Defined as the Problem by the Age of Four by Carrie H.


Broken Bottle 2

Carrie H. first guest posted here on Emerging from Broken in March and her post “Self Love and Navigating the Waters of Grief” was a big hit. Carrie writes with passion and beautiful emotional imagery and I am excited to publish her second post. Please help me welcome Carrie back with her second contribution here as we light the path to emotional healing by shedding light on the empowering truth. ~ Darlene Ouimet

Defined as the Problem by the Age of Four  by Carrie H.

Bottle Breaker

When I was very young, maybe three or four, my mom asked me to carry some glass bottles up the concrete steps leading up to a neighbor’s house.  On the first trip I dropped a bottle and it shattered.  My mother was very upset with me, but she let me try again.  This time, I was so nervous that I would drop the bottle that it slipped through my fingers and broke.   She was furious.  She yelled at me.  I don’t remember exactly what she said but it made me feel like she thought I had intentionally broken the bottle just to upset her.  There was no way to prove that wasn’t true.  It was the first time I felt trapped behind a lie about myself that I couldn’t prove wrong.  

It was the first time I felt like I was screaming into the wind and my words were carried away.  It was the first time I felt like I was placed into a box; a box with glass walls that gave the illusion of freedom.  A box I couldn’t escape, yet couldn’t prove was there.  No matter how hard I tried (and still try), I couldn’t escape that box.  How could I possibly prove that dropping the bottle was an accident???  How could I possibly prove I wasn’t unkind?  Eventually I adapted to being trapped in that glass box labeled “unkind” and “selfish” and I became comfortable.  So comfortable that even I stopped seeing the walls.  

Until one day I stumbled upon them.

 I realize that I’ve been trying to prove that wasn’t me my whole life.  The little girl who broke a bottle on purpose.  The selfish person who would intentionally hurt another.  But it turns out that my family won’t see me any other way.  I’ve left the box but they won’t see me unless I climb back in.  I’ve tried so hard to shout but once again I am yelling in the wind.  

I took my whole family to therapy to figure out which steps everyone was taking to create the destructive dance we have been moving to our whole lives.  I was called “unforgiving.”

I asked my mom one thing she would change about herself so that I would know for sure that she was capable of dancing a new, healthy step.  I was called a “brooding teenager.”

I sent my father an email asking why he hadn’t spoken to me for two months and hadn’t even tried to see his grandchild in that time.  I was called “critical.”

My husband sent my parents an email trying to explain why things are as they are now, how we never got an apology after we were told time and time again (falsely) that something was wrong with our child.  He ended the email wishing them love and light and courage.  We were called “disrespectful.”  

There is nothing I can do to convince them that I am a nice person who is trying to help them not out of malice but out of love.  There is nothing I can show them to prove to them that love is about growth and becoming healthy in how we relate to one another.  There is nothing I can say to communicate that I want them in my life but I want us all to treat each other with genuine love.  

To them I will always be selfish, critical, judgmental, and unforgiving. I will always be the little girl who shattered a glass bottle on purpose. And I don’t want to be treated that way anymore.  Because as many times as they convince themselves its true, as many stories they construct so that I’m the villain, it will never be the truth. It is not the truth about me.  And I want to live in truth.  I want my child to see me living in truth.  The little girl inside me is tired of shouting out to her family that they’ve got her wrong! I am tired of trying to show them and prove to them that they have falsely defined me

I am not a bottle breaker, I am a truth teller.  

Carrie H.

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Categories : Family



Hi Carrie
You have expressed beautifully the pain and frustration being defined as “the problem” is and you show the way the mind of a child will process and retain that kind of hurtful reaction from a parent.

I too was able to trace back a few events that had a major impact on me and the beginning of where I started to try to prove that I was not a bad girl believing that if “they” would only see that, that they would finally love me.

I love the way you end this post; That you have decided not to own the way that they have defined you but rather reject it, because it is a lie. You are NOT that girl.

I am not that girl either. My children are no longer influenced by the ways that the actions and words of others defined me to them. My children (2 of whom are adults now) do not see me through the eyes of others anymore, and they know what love and healthy relationship is.

For that, I am grateful everyday!

Thank you so much for guest posting here on emerging from broken. I love the way that you craft with words. 🙂

hugs, Darlene


Dear Carrie,

The circumstances are all a little different, but the dynamic is identical.

No matter what I say or do, no one in my family is willing/able to see me. Their definition of me stands against me.

You nailed it. You expressed how it feels to have your very being invalidated.

Thank you for writing!



Thank you for sharing this. As I read it, it’s as though you revealed parts of me to myself I hadn’t paid attention to before. I love being able to relate to other people in recovery from family trauma.


I can relate very much. Both from my abusive past & now as I am trying to leave an abusive spouse. In my current situation I have been Disabled & unable to work for several years due to Major Depression, severe Anxiety, CPTSD, Psoriatic Arthritis, Chronic Migraines, Fibromyalgia & Spinal Stenosis. I have given up trying to prove or convince my husband that I didn’t get sick on purpose. His true colors showed themselves, more then ever, once I was no longer able to contribute financially & was bedridden. I am struggling badly right now. I have no financial means to leave him. I have to wait for the house to be sold & awarded maintenance by the judge when the divorce is final. Of course, he is doing everything possible to delay things & make me miserable. His temper is worse then ever & unpredictable. He has become unreasonable & so controlling that he won’t work so he can watch & monitor my every move.


Hi everyone,
I can so relate to this. Even as a baby my mother thought I shouldn’t cry and by the time I was three she had withheld my epilepsy medication three times so I would have to go into hospital she didn’t “have to put up with me”. All my life she told me I was selfish, lazy, unappreciative, that she wished I had never been born, and she told others how bad I am. If I did anything naughty, even mildly she would dramatise it and make it out to be far worse than it was, and if I ever did anything good no one heard about it. She lied to social workers and psychologists about me and I ended up in a children’s home at nine years old for seven months. To this day I will always be a failure to her despite getting a degree on my own while working three jobs, having good career now, having a decent husband and two lovely children. She wants me to fail and every time something goes wrong in my life she loves it…she can’t hide it. I now only tell her the good stuff just to crap her off!! That’s my way of turning it around a bit.


Thank you for sharing this! It is so eerie to read other peoples’ stories when they mirror your experiences so well.

My family decided long ago that I was selfish difficult, disrespectful, unreasonable, had impossibly high expectations, etc. I am also the bad one, the irresponsible one, the reckless one, the rebellious one. At least, that is what they decided I was, with absolutely nothing to back it up.

I caught my breath when you wrote, “It was the first time I felt trapped behind a lie about myself that I couldn’t prove wrong.” All of those things that my family decided about me – I have spent my life trying to prove them wrong. It’s like I’ve believed that they are good people, and that it’s an honest misunderstanding. After all, they do come up with reasons that if you twist the truth a little here and there could justify why they think these things. Also, they are often so sincere and concerned and loving when they tell me how awful I am that it’s been hard to dismiss. Above all, I’ve believed that I just have to try harder to prove that I’m not that way.

I’ve tried so hard. I’ve made proving them wrong about me my life’s work. Without realizing it consciously, I made most of my life decisions around what would make my mother happy, to the point of when my husband and I bought a house – and then later a car – it was the THREE of us making the decision. Not the TWO of us. How messed up is that???!!! I also have a history of buying things for my parents even though they are a LOT wealthier than I am, always being willing to drop what I’m doing when they call with something they’d like me to do for them (always right away, always on their timeline), driving my mom all around for everything since she decided to stop driving about 10 years ago (no medical reason), working very hard to make elaborate gifts (hand-knit sweaters, for example) for holidays that most people don’t even give gifts for (Easter, Thanksgiving). I could go on and on and don’t mean to sound like a martyr, but I am just starting to realize how much I’ve been willing to sacrifice to try to prove that I’m not who they say I am.

I give, give, give to prove I’m not selfish. I do what they say over and over to prove I’m not difficult. I never disagree with them to prove I’m not critical.

And then I realized: They are benefiting greatly from this arrangement! Why on EARTH would they ever let me get to the point where I can feel I’m done trying to prove that I’m not all of the horrible things they ALWAYS say I am? And I mean always – any tiny thing they can, they hone in on as proof of how (mean, selfish, difficult, etc.) I am. They have absolutely no motivation to change how this works. In fact, they would lose out on a lot of things – the feeling of power over me, the time that I spend on them, the money I spend on them, making major life decisions based on their needs instead of my own – if I were to somehow get the message that I no longer needed to work so hard to prove that I’m not all of those awful things that they constantly tell me that I am.

That’s the kind of people they are. That’s the kind of parents I have. That’s the kind of childhood I had. That is a lot for me to try to wrap my head around, let alone try to deal with. That is what I’m working on now. It’s horrible.

Thank you so much for sharing this – as you can tell, it has gotten me thinking a lot about my own situation and family history. I am so grateful for all of the people who share their stories. The more we know we’re not alone, that we’re not crazy, that these things really happen, the better!


Well, you write beautifully. The bottle breaker. I remember an incident when I was about 4 or maybe 5 years old. My mother would fix our plates at night and sit mine and my sister’s down on the coffee table in the living room. Well, something apparently had happened that day that had our mother enraged. She had a terrible habit of squishing her lips up and literally looking like a dog snarling at us. She suddenly said, “I don’t know why y’all don’t love me.” I waited a few minutes and said, “We don’t love you because you don’t love us.” Hmmm…I was so little. But, my reply was exactly how I believed it was. I just couldn’t figure out how she could be so mean to us. And yet somehow I believed that we really were terrible kids. We had to be for her to be like she was. She said it was our fault. Then it had to be, right??? I grew up with the label “TROUBLEMAKER” because I would actually confront her about her issues. I would actually defy her. I would stand up to her. It didn’t get me anywhere good, but I did it anyway. To this day, when I walk through my house, I walk very quietly. I don’t like to stomp my feet. I hate the way it sounds and the way it “seems” to me. You see, my mother used to come after me or my sister and she would begin to slam her feet down on the floor as she came after us(loud stomping). I hated that sound. I still hate it. Is it crazy that I loved her through all of this? That’s probably what hurt the most. That I loved her and she did what she did regardless. I still love her. We don’t really have a relationship now, but I would still be there for her if she really needed me. Anyways, I loved reading this. I absolutely relate. And thanks for listening.


Excellent post! I’ve always thought that some of get our roles so very young – even in utero. And the NFOO just can’t let you give up a role – it throws the whole identity of the NFOO off if one person breaks free. It’s a wonderful thing to get out!


My family is very similar. =(


Thank you for the post. I am just coming out of the fog…I have had many other issues to contend with and it seems I am just coming around to really doing the work on me. What I’m left with; the shame, the guilt, the depression and sometimes the obsession with trying to figure it all out. I have finally gotten to facing what is knowable about what my home was like to live in and that is not much. When I was young it was so covert, the scapegoating, the gas lighting, that even now I have to keep assuring myself that it happened. It took the form of neglect, no hearing me, spending no time with me, teaching me nothing about the basics facts of life, what was right or wrong to do. I was unimportant and it seems I was supposed to know what to do. It was a mystery and still is what my family life was about. I think that was part of the abuse. My label came later..when as a teenager I rebelled and went wild: I drank and caroused, ran away and more..Amazingly I straightened out by my early 20’s but that sealed it for me. My label was then as a irresponsible loser that had shamed the family and hurt my parents. I then became the darling of the family who tried to no end to please my mother especially and make her love me. I didn’t know that she didn’t love herself and was incapable of loving me. All that energy..I couldn’t be myself with her just a support person trying to fill all her needs and make her smile. Thank you all for sharing your experiences with me. Things are getting clearer. I know it will get better. Funny thing is like Dorothy, I suspect I have always had the power to put up some boundaries with her, I was just too afraid to click my heels together and do it.


I can relate to the glass box. You broke the bottles, you broke the box—and they don’t understand the truth in either case. You bring up the problems, you bring up your pain, you try and try, in large part for yourself, of course, necessarily so, but also because it’s the only way to help the family, and for you to really be connected as a part of the family, to grow closer and stronger, individually and together… but all they hear are accusations, etc., and all they want is for you to go back in the box but you can’t because it’s already broken and you should never have been in there in the first place. Thanks for sharing. Lovely writing. I can relate to that feeling of screaming in the wind, too. But we hear your words here. I guess sometimes you just have to find where you’re wanted.


Hi Carrie! beautifully expressed and as I read it memories of my own come to the surface.

I now understand where my pattern of thinking came from and how it became my operating system. My mom has been diagnosed as bi polar with narcisstic personality disorder. I’ve done my homework on the subject matter and I’m truly amazed I still have self esteem to build on.

The language she used to express her frustration from her illness was….after I had you kids I became mentally ill, after I had you kids my breasts sagged, after I had you kids I had varicose veins, as my mom was giving birth to me I was told she almost lost her sight and had to be rushed to surgery. The message was pretty clear to me, my mom was a mess because of “me”. This is when I thought it was my responsibility to fix problems and I took this into all my relationships moving forward. I made the connection that as long as you had a relationship with me and things went wrong, it was my doing.

How messed up is that. Can’t tell you how many dysfunctional relationships I’ve been in because of this programming. I’m happy to say I finally found the right supports and my life has been a constant up hill awakening. i’m learning to love and accept myself in ways I never thought possible. I’m so incredibly grateful that more people are stepping up and sharing their stories. It’s time to clean out these destructive patterns and let the love flow through.

Thank you for sharing and I’m so proud of you for choosing to save yourself. Keep on growing in love, Namaste!


Dear Carrie, your article is so well written and reaches me deeply on so many levels.

