Oct
05

An Invisible Child in a Hostile World by Pam Witzemann

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Carla Hawaii EFB

I am excited to have our very own Pam Witzemann guest blogging on Emerging from Broken this week! Pam was a frequent guest blogger here in 2011 and 2012 and she has always been a contributor in the conversations. Please welcome Pam;

An Invisible Child in a Hostile World by Pam Witzemann

Where there is substance abuse and children, there is child neglect and abuse.

I was born to parents who abused alcohol and from my birth I was an invisible child in a hostile world. Alcohol abuse is considered a disease but my life’s experience has taught me to view it as a symptom of underlying mental illness and psychological disorder. Though my parents have never seen a psychologist or psychiatrist and aren’t likely ever to do so, I am quite certain of their underlying psychological disorders. Alcohol was gasoline added to the flame of their mental illness that created the distorted and sometimes, dangerous environment of my childhood home.

There was a time when I hated my parents. I still hate the things they did to me and neglected to do for me; but I now view them as pitiable persons who choose the false safety of denial, rather than face the truth about themselves and the lives they’ve led. They are no longer a part of my life because in order to be in a relationship with them I would have to deny the truth about my life and continue in the denial that rules my family of origin. That is abusive to me and I refuse to allow them to abuse me any longer. In any event, the truths I share here are about my life and not really about my parents at all. I now choose when and where to share my personal history and what I share here is for the purpose of helping others who suffer as I have suffered and not about any kind of exposure or revenge.

I don’t think my parents ever saw me as an individual separate from themselves. I was simply an extension of them. I was their firstborn child and to them, a disappointing reflection of themselves. I only weighed four pounds and my mother brought me home wearing doll clothes and lying in a shoe box. My mother had many childish fantasies of a baby daughter who would change her life for the better and it didn’t seem likely that I would fulfill any of them. She says my dad was jealous of me and didn’t like her giving me the attention I constantly cried for.

 I nearly died when I was only a few weeks old.

They found me not breathing and assumed they had smothered me with too many blankets. Somehow, they managed to revive me and this became the first time out of three that I nearly died at the hands of my parents before the age of five.  

The use of alcohol as medicine and medical neglect were the reasons for the other instances of near death that I experienced as a child but the family narrative couched them in light-hearted tales of young parents who lacked experience. These narratives were created to deflect from the neglect and abuse that they weren’t able to hide from others. I suspect there are many other abuses that were never revealed. I believe this is also, when they first assigned me the role of family scapegoat. I was the source of a lot of trouble to them. I was so small and as time passed, I failed to thrive. I didn’t reflect a positive image of themselves back to them so, I became the sickly child who they fed hot-toddies (a mixture of bourbon, honey, & lemon) and I was kept mostly in bed.

My parents couldn’t see me as an individual with life and purpose of my own. I didn’t serve any good purpose for them. I was too imperfect and in response to the imperfection they perceived in me, my parents chose to make me as invisible as possible by keeping me locked away in my room, drunk and in bed. I remember most of my early childhood as being alone and suspended in dark space. At the time I didn’t know that this was wrong; I was taught to view this treatment as my parent’s way of caring for me and I simply accepted it as it was presented. I had nothing to compare it to and my invisible state became a core part of my self-image and later, a favored coping mechanism and protection against further abuse.

There were many times when I was older, that I sought refuge in a dark closet when my parent’s alcoholic rages reached a fevered pitch and even today when I am deeply saddened or feel threatened, I find myself isolating and seeking refuge in invisibility. I know now that when I do this I am dissociating from a painful reality in the most complete sense of dissociation, next only to death. This is the source of my most debilitating depressions when I seek refuge in the isolation of the complete abandonment I experienced during the earliest days of my childhood. If the environment I grew up in had been less hostile, I may not have sought this refuge but isolation and invisibility are much more pleasant than connectivity with abusive, alcoholic, psychologically disordered parents.

On one hand, I had a deep, painful yearning for them to notice me and actually, see me; but on the other hand, being seen was dangerous and likely to make me a target for verbal and emotional abuse.

Needless to say, growing up in bed didn’t teach me many social skills. I didn’t start school until I was seven and I was so small that people thought I was three or four. I didn’t know how to communicate with other children and they wanted to play with me like a doll. I didn’t like being treated this way but I also, had no idea that I should stop them. I didn’t like being treated as an object but in the same way that I accepted isolation as normal, I accepted my peers viewing me as a toy to play with as being acceptable. Later, as a teenager, when a child-predator told me he loved me and treated me like a sex-toy, I accepted that as normal too. After being with him for a few months, I lost all ownership of my person and had no way to protect myself from being abused by others.

No one saw me as a person and I didn’t either. I was an object, helpless in choosing my own purpose. I served the purposes of others without question. Mine was a painful, confusing existence and I sought invisibility in heavy drug use and nearly, lost my life. In fact, I wanted the complete invisibility of death. I yearned for it with every fiber of my being and at age 18 I made a serious attempt at fulfilling that desire. When doctors revived me I cried when finding myself still alive in a world of beings who viewed me as an object and whom I knew only as a threat to my well-being.

I find it amazing today, that I was able to pull myself out of this situation and become a more functional person. In fact, I know I didn’t do it all alone. Faith in God gave me a reason to become a whole person rather than an extension of my parents or the object of abuse that others saw as my purpose. Faith made my special purpose known to me and helped me set boundaries that allowed me to live more safely among others. Facing the truth about myself and my life, helped me rewire my thinking about myself and how I relate to others. Darlene and the commenters on Emerging from Broken helped me in this very important piece of my recovery from an abusive childhood. I found validation and self-acceptance here.

I am much closer to being the woman I was created to be than what my dark childhood promised. It has been a long struggle with many highs and lows. I am convinced that as long as I live, I will continue to struggle to become a better person because recovery from abuse is as much about the process of becoming as it is healing.

I know that none of my success would have been possible if I had given my parents the false honor they desire and continued to live in denial. It hurts to face the truth. It is not an easy path. There is a price to pay for embracing truth but it is the only way to heal and move forward into becoming. I am not sorry for paying the cost of embracing the truth about me and my life because life is so much better when engaged in, fully. I can’t engage in life when I spend most of my time hiding from life.

It is said, that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. When this is applied to the problem of healing from child abuse and breaking the cycle of abuse, it is perfectly true. It is impossible to heal when the wounding is denied and abuse in families will be passed down for generations when denied. In invisibility, I found a false refuge that became the debilitating depression that stole many months of my life. In truth, I found life through improved relationships with God, myself, and others. Neglect and abuse prevented me from developing the skills I needed to connect with others. Love and truth taught me how to connect with others safely.

I am so happy that aloneness is no longer my most natural and safest state of being. For the first time in my life, I have achieved some sense of safety in the world because I have learned healthier ways of keeping myself safe.

Pam Witzemann

Pam Witzemann is a long-time native of New Mexico. She is a writer, painter, landlord, wife, mother, grandmother, small-business co-owner, child-abuse survivor and overcomer. Emerging From Broken has played a big role in empowering her in her struggle to overcome the emotional damage caused by a childhood of abuse. She is an avid supporter of Darlene Ouimet’s work and is honored to share her story in support of that good work.

Please share your thoughts with all of us here on Emerging from Broken.

If you are interested in how Darlene discovered and uncovered the false messages that were holding her back, “Emerging from Broken ~ The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing” is available for download. Click on the book image in the upper right side bar.

Other articles written by Pam; The Healing Power of Righteous Anger http://emergingfrombroken.com/the-healing-power-of-righteous-anger-by-pam-witzemann/

How I learned to Self-Abuse http://emergingfrombroken.com/how-i-learned-to-self-abuse-by-pam-witzemann/

The Process of Forgiving Child Abusers http://emergingfrombroken.com/the-process-of-forgiving-child-abusers-by-pam-witzemann/

Profile of a Spiritual Abuser http://emergingfrombroken.com/profile-of-a-spiritual-abuser-by-pam-witzemann/

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Categories : Depression

166 Comments

1

Pam, yay for you for overcoming a past of horrendous abuse and aloneness. I’ve read some of your other articles on here, and your many comments on various posts. This article really hit me hard as far as the extent of what you endured. And you overcame it, and as you say, much of your healing came from Emerging From Broken! You have given me a lot of hope and faith with this post. I had my own isolation in childhood. My father was a perfectionist and any mistake was grounds for severe criticism and sometimes days of silent treatment. My mother was emotionally and physically abusive to the point where I stopped asking for things even basic needs and did without. And just about anything could get me in trouble with her if she was in a bad mood. So I made myself as small and invisible as possible. I spent much of my time in my room. And I curled myself up as small as possible with my hands shielding my face ( usually in a corner) when she came after me with a belt.

Pam, if you overcame all you endured so can I! I’ve been on EFB for 17 months now, and have already found the sources of much of the damage and uncovered many false beliefs. Just realizing that I am not to blame and that There is nothing wrong with me has made for a big difference in my feelings about myself.

Again, I am so happy about all your progress in overcoming all of this. Yay for you Pam!!

2

Hi Amber, Thanks for your encouragement. It makes me sad to read what you wrote about your life and your own refuge in ‘invisibility’. I guess that lets both of us know that we really aren’t alone. It doesn’t make me happy to know others suffered as I have but finding people here that understood what I had survived was an important connection for me. Emotional neglect was the most difficult piece of my childhood to identify but it caused me the greatest damage.

I’m glad you’re here, it’s a good place to be!
Love,
Pam

3

Pam, thanks for caring enough to help others. Like Amber, I felt hopeful reading this…I am in the midst of a struggle and it is hard to believe that things will get better, that I will get better. Do people’s lives really change? I am 45 and it seems insurmountable. I can’t break out of the isolation, pushing people away is the norm and I don’t even believe in love anymore. But your words are hopeful! You found love, made a family & got healthy. I pray that I will remember Pam’s journey when I’m feeling like it’s all too much.

4

Pam, although your story is not a pleasant one to read it struck a chord with me in many places. My mother was 17 when I was born and I think she wanted me to be a toy doll. One of the first things I remember her saying to me and she still says it to me to this day, I am 66 years old, was, “You are just like your father!”
Now my father was an alcoholic but fun loving, never abusive, always had time to play with me and never drank in front of us kids. Now I know she was very sick from growing up with her alcoholic father and then marrying mine at 16 years old.
I have had a good life after much therapy and a successful career. I am still and wlways have been an introvert. I wonder if I too was seeking a safety in silence and being alone as a child and developed this into a survival skill. Your story gives me much to ponder and I thought I had all this worked out 30 years ago! lol

5

Melissa, The one thing in life that is certain is change. Change can be for the better when we are willing to put in the work. It isn’t easy facing a painful past and how it shaped our thinking but that is the way out. I don’t think I’ve arrived but I am a long way from where I was and I’ve accomplished much more than my beginnings promised. I have hope for you, Melissa. Being here is a good step.

Love,
Pam

6

Charlotte, I’m not a young woman either and I still find things to work on. I listened to my family tell me to ‘forget the past’ which really meant, keep it covered. I kept so much buried and when I started the work of integrating my ‘secret’ past, it was amazing how much I had forgotten and how many fragments of memories I have. So…I continue to piece things in. I doubt I’ll ever get it all done but I’m happier with myself now than I have ever been. If I get depressed, it lasts a day or two, not months. I allow myself to withdraw when I’m emotionally overwhelmed but I do so with full awareness of what I’m doing. I have control over this way of coping that is natural for me and it doesn’t control me anymore. They say knowledge is power and allowing myself to accept the knowledge about my childhood that I buried and kept secret gave me more power over the emotional damage I suffered in childhood.

Love,
Pam

7

Pam, I agree that emotional neglect is hard to identify. As a child I thought that the way I was brought up was ” normal”. I thought other families were the same way. When I was a teenager and spending more time at friends’ houses, there were clues I picked up that other families are different. And I found the different was a better different. Another reason I didn’t identify a lot of emotional abuse was because I so deeply believed the lie that something was the matter with me and that I didn’t have the rights to certain things or to respect. I was taught by my mother that girls were inferior although she didn’t seem to include herself in that assessment. I was the only daughter with two brothers, and I was treated much differently than they were. I was also taught that I was ugly and that a woman’s on,y value was her looks and that I failed in that category. Never mind that I was an excellent student; that was expected of me but it did not raise my status in my mothers eyes.

Making myself as invisible as possible and hiding out in my room was one of my primary coping methods. And I think my mother was only too glad to be rid of me when I hid in my room. My other invisibility was not asking for things, not causing any trouble, sort of an emotional invisibility. But because I coped in this way many of my needs went unmet and I was very delayed in learning how to get along in the outside world. I also made myself invisible at school by not talking, and that combined with the odd way I was dressed and that my appearance was unkempt made me the class target to be bullied.

I struggled my whole life with being devalued, disrespected, and disregarded. At work I was not the one given promotions. I even had a bullying supervisor who lied and exaggerated things about my job performance in order to try to get rid of me. Pam, I somehow felt I deserved it all because something was wrong with me. I was taught that from the beginning of my life so I never questioned it in all the years until coming to Darlene’s blog. When I read how Darlene discovered that much of what she was groomed to believe were lies, I started thinking that maybe my life was full of these lies too. And, yes, as I went over my life I discovered that there were many lies that I believed for decades. Lies that made me fearful, lies that made me feel unworthy, lies that led to me coping by becoming invisible and not speaking up for myself. I’ve discovered the lies. It’s made me look at myself in a different light and there is now hope. Your story if overcoming what you did gave me even more hope. I’m now at the stage where I smile trying to relate this to my old coping methods and wean myself if the ones that either no longer serve a purpose or actually hinder me. This part of the process seems even harder than discovering the damage and the false beliefs. But as I said in my earlier post, if you did it Pam, and Darlene did it then why not me too?? Yes, why not!

8

Hi Pam,

So much of this article resonates with my own story. I recognize the alcoholic parents, thinking I was an extension of themselves and a disappointing, ugly reflection on them. I knew the desire for their attention along with the knowledge that their attention came with pain. My mother complains to this day about how I wanted so much attention, while I remember trying so hard to be invisible.

My father passed away almost 3 years ago. Initially, through his illness and after his death, I thought the family dynamics shifted in such a way that I was finally accepted. Then a crisis in my life brought out the reality that the shift was actually in a totally opposite direction.

Any attempt at relationship with any of my family of origin AND my adult children seems to require a submission to my role as scapegoat and swallowing the denial wholesale. Your words about choosing no relationship for the sake of your healing and success were affirming to my similar choice of just a few months ago.

Thank you for your contribution. Darlene and the EFB community have been huge in my journey so far. I’m glad that you’re a part of it.

Hobie

9

Amber, Even when I saw other families I didn’t put it together that the problem was my family and not me. I thought I was the reason that my family was such a broken mess. I was almost fifty years old before I began to recognize my less-than status. I had healed a lot of my destructive, outward behaviors but the deep down healing of how I related to others was still badly broken. Relearning that changed everything for me. It isn’t that I’m not still working on some things. I am but I am so much better since I’ve embraced the child I used to be, quit being ashamed of her, and made her a part of my present. I treat her the way she should have been treated and that makes all the difference.

Yes, Amber you can heal. Your aren’t defective. You had defective parenting that left you wounded and those wounds can be tended to and healed.

Love,
Pam

10

Hobie, I’m afraid that shedding that role demanded that I also, shed many of my relationships. I have struggles with my adult children too and I know the root of those is my learned behavior of relating to others as an extension, a servant. It’s hard to identify that enmeshment but when it is identified, nothing stays the same. I have hope for you and for me that if we continue to live as individuated persons, our children will be changed by it. It isn’t easy though and when there is a family crisis, it’s very easy to slip back into those familiar roles. When that happens, we have to forgive ourselves and try again.

Love,
Pam

11

I am holding onto some hope for my adult children. I’ve at least made some progress in forgiving myself.

My adult children seem to have adopted the rules of my family of origin and nothing that I say or do seems to reach them in the way I mean it. I’m beginning to recognize that what I offer as accepting responsibility and a desire to work out the damage reaches them as a manipulative tactic that requires them to make me feel better without any real change. I know I don’t mean it that way, and maybe I need to work on my communication, but I think that’s the typical mode of operation for my parents and siblings, and my ex-husband for that matter. The words “I’m sorry” seem to make them angry.

I’ve decided to take care of myself for the time being, for my own sake. Maybe at some point in the future, my kids will see me differently. If not, I have a wonderful husband, and I’m finding some good friends, and some of them have children & grandchildren that I get to enjoy sometimes.

I’m getting better, I know I am. Maybe my kids will be able to see it someday.

Thanks,
Hobie

12

Hobie, Even if they don’t, it is better to be whole. I’m glad you have a good husband and better relationships. My children have their unique ways of responding to me and my relationships with them are different because they are different kinds of people. As parents, we contribute to who our children become but some of it is genetic, life events, other relationships, how the choose to cope with life. We carry responsibility only, for our actions. We don’t carry the full load, that’s a lie we learned early in childhood. Believing that lie distorted the love I have for my kids. There is so much we can’t control and I don’t know about you but I am enjoying not believing that I should carry the world on my back. I can’t fix the past but I know my children have a better chance of having a real adult-child-parent relationship with me if I’m whole than if I remained in my broken state. I do what I can to relate to them in a healthier way and since they are adults, I have to leave their response to them. That’s all we can do.

Love,
Pam

13

Thanks for sharing your story Pam! Although my story is somewhat different than yours, the insights that you have made are very helpful to me.

There are so many statements that you made that were/are true for me also, but these are the ones that impact me the most:

“… recovery from abuse is as much about the process of becoming as it is healing.”

That is the most accurate way that I have ever heard it described. I love the “process of becoming” part. I am in the process of healing from the damaged person that I was!I am in the process of becoming the more healed version of myself.

Another statement that impacts me equally is, “There is a price to pay for embracing truth but it is the only way to heal and move forward into becoming.”

I know this all too well! The price for healing is so much pain, change, and letting go of parts of ourselves that are no longer useful to us, because they are dysfunctional coping mechanisms that only keep us trapped in our own lost world.

“Neglect and abuse prevented me from developing the skills I needed to connect with others.”

The pain of letting go of the ones that we have loved and/or cared for, even though they didn’t love us or loved us poorly, involves a great deal of heart ache, as well. Many of us know, all to well, the abused child will cling to their abusive parent rather than the rescuer. It is so painful to let go of the strong need for our parents love, which for a child is imperative to survival.

I know that I was a barely surviving infant and young child also. I didn’t have any particular maladies, but I was very small and barely surviving from emotional neglect.

And, you describe so accurately how the method that I have used the most to survive is counter productive… hiding, seclusion, and reclusiveness.

“I can’t engage in life when I spend most of my time hiding from life.”

Am I an introvert naturally or is it just my way of coping? I too have been taught to be invisible and non-demanding.

“… isolation and invisibility are much more pleasant than connectivity with abusive, alcoholic, psychologically disordered parents.”

I am so glad that you mention faith in God. I believe that it is a very important part of my healing process. Without the hope and knowledge of God, I would have no other support to call upon when my resources are drained.

“Faith in God gave me a reason to become a whole person rather than an extension of my parents or the object of abuse that others saw as my purpose.”

“Faith made my special purpose known to me and helped me set boundaries that allowed me to live more safely among others.”

And, I look forward to the time that I can say, “I am so happy that aloneness is no longer my most natural and safest state of being.”

14

Pam, after reading your article today, I was impressed. I can’t relate to much of it personally since my story is very different in many ways, but nonetheless, I felt so happy for you that you have come so far in your journey of healing and overcoming!! It is such an uplifting and encouraging testimony! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

15

Beth, Thank you for this response. Isn’t it good to know that we can connect with others over an experience that is so hard to describe? It is so hard to grasp the nothingness of emotional neglect but that was the most devastating abuse I suffered as a child. My inability to connect left me vulnerable to abuse from so many other people besides my parents. They raised me to be prey and I know that when I am at the deepest levels of isolation, I am much like a rabbit that surrenders to the predator and death. It took me a long time to connect to that truth about myself. I surrendered to and survived some horrific sexual abuse as a teenager by that same kind of surrender that I knew as a small child, left alone in my room.

I think the love of a child is love in the purest form. It is unconditional. If we could teach parents to love their children in the same way, it would heal the world. As survivors of child abuse who have had that love frustrated but still possess it, we can give it to ourselves and use it to heal ourselves. I believe that makes letting go of toxic relationships easier to bear.

