Archive for dysfunctional mother daughter relationship
My mother didn’t want a child. My mother wanted a dolly that would “give back”. She wanted some “thing” to fuss over and to cuddle with for a short time, and then it was as if she expected me to fulfill her needs because she filled mine for a while. To fill her needs ~ as though I could fill the empty space where she was lacking self value and love. My mother placed a great deal of expectations on me right from the start, and I didn’t live up to even one of them.
It was as though I owed her something because I was born. Right from the start, this is the definition of dysfunctional mother daughter relationship and the false definition of love. Right out of the womb, my mother acted as though she believed that I was going to make her life better and that I owed her for mine. This was proven over and over again as I went through life and she continually expressed her Read More→
When my second child was born, my mother said that she wanted to “be there for me”. She said that she wanted to really do something FOR ME and she offered to make the seven hour drive over the mountains to our home to help me in the final days before labor, and help me to take care of my 21 month old son.
I was thrilled. Finally my mother wanted to BE MY MOTHER! I felt closer to her in those phone calls planning her visit then I had ever felt before that time.
I started to have some complication with my hips. My legs were giving out from under me and I needed more bed rest. I was confident that my mother would agree to come a bit earlier then we had planned and I called her up with the news and my request. She hesitated. Her familiar voice, the one that I had come to hate as it was laced with disappointment, responded Read More→
“Child abuse damages a person for life and that damage is in no way diminished by the ignorance of the perpetrator. It is only with the uncovering of the complete truth as it affects all those involved that a genuinely viable solution can be found to the dangers of child abuse”. Alice Miller ~ Banished Knowledge ~ facing childhood injuries
Lately I have been writing a lot on the subject of dysfunctional family systems. I feel like I am just getting started when it comes to sharing about some of the things that were so dysfunctional in my own family. The dysfunctional mother daughter relationship I had with my abusive mother was only one part of it. I had an emotionally unavailable father as well. There was sexual abuse and physical abuse. I was not heard or even seen as a child ~ as though I was not really a person yet. And that “non person” fact seems to be at the root of everything; the discounted voice and disregarded feelings of the child. We live in a whole world of adults who have not been valued as children but who are Read More→
Since Mother’s day, I have been writing a lot about specific ways that I was devalued, defined as unworthy and treated less then equally valuable. There have hundreds of heart wrenching comments from readers sharing their own pain and empowering others to realize where so many of us got stuck. My heart hurts for the millions of people in the world so badly hurting because of the treatment that they have received from their own dysfunctional parents and so many of us have grown up not knowing that this treatment, this mistreatment was wrong.
~ Dysfunctional mothers who tell their children that they were never wanted. Telling their own children, grandchildren or adopted children that they were “a mistake”. Telling them they are worthless. Saying that they regret the day you were born. When a child is told they are a mistake or worthless, they are automatically invalidated.
Not good enough, not worthy, not lovable. Constantly reprimanded. Constantly ignored, constantly reminded that you are not valid.
~ Dysfunctional parents who not only refuse to SEE their child as an individual, but refuse Read More→
Even as an adult, in a dysfunctional family system I did not even have permission to decide who I didn’t want to be around anymore.
Having been denied permission to exist as an individual as I mentioned in the previous blog post, I grew up a mal functioning adult woman not knowing my own identity. Being denied autonomy, I also grew up without personal boundaries. I struggled with depressions and was taken advantage of by most other people and really didn’t have a clue why any of that was my lot in life. I kept trying harder to please everyone.
I believed that if I was compliant that everyone else would treat me the same way back. In truth, accepting devaluing and unfair treatment, gave the message that I would accept devaluing and unfair treatment.
When I began to try to face the truth about some of the past, I was told by the rest of the world to “just get over it” and “put it behind me” all the while being told and taught contradicting statements. One of these statements that kept me the spin of confusion was Read More→
Several years ago, I excitedly told my Mother over the phone that I was going to write a book about my process of recovery from chronic depression and dissociative identity disorder. She reacted with strange sort of hesitation. She didn’t ask any questions; she didn’t actually acknowledge this information at all. I was used to her acting this way and I was only a bit more then mildly disappointed that she wasn’t interested. I had been noticing in my recovery that she sucked the joy out of everything I was ever excited about. A few days later however, she brought it up as a sort of “by the way” conversation. She said that if she read anything in my book about her that she didn’t like, she would sue me. I was stunned. I was actually speechless I was so stunned. Why did she think it would be about her? I was so confused about her statement, that I couldn’t think straight. I called a friend of mine who is a lawyer and asked her for some legal advice about it.
