Connecting the Dots about Passive Abuse and the Truth about Lazy


emotionally unavailable fatherDeep in my subconscious mind (my belief system) I have always thought that taking some leisure time was the same as being lazy. When I started to learn how to do self-care, that little “feeling” constantly whispering to me that I was being lazy began to get stronger. I found that when I took time off to just kick around, read a book or watch a movie, deep down I would reprimand myself. I wasn’t even aware that I was doing it for a very long time.

If I was spending my leisure time with my kids are with another person I was not so hard on myself because I knew that was important to the relationships that I have with them, but if I was just doing something to rejuvenate ME, I got a little restless. I really noticed my conflict with this when my oldest two children moved out of the house to attend school this fall.

Because we are selling the farm/ranch I had spent the summer cleaning, packing, sorting, purging and organizing 30 years worth of accumulated stuff and as a result of all that hard work I feel really caught up on everything. I feel really good about having done all of this but emotionally it took a toll on me. It has been an emotional roller coaster to decide to let go of this life here and on top of that to have two kids move out of the house! Add that to the level of emotion that I invest in this website and with my clients and I found I needed some extra time for myself this past few months.

BUT when I took that time I realized that my self-talk was whispering some judgemental things to me.  I was hearing words like lazy and unproductive barely under the surface of my subconscious mind.

Within minutes of reading my clients homework, I get a glimpse of what is operating under the surface in their belief systems but when it comes to me it takes a little more work because I am up against MY OWN belief system.  And since our belief systems form in the first place as a way to help us survive, sometimes they are not easy to crack into.

I was journaling about this whole thing and as I was experiencing a deeper realization that when I take time off I feel guilty about it, I suddenly heard my mother’s voice talking about my father.

This is where it gets complicated.  My father, as I have talked about in other posts was emotionally unavailable. He was a passive abusive father and husband. He abused by his passive ‘whatever’ kind of attitude towards everything. My mother used to say that the house could be burning down and my father would sit in the middle of it playing his guitar and ignoring the emergency. As an adult today I can see why she said that. My mother could not get my father to do anything or even to ‘react to anything’ and I remember as a child thinking my mother was a nag with her constant pleas and complaints about my father and to my father but today I realize that my father’s attitude towards my mother left her feeling unimportant, unsupported, dismissed and devalued. In truth, my mother didn’t really have a husband.  My passively abusive father never let my mother have any impact on him and the success of a relationship, the whole basis of equality has so much to do with both people in the relationship having some impact.

So every time my father sat watching sports, (not engaging with anyone else and being emotionally unavailable and passively abusive) and every time my father zoned out playing his guitar (not engaging with anyone else and being emotionally unavailable and passively abusive) while my mother had to do numerous chores and fix things in the house by herself, I knew that these were the things that my mother was referring to when she called my father “lazy”. It was his leisure time. It was his interests that excluded the rest of the world that caused my mother so much emotional pain!

It is important to note here that my mother never actually called me “lazy” in the way that I call myself lazy. What I did however is I transferred her frustration with my father and her definition of lazy and applied it to myself.  Logically I know that I am not lazy but emotionally and somewhere deep in my belief system, I made the false connection and now I had this false definition of lazy; that taking some leisure time equals being lazy and being lazy always results in letting someone else down. And letting someone down THAT WAY would be passive abuse and the last thing I would EVER be would be any kind of ABUSER!

Boom it hit me like a ton of bricks!  Although I have been really good at taking leisure time for myself, I still had this niggling doubt about doing it. By realizing what was at the root of this niggling doubt, I was able to realize that I had my wires crossed about this whole word “lazy” when it came to me and that I related it to passive abuse.

This realization solved a bit more of the puzzle for me. Several times in my life I have pushed myself so hard that I got sick sometimes even to the point of being bedridden.  At the root of those times was my belief that being lazy would let others down and I could never let anyone down because my survival mode and victim mentality ‘survived’ by never letting anyone down! Clarity on this issue makes self-care a whole lot easier!

Please share your thoughts on how this may have worked in your own life. Have you ever heard a judgement about someone in your life and believe it to be a true judgement and a good definition of “a behaviour” and then apply it to yourself completely out of context? Seeing this kind of thing and sorting out where you have applied a true definition of a word ‘falsely’ to yourself is a little more complicated type of detective work but it is a huge relief when the understanding emerges!

P.S. I am enjoying my leisure time a whole lot more these days!

Exposing truth, one snapshot at a time;    

Darlene Ouimet

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

Related posts are in bold print; just click on the bold print within the body of the article.  This post is also related to an emotional unavailable father : “The Deception of an Emotionally Unavailable Father” 

Please feel free to use the category buttons for specific topics of interest.