Love,
Pam

16

Hi Finally Free, Thank you for reading and taking the time to encourage me.:0)

Love,
Pam

17

Pam,

My therapist made the point at least a few times that I’m not the only person with influence on my children. It took a while, but I do realize nothing is ALL my fault – well not much anyway. I’m finding new purpose in my life with God’s help too. Thank you for all you’re sharing.

I’m 58, and want as much out of the rest of my life as I can get as well as giving it as much as I can. Whatever has been wrong up through now doesn’t have to stay that way. I pray that things will improve for the both of us when it comes to the kids & grandkids. For all our sakes!

Hobie

18
sharyn parsons hart
October 5th, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Pam,Gorgeous lady and Hero of your own Life…….I identify with many parts of your story and am also in the process of becoming who I truly am……I would just love to send you hugs and love,for all you have achieved……I also believe that”Child Abuse Survivor and Overcomer”should be at the start of the description of who you are,instead of Painter.Writer etc……because that is the most important and bravest qualification you can have….To have won the War you were born into is amazing,and tells me who you really are……Wear that title with great pride,as I know and understand how hard it has been for you to win that Battle…..Now….Enjoy the Ride of your Life!!!xxx

19

Hobie, I’m turning 58 next month. We’re both proof that it is never too late to change one’s life. I’m sure that the work we’ve done will make a difference. We can only heal ourselves but I still think it makes a difference in lives we touch.

Love,
Pam

20

Sharyn, Thank you for all you’ve given me in that comment.:0)Yes, it is a battle and I am a veteran warrior. I am enjoying life and looking forward to even better days to come.
Love,
Pam

21

Hi Pam,
You wrote the story of my childhood and of so many others.My parents were both alcoholics during the time i was a child.My mother drank much more than my father.She was a stay at home mom,so i was often left alone with her while my father was at work.I witnessed so many suicidal attempts of my mother as she was trying to kill herself by taking pills in my presence.Father came home from work,had a huge fight with mom,then went to sleep.He never had one word of encouragement for me,his scared to death daughter.In the evening,i used to sit alone in my room,looking at the window,staring at the light coming from neighbors appartments.As a child,in order to reassure myself,i used to make up stories of what was happening in other homes.

I imagined happy families ruled by harmony and love.In my teenage years,my mother suddenly stopped drinking;to me,that’s pure miracle.Even today,i can’t logically explain how it happened,but i’m grateful to God it did.However,mom never apologized.Today,she cooks steak with red wine,which horrifies me.What if the smell of alcohol makes her drink again? I also shiver when my sister brings a bottle of wine when she comes to visit.Has she forgotten her own traumatic childhood,when she suffered alongside me? Does she want my nightmare to start again? She is safe and away from them,but unfortunatelly she forgot about me.She doesn’t care what that wine would to me,what emotional disaster it might trigger if the whole thing starts again.

Dear Pam,
I subscribe to all the great words that Sharyn wrote about you.Your recovery gives me hope that a normal life is possible.Congratulations for all you have achieved!

22

Pam, in reading your response to some of the other posters, two things really struck a chord with me.

” we carry responsibility only for our actions”. I have always carried the full load. My mother used me as a scapegoat, burdening me with so much undeserved blame for things that were wrong. Because I believed I held full responsibility when things go wrong, people outside my home, including at school and work also found it easy to push blame off on me. From what you just said about responsibility for our actions, very little of that blame should have been on my shoulders.

” I am much like a rabbit that surrenders to the predator”. Exactly!! I lived my life in fear. I gave in to everyone else’s wants and needs. I was afraid to do otherwise. I could never defend myself because I would freeze and couldn’t respond. This still happens sometimes today and is one of my biggest frustration points. Someone can insult me and I freeze up and can’t respond. If someone raises their voice to me I am especially vulnerable. I feel like I am four years old and my mother is screaming at me and coming after me with the belt, so I retreat into making myself as small and invisible as possible. I want to get past this so badly.

23

Pam, Thank you. You have no idea how God used your words yesterday…But I assure you, it was an answer to a foxhole prayer! One thing in your essay that really spoke to me is where you talk about habitual isolation being a re-enactment of childhood…When we feel unsafe, we hide. It makes sense. Today I face the world knowing that others (you, Darlene & the hundreds of other brave souls here) have figured it out & moved beyond. There really IS hope, if we do the work. xox

24

Laura, The good thing about recovery is that whatever other members of my family decide to do, it doesn’t wreck my life because their actions don’t rule my reality anymore. As an extension, I lived a life that was secondary to theirs. Now I live my own life.

Love,
Pam

25

Amber, It was HUGE for me when I understood where I ended and others began. It was huge for my husband and children too because my overly responsible actions appeared controlling to them. It was so good to let go and only be responsible for me.

I know now that freezing is part of the fight/flight response and this is how I react when threatened. Since I was little, I remember losing my ability to speak or move. It didn’t have to be what others would consider a threat either. Just being seen and noticed was enough to cause me to freeze. As I began to have emotional flashbacks, it became even more debilitating because triggers caused me to react to past threats as well as present threats. It still happens but I recognize it and I’m able to work through it quicker. Since I’ve integrated my past trauma experiences, I’m able to connect the dots and cognitively, put things back into perspective.

Love,
Pam

26

Melissa, Hope is the vision and goal for the future that gives us the energy we need to do the hard work. Through hope, we can obtain the prize. Never stop hoping for a better tomorrow.

Love,
Pam

27

Pam, re: message #25; since my mother never accepted responsibility for her actions and liked to blame others ( in our house I was the scapegoat), I got used to other people doing wrong and me somehow being responsible. This made it very hard to know where I ended and others began. Someone else does something wrong and I feel responsible. Someone else is in a bad mood and I feel like I caused it, or at the very least, that it is my responsibility to fix their mood. Moods were another thing with my mother. Since I got yelled at when she was having a bad day I began believing that me just being around kept her in her bad mood so I felt responsible for it.

I have read a lot about fight/ flight and freeze responses. I was never a fighter. So if I could make an escape I would, otherwise I froze. Pam, I even froze when I needed to ask someone for something. One of my worst memories of this was at age eleven. Our class was subscribing to one of the daily newspapers and I was going to need to bring money in for it each week. One morning I asked my mother for the money as I was leaving for school. I said I would explain it later. Now my mother many times would scream at me if we needed something for school that she thought was unnecessary, and sometimes she would deny me the money for those things. I must have been afraid she would get angry when I told her shout the newspaper, because that evening I froze when she asked me what I needed the money for. I froze Pam, and couldn’t get the words out. She chased me around the kitchen table demanding I tell her, and was swinging a belt at me. She hit me on the face and back with the belt and I couldn’t break out of the freeze and she kept getting more enraged when I wouldn’t speak. Eventually she stopped and I came out of the freeze, and was able to tell her what I needed. The episode must have gone on for a half an hour. To this day I remember the fear and the sting on my back from the strap. I’ve only recently been able to start talking about this, but today, for the first time I was able to go into all the details. Thanks for listening Pam. Somehow I know you will understand what I was feeling that day.

28

Amber, Yes, I understand to the point that it is still very difficult for me to ask people for something that I need. It wasn’t safe in my house to do that not so much because of being spanked or beat but because it set me up to be abandoned again. My irresponsible, negligent parents abandoned me every day. There was no over-riding right and wrong in my house. The rules shifted constantly. What was okay one day, was a major infraction the next day. What was wrong was always wrong was to trouble my parents with my needs. My needs weren’t their problem so, in their eyes, there wasn’t a problem. I learned to feel guilty about needing anything and I sought their approval by not needing anything from them. I never won their approval and now I know that is because of the role they assigned to me in service of their emotional needs. It helps me a lot to remind myself that the problem was in them and not in me. I wasn’t undeserving of their approval and it wasn’t wrong for me to need them. They lacked empathy for their children and that lack made it impossible to parent any child and fill their emotional needs.

To this day, my parents accept no responsibility for anything they’ve done to me or neglected to do for me. When I confronted them, I learned that the most important thing to them about their parenting years is to not be held accountable for anything. They behave as people who have a lot to hide. I refuse to let them hide their wrong actions toward me in me, any longer. I am their child, not their scape-goat and I feel sorry for them that they could never see that. I can’t fix them though and I can’t have a relationship with them when I’m the only one responsible for that relationship. They tell people that I cut them out of my life because they don’t agree with me but the truth is, they abandoned me again rather than take responsibility for how they hurt me. It is the last time they will abandon me. That finality was a trauma in itself but I won my dignity by standing my ground and not taking responsibility so that we could continue together, as I had done for five decades. That was when I broke free from the enmeshed system I grew up in. That’s when I began redefining where I ended and began in my other relationships. People who love me for me, remain. Those who loved me for what I could do for them, have fallen away. When my thinking changed, everything changed. Understanding what abuse taught me about myself and others cleared my confusion. By replacing those lies with the truth, I became a whole person. I found self acceptance. That is so important for a child raised as a scape goat. Self acceptance is what was stolen from us and that is what we regain when we are diligent in our inner work.

Love,
Pam

29

Amber #22…”I am much like a rabbit” .Yes I do the same thing. I had to be perfect as a child, never make noise, cause a problem or ask for anything. I thought I was bad and defective. I have always thought this and have not been able to figure out why or how to fix it. As a child I was taught (literally) to bow my head and say nothing when abused or treated badly or bullied. My mother not only taught this but modeled it daily. I was not wanted by her. When I got to 6 or 7 she discovered I could be useful as her house servant. I had to lie to cover for her when she was out with her boyfriend or scamming someone out of money. I lived in terror that my violent PTSD father would find out and kill us. My mother has always been in denial as long as I can remember. She has said over and over that she kept life normal for us having Dad work 2nd shift. This is how she fools herself. Life in that house was a concentration camp, always. He worked 2nd shift because he liked to sleep late and in no way missed any interaction with us. Another falsehood; Why I don’t kiss or hug. Her reason: I was unhuggable as a child. True reason: I was never hugged or kissed as a child so it seems to be a strange behavior to me. I am learning. She has always lied to herself and to me. I am no contact and will stay that way. Pam, I cherish your words and your insight. I know where you are coming from. My father couldn’t drink as he had hepatitis from the war. When he drank he was 100X worse. I cringe 50 years later thinking of that rage. My mother always pointed out anyone who had a problem with alcohol with a nasty sneer. My mother is morbidly obese and has been since age 22 as it is her coping method. Sorry to ramble but all your posts are bits and pieces of my story. The greatest thing for me was finding EFB and finally discovering the lies I believed about myself and making an effort to find the real me again. Thanks for posting!!

30

Karen, I felt the same way when I started reading EFB and the comments. I lived in fear for so long, dreading that my ‘background’ would be exposed. What I’ve learned is that the only people really interested in hearing about the abuse in my childhood are other survivors. It is so important that our stories be heard and validated. That was an important connection for me. Finally, I found people who understood what my childhood was like. Finally, my suffering wasn’t invisible, it was recognized and validated by others with similar experiences. That’s priceless.

Love,
Pam

31

Dear Pam
“That was when I broke free from the enmeshed system I grew up in. That’s when I began redefining where I ended and began in my other relationships. People who love me for me, remain. Those who loved me for what I could do for them, have fallen away. When my thinking changed, everything changed. Understanding what abuse taught me about myself and others cleared my confusion. By replacing those lies with the truth, I became a whole person. I found self acceptance. That is so important for a child raised as a scape goat. Self acceptance is what was stolen from us and that is what we regain when we are diligent in our inner work.”
I could have written many parts of your piece.
At the age of 46, I am trying to display self acceptance and love to our 2 young daughters so that they too can love themselves and connect emotionally with others.
I am also at a difficult point in my 18 year marriage where I recognise that the changes in me have more recently highlighted the deficits in my relationship with my husband and the role I have played in being his emotional care taker (as I was to my mother).
The dynamics in my family of origin have definitely played out in my own marriage and I am now at a cross roads…as I was 3 years ago when the lights came on about my mother and step father and I chose to draw the boundary of no contact.
I now know that I can trust myself to make the right decision.

32

Marissa, Being able to trust myself is amazing. I think most take it for granted but if you’ve never had it, you treasure it.

I know the best thing I can do for my husband and children is continue to develop my personal interests and live a life of my own. I used to make their lives my life. Unwittingly, I was repeating the enmeshment I knew as a child in reverse. Change in close relationships doesn’t happen over night but changing me is the beginning of changing my relationships with my husband and children for the better.

Love,
Pam

33

Dear Marissa, I realized after reading your comments that I was the emotional caretaker of my first husband too. When I decided to go to college at the age of 28 he was very much against it because I would not be as available to him to nurse him through his bouts of depression. Some have asked me if his mother babied or pampered him but she did not. She was always physically ill and did not give him the attention he needed, therefore he thought he had found a mother in me. I was 18 and he was 19 when we married. I was prepped for the role by having been the emotional caretaker of my mother since I was born. She is 84 now and has expected me to be her emotional caretaker all these years. Many years ago I set boundaries with her along those lines with help from a therapist and group therapy. She still does not always like it but most of the time I am able to keep the boundaries I have set with her. My first husband on the other hand divorced me for not meeting his unending needs. I still have to be on guard not to take on new people to caretake. Thank you for helping me see this even more clearly.I wish you all the best in your recovery.

34

Dear Pam,
I think of you and your beginnings as such a physically small being, the horrendous neglect, the abuse, the exploitation, all of which you have lived through and overcome, and what is obvious to me is the strength and warmth of your spirit. I am grateful that you came back to life all those years ago, hung on and kept pursuing the life and the “becoming” you deserve. Just personally, I know you’ve helped me a lot with so many of your words—particularly last year, little over a year ago now, as I went through the confrontation process with my family.

What I think is so awful about parents who choose to skirt responsibility and remain in denial is what you spoke about in terms of setting you up as prey. The damage doesn’t end just because you leave home. I think parents owe their children first the acknowledgement and apology for their actions (or neglect) but also they owe their adult children the compassion of understanding the full ramifications of the abuse, not in a never-can-make-it-up-to-you, forever-apologizing kind of way, but in the steady presence of an open heart caring for another, ready to listen. Instead of feeling accusations lodged at them, if only they were instead to understand the degree of love there is in opening up, in risking heartbreak in talking about what has hurt us. That they would be able to respect and admire our spirits.

I always relate to your posts about emotional neglect, isolation and invisibility, also to enmeshment and serving the abuser’s needs. I’ve known for a long time now that my parents taught me to give myself away (to them but of course it lends itself to anyone who exerts power). I’ve also always known the danger this could cause not just in terms of emotional abuse, but that it could also transfer to sexual or physical. Under threat, I will freeze but also start “caring” about the feelings, wants and needs of the other person. A “friend” sexually assaulted me just over a month ago now and there was a point where I was leaning into my wall, so tired, saying, “everyone always wants to use me.” He asked me what I was talking about and I repeated myself. Then he asked if that’s what I thought he was doing, using me, and as if on cue, “no,” I said, feeling guilty for suggesting it. He said, “Yes, you do,” and I tried to make things better. I was afraid of making him angry but it wasn’t him I was afraid of. I was a little kid again. But I also felt bad. In my world, you could say no but if the other person wants yes, you have to let go of your no and let it be yes or else you’re a bad, uncaring person, and how can you not “care” for your own family, who (supposedly) cares about you so much, at least that’s what they say, etc., and if you love them… and of course if you’re bad and uncaring, and you don’t fix yourself to be good and caring, well then, you’re also abandoned, aren’t you? They teach you this very wrong definition of love that’s all about you thinking about them, how you hurt them when you don’t give up your life and your rights, so is it any wonder that others can do the same to me when I’m taken off guard and triggered, so that I didn’t want to hurt this “friend’s” feelings, but wasn’t thinking about how he wasn’t in the least caring about my feelings as I collapsed to the floor and convulsed in pain. And even in that, when he was trying to make light of it just afterward, teasing/making fun of my convulsions, I tried to laugh a bit, too, to be a “good sport”…

I’ve tried not to hide too much since that happened, but yes, isolation is my protection, too.

I always saw myself as a turtle hiding in my shell, and I feel a bit slow, too, like a turtle, that it takes me time to put two and two together, not that I’m stupid, just that I’m slow to recognize things in the moment. I need time to put everything together. Still, I’ll keep trying, poke my head out and walk forward. I’ve worked too hard to stop now. I deserve to live, to become more and more myself.

You’re an inspiration, Pam. Thank you for all the care you put out into the world. You make a difference.
xo, Alaina

35

Alaina, I’m so sorry, sweetheart. Please, don’t feel bad about doing what you had to do to survive. Sexual abuse is all about freezing and fawning, in order to live and most people who’ve never experienced that don’t understand. They judge and think, “Oh, I’d fight them off!” but that’s because they don’t want to accept that something that awful could happen to them and it can happen to anyone. No one is immune to it. They judge to make themselves think they are safe. Don’t judge yourself. It’s really okay to hide for awhile and keep yourself safe. It’s getting stuck there that is bad. Don’t get stuck there, Alaina. Remember it is his evil that is making you hurt right now and no matter how violated and awful he made you feel, he can’t have your soul. When he objectified you for rape, he dehumanized himself. He is the monster. He lost some of his humanity and I don’t think he’ll ever be able to get that back. You will be able to take back what he’s taken from you. Be proud that you survived him. Be very good to yourself. Listen to angelic music. Wrap yourself tight in a blanket. Rest. This is beyond the ability of my words but I care that this has happened to you and I’m glad you are here, alive, and able to talk about it. The world would be better without him but the world doesn’t even deserve you and it would be lacking if you weren’t here.

I don’t know if our parents can even understand what they’ve done to us. We will always want them to but they would have to work to heal themselves and I don’t see that happening, in my case. I’ve never witnessed an active abuser taking responsibility for the destruction they cause their victims, unless they get caught red-handed. We all get stuck in our coping mechanisms but those who hurt others in order to make themselves feel better, seem to be forever trapped by the crimes they commit. I wouldn’t want to be a predator type for anything in the world. No matter how they hurt us, in the end, we win and they can never take from us, what they throw away (their humanity) for the sake of feeling powerful.

You are still Alaina. The man who raped you made himself into a monster and when he dies, no one will cry.

Love,
Pam

36

Alaina, What I was trying to say above is that nothing you did or didn’t do, nothing that you are, caused you to be raped. The fault lies in him and only him. I’m keeping you in my heart.

Love,
Pam

37

Fortunately, this didn’t happen to me. But just wanted to say that I do feel for you Pam. This is horrible.

And Alaina, I relate to this comment from you:

I’ve known for a long time now that my parents taught me to give myself away (to them but of course it lends itself to anyone who exerts power).

I understand about “freezing” but then caring about the other person. I would have trouble shooting someone to defend myself, because immediately it would be “oh, did I hurt you?” And the way bullies tend to escalate when I try to stand up for myself, knowing my luck, I’d be the one that went to jail if I shot someone in self defense.

38

Thank you DXS. I’m still surprised when someone says what you just said. It seems that others have endured worse than I have but I think that is a common phenomenon for survivors. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Pam

39

Alaina, I am so sorry about the experiences you wrote about! I also think you wrote powerfully about your parents teaching you to give yourself away. I had never thought about it like that before, but you describe it perfectly!

40

Thank you, Pam. Your words mean a great deal to me. I’m doing alright with things and no, I won’t stay stuck. I had lots of good support from the people here on EFB when it happened and also from my boss and his wife. I do know that it wasn’t my fault. All responsibility rests with him. I just didn’t like my thought patterns, that didn’t seem to be based in feeling like my life was in danger, just in not wanting to disappoint the person—I didn’t even understand I was scared till later, though he understood. All my thoughts were entirely in line with the kind of thinking patterns that I developed in relation to my family. I know that’s about coping mechanisms and instincts. It just gets my goat. I hope that one day in times of crisis, my instincts will harken back to my younger self before my family really tore me down, when I was vocal and a fighter, or to the self I’ve found here and the lessons I learned, so that in the moment, even if I can’t do anything, I can still hold onto my value. What bothers me was how heartbreaking my thoughts were in being transported back, thinking, feeling, that I was of no value other than to be used. That’s what I was set up for through my experience with my family, that when that happened, I believed that. But what I am grateful for is the truth and my ability to reclaim it—to know that I didn’t deserve what he did or the thoughts and feelings I experienced at the time. I am grateful for what I’ve learned here and all that I can hang onto. I know it has added fears where there already existed a bunch and bad associations to sex, when without other experience, are the only associations I now have, which is kind of awful… but I’m going to be okay. Even if I am a turtle, I’ll win my race.