I can’t believe that although I read so much here on EFB, people still seem to understand as others don’t easily relate to what it is like to be labeled and defined or forced to be our families square pegs jammed into round holes we will never fit, and should never be made to fit for the benefit of others and their problems.

I am also still amazed at how easy it seems to see how crazy our families and others treat us, and to relate to it, but also to struggle with seeing it in my own family and that in spite of how they treated me and cut me out of their lives, I was trained to care and love them unconditionally though it was a one way street, not receiving their love, support, approval, encouragement, or them ever having excitement for something good in my life when that might happen.

I’m still learning to see myself for who I am, a successful person who has a small business, loving wife and partner and who gets along with others and appreciates nothing more than simple kindness and civility.

I am not the ogre who has no patience for anyone, who is mean, a failure, stupid, fat and everything else my family thinks I need to be reminded of any chance they had.

I’m just me and learning to be ok with me and learning to even like myself, but it is so difficult when you have been made to feel you should feel nothing but shame and hate yourself. Been told you disappoint again and again, that you will never be good enough and are unfit for the family which is so superior to you in every way.

And my family wondered why I wanted to end my own life so many times and tried?

Thank you Carrie and again thank you to everyone who shares their stories so openly here and their non-judgmental support for all.

My mind is swimming from reading this and the comments and I hope I did not say anything to offend anyone.

Peace and hugs to all,



Thank you Carrie for another splendid blog. I read the stories of so many here and feel like we are all part of the same pattern. My mother hated me before I was born and continued to punish me afterward. One of my earliest memories is of her throwing me down my grandmother’s stairs when I was about 2 1/2.

She sent me in to my father when I was four. She beat me for only perceived offenses. I am now 65 and she is still directing her hate at me. For years I would have nightmares where I would scream and no sound would come out. When I finally voiced some of what had happened to me the nightmares took on a whole new form. Now I wake up screaming. Thank God my husband is so forgiving!

I used to hit at him when he woke me up. I was hitting at whatever was tormenting me in my dreams. Now I am screaming at it. Poor thing, sometimes I think I am scaring him half to death, but he is so understanding. I wake up to him hugging me or patting my hair. The “glass box” is breaking and now I am trying to put the pieces back together. With any luck, I will finish before I die.



Reading your blog I can relate to them horrible labels your family gave you Carrie, none of them positive, all to humiliate you further and keep you in their little power box. I read how you had them all in counselling- I did the same for my ex family and they all ran when the truth came out. Unfortunately we CANNOT change them, no matter how hrd we try, i desperately wanted to be heard and held and loved and understood by the people who were supposed to be my parents but it never happened, protecting the abuser was more important than telling the truth. Somehow the lies seem more somfortable, because then if the boat is not rocked ‘everything is ok’. I have had a week of whistle blowing and highlighting abuse, not only with family members but also with an abusive teacher who thought it was ok to scream at and humiliate my special needs son. He was terrified coming home crying and scared, 9 years of age, it reminded me of my fear trying to get help when i was being abused and nobody there to listen. I called for a meeting and looked that abusive woman in the face- she denied it- but when i brought my son in the room he covered his face with his hands, was sobbing and shaking in her presence, i knew this person was a Liar!! I have demanded he be removed from her classroom IMMEDIATELY and have informed my solicitor. Abuse is something we must fight against, and many times we fight ALONE. Because people feel better in DENIAL rather than FACING IT HEAD ON. Because of this site and a wonderful counselor I have been fighting abuse head on and it is a VERY LONELY PLACE to be , I am an outcast with family, alone but with inner peace i really do not care- Would you want to be in their mindset Carrie? they are still asleep, unconscious and happily in that state of denial. How horrible it must have been for you at 4 to be screamed at and blamed like that, I am glad your husband is supporting you and the words your family have used are all words to DEFLECT you from challenging them and a way of trying to get you to back off like you probably did as a child when they used the words ‘disrespectful’ and ‘unforgiving’. I cannot forgive the teacher who was screaming at my son, why the hell should you forgive people who were supposed to be your care givers and abused you like that?? perhaps if they sincerely apologized you may in time forgive, but people seem to throw that word around hoping that somehow the victim will feel guilty again and go away. You are outside that box for a reason girl- well done to you, and much respect for your empowering story. xxxx


Can I also ad that from reading others stories and my own experience of abuse the person who has been violated also seems to be the ‘scapegoat/black sheep/ whatever label. To me this might as well be the abuse and trauma happening all over again.


From my experience, when you tell someone they are wrong, they will usually defend themselves and blame you instead.

A funny thing happens in my family. Every year at my birthday or Christmas or some other occasion, my mom buys me clothes. She is short…I am tall. Every year, they buys me a size large or 12-14. Every time, I have told her I am a size medium or 8-10, and even asked why she continues to buy me a large even though I keep telling her its a medium that fits me. I have talked to my brother about this and she complains that I am ‘difficult’ or ‘you know how she is’…WTF? I used to get really upset about this. I would say to myself “I’m not difficult”, “I’m just saying it as it is” or whatever.

My mother has obviously been stunted emotionally. Now, although it does bug me still, I say thanks and return the items for a refund and buy something in my size and style. She doesn’t see me and never has. She just puts me in that little box called Anna and there I be in her mind. I fill a space in her world and that is all. It has been difficult to come to terms with, but now I get emotional fulfilment elsewhere. I stopped expecting the impossible, and am thankful that I do not limited such a limited, narrow minded life.


Welcome to the new commenters
Katie, Pearl, Sally, Nena and Carol Ann ~ Great to have you with us!
hugs, Darlene


“There was no way to prove that wasn’t true. It was the first time I felt trapped behind a lie about myself that I couldn’t prove wrong.”

This line hit me like a brick wall! I am still feeling that today, not just with my “mother,” but with everyone I know. I recently divorced a narcissist/psychopath and my biggest fear is that everyone would believe his lies about me! I live in fear and have difficulties forming new relationships with people because of the damage my “mother” and ex did to me. All along, I thought it was my fault, not theirs. I feel funny even writing that statement because I still feel that it WAS my fault. I’m sure that I had some responsibility – it takes two to divorce.
Thank you for allowing me to start seeing that there was more to it. I hope I can help myself heal and not get frightened every time I am faced with standing alone in my own truth and trusting myself.


as I was defined by my mother, this weekend, 1967, when my grandfather died; I was almost four. My mother told me not to “make my step-grandmother cry at the funeral.” When my step-grandmother was crying in her home after the funeral, of course, I thought it was my fault, and my mother probably did blame me at the time. What a load…of bullshit, and that theme continued all my life…we have next to no contact


You did the courageous thing. It takes to to keep a negative dynamic going. You broke that.


Sorry, correct #21, It take TWO to keep a negative dynamic going


Hi Carrie, Great post and I too am a bottle-breaking-truth-teller.:0)I think your family probably knows that you are loving, truthful, forgiving and they aren’t. That’s why they call you names. You can’t convince anyone of what they already know but choose to deny. We can though, embrace the person we know ourselves to be and move forward. Thanks for sharing this.


These words are so powerful for me Carrie. I felt some pretty intense feelings- kind of a loud Yes Yes Yes in my head.
Being The Problem is the root of the way I have felt about myself all my life.

The first time I heard the problem definition on EFB more than two years ago (age 58) I was stunned.

I thought I was the only one.
Unique in my “badness” to be so clearly defined by my family.
I have always known my FOO wasnt
normal, nice, or loving in any way.

I now realize that I was defined and labeled “the problem” by my mother at such a young age, probably a toddler that by the time I have actual memories I already had accepted that definition.

By age 6 I had been carefully taught by her to accept any and all abuse/neglect/abandonment without objection. ( I can think of numerous daily examples of which 95% were emotional.)
I had internally accepted that I was the problem by age 9 when I began to self harm to cope with intense feelings that I was not allowed to express. This behavior was her “proof” that she was right. Nothing was done to help me. I was further labeled, berated and punished.

I too have tried to prove all my life to my FOO that I am hard working, honest, a good person and deserving of their approval. It never happened.
I was never heard. Its like I am screaming in a box. Yes an apt description. It made me act out as a teenager. I was pretty brave and impulsive so Not a good combination.
Having no self esteem or self image of my own, no boundries, I tried to “be” what I think others want. Failure and rejection trigger the intense emotional response which “proves” Im still The Problem. I got caught in a loop for 50 years.
I feel like a hamster on a wheel.

***Mary. Im like you. I am stuck in an emotionally abusive marriage. No money of my own. Limited job skills.
And emotionally unable to cope with stress in a job. A hard place to heal when you fight a narcissist every day. Hugs. Karen.

****Thank you Kris. I liked the point you made about whos reaping the benefit of your good will. ah ah moment. I also made myself available the way you did. My mother always wanted power over me so I could serve her.

**** Dave it was very similar for me too. Nothing about me or my life was celebrated. Honor student. They didnt come to my HS graduation.
Birth of my son. Too busy to come to the hospital. Death of my son years later. Couldnt be bothered. ( summer traffic you see). So I understand.

A very good topic and discussion. Thank you everyone. Your words and stories are very helpful to me. Karen


Good for you Spence. Ive been with my N for forty years.
Healing and recognizing my FOO abuse I suddenly saw his dynamic
in our marriage. We met and married in 3 months. When my minister questioned
my mother concerning this she was all OK with it even though she knew my
issues and had only met him 3x. Yup she dumped her Problem on someone else.
18 months later when we had a 1 month old and I was having emotional struggles
she told him ( in front of me) to dump her off where you found her.
I had such a high tolerance for abuse that nothing that
was said or done to me would I Ever hold that person accountable for.
EFB changed my life. EFB saved my life.


Thanks for your words Carrie. I think this is what I’ve been struggling to put into words myself. No matter what I do, I won’t be seen or heard the way I would like. I’ve tried to find a metaphor for it, like we’re on a see-saw, and neither of us can ever be at the highest point of the seesaw at once. Either my family has it their way and I’m at dirt-level, or I have it my way and they feel that they are at dirt-level. So I have to get off the see-saw. I have to stop playing. We shouldn’t be on a see-saw anyway. Not sure if this makes sense!

@ Anna, #17: Thanks so much for writing your story about your mom always getting you the wrong size. It helped me realize I feel the same way about my grandmother when she asks me, every single time she talks to me, if I understand “her Russian.” I say yes, every time, and I’m sick of it. My family’s native tongue is Russian, I’ve grown up around it my entire life. I don’t speak it often, but understand 95% of what my family says when they’re speaking Russian and will respond appropriately, whether in Russian or English, when they speak to me in Russian. And still, my grandmother chooses to deny that I’m smart enough to understand the most basic Russian words that I’ve heard my entire life. I tried to chalk it up to her being old and her memory being bad, but she remembers a lot of other things, so I’ve decided it’s not that. It’s a choice.


“…the pain of being falsely defined as ‘the problem’ and some of the things you have tried in order to be seen and heard by the people that have attached false labels to you.”

Compared to others here I had a mildly bad (albeit very painful) experience as an adult mentoring the daughter of my parents’ friends. Both parents were ex(???)-alcoholics and one was bipolar. They often dumped their kids/stepkids/some combination thereof off for my family to babysit. My parents unfortunately took these people at their word that they were born-again Christians (we met them at church) who were living changed lives. There were warning signs all along, but my parents were accepting and unsuspicious.

Years later, after one of the daughters had bonded with me and received considerable amounts of my time, art supplies, and instruction, the mother began to target me. She was angry that I had invited her daughter over “without permission” (permission had never been required before). She was angry that I had offered to buy the daughter a DVD set when I learned that the daughter was considering downloading them illegally. She was angry that I stopped accepting her (the mother’s) phone calls because she only called to scold me. At no point was I making demands that her daughter spend time with me; the daughter wanted to come over more often than I cared to have her visit, and would try to rig the sitation to that end (“ask your parents to ask my parents if I can come over”).

Finally her mother said that if I wouldn’t comply her daughter couldn’t visit. I thought that was harsh but accepted her decision and went my own way. The daughter kept indicating that she wanted contact, writing letters and leaving comments on my website. Under pressure from mutual friends who “felt sorry” for the daughter and convinced me that I was in some way responsible for her happiness (my thinking obviously had holes in it), I made a social website account to keep in touch with the daughter.

A few months later, I (and my ENTIRE FAMILY, including people who were not involved) was removed from her friend list with a note informing me that she couldn’t be friends with anyone who wouldn’t “have a relationship” with her mother. No other explanation was given, though the cut-off was probably triggered when I mailed her an art book she wanted, after asking if she was allowed to have it.

After I closed my social website account, the daughter began following me again on my own website. Concluding that whatever was going on, she wasn’t being honest about it, I finally blocked her.

Like I said, mild stuff, but I didn’t quite know what to do at the time and the accusations and complete disregard of the history of my character (they knew me and my family for close to two decades before cutting us off) were very painful and invalidating.

Oh, and to top it all off. Before the targeting of me began, the father asked my brother to escort the daughter’s half-sister to a social function. My brother, knowing something about the half-sister’s history, said No. Almost exactly nine months later to the day, she had a baby. Hmmmm.


My childhood was identical and I felt as you did most of my life. I’m 50 years old now but 15 years ago my Pastor’s wife respectfully pointed out to me 1) That my life was wasted on trying to “help” my relatives and that in the end all I was accomplishing was reliving anguish…. and 2) That I consider keeping them at a distance or going no-contact all together.

BEST ADVICE OF MY LIFE. I wasted so much of myself on people who didn’t want it, didn’t deserve it or maybe aren’t bright enough or most likely all three.

Move on from them and find peace. God Bless!


