Damaging Labels and Dysfunctional Family History

Damaging Labels on children
Without Defence

Since Mother’s day, I have been writing a lot about specific ways that I was devalued, defined as unworthy and treated less then equally valuable. There have hundreds of heart wrenching comments from readers sharing their own pain and empowering others to realize where so many of us got stuck. My heart hurts for the millions of people in the world so badly hurting because of the treatment that they have received from their own dysfunctional parents and so many of us have grown up not knowing that this treatment, this mistreatment was wrong.

~ Dysfunctional mothers who tell their children that they were never wanted. Telling their own children, grandchildren or adopted children that they were “a mistake”. Telling them they are worthless. Saying that they regret the day you were born.  When a child is told they are a mistake or worthless, they are automatically invalidated.

Not good enough, not worthy, not lovable. Constantly reprimanded. Constantly ignored, constantly reminded that you are not valid.

~ Dysfunctional parents who not only refuse to SEE their child as an individual, but refuse to allow that child to BE an individual and instead they decide who and what this child should be like.  Usually their “creation” is not good enough and unacceptable anyway.  Because children (people) are not robots and people are not meant to be what someone else wants them to be.

~ Dysfunctional parents who used their children for their own gain without regard for feelings or boundaries, sometimes without regard for human life. Beatings that are so often a means for the adult to take out their frustrations on a powerless child but the child is blamed shamed and forced to accept that they must have been very “bad” to get those beatings.

Loyalty to these dysfunctional parents it taught from very early on. So the child doesn’t speak of this treatment.

~ Parents who have NO concern for their children, but are only concerned with how they themselves will look, how they will be perceived by others, and concerned with making sure no one knows the truth. And sometimes we just don’t realize how obvious that it is because we are brainwashed to believe we are wrong. One of my readers posted the following comment in relation to my story about my mother’s reaction to my announcement that I was writing a book :

Joy shared: “What came to mind is how my mom reacted to my situation in 2009: where my boss took over my life; verbally, mentally, emotionally tortured me .. When finally I was rescued and was in a safe place that I can tell people I was back.  I let her know .She didn’t ask me how I was. .. She didn’t say she was sorry that I was so tortured..She only asked me if I was going to seek counseling and said she didn’t want me to go and if i talked to anyone not to talk about the past.. .when we were little. I told her at that time part of the counseling may be to ask about the whole past..She became angry and told me if I went to counselling not to bother calling her..Funny thing; she has managed to call me to lash out and warn and tell me how I deserved the treatment I got from my boss”

And this is typical! This is a typical reaction from a dysfunctional parent. What the heck?? Joy was kidnapped, verbally, mentally, and emotionally tortured, and all her mother said was “ if you go to therapy, don’t talk about your childhood” ??? REALLY? Doesn’t that prove that her mother has something to hide? I call this a “truth leak”.  When someone hounds you to keep your mouth shut, they KNOW that they have done something that must be hidden. But we (the grown children) are unsure if we have a right to these feelings or questions.  We are unsure if we have the right to disclose the abuse because we are raised to worship and depend on our parents. And to add even more pain, her mother called her up and told her that she DESERVED to have been verbally and mentally tortured by her boss. UNBELIEVABLE! But sadly, this is what is going on out there.

We live in world of people who don’t know their own value, because it was never shown to them by their own (dysfunctional) parents. And then when we reach a certain age, we are expected know how to take care of our own self esteem.  We are expected to have self confidence. And all the while parents and relatives are STILL reminding us that we are less than them.  Still teaching that “love” is about how we treat them, but has nothing to do with how they treat us.

Sometimes it is not the parents that are the primary abusers. But if the parents don’t want to deal with taking care of the child’s needs, telling the child to hush up or forget the past or don’t speak such things or that you will displease God if you talk “that way” or doesn’t believe the child, then the child  is still labelled as “not worth it”.  And this is still dysfunctional parenting.

