing for us! I know they love to harrumph and express disapproval about how we treat them. When my stepsister decided to cut off communication with them, my father was so mad. He said that he was there for her in her life, when her own father wouldn’t even visit her. But I think she had it right, he may have been present in the house, but he wasn’t really in her life, wasn’t emotionally available, didn’t ever really make a deep connection.

Can I also say that so often when parents remarry and households get blended, no one pays much attention to the emotions of children whose lives are suddenly transformed. All of a sudden there is this new person who you are expected to regard as your mother or father. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But my parents didn’t want to concern themselves about the emotional adjustment we had to make. It was all about them.

Boy, I’m getting steamed just thinking about all this crap all those years ago, and now I have to put it aside and go to work! Thanks for the time and space to share and vent and get stuff sorted out. I think a lot about what others here are saying about their lives as well, and I hope we can all grow and benefit from mutual regard and support.

HUGS,
Sophia

30

Sophia
YES you go girl! I have thought about this stuff countless times! My father remaried when I was around 14. He really dumped me then. NO one thought about how it felt to us. My mother used it to make sure I was aware that he was not the “good guy”. This steams me too. I might write about it one of these days) You make very good points in all your comments! (refering this time to comment # 29 ~ hope everyone reads it as it shows more great insight for the purpose of fog busting!)
Hugs, Darlene

31

Darlene my current situation as a parent having left my marriage to domestic violence 7 years ago to protect my children is still so terribly painful.The emotional abuse is so very hard to prove and to understand as a child living in it.As my children have grown into adults they have chosen relationship with him over me. He and they blame me for breaking up the family and are very angry with me. Whilst he physically and emotionally abused me and the children because I took action to stop it I am the one still being punished. It is evil and very painful and his action to isolate me from our family has worked. I am the scapegoat the reason for everything bad in my families life because I broke up the family. I don’t think anything will change and that my children will ever see the emotional abuse that is happening. So it is not easy at all to stop and do something about it as a parent either. I love my children and tried my best to protect them. And now I suffer alone without them.

32

Very true, and the abuser will always always always blame the victim.

33

Hi Amanda
Welcome to Emerging from Broken
I am so sorry that this happened to you. I makes me sick how often I hear this story; that a mother stands up for herself and her kids and the abuser somehow gains hero status with the kids and convinces everyone that his wife is the bad guy! They might see it one day. I have seen it happen where adult kids suddenly realize that the Dad is the problem. None the less and regardless of the outcome today, you did the right thing! The alternative would have been staying in the abusive relationship. I have a friend who left her husband and unbeknownst to her the husband was sexually abusing the daughter. The daughter chose to stay with the father. This was really about the daughters fear of the father and how she was brainwashed that without the father, she would not be okay. Abusers have this way of making their kids feel like without them they will die. Abusers set themselves up as God and that is a difficult mould to break out of.
Again I am so sorry for your pain.
Hugs, Darlene

34

Hi Amanda,

I wanted to say how sorry I am to hear your story too. I’ve heard a similar story from a friend before (not the violence, but the lies to the children about their mother). It must be so hard to be in that position. It’s so awesome you were able to stand up and leave your abuser, but yeah, just terrible that he’s chosen to continue the lies with your children. I have so much respect for you doing what you did for your children, and I really hope that things pick up for you, and that one day your kids will see through the lies.

Take care of yourself & thanks for sharing!

35

I like the descriptions that you offer here of emotional abuse and neglect. My dad emotionally abused me with his rage and threats of violence that kept me in constant fear of him and fear for my life. Fear was such a constant in my life, that I didn’t recognize it as fear. My mother emotionally abused me through neglect like your dad did you. At age 3, I knew my mother was emotionally unavailable. She was numb for some reason that I never understood but recognized. Emotional abuse leaves much deeper scars than any other form of abuse. It isn’t the physical abuse of incest that I still, even today, occasionally stuggle with. What I struggle with to heal is the scars from emotional abuse. The emotional abuse is what tells you that you are worthless, bad, damaged, scarred and scared of living. Emotional abuse is what does the most damage to the child and to the adult on the receiving end of abuse. When someone like my mom or your dad is emotionally unavailable, it is more difficult to see the damage that they have done with their passive-aggressive behavior than it is to see the damage done by those who physically and verbally abuse us. The damage of emotional unavailability is often covert and therefore less recognizable as abuse.

36

Hi Patricia
Very good contribution to my post! Even today I too find that those scars go very deep and that I constantly have to remind myself that they don’t get to define my by the way they regarded me.
Hugs and thank you ~ Darlene

37

Emerging from Broken has been having technical difficulties this past 18 hours and no comments have been allowed through. This problem has been resolved now; please try to post comments again. (I got notices about the posts people were trying to comment on)
Darlene

38

[…] other excuses are there and are they valid? Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) is a pattern of behavior […]

39

I have been going through a quiet revolution for the last two days. Like you said, Darlene, in the original post, I’ve always talked mostly about the damage my stepmother did. Now that I am deeply processing what you and Patricia have said, I am opening to the thought that a passive neglectful parent, like my father, does the worst damage. And like Patricia says, it is covert, not recognized. Is it that passive betrayal, that inability to defend me and guide me, that had really put me in the emotional limbo I inhabited for so many years? Not that I really want to let my stepmother off the hook, but I AM SO MAD right now at that man who defended HER, and made excuses for HER. He even stood up to HER father to defend her against his insults, but I was not worth it. If he honestly never saw the damage she was doing, if he wanted me to be like him and just try to tune her out and go numb….. aarrrgghhh! I keep wondering what it means that of the all the women he dated when he was widowed, she struck him as the best possible person to marry and bring to us, his children, as a mother. It means something about him that belies the image of being such a wonderful man and father. So all these years I’ve been beating myself up because I haven’t been able to recognize a main source of neglect and abuse. I didn’t know that it wasn’t right for him to act that way and that it wasn’t my fault. Whew, this is gonna take some time to assimilate, but it is really a relief to get it.

40

I was told by my PTSD therapist my parents didnt need to fight they took it all out on me….My mother would use the “wait till your father gets home” after she had started a fight with me and had emotional and phyically abused me and he couldn’t wait to stand me up against the wall legs spread and beating me with a belt sexual violence…it was the most horrible ignorant parents anyone could ever ask for.(in my eyes) . Ignorance is not bliss,,,,, and I used to feel sorry for them cuz they must be mentally screwed up but they really should of tried harder. Thanks as always Darlene,,it is sad to say but it is nice to come here and find out we are not the only ones.