Yes, Pam, I think that you are right. They recognize in us a character that they do not posess, nor would they know what to call it! They only know their own bad character and that it is bad, so they blame bad stuff on us, since they do not want others thinking good about us as that would shed light on their badness and raise questions as to how the same exist in the same family…


I was always defined as the “problem” since I was a young child. It was like being an actor on a stage where this is my given role and lines from a script. My Narc. mother totally brainwashed my father into defining me as the “enemy”. Yes, I have some father issues but my main battle has always been with my Narc. mother(having more than one serious disorder).

But the worst part of it all was the fact that her behavior towards me became like a contagious virus. Her cruel gossip spread to the extended family members and of course they believed the older, polished, ‘dressed to the nines’ woman who could do no wrong. I know what it feels like to have no worth at all as a person, more like a prisoner. The frightening part is that these other people have been subtly brainwashed by my Narc. mother. I was labelled constantly with terrible names that I choose not to repeat here. Funny that there was no real evidence behind her labels but the big, old people can get away with saying just about anything since they’re the ones with the money and power when you’re just a kid. It’s sad and sick how society believes the parent and not the kid.

I am now extremely LC with my sick parents and I have NO LOVE for either one of my parents. It feels so good to just let it all out! I have NC with any of my Narc. mom’s family members and also NC with my father’s family. Some day both of my parents will die (age 80’s both of them) and I will have NC. I had a complicated background and I chose to live in my same state and not move far away. I have NO family to speak of and to give up my good circle of friends here would be suicidal for me. Most of my ‘true blue’ friends come from my metaphysical groups (Celtic Pagan) and I cannot live in area without a good, strong support system.

I was also abused by the system with very incompetent, mean ex-therapists. I follow the anti-psychiatry movement and EFB. I have healed so much of my past child abuse on my own as a self-healer.

Blessed Be,



I have experienced this situation through the looking glass so to speak with my husband’s family. You read about the golden child, black sheep etc of the dysfunctional familybut I think everyone inside the dynamic feels like the black sheep. Everybody in that situation feels like a victim, because they are. I was wrapped up in it too for a while and I tried so hard to prove that I was right and they were wrong I did things and acted in ways I’m not proud of. It would never work. They will always appologize for each other, but never themselves. When it’s your turn to be the bad guy nobody sticks up for you because they don’t want to be where you are. Crabs in a pot. Never had a positive thing to say. Everything was always about how sick they were or talking badly behind someone’s back. My husband went no contact a few years ago and I had checked out long before. You all are so brave. Cheers!


For years I felt like a coward for running away from the problem. It becomes a matter of self-defense. The toxic personalities I was running from were killing me. At times I still feel guilty. But I do know after I found Darlene’s website and found I was not alone, I don’t care as much what the toxic personalities in my life are saying. They are expending so much energy trying to keep all of this going that they never cease to amaze me. It is beginning to fall apart. The audience they once commanded is going away.

After my father died, I think my mother and sister believed that they could command the respect he once did. Not going to happen. My sister is on the verge of overdosing herself. She wants to inherit from my mother what little is worth anything. They both are trying to stay focused on me, saying I don’t deserve anything from my mother.

What they don’t understand is that I never wanted anything my mother has. My grandmother gave me several items I had loved before she died. She knew that my mother would have never let me have them.

The two of them call the others in that part of my family daily…trying to keep all of the balls in the air. People are beginning to not answere the phone or changing their numbers and emails. The family has become divided, the proLinda camp and the antiLinda camp. The dividing line is more marked.

My husband, sons, daughter-in-law, grandchildren and a couple of others are the only family I have or ever want to have. My mother has emphysema and will die a miserable death. My sister will overdose. Is that poetic justice?

One piece at a time, the box I have broken is going together in a more desirable configuration. Completely breaking off any contact with toxic behavior is paying off. I could not see it for years because I was too close to the problem. Distance is a blessing.

Hugs to all,


Thanks everyone for your comments and for sharing your own stories. I have read every one of your comments. It’s amazing how many of us there are and I’m grateful that my words can comfort those in similar situations.
Darlene – Thank you. Your site and you are an inspiration.
Hobie – “Their definition of me stands against me.” Exactly!
Katie – Thanks
Mary – I’m sorry to hear about your situation. I’m glad you have the support of this website.
Sally – That is very sad. I’m glad that you are standing up for yourself.
Kris Healing – “They are benefiting greatly from this arrangement.” Yes! They never have to work on themselves!
Quietly Emerging – Yes, I still love my family as well. That makes it very hard. I’m glad you are healing now.
Pearl – Yes, it is a wonderful thing to get out of!
Nena – 🙁 Sorry to hear but glad to be a support
CarolAnn- Yes, we are all getting stronger 🙂
Alaina – Thanks 🙂
Lora – “It’s time to clean out these – se destructive patterns and let the love flow through.” -YES!
Dave – Yes, it’s easier to see once we step out of the web of dysfunction. I’m glad you are stepping out and seeing truth, that you are not who you were told you were.
Linda – So sad. I’m glad you have your husband’s support.
Marie – No, I definitely don’t want to be in their mindset. Thank you.
Anna – I’m glad you’ve escaped your box too. Thanks for sharing.
Spence – That’s the great thing about standing in truth. It can set you free. Keep standing in it 🙂
Kate – Thanks for sharing.
Pam – Yes, we just have to keep moving forward.
Karen R – I’m glad you are getting off that hamster wheel!
L – Yes – the see saw makes sense because it’s never an equal relationship with people who are dysfunctional.
Native Helping – Thanks for sharing your story here.
Sue in NM – Thanks
Yvonne – Yes, self healing is key!
Mackenzie – Thanks
Linda – “Distance is a blessing.” -Yes!


When I was a very young girl around 7, I was asking my mom where spain was (there were other people around). I didn’t know so I guessed south America. Well didn’t my mother laugh at me right in front of everyone, and over the years right in front of others, actually laugh at how stupid I was to think that spain was in south America. She would roll her eyes and carry on. It took me years, and finally when I was in my thirties I blasted her by saying I was sick of her bullshit and a parent is supposed to teach their children not laugh at them for not knowing things. I told her, right in front of many people, that I didn’t want to hear her say that bullshit again. I said that 7 year olds are children and rely on their parents to guide and instruct them and that she had failed obviously because I did not meet her standards at such a young age. Then I insulted her by saying if I didn’t know my geography that she thinks I ought to have known, then its her fault, and that after all she was a school teacher how could she be so neglectful. I said if I did not know where Spain was in the world, that it was her fault as a mother.

That shut her up pretty quick. Always acting like I was so stupid. She has never mentioned it again.

I made them look like idiots just like they tried to make me look like an idiot. It felt good to stop them in their tracks.


Thank you Carrie for sharing your story. Like those who have already commented, my story is so very similar.

I especially liked these lines in your essay:
“There is nothing I can do to convince them that I am a nice person who is trying to help them not out of malice but out of love. There is nothing I can show them to prove to them that love is about growth and becoming healthy in how we relate to one another. There is nothing I can say to communicate that I want them in my life but I want us all to treat each other with genuine love. To them I will always be selfish, critical, judgmental, and unforgiving.”

That really resonated with me. I cannot ever change my family’s negative opinion of who I am. But I’m okay with that now. I have a new family – one of my own choosing – who love me and think I am very special. I hang out with them, not my family of origin.

I know who I am, and that’s enough for me. I am no longer attempting to win the approval of my family of origin.


My relationship with my parents feels like an open wound to me. Healing is showing me I wasn’t bad, evil, shameful, inadequate, the list goes on and on. All the things their abuse taught me I was. I honestly bought the lie they bought about their own parents. Dad’s dad was a psychopath and sadist. Dad abandoned me to his “care” and was the wicked queen’s lackey, so textbook. Well now it appears my mother is trying to “win” by dying and not allowing me in her presence, the ultimate punishment for standing up for me, exposing their lies, and walking away in self- care last Christmas. By doing so I ruined everything, in her words. It’s much more ok than i imagined, due to healing AND being heard at last! Thank you all for being here. Your strength helps me find mine. Love to all. Stitch


i’ve only recently started the process of healing from an emotionally abusive childhood. this story is all too familiar. i was always treated as “the problem.” i don’t remember when it began or why. i wasn’t usually called names or outright accused of being selfish or rude or disrespectful, etc. it did happen but my mother’s weapon was passive-aggression. it was insinuated to the point that it was usually my sisters calling me names or insulting me on her behalf. my father was more straightforward in his hurtful behavior and it was usually done in anger.

one striking difference between my life and many of the stories i’ve read here is that i was always told that i was loved and wanted. but that just made things more confusing because i was definitely not treated that way. how can a parent in one breath criticize and demean a child’s very being and then take another breath and say “i love you”? i have no idea. some days i’d be told that i was a good kid and they were proud of me. well, it was just my father saying that. my mother rarely has a kind word for anyone. but i never felt loved or pride-inspiring. they just said i was. sometimes.

now, at nearly 30 yrs of age, the words “i love you” just plain don’t mean anything to me. in fact, they seem like mockery most of the time. i’ve tried to talk with my sisters about our childhoods and our messed up family dynamic but they just don’t see it the way i do. i’ve gotten into very painful arguments with them about how i’m really not as awful as they think i am and how our mother’s behavior has caused me a lot of hurt. it seems their experiences with her have been very different from mine because i always end up still looking like the ungrateful, selfish, out-of-line one.

it became very apparent to me today, actually, as i was perusing facebook, which i very rarely do. my sisters’ pages are full of comments from my mother saying how she’s proud of them, she loves them, she supports them. i didn’t even get a comment on my birthday last year. and i just can’t figure out what’s different about me. truthfully, it doesn’t matter. as much as it hurts, i know that i have to move on, if i want to be happy. i’ll have to find someone else who will love me–truly love me. someone whom i believe when they tell me so.


@Carrie H. — thank you! It means a lot even if it was “minor.”

@Anna — good for you!! Sounds like it worked!

Everybody else, thanks for sharing your stories. I learned from all of them. Thanks again. ^^


Thanks for sharing, Carrie. I’ve been seeing these glass walls, too. It’s nice to finally realize that I don’t have to define myself the way my mother wants me to. That I have a whole identity that is my own and inborn and nothing like what I was raised to believe. Sadly, I have witnessed my mother doing it to one of my nieces. At 2 and 3 years old, she was calling her grandchild stubborn and mean. She has chosen her to pick on among the grandkids. She used to call my daughter “Little J”, imbibing all the things she hated about me onto my daughter and, as a perk, a little jab at me.


I cant remember when I have ever heard another person describe the feeling of being in a box before, but that is how I alwsys used to feel. Trapped and boxed. I still sometimes find myself in situations where I begin to feel that way again and the same panic hits me so I am recognizing that as a “trigger” for me so that I stop and listen to my feelings and figure out the reality in the situation. I was also designated by my parents and family to be trouble and labeled by lies. I was five years old when I remember that beginning and it really never ended until I walked away and cut them all off for good. I have moved on and the feeling I have is always relief! I feel relieved that I dont have to look at them, talk to them, cater to their mental/emotional illness issues, reason with them, feel hurt by them ignoring me and focusing on the other siblings that they favored. When I read this post and some of the other comments, I can relate so well. Nowadays, I dont feel like I am anyones “problem” or weak or stupid or any of those other labels anymore. The longer I am away from them, I have begun to feel like laughing at how ridiculous their need for power over me was! I can see through the things they did to me and see how insecure and helpless THEY actually felt and actually were, and that I was stronger than they were. I also realize the truth that I have much more common sense than they did and how much they must have hated that. I would point something out that seemed like common sense sometimes and it would immediately get shot down and I would be treated like I was somehow creating problems and didnt really understand, or that I was stirring things up in the family. I no longer deal with any of that and it feels like a huge relief everytime I think of it. All of those completely wasted years of my life that took a toll on my health and prevented me from experiencing joy and happiness and peace of mind and finding out who I really am! Chasing them down and trying so hard to please and help and make peace. It never happened and they never saw me as anything other than how they first defined me at age 5. A problem child. It feels great to say goodbye forever! I feel even as I write this that it is reaffirming and validating what I chose to do to get free! 🙂


I also want to add that it isnt surprising to me now that I married a man who also had been labeled and had a family who treated me in similar ways that my own family treated me. They also had power and control issues and deep insecurities. My husband no longer visits them and prefers phone calls and emails to being with them face to face. I cut them off years before I did my parents. I wouldnt take from them what I took from my own family and was able to recognize it much sooner. I wish now I hadnt wasted more time on my family and cut them all off at the same time!


Carrie, beautiful article! I understand how you must have felt, knowing the truth with no way to prove it. If only adults would listen to children. If only children could feel safe to express the truth. And then seriously be listened to.

When I was nine, I went to a store to buy my mother a Mothers Day gift. There was a table with many different types of handkerchiefs on it. I was holding a very pretty sky blue one that had beautiful yellow and pink flowers around the perimeter and trying to decide whether to buy that one with my allowance. The sales (lady??) came up to me and angrily told me I should be ashamed of myself and that I could get into a lot of trouble for what I was doing. At first I was stunned and didn’t understand. Then I realized that she was accusing me of trying to steal that handkerchief. Why?? Because I was standing there making up my mind whether to buy that one? Did I have an unsure look on my face, and she decided that that meant I was a pint sized crook?