Disregarded, devalued, mistreated, unprotected, rejected, blamed, convicted, and thrown into an emotional prison.  When a child has not been raised with love and respect, when a child is not valued for who they are, when a child is not honoured and treasured as a person, all sorts of difficulties manifest themselves. Difficulties such as depression, anxiety and extreme anger. Difficulties such as stress, migraine headaches and chronic stomach aches. Struggles such as nightmares, dissociative disorders, and phobias. Although the world often tells us differently, those disorders, difficulties and struggles start somewhere. We are not born with all that baggage. These “manifestations” are the result of something that happened to us.

I was brainwashed about my lack of worth and until I realized that my self worth could not be defined or determined by someone else. And my self worth is not defined by the abuse that I suffered, NOR is it defined by a diagnosis or mental health struggle.  And until I realized that the struggles that I was having with depressions etc, were a direct result of being falsely defined as NOT valuable, I could not find my way out of the struggles I was having.

Furthermore I was brainwashed to believe that I could not survive without these people who OWNED me. I had been raised to believe that I needed them in order to live and that without them I was nothing. And that was a big lie, but so much was wrapped up in that lie.  I realized that I was terrified to stand up to them and I had to ask myself “why?” I found so many clues and then answers within those questions. And the truth was that I believed that they did own me and had the right to define me. I believed that I owed these dysfunctional parents my life; that they were my life blood and that without them I would die. I had to change that belief. It was a lie.

Emotional healing came when I recognized the truth and realized that I deserve love, respect and value and that getting that validation from people who have declared me unworthy was unlikely. Healing came when I understood that I am not who they decided that am.  Healing came when I decided that they can’t stop me from claiming the life that I was meant to have and that I deserve to have it now. Healing came when I realized through learning self love, that it was never going to be “their love” or anyone else’s love that would heal me. Healing came when I decided that I am worth it.

You deserve it too!

Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken book 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

135 response to "Damaging Labels and Dysfunctional Family History"

  1. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 7th October

    Hi J.
    You have permission to send my your life story, however, I am very sorry but don’t have time to send feedback on private emails. I get hundreds of them. This blog generates 1000 comments every 4 weeks, so I pretty much only give feedback in the blog itself unless I am working with a client. I know that this is hard for you, but you are not alone. I created this community because there are so many hurting the same way that you are hurting. I hope that you understand and that this wasn’t too harsh. My time is so limited and this week has been one of the busiest ever.
    Hugs, Darlene

  2. By: J Posted: 6th October

    Thanks Darlene.

    This was a very thoughtful way of helping me stop my unhelpful mental processes re all this! =) Hope your meetings go well

  3. By: J Posted: 6th October

    Thanks Darlene!

    Your time and attention are much appreciated. Thanks also for the validation of my concern. I can relate to feeling guilty for not being grateful. My father once said something along the lines of “at least we weren’t molesting her” during a conversation where he was telling me about my sister telling him about being unhappy about something from her childhood (I can’t remember what now).

    In an unhappy coincidence, I just remembered last night my sibling long ago saying in front of a group of adults something like “you’re the one who used to tickle me” to an old man (long dead now) from my grandparent’s church. I was quite young at the time too, but must’ve either been old enough to have some idea that that might not be a good thing, or possibly could sense from people’s reactions that this made people uncomfortable (I can’t remember it very clearly). Or possibly I remembered it years later and retroactively applied the uncomfortable-ness to the memory. I don’t think I ever mentioned it to my sibling. I’m feeling bad about that now, but nothing I can do about it at this second, so I’ll leave that alone for the moment.

    OK feeling pretty depressed now about this f**ked up world. Gonna try to snap out of it. (Ha, now I’m guilty of the “you shuold try harder to beat depression” mentality!) =) not actually very funny I know, but it feels like a positive to get any sort of humor at this second.