41

Hi Sophia
Great breakthrough! Thank you for sharing it here.
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Invisible321
I am so sorry that you went through this horror. Yes, we are not alone. In fact it it astounding how many adults have this stuff in their backgrounds and we thought that we were alone!
Hugs, Darlene

42

Hi Darlene, what a sad story but powerful realization on your part. The thing with emotional abuse is that there are no physical scars or violent incidents to point to, that act as a demarcation or confirmation of abuse. But it can leave such deep scars, as you experienced. You are an incredibly strong person for exploring your past in this way, questioning what happened, doing research and essentially healing your wounds and setting yourself free. I’m just amazed sometimes when I see the strength and beauty in someone who came out of such a unhealthy situation and wonder, “how did they do it?” x

43

In a way I think emotional abuse is much harder to cope with than physical, because most of the time you don’t even realise what’s going on. It took me long after I got out of a toxic relationship to figure out that it wasn’t me that had a problem. It would be even harder for a child to work it out.

Thank you for sharing your story, all the best to you.

44

Hi Wanderlust;
Welcome to Emerging from Broken
Thank you for your comments and encouragement. It was powerful for me to realize that after all the years that I focused on only the physical violence that my mother inflicted, that my father played a role in it too by his non action. Realizing that when one parent is a witness to domestic violence and does nothing, that is STILL abuse, was like finding another piece of the puzzle in the healing process.
Hugs, Darlene

45

Hi Tat
Welcome to Emerging from Broken
Yes this is true. I never once as a child suspected that it was NOT me that had the problem. In fact I didn’t really think it was them until I started to look at the truth about it all. (under all that brainwashing I had lived with my whole life)
Thanks for your comments!
Hugs, Darlene

46

Surprised at my strength this Thanksgiving, blessed for having found healing power, I am overjoyed to find myself here at your blog. I so resonate with you and your stories. Your description of your father was almost dead on for me, emotionally. Our stories different yet same. I hear and understand your pain, your emergence. This is magic for me. Your stories keep me from believing & accepting a past less then perfect. To wake up one day and to realize that this is NOT your story, just a layer, a veil that shrouds the real you. Peeling off the layers, one by one, I find that the pain is really no worse, just the same. Instead of anguish I feel relief at the truth. Finally, some truth. Seeing through all of the smoke and mirrors of humanity’s coping. Oh, to relax the stomach muscles, to let go… I am a weeping willow bending in the wind, yet I stand tall. I am reading The Courage to Heal. Amazing to find that you are not alone, anymore….
Namaste, Deirdre

47

Hi Deirdre!
Yay for new strength and hope! I am so glad that you like my work and that you have found out you are not alone! We are certainly NOT alone!
Thank you for your comments and encouragement!
Hugs, Darlene

48

Darlene – Thank you once again for expressing and clarifying some subtle and not so subtle ways that emotional neglect can affect us.
I love that – “well at least he didn’t hit you” No but my Dad threw and broke things, yelled so loud that when someone raises their voice around me to this day I fight the chemical reaction in my gut and brain. I have to practice deep breathing and affirmations. I don’t care who you are if you yell at me for no reason I will get the hell away from you!

Ok – so here is an issue that I keep trying to resolve in my inner-(wo)man…When I was 14 I had a job after school at the place my mother worked. I cleaned several bathrooms and a few offices. Nepotism means nothing to me!! I could not be promoted out of Crapper Duty(Dootie).
One day as I was taking out the trash at work, my mother brought up the subject that was on the Geraldo Show that week. I did not even think she watched daytime TV. She asked if I saw the show that featured Father’s who wanted to have sex with their daughters and the strain that it put on their marriages; etc. I was not a Geraldo fan but I did happen to see that show. I remember because I thought to myself,”At least he ignores me and I don’t have the issue those poor girls do” when I saw it.

I am not in denial. My Father NEVER showed any hint of sexual abuse nor perversion towards me, my sister nor any of my brothers. I even remember my Dad avoiding us girls because my mother would pout,whine or bitch if my Dad tried to play or even show interest in any of us children;or any body else to be honest. I realize that this creepy and untrue suggestion of my Mother’s is just one more mean and sabotaging remark that she easily made to everyone, but it damaged me in a way that I still am trying to unravel.

I know my Dad has a part in the emotional neglect, but he did/does not seem mean-spirited to me – just immature in his emotions. If he hurt us with his words or actions he would always come back and apologize and hug us even try to hide his tears but he would comfort us a little (as children)He’s pretty hard now.

My mom just stayed mad all the time – I swear it is amazing that she didn’t stroke out. I have not ever brought this up to my mother or father, I would like to hear from others on the subject.
I still struggle with a false sense of responsibility.

I know Thanksgiving is past on the calender but not in my heart. I am thankful to be alive and breathing – moving forward and feeling a little more free each day…

49

It’s weird, I reread the post and I realized that I omitted the part where my mother actually said “that is what your father wants to do with you.”
Even when I face it I avoid it.haha.

50

Why is it tha people do not realize that what they didn’t do is as bad as any abuse.
So sick of all the excuses people make for abusers, neglect is abuse often of the worse kind.

51

If I didn’t know better I might think I had written this myself. So many similarities. My father is dead now.

52

Hi Tamara,
Something that really helps me is to concentrate on the damage instead of the intentions when it comes to my past and the way that my parents were. Then I can look at what the events communicated to me about me and when I find the lies there, I can begin to heal from them.
Keep processing this way, I found these kinds of realizations very helpful. (and yes, it is interesting that even when you tried to face it you want to avoid it! I totally relate to that though!)
Hugs, Darlene

53

Hi Laura
thank you for your comments. Welcome to EFB

Hi Zincky
I gave up trying to figure out why they don’t realize it. I know one thing is that they don’t see other people as equally valuable to themselves.
There are no excuses. hugs!
Darlene

54

[…] was passive and non violent but because he was dissociated and emotionally unavailable, there were consequences for me as his daughter. I got the message that I didn’t matter to him. […]

55

[…] kept making it about me with that fight about child support. And neither one of my parents ever tried to talk to me or help me with all that I was going through as a child of parents who were getting a divorce. They discounted […]

56

is there a EVER a reason a father would raise a fist to his own daughter?