When I got over my shock about her reaction and her threat, I was able to look at this in a different way. My narcissistic mother didn’t ask me about the contents of the book. She just assumed it would be about her. Why would she assume that? I hadn’t even thought about talking about her in the book yet. Her reaction is what I call a truth leak. Continued….. Read More→
Through the comments discussion on my recent post “My Value and Learning to Love MY Self” here on Emerging from Broken, Lynda recently asked me the following question and since it is such a popular question I thought I would answer it in a post all its own.
Lynda says: Darlene,
“I’m so sorry your mother treated you the way she did. What I DON’T understand… if your mother’s mother treated her that way, why did she do the same to you? I was just the opposite, always trying to give my children the love and encouragement and affirmation that I never got from my mother.”
This is the realization that I finally came to when it came to my own kids; that I had a choice and I actively decided to pursue something different for my children. But the truth is that my mother made the same choice, she actually did do better by me then what was done to her in her own dysfunctional relationship she had with her mother and I think she thought that it was enough. We were fed and clothed better than her and her siblings were. We were clean and had clean clothing, bedding and nutritious food. But the love was missing. I was emotionally neglected. I was not heard. I was not acceptable. I was not encouraged to be an individual or regarded with equal value. Her own issues were way too much in the way and we ended up having a very dysfunctional mother daughter relationship very similar to the same dysfunctional mother daughter relationship that my mother had with her mother. Continued…. Read More→
There are several really HOT topics when it comes to recovery. One of them is “accountability” I’m talking about the destructive practice of “self blame” that is disguised as the virtue of accountability. This week I posted the following update on the Emerging from Broken facebook page:
“Recovery started with me. That alone was a hard truth to swallow. I had to face the pain. I had to do the work. It didn’t seem fair ~ none of this was my fault in the first place which was ALSO a hard truth to swallow because for some reason I thought it WAS my fault. These were the stick points; the road blocks. The bottom line is that I am the only one that can “take my life back”.
When I posted this in EFB facebook, I was thinking the discussion would be about my statement “I am the only one that can take my life back”.
An awesome discussion started which quickly turned into a discussion about accountability. This happens frequently. I am talking about when people say “although I didn’t know better as a child I certainly knew better as an adult”. Accountability can be a nice way of saying “it was my own fault”. This is a topic I seem to be running into a lot this week and it is one that is very close to my heart because that kind of accountability almost killed me. Continued… Read More→
All abuse, whether it is emotional and psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse or spiritual abuse, is abuse and that these articles that I write on Emerging from Broken apply to ALL kinds of abuse. I intentionally make a connection between depression, dissociation, multiple personality, eating disorders, addictions and other mental health struggles and abuse. It is my experience that my difficulties and struggles were birthed in how I learned my value or rather my lack of it. The following article is not just about mother daughter dysfunctional relationship. It is about ALL dysfunctional relationship. How it starts in childhood, how it goes from there. How it ends up in coping methods that although necessary for survival, become self destructive.
The subject of not wanting the abuser to leave me and wondering why they did is SO complicated! For me, one of the things it has to do with is compliance and how much of my life that I spent trying harder for them. The deeper that I look at the roots of my belief system, the more that I can figure out where things got off the track. First of all there are the tons and tons of mixed and conflicting messages that we get both from right sources and wrong sources. They all kind of go into the same pot and they mesh with each other. Remember the story of how when my mother declared that it was my fault that her boyfriend came in my room in the night to sexually assault me because I had a crush on him. Well because my self esteem was already so damaged that I believed her, I added that self blame to everything that ever happened to me before that event. Then there were a few things in my past where I was not such a perfect child, like the time I faked the nightmare for attention, and when a child is a mere child, it doesn’t take much for things to get really mixed up in the memory, the mind and then in the belief system. The grid that we try to process things through, gets damaged.