And no, the man has no humanity. He acted like my friend, hearing about what had happened to me and used it to do exactly what others had done, only this time sexually. But he was very good at the two-faced thing. It may not be a coincidence, though, that I get pulled into Jekyll and Hyde types. (Not that that’s my fault)

Something that registered in the aftermath, when my boss and his wife came to visit me, was something to do with facial responses. It’s a part of this emotional neglect that I only have a few in person experiences of feeling emotional responses to my experiences, where I feel the other person really feeling my feelings and caring and seeing it in their eyes/faces. I can’t think of times with my parents and if there were some brief times, it always got supplanted by their feelings and needing to cater to their feelings. Made me later think that some of the way I can recognize these two-faced people is they might have the right words down but some of the things I said before the assault began, if he had really been my friend, ought to have brought about empathy in his face and I should try to watch for that.

Anyway thank you for all your care, Pam. I’m glad to be me, too, Pam. I wouldn’t want to be a predator for anything in the world, either. Crazy, though, is he and I were talking about this kind of stuff, and he himself said it was never enough for these people (I just didn’t know he was talking about himself)—I gather there was some kind of amusement for him in talking about the subject of abusers, etc, though, as I was so innocently unaware of what was going through his head. You are right—he did turn himself into a monster (if he wasn’t one already). He is sick and I’m glad that I don’t have to live with the kind of rot it creates in your soul when you treat another human being in that fashion.

41

Thanks Finally Free.
DXS, I don’t think I could, either.
You know, it was one thing I did envy my mom for, that on a practical level about many things, my mom had good reflexes to react in the moment to get things done. I had it, too, I believe, but she kind of did a number on me because she didn’t like that spirit in me. Well, she was proud of it on a few occasions, once when I stood up for someone, but otherwise, of course, it was a royal nuisance she (and sort of my dad, too, in his forever back-up of my mom) broke down pretty well, so that eventually I needed her to speak for me, decide for me, think for me, act for me in so many ways. What self-sufficiency I have today I am proud of.

42

Alaina, I just hurt for you because I know how debilitating emotional flashbacks can be. I think some predators know that about child abuse victims and disable them by triggering those states on purpose. They are overwhelming and I know when I am in an intense flashback state, my muscles tense up to the point that I can hardly sit or bend over. My heart races, my breathing becomes shallow, and my thoughts and feelings are overwhelming. I am very vulnerable during those times and even though I know what is happening to me now and I can pull myself out of them sooner, I know they will probably never stop completely. There is someone in my life who likes to use those states against me too but not to the extent of what you have recently suffered. I am just so sorry that you have had to go through this recent, major trauma.

I think people who are constantly manipulating and working people drive themselves mad by continually working all the angles. I think they get to the point that they can’t even recognize truth or remember what is true about themselves. What they do to cause others pain and give themselves a fix of power, rots them from the inside out. They become the defectives that they convince their victims that they are. I have to watch that I don’t transfer my well intentioned feelings onto those who don’t share them and I have to remember that manipulators and predators work to transfer their evil acts onto me. I have to give myself time to really get to know someone. Even then, there is a certain risk in relationships. When we get hurt, we can’t go back to being a scape goat and thinking it is because we messed up. I’m sorry that you were betrayed by someone you thought was a friend and victimized because you opened your heart to him. His actions are despicable.

Love,
Pam

43

Pam, what an incredible post.

Is it possible to be both emotionally abused and neglected at the same time? I feel as if that’s how things were at my house. Reading this I heard my mother’s sarcastic “Aww, you’re so hard-done by” said with a half-laugh with no empathy anywhere and her more strident “Stop whining Alice” often followed by “You should be grateful that…” What? That it’s not worse than this? That you didn’t punish me harder?

I think the tail-wagging dog in me comes from this neglect, that if even a little care was shown, I’d be all over its source.

I find myself swinging between compassion for the people who are to this extent hurt that they mistreat others and sheer hatred for them.

44

Hi Alice, that’s an interesting question about being emotionally abused and neglected at the same time. Actually my own definition of neglect would have it falling unde or certainly overlapping the category of emotional abuse. Reading your post brought me back to being a young teen, maybe 13 or 14, and between the hormones kicking in and getting interested in boys, and classmates, especially girls could sometimes be very cruel; there was a lot of confusion in me about all this new stuff. Sometimes I would get very moody. Instead of asking me what was wrong and talking it over with me and giving me guidance, my mother would in a very nasty tone tell the entire family to just ignore me. So when I most needed someone to care and listen to me I would get the silent treatment. This scenario would definitely fall into both categories.

Alice, I used to concentrate more on the needs of others who are hurting ( and abusive!), and my compassion for their hurt got the better of me and set me up for more mistreatment. But now I find myself doing more self care. Just because people like my mother were neglected in their childhoods does not make it okay for them to mistreat me, so I have shifted to focusing on how I am affected by these people. Perhaps when I heal more I can feel more sympathy, but for now, self care comes first.

45

Alice, Treating a child with disrespect and not giving them the emotional support they need is neglect. Neglect is one of the most damaging forms of abuse. My parents fed me, kept me clean, and kept a roof over my head but they were too self involved to notice what I needed from them emotionally. They had no empathy for me and a parent without empathy for their child can’t connect with them as a equipped care-giver. My parents treated me with emotional disregard on almost every level of our relationship. Every time they failed to notice me and connect with me, they were abusing me emotionally. Their negative, damaging comments came from this same lack.

My mom’s abuse was mostly, passive. It hurt me but the hurtful intent wasn’t there. My dad though, liked to hurt people to make himself feel better. He exploited everyone around him and committed other crimes outside of the family. This kind of coping mechanism is done with harmful intent and I don’t think we should feel sorry for people who choose to use the pain of others as a drug to self-medicate their feelings of envy and powerlessness. I have never seen someone like this who seeks healing because they think they are superior to the rest of us. It is everyone around them, who is able to survive, who end up seeking help.

Love,
Pam

46

“Self acceptance is what was stolen from us and that is what we regain when we are diligent in our inner work.”

Self acceptance is the missing piece that kept me hoping to be rescued. I was looking for someone else to restore me to myself, because I didn’t know how to do that.

Each day I am learning how to put myself back together again. I have searched out and gathered many of the pieces; part of my healing is incorporating them into myself!

47

Beth, By the end of my childhood, I was broken into a million pieces and much of my life has been about putting myself back together again. Healing for me has come in layers, starting with outward behaviors first, so that I could function, and then working toward the core. The emotional and medical neglect in my early childhood is that core. Accepting what I always knew to be true about myself but was taught to deny or made to think I’d made it up or made too much of it, is the process of self acceptance that put Humpty back together again. Accepting my truth has given me self-confidence.

I was blessed that my husband did rescue me, in a sense. He couldn’t put me together again but he loved me and kept me safe when I couldn’t do those things for myself. He has always treated me with respect. I desperately needed the safe connection I had with him. Human beings are social beings and we need healthy, safe relationships.

My grandparents also, were a source of safe connection when I was a child. Without them, I don’t think I would have survived or been able to connect with others, at all.

I’m glad you are retrieving that which was lost to you, yourself. I don’t ever want to take for granted the blessing of retrieved self-ownership.

Love,
Pam

48

Pam,
Thank you so much for guest posting here this week! I am dealing with an eye issue so the timing has been perfect as I have not been able to do a lot on the computer.

All ~ I think that neglect IS emotional abuse. Neglect sends the message that you are ‘not worth the effort’ which is really horrific.

Alice ~ My mother used that “so hard done by” expression too. The tail wagging dog for me came from my willingness to try harder because I believed that if I could just figure out what she wanted and do it, she would LOVE me. I was like a dog begging for any little table scrap of love or approval because I believed (brainwashed) that only they could define me of worthy. Thank God I got over that bullshit!
Hugs, Darlene

49

You’re welcome, Darlene. I’m sorry to hear about your eyes.

In my state, emotional neglect of children is illegal but unless, it is connected to an actual crime, the authorities aren’t likely to act on behalf of the child. They look for torture, sexual abuse, hardcore drug use, and physical battery. If that isn’t present than the most that happens to negligent parents is a welfare check with no other follow-up. I think this neglect of the legal rights of children helps feed people’s notions that emotional neglect isn’t that bad.

I agree that emotional neglect is devastating and is one of the most devastating aspects of all neglect. All child abuse is neglect on the part of the care-giver to respect the child and do what is right for the child.

Pam

50

Darlene, I hope your eye issue gets better real quick.
I relate so well to the tail wagging dog thing. I’ve spent my life trying harder and harder with my mother and other people as well, because I held the same belief that you did. If I could discover what my mother wanted she would finally love me. Of course I never discovered it; there was nothing defective about me to discover, and my mother was never going to be pleased with me no matter how hard and fast I danced to her tune.
There are better places to expend energy than on a road that leads to nowhere.

51

Hi Pam
Emotional Abuse including neglect is illegal here too, but there are not enough resources to pursue the proof of it in order to actually do something about it. It was really helpful for me to ‘know’ what it was though in order to realize that it was wrong and that it HAD happened to me and caused damage. I was seriously lacking validation for any of my feelings growing up, so in my recovery I did a lot of things to replace that missing validation including looking up these laws and definitions of child abuse, respect and love. 🙂
hugs, Darlene

Thanks for the well wishes for my eyes Pam and Amber!

52

I think neglect was difficult for me to define since there were other forms of abuse going on toward me and my older brother. He suffered much more than I did, but I couldn’t even recognize it for a long time into adulthood. My brother broke bones and even cut part of a toe off with the lawn mower, among many other things that never were seen to by a doctor, and I had physical things happen to me as well, but it got confusing because there were dentist visits, orthodontist visits and other doctor checkups etc. I was 13 when I was told I had to earn my own money to buy my own clothes. I wore some really strange outfits in my teens because they were handmedowns and I would sew up holes in my socks. It was very weird to realize as an adult that the other brothers and my parents all wore designer clothes and shoes. I just thought that was the norm. I was “teased” for what I wore and how I looked frequently…but no one offered to buy me a new outfit. That was physical neglect, but the emotional was even harder for me to discern because I was so accustomed to being punished and rejected. I didn’t even think twice about asking my parents for help for things. It never dawned on me that my parents never called me after I moved out…even for my birthday…I was expected to call them. There was no affection, never “I love you”, and I was consistently in trouble for something. I look back now as a mother of a daughter who is attending college, and I can see it all….and how bizarre that life was. I think it was so messed up that I determined in my teens that I was not going to do things their way! I fought hard and long for healing and happy, peaceful relationships. It is a relief to be away from craziness! I have been learning self care….and it was so strange at first, but now I absolutely love it. My daughter is picking up better and better ways to self care . My husband now gives me equal value as himself…and that was a battle at the beginning of getting free! I have even gotten free completely of eating disorder! That feels like the biggest miracle of all in some ways. It was almost immediate after I got free! Then it was tweaking my eating to line up with eating the way I wanted to. Now even my family eats differently because they like how I eat. That is a weird feeling in a great way. So…all that to say that taking back self ownership from abusers who trained me to give it all away to the power of them…and others who came and went in my life…has been like a miracle and it is hard to describe, but I sometimes feel such joy like I am on a great vacation!

53

Darlene, We have the resource problem too and a rate of criminal child abuse that is three times higher than any other place in the union. I have friends who place children in homes and they say that they see a culture among young parents in which they enable one another in neglecting and abusing their children, that is different than in the past. I think the ability to get away with hurting their children and neglecting them contributes to creating this kind of culture. Hopelessness due to the economy and rampant drug use I think, are the biggest contributors. It’s terribly sad what is happening to children.

Sorry, I got sidetracked…

Love,
Pam

54

Darlene, I hope your eyes will be better soon! Xoxoxo

55

Finally Free, I know exactly what you are trying to describe. As children, we don’t know the system we are being raised in is out of whack, we just accept it and adjust. Since we don’t understand what is wrong, we think we are just defective when we have problems with depression, anxiety, self-abuse, etc. It was such a relief for me to understand that there were real events and attitudes in my childhood that caused me to wounded. I wasn’t defective, I was wounded and wounds can be healed.

I’m so happy to hear about your victories in your personal healing! That’s exciting stuff!

Love,
Pam

56

Darlene, I also hope your eyes are better soon!
I think my “If I just try harder” thing came way later when I was attempting “self improvement” as a way of healing. But it boils down to the same stuff, right? If I am a “better” person who takes responsibility and all that then I will get love.
At the same time I recognize that I’ve persisted in situations far beyond what I think any “normal” person would stick with. I mean even when I felt that I should walk away, I’ve stayed because of “make an effort Alice”. My mother had me pegged as a quitter of things too. “I’ll show her”.
Sigh. The number of things I’ve done as a reaction to her is staggering. I’ve “cut off my nose to spite my face” just to get one up on her. I’ve cultivated myself so far as her opposite. Anyway you get the picture.
I also responded to neglect by not wanting to share anything important it intimate with my mother. It felt good to have a life she doesn’t know anything about. She pretended to know by using my obvious wins and losses as evidence.
I also dressed for the most part in handmedowns and assumed my brother got new clothes because we had no male cousins. I mean she could have got thriftstore for him, right? But I don’t think she would have done that. It was a case of “easy” rather than anything else. But I noticed that If there were not enough beds somewhere we were staying, I’d be “volunteered” for the floor. My mother didn’t address my emotions other than to tell me they were wrong and punish me for having them.

57

Pam, Yes…accepting and adjusting as a child in order to somehow survive! And then realizing later in life that there were real events in childhood that were done to me/ my brother that made me FEEL like I was defective. But I woke up one day here at EFB and realized that I wasnt defective. Yes, I was stunted emotionally, yes, I had believed the lies so that I behaved as expected, and yes, I was still a work in progress….it has been almost like catching up and learning what I needed to have learned in my childhood/teens/young adult years. But truly defective? Abnormal? NO, NOT AT ALL!.

Thank you for being happy for me! 🙂 I am also equally happy for you and your progress and your healing…and after all you endured..it is wonderful to know that you are your own person…not a little doll to be “played” with ever again! I love the way you express yourself with writing. You are able to put into words exactly what others are feeling clearly! You have a powerful gifting! xoxo

58

Finally Free, Thank you. Your support and knowing I can encourage others goes a long way in turning what was meant to destroy me into something good. It doesn’t get any better than that!:0)

Love,
Pam

59

FinallyFree, I understand how strange it is to realize you were treated differently, at 13 I was told I needed to buy my own clothes, and I did, even though I had two sisters one older and one younger that had new clothes bought for them. I took summer jobs to earn my own clothing money and we would go back to school shopping and my mom would had out money to my sisters, would buy for my brothers, and I was told to use my earnings. I just took that as “normal” and not as abusive in any way…it felt like something I “deserved” for being a bad person.

I am beginning to realize there is no end to it. On Sunday, my mom texted me and asked me to go to a bbq at their house. Well, I had some kitchen duty at church during that time, and my husband was sick with a cold. I could have gone after church, but husband did not want to go, and I don’t go to see family without my husband because my family “behaves” around them. My brother returned home at 40plus after living out of state for 18 years or so. He is long term unemployed. This morning I saw that he was in another state with some friends, and I wrote on his wall, On vacation, cool! or something like that, and I got an earful from him because he thought I was shaming him for being unemployed. So I tried to explain myself, that retirees, housewives, etc. all go on “vacation” and the term is not necessarily indicative of a break of employment, and he basically ripped me a new one. I was sad about it. I take it he was feeling low about his situation, and he is putting me back into the scapegoat role, projecting his bad feelings about his life onto the ever familiar scapegoat. I told him that I no longer allow people to treat me like that, that I love him, am sorry he is hurting, let me know what I can do to help, but that he is not allowed to treat me poorly. He responded by blocking me from his Facebook.

I think I can no longer be low contact with this brother. I think I need to go back to no contact.

60

Eira, This wasn’t addressed to me but I identify so much with what you’ve just written about your brother. It hurts when we aren’t treated as having equal standing, with no acknowledgement of our feelings, or any willingness to even allow us to correct something we said that was misunderstood. It makes me sad to read this and I just want to encourage you by letting you know that he was off in how he interpreted what you said to him and you are spot on in understanding that he was putting all his negative feelings about himself onto you. I agree with you doing whatever it takes to protect yourself from this kind of treatment. In my own experience, after being without contact for about three years, there have been a few instances where family members have contacted me and without fail, it was all about putting me back into my family role and using me. It confirmed all of my reasons for going no contact in the first place. I would love to have a real family but I don’t need to have relationships with people who don’t recognize me as anything other than a free meal-ticket or someone to poop on. It’s all their loss and my gain.

Love,
Pam

61

Treating a child with disrespect and not giving them the emotional support they need is neglect.

Pam, I love these words. Mom used to tease me. Her teasing had a “bite” to it. It felt like she was making fun of me as a way of trying to get me not to do whatever I was doing. It would be about having boyfriends and stuff like that. It’s like she didn’t want me to have a boyfriend but couldn’t bring herself to tell me that so she used “teasing.” That’s how it felt.

I have never married, but it truly was my choice. I have stated since I was 12 that I would never marry. I think instead of praising me for an emotionally mature decision at the tender age of 12, she “used this against me.”

I would ask her not to tease me (I needed her to take me seriously and make it “ok” for me to have boyfriends), but all she would say was, “can’t you take a little teasing?”

Your right to “tease” ends when the other person says “STOP” and it doesn’t matter what the subject matter is.

62

Pam, comment 55 was addressed to Finally Free but I want you to know that one of your points had a huge impact on me tonight. ” It was such a relief for me to understand that there were real events and attitudes in my childhood that caused me to be wounded” When I read that, I felt like I was enveloped in an enormous feeling of relief. Real events real attitudes! It was not that something was wrong with me or that I did something to cause the ill treatment I got at home and school. It was not that I was at fault or that I deserved any of this. Real events happened to me! Real attitudes, but the attitudes weren’t necessarily based on reality.

For some reason, even though I’ve read before that things happened that caused me to to be hurt and develop a false belief system, and I understood it on an intellectual level, tonight it hit me on an emotional level that I had trouble reaching before. I made the emotional connection that these real events, that came from sources OUTSIDE of me caused the wounds. I made the emotional differentiation that the causes of my wounds were external and that is a huge relief. I think up until now I was trying to prove to myself emotionally what I already knew intellectually. And now I really truly believe it in my heart.

Thank you! Xoxo!

63

DXS, I was the victim of mean teasing too. My dad gave me the worst of it but my mom participated with him. They would tease me until I cried and then ridicule me for crying and not being able “to take it”. It was emotional torture and I was helpless to stop it. I had no choice but to “take it”. I wasn’t respected for no other reason than I was a child and I wasn’t able to fight back. I think my dad was teased by other children because he had an arm withered by polio. He used me as a target for all the anger he had over being too weak to fight back. I can’t prove this but it is my feeling about it. Anyway, what I was originally, trying to get at is that there can be no greater emotional neglect than to have one’s parents use you as a trashcan for their feelings of inferiority and pain. Then to top it off, none of this would make most people’s definition of child abuse but it tore me apart psychologically and emotionally. There was no one to protect me from this kind of destruction. No one who could intervene, who would intervene. Is it possible to be any more invisible than that?

All children should be respected and all child abuse is a reflection of the deep seated disrespect our culture has for children. Everyone should have the power to say ‘stop’ to cruel treatment but the truth is, we don’t have that power until we grow up. By then, many of us, including me, don’t know how to say ‘stop’. Then we face ridicule for being ‘victims’.

Love,
Pam

64

Amber, I had those same feelings. It is like the world flips right side up and everything you knew deep down was true but were taught to deny, falls into place. It’s like, “Hey! I’m not all those things that everyone taught me I was! It was them, it was their fault, and they really hurt me.” It’s when I realized I wasn’t the defect I’d been taught I was, that I realized I could be healed and wouldn’t just have to accept being miserable and continue ‘treating’ symptoms for ‘diseases’ that couldn’t even be proved. The cure was inside of me the whole time.:0)(and I don’t need any of those damned pills to be a happy, well-adjusted person. I just have to be myself, my real self.)