57

Hi Silent
No, there never is a reason.
Darlene

58

Hi Darlene, What an education I’ve gotten since i’ve been reading your post for about a month now…This one in particular is very interesting to me. My parents kicked me out of my home when i was 15 because i became pregnant with a young of 18. I was ostracized from everyone in my family of origin grandparents, aunts, uncles… and even forbidden to go back to school my tenth grade year…They gave me a choice to give the child away or forget i ever had them as parents…I didn’t think twice i knew that is not something i could live with even though i never planed to become pregnant… The reason for their unreasonable stance was because the young man the father of my child was a black man. I know this because a few years later my sister 2 years younger than myself became pregnant at the same age she was supported in every way possible by my family of origin because the father of her child was white… Well, long story short the the planed for me to get married to this young man I was 15 at the justice of peace had no idea that i was going to be married that day..with the cloths on my back that was the last day i went to my house… I went to the young mans families home..I was so scared…It was a home with a single woman raising 8 children on her own in a small north eastern town…She welcomed me to the best of her ability. I’m sure she was devastated as well but i had a place to sleep. Before my son was born we got our own apartment this was 1973 you can imagine what that was like for a young interracial couple without much support from family absolutely none from my side…i never have found out what they told everyone about where i was and what happened to me i can only imagine it was something to make themselves look good and me bad… Well the marriage lasted not more than two years… Then the people who took me in his family was their for him and my son but not me. I guess the reason i’m writing all this is because just recently I am coming to the realization that…and this may seem obviously to others but I needed someone (family) to love me. That what seemed at the time to be loving support was really not that at all. The young man the father of my son turned against me too… This was a nightmare to me. Didn’t realize it then now i’m starting to see I ran away from that place as far as i could get the other side of the country… I remarried my son came with me but always wanted to go back… Summer time visits weren’t getting it anymore..Summer of 82 he moved back with his dad..that was the hardest thing i have ever done in my life even harder than leaving my parents…It’s still had he’s 39 and i have 3 beautiful granddaughters on the east coast and i’m on the west coast… I’ve kind of lost track on what i set out to write here, but thanks for letting me get my story out part of it anyway… I’m still emerging from broken… oh,yeah this is about mothers and fathers…so much to try and get straight from my mother to my myself my son’s mother and his father… I know i’ve caused him so much pain because of the distance between us and i am so sorry for that, but there is nothing i can do to take back the past… He worships his dad even though i know he also has some responsibility too. I’m going to close this for now because seems like there is just to much to figure out. Thanks again.

59

Hi Brenda
Thank you for sharing this, I know it is painful. (very painful) and it is really hard to comprehend how parents can reject their own children that way, isn’t it! Don’t assume that anything is obvious, I was in the fog so long that I was stunned at what I didn’t see and the connections that I didn’t make that SEEMED so “obvious” when I made them. That is the survival system, that is how we got by.
But it was in seeing the type of stuff that you are sharing here that got me moving from surviving to thriving!
hugs, Darlene

60

Good article. I have been raised with his type of father situation which increased after the death of my mother in 1990. I am a Lifestyle & Musical Fitness Weight loss expert for television in NYC. I have raised 3 grown children, married 29 years and have lost 100 pounds. I constantly reach out to my father still who deals with me in this manner. Perhaps this is what has created me to be a survivor. The emotional emptiness it leaves is tough to deal with. Much respect for all here on this board:)M

61

Hi Marina
Welcome to EFB
Yes, it is very tough to deal with. This website is about how I learned to fill the emotional emptiness for myself and how I found freedom and wholeness after a lifetime of struggle. It was all about being good enough for me. I hope you will read and comment often,
Hugs, Darlene

62

Happy to find this website. It’s comforting to see that there are others who have suffered from this kind of confusing abuse, even though it’s sad that people have suffered it in the first place. My parents had me when they were young, 19 and 20, and I always tried to say that was their excuse for treating me the way they did. But that actually isn’t THAT young, and even still, it isn’t an excuse. They didn’t even try the best they could, even though that is what they like to say. They left us with pre-teen sitters from morning til late at night til we started school, while they went out and partied. Then I just remember kinda floating through life as a loner, til my dad suddenly became obsessed with a crazy religions cult when I was 8 and mom took off when I was in 6th grade. Then my dad and step mom were breathing down my neck about everything in the universe, at every waking moment for about 5 years, til they finally sent me away to boarding school across the country. When they couldnt afford it anymore, they took me out and disowned me and I was up for grabs, at age 15. My cousin (one of my pre-teen sitters from earlier in life) volunteered to take care of me but needed money to do so, and my dad wouldn’t give any. My absentee mother refused to give up custody so she said I could live with her at her boyfriends house, where I was kicked out of not much later. I have since been on my own. I am 31 years old now but it took me several years to NOT be homeless. They wouldn’t even let me sleep on their couch or give me a sandwich. They are currently still for the most part absent in my life, unless I contact them myself. My mom likes the idea of us “being friends” … that kind of disturbs me. She treats me like a next door neighbor. A little small talk, and then she starts telling me all about what she is up to. My dad is just in la la land, I think he has BPD or something. Not sure what to do about these relationships now that I am an adult. Any insight? Thanks for your site.

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Hi Darlene,
You may not be coming back to this as it seems it is an old thread.
I understand what you are saying and am sorry that your father never protected you and was not a parent for you.

For a long time I was stuck in explaining my parents bad behaviour away. And it kept the anger turned in on myself and stopped me from healing. Understanding is different to acknowledging the damage and allowing ourselves to put the anger where it really belongs. That’s why I resent people lecturing about forgiveness. We need to work through the feelings before we can think of forgiving and even then it is a choice whether we do so or not. And understanding doesn’t change the damage at all.

With my parents it was the other way around – my mother was passive and an enabler and my father more actively abusive.
My father very emotionally abusive and mildly physically abusive.

What brought me here is my confusion over feeling so devastated by the emotional abuse. As much but in a different way to the instances of r*pe and sex*al assaults that I experienced from another family member and others.
It feels like I am insulting people with PA and SA for me to be so affected. Invalidation is a big thing for me and a result of the parents. It just hurts so much and I feel so foolish and weak. Explaining what happens in words just sounds empty and like nothing. And I can’t seem to get past it.
One of the things my father said to me was, “if I wanted to hear from you I would flush the loo”. And the look of disgust and revulsion on his face is something I associate with speaking.

I havnt looked at the your other stuff but keep fighting. I am over my v long term Ed now and trying to stop avoiding dealing with abuse issues.
Take care.

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Just realised I am the second “Marina”! :-/ I shall be “Marina P”.

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Last one! 😉
To answer the question of the thread: there is never an excuse for abuse. We are all responsible for our actions despite what we have gone through or suffer with. That applies to your parents.

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Hi Marina
Welcome to EFB ~ You have found the right website. Emotional and psychological abuse is just as damaging as any other abuse. A very common survival method is to question if our abuse is as valid as someone elses. Its an effective coping method in childhood. (to make excuses for the abuser etc because we have no choice but to put up with it so we have to figure out a way to cope and survive it) The way that I finally got past feeling foolish is to finally validate myself where I had never been validated by “them”. There is tons of stuff in this site about this whole thing and how I faced it and overcame it.
glad to have you here.
Hugs, Darlene

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Hi Darlene,
Thanks. Glad to hear that I am not the only one although I would not wish it on anyone.
Self validation is so important and great credit to you that you can do it. I seem to have internalised the invalidation and it is constant battle but hopefully with time it will change. Have decided I have factitious disorder and am making it all up! 😉

You have obviously done really important work and come very far so credit to you.
Great site.