91 response to "Connecting the Dots about Passive Abuse and the Truth about Lazy"

  1. By: Melinda Posted: 28th November

    I know this is an old post but it really hits home. I grew up being called “lazy” by my abusive stepfather and others, despite being worked like a dog. I was treated like Cinderella but considered “lazy”.
    I have been unemployed now for a few years for reasons too complicated to explain.
    There are certain people who (like Deb Miller shared in her post) believe that being unemployed equates to being “lazy”. My husband has some friends who often made judgmental comments to me about the fact that I didn’t have a job.
    All the while ignoring that while I might not do work which produces money/income, I do a LOT of other things like cleaning, laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, errands, etc…and it is often grueling work for a person that has chronic fatigue.

    Once after my husband and I had a disagreement a few years ago, he made a comment about how if somebody doesn’t have a job they are a “moocher”. It was clearly a shot at me. I often feel guilty, like maybe I AM lazy. But you know what? I know that isn’t true. I put effort into anything I do.
    My stepfather would often call me lazy while I was busy mopping floors, doing dishes, scrubbing toilets, doing homework, etc…he NEVER acknowledged my hard work when it came to anything.
    All I ever heard was that I was lazy and spoiled and that my life was one big party.
    The truth was that I was treated like a slave in my own home. I was overworked, mistreated, rarely allowed to have a normal life like most young people.
    I went on occasional dates but I was generally busting my ass at school and at home, yet my stepfather would not stop attacking me.

    I also remember one time when I was about 16 and on a trip with my mother and stepfather, something that he rarely allowed because he didn’t see me as part of the family…I was just a little slave. I said something about being thankful that I was finally allowed to come on vacation with them, hoping that maybe he would soften his attitude toward me.
    He simply looked at me and said in his typical contempt-filled way: “YOU are not on vacation, Melinda. Vacations are for people who earn them and deserve them. WE work so it is OUR vacation, not yours”.

    That pretty much said it all. There was no acknowledgment of my helping with chores at home, my efforts in school, my trying to be respectful of him despite his treatment of me, nothing.
    Nope…it was THEIR vacation and I had to remember my “place”. And because he wanted to cast me in this role of a lazy person who did absolutely nothing to help or contribute, it was made clear that I couldn’t even enjoy a trip.
    Because he wanted me to feel that I wasn’t deserving of a few carefree moments, even as a kid.

    Now I’m just trying to say EFF it if somebody wants to consider me lazy; I know that I’m not.
    These days I need to do self-care because it will keep me from losing my mind.
    It’s not being lazy if I need to do things that soothe my soul and provide comfort or nourishment. That could mean trying to sleep more because I have bad insomnia and don’t sleep enough; that could mean drinking herbal tea; that could mean taking a walk or listening to music I love.
    I’ve spent years trying to do and be what others want. So now, yeah, maybe I AM “lazy” and sometimes there is no shame in it.

    • By: Deb Miller Posted: 28th November

      Thank you for sharing, Melinda!

  2. By: Lynn Langvardt Posted: 25th October

    This is sooo true….I am currently is this type of relationship….have been for 33 years….OMG…how do I get out? 🙁

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 25th October

      Hi Lynn
      Welcome to EFB~ Keep reading, there is a ton of info here in this site. (and my book available for download through the right side bar is about how my eyes were opened and it how, through that clarity that I found my answers.)
      hugs, Darlene

  3. By: jeffry browm Posted: 23rd October

    Appreciate this!

  4. By: Cheryl Posted: 13th June

    Darlene, I was just looking into passive behavior and found this post on your site. It is the first time I have heard the term ‘passive abusive’ and it hits the nail on the head for some of what I am experiencing. Going on into the rest of this post – I am also struggling with trying to please others and feel I don’t deserve a break until I complete everything ‘on my list’, lest I be lazy or ineffective, all the while the passive ones around me contribute to that list. Or perhaps it is my perception. Regardless, your post and these comments just allowed me more insight. Thank you.

  5. By: Deb Miller Posted: 29th December

    Wow, this article really hit home with me. I worked full-time for 25 years, and my husband also worked hard for 35 years before he died of cancer 7 years ago. I kept working for 5 more years, but after a small business venture failed, I decided to not go back to work and stay at home with my young son and live off the SS death benefits, plus a small pension and some rental income. This meant learning to live frugally for the first time in my adult life and it was a huge adjustment the first year! But we are making it work and we have everything we need and then some.

