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: Alaina Posted: 22nd October

    Thanks Diane! I’m glad you understood what I meant, too! Strangely my family always supported my writing EXCEPT (and this is big) they had no idea what I wrote ABOUT. I’ve had all sorts of issues around this; it totally mirrors my relationship with my family and with myself. For example, when I was hiding and destroying my writing, I was hiding and destroying myself. I always felt that my family was on one side and my writing on the other and I had to choose. What I’m starting to understand is that it isn’t that I’m going to choose my writing and then find out whether or not this is true (i.e. whether or not they will reject me), but that choosing my writing IS rejecting them in and of itself. I’ve been in a stage of wanting to prove myself, to get acknowledgment for the past from my family, or conversely, rebelling and saying to myself, “I don’t care, I don’t have to prove myself, why should I? You should see me yourself.” Which is true… they should see me, I’m their daughter—but I think that’s at the base of a lot of my procrastination (with my writing anyway), moving from one end to the other, when really it’s just time to move aside from all this entirely. I want to write, not for the sake of getting love and attention but to communicate, to be a part of the conversation, to connect and give what is actually there inside me already… because you are right that I absolutely am wasting my time if I’m wasting my gift and talent. And now that I can see things, I don’t want to regret anything just because of… fear, I guess, of being off on my own, deciding what’s what for myself. Anyway, thanks so much for your thoughts!

    Hi Karen,
    I know what you mean by things leaving a mark. I feel that way, too, for what happened after my breakdown 8 years ago. Getting back in touch with my family after 2&1/2 years, if nothing else, has made that past clearer to me. I can’t imagine trusting them now. It would take a whole lot of work on their part and they certainly aren’t volunteering… which I guess says everything I need to know. I do think it’s better to know than not know but yes, you’re right about it leaving a mark. You can still move on, still find happiness and health with the life you have, the life you make for yourself, but even as you leave the pain behind, the mark will still be there—how could it not. Sometimes I feel too old to be 30 and hope that life doesn’t have too much more pain in store for me (although other parts of me feel to young to be 30, as well). The consolation to all this is that I know that I am alive, in contrast to when I was younger and could not feel so much more than a low. I’ve known pain that I really wish I didn’t know and certainly wouldn’t wish on anybody else, but given that this is my life, this is what happened, I’d rather know, have felt the pain and be left with the mark, than be lost in that fog Darlene talks about. At least there’s freedom here, a chance at happiness, health, real love, wholeness, etc.

    Darlene, I was just journaling today, telling myself “You are not your mother.” I know I’m not, it’s a fact, and I don’t have to rebel to prove it anymore (I mean even just in my mind, as you said). My mom definitely has some good traits—planning and organizing and generally getting things done… After all, she likes to be “in charge” and there are good aspects to that. I suspect my mom keeps herself very busy so she can avoid spending time with herself and really looking at things and feeling what there is to feel, but I said to myself, “Alaina, you don’t have that problem. You know how to spend time with yourself, how to look at things and feel things. There’s no danger in taking action.” No matter what, I’ll always measure it out, look at it, feel it. We all have our blind spots, even when living in the truth, but if I commit myself to doing more in my life (and I’m not just speaking of procrastination with writing but with anything), it doesn’t mean I’m avoiding things or in denial or restless in my own skin. It could just mean that I’m alive and, you know, living….!!! 😉

  2. By: Aurele Posted: 22nd October

    I also enjoy very much this discussion :).

  3. By: Diane Posted: 22nd October

    Alaina….hi! I agree with you about that middle ground, and appreciate so much that you understood what I meant! :). My daughter always had the structure and discipline, but it wasn’t made into a big deal… my own upbringing by controlling parents was. I think nowadays that it is the people who are into the power trips of controlling their children who make the hugest deal out of punishments, discipline and they are the ones who use “lazy” to manipulate and hurt their children or others. I have to agree with you and your prof…..laying around thinking, and pondering and dreaming on ideas for future writings, future projects, and future plans is not wasting time or being lazy….it truly is a valuable part of the creative process! I think it is a wonderful gift to be creative and you are soooo blessed! If your family couldn’t or didn’t appreciate it….or you….or value those things within you and your personality, that is definitely their loss! As for discipline and feeling like you are wasting your time….you actually are wasting your time….in my thoughts….if you are wasting your gift and talent!