Love,
Pam

65

Pam, what happened was that in order to go from intellectual understanding to making the connection emotionally was that I needed to see those real things that happened to me as external things. I had to make the separation. The boundaries between me and others were blurred. I thought alot about this when you mentioned earlier about not knowing where you began and they ended, and I realized I had the same blurred lines. I was able to see a clearer separation and in looking at some of the real events and attitudes, I realized I wasn’t responsible if it was something someone else did or someone else’s attitude. It belonged totally to them, and I finally believed it in my heart. It relieved me of the feeling of blame and responsibility that was always on my shoulders. It just clicked into place because that feeling of separateness was the missing element for me.

66

Thanks for all your compassion, Pam. (I hadn’t had a chance to get back on my computer since last night.)

I’m sorry there’s someone in your life who likes to use your flashback states against you. That is really horrible.

Yes, I have no doubt that this guy knew what he was doing with me, triggering me, etc. I’d worked with him at a job that was dysfunctional and had triggered me quite a lot till I couldn’t take it anymore and had recounted, and vented about, the experience to him, explaining my background. (He’d worked there part-time.) He’d reminded me of someone I know who’s gay, so I hadn’t thought twice about having him over. He played the mandolin and I have a digital piano with a harpsichord option, so we were getting together to play some music together. I’d gone to a concert he was in, and he had already been over once to visit and play. It made me sad because I thought it was such a nice kind of friendship to have. After everything I’d gone through, I just wanted something simple, pure-hearted, fun, just to enjoy myself, to play some music with another person. I hate that people have ulterior motives… Pam, I feel that the more I grow up, the more I go through this whole process, the more and more my heart becomes childlike and the more I want to run away from all the crazy people to protect that child heart… so I can keep it as it is. I’ve worked so hard to get back to it, to find it. While I was always kept a child to my mom who forever wanted her hold on her “baby girl,” so I always had that exterior, it was also true, however, that I used to think I was a psychopath because of the ugliness/darkness of some of my thoughts and feelings/urges. Sometimes certain people act and say things in a way that makes me out to be some kind of simpleton for being a “good person” or how I seem so soft-hearted and timid. The part of this article where you wrote about your peers treating you or seeing you as a toy, because you were so much physically smaller than they, resonated with me, only about my experience of life now. It’s frustrating. I want my child heart but it often makes me feel like as a result there are people who will try to step on me, pick me up to toy with, or put me in a glass case, saying no, you can’t do that, you’re just a doll. I hate hating on myself for other people’s assumptions and beliefs when they really don’t know who I am. There are even “nice” people who do this to me (maybe if what they saw of me really was all that I was, there’d be nothing off about their responses to me but because there is more, it feels condescending sometimes). And of course this experience with my “friend” really intensified this—the victim, the littleness of me, the feeling that people can treat me however they want. It makes me mad.

67

Amber, That is wonderful and I concur that it is amazing, as the assigned family scape-goat, to step into that moment when you are only responsible for you. It’s like, “AHHHHHHHH…”:0)

Love,
Pam

68

Thank you, Pam, for the acknowledgement that my brother was way off base. Sometimes these situations are so maddening because I cannot help but wonder “What did I do?” even though I know I did nothing. My mom said that I inherited her “tactless” gene, but really, honestly, I said nothing tactless but an innocuous question about his being on vacation. I can’t win.

I can’t help but wonder if my brother feels like the low man on the totem pole these days–he’s struggling financially, mentally, is broke and is in the worst situation. I feel like the moment I enter in, he gets very frightened thata he will now be the trash can, the receptacle for abuse, the new scapegoat, so he has to goat me the best he can so he doesn’t have to be the low spot. He was trying to get me into an argument, so he can go back to family and say, “Look what Eira said/how Eira behaved” and get all the negative energy back on me.

Not going to happen! Over my dead body. Time to go back underground.

69

Alaina, It makes me mad too. I’m old now and I am in a different place in life but I still have the same vulnerable feelings. I too have had people tell me that I’m too good and kind of sneer. They see me as gullible but I’m not. I’m pretty good at seeing what people are and I have a feeling that you have that in you too. It’s hard though to always see people for what they are when we get lonely. Then we tend to see them through our own good intentions. Sometimes, it gets so lonely living in a culture that exalts the sociopath in movies and music and makes it impossible to turn on the television without witnessing someone being degraded by performing a public sex act, people using and abusing each other. People do imitate art but what is going on these days seems beyond imitation. I am an artist and I believe art reflects the values of the culture more than it shapes them though, high art does have a governing influence. The rise and fall of cultures can be traced in the history of a civilization’s art and western civilization is in trouble. It is crumbling from within and as it crumbles, it seems we become ever more abusive of each other. Good people often become prey in such a culture but you know what? I am going to keep my goodness even if I have to die doing so. I know that goodness wasn’t stolen from you either and it is better to be lonely, different, and keep what is good in you than to give it up, become bitter, and settle for an empty, self-serving existence that the users and abusers have chosen for themselves. People want to hurt people like you and I because we have what they’ve thrown away in search of personal power and vengeance. I think we all have a narcissist or sociopath inside of us and if we choose to feed that, we will become that. We all have those kind of thoughts, sometimes. It is acceptable to be angry and want to hurt back but it isn’t acceptable to express that anger in a way that causes us to die inside. Use your anger righteously and make it work for your healing and not for the sake of destruction. It is a powerful ally for you now.

Being raped isn’t a whole lot different from being bitten by a vampire. When I was 18 and had been raped multiple, multiple, multiple times, I became a vampire. I threw myself into hard drug use and I made a point of using and abusing men in retaliation for the way men had treated me. I thought love was an illusion and that evil always won so, I embraced it. I died on the inside before I decided to make it official and commit suicide. I did die and I didn’t see any welcoming lights, it was just dark, like I was dark. Still, I cried when they brought me back to what was just another kind of death, a conscious death. I still hadn’t reached my bottom and after I was released from the hospital, I continued with drugs and I even became homeless. I had nothing, I was nothing, and I was living the fulfillment of my abusive childhood. Then I realized that the only escape from death and destruction by death, is life. I reached for life and found my faith. I started wanting something different from what the world offered me. I wanted goodness, I needed it like someone lost in the desert needs water. This is a poem I wrote about myself: “Her eyes reflect in splintered glass, the image of her broken soul. Tortured by an endless search for something…no someone that she used to know.” That’s when I started searching for the woman I was supposed to be and I began to walk away from my personal destruction.

Don’t give up on you, Alaina. You are your most precious possession and no empty-hearted sociopath can take that from you. Hold on to yourself, love yourself because you are loveable and worthy of your love. You are not the sum of what others have done to you. The evil you feel and the thoughts it forces on you, belong to the man who betrayed and hurt you. Your thoughts were of friendship and shared artistic expression. Your intentions were good and his evil. Leave the evil with him. He loses, Alaina. You win!

Love,
Pam

70

Eira, What I wish most in regard to my foo, is that I could just have a straight conversation with them. However, they deal with everything that causes them discomfort or pain with denial, deflection, and blame of others. It doesn’t make sense and I don’t want to burn up my life trying to make sense of it!

Love,
Pam

71

Alaina, I’m not supposed to tell you what to do. Your anger is yours to use as you see fit. Sorry, it’s late. I’m kind of bleary. However, I would use my anger to numb my emotional pain and every time I started thinking I did something to make the creep hurt me, I’d mentally, throw it right back at him. I’d use it to make myself feel safe. If possible, I’d use it to find justice through the proper channels. If not possible, I’d rest knowing that he’ll get his because it will come back to him.

Good night, sweetheart. Know I’m holding you in my heart.

Love,
Pam

72

Pam,

In one of your earlier blog articles on Darlene’s site you wrote that you read/loved Edgar Allan Poe when you were younger. I also went through what I call a ‘Poe period (Darkness)’ in my teenage years. Though I do know that my experience in my youth was in no way comparable to the pain/suffering that you experienced.

My parents had Poe’s complete works in a single volume, and though I know I didn’t read everything that was in that book the one that I did seem to gravitate toward was the opening part of “For Annie”:

Thank Heaven! the crisis,
The danger, is past,
And the lingering illness
Is over at last—
And the fever called “Living”
Is conquered at last.

I remember when I was seventeen my mother said Good Morning to me one day and I responded with, “Who lied to you!”. And I heard my mother telling my dad, “I said Good Morning to him and he said, Who lied to you”. Dark days I wouldn’t want to return to.

I don’t like the morbid or dark, and I really didn’t like it when I was younger either, though it was in my life. But I never went further into it than my reading of Poe and the music group Kiss. I never took a liking to horror movies and that sort of thing. I figured that I wouldn’t want to have those things happen to me or other people in real life so why would I want to watch that kind of thing as entertainment, or as a form of escape.

I too believe in God. And though I do not know how my life will ultimately ‘play out’; I do know that God Is.

Thank You for sharing your experience.

Charles Browne

(I was just going to change my e-mail address a couple of weeks ago but ended up switching ISPs. I put my old, no longer working e-mail address in the comment form as evidence that I am the same person that posted on Darlene Ouimet’s blog a few times previously, under the name of “Charles Browne”.)

73

I am so broken. One of the things that made me wonder if my parents even cared for me, was that when I had my first baby I was constantly worried if the baby was OK, happy and that continues now that my kids are 7 and 8 years old. I remember that the things I do for my kids, my parents never cared to do for me. Of course I had not a bike and noone cared to teach me, I learnt myself and never ever thought that it was not normal. I borrowed my cousin’s bike and never even allowed myself to think I could ask my parents to buy me one. Now that I try not to cry of happiness when my little daughter managed to bike her bicycle I suddenly realise that it was wrong. But then I am tortured that maybe there are things that I do wrong and that maybe my kids are hurt because I raised my voice for example when I had to remind them 4 times that it’s bed time and they are very young to be able to complain as I never complaint about anything. I always tell them that if we do something wrong they should immediately tell us. and that we always love them even if they do something wrong. That we have to tell them that what they did was wrong and that we worry that is why we say it in a serious tone and not while laughing, but that does not mean that we love them less. and then I remember that my mother always told me that “the one who loves me makes me cry”. And I know that it is not what I do with my kids, but I cannot help being afraid that maybe my children will feel as I feel when they are older. When I was a kid and until recently I thought my mother did her best. But then my mother beat me with the belt. I don’t ever want my children to cry because of me or anyone else. I don’t want them to go to the other end and be spoilt but they are such good wonderful kids. I want to hug that little girl I was and tell her she was a wonderful kid too. But still I worry: do I care for my children’s needs or am I blinded and only try to meet the needs of me as a child. I keep torturing myself. Sorry, I know it is not well written. Thank you all for contributing.

74

there can be no greater emotional neglect than to have one’s parents use you as a trashcan for their feelings of inferiority and pain.

Pam, I think you hit it. I think that is what my mom was doing to me. Using “teasing” to cover up her feelings of inferiority during her childhood.

75

Charles Brown, Thank you for sharing your early identification with Poe. I’m glad neither of us remained in that dark place. He was also, a drug addict and I think that influenced my fascination with drug abuse. I think I’m a bit older than you as Alice Cooper was my guy.:0)

Vampires, zombies, haunted houses, are all artistic expressions of the evil that comes from human beings. These kinds of expressions were very different when we were younger than they are now. They were very much fantasy and good always triumphed. I enjoy those kinds of stories and find a kind of relief in experiencing that triumph vicariously and comparing it to the ‘monsters’ I have to deal with in real life. Too many horror movies today are a celebration of horror with no useful story. These are the kinds of expressions that cause me concern about who we are as a people. I’m not entertained by watching people hurt and kill one another simply for the sport of it and I’m not fascinated with serial killers.

These are dark days, in so many ways, and the best way to fight it is to keep living in the light.

Love,
Pam

76

DXS and Pam, that line really hit me too! I was the trash can for my mother’s insecurities and her difficulty with aging. She called me ugly, clumsy, awkward; anything to psychologically medicate herself into feeling prettier and superior. I was also the trash an for kids at school who had issues and chose to inflict pain on me in an attempt to feel better.

77

Maria, You post brings tears to my eyes because I recognize your deep love for your children and the fear of not knowing exactly how to give them a different childhood than the one you experienced. One thing I would like to share with you that made a world of difference for me, is that good mothers don’t raise perfect children. Good mothers love their children despite all their imperfections. Their life and future outcome belongs to them. Children pass through our care but they don’t belong to us. They belong to themselves. Just as you belong to yourself. You can’t help that your childhood left you broken but you are still you, a wounded version of you that can heal. The best thing you can do as a mother is heal yourself. I read somewhere that when we are broken and we work to heal those broken areas in ourselves, it is those healed broken places that become strongest in us.

Your bicycle story really touched my heart because all I had was a rusty, broken down bicycle with a rusty chain. I couldn’t ride it, I had to walk it everywhere. It is kind of a symbol of my rusty, broken down childhood. I too wanted so much more for my children. Not so much the material things but I wanted them to be loved and know they were special. I did so much more for them than my parents did for me. What I didn’t do was treat them with equal value to myself. My parents taught me that I was less valuable and I carried that with me all through my parenting years. I also, treated my children as more valuable than myself and made their lives my life. Working on my healing, taking time to develop my interests, as well as giving my children the love and nurture they deserved would have been a better approach. I gave my children respect but by not holding my value as equal to theirs, I neglected requiring them to respect me as an individual and not just as a person who served them. The parent/child relationship is ever evolving and does require sacrifice. I don’t regret making sacrifices for my children. I do regret not understanding that I wasn’t a part of them, with my ultimate purpose being to meet their needs.

Parenting was and still is, the hardest job I ever loved, Maria. I have learned more from my children than I ever taught them. Bless you for loving your children as you do.

Love,
Pam

78

DXS, That I believe is the common feature of an active abuser, they hurt others to make themselves feel better. Understanding that helps me leave their pain with them. If they dump on me, I just empty the trashcan. Of course, I had no power to do that as a child. That power comes with being an adult and having the power of adult choice.

Love,
Pam

79

Amber, The sad thing is that our parents teach us who we are and abusive parents teach us a negative understanding of self. It is natural for scape-goated children to gravitate toward and connect with personalities like our parents. It’s what we know and we repeat what we learned at home in the world. It’s good to know that we can unlearn what was taught to us in early years and learn better ways to view ourselves and relate to others. What we can’t do is change others. That we have to accept.

Love,
Pam

80

Thank you Pam! I too think that my children teach me more than I teach them… Thank you so much for being understanding and sympathetic. It feels nice! I keep reading… thank you all.

81

Hi Pam
I can very much identify with being safest by retreating into abandonment. I believe my coping mechanism that shielded me from those feelings is dropping at the moment. I was always aware of these feelings at some level but now they come on with frightening force. I feel a complete hopelessness, wishing life to be over, for same reasons you mention here that there is no point to exist in a totally hostile world where i am nothing. I hate the world for taking away any good things i ever had and i dont feel like trying at the life thing since anything good will be taken away. These feelings are so violent and depressing its hard to share them with anyone. I dont think i have felt safe to share them even with my many shrinks or they might ring the crazy jacket number. I am not sure how to soothe myself out of this considering for the most part its the truth. So far in my 39 years all the closest people to me were evil mofos. Some of the nice people that i finally managed to meet are no longer around because i moved, besides i stopped believing those relationships would last. Nothing lasts in my life exept my stupid family.
Thank god i dont feel like tgis all the time, but its a strong unresolved undercurrent in my life that pops up whenever i get very stressed. I hope i will get to figure this out.

82

Kathryn, I think it is a good thing to give voice to those feelings. It’s better than stuffing them or acting on them because you aren’t the sum of what others have done to you and even though you are in pain, this dark time will pass and your life is worth living. Our worth doesn’t depend on what other people think of us or don’t bother to think of us. Everyone is valuable and has something unique to contribute to the world. Too many people never stop to consider that but if you are reading what is written here, I believe you are searching for something better. That longing for something better says a lot about you. I think you will get it figured out because if I can figure it out, anyone can. The world divides upon those who are truthful with themselves and want something better and those who embrace lies and try to make themselves feel better by controlling and hurting others. I’ve lived in both camps. It is possible to stop living by evil and reach for something good. I know emotional pain can feel like a bitter prison but it’s really true what they say, the truth does set us free. It is possible to change the way abuse and neglect teach us to think about ourselves, others, and what is important in life.

You are a valuable person with a unique purpose. You deserve love and respect and those who should have given you those things and didn’t, don’t deserve you. Everything in life does change. That’s the one thing we can count on in life. It is possible to improve our lives by choosing to direct change within ourselves. That is the only place we have any power to make a real difference. None of us can change the world or change others but we can change our relationship with ourselves and find a new beginning. The good thing is we can heal even if the people in our family never do.

A child’s survival depends upon connectivity with the parent. I know from experience that there is no more frightening feeling than a child’s fear when abandoned, emotionally or physically by a parent. I know what it is like to flash back into that state. When I do, I remind myself that I’m an adult now and I won’t abandon myself. I can do what I need to do to keep myself alive and safe. I wrap myself tight in a blanket, like an infant, and I keep myself. I turn to my faith and believe that I am a part of something greater than myself, that is benevolent toward me. Please, Kathryn, keep yourself. The world needs you because there is only one of you and no one else can offer what you have to offer. I will hold you in my thoughts and in my heart.

Love,
Pam

83

Eira, we definitely do relate on those issues you mentioned. I am sorry that your brother feels so badly about his life and that he was trained ….like my brothers….to treat you so disrespectfully. It is the weirdest feeling to make a comment that you mean to be lighthearted about …and is truly innocently said…and have it deliberately misinterpreted or twisted and then they jump on you negatively too. I know my brothers would share their issues with the parents and how they also felt damaged in different ways….so I would feel compassion and sorry for them and try hard to help them. All of it got thrown back in my face because they really had grown up and “trained” to treat me like that. Years of repeatedly being treated like that hurt me deeply and I was sad to cut them off for good. The fun, good, loving side of them I miss….BUT I will not ever open the door to them again. It is “Us Four And No More” that is their family, and it is crazy! I have one brother who is especially passive aggressive…and always had a philosophy of his own to try to prove. One time when my daughter was young, I told my husband not to leave him alone with her because I didn’t trust him, but he allowed him to take her and his daughter to the park. I had to work, and when I got home I discovered that he had put her on the metal merrygoround and twirled it so fast that she was hanging on while her body was in the air and then she lost her grip and went flying onto the ground. She was only three yrs old and it could have killed her….but I knew that he did that to her because of me. Part of the way I was treated…part of the games. I am sorry you come from a family of such disrespect and abuse and neglect! One day I woke up and realized that the dysfunctional family dynamic caused my parents to rely on having someone in the family to use to dump their own misery on …and I realized that if I personally hadn’t been one of those children, they still would have done the exact same abuse, neglect etc on some other child. I just happened to be there, but it could have and would have been anyone else….because they needed a child to use , if that makes sense? In your family….it isn’t at all about you as a person….if you hadn’t been born it would have been one of your other siblings because your parents also needed a child to fulfill the “bad” role. That is what set me free…realizing that their hatred, abuse, neglect, games had absolutely nothing to do with ME….it was entirely all about them. Hugs and peace and comfort to you!! 🙂

84

I sometimes feel safer in abandonment than I do in relationship because there’s always a chance (of course this is just a belief) that if I put a foot wrong I’ll end up abandoned anyway. Better then to just learn how to be happy alone. And I’m really quite proud of just how able (very) I’ve been to be alone. I’ve done a lot by myself. And I feel I derive strength from it too.
And at the same time, I’d like to be able to be with other people in relationships with them with ease. And maybe get something wrong from time to time, maybe not always be at “my best”, be able to say “that doesn’t work for me” without them leaving me entirely. And I haven’t got to that point yet. I still feel I just can’t be myself and people will find that acceptable.

I’m finding this topic less easy to say things about than the other ones. I realize I was neglected and there is a lot of “so what?” It’s not as accessible as the other things.

85

Alice, It’s hard to know how to express ‘nothing’ but I also, know that emotional neglect was the crux of the damage I sustained in childhood.

I’m quite happy with myself, too. It’s amazing what I can do by myself. I like being self-sufficient but recently, I find myself focusing on relationship and how important that is to human beings. Everything really, hinges upon relationship and that’s what was lacking in my early childhood.