    However, I keep having these niggling thoughts that I’m being LAZY because I don’t have a job… thinking that I should be out there working because I’m still so young (I’m 50.) Now where is this coming from? I’m beginning to think I got the message from my TM that anybody who lives off any kind of assistance is mooching or freeloading, and for sure they’re being LAZY if they don’t ALSO get out and work, even if they don’t need more money. I don’t consciously remember her ever saying this, but it got ingrained in me somehow. Perhaps it was the way she talked about other people when I was little; I subconsciously “agreed” to her value system, even if I don’t even remember learning it.

    Your article helped me realize where these shaming thoughts about laziness likely originated. And now I can recognize them immediately and counteract with the TRUTH, which is that my not working outside the home is allowing me to spend so much more quality time raising my son. It’s not laziness and I’m certainly not letting anybody down! Quite the opposite, it is helping me raise my son better by, for example, not leaving him alone after school or in the care of others. I don’t have the big energy drain of a full time job now, so my energy is spent on our little family instead. Which seems like a much better investment!

    Thanks again, very enlightening!

  6. By: Jenelle Posted: 14th November

    What if what is going on is the opposite? My parents are very selfish and both very lazy to the point they have no relationships with anyone including their own family members? It is just me and my brother and they put zero effort into a relationship with both of us, unless there is a financial “need”, there is no interest in even speaking to us. They don’t even speak to their siblings and both sides their parents are deceased. I really am at a loss as to how I “get them” to try, or want to. I know logically I can’t, but internally I feel I’m not doing enough. I write emails, I send texts, I leave phone messages and I get zero response. It seems to get the worst during holidays, with their unresponsiveness! My mother quoted saying “I can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving, I don’t even want to think about it”. I don’t even understand what that means!!!Does anyone else have this kind of relationship with both parents? Where both parents basically want to live in a hole until they are dead?

  7. By: sahitha Posted: 1st August

    I remember not sweating the small stuff as a child and was sure where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I excelled at academics but was never overly competitive and took things in my own stride.

    My biological father thought that was laziness and he often commented behind my back. That hurt me most as he pretended to be nice to my face. I would have preferred if he dealt with me face to face instead of b****ing to my mother. I do not know, something about all this gave me an eery feeling. I could not put my finger on it as a child but it hurt me. Now I understand it’s passive aggressive behaviour.

    I also now recognise that he was projecting his laziness onto me. He himself admitted that he neglected his University education. His friends too gave their free opinion that I was lazy because I did not overtly express competitive behaviour. Those idiots had no idea that every child is different and therefore they have to understand them first in order to be able to give any advice or support. And My God! they were teachers!! What a bunch of twats!

    I am sorry I got carried away in this post and actually quite p***ed off with those incompetent fools who pretended they knew everything because they were adults and I was a child.

  8. By: sahitha Posted: 1st August

    I remember me not sweating the small stuff as a child and was sure where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I excelled in academics but was never overly competitive and took things in a stride.

    My biological father thought that was laziness and he often commented behind my back. That hurt me most as he pretended to be nice to my face. I would have preferred if he dealt with me face to face instead of bitching to my mother. I do not know, something about all this gave me an eery feeling. I could not put my finger on it as a child but it hurt me. Now I understand it’s passive aggressive behaviour.

    I also now recognise that he was projecting his laziness onto me. He regretted that he chose not to do well at University and had often projected that onto me. Some of his friends too gave freely their opinion. I would get cross with such people because they behaved as if they knew everything just because they were adults and I was a child.