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Marina,
That is a common thing to decide, but it is not the truth. You don’t have fictitious disorder! 🙂
Self validation came to me by looking closely at what happened to me and what it caused me to believe about myself. The false messages that I had been given and realizing that they were false was the key.
Hugs, Darlene

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Hi Darlene, you article helped me alot. I have lived in a fog about the abuse I endured growing up. My father gave me the silent treatment most of my childhood years,never initiated a conversation or cut my conversations short the few times he did acknowledge I was talking. I grew up terrified to talk to him because | I never knew if he would look straight threw me as nonexistant. I never experience violance grewing up or name calling just not being acknowledged. I also would like to mention that my other siblings he did not treat this way just me. |So now that I AM AN adult I have not seen or spoken to my father or my siblings in 3 years. My siblings copied him and treat me like I dont exist eather. So I have had to cut myself off from them. My mother who strived for the perfect picture family was an enabler and lived as though nothing took place. Even thou I am an educated professional my self esteem and selfworth had always been low. I also suffer from anxiety and panic disorder.\ thankyou again for you helpful article.

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Hi Julie
Welcome to EFB! There are so many kinds of abuse and what happened to you is absolutly one of them. My father was a passive abuser as well; I was emotionally neglected and the message that I got from him was that I didn’t matter. That caused a lot of damage.
I am really glad that you are here! There is a lot of support and healing in this site.
Hugs, Darlene

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Hi Darlene, Thankyou for acknowleding my post. As I still live in the fear of not being heard or believed. I occasionally repeat my sentences to others as if I am not heard. WHich I try not to do. I have also suffered from bullying as an adult because my low self esteem shines threw. I still to this day look at my dad and my siblings as wonderful people that \i love so much but feel as though \I am hated by them and invisible. I sometimes believe that they dont hate me an will come around one day and realize they love me and miss me but maybe that is my denial of the abuse. I wish so much that I could be a part of the family. BUt to go back I would have to wear the shamed hat and loser hat as \i did for 40 years of going to family get togethers which were the only times I saw them. I am 45 and have never been invited to my siblings homes or received a friendly phone call from them. My dad has never called me eather to just say hi. Only my mother who forbid me to talk about anything.\so i have lived with this black secret afraid to tell anyone for all my life.|I was afraid ot their reaction and I thought I was the only one in the world treated this way. After reading your post Darlene I felt a bond with you as It mirrors my own life in certain ways. I really like your comment on that it was not my faultyness but my fathers. I also found on youtube the love letter from God to help me alot and also forgiveness sites on youtube. You are |Darlene a courageous woman not a weak one who has helped other people and made yourself a wounded healer. God bless you Julie

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Julie
The reason that I try to answer so many comments is because I felt that way too. I had NEVER been heard and my first steps towards the life and truth I live now were because someone finally heard me. Your story is so much like mine but I am free now. And that is what I want for everyone! It is possible!
Hugs, Darlene

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Thanks darlene I am coming to terms with the truth and have ostrasized myself from the abusers for 2 years. As a way of setting boundaries and to heal. Just wondering how long it took you to be a peace an forgiveness and to move on as |i am not there yet, Thanks julie

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Hi Julie
It took me about 2-3 years in an intensive process of facing the whole truth. During that time was when I started to set boundaries. Each person is different though.
Hugs, Darlene

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Hi Julie, i can totally relate to your situation. I myself had emotionally unavailable parents and it took me till the age of 30 to actually make the link that my parenting also led me to pick emotinally unavailble men in my life. After researching alot myself and studying a degree in early childhood and gaining the knowledge to understand how your brain and inner woking model is shaped in the early years throught the love, nurting anf interaction from your parents has helped me to change many things. Sadly thou untill you realise the dsyfunction you were brought up in and not accept it as normal then how do you begin to change?
I am glad i had the insight to start looking deeper into my life and looking at myself as the common demoninater, i have always tried to raise my children differentely and i hope that in the early years i did enough things different to foster good emotional health in my kids but i now have the skills to guide them now and change the pattern of dysfunction that has played out in my family for many generations, my grandkids will be the most emotionally secure children and that pattern will be broken

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First of all, I’d like to say thank you to all you who showed courage in posting their stories. I know from experience that it isn’t easy to do so.

I can completely relate to your stories and add more to it with mine. My father was physically, emotionally and verbally abusive. Although I escaped his torture 10+ years ago to find a better life, he still continues to mentally abuse me and my siblings by through abusing my mother and he isn’t ashamed of admitting it. He hated the fact that I escaped him at the age 21 and are now successful in life. He always wanted the worst for me and still wishes for me to be dead. The only crime I ever committed was being born in this family and the cost of it was far greater than I could have ever imagined.
I am 32 years old now and have come to terms with the abuse I suffered throughout my life and realized that some people will continue to get pleasure out of controlling others’ and their minds, and that’s who my father is. I can’t help him but pray that someday this ends for my mother, my siblings and myself.
On a more positive note, I am a successful professional woman, with a healthy family of my own and a husband who is truly one in a million. So there is always a happy ending to every story, but you just have to allow the good things to happen to you. It’s not your fault that your father did this to you; it is who he is just like you said. Stay positive and know that there are a bunch of us out there who are survivors of the ultimate challenge :).

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Hi Amber
Welcome to Emerging from Broken! I am so sorry that your father still finds a way to get to you and that your mother lives with it still. Thank you for sharing your victory story and for your encouragement to others.
Hugs, Darlene

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Hi Darlene,

you have often written about depression, PTSD etc
But i want to let you know that i suffer from Erotomania
Its a kind of delusional disease caused due to neglect and abuse
My life was a wreck due to this disease
And i have still not got hold on it
I keep thinking about this guy i met 4 years back
i chased him, harassed him, followed him and kept on calling him
He is married and so am I
At that point of time i couldnt understand why i was doing it all
But then i understood that i suffer from this dangerous delusional disease
My life story is similar to yours. My father was disfunctional, psychotic
My mom narcissistic and abnormal
All my relatives up against me they wanted to destroy me completely
Do you also have issues with OCD and any solutions

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Hi Piya
Welcome to EFB
Thank you for sharing about Erotomania. I have not heard of that before.
I don’t have any OCD issues but the solutions presented here in this website have been helpful for all kinds of issues and many people have reported good results with OCD.
EFB is about dealing with the root causes and changing the belief system that formed because of those root causes. I hope you will find some good info here.
Hugs, Darlene

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Thanks. This shed a lot of light on my childhood and I can see myself in you and what you dealt with. My father’s best friend was his TV and his “stories”. He was RARELY there when I needed him and I can’t remember a time when he gave me advice that did not sound like it came from The Waltons. My mother played both roles of mother and father. She showed me how to throw a baseball, how to stand up for myself in 5th grade, and how to accept who I am.