  4. By: Karen Ranes Posted: 22nd October

    Alaina..what you discussed in #22 is so true for me. Illness or injury was not addressed in my family. In
    fact it was pointedly ignored. You were not allowed to be needy in any way and this included care of an injury. That was considered a need. I had to be self-sufficient at a very early age. By self-sufficient I mean
    to keep all my needs to myself. Not ask for anything. Having physical or emotional needs was equated with
    being bad.
    Later in my 30’s when I had my breakdown it was “proof” to my family that I was indeed defective and weak.
    After that the emotional abuse ramped up. I have stepped away from all that now but it did leave a mark.

  5. By: Alaina Posted: 22nd October

    Hi Aurele,

    I’m really sorry for your chronic pain.

    Certainly I would not want to live with the pain my mom lives with. I hate being in physical pain and whenever I am, I do think about her and what she has to live with. But I also know that my feeling for her doesn’t change anything and that she has often done things to sabotage herself or not take her pain seriously enough, though she expects others to take it seriously and care for it/her. I’ve also seen that though I have not experienced chronic physical pain, I have experienced chronic emotional pain. It’s like a contract you sign to live in the family system. Everyone in pain and everyone bound up in trying to please and ease the pain of the one who is using and abusing and causing you the pain, so that no one heals. But unlike them, I am ready to take my pain seriously, to do whatever needs to be done to recognize my own suffering and care for myself, even if my family judges it and won’t do the same—either for me or for themselves. I am glad to different from them. And I’m glad you don’t need your mother’s validation anymore, that you can recognize your own suffering, too, and can make decisions for yourself based on that. It’s hard because of the guilt and anxiety but the more I walk down this path, the more sure-footed I become and the more the guilt and anxiety lessen (there are peaks and valleys, but generally speaking they are lessening). Take care.

  6. By: Alaina Posted: 22nd October

    Hi Diane,
    I really appreciate what you wrote and I also totally see your point about procrastination. I think for me personally the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I did a creative writing degree and one of my profs said of me, “She’s really good but she goes off into space and gets stuck there.” I should say he was (and still is) a big supporter of mine and also totally saw the value in going off into space, but he also definitely had a point. That is exactly what I did—in writing and in life. To an extent processing of any kind is going to take however long it’s going to take, but I think there are definite things you can do to facilitate the movement between going out in space and coming back down to work. I think that’s the point I’m at now. I think discipline, structure and routine have a very real and absolutely necessary place in the life of any creative person. I know that I have spent (wasted) a lot of time rebelling against discipline, etc., just because of the stifling nature of it as seen/experienced in my family. There’s definitely a balance, a middle ground, I think, that you have to find freedom within a structure, so long as it is big and flexible enough to sustain and encourage you forward. Those are my thoughts, anyway. I did really appreciate what you added to the topic, though, because you definitely have a point. This same prof I spoke of also would say that he was “working” when lying on the couch or going for a walk—and that is true. There is a point in the process where you have to do that and that it IS work. So thanks for reminding me of that, too, because sometimes I forget that and get mad myself for wasting time, when maybe I’m not always wasting time… I am happy that you are doing well and continuing to have more breakthroughs. It’s good to see everyone here who is “walking the walk.” Take care, Alaina

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 22nd October

      Alaina ~ I just read a few more of these comments and I am really enjoying this discussion about lazy\ procrastination and creativity! I too spent a whack of time rebelling about so much even just in my mind. (and I did almost everything the opposite of my mother even if her way was good, I was so scared to be anything like her). I would sneak book time not so much as a child but in my marriage because my husband worked so hard I didn’t want to get caught taking a break and then call myself lazy etc.
      There is a lot of food for thought in this thread!
      Hugs, Darlene

  7. By: Aurele Posted: 22nd October

    Hi Alaina,

    My father was suffering too, he had severe injuries from two accidents.
    And he made clear too that we had nothing compared to his own suffering.
    I remember he desperately hoped, in vain, my mother realize and totally recognize his suffering.

    And you know what ? I have also chronic joint pain which are a result of a car accident and for a long time, I had the feeling that anybody could understand my suffering.
    And for a long time, I was waiting for a validation from my mother.
    Fortunately, today I don’t expect others recognize my suffering anymore.