  9. By: Connie Posted: 6th January

    Hello again, and Thanks again to all of the wonderful healing messages here. Especially thanks to you Darlene. Tonight I wanted to write about something about my past childhood trauma I’ve been thinking about for the last few days.
    As I examined my childhood being the 9th born of 13 children, I know for a fact I was never held or bonded with my Mom. Some of the things my Mom tells me about my infancy is like she is telling a cherished family memory, and it has only been recently that I realize these are not cherished family memories, but really neglect and abuse stories. She likes to relate the fact that when I was 4 months old and needed her appendix out, no one wanted to take me while she was in the hospital, so she sent me with one of my aunts that I had never seen before and that ended up killing herself about a year after she had taken care of me for my Mom. So basically she left her newborn baby with a mentally unstable woman. There’s another story where she tells me when I was only months old she left me laying on a blanket in the yard and was distracted by her other 10 children to the point where the sun shifted and I was badly sunburned. She tells me these things like they are so funny to her….and I’ve been buying that for years. But you know what, deep down inside I always knew I was not alright with these stories. They are stories of neglect. Putting 2+2 together it has not been difficult to understand how severely neglected I was not only as an infant, but as a small child, a teenager and then by my many dysfunctional siblings well into my adulthood….until just recently really. My Mom repeats a story about me being a teenager in the 70’s and one time when I refused to do the dishes and using the vernacular of the times I said, “Hey Mom, doing housework is not my bag.”…..I was 14 years old. I can’t tell you the number of times my mother has told that story, like it was some big meaningful event in her life. It was a teenage girl being a teenaged girl….I don’t think it’s funny at all. We went on vacation as a family this summer to the ocean. One evening we all strolled to the beach and I was wearing a vintage hand embroidered kaftan. She knows I am very self conscious about my weight (I’ve gained 80 lbs in the 5 years since my divorce), but she kept making jokes about the kaftan I was wearing and saying if an Indian man came along he’d think I was his bride and take me away….I thought it was really dry and un-humorous. I really think she was just trying to say I looked like I was wearing a tent basically. I made me extremely uncomfortable during the vacation and the 16 times she has retold the story when I was around….I don’t find it funny at all, but she laughs like it was the funniest thing she ever heard. I really don’t get it.
    Re-examining events in my childhood and adult hood and acknowledging them for what they really are, abuse and neglect, instead of some sort of family folk lore is helping me to put my current issues with my life more into perspective. I only hope that I can complete this process and become whole again.
    On a positive note, I saw my grandson’s today and squeezed them, cuddled them and asked them about their worlds of school, playing and the interesting little people that they are. I love them so.
    God bless all of you that come to these pages, and God bless you Darlene. You certainly are a valuable human being who is an asset to the world through your writings and good works. May God shine his light down upon you and all of us. Amen.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 7th January

      Hi Connie
      Yes, they are stories of neglect. It was huge for me to realize that kind of truth. And also very painful.
      The story of public humilation at the hands of your mother; that is abuse too. When someone is made the butt of a ‘joke’ that is hurtful to them, that is never love based.
      For me all the healing came through seeing these lies and the ways I was treated through a new grid of truth. There is hope, and hope was my first key.
      Hugs, Darlene

  10. By: Kimberly Posted: 24th November

    My mother used to call me a lazy p the bed every morning cause it was always so hard fir me to wake up…u would sleep deep and p the bed…for quite some time.

  11. By: Barb Bohan Posted: 3rd November

    Thank you! I have a huge aversion to the word lazy. It is abusive and mean and used to stereotype people. Also, a lot of people have been called lazy when they have learning disabilities and were working possibly the hardest of all.

  12. By: Alaina Posted: 1st November

    Hi Sophia,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I could relate to what you wrote about your father and step-mother’s neediness and his betrayal by pushing you to her. My experience with my parents was very similar. It’s impossible for me to know how much power my mom alone would have wielded over me if not for it being doubled up by my dad (or perhaps not how much power but for how long I would endure it).

    What you wrote about earlier memories and looking deeper got me thinking of my own experiences. I think for me the trauma and abuse was very much accumulative—that what I experienced in my young childhood lodged itself, uncorrected, somewhere in my psyche and went on to impact me over time as they accumulated with ever more experiences, usually somehow along the same line, creating the whole “system” which would eventually totally break my spirit… In some cases it’s been exceptionally helpful to single out individual moments and dissect them the way Darlene does—to see the messages they taught me about myself. Other times it can be like going down a rabbit hole and losing sight of the big picture. In my teens my mom said that she used to take her anger out on me for no reason when I was a young child (she wasn’t taking accountability, though; she was just analyzing herself and telling someone this in my presence, not apologizing, not stopping to wonder about the impact she might have had, not telling me I deserved better, etc., which in itself was damaging because she was very much communicating to me the idea that it did not matter if she had taken her anger out on me, what was important was her and what was going on with her, and the fact that she really could do anything she wanted to anyone or at any cost). Anyway, I have no specific recollection of times like these when she apparently took her anger out on me. What I retain is a feeling that she was mean and never knowing what would make her mad. I don’t think that I “blocked” the individual instances out of my memory or anything like that. I think the impact and feeling stayed with me and the moments themselves were forgotten because individually maybe they weren’t important (as events) and that’s just how memory works. And actually if I were to isolate my young childhood, on the whole I’d say I was a happy, active little kid—partly because I had other people in my life who had a positive impact on my life (who over the years eventually disappeared through death or whatever else) and partly because, as I said, I think the abuse I went through was very accumulative and took some time before the whole system got its hold on me. I think possibly my uncle’s suicide when I was seven, almost eight, sort of opened way for the real detriment of the family dysfunction to start taking real effect on me—before that, it was like I was holding a special antidote… Anyway, I went off on a bit of a tangent there but those were just the thoughts that came to mind about my own experiences and looking for memories. Good luck to you and take care.