I was stunned and shocked when I realized I was bring accused of stealing. I completely froze up and couldn’t respond, couldn’t defend myself. Somehow I gad the feeling I would be in bigger trouble if I did or said anything. I wordlessly followed her in shock to the cash register and paid for it as she continued yo rant about kids trying to take things that don’t belong to them and how I could go to jail for that. I was so scared she was going yo call the police or maybe worse, my parents. She didn’t, but her yelling and accusations formed another kind of prison; being locked in a place where I could not defend myself and could not reach out to anyone, because they probably would believe the sales MONSTER!

I never gave that handkerchief to my mother. While visibly a pretty item, it became a symbol of something dark and sinister. I started thinking of it as “The Sullied Handkerchief”. But…..I know the truth about what happened that long ago Saturday afternoon. I wasn’t stealing anything. And the only thing that is truly dirty, sullied and sinister is that nasty sales monster.



Well anyone with any sense about them knows that children can’t always defend themselves. What a small and simple minded angry woman you encountered. I’m sorry you experienced that kind of selfishness. It takes a thoughtful person to accurately assess a situation involving a child…children simply don’t have the same communication skills and are easily misunderstood.

Do you still have the handkerchief?


Hi Anna. Thank you for your understanding! It is nice to be Heard, even so many years later. That sales monster’s assessment was so far from the truth. But even if she thought something was amiss, she could have handled it differently. She could have asked me if she could help me, or if I wanted to buy the handkerchief. At any rate, she should not have made an accusation without any facts whatsoever to back it up.

No I haven’t had that handkerchief for many years. I cut a hole in the center of it and put it on my Barbie doll, tying a ribbon around the waist and using it as a dress for the doll. Funny that my mother saw it and commented that it was pretty. She never ever knew that it was meant to be a gift for her before that woman spoilt everything. She never ever found out what happened that day. I couldn’t tell her because I couldn’t trust her to back me up. That would NEVR be the case with my kids. I would have raced to that store and really given that woman a piece of my mind if that had happened to my child.

Thanks again Anna for your caring message. Hugs, Amber.


Hi, Amber!
Something you wrote REALLY hit me -“Funny that my mother saw it and commented that it was pretty. She never ever knew that it was meant to be a gift for her before that woman spoilt everything. She never ever found out what happened that day. I couldn’t tell her because I couldn’t trust her to back me up.”
I lived my whole life not being able to trust my mother to back me up. In fact there WAS no backing up despite all the lies she told everyone else, including me. She tried telling me that mothers should “always believe their children.” Well, under normal circumstances, that statement is true; however, this is my mother we are talking about. She tried to get everyone to see what a wonderful mother she was, but when I needed her to back me up, there was nothing but the sound of crickets. When I was wrongly accused of something, she would apologize for MY “rude behavior,” and make me feel like I was in the wrong. So, I do not trust anyone who says that they are here for me. Come to think of it, I have a hard time trusting in general because of the messages I got from her. Writing this is very uncomfortable because in the back of my mind I still think it was my fault when I relive these events over and over in my mind. Maybe I am still looking at them through the eyes of a child who only wants to please and be accepted by others and not through grownup eyes which would see how my mother was more interested in outside appearances and that meant bullying me into submission behind closed doors so I wouldn’t embarrass or expose her.


Amber and Spence,

Totally. I can relate the feeling of not trusting your mom to back you up. Here’s some background: Back in high school I had a friend who used me as her emotional crutch when she was going through a difficult time with depression. She b*tched and moaned to me, and then told me not to tell the school counselor because she didn’t like him for some reason. I tried everything I could to make her feel better but it wasn’t working, all the while I was withering away inside. Well, the night came when she threatened to harm herself, and in my mind she was threatening to kill herself, which scared ME to death. She was telling me all of this over ONLINE CHAT and I was the one who ran to the phone to call her parents to let her know what their daughter was threatening to do in her room. What the ef? That’s none of my business or my responsibility. I mean, who is busy typing away online messages when they’re serious about killing themselves? She just wanted attention. So stuff hit the fan, the school somehow found out and the next day was the last time I ever saw her in person because she changed schools, thankfully. However, for almost 10 years the experience ate away at me and I carried the burden of somehow having failed her, even though I had absolutely no responsibility for her. It took me that long to begin to understand why I felt so confused and beat down by the experience. It broke me. About a year ago, I messaged her on Facebook and asked her if she could tell me what happened after she left the school, because I just was trying to tie up loose ends. She wouldn’t tell me and said she didn’t want to dredge up old painful feelings just to make me “feel better.” And here’s the kicker: she wanted to rekindle a friendship with me. WHAT? Luckily I was smart enough at that point to recognize her bullcrap.

Anyway, I told my mom this, and she took my ex-friend’s side. She didn’t understand why I wouldn’t want to be friends with her, even when she (my mom) had previously said that she and my dad would have protected me from her had they known what was going on. And the reason they didn’t know what was going on was because I didn’t think I would get support. Such a nasty, twisted cycle.


Amber, I really felt your story. Wow… I can’t even begin to tell you the times that I’ve been falsely accused. The feeling that goes with it is just enormous. And we “feel” so much when we’re little. I’m sorry that you went through that. I know the feeling well. When I realize that someone views me suspiciously, I automatically feel guilty. I feel shame. I feel all the feelings that come with actually being guilty. It’s hard to let go of. Thanks for sharing your story and remember that so many of us share your feelings.


Quietly Emerging, being falsely accused is such an awful thing, and I can understand how someone else’s story of having that happen can be a strong trigger. After all, Carrie’s story about the broken bottles served as a strong trigger for my handkerchief incident. Had I gone deeper in my message #42, I would have added that I felt a tremendous amount of guilt and shame when that woman accused me, even though I had done nothing wrong! I believe that this is because at home I got in trouble for things that I did wrong as well as things that I didn’t do wrong. Being a child I couldn’t process that sometimes I got in trouble and punished solely because some adult (mother, teacher, neighbor) was in a bad mood and took it out on me. So my feelings of guilt and shame were often misplaced. Whenever I was accused of doing anything wrong, I felt guilt and shame because of this confusion. I believe Darlene wrote about this in one of her earlier articles.

Even as an adult I defaulted to those guilt and shame feelings when someone falsely accused me. It is only recently that I have been refusing to take blame for things that I don’t deserve the blame for. I always had the feeling that if someone accused me of something that I must have done something wrong for them to do that. It never ever occurred to me that maybe the other person was wrong. We are taught as kids that adults know best. So even in confusing situations where it doesn’t make sense that we are blamed, we somehow get the feeling that we did something wrong. I had a hard time letting go of this default position of accepting guilt blame and shame. I really had to start looking closely at the other persons actions and motivations to see that something was just plain wrong. I have been able to start to validate myself and tell myself that I know the truth. I did nothing wrong. It’s not my fault if my mother was in a nasty cranky mood. It’s not my fault if a defective saleswoman jumps to a conclusion that a child is trying to steal a handkerchief when there was no evidence to back up her conclusion. I was innocent. Not 10 percent, not 50, but one hundred percent innocent! I had my allowance money in my pocket to pay for it. That woman abused her position; verbally and emotionally abused a nine year old child. SHE is to blame; the guilt and shame are hers to bear. It took me decades to realize this simple truth. I am innocent 100 percent!


Carrie, I know exactly what you mean. My family also put me in a box that they would never let me out of; they called me a “stupid,” “ridiculous,” “whiny” child who made up stories, lied and exaggerated (I see now these are all the things the adults in my family did, but it was o.k. for them–they told me their lies were the truth, my truth was a lie.) I also remember my family constantly insisting to me that when I made a mistake I had done it knowingly and on purpose. It was always them screaming at me “YOU KNEW X!!” with no clue as to how I was supposed to know that.

There was absolutely no way for me to ‘win’ from inside that box, though the only possible ‘rewards’ in that relationship was by staying in that box where they would ‘tolerate’ me so long as I accepted their abuse and signed over my right to define myself as a person. As Kris Healing said, they benefited from their games so why would they stop? In my case working from inside their context, using the terms they set and trying to defend and prove myself drew me into a never ending spiral leading nowhere. I don’t need to spend all of my time defending myself against them anymore, because they are too illegitimate to matter. Stepping outside of that spiral of abuse means freedom for me, and I’m so glad I’m finding it.


L and Spence, not trusting my mother to back me up is the second part of my handkerchief incident. Had I been able yo trust her to do his, I would have been able to how home and tell my mother that I had been shopping for a gift for Mothers Day and was holding a handkerchief trying to decide whether to buy that one and a saleswoman accused me of trying to steal it. In my fantasy dream I picture my mother immediately grabbing the car keys and taking me right back to the store and having me show her the salesperson that falsely accused me. I imagined her going toe to toe with the woman, and perhaps going to the manager to report her. I imagine her face turning red with well deserved embarrassment. But, sadly, this was just a fantasy for me.

No so for my kids. I have their backs. The day that I picked my son up from soccer practice and saw the coach standing by and saying nothing while her son and other “star” players were teasing my son because he was not athletic. I called this woman out on her disgusting lack of decency in front of those kids and several other parents. I went in and spoke to my daughters teacher when I found out that another parent had been writing notes to her claiming that my daughter was annoying her daughter. The teacher assistance and teacher confirmed that these accusations were false. I will always be there for my kids. I am their soft place to fall. When my son was crying one night in bed at age seven, I asked him what was wrong. He had lost a library book and was afraid he would get in trouble. As it turned out, I had moved the library book when I was dusting. It was not lost. But more importantly, my son learned he doesn’t need to fear coming yo me when something is wrong. He is not going to feel the sting of a belt like I would have if a book was lost. I will be there for my kids till I take my last breath.


No kidding! My mom kept saying I was “too sensitive.” Oh, because I had FEELINGS? On the other hand, if HER feelings are hurt, we catch heck! How come *I* am defined as “sensitive” and she isn’t?

But actually, this article, to me, isn’t about how mom treated me, to me, this article is about how I have experienced the thing of:

“People try to define what they want you to be.”

Many times in my life with supervisors, I have experienced the “dropping the bottle” thing. I wouldn’t drop the bottle with any other supervisor, but certain ones would cause me to “drop the bottle” because I was scared of them.


DXS, yes, the double standard. We were denied our feelings by being called too sensitive. Or told to shut up, or called names or sent to our rooms. Or even worse, slapped. But don’t dare say anything to offend Mother! So the message I got was that Mom was entitled to have feelings and to express them in any way she wanted, including ways harmful to me, but I was not allowed to feel. If I was upset I was in trouble. I would be slapped if my mother thought I was pouting or complaining. If I was happy, somehow it got twisted into me being selfish. Selfish because I had a good time with friends?? And if I laughed it was brushed off as me being “silly”. You just couldn’t win with her.

I also had some awful supervisors; one in particular. She specialized in gas lighting me by trying to get me to think I couldn’t do anything right. She almost had me convinced, except for the fact that my previous supervisors at the same job all were very positive in their evaluations of my work. So something was definitely “off” about my gas lighting boss. She also made stuff up in my evaluations. She would claim that something happened in my classroom ( yes, I was a teacher) and since she and I were the only adults present, it was her word against mine. And she being the boss would win out. I did experience that trapped in a box feeling where there was no way to prove the truth. It’s a very frustrating position to be in. My only recourse was to get out of that job. I was getting physically ill from it. Interesting, that when I started my next job, my supervisors all liked my work. Coincidentally their reviews of me were very similar to those from the supervisors I had prior to the witch boss.


Carrie – Thank you SO MUCH for writing this article! You have really helped me to understand that it wasn’t my fault. I need to practice shifting over from the hurt child thinking to the grown-up thinking.

DXS and Amber – WOW! The double standard really hits home! I was also called too sensitive, especially after the teasing/demeaning comments from my “mother.” If I showed the slightest hurt, I just “couldn’t take a joke.” I also got called selfish if I was doing something for me. Even today, if I do something to better myself, there is always that voice that tells me that I am being selfish by putting myself first. “Mother” wouldn’t give it a second thought when she was satisfying her needs, oblivious of the people she stepped on. And if she found someone not useful for her selfish gain, she got rid of them. Even I was not immune. When I was a teenager, she abandoned me three months after my father’s death to troll the bars to find his replacement. Since I was too young to support her financially, I was thrown aside. It didn’t matter that I was grieving from the loss of my father.

Amber – I was also taught that “adults know best.” Whenever I stood up to an adult who was wrong, I was the one who was reprimanded. As an adult, I learned the hard way not to cause a problem with a crazed supervisor. Eventually, I just held my opinions in until I couldn’t take it anymore and walked off my job when it got to be too much to handle. Either way, I was looked upon as the “bad employee.”
P.S. – Good for you for standing up for your kids!! 🙂


Wow! That is so good!! This one is definitely one to bookmark. What I would like to add to that story is when a Christian friend hears our story, they then label us as “Unforgiving” and that “God requires us to forgive”. So further damage is done by the Christian community, which I so hate!


Breaking bottles and fog horn voices thank you EVERY ONE of you for your stories. I’m emerging out my own fog to see how not broken I believed myself to be. My feelings I now know are real. It’s hard to find my voice after years of trained silence. For me my family remains a place of judgement. Why would they change? Thank you. For showing me where I choose to no longer serve them. For where I unknowingly gave away my self, piece by piece, in the name of love. My future sanity lies in an wanting better for my son. Wanting more than I had, more than I got. I want him to know what being loved and accepted for himself is like. Without the self doubt, worthlessness, invisibility to the world. Coming out the fog is hard, the lights are all on after being in the dark for too long. The brightness shows where I gave away more than I ever thought I would because that is how I love. Unconditionally. Beyond all the pain of abuse, the words, the hurt, the betrayal, the anger, the powerlessness, I know now what I take out of it all is priceless. Unconditional love. It hurts my eyes and I cry at the cruelty with which I treated my own heart too. For I do deserve the same love back. Only now I no longer have dreams, I gave them away to never get them back again,


So the message I got was that Mom was entitled to have feelings and to express them in any way she wanted, including ways harmful to me, but I was not allowed to feel. If I was upset I was in trouble. I would be slapped if my mother thought I was pouting or complaining.

