An Invisible Child in a Hostile World by Pam Witzemann


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

How I learned to Self-Abuse

The Process of Forgiving Child Abusers

Profile of a Spiritual Abuser

166 response to "An Invisible Child in a Hostile World by Pam Witzemann"

  1. By: Pam Posted: 17th October

    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.


  2. By: Pam Posted: 17th October

    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.


  3. By: Kaycee Posted: 17th October

    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!

  4. By: Kaycee Posted: 17th October

    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.

  5. By: Pam Posted: 17th October

    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.


  6. By: Kaycee Posted: 17th October

    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.

  7. By: Pam Posted: 16th October

    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)


  8. By: Alaina Posted: 16th October

    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.

  9. By: Alaina Posted: 16th October

    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.

  10. By: Pam Posted: 15th October

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


  11. By: Pam Posted: 15th October

    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.


  12. By: Alice Posted: 15th October

    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?

  13. By: Laurie Posted: 15th October

    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.

  14. By: Alice Posted: 15th October

    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.

  15. By: Pam Posted: 15th October

    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.


  16. By: Alaina Posted: 15th October

    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!

  17. By: Alice Posted: 15th October

    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.

  18. By: Alaina Posted: 15th October

    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.

  19. By: DarleneOuimet Posted: 15th October

    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

  20. By: Pam Posted: 15th October

    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)


  21. By: Alaina Posted: 15th October

    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.

  22. By: Pam Posted: 15th October

    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.


  23. By: Alice Posted: 15th October

    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”.

  24. By: Pam Posted: 14th October

    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.

  25. By: Pam Posted: 14th October

    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.


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