When I stood up for myself and required respect from my foo if we were to continue having a relationship and they chose to be without me, I became incredibly insecure about putting myself out there to connect with new people. I’m not young anymore either and when our history is long, it’s harder to make meaningful connections, quickly with new people. However, it’s been almost three years now and recently, I find myself connecting with others and really enjoying it. I think my new self-acceptance and assurance makes it easier. I’ve accepted my life, all of it and integrated my painful childhood into the woman I am now. I think of myself as equal to others, I never had that before, and it does make a difference in how I interact with others.

I think the more I understand about what I should have had as a child, the more I understand what was missing. It means a lot to me to have that understanding.

Love,
Pam

86

Alice, I think this sentence you wrote probably best describes the emotional neglect that abused children suffer. “I still feel I just can’t be myself and people will find that acceptable.” Underneath every form of abuse my parents or others committed against me was the underlying feeling that I just wasn’t acceptable and that I didn’t matter. That I was less-than and I believe that feeling came from their not bothering themselves to know what my emotional needs were and certainly, not bothering themselves to fill those needs. How could I ever have developed a feeling of being acceptable and equal when my parents seldom bothered to really connect with me. I can’t remember being held by my mother. I don’t know if she didn’t hold me but I have no memory of it. I do remember her wanting me to hold her hand or hug her but that was about me comforting her and her wanting me to fill her emotional need. I don’t remember having a strong connection to her either. My overwhelming emotion in regards to my mom is longing. Physically, I had a mother but whenever I reached for her, she wasn’t there for me emotionally. I had overwhelming feelings of being unacceptable, as a result of that emptiness and disinterest.
Love,
Pam

87

Hi Pam,
Thanks for your comments earlier this week. I read them multiple times. I agree completely that it’s better to be lonely and keep my goodness than to give it up for self-serving, abusive, exploitative relationships that can never satisfy. When I was younger and had a lot of dark thoughts (that I also was able to disassociate from in certain ways), I didn’t know what they were about, why I had them, that’s why I thought it was something innate about me (I didn’t know that I didn’t have the wonderful childhood and the wonderful parents I was supposed to believe in). Even when I started to understand more, it still bothered me because people don’t talk about that stuff and it would seem that some (or maybe even the majority of) abuse victims never feel that evil, or don’t feel much need to talk about it, at any rate, so it would feel like I have an “eviler” bent than others. I’m sure that my uncle’s suicide when I was a kid and the festering grief had a play in this. He was, in my eyes, a force of goodness, someone who fought against oppression and someone who saw me as a person. Often in times of crisis, I am brought back to these feelings—the goodness of his spirit when he was alive vs. the annihilating feelings of his death (because suicide is also murder). It’s hard, though, if not impossible to figure out exactly how our minds processed things as children, how all the elements wove together; you can only make educated guesses… Anyway, I had one day not long after the assault when I had hideously violent fantasies and I felt exceptionally sick, but I haven’t been back in that space since then. I’d already several years ago spent time in that dark place in myself, trying to understand it, know it, and while it’s a place that makes me feel ill, I know what it’s about and I know it’s not me. I feel that the biggest danger of the darkness in our hearts is when we associate our identity to it rather than understand it as emotions that can be released, that are not about us but the experiences we go through and the tangle of emotions those experiences can create. It only becomes our identity if we act in that direction, and even then, I think we can always come back, so long as the desire is authentic. Our identities aren’t fixed for life; we have choice. I’m still in need of the release, though. I have too much caught in my heart right now. But I do know that I want to be a part of what’s good in the world, to nurture goodness in myself and in relation to others.

I feel that neglect is the vacuum at the centre of all abuse. I also feel with my family that it’s the neglect that reached the realm of cruelty and evil. All the abuse I experienced could have truly been mistakes due to their own dysfunctional backgrounds that could have been fixed but because of the neglect became a pattern of behaviour that they stuck to despite warning signs and certain amounts of understanding and self-knowledge, then my inevitable breakdown, my attempts to work things out, my cutting contact, and my ultimate confrontation. Neglect is passive but there’s a point when it becomes so resolute that it might as well be active. When the torture of the experience becomes fully visible and it doesn’t spur acknowledgment and change, but rather denial and silence, it is my feeling that there exists something as cruel as any outward, active form of abuse… but nothing to talk about, just the absence of what you needed.

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Hi Pam! Thanks for your comments. Yes, the truth was that I didn’t matter. It’s both a belief and the truth. Like you I don’t have memories of my mother holding me or comforting me. I do have one of my father. I have memories of my mother pushing me away when I wanted comfort and I have memories of her grabbing me for her own comfort. I was recalling this today, that she had this emotional dependency on me that I felt cloying and suffocating.
I don’t remember her addressing any of my needs. It was more like stuff got thrown at me to figure out or deal with by myself. I don’t remember asking her much about anything. No “female” stuff. After a while I just didn’t want to talk to her about anything to do with me. I also came to feel that she was somehow incompetent or not as smart as I was.

You know, as if she’s emotionally stunted, that’s why she has no empathy or interest in others (other than what they can do for her). I’m so afraid that I have turned out like this too since I can get by so easily by myself, I sometimes wonder, other than trying to connect (which I still feel is important to a human life) what the point of any relationship is. It used to be I was all about “helping” other people and being there as a kind of emotional sponge for their difficulties. And now I know that was what I was for for my mother (and some others in the family) I don’t want to do that anymore but then what CAN I do so others will like me? What should I get from them? Although I think the right answer is “nothing”. It’s so unfamiliar to me I feel like a, well handicapped in some way.

89

Hi Alaina, It’s good to read your words.:0)

I consider the neglect in my childhood as a form of active abuse because it was done in purposeful disregard with my parents placing their needs above my own, no matter how shallow or important their needs were. When I was four, I had strep throat and I was kept in my room and not taken to the doctor. I developed scarlet fever, they (my parents) diagnosed me with measles and put a blanket on the window. They didn’t take me to the doctor until my grandmother came to visit and insisted they take me to the emergency room because my fever was so high. I was kept in bed for a year and had to learn to walk again. All of that can’t be an accident and even if it were, I still wasn’t safe having them for parents. They never took responsibility for the medical neglect. The narrative was more about what a difficulty my poor health was to them. They enjoyed the role they played for others of parents of an especially needy child but they never put my ‘special’ needs above their own. However, I do agree that there probably wasn’t anything between us that couldn’t be fixed if they weren’t so negligent in acknowledging how they’ve hurt me and totaled our relationship from the beginning of that relationship. That requires taking responsibility, though and it seems that is beyond them.

I like your description of neglect as a vacuum. It is the force that sucks us in and makes us certain that we deserve other abuses. I think it also, influenced me to act out as an older child because then at least, I was seen. My mother also, taught me that I was bad. My husband once observed that my sister was her good daughter and I was her evil daughter. I know that is the root of my thinking of myself as bad, evil. She still sees me that way and that chosen perception of me is the real barrier between us that prevented a meaningful connection. She needed me as a scape-goat, a place to hide her shame, more than she needed me as a daughter. I struggled for most of my life, trying to be a daughter but my parents neglected to love me and recognize me as a daughter so, I never became one. Ending our relationship was the action that made the reality official. I am thankful though, that I overcame my self-perception of being evil. That is the change my faith gave me and I wouldn’t have survived or had a reason to try and heal if I hadn’t experienced that change in perception of myself. I also, know that as I have experienced greater healing and am able to see myself as an individual with worth outside of any relationship, that I am less defined by my relationships and how other people treat me. Understanding myself as an individual rather than an extension of those I’m in relationship with, was a huge change in my self-image. It is the primary relationship I have with myself that gives me wholeness. I still like to serve others but it is from a position of strength now and not something I do out of a desperate need to connect in the way I was taught to connect by my parents. Whether I am loved or rejected, I have myself. No one’s abusive actions can take that from me no matter how they hurt me. It doesn’t make me immune to evil that is visited upon me but I’m no longer defined by the actions of others and how they perceive me. That’s hard to describe, I hope I make sense.

Take good care of yourself, Alaina. Give yourself a big hug for me.

Love,
Pam

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Alice, Not being loved for who I was, simply because I’m in the world, did leave me socially retarded (I’m not using that word in an insulting way). I was raised with only two choices, aloneness or emotional scape-goat. I too strived to earn their love, then I gave up and decided to go with all the evil feelings I had from the blame they placed on me. Being raped at 14 and thinking it was my fault, reinforced those feelings. It also, taught me another maladaptive way to relate to others. It is very much a handicap but it can be reversed. All that I wrote above was a lie that abuse taught me about myself and others. Examining those lies and teaching myself the truth changed how I think about myself, I became a whole person. I give myself the unconditional love and nurturance that I didn’t get as a child. I no longer strive to make others like me because that need is satisfied within myself. I now, connect with others simply for the joy of doing so.

Love,
Pam

91

Pam, in your message to Alaina #89 I love the line “whether I am loved or rejected I have myself”. This is something I am working towards. As I go through the process I am realizing how much of my self image came from others. If I was rejected I would feel bad about myself and spend countless hours trying to figure out what I did wrong to cause the rejection. I never even considered that the other person holds any responsibility for what happens in the relationship. I always blamed myself even if I couldn’t find a logical reason for the rejection. On the other side of the picture, if someone was kind to me I would feel good about myself. But unlike when I was rejected and blamed myself and felt down for a long period of time, the feeling good about myself was always short lived. I believe that was because deep down inside I felt unworthy so the ” proof” I got of that when I was rejected defined me more than the fleeting good feeling I got from acceptance. Somehow I must have felt those were mistakes; that I didn’t really deserve the good stuff and therefore the rejections defined me much more.
I am working very hard on self acceptance and self love now. Part of what I am doing is looking back on situations and giving responsibility back to other people for their parts in relationships. For example I thought about a relationship I had in my late teens with a guy at college. Things were going well and then suddenly he began giving me the silent treatment when we went out. First I attributed it to him being in a bad mood or being tired, and when it carried over to the next date I started searching for what I did wrong to cause it. Never once did I assign any responsibility to him such as, Wow, you are really behaving rudely and if there is something wrong you should be man enough to tell me instead of clamming up and giving me the silent treatment which is a cruel way of acting. Looking back all these years later I can finally say that he was a jerk and I did not deserve that treatment. And he, not me, was responsible for his awful behavior. And I am learning to soothe the young girl in me who was treated this way, as I am doing for many many things that happened with my mother where I felt devalued. I am slowly learning to stay with myself as you and Darlene do, and slowly progressing towards ” Whether I am loved or rejected I have myself”.

92

Thanks, Pam!
I’m glad you overcame your self-perception of being evil, too!! You certainly aren’t! And yes you made sense to me.

I think perhaps I had an attraction to acts of violence as a desire to separate myself, a reaction to engulfment and boundary crossing. Though it was also true that I once wanted to break my dog’s neck just out of the blue (as a teenager). I have no recollection of what precipitated this (it certainly wasn’t a reaction to my dog). I imagine a transference of some sort. I think I found comfort in the kind of movies and literature that you maybe look down upon, though not the stuff that’s all about gore and violence and has nothing intelligent to say. I think what I connected to was a mix of existential angst, outsiderness, loneliness, anger made visible. I think also the connection provided a barrier between myself and the role I was in, being my mom’s baby girl, and also of seeing myself in that light, the weakness and embarrassment I felt for not being able to be a grown-up. My natural spirit was not made for that role. Nobody’s spirit is. Looking back, though, I think any of the dark artworks that I connected to, that I liked always had a moral centre—which was not to say the forces of good always won. They tended to be about the darkness in one’s own soul and maybe I lived vicariously through their thoughts and actions, or felt that I wasn’t alone in my feelings (and there was/is always the notion, too, that the artists themselves were something apart from their creations, though also connected in some way). Or it was a reaction to always having to care about my mom, submitting to her because I was “hurting her” if I didn’t want to live my life the way she wanted, so I was attracted to the opposite, to being aloof, doing whatever I wanted, but there was always that seed of self-hatred in there… I do know that there is no depth to the dark without the presence of light looking upon it.

I agree with your statement “[Neglect] is the force that sucks us in and makes us certain that we deserve other abuses.” You need to be taught that you are equal. You need to feel your worth. We are so dependent in childhood. Whatever happens to us is what happens to us, so without any determining lines of what you deserve and don’t deserve, of course you are vulnerable to slide downward. In some respects, I think there have been times when I was being passive, waiting, just to see, just to know, how far people are willing to let things slide, just to have a grasp on who they are and how little they think of me—just this natural tendency to put myself into someone else’s hands to see if I can trust them, but it’s bad, especially when I end up getting pulled into old brainwashing patterns. (I want to be clear, though, that I was not doing this with the man who assaulted me.)

I wanted to add to your conversation with Alice about friendships. I’ve had friendships that I’ve left where I felt like I was always listening to their problems, but sometimes I think I’ve left some where if I’d been healthier, I could’ve simply put boundaries, that I didn’t have to outright cut off. The other aspect was that it was often the same problems I was listening to with no forward movement. I have no problem with friends talking through their issues… The other side is I’ve had friendships where I was on the other side of the coin, with emotionally unavailable people, where I became neurotic, clingy, needy. I’ve tended to be either distant, avoiding people, doing my own thing and wanting it that way or in friendships where I do a lot of listening and I’m not even sure if I like the person or not but get caught up thinking about whether I’m being a good person, not wanting to hurt the person, feeling guilty, worried that my words are coming off in ways I don’t intend (and sometimes it’s true that I’ll say something and realize I don’t at all think in accordance with what I’d just said), worried that I’m not being caring enough when the person is upset about something going on in their life, that I’ve said the wrong thing… all of which makes me exhausted and come to the conclusion that I don’t like the relationship but I can’t tell if it’s the person I don’t like spending time with or just my neuroses and that there might be a better way to deal with the situation or else I’m chasing after people who I want to be accepted by… There are exceptions, though. I have one friendship that is completely comfortable. We tend to go many months without communication and sometimes I worry that it’s over, that it can’t survive the distance (she lives in Seattle) and time, or that I’ve shared one too many negative experience with her that she might have interpreted as me dumping things on her, as opposed to just sharing. I don’t mind that we go long periods without connection; it’s the worry that maybe I’ve lost it. She’s someone who I’ve stayed with over several days and there was always a perfect amount of time together in conversation or activity and time where we were comfortable in silence and doing our own thing. I always feel respected and equal around her. The wonderful thing about that is the obsessive, clingy, nervous part of me falls away and so too does the avoidant, mistrustful outsider part of me. I don’t know if either of you have read about attachment theories. I think that really is truthful and comes into play. I come from this weird background of both engulfment and neglect, so I think I go between the two from running away to clinging on, with that trip of being used as someone to lean on in between. Finding, building and maintaining relationships that are mutual is a goal. I think the point of friendship/relationship is to have people to share your life with, that you can do things totally by yourself and that’s great but you can also choose, if you want, to spend time with people who might make the experiences richer. If a friendship drains you, something is wrong. The problem is not having had healthy understandings of boundaries.

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Hi Alaina and Pam!
It’s very helpful to see other people put words on these things. Yes, my mother was simultaneously neglectful and engulfing too. The bottom line remains it was about whatever her needs were, not mine. I also find I’ve had the same experiences with friendships as you have Alaina. I’ve read the books on attachment theory and have firmly concluded that I’ve got this avoidant ambivalent thing going on definitely.

It doesn’t bode well for relationships of any kind but like you, I have some good people in my life. I have also begun to err on the side of not talking about my problems and not encouraging others to share theirs with me either. My hope is this is more balanced in relationship and wards off the abusers. Thankfully there’s EFB.

94

Amber, this really resonates for me:
“But unlike when I was rejected and blamed myself and felt down for a long period of time, the feeling good about myself was always short lived. I believe that was because deep down inside I felt unworthy so the ” proof” I got of that when I was rejected defined me more than the fleeting good feeling I got from acceptance.”

Some people just don’t like you for their own reasons, and they are not worth our time. We can find the people who will like us, though they, too, conversely like us for their own reasons. It’s really not about value/worth. It’s about getting along, syncing with one another. Or that’s what it should be about. We have value because we are human beings. I know that if I truly act like a jerk, I will do what I can to take responsibility. I worry about people who hold their hostility to themselves. I come from a family of people who talk about each other behind each other’s backs and act nice and supportive, “being the bigger person.” Also, I notice in society people do this very often instead of bringing up their problems with people. I’m trying not to worry so much about doing or saying the wrong thing and hope that people will simply talk to me if they have a problem. I know I don’t have bad intentions, so if something is awry that really is my fault (and not the other person putting unreasonable expectations, entitlements, or boundary crossings, etc), it’s likely a miscommunication or something I don’t understand or a weakness I need to work through and if I’m truly causing harm and I care about not causing harm (which I do), I will do my best, so I’m trying to let myself know that it’s okay, that I don’t have to be neurotic. My family would have me feel that I was uncaring toward them, but really it was they who were uncaring for me. It was they who had self-serving motivations in the way they acted toward me, while I was simply trying to please them and also maneuver myself so that the reality wouldn’t kill me. But family sure does a number on your head, so you think you’re the one who is wrong, who is being self, or who is has something innately wrong with you because you can’t be enough. You have to flip everything upside down!

95

Pam,

What a powerful post.

I had the same sort of parents and upbringing, both of my parents having personality disorders and my dad heavily self-medicating with alcohol. I was also treated as an extension of them and grew up feeling invisible and without adequate social skills.

I gave up on my mom about 13 years ago, and then in the last year also released my brother, a cousin and several friends of long standing who I realized were also extremely abusive.

Thus I’m starting all over at 58, and in the in-between zone where the impossible is gone but I have yet to remodel my life. Some very nice people do seem to like me, but I battle a tendency to isolate.

Thank you for putting so much into words so well.

Love, (Not being a hugger, I love that sign-off!)

Davina

96

Alice,
Yes, I’m coming around to the idea of being less open with people. Before my breakdown, I’d closed myself off almost entirely. In fact the metaphor I used for the experience I had of the final stages of my breakdown was the feeling that all the windows and doors in and out of brain were closing. This wasn’t just about closing off from others; it was a distinct sense, both psychological and physical, that something was happening to me that was going to close me inside myself and like a flame without any oxygen, I would just be gone. It’s honestly beyond describing. I was afraid of suicide but it was more a fear of it just happening as a result or coinciding with this psychological experience I was having. At any rate, after this I was encouraged to open up to people, that it was something I needed to do for me to get better. Too much of my life, though, became about doing this healing “journey” for the sake of, I don’t know, pleasing people, and fixing what was wrong with me (even if it happened to be recognized as the result of family dysfunction, still it was something wrong with me). I agree that connection is vital but there was some serious weirdness to my thought process back then. It has to be something you actually want. The problem is when you also don’t know what you want because other people have been dictating that for so long. But certainly there’s a difference between pushing through a fear because despite the fear, there’s something you want to see if you can attain and doing something you’re afraid of but don’t actually care to do but someone said you should. I had no real grasp on myself to really know. Now at least I can try things out, make decisions.

The other aspect is my parents blamed me for being an actor because I lost my voice and was playing the good daughter, was distrustful and always saying I was fine when I wasn’t till I then had my breakdown. So now sometimes I can feel like if I’m not being really open, I’m being duplicitous, which is BS.

I recognize what you’re saying about avoiding abusers and also sometimes you get a sense of where people are at in their process, as Darlene has pointed out sometimes as well, even if they’re not consciously aware of it themselves. I’ve started to see when it might be better to not divulge this or that. I hope also that I’ve hit the end of my rope in terms of just blanket trusting people to see if it works out because clearly it doesn’t work out. Honestly, though, I think I carried a lot of shame for my breakdown, like it wouldn’t have happened if I had just trusted people and opened up, but really, I had good reason not to trust. My mistrust was not just based on some misperceptions or on how things used to be but no longer applied…. Anyway, I hope I will get better at this. I can’t see why I won’t. I don’t know how quick my progress will go, but I can’t imagine I will get worse at figuring this out…. And yes, thankfully EFB!

97

Alaina, It isn’t that I look down on certain artistic expressions, it just that these days it seems that most artistic expression is dark and that makes me concerned about who we have become as a people. It seems very out of balance to me. When I was young, it was the other way. The popular art was so idealistic that everyone felt inferior because of it. A balance of expressions is better.