But she would always say, “If I say anything to upset you, let me know!!!!” But when you did “let her know,” you got in trouble. YOU CAN’T WIN!

One time I dated a guy who was “pure.” I’m not talking “virginal” pure. What I mean is….. his thoughts and his communication were “pure.” No “double meaning.” He meant exactly what he said. I couldn’t deal with it because of all the “baggage” from my life.


Thanks Carrie for writing about this so clearly. I don’t recall a specific episode or point at which I became the problem. But I remember very strongly that it was consistently “my fault”.

I almost fell off my chair when I read “We were denied our feelings by being called too sensitive. Or told to shut up, or called names or sent to our rooms. Or even worse, slapped. But don’t dare say anything to offend Mother! So the message I got was that Mom was entitled to have feelings and to express them in any way she wanted, including ways harmful to me, but I was not allowed to feel. If I was upset I was in trouble. I would be slapped if my mother thought I was pouting or complaining. If I was happy, somehow it got twisted into me being selfish. Selfish because I had a good time with friends?? And if I laughed it was brushed off as me being “silly”. You just couldn’t win with her.” And I couldn’t win with her her (or several others in the family).

Luckily I don’t have to deal with them anymore thanks to NC but I have had to undo a lifetime of what this “making me the problem” set me for in my conduct, inner life and relationships with others. My “weakness” to gaslighting and narcissists sometimes left me wide open to more abuse or just to frequent bouts of self-doubt about my perceptions and feelings. It’s getting better (good news!) but I am still angry that a mother would use their child like this and be given social approval for doing so.


Carrie, you hit the nail right on the head. In my own family, both my mum and stepfather have labeled me as a person with cognitive dysfunction, moody, a liar, too sensitive, an instigator-trouble-maker. The list goes on. I have finally realised that my parents have always been lazy andbitbis THEIR inability to open their eyes to see reality. Instead of really getting to the bottom of something or dealing with issues, they have found that blaming someone, an innocent child is far more easier than actually being an adult and dealing with things in a constructive manner. I hate that both of my sisters have continued to carry the proverbial torch for my parents. I have only ever held this role. I have learned the hard way that although my intentions may be honourable, and although I am honest and caring, when people refuse to see you in the true light of day, you (I) will never have the chance in their eyes. It’s like yelling into the wind. They won’t see me as an individual because, sadly I fulfill a role that they wont allow me to escape from. In the end, I have had to walk away.


Carrie, you hit the nail right on the head. In my own family, both my mum and stepfather have labeled me as a person with cognitive dysfunction, moody, a liar, too sensitive, an instigator-trouble-maker. The list goes on. I have finally realised that my parents have always been lazy and this is THEIR inability to open their eyes to see reality. Instead of really getting to the bottom of something or dealing with issues, they have found that blaming someone, an innocent child is far more easier than actually being an adult and dealing with things in a constructive manner. I hate that both of my sisters have continued to carry the proverbial torch for my parents. I have only ever held this role. I have learned the hard way that although my intentions may be honourable, and although I am honest and caring, when people refuse to see you in the true light of day, you (I) will never have the chance in their eyes. It’s like yelling into the wind. They won’t see me as an individual because, sadly I fulfill a role that they wont allow me to escape from. In the end, I have had to walk away.


DXS, and Alice, it blows me away to see how many of you on here related strongly to my comments! I feel for all of you who wen through similar experiences, and at the same time, it is validating to be understood after holding all of this in for so long thinking that I was all alone in these experiences and the feelings that go with them.

My parents are both deceased, so while I am not experiencing any new bull&$@! from them, especially my mother; I find that, like Alice, the ripple effect from my early experiences still has a big impact on my thoughts, relationships, and the way I handle life in general. I am slowly and steadily improving in these areas. Facing the damage and validating that things I thought were my fault really weren’t my fault at all, and getting rid of the unhealthy image I had of myself as the result of the way I was treated has helped me come a long way. My weak area is still standing up for myself, but I am gradually getting better at it and setting more boundaries. It sure is scary though. And the freezing up. This truly irritates me. In conflicts some fight some take flight, but many times I still freeze. I think I must still fear the harsh consequences I endured as a child. The belt, the verbal assaults, the silent treatments, the insults. My parents are gone, but the fears are hard to let go of.


Spence, My previous post should also be directed to you. So many similar experiences! Glad we all have each other to chat with on here. It does help in sorting all this stuff out.


For Sariah Shepard (54):

I left the Christian religion officially 25 years ago. I was raised as a nominal Catholic and attended a big Catholic high school. When I moved to Arizona at age nineteen, I joined a big Baptist Church. I have been “Saved” as a born again Christian a few times by different people as a teenager. I spent one summer reading the NIV Thinline Bible from cover to cover to see what was actually written in the Bible. I am NOT anti-Christian and I respect all positive Faiths—whatever floats your boat! The Christians were never the path for me since I have a lot of issues with their treatment of women and politics. A big chunk of my self-healing came from studying metaphysical subjects and gaining self knowledge through astrology, psychic readings, and Spiritualist Churches. I am held together by my religion of Celtic Paganism—(Wicca/Druids)….so, I understand how you feel. You are NOT alone!

For DXS and Amber:

I will join with you with being called too “sensitive” my entire life. I had the very same incidents with all the yelling, fighting, and screaming by my Narc. mom accusing me that I could never do anything right. (Many times I would prefer the physical beatings from her than the emotional and psychological cruelties). We all had to live by a double standard where it’s OK for this Narc-woman-monster to scream and throw tantrums like a toddler but we were never allowed to shed one tear. I remember occasions where I tried to be stoic and brave and not let on anything. Sadly, I’m too honest and not a really good actress. These Narcs. view crying as a weakness, like you are retarded—something along that line.

I don’t know about you, but I had to endure public scenes with my Narc. mom while shopping, in grocery stores, restaurants… There were times when I just wanted to die while everyone stared at us. Does making a public scene make her feel more important or powerful? There are advantages to moving far away to a new state where I have no chance of running into past acquaintances.

The Narc. parent never wants you to be happy–ever! I have many horror stories regarding gift giving with my parents as a kid. Of course I could NEVER please them. As a child, my handmade gifts were always insulted. When I grew up, my Narc. mom would accuse me of buying an expensive gift that I couldn’t afford and go on a rant about how very little money I make at my job.

I remember one incident of saving my money as a kid and wanting to buy a plastic Breyer toy horse. Although I was a city girl, I had a passion for horses and dreamed of one day owning my own horse—(about age 12 years old?) My bedroom walls had posters and horse books—a rather harmless fantasy. (I believe now that my horsey phase helped me survive my pre-teen years). I had been saving my money and finally bought this collectible toy for my room. Of course, my Narc. mom came into my room and saw it and flipped out. Apparently, I was never allowed to buy a small luxury item for myself. However, my Narc mom has a luxury house and she can buy herself anything at the mall and unlimited house decor. She actually made me put my coat on and drive me in the car with the toy in the box to return the item. But the store owner refused and kept arguing with my mom that I was becoming a big girl and had a right to go shopping. So, that time I won and my Narc. mom was furious at having anybody stand up to her. Later at night, I had a good cry because I realized how evil and controlling this sick woman was. At that age I only had one true girlfriend, Kris, from school who was also into horses. My Narc. mom wanted to destroy my one source of joy and friendship at that age. It’s sad when I look back since I don’t have children, but I see how these young girls in my humble opinion, are pushed to grow up really fast. Here I was as a kid with a harmless hobby and not into alcohol or drugs! And my father was mean, too, and he would insult my horse passion. Of course I did grow up and eventually quit my country girl phase, but it helped me—-like an escape mechanism. Nothing wrong with that.

I do not believe that being called “too sensitive” is such a bad thing. Am I so bad for being caring and compassionate? I have never physically abused anyone, nor sexually, nor have I been a major school bully. But I was called “weird” for not being rough, mean, and a spoiled brat like other classmates. Why is it wrong to be emotionally mature for your age, polite, and a serious student? And there were adults who said that I had “social” problems for not befriending these mean and immature classmates. These Narcs, Personality Disorder types, and Sociopaths do not like being around the energy of someone “different”. They want to destroy and bully someone filled with so much light energy. Yes, I am different since I am kind, caring, and polite. At least now I can recognize and cut myself off from the toxic people right away. Thanks all for reading!

Blessed Be,

Yvonne 🙂


I am just catching up on comments after being unable for a few days due to work.

Wow Carrie, I love that your article resonated with so many of us, so powerfully describing what I at least had never put into words.

Screaming into the wind, the box with glass walls. Still such an amazing description of our experiences as kids, perhaps as adults too.

Thank you for acknowledging my comment Carrie in your comment #33

Karen R. thank you too for acknowledging my comment. Reading EFB for sometime now, your comments also really resonate with me. I am so glad it sounds like you too are emerging from the fog and seeing yourself for the good and valuable, worthy person you are, no matter how late in life. It’s never too late!

I truly wish you all you need to fully live your life and the life you deserve. It sounds as though you have no shortage of challenges to put it ridiculously politely with the job, marriage and all.

Amber comment #42; what a powerful story about the handkerchief shopping. I really relate to being unable to defend myself and how you must have felt and how that carries through into adulthood. I am so tickled to read that you took the horrible things you experienced and flipped them into being a loving and wonderful mom to your children.

Amber comment 52, I’ve also had those supervisors who tried to gaslight me, after having supervisors in the same company give me glowing reviews, suddenly I was getting bad reviews and things put in my personnel file that I supposedly did wrong, including things the supervisors did wrong, but blamed me for, to cover their tracks.

The last company I worked at where that happened, the manager was editing my word processing docs, and re-printing them, and putting them on the owner’s desk, marked up with mistakes I supposedly made.

Turns out the manager changed my correct work, and didn’t notice when she did, her mistakes she added to my work were in a totally different font. I kept copies of my work and saw that she changed it, and also looked on the computer at the document properties and saw, they were edited by the lying manager after hours, and had her user id listed as the last editor.

The owner didn’t care and I was asked to leave anyway. I am blessed to work for myself now but don’t miss those types, and I even run into them in the form of customers I end up needing to dump because I finally won’t let myself be bullied so easily by lying narcissists.

I’d swear the bad eggs out there who label us “too sensitive” see us as easy prey and targets to bully and abuse.

My psychologist brother who abused me as a kid and adult did also have a “nice” side and explained once, that our family and these bosses sometimes react to us like a vampire to sunlight. We are a mirror for them, that makes them feel bad about themselves and they can’t stand it and need to try to destroy us.

I don’t know if that makes sense, but it helps me sometimes to understand why these crazy reactions come at me seemingly out of nowhere from people, when I’ve been nothing but nice. They look at people like us and feel badly about themselves and lash out at us in anger.

Somehow it seems like maybe that happens to a lot of us. Our abusive families can’t stand who or how we are and feel they must knock us down and destroy any sense of self we have.

Quietly Emerging comment 7: I relate to your story as well. My mom not only came after us stomping feet but threw her wooden Dr. Scholl’s clogs at us all of the time.
I still struggle with feeling love for my family even though they don’t care if I a dead or alive. I was conditioned to love them no matter what and told their behavior was love.

Engelchen comment #37: I too was always told I was loved. I started asking my Aunt, Grandma and Uncle who loved me and where I spent summer vacations, why my FOO didn’t love me, and sadly they told me I was loved by my family. They meant well but it wasn’t true.

If I were loved by my FOO, I wouldn’t be shipped off to the Aunt / Grandma house every chance possible.

But at age 4 or so, I used to stand at the end of our driveway and hope someone would come by and pick me up and want me.

I found out young, age 8 or so, that my parents were going to split when my father had one of an endless series of affairs, with his sister in law, who was living with my family, with her husband, my dad’s brother, and their kids, and that my parents did not split, because of my older brothers, not wanting or being able to tell the kids the marriage was over, and dad slept with your aunt!

My parents stayed together and 9 months later I came along.

They didn’t want me, I am the result of make up sex.

But they told me they loved me, they simply could never show it consistently and made sure I knew I was a burden, I ruined the balance of the family, on and on, my brothers and parents made sure I knew I ruined life for all of them.

My parents did split for a time when I was 13, and my mom went back to my dad because she was afraid of being alone and not having enough money to live as she wanted.

I never forgave dad for having left us that time without a word, coming back only when his girlfriend kicked him out, and my mom spent the next 20+/- years crying to me how awful he was and would not stand on her own.

I don’t forgive her now either for making me their marriage counselor and the one who had to stop her from trying to overdose in front of me when I was 13 and everything else that went along with it, never mind abandoning me and cutting me off 12 years ago.

The final split from family for me came when I was booted out of a family business I built with 2 brothers. They are crooked, lying, cheating types who steal from anyone they work with if they think they can.

That’s not me, long story short, I got ousted, and the entire family turned on me one final time.

I was accused of stealing millions of dollars, and all sorts of stuff. If I had a million dollars, my roof would not leak and I would not drive a rusty, 20 year old car. If I did steal, these people would have sued me. It was all lies to justify forcing me out. My brothers were the ones stealing from our business and I have the bookkeeping proof, though I did nothing with it an on one cares. Unbelievable.

Drug abuse, cheating, lying, stealing, ritual physical abuse, incest, rape by family members, I saw and experienced all of this stuff, but I am the one who ruined it all according to my family.