  8. By: Diane Posted: 21st October

    Hi! I think this is such an excellent and interesting article! I just popped in the see what has been going on here and love this conversation topic. After reading all of the comments, it strikes me how many mixed messages about expectations we all received from the one who abused, neglected and devalued us. The main message I think I received was that I was to never listen to my own feelings or what my physical body was “telling” me….but to only listen to my parents. If I ever did try to listen to myself , it was never right or good enough anyway, so just don’t bother even trying to self care! I think that to controlling abusers, I was lazy ….but THEY are NEVER lazy…and if they choose to take a lot of time to take careof their needs or wants, the message was always loud and clear that they deserved it…and had somehow worked harder than anyone else for it. Growing up with totally confusing messages created so much guilt about taking any kind of time for myself . Throw in perfectionist tendencies, and some injuries from a major car crash that still hinder me physically……and being surrounded by women in my family…my husbands family….friends….and many other women who had to work to help support their family while I was a stay at home wife and mother……it didn’t ease the confusion or guilt or feelings like I was lazy!
    I actually don’t feel that way at all these days! My one daughter just turned 18 and we are proud of how she has turned out…..and I have more free time in my day than I ever imagined. And I am LOVING it. The reason why I love it is only because of coming out of the fog more and more. I don’t know how many months it has been since my major break through, but I keep having mini ones frequently, and I actually ….for the first time in my entire life…am doing a lot in the area of self care and becoming aware of what to do and how to do it so that I feel good about ME. I don’t care about all of those ridiculous lazy messages anymore and when they try to become a loud voice in my thoughts, I shut them up because I know I DO deserve this happiness now….and I can’t be happy unless my needs are being met for becoming more and more healthy….and that includes having as much fun as I possibly can and balancing that with my responsibilities…which now I am refusing to carry alone. I was such a doormat because I had been squashed like a bug, but now I am equal with my husband and I make sure that I am equal to EVERYONE to the best of my ability, and it feels absolutely wonderful. I sometimes get to feeling the exact same old depressing, worthless thoughts, like I mentioned, but I work on being in tune with my feelings lime I never did before and I can now recognize that those particular feelings mean that I either let myself be treated a certain unfair way, or I am neglecting myself, so I immediately set about trying to figure out what to do to balance it out again. I AM lazy when it comes to exercising regularly. I was, and then I felt lazy and have made excuses ever since. I have really begun to realize how rebellious I have been feeling about exercising, and I realize after reading this article that I need to unravel the “why” about that. I know I need to, and I even want it to become a healthy lifestyle choice and be committed. I think what I am really learning these last six or eight months is how hard I have been on myself. I never saw that so clearly before because I never could and all of the mixed messages pressured me so much! Now I feel like there is something unraveling inside of me….that super tight knot that was so anxious and afraid and uncertain from all of the mixed messages, and now that I am learning to trust myself more and more, and things are becoming more equal in my relationships, I can now myself relax and not be so severe with myself….and figure out even more truths, if that makes sense? I also don’t see procrastination as such a lazy thing either…in fact, it seems to me that creative ppl tend to procrastinate more than most….it goes with the free spirit and thinking processes of creative people….it is much more difficult to do for them. My daughter is one of these, and I have always thought it valuable and vital and important that she be left alone to dream and think and process for major lengths of time…..she thrives on that, and then when she needs to buckle down and do something, she has always been willing and done well. I think so many children of abusers label their children as lazy who are simply creative!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 22nd October

      Hi Diane
      It’s great to hear from you! This point that you highlight about how ‘they’ were never wrong for doing whatever they needed or wanted because “they deserved it” is HUGE and so important because exactly as you say, the attitude they communicate is that I am not worth it. My mother was so good at that! and I had no choice but to believe it too! I was stealing my jeans when I was 13/14 because of this whole thing.