    OK. I wanted to ask you if I could send you my “life story” email privately (feels like too much potential for being recognised if posted publicly, and I’m not ready for that at this stage). I’d appreciate your perspective on it if you’d be willing to read it. I’m feeling really stuck at the moment in a lot of ways, and despite copious amounts of medication over the last few years and a ton of effort on both my part (research, self-help books etc) and through appointments w/various doctors, counsellors, psychiatrist/ologists etc I’m getting worse instead of better.

    At this point in time, I’m pretty much blaming my parents 100% for how I’ve turned out. (I’m pretty sure from what I’ve read you don’t subscribe to the “take responsibility for your own problems and don’t blame others” theory, but just in case can I ask that you don’t say that – even if you think it).

    I feel like I NEED to blame them and feel the anger/rage/misery etc that I feel for what’s been done to me, because I feel I was brainwashed from birth to never question, toe the party line (eg “I love my parents and I had a perfect childhood”) etc and it’s worked until about the last year (even though there were occasional small realisations in some areas that things they did hurt me, I still never got from there to questioning the ingrained belief that **I** was the root of all the problems).

    I also think that this realisation is the reason my mental health has gotten so much worse — I’ve been back living with my parents since my last relationship break-up a couple of years ago, and it’s since that time that I’ve felt like the light has dawned about how they treat me. It’s fucking killing me having to live with them and pretend everything’s fine (seems like they don’t want to acknowledge my difficulties) and still be around it all the time, still getting wounded from the same old shit, as well as noticing all these new things I used to (I think) dissociate from, or maybe just legitimately didn’t recognise them for what they were back then.

    And for the cherry on top of this crap sundae, I’ve never learned to stand up for myself, and have serious mental & physical blocks re supporting myself, earning money, holding down a job etc etc, so I feel completely unable to move out at this stage. (I don’t think I need to say this here, but I’m feeling paranoid, so I will — please be gentle with me about all this).

    The worst I’ve ever felt is when I’ve had the thought/feeling that I’ve been intentionally raised from birth to be a broken, helpless, guilt-and-doubt-racked basket case specifically so I’d never be able to support myself and leave home, and so then my mother can always have me around to control and continue distracting herself from the fact that she had a simliar experience with her mother (who had it with hers, and christ knows how far back that goes) and that she feels unable to control anything else in her life.

    I really, REALLY hope that it was not an intentional choice, but a flow-on effect of her fucked-up childhood and never learning emotional skills etc. Quite frankly, if she ever told me it WAS intentional, I don’t think I could trust myself to not hurt her. But regardless of intent, I desperately need to “emerge from broken” as you call it.

    It’s a bit tricky for me to read through your site, becuase I can get stuck in depression & hopelessness very quickly from details of abuse etc. So I guess I’m asking if you’d be willing to work with me/help me validate my story, and work with/help me to try and choose some direction in finding my way through all this.

    I’ve already put a heap of thought & effort into “self-help” kind of work, but I really think my upbringing is the key to understanding why I am how I am. I guess I’m hoping that by doing that, I can identify all the misguided beliefs/habits etc I inherited and then work to change from how I am right now to how I want to be.

    Sorry, this feels really disjointed, and also like I’m asking a huge amount of you. I guess I feel like I need help to make sense of what happened to me, and also help from someone who can understand my specific challenges and is willing to be gentle with me in trying to affect change. I don’t have much money, but I’d be willing to pay what I could.

    I think I’m trying to say that I’m wanting to “throw myself into this” completely so to speak, and just write and write and write to try and get it all out and get validation/help etc. But I’m aware that it’s a huge amount to ask and also that there are a lot of people who need/want help and that you have a life outside of this website. But I think I’d prefer to do it privately if possible so I don’t have to worry about being recognized. And now I’m afraid to send this, because another paradox is that I’m unlikely to try things (such as asking this) without having hope that it will help me, but hope is a killer for me becuase nothing ever has helped, and each new thing I try that doesn’t work is another thing ticked off what feels like an ever-shrinking list.