My parents divorced when I was 15 (I am 24 now) and he has tried and tried to cheat his way back to the house by saying “he changed”. It’s a constant lie he fed us and would then turn around and repeat the same abuse he in the past portrayed.

So now I know it wasn’t my behavior. Thank you. I appreciate you for writing that.

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Hi Jamie
thank you for sharing and welcome to EFB!
Hugs, Darlene

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My mother had this belief that the dad was to love the mother and the mother was to love the children. So she kept my dad separated from us for most of my life. He died when I was a teen ager. He worked evenings and weekends, and when both he and I were actually home at the same time, he spent most of his time in a workshop where we weren’t welcome. My dad was the child of a neglectful narcissistic mother, so I’m guessing he didn’t know the difference or was so beaten down and resigned to his own unhappiness that he didn’t care about mine. He frequently said things like I didn’t know what mean was, when I tried to complain to him about my mother’s abuse. I remember my mother telling me around age 12 that I was NEVER to bother them if she went to dad’s workshop because they were “very busy doing things I wouldn’t understand”. (Said with a smirk and a narcissistic glow.) So I never knew if I was allowed near my dad or not. I do remember complaining to him about my mothers beatings (which were very sadistic and cruel) and he would accuse me of lying, and would say I didn’t know what a beating was.

Shortly before he died, when I was still a teenager and in high school, I had worked very late (I had two jobs) and then stayed late doing volunteer work (maybe 11pm or midnight) and I was exhausted. My dad picked me up at the volunteer place and stopped to buy cigarettes for himself and my mother and a convenience store. I fell asleep in the car while he was in the store, and when he got back in the car he flipped out on me for sleeping, saying anyone who walked past the car would think I was drunk. That was pretty typical of my family. As the scapegoat, most things were my fault somehow, and I really did believe them. I was so ashamed for having fallen asleep and potentially bringing humiliation or shame on my family, when – in hindsight now – I was an amazing kid. Two jobs. Volunteer. Student. They should have been proud of me. Many days as a teen I was gone 18 hours a day, and no one ever missed me, or even said they were concerned about me working so much – they were glad I was gone. I was probably glad to be gone, too.

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Hi Chara
It really terrible that what at first glance seems to be concern, (that you may have been in danger because you feel asleep) upon closer inspection was really about them and what people might think! Those are the things that give us all those false messages about who we are and tear down our self esteem.

YES they should have been proud of you. That is such amazing self validation!
Thanks for sharing,
hugs, Darlene

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Hey Darlene! once again truly amazing. I feel like I was seeing my own thoughts in a mirror as I read this.

I know more about my parents than they know about me and that’s how I learned to make excuses for their behaviour. My dad was abandoned by his father at birth and rejected by his step father. I was a very curious child and tried to make sense out of things I couldn’t understand. I asked a lot of questions and just figured things out by watching people interact with each other.

I took everything on as my fault because that seemed to be the path everything led too. My birth caused so much stress on the family that it was easy for me to believe I was the problem. It was clear that being ignored by my father was my fault because after all he really didn’t want me and he had no clue how to be a dad. My mom was a martyr and what she wanted she got at any price. Once I learned that my dad was an enabler it changed my who perspective. Once I learned to educate myself on the cycle of abuse, my denial bubble had be burst and there was no going back.

I am truly amazed at the damage two people that supposedly love you can do. In our family it was ok to treat your children as sex toys, slaves and punching bags. Gee I wonder why I didn’t want children? Is it possible that I managed to have a little piece of love still in my heart that said children deserve to be treated so much better than this? I didn’t know I could heal from all this damage and maybe if I did I may have chosen to have a family of my own. I’ve accepted my choice I just feel sad that my choice was influenced by the way I was treated. I didn’t have faith in myself that I could be a good mother, I assumed I would be the same way so I gave up my right to re produce.

My parents are just sperm donors to me now. They brought me to this planet and now I need to sort out why a loving god wanted this for me. I’m sure there has to be a good reason for me to be here but for now it’s just about me learning to love myself and I trust the rest will be revealed in time.

Thanks to all you brave souls for coming forth and believing that you deserve to be loved unconditionally. I wish I had a magic wand that could heal all your wounds so you would remember that you are pure, loving beings and nothing that happened to you was ever about you not being loveable. I hope you never, ever give up on believing in yourself. You are never alone in this journey, always remember that. Thank you Darlene for creating a safe place for us all to heal in. Namaste!

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Emotional abuse/neglect is a cancer which is eroding our society, and no one wants to talk about it (except EFB, that is). I grew up in a family with 12 siblings. Physical and sexual abuse were present for some of my siblings and me, but 90% of the abuse, no doubt, fell under emotional abuse and neglect. For decades my siblings and I excused the abuse by believing “They did the best with what they knew” or “No one meet the needs of 13 children.” Finally, at age 53, when my emotional and mental health had become so bad I feared being institutionalized, I looked at what REALLY happened to me and just how severe the abuse was.

Darlene, you say in your article that you never had a conversation with your father. I can say the same thing about both of my parents. Furthermore, my mother never once told me she loved me, or comforted me when I skinned my knee. She never said “good job” for getting straight A’s on your report card again. Never once was I greeted when I returned home from school by a parent who asked, “how was your day, Connie?” Why I never saw that this was emotional abuse at extreme levels is because I had the belief that I didn’t deserve the same treatment I tried to give my daughter when she was growing up, or the love that I shower my grandsons with today. Many times it helped me to see the abuse by visualizing my grandson’s in a situation from childhood, and trying to see how I would feel if they were treated the same way….most of the time I was absolutely horrified by the results. Using this method really helped me to see the abuse I suffered through. I think this can be difficult for people who were neglected. The nature of the abuse causes extreme self-esteem issues, which makes it even harder to see the abuse. We just think we are not good enough for special treatment.

My father died about 15 years ago. My mother is still alive, but I cut contact with her about 6 months ago. I do blame my Mother more than my father. I have examined this recently and these are the reasons I came up with as to why I blame her more:

1. I do actually have memories of my Dad kissing me (and my siblings) good bye every morning when he went to work.

2. My mother spent her life blaming him for everything and trying to make herself a martyr (I believe that is why she had so many children….to elicit sympathy from others).