Sorry I won’t be on the hook for it all any longer.

It all still makes my head spin.

I could go on and on but kudos to everyone for taking charge of your lives, one step at a time.

Thank you as always Darlene for this safe place and your incredible spirit and insights and helping us all.

My apologies also for one of the longest comments on the planet on any website!


A few days ago, I told my mother that I was keeping 2 kittens from the litter my kitty had. “Oh” she said judgementally. Then I started to converse with her like I would with a normal person, talking about why and so on. Thing is, I started to get uncomfortable when my ‘normal talk’ was met with more judgement. I realize now that my attempt at a conversation with her makes me angry…she thinks her role is to change my actions (in this case keep 2 kittens) by obvious disapproval. She thinks this because of her unreal opinion of me as someone not capable of making decisions for myself. Within a 2 minute conversation, I became an incapable little girl trying to justify an extremely poor decision.

So I’m going to tell her she made me uncomfortable. Then im going to tell her that if I tell her about a decision I have made then I only expect her opinion if I ask. See shes really well insulated from judgement herself because when I brought it up about the kitties, she didnt actually say anything! So how do I call her on it? I just will. Im going to insist that if she doesnt like a decision I make that she NOT only keep it to herself, but also that she NOT be negative—which is also judgement. Im going to tell her that if she doesnt like something im doing and does not want to tlk about it, then she needs to change the topic or end the conversation.

But most importantly, Im going to tell my mother that I would prefer a stronger relationship, but if she cant stop giving her her opinions bout my decisions (either directly or through coersion), then I will not share with her and keep her at arms length and more superficial.


Great article, Carrie. Great discussion, all of you.

“Screaming into the wind.” Yes! That’s it – it’s what I feel like I’ve been doing all my life.
My earliest memory of being “disrespected:”
My parents took me to the beach, I was maybe four. We spread out a blanket, then they wanted to walk down to the water. Well, the sand was so hot it was burning my little feet, and I went back to sit on the blanket. “Mommy” kept yelling at me to “come on, K! Come on! Ok, suit yourself, we’re going down to the water without you!” I was trying to tell them (screaming in the wind) that the sand was HOT. I remember the helpless feeling and frustration that they were not HEARING me. They came back in a little while and my so-called mother started screeching gleefully “We saw a SEAL! We saw a seal, and you missed it! You missed the seal K!!” I loved animals more than life, and I was absolutely heartbroken. And mad at them for leaving me, for not hearing me, and for taunting me! She was “pleased” that my own stubbornness had caused me such unhappiness. My punishment. And I felt from then on that I was misunderstood. And I found myself constantly “screaming in the wind” to make myself understood……..

Something I cannot get a handle on is this: What is it that makes most of us here continue to try to explain ourselves, make ourselves understood, beg for validation, when we actually have known for a long time that we ARE on the outside looking in because THEY are the ones not living in Truth???


Kathryn R.

you said: “Something I cannot get a handle on is this: What is it that makes most of us here continue to try to explain ourselves, make ourselves understood, beg for validation, when we actually have known for a long time that we ARE on the outside looking in because THEY are the ones not living in Truth???” – See more at:

My guess is that if we stop trying to explain ourselves, we have to face our helplessness and recognize that we have no control over the outcome of this horrible situation. It is easier somehow to believe that we’ve just not tried hard enough than to deal with the reality that someone we love isn’t interested in who we really are.

I’m not sure if it’s that way for everyone, but it feels like it’s that way for me.



Hi Kathryn
To answer your question ~ What is it that makes most of us here continue to try to explain ourselves, make ourselves understood, beg for validation, when we actually have known for a long time that we ARE on the outside looking in because THEY are the ones not living in Truth??? ~this is a belief system problem; we keep trying because deep down we believe that the ones who have defined us as “invalid” are the only ones that can remove that label. This is a huge lie and a undoing that lie is a huge part of the healing process.
hugs, Darlene


Hobie and Darlene
You are SO right. But it sure feels sh***y. Acceptance of reality is the solution. A difficult process!
As a probation officer for 30 years I saw children (adolescents AND adults) of abusers keep on knocking themselves out to please those parents. It seemed that the worse the parents were, the more their kids sought their attention. And perpetrators of child sexual abuse 99 out of 100 blamed their victim.
So I could counsel others on these issues, and not see for a long time that I needed to counsel myself as well! I’ve been one of those kids trying to please, but yes, I’m on my way to getting over it and I’m going to work on “undoing the lie.”


“Something I cannot get a handle on is this: What is it that makes most of us here continue to try to explain ourselves, make ourselves understood, beg for validation, when we actually have known for a long time that we ARE on the outside looking in because THEY are the ones not living in Truth???”
I can only speak for myself, but accepting the truth that THEY will never accept me is my greatest fear realized. I am still thinking like that scared 10 year old, but I tried my whole life to appease these so-called family members out of fear – if I didn’t please them, they would abandon me. If I accept the truth, I have to grieve for what I never had (a loving family), accept the fact that they were NEVER there for me in the first place, and then know that I am TOTALLY ALONE. Then, my inner 10 year old would have to be responsible for raising the adult me, and that scares the sh*t out of me! Eventually, I hope that it will be worth it and that I will see the truth as you do. They say it is a very freeing existence. I certainly hope so.


That should be “I hope that it will be worth it and that I will see the truth as OTHERS do.”

My bad! 🙂 I am in the same mindset as you, Kathryn! Why do we torture ourselves for what is basically a lost cause?


I think a lot of us have had a life of:

Mom: “Tell me if I offend you.” (or) “Tell me how you feel.”

YOU: “Ok, I’m offended when you…..” (or)”I feel (whatever) when you….”


Bottom line: We weren’t allowed to have feelings, or we were only “allowed” the feelings mother thought we should have. Like a game of “Mother May I.” (I always hated that game.)


Turns out the manager changed my correct work, and didn’t notice when she did, her mistakes she added to my work were in a totally different font. I kept copies of my work and saw that she changed it, and also looked on the computer at the document properties and saw, they were edited by the lying manager after hours, and had her user id listed as the last editor.

Oh Dave….. You are imagining things! (sarcasm)


Oops, better clarify. Dave, I bet you were told “nobody was doing such a thing.” I’m sorry that happened to you.


I am standing on a hotel balcony over looking the beautiful Niagra Falls. It is one of the images I have always held in my mind. Me being beautiful and adored, worshipped by a faceless man on a hotel balcony in some exotic place. It is like “Twilight” when Edward finds himself enthralled by Bella before he knows anything about her, it is just some ethereal attraction that transcends all reality. It is true love in a narcissitic dream.

I have been haunted by images like these all of my life. I am hollow, painful to the touch down to my very soul. It is one of my many narcissitic traits, although I prefer to look at all of them as modeling behaviors. I am the one person in my family who has always been real about saying this is all so wrong. As you know, this nessecitates my role as the family scapegoat.

I do not remember much of my younger years. My son tells me sometimes that he has forgotten his youngest years too, aside from a couple of sweet memories and a scary time or two. He is 11 now. I tell him stories about when he was a baby and a toddler. They are happy stories, filled with love and special things about him. I show him videos and he says”Oh yeah!” with great excitement. “I remember that!”

When, on the rare occasions my Mother and her golden child, my sister, talk about me, it is with deep sighs and resignation. They both see themselves as self sacrificing Maddona’s who were saddled with the likes of me. They tell my stories like they are clues in a riddle that may lead to the discover of what is wrong with me.

My sister tells stories about how she had to leave college to come home and help my mother handle me because I was so out of control. I was dating my husband who I have been married to for 27 years now at that time. Both my husband and I remember my mom being close to distraught trying to figure out how to get to my unhappy college sister, who was hours away home nearly every weekend. That was decades ago and they are still so enmeshed. My sister still finds the need to say this probably because she was the smart one and I’m the one who got a college degree.

My Mother ran off and married when she was 18 without ever telling her parents and lived at home until she was pregnant with my sister. Her honeymoon was at the drive in movies. She was a good Christian girl, so at least she did not fornicate. Shortly after my sister was born, my teenage father had had enough and wanted to be free. My mom, with me in her belly and my sister were dropped off on my grandparent’s doorstep. I was more than what my father wanted. I was not an eagerly anticipated baby. My father is still absent in my life.

I have heard the stories from my Mom that she was numb then, being abandoned by my father, she could not even mourn the death of her childhood dog. She was sick when I was born, the doctors would not let her near me for days. She had to go back six weeks after I was born. My grandparents took care of me. Mom was there but I have few memories of her, none of them are good or happy.

My mom remarried when I was seven. There were boyfriends in between, a drunk who run his car into a brick wall by our house when my mom left him. A lover who was the ex husband of her cousin. I remember him well because I got really sick while she was dating him. He came to the hospital with my mom and me. She was all worked up and frantic, he was comforting her. I was alone and scared and wanted to be home with my grandma. I felt violated when she let him stay in the room for my exam, clothes off, anal thermometer. I remember the burning feeling in my face, how much I wanted to hide from them. He held her, I sat naked and alone. It is one of the most vivid memories I have of my early childhood, being alone and terrified in the hospital that night. I was scared because my mom was acting like I was dying so of course, I thought I was dying. Not to mention she was inconvenienced by it too. It was all about her.

Sh remarried when I was seven. Her new husband was evil, he abused me horribly. I tried hard to please them but they launched a united front against me. She never physically abused me but she let me know that I was getting what I deserved from him and there would be no help from her. She was always so put out and exasperated by me. My mom is one of those people who is silent but deadly most of the time. That little blurb about everything being deniable, that’s my mom. Everything from the tone of her voice, to the way she hols her body, to the way she breathes is different with me. I can never say this though, if I do I am blinded by her deadlights, a trick commonly known as gas lighting. She has no idea what I am talking about.

There is great family lore about how I caused my own problems with her second husband by digging my heels in. He hurt me really, really bad. He did not rape me but he touched me and he forced me to dress an bathe in front of him. He beat me, dragged me around by my hair, threw me against walls and emotionally battered me so bad I developed a severe dissociative disorder at a very young age.

I was abused by his two daughters and my own sister. They used fear and degredation to keep me in my place. But why wouldn’t they? We could all get in trouble but they would all stand and watch me gat my pants pulled down and be spanked for our collective indiscretion that was always, somehow, my fault. Then they could all have an ice cream while I was sent to my room. The next day the whole family could discuss how they were going to handle my problem behavior at dinner like I wasn’t even there.

As I became a teenager, my sister told me she could have anyone of my boyfriends, but sometimes she might let me have one. She would tell me secretly whoever I liked told her he wanted her, not me. I was always supposed to be grateful to her for letting me have someone. She manipulated me to do whatever she wanted by using my mom’s fear tricks, like “If you don’t go with me I might get kidnapped and killed and then it will be all your fault. ”

After my mom left her second husband, after all of the years of her ignoring and abandoning me or using me to be the lightening rod for all of the crazy that he was and she was, she put an eagle eye on me. Everything I did was magnified.

Normal teenage exploits were turned into extreme family ordeals that required my deepest secrets, that I trusted my mother to help me navigate, being shared with everyone. My mom totally embraced the “tough love” movement. She ambushed me with meetings where my extended family was waiting to help her with me. Everyone knew my most private information, Aunts, younger cousins, neighbors, even her ex husband. She humiliated me over and over and over again.

I have adopted and internalized my scapegoat role so well, I have not a clue who I am, what I like, what potential I have or where I am going. I never learned my self worth, the one and only job that was my mothers to teach me. She loves and is lterally aroused by rounding up the troops to rescue me from myself even to this day. She gets this color in her cheeks and excitement in voice. She is the hero, the self sacrificing martyr. She loves taking over to rescue me from myself.

She does not exist outside of her golden so anything that I need from her comes as a package deal and what I get comes only after her first suckling is completely satiated. Needless to say, that leaves little of any value for me. But I have been well trained to scavenge for crumbs and to be most grateful for them.

I am standing on the balcony of my hotel at the beautiful Niagra Falls tonight and I see the water flowing an I know I am here and I am real. I am not waiting for anyone to reflect me. I am not who she said I was, I am not her projection. I am not her scapegoat. I can se the Falls and their beauty, I can be here alone and when my family comes in I can be the same real person I am right now at this moment. I know I don’t have to rely on crumbs anymore.

I am endlessly sad that I am 47 and it has only been in the last month that I finally found out what has been wrong my entire life and that it has a name and there is a path to healing. I shudder at the grief of a lifetime of losses I have to begin to mourn. I’m scared, the pain is so deep, jumping crosses my mind, but that’s not real either, that’s the hollow projection of a scapegoat that wants to jump. I’ve always been grounded to something other than this projection.

Here I go, wish me luck, it’s time for me t have a little luck on my side.


That was an amazing post, Sunshine. Best of luck to you. You are amazing, you are strong.


Sunshine, your post mesmerized me. You are clearly so very intelligent and have an amazing way of describing your pain so eloquently (terrible horrendous experience, but there is beauty in your writing). You’ve described perfectly many feelings and experiences that I’ve had but could not put into words.

I wish I could meet you.

Yes, you deserve bushels of love and luck. Good Luck with your journey. Do you have any support in a way that works for you…a therapist, friends, animal companions, faith, etc.?


Darlene, is there a way for posters to meet one another if both people and/or a group want to do so?


Thank you so much for this article! As I read this I could feel the validation and honesty fill up inside me. I have been no contact with my mom and brother for almost two years now and was feeling like maybe I am in the wrong and if I just act like they want me to we could all be reunited. The thing is I don’t want to have to compromise or sacrifice my soul for another minute! I have a similar story that happened when I was 4 years old. We were guests at someone’s house and I had the audacity to have needs…anyway, thanks again!