These days, I am more mindful of what I should expect from a new relationship. The boundaries that I seek to set have a lot to do with what role the relationship fills in both people’s live. That helps me govern closeness in a healthier way. I look for friendships that are reciprocal and I take my time. Being more secure in my relationship with me, helps me not to grasp and cling out of the kind of empty, aloneness that I used to feel so often. I really don’t feel that way at all anymore. I think it is a natural byproduct of being more healed. I have a girlfriend that has been my friend since she was 14 and I 15. We’ve had the same ebb and flow but we always reconnect and we never forget one another. We’ve shared so many experiences that I can’t imagine not having her in my life. Besides my husband, this is the relationship where I experience being treated with equal value the most. Good friendships are rare. I also, don’t have expectations of ever being a social butterfly. That isn’t how I’m made.

I hope you are feeling some better. Be gentle with yourself. My grandbabies are coming over so, I probably won’t be online for awhile. They light up my world!

Love,
Pam

98

Davina, It is always nice to be understood. We all need that. I’m 58 too and at fifty, when I was going through this whole process, I wasn’t sure that it wasn’t too late. Now, I know that it wasn’t and I’m thankful for putting the work in. I’m also, grateful that I have fewer abusers and controllers in my life. I’m better at keeping the ones who are left, at arms length. They are everywhere and I don’t think it is possible to avoid them entirely unless, I stay under my bed.;0)It’s kind of dusty and cramped under there so, I’m being more mindful to get myself out there. Nothing in life stays the same and if I embrace that then I don’t get stuck either.

Love is the way I choose to treat others.:0)I have to admit, I like hugs too though. I’m making up for the ones I didn’t get as a child. Respectful, gentle hugs that is.

Love,
Pam

99

Thanks, Pam! Enjoy your time with your grandchildren!
I am feeling better. And yes, I agree with the lack of balance in some of the arts these days. I also believe this has something to do with money, with what people know sells, especially if what we are talking about is movies and televisions (and music too probably) where producers are more likely to stick with stuff they know works, and then many writers are probably going to cater to what they know is more likely to get picked up by producers, etc., so as a society we get inundated with this stuff and you never know that if perhaps it got something new and different, society would respond with gratitude, saying that’s what they’ve wanted all along. I think often you have to look outside the mainstream. But yes, it’s a bit disconcerting. I’m really not on top of what’s popular, though. I don’t own a TV and anytime I hear about pop culture stuff, I tend to wish to go back to my state of ignorance. I’m honestly glad to live in my little cave sometimes. And I’ll never be a social butterfly, either. I also tend to find social butterflies a little bit exhausting. I really don’t need a lot of friends.
Thanks and have fun!

100

Hi Alaina and Pam. I think to some extent I evaluated the quality of my relationships on how much we’d listen to each other specifically about “issues”.

I mean aside that I tended to end up on the listener side much more than being listened to. I can’t help thinking that I was trading that ability and “willingness” somehow dishonestly in order to be heard and cared for at least some of the time in exchange. And so often the exchange didn’t happen.

I also thought that to be cared for meant I HAD to share the tough stuff. You know, ‘ordinary’ problems were not serious enough to warrant it. So to get listened to, it had to be “go deep or nothing”. There are consequences to doing that that aren’t always pleasant.

I have a few more relationships these days where we do stuff together and don’t particularly spend time discussing things other than what’s at hand. It’s a good change although I occasionally do feel uncared for as a result. But I mean “uncared for” with the kind of caring I needed when I needed it.

And I’ve also encountered people who go purposefully searching for my weaknesses or something that might be wrong or that I’m having trouble with. Who will prod me a little for things I might be concerned about. I can’t say why it feels disingenuous, but it’s as if they want you to admit to some weakness so they can feel better about themselves while pretending to care. I don’t indulge those attempts anymore.

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Alice, I always struggled with what was expected of me and what I should expect because I didn’t understand personal boundaries. Sexual abuse left me really confused about how close and how fast to become close in relationships. That also, affected my decisions about what to share and what not to share. I used the bible and looked closely at how God relates to human beings. I’m sure there are other ways to figure that out, it was just the way I did it. I used to think that boundaries were etiquette or manners, rules but it is more about personal space and when to allow others to enter that space and how far I should attempt to enter another’s space. My personal space both physically and emotionally was never respected when I was a child. Setting those parameters has helped me a lot. I still struggle with it though. It’s getting easier but I wonder if it will ever come naturally or if I’ll always have to be mindful about it.

Love,
Pam

102

In reference to boundaries, this was always a confusing area for me. I was brought up to think of others and not be selfish, which was another way of saying ” do what you’re told to do”. So whenever I even tried to claim a little something for myself I felt guilty that I was being selfish. So eventually I just stopped and gave in to others’ demands. My mother took advantage of this and used it to get me to do things for her. Never mind that she wasn’t even slightly interested in me and my needs. Who was the child here?? Even way into my adulthood she used the ” selfish” theme to try to induce guilt in me to give her what she wanted. And she used this in other ways too. If I came back from having a good time with friends she twisted this into me being selfish.
I had the same confusion with boundaries being some kind of etiquette thing. The ” nice” thing to do was to give people what they wanted. Yes, this often violated my personal needs and space.. I’m getting better at guarding my personal space, both physical and emotional, but like you Pam I have to be mindful of it rather than doing it naturally.

103

Amber, I had that same ‘selfish’ treatment and I was taught that I should give myself away to those who say they love me. I never knew that there was a part of me that belonged only to me. Self-ownership is an important concept for me.

Love,
Pam

104

Hi Pam,
Wow, your post and all of the comments are invaluable. I relate so much to what you said in response to Alaina (comment #69) about believing in your own goodness and not becoming bitter and/or angry.
For a long time I tried to “find God” but I never did and finally gave up. Instead, I started looking at what was right and wrong in my own experience, and the world at large, and I don’t regret it one bit.

My conscience always troubled me because I had no clue as to what was right or wrong, as someone else, I think Alaina, described it so well in a previous comment. My parents thought of themselves as paragons of moral value while committing/allowing really outrageous, abusive behavior. Looking good was all that mattered and “just act as if!” was a much-used, family-favorite saying. They seem to think that if you believed strongly enough in the image you want to project, and act that part, then “Ba-da-bing-bada-boom! you’re all real and good!” I did what I could think of to get away from that craziness and to find some sanity, some reality. I practiced transcendental meditation, then went partying for a few years, moved to another continent, was in therapy for more than five years, and finally (in spite of all this!) began to see things a bit more clearly. I saw that my family shunned me whenever I was successful and happy, but joined together in an orgy of bloodlust (not an overstatement at all) when I tried to get back on my feet after a devastating period in my life. It was just like my therapist had told me years before, but I just didn’t want to believe it until it finally became abundantly clear and painful, that I was their toy to be used.

Pam, what you said in your comment about tending to see other people through our own good intentions (and it being seen as some sort of gullibility) struck such a major chord in me as well. I’m becoming a better guardian of my own goodness. Let’s not cast pearls before the swine! I reserve myself more now and become more sensitive to others’ input instead of focussing on how I should present myself and there’s a huge difference in how people respond and also how I feel about myself.

I love your writings, Pam and hope you will continue to share your wisdom and experience with us. Thank you for contributing so much. It means a lot. Also, the same to all of the commenters here: Thanks so much. I learn anew and recognize so much old and forgotten stuff.
Love to you all,
Elsie

105

Elsie, Thank you for your sweet, encouraging comment.:0)So much of what you said reverberates with me. Alcohol was god in my childhood home and it governed morality along with my father’s mood. Faith gave me the over-riding constant of right and wrong that I needed. I looked for that in a lot of other places too. I didn’t really find that in religion, though I’m not anti-church, but my faith is deeply personal. I needed that one-on-one aspect, a bonding so to speak, a new parent/child relationship. Early on, in my thinking, I replaced my very unreliable dad with One who is very reliable. How I viewed the world changed a lot during that period of my life. My self-confrontation and the work I did here at EFB changed the way I view myself. ‘Sin’ has become a rather archaic word that people misunderstand but it is synonymous with abuse. My faith helped me stop many of my abusive actions and EFB helped me take that work even deeper, as I learned to heal from the abuses committed against me.

It’s amazing to me how all of us have the answers we need to heal inside of each of us. I think Darlene’s work helps people tap into that knowledge no matter what background, worldview, or walk of life we come from. Having a place to be heard and compare experience is a fast track to healing that I never got from any psychologist or psychiatrist. I too am very thankful for Darlene, EFB, and all the commenters.

Love,
Pam

106

I don’t want to hog these comments but I want to get this off my chest before it sinks away into the depths again.
My closest and dearest sibling, who was sexually abused by a “family friend” when he was 11-13 y.o., died a few years ago. We were raised in the catholic church (he used to be an altar boy) and when he knew he was dying he expressed the desire to confess his “sins” to a priest. As he hadn’t been to church since fourteen years old and felt guilty about that, he asked our (supposedly saintly, catholic) mother if it would be okay for him to get things sorted out with a catholic priest anyway. She said no. He died without confession and without absolution for his self-imagined “sins” (he was a beautiful and much loved person) but with our mother’s “good” reputation intact. What sort of monster would deny a dying person- her own son!- the comfort of relieving his conscience before departing from this world, and- from her catholic viewpoint- lose the chance between heaven and hell?
I despise her fully now and am glad to say it out loud instead of trying to nullify her abuse and neglect and treacherous ways. I did all that I could to not see this, all of my life, but there’s no denying it anymore, no more white-washing and excusing her evil. It’s time to call it for what it is.

107

Elsie, That is beyond heart breaking. Too often, religion causes people to hide evil rather than face it for appearance sake. I’m sad your brother was forced to carry shame that didn’t belong to him but I know that in the cosmic sense of things, he was never considered guilty for what happened to him. People use all kinds of cloaks to hide pedophiles in families, prestigious schools, governments, professionals, and too often, religious institutions. When religion, that which people expect to be a force for good in the world, is used as a cloak for evil, it is the worst kind of betrayal. Sadly, it is a powerful cloak and that makes it a favorite for people who like to sexually abuse children. In my opinion, it is an act that I would describe as anti-christ and far beyond hypocritical.

I’m so sorry, this happened to you and your family. A young man who was special to me also, committed suicide this year. His grandfather sexually abused him for years. The grandfather also, used religion as a protection for himself and I believe he also, used it as a way to gain access to children. I’ve never known anyone as manipulative as he is. I’ve also, never known anyone with a true heart of gold like his grandson had. This world is lacking without him. Still, this man’s family continues to harbor him. This evil is beyond reasoning but I think when a family starts protecting a pedophile, they can’t find a place to stop. It happens much too often. None of it is about God, it’s just about abuse, power, control, and living a life of pretense. It’s about getting away with a crime and a sociopath will use anything that works. It’s easy for people closely involved with a sociopath to become compromised out of fear and the emotional damage that comes from dealing with such a horrific abuser on a daily basis. They make everyone around them sick.

This goes back to what I wrote earlier about seeing my good intentions in others. No matter how people represent themselves, I know I have to be vigilant and look for the warning signs. I have to look beyond what they profess to be and give myself time to see who they really are. I have to see everyone on an individual basis no matter what group they claim allegiance to.

I agree that what was done to your brother was evil and your mother’s insistence on keeping it covered is also, an act of evil. My family of origin did much the same to thing to me, even to the point of telling me that my problem was that I needed to forgive my rapist, while at the same time, denying that I was raped. They use religion as a cloak too. It is a favorite tool for deflection and manipulation. I have a lot of empathy for you and your brother and all sexual abuse victims that are blamed in place of the perpetrator.

If my comment triggered something painful in you, I’m sorry. I’m not like that. I’m a spiritual person but I’m not a religious person. I don’t expect others to be like me or bend themselves to my way of thinking. I’m not a power seeker and I don’t hold myself up as an example of any kind of perfection. I’m a fellow truth seeker.

I’m glad you shared your experience because it is much too painful to swallow and keep to yourself. I’ve found that facing what hurts me and speaking my truth is the best way to heal emotional wounds.

Love,
Pam

108

Elsie, I am sorry about the loss of your dear brother. And that he didn’t get the chance to sort things out in confession before his passing. As far as your mother goes, I can only guess that there was some reason; something she didn’t want to be brought out into the open if your brother had gone to confession.
It is really sad how many people hide or deny things in order to keep themselves looking good, while the denial or keeping things hidden is very harmful and invalidating to another person. It is highly selfish.
I don’t think you are hogging the comments on here at all Elsie! There are times we really need to be on here commenting a lot when we are sorting something out and I bet many of us, including me, have had days where we comment a lot. I think it’s great that you are expressing the things that are bothering you, and hope it is bringing you some healing, just as it does for me.

109

Elsie, The part of your comment that I failed to address is that your brother thought what happened to him was his sin. I thought the same about my sexual abuse until I was fifty. For me, that wasn’t anything to do with religion but more about my abusers making me feel complicit and my family reinforcing that attitude. It was easier for them to blame me than to blame the men who hurt me and be expected to do something about it. My parents didn’t want to face the fact that they had failed to protect me. This is such a common evil in cases of sexual abuse but I know the pain of it feels anything but common. Again, I’m so sad this happened to your brother and also, to you. I’m glad he had you for a sister and that you saw him and the situation truthfully and clearly. Many sexual abuse victims never have that kind of validation from any family member. That validation is a wonderful gift.

Love,
Pam

110

Elsie,
That is so horrible. I’m so sorry that he was carrying all that (and you, too), and I agree with you and Pam that it was evil on your mom’s part not to let him speak to a priest.

111

Hi Pam

Thanks for responding. Reading your answer to another poster i can certainly relate with utter neglect while sick. I was also the supposively sick child with special sick needs. I had every childhood disease under the sun. It just occurred to me that i was barely taken to the doctor. Instead my parents would get antibiotics from their doctor friend and give them to me. But i am not even sure that happened, that might be bs they told me. I remember being told that they did all this work for me to get antibiotics which were super hard to get. Fricken maniacs. I just realized i still believed in that bs. Their efforts culminated in me having some kind of immune deficiency syndrome, or so they told me a doctor said. I was just sick around them all the time. I imagine it was partly from them, partly psychological from them constantly telling me how sick i am and ofcourse the utter neglect. Then when i entered school they couldnt get away with me being sick all the time so i actually went to the doctor. I remember that. I am just realizing these bastards never took me to a doctor until i was in school. I ended up getting prescribed a 2 weeks of penicilin injections that i went for by myself at the age of 11. Makes me sick. When we moved accross the country they told me its my fault they had to move because i was so sick. Apparently the air in our town was very bad for me. At around 16 i broke the spell of being the sickly child they brainwashed me with. Its definately a tactic to make me believe something is wrong with me and i am not capable of surviving. So many lies. All lies.

112

Growing up a non person I learned to morph into many different people as an adult depending what the people around me needed me to be. I have been working intensely on finding the real me but I feel as though I am constantly derailed right now, like the universe works against me. Perhaps it is that I never learned the necessary coping skills to navigate life’s up and downs. Sometimes this feels like and exhausting, impossible journey.

113

Kathryn, Being unhealthy became my identity and I’ve only recently, realized that. I’ve had a lot of health problems that were and are organic but my attitude about my health definitely contributed to how I felt about it and how I’ve carried. Like you, I was taken to the doctor more often after I started school and I never put that together until you said it. My siblings were also, medically neglected but they weren’t zeroed in on as being their sickly child. My dad just didn’t care but my mom liked to play it up to get attention and sympathy.

Looking at all the family ‘narratives’ as an adult painted a very different picture of my childhood experiences than that I’d been given. I think in my heart, I always knew it was of kilter but as children, we expect our parents to know best and I accepted those stories…excuse me, those lies.:0/

Love,
Pam

114

Kaycee, I did the same thing. As a small child, I felt defective and like it would be better to be anyone but me. I read a lot and I first started being someone else by imitating different characters in the books I read. As a teenager on my own and sexually abused, I took this to a whole other level. I shattered into many, many different me’s. One for each trauma. After I got married, I dissociated from all of them and tried to become a different person. I didn’t move in and out of various identities during that time but I wasn’t whole. Integrating my childhood experience into my present and accepting who, all the who’s, I was back then has made me a more complete, more balanced person. I’m not ‘acting’ anymore, I’m just who I am.

I’ve lost my way before too. Often, I was trying to move forward without knowing what I should be doing. This is a good place to find a reliable map for your journey.

Love,
Pam

115

Pam, Amber and Alaina, thank you for your validation and kindness. I just wrote an long reply to all the latest comments but when I hit the submit button it disappeared. Boohoo. Now I’m burned out on writing but I do want to say to Pam that I “get” you completely and please don’t be sorry for the trigger! It’s good to address these hidden pockets of pain. The pain goes away, the truth remains.
Cheers everybody,
Elsie

116

Hi Elsie, “The pain goes away, the truth remains.” I couldn’t have said it better myself and that is exactly, the most beneficial way to handle those triggers.:0)

Love,
Pam

117

Elsie, you’re welcome! One of the things I love about this site is the validation and caring and understanding from others.
For some reason I got triggered last night about a horrible work situation I had years back. My boss for some reason decided to go after me and I spent a year being gaslighted by her and then she recruited others including my assistants to undermine me and mistreat me as well. It even got to the point where my assistants refused to do certain parts of their jobs which made it more difficult to do mine. It was in a school, and I was given no curriculum guide for the special needs students I was working with and no resources. Teachers in other schools in the district were all given special training but I received none, no mentoring, no guidance and I had to wing it and do it on my own. My boss made up stuff on my evaluations too, many things she said were outright lies, and even though I did what I thought were great lessons when she came in to observe me, she only found fault with them. I worked so hard only to be mistreated badly by her and those she got to join in with her. She seemed to get pleasure from doing this and only later on after I left that job did I find out she picks someone every year to bully. I must have given off the signs that I could easily be mistreated and she selected me, just as kids had selected me for a target to bully when I was in elementary school. The damage after that year is that I really began to believe that I was a horrible teacher,, and my self esteem was in shreds. I felt this way even though every other person I worked for saw me in a positive light. All the great reviews and feedback from previous years, and for many years to come after that job wasn’t enough to quell the doubts. This woman was much like my mother, dark haired and slim, and nasty and critical as she was. I even felt some of the same fears during that year that I had felt around my mother.. Eventually I even felt myself going into freeze response when this woman came near me.

Something last night reminded me of this and I started feeling the same fear and upset that I felt when I was actually in the situation. It was as if I was in the situation now rather than years ago. Any ideas on how to deal with this typeof trigger and reaction? Thanks!

118

Amber, I have those emotional flashbacks too and for years, I didn’t understand what was happening. My emotional responses to certain things were inappropriate because I was reacting to the past, as well as the present. Since I’ve integrated my childhood, it is easier for me to connect the dots with the current situation and the event in the past that was the origin of my feelings. For me, it took place naturally as I began to understand my childhood better. I don’t always get on top of it and I can still, at times, react inappropriately but most of the time, I’m able to understand that the current trigger isn’t serious enough to warrant my reaction. If the trigger itself is emotionally traumatizing, then it is much harder. When that happens, I do allow myself to isolate for a short time so that I can figure out my feelings. The difference in this type of isolating is that it is for a short period of time and I’m mindful to be working on understanding my feelings and not just reacting to being overwhelmed by my feelings.

I also, stuff my feelings and now, I’m working on giving myself some time everyday to allow myself to experience those feelings rather than denying them and stuffing them. I’m surprised at how hard this is for me but it does help me keep things in balance.

One thing Darlene taught me is that my triggers are my friends. Facing them an learning what they have to tell me about my past has helped immensely in understanding myself.

Love,
Pam

119

Thank you Pam, you’ve given me a lot to think about. I find that I can be easily triggered by things like pictures of someone or a song from a time that coincides with a particular incident. And especially by someone who reminds me of someone else.
I will keep in mind what Darlene saying about triggers being friends. I will be tuning in to them very closely from now on.