3. My siblings and I went along with my mother for decades and blamed our father for everything that was wrong….when really my mother’s narcissism not only ruined the lives of her children, but had a strangle hold on my father his entire life.

Out of my 12 siblings I now only have a relationship with 2 sisters, who also have seen the truth. Two of my siblings are dead, and the rest are still so much in denial and dysfunction it has become impossible to have a healthy relationship with them. They are toxic and they will hurt you if you engage with them.

I pray for strength for myself and everyone who is struggling to comes to terms with the abuse they suffered through, and for the millions of children who still suffer everyday. Acknowledging the truth is the first step to making our society a kinder, gentler place for children. Here’s a excerpt from a website I recently visited:

What Are the Effects of Emotional Abuse?
Douglas Besharov states in Recognizing Child Abuse: A Guide for the Concerned, “Emotional abuse is an assault on the child’s psyche, just as physical abuse is an assault on the child’s body”(1990). Children who are constantly ignored, shamed, terrorized or humiliated suffer at least as much, if not more, than if they are physically assaulted. Danya Glaser (2002) finds that emotional abuse can be “more strongly predictive of subsequent impairments in the children’s development than the severity of physical abuse.”

An infant who is severely deprived of basic emotional nurturance, even though physically well cared for, can fail to thrive and can eventually die. Babies with less severe emotional deprivation can grow into anxious and insecure children who are slow to develop and who have low self-esteem.

Although the visible signs of emotional abuse in children can be difficult to detect, the hidden scars of this type of abuse manifest in numerous behavioral ways, including insecurity, poor self-esteem,destructive behavior, angry acts (such as fire setting and animal cruelty), withdrawal, poor development of basic skills, alcohol or drug abuse, suicide, difficulty forming relationships and unstable job histories.

Emotionally abused children often grow up thinking that they are deficient in some way. A continuing tragedy of emotional abuse is that, when these children become parents, they may continue the cycle with their own children.”

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Hi Connie,
Thank you for sharing this great information. I am going to use some of it for quotes on the EFB facebook page. It is amazing how shocking and at the same time healing it is when a victim of this kind of abuse is able to see some of these definitions in writing.
Thanks for sharing!
Hugs, Darlene

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Was glad to read your blog. I’m just coming to terms with the fact that I was emotionally abused as a child. I knew things were not right, I’ve known for years something has held me back. Lack of trust, low self esteem, living in complete fear.

I’ve recently had a situation arise that caused me to have a nervous breakdown, I just wasn’t able to cope with it and it broke me. I started searching for answers after I felt better, I saw a pattern emerge as I looked back over the years.

My dad verbally and emotionally abused me. I had held on to memories, once he told me, at age 6 that, “he could kill me and he’d have to go to prison, but that would be ok”, he was critical, mean and hateful. He was, and is, a selfish person. He had gotten my mom pregnant, they had to get married, and I guess he saw me as the fault. I caused him misery. I stood in the way of a life he couldn’t have. I don’t know what his thought was, and the good thing is, I don’t care anymore. I had tried to rationalize what happened to me for over 37 years. And I’ve come to a point were I am done. His faults are just that, his faults. His problems are his problems. All those many years ago he locked that scared little 6 year old boy in a prison of self loathing, of hating myself, of being unable to live normally. I realize now, as a man, that have I the key to get out of that prison, its letting go and forgiving him, but not diminishing, not for a moment, what he did to me.

I’m just starting, there is a lot of pain to unravel over a lot of years, right up to today. I have to process it, understand it and then let it go. I am not defective, I didn’t ruin his life, I am worthy, I deserved a Hell of a lot better than I got from him. I am NOT him, I will not hurt anyone anymore, inflict my grief or anger or pain on anyone. I will in time forgive, for ME, because I need to get out of the prison his horrible actions put me in, but I won’t forget, not ever. I have to remember so that I never hurt anyone, even him. He doesn’t even deserve to be treated as badly as he treated me. I know this will be a process, but I’m glad, I’m glad to be able to say, I was abused, and I survived, I will survive and this truth will set me free.

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Hi John
Welcome to EFB ~ YES you did deserve a hell of a lot better!
I can relate to so much of what you shared. This entire website is about the key ~ the key is in you. I don’t agree that the key is in forgiveness, but that is totally up to you. For me, forgiveness was a result of the healing process but not the goal. The goal is healing in order to take back what was stolen from us; our lives. You have found the right place to share and to read.
Hugs, Darlene

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My father was emotionally absent from the perspective of not caring about me, but not absent, unfortunately, the rest of the time, as his presence meant screaming, hitting and throwing things without warning, to let off steam or whatever it was that caused him to be a raving mad man.

This article as with so many here on EFB resonates with me and helps me so much.

Reading the definitions of abuse from our Canadian and U.S. governments just reaffirms and confirms that gut feeling I’ve always had about what constitutes abuse.

It is finally mattering less to me whether or not my own family will ever admit to all they did to me and one another growing up.

The healing for me, is in reading these words on EFB and those gov. websites, telling me, you aren’t crazy, I didn’t imagine it and that it was just wrong and harmful!

But perhaps the biggest healing comes from your words Darlene: “My father was emotionally unavailable and emotionally abusive. His lack of contribution in my life was his fault and it defines him. NOT ME.”

Such a simple truth, and yet so incredibly freeing, as my whole sense of being was made to TRY to get the approval and love from my parents that never came.

What an incredible relief this provided to me tonight.

Also for me, forgiveness (and peace) has been coming and in a more genuine way, rather than a forced way, as a result of my own healing, rather than out of the “honor thy mother and father” basis with which I was raised, and strove to forgive previously, before I had done any healing.

I do not mean to judge anyone who feels otherwise with regard to forgiving, as we are all individuals, just sharing how forgiveness has “worked” more so, for me.

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Darlene,

I’ve read many of your Blog pages, now, with a huge sense of interest. It’s good to know that there ARE people out there who understand what it is like to grow up in a dysfunctional family. It’s also good to share experiences – it’s validating. The problem with abuse, or so I’ve discovered, is that even if you try to report it, even if you go to people to try to get help, they often ignore you or, worse, refuse to believe you. That is what I found; that many of the people in my life whom I hoped might help me escape the abuse, did absolutely NOTHING to help. Indeed, some of them did things that actually made it worse.

I haven’t really said much about my upbringing; I wouldn’t really know where to begin. Suffice it to say that I can identify with much of what is on your website. I’d say that, in their own ways, BOTH of my parents were abusive. I find that hard to accept, and I can tell you for a fact that they would deny it, but I know now that it IS true. I have a LONG list of incidents that I can remember that show the different ways in which they were abusive. Furthermore, our relationship even as adults is so uncomfortable, that I can no longer cope with having physical contact with my parents.