I had to look at the “foundational foundation” to start with. That is the belief that we need and depend on whoever our caregivers are for our very lives, protection, security, the things that children need to grow into healthy adults. And when something happens that alters those basic needs, we have a problem. We get this split belief about love somewhere along the way and we start to believe that love is something that it isn’t. My mother taught me my value, she taught me the version of LOVE that she believed, but it isn’t real love. So I think that what she is doing is love, and I used to say “I know she loves me, I know she is doing her best”.. but today I know differently. She doesn’t love me at all. She uses me to make her feel better about herself. But it doesn’t work and it isn’t good enough and it hurts me every time. Where is the love in that? Part of my recovery was realizing what love is and what it is not.
When I told my mother that I was not willing to have a relationship on her terms, she finally asked me what “my terms” were. I told her that from now on she could no longer say that I had a crush on her boyfriend when I was just a kid and that was why he came in my room in the night. AND I told her that I was sick of having to prove to her husband that I liked him. I guess my terms were too high.
She was silent. She did not respond to any of the “terms” I stated. Then she told ME to think about our talk and get back to her and I said no mom, you can think about it and get back to me. I could write a whole other blog post about how everything was always up to me but that particular time I had given her MY terms, what the heck was I supposed to think about? That was the last time that we spoke.
And the message that I got from her withdrawal was that I was not worth her trying for. If I was going to draw boundaries and demand equal value then forget it. She said NO. The message was that I was only good for kicking around. If she had to respect me, then she didn’t want to be bothered with me at all. And that message meant to me that I am NOT worth it. After all the years of loyalty and compliance. After keeping my mouth shut about her boyfriends ~ I wasn’t worth her effort. I had never stood up to her all those years. I didn’t dump HER. I put up with all of the degrading in front of the whole world. I stood silent when she told men they could sleep with me because I was on the pill even though I was only a teenager! I didn’t even tell the family therapist (we had to go because my brother got arrested) what was really going on in our home or how she treated me. I let her take me to bars as a man magnet when I was 17 and I never said a word; I followed HER one sided definition of love and loyalty and I kept thinking that one day it would pay off ~ AND she dumped ME! It was incomprehensible! This was just the most unbelievable “thing” for me to try and comprehend. I was such a GOOD VICTIM and it was all for NOTHING? Because when it came right down to it, I was not worth her effort.
And it feels like rejection, because IT IS REJECTION.
As the months went by I felt more and more shock and disbelief as these truths sunk in. But something else was happening. I realized that I didn’t miss the abuse. I didn’t miss having to constantly do damage control and make sure SHE was okay. I didn’t miss having the joy sucked out of every single exciting moment in my life. I didn’t miss the put downs, the insults, the sexual innuendos or the family problems that she caused with her gossip and trouble making. I didn’t miss the anxiety.
And I started to grow. I started to come out of the fog in a much bigger way; I had so much more clarity about the truth and realized how many lies about myself that I had accepted.
This whole story does not just apply to parents; I had a couple of boyfriends who fit this same pattern. Oh and a few friends too. And employers…………. well you get the picture.
Please share your journey, struggles or victories or whatever you need to share for your recovery.
Exposing Truth one snapshot (or two) at a time
Are you aware my of my e-book “Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing”? If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you and you would like to find out “HOW” I broke out of the oppression I lived in, this 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to busting out of the fog and to healing. I’ve received hundreds of thank you notes from people that have bought my book. Get yours here for 9.97 through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing
Related Posts: The little girl who Cried Wolf ~ Belief system development
“If your progress in recovery is thwarted each time you see your family, if you revert to being a subservient or a fearful child, then you may need to stop seeing them for a while. Most importantly, you may need time to develop your own separate “self”, since it may be impossible for you to maintain a sense of individuality when you are around them.” The Right to Innocence – Beverly Engel
Lisa, one of my readers, made the following comment on the post “welcoming a new year of emotional healing” in regards to drawing boundaries with her mother; “What if there is no me without her?” this post is dedicated to that comment and it applies to all relationship where equal value is out of balance.
I was a really good victim to a lot of people. That means that I conformed and complied to many. I did what they wanted. I was who they wanted me to be. It makes me angry to think of how compliant that I was and that it was still never enough.
I lost myself and I got sick. As I got older, the overall dysfunction that was so familiar to me grew, and I got sicker. This was especially true in the dysfunctional mother daughter relationship with my own mother.