Thank you for your support, L and Light, it feels so good not to be completely alone and to have someone who understands. I. must apologize for all my typos, geesh, that’s what I get for typing late at night on my iPad. I just felt like I needed to get it out last night. Thanks again, I am so grateful there are people who here who understand what this is like.


Sunshine, your post is incredible, both in that it is beautifully written, and that it expresses your deep feelings. You could be a writer! I see you as very talented in that area.
It is painful to see the truth about our pasts, but I have found that facing it, painful as it may be, is a big step towards healing. You say you have been gaslighted by your mother. I know how that can get a person to doubt themselves. I want you to know that I believe you, and every word you’ve written here. You say that you are 47 and that just in the last month you have discovered what has been wrong all your life and you shudder at the grief of a lifetime of losses you have to mourn. You still have many more years, Sunshine, and now that you’ve started the process, there can be healing and, as your screen name optimistically points to, Sunshine ahead! Best of luck to you in your healing process and remember that EFB is a wonderful, safe forum to talk about all of this. Hugs, Amber


DXS comment 72 & 73 Thank you for that validation and it’s ok I get the sarcasm! The business owner cared that I pointed out being sabotaged, but I was an immature baby in his mind for defending myself against the woman manager who wanted me out.

No matter how many times I said I did not want the manager’s job, she thought she knew otherwise. I now see they, owner and manager were both nuts and do not miss them, but it is sad I still work for the owner’s wife at her neighboring business, and the male, tough guy owner I no longer work for, can’t look at me or say hello when we pass in the hallway or parking lot. As if I did something wrong being a gentleman when he asked me to leave, and wishing him well.

Sunshine # 74, the glimpse into your life story is eloquently described and well written, as others mention, which demonstrate your intelligence and understanding of what you have survived.

I do wish you all the luck in the world, you are worthy and deserve it. I hope you find the inner strength and outside support IF you choose it as right for YOU.

Having been to many therapists over the course of my life, where sent when younger to “straighten me out”, for trying to tell my family the environment was broken, wrong, sick, I know there are good and bad therapists.

The bad therapists either sat there, without reaction to what I shared, or yelled at me in the worst cases, such as my dad’s shrink who started off telling me I was making my poor father’s life more difficult.

I think we have to work to find a therapist who validates and is there to help you, and trust our instincts if it doesn’t feel right, something I still work on to this day, trusting my own instincts, at age 47.

It is getting easier to trust my own instincts, but I admit it is not consistent or simply a switch I can flip inside my head, to not feel I am defective, faulty, unworthy of basic civility from others.

Wishing everyone a peaceful and happy Sunday.


Amazing post. I cannot adequately put into words how your story, and the way you connect it to the present moment, has impacted me today.

I picture you at the falls – not as a person who wonders about jumping – but as someone who is enthralled and inspired by the power of Nature. My best therapy is getting close to Nature, even if it’s just to refill my bird feeder.

love to you.


Thanks again, everyone, for the great discussions.
Amy Turon – I”m glad you have found a loving family. Family does not have to be family of origin.
Stitch – Thank you for your comment.
engelchen – I can relate as I was also always told “I love you.” It ended up with me having a very skewed definition of what love is.
Jamie – Yes, we can define ourselves in a loving way now.
FinallyFree – so glad you did break out!
Amber – How sad to be labeled and unable to prove it wasn’t true (and to not have a mother to back you up). It’s great that your children will never have to feel that way.
Caden – I’m glad you are finding it too.
Spence – You’re welcome. Thanks for commenting.
Sarah Shepherd – Thanks. Yes, I think people confuse forgiveness and reconciliation.
Karina – Yes, we all deserve that love. Thanks for sharing.
Alice – Thanks.
Raven – I’m glad you found the truth (or rather uncovered it).
Kathryn R – Your beach story is so sad. As for your question, I think that the little girl/boy inside of us still wants validation from them somehow. It’s really us that the validation needs to come from. Once we validate ourselves we can see how insane they are. (I know, easier said than done).
Darlene – YES!
Sunshine – Thank you so much for your post. I”m glad you are walking the path towards freedom. 🙂
Simona – Thanks!


” If I showed the slightest hurt, I just “couldn’t take a joke.”

My mom would “tease.” But her teasing BIT! My mom used “teasing” to cover up the fact that she was uncomfortable with something. It took me years to realize this. As a child, I needed her to make ME be “ok” not to be ridiculed by her and then “can’t you take a joke???”

I learned from my Mom that SHE herself was “told how to feel” by her mother, my grandma. LIGHTBULB MOMENT! Now I know why everything about her never felt “real.” I learned the “faking it” from her, but of course she denies this. I don’t really know what love is, except toward animals. In fact, when I was a child, I did make the comment that the only “love” I felt was toward animals. Of course, I got the whining and the “how do you think that makes me feel” stuff. My comment was a cry for help, but she couldn’t see it. To this day, I only feel love toward pets. I continue to “fake it” in romantic relationships, so I just don’t have any. Easier that way.


Sunshine, I figured it out at 54! You “got it” earlier.


DXS, I totally relate to the “teasing” mom. My ‘mom’ uses teasing as her version of direct communication to family members (people with whom she feels uncomfortable/angry), not just me. Then it’s the “I was only teasing…. you can’t take a joke” jabs when someone’s feelings are hurt. You can’t respond! I consider it passive-aggressive, a way of expressing her anger at the world because she too, like your mom DXS, was raised to suppress anger. She let it all out when she became a wife and mother – anger 24/7, often disguised as “teasing.” Recognizing at an early age (my beach story post #65) how much teasing hurts and confuses people, especially children, I never developed the habit because I do not want to hurt people. So I speak directly – often getting myself in trouble for opening my yap a little too much!
But I still have a visceral reaction to teasing and sarcasm, and do not consider it “humor.”

Oh, and I too love animals – they won’t hurt you out of some narcissistic agenda like people do.


Hi Light
I don’t recommend that people give their info out online so not sure how people connect with each other. I am thinking about doing a seminar or small group retreat in the future but nothing is solid yet. But one day it will happen!
hugs, Darlene


Hi Sunshine!
Wonderful share! Thank you and YAY that you are moving forward!
hugs, Darlene


Yes, Kathryn R, my mom was uncomfortable around me, and like your mom, used “teasing” with ANYONE she was uncomfortable around.

I was one of those geekly “little adults.” I had a light bulb moment when Mom said to me, “I wanted you to be a kid and you refused to be one.” That’s when I realized why, as a child, I was so frustrated with her. I wanted her to talk to me in her adult voice, but she kept using “mommy voice.” Figured this out in my late 40’s! Why oh why couldn’t I figure that out as a child? I knew I felt frustrated, but couldn’t put my finger on what the frustration was.


I can remember every single disparaging word ever spoke to me by my MNPD from the time I was a toddler… I remember all of the loneliness, bad names, how i was treated if i needed anything (being sick was especially bad, that woke her up and kept her up and mad), making me sad all of the time. When I had been given a baby sister for my second birthday I was told not to touch her, to keep away, you might hurt her… MNPD took my happiness away by taking my baby sister away from me. then the MNPD continued to make sure that sister & I would never like each other she said and did a lot of rotten stuff and MNPD accomplished her goals.. Sis and i didn’t really start speaking to each other till we were in our 40s. I know who I am, I know what I can and cannot do, I am a good person always have been and always will be. And using these sites all of the blogs, comments, messages, hints, tips, ways to do things, I couldn’t have done anything this good for myself if it hadn’t been for all of this information!!! I’m nearing Freedom!!!


Hi Carrie. I can see similarities between your life and mine. Recently been struggling with fact that AM on the outside of the box. Been thinking ..Can I ever get back in that box? It’s hard not having family for holidays. And I think if I could go back to my old self I could jump in that box and pretend with them like things never happened; but they did. AM sorry to hear you have been through so much I rejoice you have come so far t ok be able to share with others how you are moving ok by on. Hope I get to that point as well someday



We all have boxes built around us by other people in our lives. But whether we choose to stay in them is another story.

I learned a long time ago not to join in on the disfunction of my family and other groups by not seeking the approval of others, who would never approve of me anyhow, and duriving my worth elsewhere. I mean really, why seek anothers’ approval when they don’t really even know me anyhow? Nor do they seem to want to. (Personally I sought my approval from God, in Jesus.) But my point is that it is a choise.

We can open that prison door and allow the captive to be set free by recognizing that we cannot control what others do. They will probably still choose disfunction. So why not have a visit with the family as an intrigued observer and then simply laugh it off and go on my merry way doing what is best for my faith, my kids, my marriage? But still love, always love.


Carrie, thank you for validating what I wrote. It is still a huge learning process day by day and getting free of the core of all of the lies was only the beginning for me. I still have struggles in other areas that I am learning to cope with and get free of. Initially, it felt that EVERYTHING was settled and clear. The pain of the lies is completely gone and there are many other areas of my heart and mind that are completely free, but this process never ends.That is both wonderful and annoying to me! I come back here to keep growing and moving forward in my life and it is extremely encouraging to read the messages and posts. It helps me understand trigger moments and old ways of thinking and it helps me to see the areas I am free in. I loved your message and appreciated it! I could definitely see where I was initially labeled as trouble. It is so disgusting to me that parents do that to children. xoxo



I am truly trying to get to the place you are describing, where I don’t need the approval of anyone on earth. I think that’s what many of us commenting on this thread and around this site are striving for.

Opening that prison door is just not that simple for everyone. Especially if we have been born into a dysfunctional family and groomed to accept that dysfunction as normal, or even desirable!

I have had to work and fight my way through layers and layers of lies and abuse to actually recognize the dysfunction as the reason I was in so much pain. And false definitions of love and the pressure from the system to stay inside it sucked me back sometimes.

I need the validation and encouragement from others who have struggled and are still struggling even to gain the strength and confidence necessary to “simply laugh it off”.

It’s a little unsettling to me when anyone seems to suggest that the answers are all simple quick and easy.

It is one thing to recognize the box and choose not to stay in it (sometimes that is a process of its own), it is another thing entirely to figure out how to leave the box.

Cathryn, it appears by what you’ve posted that there weren’t many obstacles for you in leaving whatever box or boxes you’ve been put in. I hope you have some compassion for those of us who find ourselves facing many obstacles as we try to free ourselves.



RE: Hobie and Cathryn’s comments 94 and 92; I think our climbs out of the box are as individual as each of us is. We all have our own stories, family situations and experiences that got us into our own box. And we each have our own pathway out of it. I agree that the exit strategy is going to vary greatly in complexity for all of us, depending on our experiences and amounts of damage, and how deeply ingrained the lies are that we were groomed to believe. There are other factors too, with one being the amount of support we are currently receiving.

One thing I have found us that recovery is not a smooth path. I can really get the feeling of progress when I muster up the courage to stand up for myself, and then soon after I can find myself once again freezing up and not responding when someone behaves rudely towards me. So there are a lot of ups and downs in getting out of my box, but overall I do feel as if I am moving forward, even though I slide backwards from time to time.

I think we each have to figure out what will work for us, be it simple or complex, therapist or no therapist, contact or no contact, confronting or not confronting. Our paths are as individual as all of us are.


yah….i was the “feral”f-ed up kid (3 yrs. old)foster kid,then adopted by them @ age5 yrs.i was black sheeped,etc. not like there kids etc. i WAS always the problem etc. then sexual abuse from (11-15 yrs.)when found out,BUT never fixed @ 48yrs SO TRYING 2 catch up 2 “ME”an the HARM it ALL did


It is interesting, my instant reaction is to say something about that post. But that is always me, the truth teller, the one who steps up to the plate to say “Hey, that’s not right.” I’ve paid a price for always assuming that role, offering myself up as the sacrificial lamb, defending everyone. I’ve taken the fall for many people many times. So I’m learning to take a step back, to keep my inner peace and not get involved in absolutely every situation that presents itself. I’m taking off that scapegoat mantel and learning to play a different role.


Kaycee, interesting that I was always the opposite! I would observe things and never say anything. I agree that there is a risk to stepping up to the plate, but I find I am starting to change and am now more willing to take that risk. Perhaps I am at a stage in the process where I want to be heard more. That being said, I do understand your feelings, especially after taking the fall on several occasions. We can be in different places but still understand where someone else is coming from.


Hi Kaycee
WElcome to EFB ~ Yay for taking off the scapegoat mantel! This site is all about taking our lives and our power back!
hugs, Darlene

Hi Karen
Welcome to EFB ~
We are all about trying to catch up with ourselves here! Glad you are here,
hugs, Darlene


Hi Cathryn
Sorry this is a little late, but welcome to Emerging from Broken.
We do have a choice as soon as we realize we have one. 🙂 My question is WHY have a visit with people who treat me like that? What is the point?
Hugs, Darlene


Kaycee and everyone else who feels this way,

I was always the scapegoat too. I was always the one who saw the “craziness” of the whole situation and said something about it. But, my mother would always either downplay the situation or right out deny it. She would even have me questioning my own memory and sanity. I was just the girl with “problems”. The one who just didn’t like or respect my mother. Well, no…I didn’t like her. I loved her, but I didn’t like her. And I have been slowly climbing out of my box too. It’s a good feeling. To wake up knowing that my life will not be about dirty looks or put downs today. Going no contact has been difficult in the sense that I feel that I should have contact with my parents. I feel guilty. But, I also know that if I let things go back to the way they used to be, I’ll get lost in the chaos of it all. So, I am working on forgiving and letting the past go. And I’m coming to terms with the fact that the outlook that my family has about me and my role in the family will probably never change. And that’s okay. It’s not about changing them. It’s about changing me. I was told who I was from a very young age. But, a part of me didn’t agree with what I was told. I’m not stupid. I’m not a coward. I’m not ugly. I’m not disgusting just because I show emotion. I am a human being who is beautiful, intelligent, courageous, and capable of doing whatever I set my mind to do.