My mother has mental health problems, and I think this contributed to all that went on. She had an episode shortly after I was born, and I have often felt that BOTH parents somehow negatively associated ME with my mother’s illness (blaming me for it?). MY mother’s mental illness was supposed to be kept secret – I was not supposed to know about it, or ask questions. Still, I found out that she was mentally ill whilst I was still at Infant School. My parents had clearly told adults about my mother’s illness (including teachers, and parents of some kids I was at school with). I was bullied relentlessly at school by kids who had found out (probably from their parents) that my mother had mental health problems. Could I tell my parents about the bullying? NO! That meant telling them I knew about my mother’s illness, and that wasn’t allowed. Imagine being in THAT double-bind!

My mother was never what I would describe as physically abusive, but I’d class her as verbally abusive, and psychologically manipulative. I remember when I was little, she would sit us in front of the mirror, and ask “Who is the prettiest?”. The answer was always “Mummy”. She didn’t tell me that I was pretty. Indeed, she made me believe otherwise; she would compare me unfavourably to my female cousins, saying how pretty they were. There was always one cousin in particular – a girl born barely a month before me. Ironically, this was the daughter of an Aunt and Uncle who’d helped care for me when my mother had become mentally unstable (I often wonder if my parents would have preferred to exchange me for that child, and make my Aunt and Uncle keep ME).

My mother was what I would now term a “nag” – she “nagged” me. It’s as though she felt it necessary to constantly remind me about my appearance and behaviour. When I was little (pre-puberty!) she would lay clothes out on my bed for me to wear, I never made my own choices. Believe me, I initially thought that was quite nice; nowadays, I feel that it would have been nicer to be able to decide for myself. When I hit my teens and decided that I would choose what I wanted to wear, my mother was highly critical of my appearance. Short skirts were “tarty”, jeans “scruffy”… My mother seemed to live constantly in a state of “Ooh, what will the neighbours think?”. She seemed to feel that constant comparisons to others, and constant reminders of what was “unacceptable” were necessary. She would often comment about school grades, pointing out to me what good grades were, and what people thought of kids who got bad grades. When I went to University, she pointed out a Newspaper article that she had claimed to find, in which she said that the author wrote that “Students who get below a 2:1 level Degree are classed as having Drinker’s Degrees, because the level of Degree you get represents the level of work you put in, and to get below a 2:1 the inference is that you must have been partying all the time at University, instead of working”. I cannot forget this, because it sums up the very worst of her addled thinking. I never actually SAW the newspaper, so it may NEVER have existed. Still, to make so many false assumptions! A student may be doing REALLY WELL at University, but become ill and drop grades as a result, so that when they get their final Degree classification, it is lower than expected because of the grades dropped during their illness. A student may have a disability, or other personal problem, which makes it difficult for them to study, so that the level of Degree they get genuinely represents the peak of their ability. A student may be thrown off track by suffering a bereavement, or a break-up of a relationship, and this can affect their studies. A student may not like the course that they are studying, but due to family pressure, be unable to alter it. Should we criticise people in such situations, if they find they cannot achieve a high level of Degree?

My mother also used me, from a pretty young age, as her “counsellor”. She would tell me about the problems in her own family background. Now that I am an adult, I realize just how inappropriate some of the things were that she was telling me at such a young age. WHAT was I expected to do? Did she not realize that some of what she told me might freak me out, upset me or scare me? Did she not understand that, when she told me things about OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS, especially negative things, it might affect MY relationship with these people?

Like my father, my mother was also a person who believed negative things about me that other people said. She did this WITHOUT ever giving ME a chance to explain myself. I recall an occasion shortly after I had started dating. My best friend at the time was envious because she did not have a boyfriend. So, she went to my parents, and told them that they boy I was dating was “bad” or “a bad influence” (I discovered this after the event). Rather than ask ME about what was going on (I could have told my parents that actually, the boy in question was the son of my School Geography Teacher, so NO risk there; and, besides, I wasn’t really that keen on him), my parents got angry at me. Ironically, the relationship with the boy petered out anyway, so my parents need not have panicked!

As to my father… I feel nauseated just writing about HIM! Cold, stern, emotionally frigid, physically and emotionally unavailable, aloof, arrogant, bossy, intimidating, short-tempered, loud-mouthed, self-absorbed, angry, domineering, self-important, controlling, devious, lying, fake, pretentious, workaholic, secretive, dismissive, two-faced, dictatorial, hypocritical…

Those words flow like melted butter – they crowd into my head so quickly. I only have to THINK of my father, and these are all the words that fill my head. He will be forever associated with DEEP and PROFOUND HURT. He makes me feel like NOTHING. Like I don’t deserve to exist. He is simultaneously so in your face, and so distant as to be genuinely scary.

I have always wondered why, when my mother became ill, my father did not step up to the plate, and take care of me? Why was I sent to my Aunt and Uncle? I wonder if, even at a young age, he cared about me. I have the impression that he must always have been more concerned about himself, than he was about me.

I cannot talk with my father about the above issue, nor, indeed, about ANY issue in our relationship. It is forbidden! My father keeps secrets, and has “taboo” subjects that he will NOT talk about. Including my mother’s mental health. Including my upbringing. If you try to talk about things, he starts out by looking stunned, then quickly moves to agitated and angry – he will then start shouting and screaming and swearing. If you persist after this point, he will become physical (hitting, shoving, grabbing). By the time he has reached agitated stage he is usually red-faced, snarling like a bulldog, spittle on his lips, and right up in your face – literally inches from you, eyeballing you. I am TERRIFIED of this man and his aggression to this very day. I want to know what he has to hide. It’s clearly something he so desperately wants to hide that he is prepared to destroy his relationship with his daughter (me) over it!

Memories of him are often associated with aggression. I remember the man who, when he got home from work, would move me off the kitchen table (where I was trying to complete my homework), put the radio on really loud, demand his meal, and SHOUT. He might then even go through to the living room, and turn the television on (leaving the radio on as well). The NOISE would drive you nuts! If I asked him to turn the radio down so I could concentrate on my homework, he would TURN IT UP. Keep asking, he would get angry, shouty and threaten “a good hiding”. My mother, if present, did nothing to intervene. Neither parent ever offered to help me with my homework!!! I take it they weren’t interested.