120

Hi,
i vented the entire truth about being sick to my mom today. Pretty much the entire post i did here 2 days ago. It just so happens that i am sick right now with bronchitis and i took this opportunity to examine my feelings on this. I told her that today i went to a new doctor to get better antibiotics. She says to me, thats a terrible mistake to switch antibiotics. I said thats bs and i would reconsider what u are saying to me. She presses on telling me that she is here to make me aware of realities and that i had a lowered immune system as a child. This is my mother trying to make me the sickly child. Boom i went off like a bomb of truth. I was like really u want reality, the reality is i was sick from being abused as a child. I was sick because of you and dad. You made me sick. And u trying to feed me bs that i have lower immune system. No sh..t i do from being in abusive family. The cure for that was not to live with you. So dont try to feed me bs that i am sickly child. She says if u want to talk to me u cant swear and dont get so worked up about this. I say, why shouldnt i get worked up. Then i just told her i had to go. I am still so angry. And the woman forgot i dont care if i talk to her. Really..oh no.. u mean i will not have to endure toxicity. Nice try psycho.
Thinking my triggers through here, i am actuallu a quite healthy individual. I get sick once or twice a year when seasons change or under some crazy stress. I eat well, i exercise. Yet somehow i have never considered myself healthy!!! Geee i wonder why psycho mom and dad. I never reinforce my healthy image. What i really think is that i am sickly and unhealthy person that doesnt know what they are doing and i am barely keeping my head above water, literally doing headstands, or i would surely be sick alllll the time. And these happen to be my parents exact words to me in childhood. Literally doing headstands to keep me from getting sicker. What a dam lie. Apparently their effort did not include taking me to a doctor. Those bastards told me i have been sickly since i was tiny, and just how hard they worked to stop it. It hurts on another level of betrayal. They tried to damage me physically, not only psychologically. Makes me so digusted with them. Its also part of the plot to prove to me that i cant take care of myself. I am so uncapable. It is my fault i am so sickly and i should understand all the resentment i get for all the hard work they do for me. The key fact is that they got me believing its my fault i get sick. That is not the truth. Bastards. I am so angry. I am going to decide for me that i am a healthy person.

121

Kathryn, I don’t like hearing you have bronchitis so, take good care of yourself. Being angry helps me numb out to the pain in the kind of confrontations like you had with your mom. I also, know that after the anger dissipates, there is the old pain, intensified. So, be doubly good to yourself. Having said all of that, I’m glad you were able to confront your mom and thwart her try at controlling what meds you take. I’m also, glad that you understand how you came to view yourself as an unhealthy person and that you are ready to begin thinking of yourself in a better way. That’s the most important piece of this. It made a huge difference in my life when I started relying on my perceptions of me and not what my foo told me about me. It hurts that my parents didn’t care enough or were too damaged themselves to take care of me the way they should have but I’m so glad to be an adult and no longer having to depend on that kind of warped judgment.

It makes me sad that your parents neglected to take you to a doctor and chose to treat you themselves but on the other hand, I celebrate your new inner freedom and empowerment with you. You can give yourself everything you need to get over the bronchitis and also, all that you need to keep yourself healthy, happy, and strong. Having survived medical neglect and abuse is a good indicator of how physically strong you and I are. Now that we’ve survived, we can go on to thrive. I have a weakened immune system too and there are all kinds of natural remedies to boost the immune system. Everything changed for me when I took charge of my own health.

Love,
Pam

122

Hi kathryn,

It is so painful when they cling to their lies and keep blaming you. I don’t blame you for being angry.

Why do people think that having an even tone and proper language means they aren’t still spewing toxic ideas in their calm gratuitous voice.

I sent a letter to my mom that should arrive in today’s mail for her. I’m a little uncomfortable waiting to see if there is any kind of reaction, but only because I’ll be happier when it’s over!

I said what I needed to say. I’m sticking to the truth, standing up for myself, and letting the chips fall.

Stay with your truth – it will save you.

Hobie

123

I had a couple of quite depressed days this weekend. And I found myself feeling anxious and panicky for no reason at all. Well, the reason is I just realised just how emotionally neglected I was. It’s one thing to recall active abusive behavior and another indeed to recognize that there was so much goodness just missing, that didn’t happen for no other reason than the people who were supposed to provide it didn’t, couldn’t, didn’t want to. Whatever the hell the why. I probably shouldn’t have, but I bought a book on “emotional neglect” and bang there so much of it was. Again, renewed anger at a mother for whom nothing was about anyone else but herself.

And then making my difficulties “Your choice to see it that way Alice” What total dishonesty. Now I wonder if the emotional damage is worse than I initially thought but that I’ve just been unable to see it.

I’ve had enough of her. I’m fed up of her fucked up effects washing over my life.

I have been reading the posts but haven’t felt up to responding. I’m sorry but I do wish everyone well.

124

Alice, I’m sad to hear that you are hurting and I understand your anger. It was hard for me to grapple with the neglect too and understand how it effected me. Mostly, I think it taught me that I didn’t matter and that I shouldn’t expect much from people. I spent a good deal of my life feeling outside of things. I know that is why isolation feels so natural to me. I didn’t feel like I was part of my family and for many years, I didn’t feel that I was really a part of the human family. The first part of that is true because my parents made it true. The second part is a lie. I have every right to be a part of the human family. I’m learning to step into that reality.

Know you aren’t alone in this Alice. I know you hurt right now because new revelations of what was wrong in our childhood brings new pain, something new to mourn but when the grief passes, a new day dawns. I’m confident that a new kind of life is waiting for you.

Love,
Pam

125

Alice, I’m sending you virtual hugs, and I know you are loved and respected by the EFB family. I can relate to mothers and emotional neglect and I too have days when I feel very down when I am thinking about it. My mother was very self centered too; always nicely dressed, made up, and hair done at the beauty salon while her daughter ( me) was in hand me downs, dirty, and ignored.

And then being invalidated with the ” It’s your choice to see it that way Alice”, pushing the problem and responsibility on to your shoulders. I know the frustration and heartache of someone else’s denial and then volleying the problem onto the victims shoulders. I hear you Alice and I understand what you are saying and feeling.

Pam, I felt as you did, being on the outside of things both in my family of origin and out in the world. I had trouble breaking into a group whether at school as a child, camp, in my neighborhood, and then later on at work. There was always the underlying feeling that people where going to find out about me ( all the horrible things about me that I now recognize as false beliefs) and then reject me. I kept my distance but there was always the hope that someone would invite me in. It happened occasionally, but much more often, people decided I was odd and I was ignored. The firs place I really felt accepted was in my family of marriage. I am accepted for who I am and feel validated. I finally have a place where I feel I belong. I’m a little more comfortable now meeting people but I am cautious and give trust incrementally as I feel comfortable that a person is deserving of it. I gave been hurt too many times to jump into friendships quickly and blindly. I do like my alone time too. Like you Pam I got used to isolation as a child and find that I need a certain amount of time alone.

126

Thank you Pam and Amber for your warm comments and regard. It drives me absolutely nuts that any woman could hide behind the word “mother” and be recognized as such but be anything but. I’ve also so often felt as if I were the outsider in my family and that everyone else understands and loves each other except me. I do have faith that I belong in the world as much as anyone else does but it is shaky sometimes. Pam, I don’t expect much from other people either. I feel that anything they give me is enough. I worry when it becomes “too much” because what will they expect from me then? “After all we’ve done for you Alice”. Will they drag that one out if ever I have cause for complaint?

I sometimes mentally prepare myself for the “worst” or the end of a relationship and evaluate how well I could deal with it. Many relationships have ended in my mind rather than in real life.

Amber, I also relate to feeling odd-one out or having to break into new groups quite often. I ended up being quite good at it but I rarely feel 100% comfortable. Sometimes I feel as if I’m there “too much” or that I have been invited out of pity. I don’t feel as if I have the same appreciation from others that everyone else does.

I guess neglect also explains how I can sometimes take something a person says that is actually pretty insulting and feel nothing in particular about it until ages afterwards. So the person thinks it’s ok to treat me that way and will dole out more of the same until I deal with it. And then I think but why should it be up to me to tell someone when they’re making shitty remarks that they shouldn’t be? An ex-BF claimed that it was up to me to stop him from saying crap things to me. I said that if he knew they were crap in the first place then it was up to him to not do it. I’m nobody’s police. I mean it’s just more of the same thing you were talking about Amber.

And yes Pam, it hits hard when you find another facet of this. I mean to the point where I questioned whether I was just making up this emotional neglect stuff and maybe that the book on it I’d bought was bunk. That maybe it was enough to just stick with the active abuse stuff and not get into neglect.

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The thing is, life just happens anyways. There are no special breaks for those of us who were cheated out of childhood, robbed of our worth and handicapped before the race began. We are hurled into the same world as those who were loved, cared for and nourished. Herein lies the rub.

Life isn’t fair, I heard that often as I was growing up. Forgive me for being morose.

Alice, I feel you. I so get it, when that anger hits, I’m there right now too, for awhile now, spinning my wheels. I have no words of wisdom other than to say it isn’t easy to get here, where the authentic anger is. It is a powerful thing. I lean towards the escape routes, but I know until I sit with this and figure out what to do with it I will go nowhere.

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Amber, Alice, I think some forms of neglect are active abuse and some are passive. I think of active abuse as being on purpose with the abuser knowing what they are doing is wrong but not caring. Passive abuse doesn’t have the same intent and comes from what the abuser doesn’t have within them to give or they are acting on faulty information. I think what hurt me the most was a lack of emotional connectedness with my parents. They didn’t give anything of themselves to me instead, they were always drawing from me, trying to fill up the emptiness in them. This was probably, mostly passive and came from their own brokenness. It doesn’t make it any less damaging to me. I would like it if they’d try to see it from my perspective, take some responsibility for the damage they caused me but they won’t and maybe, they can’t because they are still broken. So, nothing has changed in the way they relate to me and they have no desire to do anything on their part to change. That kind of willful ignorance is passive neglect flipping into active neglect. At that point, there was nothing I could do to stop their continued abuse except remove myself from the situation.

Not keeping a child clean, fed,not meeting their medical needs, or not keeping a clean safe home, etc. are all forms of active abuse when a parent is capable of fulfilling their responsibility and fails not to simply, because they don’t care or they are too busy focusing on themselves to bother.

Neglect whether it is emotional, physical, or medical are all serious forms of abuse. Many people get the idea that neglect is a lesser form of abuse but it causes the same kind of emotional damage as all other forms of abuse. The wounds appear invisible, at first but they show up later and the damage can last a lifetime.

It was hard for me to accept the neglect I suffered as a child but I’m glad I came to that painful understanding because it was the beginning of healing from neglect and filling the inner, emotional void it left me with. Understanding was the end of the emotional confusion I had dealt with for most of my life. I know it can be the same for anyone willing to take responsibility to work toward inner change.

Love,
Pam

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Kaycee, Life isn’t fair but I’m thankful to know that I can heal the damage dealt me in childhood. No one gets out of this world without suffering and those who haven’t suffered as I have suffered, suffer in other ways. I’ve spent a good deal of my life being alone and thinking I was alone but now I know I’m not.

Anger can be a useful tool. We can’t help experiencing emotions but I’ve learned that they can be used to heal. I was ridiculed a lot for showing negative emotions and when it came to anger, just allowing myself to feel my anger was an important first step in learning how to make it work for me and not against me.

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Pam, I appreciate these points on active/passive abuse you bring. My overwhelming feeling around my mother was that of being drained by her wants and needs. It’s a physical feeling too. In terms of “maintenance”, my mother chose very low maintenance roads for me. No long hair as it was too difficult to care for. No complicated interests. If I could just tag myself along on what was already happening, or better, help out, there was an activity for me. I don’t remember her taking any interest in my actual preferences. And if it turned out I didn’t want to keep doing some thing she had determined as my interest I got slapped for wanting to quit. When I was a teen, I was suffering from depression and when I told her and asked to see a doctor, she refused, telling me “You’re not depressed Alice”.
Yes, she also told me “Life isn’t fair” and “Life doesn’t owe you a living”. And “You can’t have it all Alice”.

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Alice, My mom was much too needy to fill the needs of a child. My mom expected her children to fill her emotional needs and when we didn’t, she felt betrayed. I was repulsed by this kind of behavior without understanding why but when an adult uses a child to fill their emotional needs, it is emotional incest. Being able to define it that way helped me understand why it felt so creepy. My dad also, exploited his children but he did what he did out of a need for power and control. My mom acted from a place of emotional desperation that was like a black hole that couldn’t be filled and threatened to consume me. My dad exploited everyone, while my mom had no one else but her children and it was an overwhelming load. My dad was an emotional terrorist and I know the way he treated my mom contributed to her condition and I can’t help feeling sorry for her but it was too much for a little girl to carry. She married my dad at 18 and she is frozen in a childish state. She prefers the responsibility of a child and does everything possible to avoid being held responsible for anything. It’s sad because she will never grow up, or be able to set herself free, or have her emotional needs met, if she never accepts adult responsibility. That attitude in my mother damaged me more emotionally than anything else in my childhood. She cooked and cleaned and met most of my physical needs (I think she would have taken me to the doctor but my dad thought it was weakness to ‘run to the doctor all of time’ and she wouldn’t stand against him)but emotionally, when I’d reach for a mom, there was only a needy, clingy, broken, little girl. Little girls aren’t equipped to be mothers and no matter how much empathy I have for my mom, it doesn’t erase the damage I suffered. Much of her abuse was passive but her refusal to acknowledge how it hurt me and take action to heal herself, flipped the passive abuse into active abuse. When she was faced with the truth and chose to remain in ignorance, the intent changed. I saw my mom in a whole other light and now, I’m wondering how much was done in true ignorance and how much of that ignorance was willful and used as a guise all along. The truth is, I can’t know and I can only take responsibility for me and do what I can to be a healthier, better person.

Love,
Pam

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I relate to the recent comments and the anger people are experiencing. I wrote a very short entry in the journal I keep about not wanting to become angry and bitter, then writing (in caps) BUT I AM ANGRY AND BITTER…. oh, dear. But these are stages…

I’ve been thinking about what it would have been like to have been given the parenting that I needed. When we’re looking at abuse, self-care means going back into the past and giving ourselves validation for what happened and caring for our feelings and how things impacted to us. The same is true of the neglect. But you can take this kind of exercise further. If you are able to connect to some speck of your self that exists outside of your family and the experiences you had and just imagine what this person/self/spirit would need to grow into themselves (because we’re born not fully developed and life is about becoming more and more who we are). If you even just forget all the bad stuff entirely, just go back in your mind with what you feel is the seedlings of your self and imagine parents who were able to give you what you needed. (No parent would actually be able to hit the mark all the time but healthy parents would be able to recognize that, not see it as the child’s fault, and actually try to do what’s needed in order to provide their child with what’s needed, not ignore it and give the child the message that they must adapt to the parent even when adaptation means killing the self.)

You look at the effect of abuse and neglect and you know how it compounds one on top of the other, how it interacts and how it sets you up for future experiences, which then compound, etc. The opposite is also true that positive parenting works in the opposite direction. It’s impossible to tell what your life would be like on the outside if you had only received the parenting you needed, but I feel like there’s something valuable in connecting to what it would feel like to be the you that would have come into existence had you grown up with good parenting that met your needs. We work so hard to break down the negative experiences in saying that these things don’t define us, but what does define us? If we were given the parenting we needed, we’d be more equipped to deal with bad experiences or setbacks (that are inevitable in life) so that we wouldn’t define ourselves by those experiences (and that’s what the whole reparenting thing is all about). But beyond that, who would have we become internally, from the inside out, if our true selves had been nurtured and allowed to grow… I think it’s worth thinking about, not just as a rhetorical question but actually to feel yourself through the experience. What does it feel like to have grown in a world where you were really seen, nurtured, valued? Who are you, who do you become under the most positive parenting? What does it feel like not just in a general sense but to go through your development with each positive experience developing and growing and strengthening and manifesting the positive inside you, so that one thing adds to another? What does it feel like to be that person? I think it’s valuable because I think that’s what our aim is—to become that person. We lose all the years to our pasts and we carry the scars and vulnerabilities but in return, if we keep on this path doing the work, we gain connection to that self, to becoming that self, and we also invariable gain the understanding of how good it is to be able to be that self because we’ve had to experience being a lie for so long, and then want others to also be able to nurture and grow into themselves, too.

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Alaian, I think that is a great description of replacing the lies we learned about ourselves in childhood with the truth. Being angry with what happened to us is a part of the process but the goal of the process is to become the person we are intended to be. Part of my process was to unload the blame and shame that others had heaped on me but the process isn’t just about blaming others, as so many people misunderstand it. There is a negative side to the process but more importantly, there is the positive side where we give ourselves the love, nurturance, and opportunity to become who we are intended to be.

I love the way you describe your personal process here.:0)

Love,
Pam

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I am catching up with some of the comments here and wow what a great discussion going on!
I was just editing my next blog post and guess what it’s about? -anger! And here you are already discussing it!
I was inspired to write about anger because of a crazy discussion on the Efb Facebook page several weeks ago – anger is a huge and controversial topic! And it is also a very misunderstood topic. I believe we have a right to our anger; It’s what we do with it that sometimes causes a problem. Validating my right to anger was a huge healing step for me.

Awesome discussion! Thanks again Pam for hosting it! I in-boxed you about another topic!!

Hugs Darlene

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Thanks, Pam! After writing those comments, I had this feeling of “audacity” in thinking of things in terms of my ideal childhood, as I was constantly supposed to keep into context my parents’ reality, their upbringing, the suffering of others, etc. It triggered the memory of my dad saying “misery is a luxury,” and the thought that to even entertain such ideas are the markings of my privilege. But that’s a nonsense, non-argument to the question of why should I not be and become who I am. And the only true answer from my parents was (or would be, if they were honest)—so that they could continue to get what they wanted from me. That’s certainly not about my privilege but those guilt trips my family dole out could be pretty darn powerful.

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Pam, yes repulsed is the right word for how I feel about her. And I couldn’t understand why my own mother would feel repulsive to me. And when I think of having anyone depend on me today I get the same feeling. Like a cloying thing I want to be rid of. My feelings about my father weren’t like that until the very end of his life when I was briefly feeding him because he couldn’t hold a spoon. I felt a similar disgust then. And I feel quite guilty for feeling disgust in both instances. As if a “good daughter” shouldn’t.

And I agree, my mother’s choice to deny and minimise things when I confronted her is dubious. But it’s the same stance she held all along. And today she has preferred losing a relationship with me to whatever the benefits of that choice are.

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Alice,
I experience the same repulsion thing for the same reasons. I’ve been on the other side of the coin as well where I can’t imagine someone not feeling repulsed by me (as I am repulsed by me) when I become dependent and needy/clingy. It’s an awful experience on both sides. Emotional incest was prevalent in my family. I think that’s what they think being a family is or that that’s why you have family. There was no recognition of this topic when I spoke of it with them. They either ignored what I said, said it wasn’t happening, or seem to suggest that I’ve been taken in by these ideas that have personal relevance but cut me off from relatable reality (like a cult of self-help perhaps is what my father meant, I don’t know… just because HE didn’t want to go looking into the literature that’s actually out there that actually talks about the reality of this stuff…) Anyway, I’ve got to head out the door. Take care!

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Alice, That was my mother’s choice too. There was a moment during our last conversation when I was convinced that her helpless, dim-witted, childish persona is a false persona that she projects. What she can’t deal with is her own shame. After all that, I love my mother and part of me will always wish she would do the right thing but I can’t make that happen and I’m very glad not to be living under the confusion I’ve always felt about my mom.

Alaina, Perfection will never happen just because perfection isn’t possible for human beings. However, we can certainly, give ourselves what we need to be good enough, as we continue toward the goal of becoming. I’m sending you a hug and a big back rub. Hang in there, sweetheart. You’re worth it!

Hi Darlene, I’ve very much enjoy writing for EFB and the conversation that came out of my article has been very good. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my pain in a way that gives other suffers hope.

Love,
Pam

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Hi Alaina! Yes exactly, I fear causing exactly the same feelings in people. I figure as long as I keep myself independent, upbeat and don’t burden them with needs of any kind (although I wonder exactly what such a “need” would be today???) then they won’t feel that way towards me. And neither will I, very spot on.

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Hi Pam,

I loved reading your article on Darlene’s site and now have also looked up some of your other articles posted on emergingfrombroken. I would like to read more — do you still have your own blog on another site? I have searched for it without success. Thank you for validating so much of my own history.

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i remember a lot of forced huge and obligations to make a show of affection. And I remember not getting hugs or affection when I needed it. Can it be that simple?