    My brain is now telling me that I’m trying to manipulate you by using emotional language to try and make you feel sorry for me. I’m telling you this so that I can fight my brain by reminding it that at least I’ve tried to be open about it. I’m very tired now & I honestly can’t tell if that’s true or not. I’m going to send this now without re-reading it because I need to stop thinking. Apologies for all this mess and confusion.

    Can I ask one final favor – I have a tendency to hero-worship / expect someone to be able to miraculously cure me overnight, and in sending this there’s already a part of me hoping for that. I’ll be excited every time I open my email now waiting for a response, and if it’s not what I hoped for in any way, I’ll probably get really depressed. My rational mind is pretty damn certain I’m asking way more than you (or anyone) can give me even if I could pay a million dollars, so there’s a part of me already expecting disappointment. Can I just ask you to please be very gentle in responding?

    PS sometime I’d also like to ask you about putting your life story (with real name etc) online. I’ve been thinking about doing it for some time, but don’t think I could stand the fallout.

    thanks again for your time, and apologies for the length / disarray of my thoughts / unreasonable requests. mental illness is a bitch, no? =)

    (tiny victory – ending with a smile!)

    hugs back at you

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 6th October

      Hi J,
      I have a lot I would like to respond to re your comments and questions, but I have meetings today. I didn’t want you to think that I was ignoring your comment so I am just posting this short note for now. Although I am going to try to get back to this today, it may not be until tomorrow that I respond with all I would like to.
      Having said that, I don’t judge and I am not going to be hard on you. Don’t worry about that. Don’t worry about the length of your comments either. I have no problem with that. Thank you for your courage. Hugs, Darlene

  4. By: J Posted: 5th October


    I’m writing with tears in my eyes – for me, for you, and for all the others who relate to this site. I’ve tried probably a dozen times to write to you. Last night I wrote a ridiculously long “life story” post, but again was afraid to post it. Maybe someday I’ll feel able to (I saved it just in case).

    But for now I want to just say THANK YOU for your bravery in sharing your story, and not only surviving such horrendous actions, but finding your way BEYOND being defined by the past & helping so many others. It is truly inspirational, and right now I need to just hold on to the fact that it’s happened for you, and that maybe someday it can happen for me too.

    I’m right in the middle of the hopelessness at the moment. But I’ve survived this long, so I can survive longer. And I think it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve really started to truly see past the brainwashing and control and manipulation and actually started to feel the rage and anger and hatred that SHOULD be felt when you realise a child has been abused (emotionally, in my case).

    I wanted to just write a brief “hello” msg instead of going into details about my life. I’ve already written more than I intended to. I’ll finish off by asking for support — I’ve recently started seeing a new counsellor, and had felt it was going well, but last session she said I should be grateful I don’t have cancer (she specialises in counselling people with cancer). When I read your site, I can convince myself that this isn’t fair, and that my mental state is NOT my fault, but unfortunately this idea messes with my head far too effectively (because I think deep down I believe it IS my fault… or at least, I’ve been brainwashed into believing it’s all my fault, and so it’s very very hard to keep those thoughts at bay, especially when the people I’m paying to help me start leading the chorus).

    I’m not sure what to do about that. I find it very hard to stand up for myself, but I need to stop that from happening one way or another. (Whattya know, I actually “helped myself” so to speak!) = )

    Wishing you & everyone else on here love & light

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 5th October

      Hi J,
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken! I am so glad you are here!
      I think that what your therapist said is devaluing. That is like saying “well you think YOU have it bad” or “it could be so much worse” but really?? Says who? Who gets to decide that it could be worse? My trauma is mine… and no one can discount that, or say that someone else had it worse than I did simply because it doesn’t help. It makes things worse in fact. “You should be grateful” for me was a guilt trip. And I put myself through HELL with the guilt of not being grateful, for YEARS. I didn’t need anyone, esp. a professional whom I had given “positional power” to validate that guilt and shame for not being grateful. I validate your concern J.
      I have strong feelings about this topic and have written other stuff about it in this site.
      Hugs, Darlene

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