I remember the man who took NO interest at all in my interests – neither my passions at School, nor my hobbies. MY hobbies all had to cease, anyway, after my younger sibling was born. Instead, pretty much every weekend was spent on watching my brother play cricket; my parents must have spent a fortune on buying him cricket kit, and on taking him to and from matches. I had loved ballet and horse riding, but those activities ceased for me. Family holidays even included taking us all to watch a test cricket match; I never had a family holiday where the family took us to see a ballet. As to my interests at School, I doubt my father would even have KNOWN what I was interested in. He asked NOTHING about my School days, nor did he (or my mother) help with schoolwork – which is ironic, given that they were so keen for me to get high grades! The one thing my father DID do was criticize the subject that I said I wanted to study at University. As far as he was concerned, English Literature was “piss assed”, and did not lead to “a proper job”.

I don’t recall much time spent with my father, increasingly so as I got older. Yes, I know he hated the way I dressed, and the Goth/rock music I listened to. Still, I was his daughter, and maybe if he’d understood that I had NO self-confidence because of bullying at school, he’d have understood why I dressed the way I did. Instead, he just moaned at me for the way I looked.

I don’t think that I really want to discuss much more of what happened between myself and my father. Suffice it to say that as I grew older we did NOT see eye-to-eye. Any dispute with him usually ended up with punishment (my parents believed in smacking as a punishment). I disagree that my father simply “punished” – he went WAY beyond that. HE HIT ME. I need to get that out there! He screamed at me, yelled at me, shouted at me. He called me names. He made false promises, and broke them (he said he would buy a dog as a family pet, and even got me to look through adverts to find a puppy, but he NEVER bought one). He made me feel that the things I loved to do, the things I was good at, were pointless. He made me feel unattractive. He made me feel second-rate in comparison to my brother. He always had different rules for me and my brother; my brother lived by much more lenient rules, and could stay out late at night without getting in trouble. He spent more time with my brother. He always excused my brother’s mistakes, but not mine (he let my brother drop out of University, and get a girl pregnant). He lied, he obfuscated, he kept secrets, he denied the facts, he perverted the truth, he threatened, he intimidated…

I guess you could say that BOTH my parents were emotionally abusive. They play mind games to this day. That is why I can no longer cope with seeing them. It is far too painful. It is notable that the definitions you give from Canadian and U.S. Government websites, explaining emotional abuse, point out that it is often thought difficult to prove, and that because of this, intervention is often lacking. I live in the U.K. and here it is much the same.

Personally, I cannot for the life of me understand why Governments and other aid agencies find it so hard to intervene where there is emotional abuse going on. Why they have to wait until severe damage is done. They argue that it is hard to prove. I don’t believe that’s true. It is NOT hard to prove. People CAN tell when a child is being emotionally abused. The first sign is to look for changes in the child – has the child become unhappy, withdrawn, more clingy, secretive, suspicious, tense, nervous? A child WILL change in response to emotional abuse. Then, you should ASK THE CHILD!

Ask the child about how the child’s parents speak to him or her. Ask the child what the child has grown up believing about him/herself. Ask the child if the child believes he/she is good or bad, clever or stupid, pretty or plain… a NEGATIVE response should indicate to you that something worrying is going on. Children do NOT automatically think negative thoughts about themselves. Ask the child about what it feels like to live at his/her house. You can then gauge if there is a lot of negative tension. It may not be easy to do this, and you will have to approach the child VERY sensitively… But surely it is better than standing by and doing NOTHING?

If a child has revealed to you something problematic about their home life, again, it makes sense to report this to people who can investigate it further. I DO NOT believe that the authorities are powerless to prove emotional abuse. Indeed, I believe that it can be proven by carefully interviewing the child’s parents. Separately from the child. If there is incongruity between what the child, and the parents, say this should be a warning sign. If there are, as you call them, “truth leaks” in what the parents say, this should be a warning sign. Truth leaks may well happen when an abusive parent is asked directly about his/her relationship with the child. They may be as small as a gesture or a facial expression – for example, you ask the parent about the child and the parent momentarily turns their nose up, or frowns – but they may be there. Again, if parents seem to make up excuses on the fly, this could be a red flag. Or, if parents seem overly eager to appear impressive – listing all their “positive qualities” for the interviewer to hear, such as they are “always buying the kid new toys, and have just joined their child’s school board of Governors, and, by the way, did you know that daddy is a Freemason, and mummy donates regularly to Oxfam, and they only eat organic food… blah… blah…” Parents THIS eager to impress clearly wish to deflect attention from something less impressive.

I cannot help but think that far too little is done to help the victims of child abuse, and to protect kids from abuse. It is usually only the really dreadful cases that come to light – like when a kid actually DIES. Talk about too little, too late. In my own case, the authorities KNEW (and still KNOW) that my mother suffers mental ill health. She is under a Psychiatrist! Surely, if the authorities (including providers of medical care, local authorities, teachers, health visitors…) KNOW that a child’s parent is mentally ill, they should be providing EXTRA care and protection to that child? They should be aware that the child’s family life may be difficult? In my case, they were FULLY AWARE, but provided NO support to ME whatsoever. They simply LEFT ME AT RISK.

No wonder we still hear of child deaths at the hands of abusive parents! It seems to me that the powers that be simply do not know, or do, enough.

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Ellie, You are an eloquent writer even though the words are painful to read. I read your story and I am so sorry you had to go through that haze of negativity and craziness and dysfunction. You came up with many good ideas and questions for those in positions of caring for children to consider.

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Darlene and all,

I went through child neglect (and am still neglected as an adult). My feelings and needs would be ignored, or provided for minimally. Emotional needs were extremely neglected, and to this day my mother doesn’t stand with me in the face of my father’s sexual abuse, and she devalues my experience. Sometimes she was semi-supportive, then she would take all/part of it back. Lots of inconsistency in many areas of my life. Just trying to get her to talk about it took an enormous amount of energy from me.

As for “well at least you didn’t get beaten” my thought is that it is an emotional beating. The black and blue is on the inside. When an important person such as a parent is so unresponsive and doesn’t care the silence is deafening, the endless days of non-connection so isolating, the void so deep that a child’s tears could never fill it.

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Hi Light
I hear you on all of this! I found it exhausting too and that is partly what led to the lack of relationship we (don’t) have today. I was exhausted. :/
I find it so dismissive when people make “well at least you didn’t” statements. I always ask them to expand by saying “what do you mean by that??” or “what does that mean? What are you saying?”
Thanks for sharing.
Hugs! Darlene

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“People say things like this as though the good about the fact that he didn’t beat me cancels the bad about the rest of what he didn’t do. Good does not cancel bad. Good is Good and Bad is Bad.”

I would take it a step further. “Not beating” is neutral — not good, not bad. Good is loving, supporting, nurturing… And if good cannot cancel bad, then certainly neutral cannot cancel bad.

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