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Laurie, Things came up in my life that forced me to let my blog go. I do plan to submit more articles to Darlene. It is rewarding for me to know that my writing is validating for you. That’s the stuff that keeps me writing.:0)I have book percolating and I hope to bring it to reality soon.

Love,
Pam

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Alice, Yes, it is that simple and also, that complex and very hard to pinpoint. I think you are on the right track.

Pam

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Thanks, Pam, you’re really sweet. Perfection is definitely not part of my ideal, not for myself and not for others in relation to me—maybe in terms of striving towards but not in terms of an actual wanted or expected reality. Mistakes are how we learn and grow and how we come to appreciate ourselves and our efforts (as well as others and their efforts)—as long as we deal with them in good ways. And I think freedom itself hinges on being able to be imperfect. For so many years I listened to my mom scolding my dad for all the things he was doing the wrong way. Even if my mom was right about whatever (my mom certainly has strengths and skills in life), and even in the ways I know my dad was less than the partner she needed, the way she reacted was more problematic than the problem itself (and seemed to guarantee the continuation of the bigger problems at the root of the smaller, day-to-day problems). There’s a lot of tension in living with someone who always wants things to be a certain way. So… my ideals include a lot of flexibility, but when all you know has been rigid, it takes time. My dad saw me as a bohemian spirit but seemed to think it right to push me into fitting my mom’s wants and needs. It’s as though he believes it is right or good to change/manipulate your true self for the sake of another. He once, years ago now, told me something to the effect that he tended to agree with where I was coming from, that our thoughts/feelings were very similar, but that I should listen to my mom because she had a different view point (this was on the subject of me standing up for myself). He has a warped idea of compromise, as I think many people do. I think many people’s idea of compromise has to do with negotiating the terms of exploitation or abuse. A true, healthy compromise should never cause damage to either party… Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent again… Sorry I write so much. I went through so much more of a beating in my life on my way out of the dysfunction. I had “pet” status for many years as I reflected back what my parents wanted, until my breakdown. It’s hard, maybe not so much “finding myself” as it is learning how to be that self, how to help me become it—not just talking about it on EFB but really living it. I’m getting there and I feel a little bit like maybe the way I see myself is a few steps behind the actions I’ve actually taken in my life, that I maybe measure myself too much by the outside, the insecurities, doubts, the fluctuating emotions, etc., and not enough by the resolve of the prominent choices I’ve made.

Hi Alice,
The question you ask in parentheses is what I’m wondering myself. I feel that I’ve come far enough in my healing that I really don’t believe my needs in relationship to others are a burden (and I don’t like being in relationships with people where I get that feeling that they consider me to be burden; it makes me wonder why they bother, just to be polite? That creates a bad dynamic I have no interest in anymore, although I’ve certainly in the past chased after and put more effort into relationships where I felt this was the truth and I think dumped guilt-trips on the other person at the same time, which tended to increase my feelings of shame and being a burden that then had me more needy/clingy). There’s also a correlation between disrespect/abuse/exploitation/narcissism and the sky-rocketting of my “needs.” In relation to someone who sees me and treats me as an equal, who cares about me as a person, etc., I think my needs are actually pretty low or normal/average (though particular to who I am and where I’m coming from). I also think that when people care about you, they’ve taken time to know you and are open to relating to you in a way that fits who you are and what you need from them (as long as it’s reasonable and fair) because you and the relationship means something to them, adds something to their own life. I also think a lot of this is done without ever mentioning the word “need” and that as adults if someone doesn’t fit with what you’re needing in life from others, the healthy thing to do is move along. It’s the childhood patterns that keep us looking for the same thing from the same person (or same type of person). I know that if I ever have a romantic relationship, I will come with an array of needs particular to who I am and the life I’ve lived, but I also come with an array of other qualities, and if it’s a good fit, my needs shouldn’t be seen as a big deal, just what they are. We need to feel respected, loved, and cared about. The particulars depend on the circumstances, but I think that if a person does respect, love and care about you and vice versa as equal adults, then the willingness/desire to care about the person’s needs is natural. We’ve been sold a pack of lies throughout our childhood about what’s reasonable, though—like you’ve pointed out, the expectation to dole out affection when they wanted it but never to expect the care you needed when you needed it, so then it seems unreasonable to want care from people when you’re an adult. It’s unreasonable to demand care, or expect people to meet your needs as adults if it’s not what they want to do. (It’s also unproductive and stupid to try for it because it’s a contradiction—you can’t be loved and begrudged at the same time.) But it is totally reasonable to want to be loved and cared about.) I think our needs essentially aren’t any greater than any other human being, just that we’ve been taught to have none, or only the ones that suit whomever, whenever they suit them, and that wreaked havoc, created a vacuum. I feel that I’ve reached the point that I’m out of the fog and am capable of discerning what’s reasonable (even if it might take some time and trial and error) that I really don’t feel my needs to be any way out of norm in size or quantity, although, yes, unique to me… Anyway, I’ve rambled enough again.

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Just wanted to add another thought… I think that if I’m in a relationship with someone who wants more than I’m capable of but I’m forcing myself (for whatever reason) to go along with the reality, this then creates needs in me that can become overwhelming to myself and to the other person. The other person may well be abusive, controlling or otherwise manipulative, or not at all. They may be reasonable people, so that all that’s really needed is me being honest with myself about what I’m capable of and taking the risk in communicating to see how things fare if I don’t give everything they want.

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Alaina, Don’t worry about writing too much, I work things out by writing too.:0) Every relationship is unique and comes with its own requirements and blessings. Every relationship of lasting value requires some working out. We grow by working out the differences in those relationships. It starts with working out how we relate to ourselves. Making sure we love and respect ourselves in a healthy way helps keep boundaries and expectations in the proper perspective. It’s a process that lasts a lifetime.:0)

Love,
Pam

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It isn’t really hard to be a good parent. All you have to do is have your child’s best interest at heart. Children forgive mistakes when they know they are loved. They do not expect or need perfection. It is parent’s who fail to instill self worth in their children that are the problem. I think some parents err and do too much for their children and leave them feeling less then confident, but the parents who mess with their children’s sense of worth are the most devastating.

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Kaycee, I think I am from a generation who did too much for their kids. It’s like a pendulum that swings from one generation who’s parents were self-centered and failed to invest themselves in their children to those children growing up and over-compensating, trying to make up for what they lacked. That’s a simplified version. Human behavior is complex. For the most part, parents contribute to the whole of what their children become but they aren’t solely responsible and that’s a good thing. That leaves us with the opportunity to correct their mistakes and blatant abuses. We can change what neglect and abuse, passive and active, taught us to think. As a child and as a mother, I’m really thankful that parents don’t have the final say over who their children become.

I do agree that one of the most devastating contributions a parent can make is to destroy a child’s self worth. No child should be invisible. Every child is valuable. The struggle from invisibility to self-actualized value has taught me how important it is to treat children as valuable human beings. That begins with realizing the value of the child we once were.

Love,
Pam

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Darlene, I recently had another unfortunate conversation with my Mother. She was talking about an extended member of our family who was going to go to a University. I mentioned that I thought this family member so should have been in a University since the day she left High School, she is smart, ambitious and so desired a higher education.

Having been blamed for my sister leaving college (bull crap), I mentioned that it was never an option for me to go to a University after High School, (I eventually did go and graduated Magna Cum Laude.)

My Mother snapped back at me, “After you went and started getting good grades, didn’t that change your mind?” It is something I have struggled with and I am starting to realize that confidence is transient depending on my level of success at any given moment, but my sense of self worth has always been low and terribly dependent upon my ability to perform in those self confidence building situations.

I have experienced a great of confusion in my healing in the differences between self confidence and a permanent state of self worth that I hope to eventually achieve.

I was both an invisible child and a child held in a spotlight. I shudder sometimes watching the children around me, when they make common errors and their parent’s still love them, it wasn’t like that for me. My needs were invisible, but my mistakes were distorted, magnified. I was made both irrelevant and powerful enough to to make one misstep ruin everyone’s life around me. Simply missing the bus could rock my entire family to the core.

Sure, getting good grades built my confidence but it did not change my sense of self worth and I am struggling between the comfort of being invisible and the stress of visibility. This idea of confidence without self worth has been a point of confusion and a hang up.

I just would love to hear more thoughts on this from everyone. I think I might understand it theory but in practice I am just flopping around like a fish out of water.

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Hi Pam, I posted my last comment before I saw yours. Yeah, I so get what you are saying and even knowing this, I struggle to find that balance with my own child. I am comforted by knowing his self worth is intact and I am working hard not to over step.It is so easy to do too much when you came from so little!

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Kaycee, If you are aware of that, you are so far ahead. When my children were little, I was still so confused about all of it. Not that my kids turned out to be horrible people, I’m very proud of them but I wish I knew then, what I know now. That’s the main reason I write about this stuff, so that young parents can heal sooner and also, make a difference in their children’s lives. Children deserve better than what they’ve gotten over the whole of human history. There are too many hurting kids today. Things need to change.

Pam

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Kaycee, I just read that comment you posted before you read mine. I know this is for Darlene but I just wanted to say that my mistakes were overblown too. I was invisible but I was also, the scapegoat. I was responsible for everything that went wrong and when I did make a mistake, there were a lot of extras tacked on to it. It wasn’t my parent’s psychological, emotional, and substance abuse problems that were credited with tearing our family apart, they blamed me. The problems I listed were never really recognized. It seems they were invisible just like I was but my mistakes are never forgotten. I think that those mistakes gave them a good reason, in their minds, to treat me the way they did. I believed them for decades but now I don’t.

Pam

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Oh boy, I got an email from my mom tonight. She’s coming into town and would like to spend some time with me (gave me the dates and her cell phone number). My heart was racing instantly. I then went for a bubble bath 🙂 and vented (in my head) a response to her email. It has been about a year and a half since I last talked to her, and I told her then that the only way we’d have a relationship was if she fully acknowledged the truth of our relationship and what happened to me (which I’d laid out). That’s some audacity. Even though everyone is responsible for their own choices, the domino effect on my relationship to other family members certainly followed her decision. She knows the truth but sat back as my brother and dad cast me as the one who has it all wrong. It’s my “sad choice” of course, and that I don’t have a nephew and that her grandson doesn’t have an aunt has something to do with her, even if my brother of course is a grown-up who came to his own conclusions… still… she has a hand in this, a power she won’t use exactly because she doesn’t want to give up that power and that’s exactly what she’d have to do…. Anyway, I deleted the email, breathing easier, heartbeat returning to normal. It’s up to her to fix this situation, not me—I did my part already… and then some. I will not be calling her. I will not be seeing her. She has to live with the choices she has made. If she wants to change her mind, and acknowledge reality, she is free to do so, but I am not backing down. I fought too bloody hard for this.

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Alaina, I’ve had some instances where family members tested the boundary I set. I know how you are feeling. I made the same choice you are making. It really hurts that they will try to go over, under, or around the boundary of respect I set but never acknowledge it. Every time that happens, it just proves to me that I made the right decision. I know if I back down, things will be worse than ever…

Pam

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Alaina,

Good job! You soothed yourself with a bubble bath, reminded yourself why you set a boundary, what it was, and you held onto it!

My boundaries are still kinda fresh. They were tested recently, and after the initial shock, I held my ground and congratulated myself for it. YAY for both of us!

Hobie

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Alaina, good for you! Before I blocked my mom’s emails I would put them in a folder to remind me of the reasons I am NC with her.
I also really appreciated reading your thoughts on needs in an adult relationship. I’ve somewhat given up hope that the right romantic relationship will ever materialize for me because I likely have too many unresolved needs still that I think probably aren’t compatible with a good relationship and I don’t want to be in the kind where those unresolved needs are too large a part of things. Because I’ve both been there and seen others deal with that and it just seems a lot of suffering for nothing. Sometimes I think it’s best for my emotional health that I just avoid romantic stuff altogether and stick to the safety of friendships.

I also struggle with magnification of errors. I guess I felt under such scrutiny from my family. I was also very good at school so maybe that’s also part of why I can’t stand making mistakes as my only reliance source of validation came from performing well in that area. Today the reaction to mistakes is generalized I’d say. And the worst is I fear people know this about me so will take an extra effort to point them out to me – which of course feels terrible. I’m not having an easy time of things right now because the pain of all these behaviors seems to me to be heightened but I’m also hoping this presages change.

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Hi Everyone!!
I just published a new article on the home page ~ this one is about Anger ~ a really hot topic in the healing world and often a controversial one too. You can read the new post here: “Is there such a thing as Justifiable Anger?” and I am looking forward to the discussion.
hugs, Darlene

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Thanks Pam, Alice and Hobie for your support! (Sorry I didn’t respond till now!) My mom will be in town from tomorrow till Sat. I’ll be glad come Sunday.

Alice, I feel similarly about romantic relationships, but one day maybe I’ll be ready and meet someone who will fit well with me. I also wonder a bit about what I mean exactly when I think of my “unresolved needs.” It’s a bit vague. I think there are a few things. One has to do with fears around outpourings of emotion and all the grief I know I’m carrying, and difficulty letting people into my heart too close, probably for fear of abandonment or being controlled, having someone turn on me once I’ve developed an attachment, them using my attachment to them to facilitate their exploiting me, crossing boundaries, etc. Also if I become attached, wanting the person’s approval, which has been associated with love my whole life (i.e. be what the other person wants and you’ll be loved). Some of this stuff has made me “act crazy” in the past…. The issues seem to be around fears and control (interrelated of course)… I’m with you on friendship. It’s where I’m at at the moment. I have definitely attracted guys who want to protect me, though, but I know it’s not really about protection, it’s about possession. I do think you can love and feel protective of someone without it being possessive, where there’s still freedom, but a lot of times, I think it becomes about moulding me into someone else’s idea of what’s best or right for me. When I tend to come off as nervous and passive, maybe overly nice, it can definitely attract people to want to take over and direct my life, well-intentioned though people may, or may not, be, and that is definitely not what I want in my life. Often these people are, or at least seem, completely unconscious of what I know and can feel their actual motivations are with me. It can become a hassle when I try to exert boundaries (this is also true in friendships of this kind, too)—times I know these types would maybe accept the same boundaries in other people but because they’d already defined me in a certain way, based on their assumptions of who they think I am, they’ll try to trespass the boundaries with me. It’s annoying. Anyway, I don’t want to close my heart off from people but taking it easy, building things slowly, and trying to stay aware of myself and others as best I can is definitely crucial… I also feel a bit like when I tell myself it’s best for me to stay clear of romantic relationships because of all my issues, damage, unmet needs, etc., that underneath it I’m just finding another way of saying to myself I’m not good enough for other people, like it becomes something about needing to be more or better than I am, not being allowed to make a too big mistake, needing to reach some imagined ideal of a healthy person who has survived and overcome her past before I can allow myself whatever, and that it’s hiding the fear of what might happen if I just allowed myself to be me, a human being en route, which is all we ever really are…. Though I also know what you mean about needless suffering. I’m very tired of suffering.

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Thank you for this article. Let’s congratulate ourselves and each other for facing all this as squarely as we can. My vicious sociopath of an older sister is trying to get me disinherited by both our parents. She is using my lack of contact with my family (except with my younger sister, who is being decent in this one area) as leverage to exclude me from a substantial estate. My sadistic sex-addict sociopath father, who always ignored what I mailed to him or wrote him, and even refused to look at my artwork when it was right in front of him, sent me a “nice” greeting card with the P.S. “It would be nice to hear from you. Time is short.” But whenever I did write him, he would ignore it and not reply. More crazy-making. Very long story of abuse. I am not going to communicate with him in response to such a dishonest message, even if it costs me 1/2 million dollars. My sanity is more important. The last time I saw him, Christmas 2008, was like hell on Earth. My psychotherapist confirms it took me months to get over it. My psychiatrist told me to stay away from him, and has prescribed medication for PTSD (it does help). This is serious. I refuse to prostitute myself, even though I need the money.

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Ferocity Liza Jane, The three words that pop out of your comment to me are “More crazy making.” Being related to people who are out to get the best of you is crazy making. Such people are the true ‘crazies’ but they never go for help. Everyone around them does. The good thing I’ve learned here is that my ptsd doesn’t mean I’m crazy. It means I suffered some severe psychological wounds and when wounds are treated they can be healed. I agree that your sanity and well-being are more valuable than any amount of money. When it comes to emotional wounding avoidance of sociopathic relatives is the best medicine.

Love,
Pam

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Hello Pam,
I relate so strongly to this post about invisibility. At one time, I gave this a name of “cocooning”. I used to escape into a world of nothingness where I’d hope to just disappear. Once in therapy after a particular episode that lasted a week (with little eating, etc.), I was told that this could lead to becoming catatonic. Of course, I’d heard of this word & seen depictions of such on t.v., so that didn’t quite seem like what I wanted. lol! Right now, I’m in crisis, so I am using invisibility as a tool again. Thankfully, I am close to getting proper treatment, so I’m just really using this mechanism to stay safe until I get there. I realize that is is not the most healthy thing to do, but I am afraid & this makes me feel most safe. I have never quite developed a whole sense of self at 40+ years of age and struggle to hold on to what little I have. The yearning to have the approval of my family of origin has led me to continue in this way for far too long. I have children of my own and am committed to getting better for them and myself. It’s so painful at times but I know that I can’t pass this misery on to them. I have to push through & learn how to love myself beyond what I’ve been told or have believed to be true. My biggest struggle is separating from my mother to stop the current abuse that is her invalidation and denial. I feel like I am dying because of this. Hopefully the therapy I am about to work through will be a starting point to getting better. I will give it my all…I do want to live, just not in pain like this…. Thank you for writing, it helps to not feel so alone.

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Joy, I connect with the term cacooning. When I feel threatened, that’s where I want to be too and I do allow myself some of that time. However, I used it differently that I used to. While I’m in my ‘safe’ mode, I use that time to connect with my inner self and sort out my feelings. When I’m that overwhelmed, it is usually because what happened in the present, triggered emotions from the past. Then I try to connect with the past experience, understand why I was triggered, what my flashback is trying to tell me, and then go back to the present injury. I’m also, working hard on allowing myself to feel what I feel, rather than stuffing it. Doing this has allowed me to shorten my depressions and periods of isolation.

I hope your therapy works well for you, joy.:0)

Love,
Pam

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Hello Pam,

Thanks for responding to my post. I feel like this computer is my life line right now. At this time, I don’t have anyone around me who quite understands that I’m fighting for my life. I’ve been used as the family scapegoat for so long (and have allowed it) that I’m not so hopeful that they will want to see me in any other way. I pray that with therapy, I won’t be so desperate for their approval or validation. Because I’ve isolated myself, it’s a hard pill to swallow because I really have no one else at this point. I want to have a close relationship so badly but looks like I’ll have to wait until I can get a grip on my boundaries and how not to let others take advantage of me. I wish that I didn’t seem like such an easy target just because I’m so needy for love and support. This is the worst time to find out that people you thought really cared for you are not willing to go the last mile with you. Thankfully, I do have hope for the future so I can keep moving towards that. I will continue to use your site and others for encouragement and connection. Thanks again for acknowledging me because as you well know…I’M HERE, NOT INVISIBLE, and WE ALL MATTER!!

Love,
Joy

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Joy, Yes, you do matter and if your family can’t recognize that then there is something very wrong in them. It wasn’t that long ago that I didn’t even realize I was the family scape-goat or that there was anything that wrong with the way they treated me. I’m sure it was truly, shocking for them when I stood up for myself and required respect. I think they still believe that eventually, I’ll knuckle under. I always did before…but not this time. It wasn’t easy to draw a line a walk away. I still had a couple of healthy relationships that remained but it’s still hard to lose your family of origin in one fell swoop. I’m not sorry though, for requiring them to stop abusing me and then removing myself when they scoffed at the idea. That action made me much stronger and much more sure of myself. That change in attitude is a major boundary in and of itself. Every year that passes, it gets a bit easier. I miss them but I’m happy and I know I wouldn’t feel this way if I were still being treated as a secondary person. It feels good to have come into my own. I know the same is possible for you, Joy.

Love,
Pam

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Joy, ((((Hugs)))) from a fellow scapegoat/escape artist. Yes we have allowed it, but we were groomed and conditioned to allow it. Seeing it for what it is means you are are halfway there. You are not alone. It’s okay to need people, and part of this is learning how to need and be needed by the right kind of people. You can do this and there is plenty of support here!

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