      I love the way that you see procrastination! I LOVE that! It makes sense and it supports that creative process too.
      Thanks for sharing! You have made some great points in your post!
      Hugs, Darlene

  9. By: Alaina Posted: 21st October

    Hi Marore,
    I can really relate to the sick thing—not because my family made fun of those who were sick but because it was such a point of pride to be sick and suffering and still be fully functioning. The implication, I guess, being that if you took time out for yourself and cared for yourself, you were weak. Or else you had to be in a really, really bad way to be deserving. My mom lived with chronic pain and basically held court in the pain department. Nothing you had could compare to the pain she had and she was always busy, busy, busy, and often making things worse for herself. I remember how stressed I’d get as a kid if I was sick, trying to assess whether I was sick enough to be at home, feeling guilty for even thinking about it, even if I had a bad fever. Or even if I had the stomach flu and stayed home, if I hadn’t thrown up very recently, I’d start to feel guilty and wonder if I should go back to school. When I had a nervous breakdown, I remember thinking compared to my mom and everything that happened to her, I didn’t have a right to complain. It got to the point where I was literally unable to function. Whatever was happening to me emotionally and mentally I had no control over, but I actually equated that experience to “complaining.” Giving myself up as “unwell” because the emotions were so uncontrollable I was scared I was going to end up dead if I kept going trying to hold myself together, was a “crime” in my mind. And in a way, it was a sort of crime because I had broken a major unspoken rule in my family—that I was, no matter what, always supposed to be “okay”. Saying no, I was not okay, I was never okay (or at least not in a long, long time) is what saved my life and was the beginning of this whole process to becoming really, honestly okay (and hopefully better than okay). You are bang on about the lie and the truth. Best, Alaina

  10. By: Liz Posted: 21st October

    Hello Darlene,
    I have the opposite problem, my mother always called me lazy. she compared me with my two older sisters who had gone through a lot and helped her with a bunch of chores I didn’t have to do. When I look bakc at the chores I had, I was certainly no lazy, I did a lot, a lot, not as much as them (they had to take care of me, cook for 7 people, I had to take care of the house, cook for 4 and then 3, etc) But, now I am married, my husband is retired and much older than me. I am young (35) quit my job last year, and since then I do nothing, not even clean the house or exercise. I only cook and clean the kitchen (not dishes)I feel happy at times, but I feel terrible at times to. This is like a long vacation (got sick last year: hypothyroidism which makes me slow) So,I feel I am a useless person, but I don’t wish to do much. My parents denied me to study Art. I got some classes for a year (teacher said I am one of the few with talent) I dropped of to go to the USA. I couldn’t continue after I returned coz I had to work to survive. Now that I have the time, the money and the interest, I am not able to go for it. I feel paralyzed, I feel to old to accomplish anything, I feel still very angry against my parents, I feel guilty, I feel awful. Please help me to see what is wrong? Why I can’t continue on, why do I sabotage myself? Why I am so lazy? there is a great mental barrier, I can’t even see it or touch it and I don’t know how to turn it down.
    Thank you very much.

  11. By: Marore Posted: 21st October


    I love all of your insight!

    Yes, I can think of at least one judgment which I “adopted” as my own, without my even realizing it. In my family, you are never permitted to be sick, or to express any vulnerability whatsoever. If you do, you are mocked, belittled, verbally assaulted, laughed at, and invalidated.

    Now, no one ever really came out and said anything about it so much as they criticized and mocked other people who were ill. An example of this is how my crazy father would invalidate and contemptuously put down his third wife because she had fibromyalgia. He considered himself such an “expert” on ALL matters (yep, a true know-it-all!!), that he amazingly could “diagnose” people from a distance…..and without even having a medical degree!! Isn’t that outrageous??

    As a child, I observed him laughing at and mocking women especially, and he was very often inappropriate, discussing their menstrual period in mixed company or some other ridiculously stupid thing. It was excruciatingly embarrassing for me once I hit puberty, as you can imagine.

    But watching him and my mother laugh at and talk maliciously about friends and relatives behind their backs made me very wary of ever all permitting myself to admit when I was sick. To this very day, I have to become very ill before I am able to even recognize it!

    Rationally, I understand that people can become sick. I know that. But in my deepest heart, in the core belief system that I carry around with me, I think I have some deep messages that to be sick is to be a “flake,” a “malingerer,” a “sissy,” a “weakling.” All of those come from my parents’ judgments, I know.

    I have to work so hard to take care of myself, Darlene. I’m still not very good at it. My husband is usually the person who recognizes when I am ill, not me. He even has to help me to see when I’m feeling over-stressed or exhausted. It’s as if I haven’t got the ability to feel my own body, or to recognize my needs.

    So, yes, I can see clearly that I will need to continue working on this belief, as well as numerous other beliefs.

    And it is much more clear to me now how we survivors have been brainwashed to believe many lies.