Looking back I realize that in most of my relationships, the interest that many people had in me was pretty much only about what I could do for them and about how much they could make me into who they wanted me to be. Sometimes that is about power and control. Sometimes it is about ownership and servant hood. Whatever the motive is, it is not healthy and it is not about love. And when we continue to live in that kind of relational dysfunction, the more we lose ourselves. In my case, the farther I got from my identity, the more depression and dissociation manifested. I lived only to live for others.
In the case of my mother, I think she wanted children because she was looking for a love source of her own. And so she created a love source. And she might have loved those babies to the best of her ability but as we grew older, something happened. She had expectations. She wanted approval and validation and she wanted it from the love source that she created. And when people get love mixed up with ownership, they believe they have a right to get what they need or want from those other people. But love and relationship doesn’t work that way and because she didn’t really know love herself, the whole plan failed.
The foundation of our relationship (overtime) became about my usefulness to her. When I was little my unconditional love and acceptance of HER was all she needed, but as I grew into an individual who had my own individual ideas, I think she felt threatened. And she did things that if I put up with them would prove to her that I still loved her. AND it seemed that she was very mad at me when I could not fill the void in her and make her feel good about herself. She put me down. She reminded me in strange ways that I was nothing. (and somehow I heard that I was nothing “without her”.) She did mean things that when accepted by me seemed to make her feel better because she equated them with love.
I got away from her, but it was never far enough. She sucked the joy out of every accomplishment that I ever had with her sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious put downs and questions designed to devalue me. She mentioned my weight. She put down my husband, my home, and my choices. She made inappropriate sexual comments about me in front of others. I was always on edge around her. And I never thought to confront her about doing it. She even commented that my breasts used to be so nice before I had children. WHY does someone feel the need to say something like that?
When I was small she taught me that I needed her, and I did. But she never taught me that I was capable of being an individual. She never wanted me to stop NEEDING her because it restored her value. I believed that I needed her to survive and even to exist.
And one day about a year after I began to take my life back by doing the foundational work that I write about all the time in this blog, I started to stand up to her, just a bit and just in tiny ways at first. But the more that I grew, the more I realized that my mother and I had a very dysfunctional mother daughter relationship. And eventually I stood up to her in bigger ways. And the tension between us was getting really bad. Then came the day when I said NO MORE. And this time I meant it. My boundary was not in my mouth anymore, it was in my heart now. She knew that I was serious, and she withdrew.
At first I was confused. I could not believe that she didn’t care enough to even try to discuss it. But I had lost my “usefulness to her” and what I didn’t realize is that part of my usefulness to her was in how she got to put me down. I felt so sorry for her too; for most of my life I tried to restore her value, but no one can do that for someone else. (I have written about this stuff under the mother and daughter relationship tabs.) The problem is that my purpose in her life wasn’t about love, value and equality. The way that she treated me wasn’t fair to me and it was when I finally put myself first, something we are told we must never do, that I found my healing.
When some time had gone by, my mother called and she wanted to try to mend fences. The problem was that she wanted to start from that day and asked if we could “just put it all behind us” and I said no. That is how we had always done things in the past, with me backing down. With me saying that her treatment of me was okay with me, (what I thought was forgiveness) and with me laying there broken and bleeding on the ground once again doing what she wanted and being who she wanted me to be. Always about her, always taking care of her; never about me, never taking care of me. She asked me what my terms were and I said equal respect. That was the last time I talked to her.
As I said, this time my boundary was drawn in my heart. I finally knew that I was worth equal respect, and that I have real value, equal value and that she doesn’t own me. I finally knew that her life is not my responsibility. She failed me as a mother, but I am not going to fail myself anymore.
I am not afraid anymore to live as me because I found out that the value that they gave me was a lie. I am far more valuable then they ever wanted me to find out about. I found out that I do not need anyone else in order to exist. I am not defined by anyone else today. AND I am not an extension of my mother.
Please share your thoughts. One of the biggest search phrases used to find Emerging from Broken are the key words “dysfunctional mother daughter relationship”. This is a huge issue in our society. We are not alone in this.
Exposing Truth, One snapshot at a time
See Lisa’s comment #19 on Welcoming a new year of Emotional Healing
Related posts: Mother Daughter Relationship Nighmares