  13. By: Sophia Posted: 31st October

    Hello all,

    I haven’t been able to get much computer time lately, but I have been active in trying to get a little deeper in my healing. This thread has been very helpful. Last night I re-read a few specific posts that have clarified some issues for me.

    Aurele, when you said that the failure was HIS, not yours, that really hit home. I had to just sit for a few minutes and let it sink in!

    Alaina, your point about being “too smart” really meaning “too perceptive” was also very helpful. I have found this not only in the family system but also in many social and work situations. Your posts in general reveal a depth of insight that is really great.

    I have a somewhat painful confession. Some time ago I posted about how I felt that Dave had discounted and invalidated my feelings in a thread when I was talking about my relationship with my brother. I honestly believed this to be true, but when I went back to read those comments I saw that I had not assessed this accurately. Dave actually gave me a thoughtful nuanced reply. DAVE, if you read this now, I am saying that I was wrong, and my message to you may have been hurtful. I see now that I went off on a tangent due to my own issues.

    So now I am working on understanding what triggered this whole tangent. I’m not getting anything specific. One thought that keeps coming to me is that I seem to be blocking myself from going too far into my past. I seem to focus on my teenage years and the relationship with my stepmother. Although this was very damaging in and of itself, I know intellectually that there had to be problems earlier on. I have realized that my father was responsible for bringing her into my life and not standing up for me or protecting me from her, and even tried to convince me that she “cared” about me. HE hurt me MORE than she did, even just by deciding that this hurtful woman would make a great mother for us! Just realizing how he did this shows me that he was capable of great emotional neglect.

    I realized that even before he married her, he didn’t really love me, he “sentimentalized” me. I think he sees children as cute objects, and although he seems kind, there is no depth of understanding or real connection. I’ve also seen how both he and my stepmother have expressed their anxiety-ridden neediness and called this love that we should be grateful for. I remember the day, when they first married, when they asked my brother and I to call her “mother.” They had such needy intense expressions on their faces. When we said yes, they sort of sighed with relief. So now we were in a position when we were forced into considering someone a mother, without any real SUBSTANCE to this relationship.

    I have a lot of thoughts about this time in my life and have written a lot about it in my journal, but the point is I haven’t really been able to get deeper into even earlier traumas. The memories are few. All I know is that I was raised by people who seemed kind and friendly, but really didn’t get it. My mind just doesn’t seem to want to go there. A man who was capable of betraying me so profoundly to my stepmother, whose motivation was mostly his own comfort and not my well-being, is someone who didn’t really have my best interests in mind FROM THE START.

    I’ve got some work to do.


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd November

      Hi Sophia
      I hit lots of walls in my healing process.. I just kept trying to push through. My fear of facing the truma was often in the way but with persistence I was able to get there.
      Hang in there!
      Hugs, Darlene

  14. By: SMD Posted: 30th October

    Well said about Thomas Edison, “Who knows what went on within the confines of his home”…I was thinking the same..the association she made was that a genius like Thomas Edison is wired differently & that is some indication of his parenting. What?!!..Strange…I don’t understand the logic or motive in her comment. Just more excuses for abuse!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 31st October

      Hi Mimi and Sonia (SMD)
      Something I have learned along the way is that parents can be busy and still be good parents! Its all about the love vs the discounting and devaluing. Its about the damage caused. I didn’t address the Thomas Edison stuff becasue as you both said, how the hell would we know anything about how he parented! (I don’t even know if he WAS a parent) I see those kinds of comments as rabbit trails designed to pull the focus off the subject we are on.
      Like Mimi said, appearances don’t really count for much. The truth about how it really was (and not careing who believes it or not) is what we are dealing with.
      I am glad we are having this discussion. I have 2 blog posts in the works about this kind of thing. (just been too busy lately to edit them so I can get them published!)
      Hugs, Darlene

  15. By: Mimi Posted: 30th October

    That makes perfect sense. I was happy to see others’ comments after hers. I was thinking, “Is it me, or does this not make much sense?” Thomas Edison??? Who knows what went on within the confines of his home. That’s a truly ignorant statement. Abuse doesn’t have a “look”. That is frustrating to me, because if we were judged by looks alone, no one would ever believe what my mother did behind closed doors. Honestly, many people still DON’T believe she has malicious intentions. Only the people who know her intimately, my sisters, her sister, her brother, and my dad ~ we all know exactly what she’s about. Her brother hasn’t spoken to her in 10 years. So, because Thomas Edison gave 10,000 attempts at creating the light bulb is little indication (if any) of how he reared his children. Thanks for your response Darlene.

    Peace and Love,

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