    The lie: You are not permitted to be sick, to see a doctor, to discuss your illness, or to take care of yourself.

    The truth: You can be sick, you can see a doctor, you can treat your illness, you can discuss your illness, and you can take care of yourself……all without shame.


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 21st October

      Hi Marore
      This is exactly how my husband was raised. (In my family I actually got taken care of when I was sick which led to the problem of me ‘wanting to be sick’ because I felt it was the only time I was cared for!) but then I married a man who had been raised to believe that sick equals useless and our belief systems clashed!
      When I was clear about the lie I had accepted about me, I was able to overturn it! Keep going
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Liz
      I can relate to how you feel about the things you shared about doing the things that you were interested in at one time. I was exactly like that. Once I worked through all my belief system stuff everything changed! My interest in living came back and now I have lots of interests agian! The great mental barrier for me was totally about the stuff that was in my way!
      Hugs, Darlene

  12. By: Caden Posted: 20th October

    In my case, my mother was definitely not a victim of my father. She had more leisure time then he did, and she seemed to repress him, as he was much more outgoing and talkative if she wasn’t in the room (she would interrupt anything that wasn’t about her and become jealous of any familial relationship that didn’t include her–unless he was raging, then she didn’t mind.) She was an emotional vampire, the more ‘available’ you were, the more she took, from everyone without being willing to listen to what others had to say or care about their feelings and needs. Yet, she acted like I was the problem, that I had unreasonable and endless, boundless emotional needs that no one could ever possibly meet. I internalized that for a long time, and believed it was true even though I don’t really have my ex-mother’s complexes. My needs aren’t that nebulous or impossible, they are often quite simple.

    My mother was very big on projection though, she didn’t recognize me and my siblings as individuals, but just blurred the lines between us. Many times I was screamed at for supposedly (but really not) having the bad qualities of my siblings or not having the ‘good’ qualities of theirs (or even like, not going to the same college my sister did, etc.) So it’s kind of difficult to pin down anything else.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 21st October

      Hi Caden
      So much of the behaviour of the abusers makes no sense! I had to find out what I believed about ME because of the way they talked about everyone and every thing. The whole key for me was in realizing how they and the abuse defined me however in this post I realized that I also defined myself by the way my mother defined someone else. so complicated!! 🙂 thanks for sharing!
      Hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Alaina Posted: 20th October

    Hi Sylvia,
    What you said about being the perfectionist and then at the same time having to check yourself not to “outshine” anybody reminded me of some of my self-censorship issues one of my counsellors picked up on 5 years ago or so. I was quite slow to speak—part of it was natural, that I’d learned to repress and suppress my thoughts and feelings for so long that it took a while for my thoughts to reach the surface. But the other part was me actively running through my thoughts, considering and discarding what I was going to say. He asked what my criteria was and my answer was to not say anything too stupid or too smart. The “too stupid” is easy—in a family when you say (or do) something stupid, it becomes part of the family lore to be dragged out and laughed about at family gatherings (I think this is common practice among most families, not even just dysfunctional ones but the impact is much less when you know and can feel that there’s unconditional love). The “too smart” was more precisely “too perceptive”. Of course being too perceptive could get you into big trouble—belonging to the family meant blinding yourself to the things you knew and could see happening right in front of you.

    You’re so right about how the rebellious thing punishes and sabotages us. It’s definitely something I have to work on. The adult in me understands this full well; it’s working with the child and parent in me, that’s the issue. The second discipline and structure come up, the child in me wants to shirk it off—hide or rebel—from the angry, overly critical parental voice she has been used to all her life. It’s particularly a problem with something that’s up to my own self-motivation/self-discipline, where there’s no real outside deadline or criteria. I know I end up feeling so much better when I keep on top of things. In the end, on top of the stressful inertia is the end result of being overwhelmed with everything I put off that I still want to get done and feeling crappy about myself for my inability and failure (which of course just cements the critical parent voice). The answer is simple—the adult me knows—but it’s a matter of putting it in practice. Maybe I should get on that, stop procrastinating. 😉

    Aurele, I’m so sorry about how your dad treated you. It’s so good that you can see now that he was the one who was wrong, not you, that you are not at fault. It feels sometimes like small consolation against the lasting pain of the experience… but Darlene is right that it is the key to undo the lies and replace them with the truth, so that your (our) future can be something different—something brighter, happier and lighter. I can relate about the nervous breakdown thing, though I think my family just didn’t take it seriously. I was never hospitalized but I’m sure I could’ve been (I just stayed with some relatives for about a month, doing basically nothing, hardly able to eat, just throwing up for a week from pure stress). After that happened, I started to try to bring up all my issues with them, and all they could hear were my “criticisms” and not the deep pain I was in, and of course they didn’t like my “criticisms” (it brought them pain, not to mention anger), so a lot was turned back on me and my “personality,” etc.

    Darlene, thanks for the comments! Yes, my mom was totally the same as yours—my dad second only to her mother… Though, since my breakdown and stopping myself from playing my old family role, the dynamics have changed and I went right up there on the list of her problems (although right now I think she’s in a kind of blissful ignorance, thinking I’ve come back to the family and the past is wiped clean… there will be a crash someday, when fantasy and reality meet, something I can’t protect her from, since all choices have consequences and I can’t keep protecting people from the impact of the choices they’ve made, whether they were passive or active)…. And, as I said to Sylvia, I’ve just got to get on top of this procrastination thing—there’s so much I want to do with my life and rebelling against that voice by doing nothing is only doing ME harm, just like she said. Thanks again!

  14. By: Karen Ranes Posted: 20th October

    I don’t work right now. Since I have worked since I was 15 I feel
    like a slacker. Even though I handle everything at home, there is a
    feeling that I am a leech living off my husband because I don’t work
    to bring in income. Because of this I dont buy clothes or anything personal
    anymore. I don’t feel deserving of “extras” if Im not bring in $$.

  15. By: kate Posted: 20th October

    Our culture promotes identity confusion. While we on the one hand worship and only dream of being like those who are easily admired, we also tend to accept the identities of those who easliy dominate. Hence we get lost in the negative roles that others play in our lives, assuming our faults from them, seeking comfort in the lingering fantasy of being one who is easily admired.

    Somewhere in the “middle” and yet beyond it all is the
    finding and living out of our true selves; that is the challenge of a lifetime.

  16. By: Aurele Posted: 20th October

    Sorry, I haven’t finished my sentence : “He exploited her while she had a very hard time working as an auxilly-nurse while he was having good time, doing some hobbies very often and worked much less than my mother”.

  17. By: Aurele Posted: 20th October

    Hi Alaina,

    I can very relate with what you said about the state of anxiety you were due to your mom’s attitude.

    It’s the same for me, I procrastinate very often and do important things at the last minute. I have a lot of prblem to make the least little decision, I have the feeling that my whatever choice I choose, it won’t be the good one.
    In my family, it was my crazy dad who always critized my mother for daily things, for example, I remember his didain towards her meals who were never good enough for him. He exploited her while she has a very hard time working as an auxilly-nurse while he
    I remember that I have a huge fear when I was a teenager to looks like to my mother who was so neglected and hated by my father.
    My looser father used me to fulfill his emotionnal needs too and to take the role my mother wouln’t fulfull as a partner.

    I have a huge fear to desappoint him, and when it is arrived, because my body couldn’t bear this extreme pressure, he started to hate me as a thank you for all the hard work I have done for him.

    I totally identified myself with his critizes and I thought that I was a looser because I failed to make my father be proud of me.
    I thought I was a complete looser and crazy because he used my rebellion and nervous break down (at 16) as a defective attitude.
    But now, today I know he was totally wrong and he was the one absolutely crazy, lazy, the one who desappointed me.

    Thank you for listening this.

  18. By: Aurele Posted: 20th October

    This article resonnated in me.

    For me, I too have difficulties to take some leisure time.
    3 years ago I fell ill so I am obliged now to take care of myself. I can’t work anymore because of my health and there are a lot of thougts who are tormenting me about having no activity.

    My father never let me have a rest.
    He put extreme pressure on my shoulders.
    He projected himself in me all the time and that was totally crazy.
    He was totally crazy. He called me lazy really often.

    He asked me to performe wery well at school while at the same time, abused me each day. (son of a b****!!)

    When I entered highschool, I couldn’t be the perfect student anymore, it was too much for me. And he started to hate me activily so, my results became worse and he punished me for that calling me lazy because for him I was a bad student who didn’t worked enough hard.

    And today, I feel huge strong feeling of guilt about doing nothing and not having a job.
    But if I can’t work today it was his fault and only his fault because due to his mistreatment, I am totally exhausted of life.

    He failed with me, he was pitiful with me and he was the only failure, not me.

    Thank you Darlene for this article.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 20th October

      Hi Aurele
      Yes, and the key is to find out what the lies were that you believed so that you can ‘undo’ them and replace them with the truth!
      Thanks for sharing,
      Hugs, Darlene

  19. By: kate Posted: 19th October

    yes, learning to separate myself from others and discover my own identity!

  20. By: Alice Posted: 19th October

    Would this be like realizing how awful my mother is and in turn being overly paranoid that I am just like her? She always projects herself onto me.

  21. By: sylvia Posted: 19th October


    Yes, like yours, my dad should have been building a relationship with me, instead of enabling my nut-bag of a mom, obsessing over cars, and somehow – finding enough time to smoke 100 cigarettes a day, a habit which eventually took him outa here when I was only 14.


    I too have looked for extra responsibility to take on. Its as if I am forever waiting for a pat on the back that never comes.


    I so know what you mean about the rebellion issue, I have done that too, but in a way that sort of punishes ME! A way that sabotages good stuff for myself!

    Darlene – thanks again for providing this safe place for us.

    Love Sylvia x

  22. By: sylvia Posted: 19th October

    Hi all,

    Oh boy, what can I say? Once again, a post that completely resonates with me. My father could never do enough to please my mom. He worked approx 80 hours a week driving heavy goods lorries, yet was constantly critised and accused of being lazy. The only time he ever went out socially without mom was to his firms Xmas party, and she made his life hell for weeks after. He would come home after being on the road, sometimes for several days and fall asleep on the sofa. She would shout at him to wake up, she could never bear anyone sleeping around her, it was as if she felt the sleeping person was abandoning her by retreating into their own private world. I definitely internalised the message that if I wasnt “doing” then I would make someone angry. This had catastophic results in my life. I became a perfectionist, a workaholic, a bulimic who was addicted to exercise. Yet at the same time, I was terrified to outshine anyone, to be too successful or happy in case I upset someone. It was as if I was balanced on a tightrope, scared to be seen as lazy and unproductive, but frightened to be seen as “getting too big for my boots”. The pressure I put myself under was unbelievable. I am still doing it to a lesser extent, so this post is timely for me and will result in me doing some more “digging”. Am off to find a shovel!

    Love Sylvia x

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 20th October

      Hi Sonia
      YES exactly! OMGosh these are such great examples! (from everyone!)
      Thanks for sharing! Hugs, Darlene

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 20th October

      Hi Sylvia
      Your examples also are exactly what I am talking about. This is some great ‘digging’ you are doing here!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Alice,
      My biggest fear was that I would become like my mom and then the fear that I HAD become like her. She loved to say, “I know you don’t want to hear this but you are so much like me” and I would die a little. I told myself I wasn’t but I didn’t believe myself! I had to look at all that too in the process of healing and finding out what the foundation was built on (lies).
      Hugs, Darlene

  23. By: SMD Posted: 19th October

    I can totally relate to the false belief of the word “lazy”. Even though, I worked hard at my jobs, paying the big bills & caring for my children, with no support from my husband. He has worked 2nd shift, since our kids were babies. At the same time, I was struggling with anxiety & depression, which I was getting treatment for, but continued working a demanding full-time job. I realize my emotional burn out was understandable given that, I had limited support & was not taking care of me. My boss being a Bully was the last Straw for me, so I left to take care of myself.
    My childhood beliefs did not allow me leisure time. If I stayed in and read a good book or write, I was reprimanded with by my dad, that I was going to “rot”, if I didn’t get outside & get some fresh air. That is totally false & ridiculous. I was enjoying my down time, without school work. I continued to push myself through college & demanding jobs, with the belief that if I took time for myself, I was “giving up”…my dad who was also emotionally unavailable & abusive, would say, “we don’t want you to be a quitter”, when I knew my limits. I didn’t have a choice by their standards. I was far from lazy. Yet, again my depressions were also used as proof that I was lazy. I had a lot of shoulds too, that kept me driven to the point of driving myself into the ground. I learned that willful & driven behavior from both my parents, although my dad always had his hobbies & interests. He was held up in the garage restoring cars to perfection, instead of building a relationship with me. That is selfish. The word lazy applies to my parents, not doing their emotional work.


  24. By: Alaina Posted: 19th October

    I can relate to this so much. My mom was always like this with my dad—constantly nagging him about everything he should be doing, wasn’t doing, wasn’t doing “right,” etc. Though, actually with my dad, he did a lot of stuff around the house. It was very equal in the chore department. But it was never enough for my mom. She was in a major car accident when I was four that left her with serious back pain and jaw problems. Sometimes when she was in these foul martyr modes, she’d start doing excessive cleaning stuff, which of course made her back much worse, which made her mood much worse and on and on. The truth is, like your mom, mine had something reasonable to complain about as well—the emotional unavailability. Sometimes she’d say things about it but mostly her nagging and belittling, etc., concentrated all on more practical things, daily life things about which she often seemed to find him completely incompetent. I translated all these things to myself. They weren’t true about me but they were also not even true about my dad (although I’m sure he still believes it—I’m sure he still believes he couldn’t survive without her to tell him how to do everything… though perhaps it’s lessening now as he has an out-of-town job as of the last couple years). The dumb thing is with a wife constantly berating you for every little thing, it’s not really a conducive environment for emotional expressiveness… so, yes, he was emotionally unavailable to her and I think she took her frustration out on him by nagging him about all this other crap, which wasn’t really the problem but then cemented the unlikelihood of her getting what she actually wanted, needed, and rightly deserved out of a marriage partner…. Which is where I entered in and what she used me for for 10 years until I had a nervous breakdown. (I’m sure it’s the reason she swept things under the carpet and ignored warning signs about my emotional health; though it was impossible for me to meet her emotional needs, I was definitely providing her something of what she wasn’t getting from my father and in a very basic way that depended on my depression, my silence, compliance, etc.)….

    As for the result of all my mom’s nagging on my dad and how it translated to me… I’m prone to procrastination, to not bother doing things in part as a rebellion against that stupid voice but also because of the feeling that no matter what, it won’t be good enough. (But of course whatever my dad did was never good enough—because it was never even ABOUT whatever she was getting mad about). So I’ve lost a lot of time in a sort of stressful inertia, where I feel like I could’ve been spending the entire day scrubbing floors when really I was just spending the entire day doing nothing but fighting the idea of scrubbing floors (metaphorically speaking). I can get SO EXHAUSTED doing absolutely nothing, it’s ridiculous. The funny thing is now when I clean and do other chores, I find myself actually enjoying it and that I end up with more energy and I really don’t care whether or not it meets anyone else’s standards, and I end up thinking to myself, “Why have I been procrastinating doing this for so long?” This goes for many, many things and not just household chores. Actually it goes for pretty much everything I do in my life.

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 20th October

      Hi Karen
      Excellent commets! yes that is exactly what I am talking about!
      Hugs Darlene

      Hi Alaina
      It took me almost 2 years in the process to see how much harm my fathers emotional unavailablity had affected my mother. My mother was MY biggest problem but my father was hers. (after her own mother) and it took me even longer to see the truth about the harm my fathers unavailability had hurt me and contributed to my overall issues and damage.
      I totally relate to your last paragraph too, in my own life! That has been something that got in my way so much even when it came to this website. Excellent comments thanks for sharing!
      Hugs, Darlene

  25. By: Karen Ranes Posted: 19th October

    Yes Darlene, I had a similar experience. I worked very hard at a job, and took care of household stuff and
    a child. The job was so stressful I had to give notice.
    (I was to the point of timing bathroom breaks to be productive)
    At the same time I was dealing with recovery from foot surgery. I needed time off for physical and emotional recovery but would not allow myself to be so lazy. I found a full time job with more responsibility. The resulting panic attacks caused me to quit after 2 weeks.

    I have always had to be perfect, in control with no weaknesses or excuses allowed. My childhood upbringing allowed for no slacking off ever. I felt I “had to” continue with my punishing routine. My husband finally convinced me that it was OK to give myself a break. That the world would not stop turning if I took time to heal. Which I did. 6 months later I had worked thru many emotional “shoulds” and let them go. I was able to go back to the workplace without the compulsive feeling that if I couldn’t do everything for everyone I was lazy.

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