Somewhere in the past my mother became flawed. Unfortunately, whatever happened to her has also affected my life as well. But, I’m making better decisions for me. I really believe that she needs therapy. I suggested it in the past and she just made fun of me. So, her life is her life. And I will pray for her and I will always love her. And maybe someday she’ll change and we might even have a beautiful relationship. I don’t know.

Anyways, in so many ways I’m doing better. I see myself in a whole new light. And that’s due to no contact. I don’t know if that will be forever, but it’s for the best right now. I love my family and I pray for them. I don’t hate them. I just want to set a new tone. I’m not that girl anymore. But then again, I never really was….


Bravo Amber for finding your voice! You are so very well spoken, the world can use more voices like yours. I don’t want to lose my voice, it is an important part of who I am, but I have to learn to find a balance to choose my battles and to not be baited into no win situations. My voice is something my family has repeatedly shamed me for as they a prim and proper image, standing up for something is beneath them, trashy, they are so much better then that. They will spew their poison the minute someone turns their back but saying it to their face would be s scandalous. But I dive in head first into everything, the great righter of all wrongs. The champion of the weak or even the lazy who are fine with sitting back with a tub of popcorn to watch me go to bat for them. These are the situations I need to take a step back from, as you can see I have my work cut out for me.


Kaycee, first of all, thank you! You made my day!
As far as choosing battles go, I too am learning to let the unimportant stuff go, but at the same time, learning to speak up, especially when someone is trying to take advantage or if someone demeans me. It is not always easy. I sometimes freeze up and can’t respond at all. This is a throwback to childhood when it was pretty much my only response. The other day I was on line at a store and didn’t see that another register had opened up and the woman had called me over. The man behind me could have politely told me that she had called me over. But instead he poked me in the back and then told me. At first I froze, but then turned around and gave him a dirty look, as if to say “what do you think you are doing?” It was a cross between freezing and not being able to respond verbally, and then unfreezing enough to show with my expression that I was displeased.

As far as diving in to help others go, there have been times that I’ve felt that I did more than I should have, and other times I wished I had done more. I hate bullying. I was bullied a lot as a child, and did not know how to defend myself. I was often upset that no one else ever advocated for me, and that is why I will gladly stick up for the underdog. I won’t do that for someone who just doesn’t want to be bothered and would rather just let me do the work. I know people who would rather let someone else do the talking because they’re afraid if they say something they will look bad. So they gladly let someone else do the dirty work.

I am sorry that your family shamed you when you stood up for things you believe in. Sadly, this seems to happen a lot. I wasn’t allowed to show feelings as a child. I would be ignored if I was upset and no one even tried to find out what was wrong. Anger was not permitted and even happiness could somehow be twisted into me acting silly or that I was selfish. I learned yo stuff my feelings and as I said before, I often froze up if someone was nasty or angry at me.

You sound like you are well on your way, Kaycee and I wish you all the best as you continue on your healing journey.


“My question is WHY have a visit with people who treat me like that?”
Exactly Darlene. My mother was/is a proponent of “it’s your choice to feel that way Alice” despite whatever behavior towards me she was engaging in. Today I choose not to be around people (including family) who do not treat me with care and respect, I do not hang out with people who mistreat me while attempting to “choose” my feelings about that.

I can’t quite express why the suggestion that one MUST reach the point where it is possible to stand in the face of abuse and feel and think “this is amusing behavior” on the part of abusers makes me angry, but it does. My mother would say “It’s your choice to be angry Alice”. I don’t think the poster went as far as suggesting one find it funny or interesting but I don’t understand the point of subjecting myself to mistreatment by others as a measure of progress in my life.


Thank you Alice (#104)

I’ve been wondering why I would want to have relationships with people that I have to be “strong enough” to deal with. If my family isn’t behaving like a loving and supportive group of people, do I really have any responsibility to show up to let them criticize or mistreatment at worst, or judge me at least?

Putting up with some difficult people may be necessary at times, but I don’t believe I will get to a point that I can let cruelty roll off my back without numbing myself, and that just destroys the part of me that feels empathy and receives kindness. That’s not worth it.


Hobie, I absolutely agree with you. Putting up with difficult people is part of
life but I’m in no way compelled to persist in situations where I’m systematically getting the rough end of the stick. This was, however, what my family expected of me and a direct consequence of it has been that I have stayed in relationships that were damaging to me and I knew they were but I kept telling myself “If you just make the effort. Change yourself and they will change”. Bull.


Growing up, I seemed to have gone through a vicious cycle. I, too was the child who “told the emperor that he was not wearing any clothes.” Whenever there was something wrong, I was the first to speak up. But, because of my narcissistic mother, I was immediately punished and then told that I was nothing but a troublemaker. Unfortunately, this has affected my judgment as an adult. I have difficulty determining when it is the right time to speak up when someone or something is wrong. Trusting myself is a foreign thing.

Hobie, I also agree with you when you said, “Putting up with some difficult people may be necessary at times, but I don’t believe I will get to a point that I can let cruelty roll off my back without numbing myself, and that just destroys the part of me that feels empathy and receives kindness. That’s not worth it.”
Empathy was looked upon as a weakness in our family. The only way to gain acceptance from family members was to join them in their sick game of degrading and belittling EVERYONE. All I could see was that this type of behavior was affecting my attitude negatively. Also, why would I want to feel any empathy towards these heartless and cruel family members or anyone else who does this? Besides, denying anyone empathy makes me feel horrible. But, I believe that empathy is one of my positive traits and I refuse to give it up.


When I wondered why I was putting up with all this from my family, and why I tried so hard, I realized that it was because I had been brainwashed to believe that I would not survive without them. This was a childhood believe, and trying harder to be what they wanted and to put up with it was how I survived childhood. It was through sorting out the truth about what is abuse and what is human error that I found the strength to draw a boundary. It was through realizing that I didn’t DESERVE to be treated those ways, that I found the strength. It was through busting out of the brainwashing and fog that I HAD to see them ‘sometimes’ and that family was everything and all those other kinds of lies that I found my life and took it back (from them). Today when people say that I should just ‘ignore them’ for the sake of peace (or whatever) I always say WHY? Why would I want to do that? Why would I want my kid to witness that? Why would I want to live like that anymore? I gave them all a choice about our relationship and they chose not to have a mutually respectful one with me. And then I chose….
hugs, Darlene


I just published a NEW article on the homepage!
This one is about Victim Blaming and it is about when YOU are blamed for the core of your pain. This is a huge issue for children who grew up in dysfunction and didn’t actually realize how deep the brainwashing went, which makes it easier for other people to blame them (for other people to make you think maybe it is actually YOU that is at fault) for the difficulties in their relationships!
Hope to have a great discussion there! “Victim Blaming ~ When you are Blamed for the Core of your Pain”
hugs, Darlene


Thank you SO MUCH for that advice. I think will be my next step – to look at the situation with adult eyes and sort through everything. Maybe then I will find the true me so that I can start protecting her! 🙂


Thank you to everyone for more helpful insights with your own experiences that I relate to.

Re: Alice’s comment #104, I do not think we necessarily CHOOSE to be angry as if we enjoy being angry as a result from being hurt over and over throughout our lives.

I can only speak for myself and my abusive family didn’t want me to get angry as a result of them hurting me and mocked me for being hurt or pointing out when inappropriate things were done and said.

I too feel like a truth speaker, who has to point out when something isn’t right and was punished for that, and for a time learned not to say anything, but that is changing.

I survived 35 to 40 years of varying forms of family abuse, being the black sheep, scapegoat and so on.

7 to 12 years later, now, being no contact with ALL family, I feel better than I ever did, but it is difficult to unlearn all that my family taught me to believe about myself.

That I would fail without them still haunts me even though I have largely been on my own and ok without them.

I too gave my family a choice to be civil and have mutual respect and I tried that over and over until I finally realized they didn’t want to respect me or even have me around.

My family made it clear and I knew it when I was about 4, that they didn’t want me, but they would SAY they did when I asked as a kid and into adulthood.

They blame me for going no contact but they are the ones who CHOSE not to call or write or to stop the abusive behavior.

Anyway, thank you as always Darlene and everyone for sharing in this safe, encouraging and supportive place.

It is a beautiful day here and I just want not to be haunted by sickening fears that my family is right about me, and that I will fail and do not deserve to be loved by anyone, etc. Yuck to that brainwashing!

EFB does help me get through each and every day. Thank you all.

I am going to go feed our tiny dogs and be with my wonderful wife, all of whom love me.

Peace and hugs to all


Hi Everyone!
I just published a new post on the home page! This one is called “When Dad enables Mom in Emotionally Abusive Family Relationships” and it’s kind of a joint message this time! I write a bit and then Carrie H. shares about her relationship with her father as he defends her mother. I am looking forward to this! link ~
hugs, Darlene


Hi Carrie,

I can well relate to being defined as “the problem” from an early age. I was born the final child of 3, all boys. My father had wanted me to be a girl, but when I was born with the wrong genitalia, well, what a disappointment. He had already picked out a girls name for me, but when I wasn’t a girl he told my mother to name me – essentially, the message was that I wasn’t “right”, so he was handing me down like old clothes that someone else might find useful. He had named both my older brothers after himself, middle name to one, first name to another.

As you can imagine, nothing else went right from that point forward between my father and myself. After I was born, he had himself “fixed” so that he couldn’t make that “mistake” again. I’ve never felt any relationship with my father other than one of fear. He was physically abusive when I was growing up, an alcoholic, and even now, as an old man in his late 70s, with failing health, and not much time left, he has no desire for any sort of relationship. To put it bluntly, I’m waiting for him to die. I hate to say it, I know it is horrible, but it will be a relief when it happens. I keep thinking that I’ll feel a sense of final release, but then again, maybe I’ll never feel that.

Having been sexually abused at the age of 12 by a relative, I’ve never forgiven my father for the distance that was between us that allowed that abuse to occur. If he had been the type of father that he should have been, then I could possibly have told him what was occurring. But I didn’t because I was afraid of him. And I still hate him for that. I’ve never told him or my mother about that dark period in my life, it lasted for about a year until I was 13. And I never will tell them because I know what their response will be – to blame me for not telling them. I won’t allow that.

So, to close, I’m not “the problem”, I already know that. Thank you for reminding me of that truth.


Wow, Eddie, just wow!!!!!!

I am the eldest, but I was defined as a “problem” because of being too precocious. My parents didn’t know how to deal with a precocious kid. Ok, I’m not like Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory, not THAT precocious. Just too precocious for a small town. So, sweep it under the rug, I’m the problem.

But your story is way way way worse than mine.


DXS, Just a small thought I learned from a very wise Grief and Loss group leader after my fourth miscarriage. In group, she never let us go to that place where we minimized our loss by saying someone else’s was more profound. She was adamant about that. She had lost a child to leukemia at the age of 18. She said that the one thing she learned through her own loss and the decades she spent ministering to others who experienced pain and loss was that the feelings and the experiences needed to be held in a sacred space for healing and never, ever compared or minimized, whether it was the loss of a child, a pet, a parent, a divorce or grieving a lost childhood. She insisted minimization of any kind was a way to stuff feelings and all pain needed to be held on equal ground in group in order to heal.


Kaycee – Thank you for sharing that. It’s important to know that there’s not a competition going on for whose story was worst. It’s something I often say to other people, but I can sometimes find myself thinking that I haven’t had it as bad as this or that other person.

Your explanation helps.


Kaycee, thank you! I guess I’m still in “other people have it worse than you” mode. Gotta get out of that!


I am working on deciding whether or not there is any chance of my Mother having any kind of relationship. I keep thinking she is not as bad as some of the Mothers I read about here lol.

I actually wrote her an email asking if we could talk with the condition it would be private, between her and I. She sent back a link for some coupons but hasn’t answered me yet and I’m kind of guessing that it my answer.

I’m a Mom and I know no matter what, where or when if my child said he needed to talk to me I would be there for him unconditionally and I would not need time to think about it. So I guess I am in step one, accepting the fact my Mother is not capable of having a real Mother/daughter relationship with me. Wow, that’s just so painfully huge. I have to remember that I am not a child experiencing this rejection now, I am stronger, all grown up. I already made it through that even though I am just learning how to admit it and accept it.

The question I must ponder, is do I play the fake game? It is in essence what I have always done. I just function on the bottom rung of the ladder in my family. I wonder what will happen as I heal, how that will look, will they all just think everything is the same and I will be the only one who knows anything is different because I won’t hurt anymore inside?


Hi Kaycee, I’m not clear on what you mean by the “fake game” so it’s hard to address that part of your message. Maybe you can clarify it more.
I too functioned on the bottom rung of my family ladder. Being the only daughter, especially the daughter of a woman who hated girls cemented my position there.
I don’t talk much to others about the process I am going through and the healing. Just once in a while I may discuss a particular issue or experience. I’m basically healing on my own. Perhaps some day I will talk more about it but I don’t feel that I want to do it now. I can tell you though that I have already done some healing and have set some boundaries ( though I still find it very hard) with people. I am noticing some differences like some people being a little more wary of me because all of a sudden Im not rolling over and playing dead. I’m noticing that I am talking more in groups because I am focusing less on ” what are people gonna think of me?” And more on just expressing my thoughts. These are just some of the things I’ve noticed that are different about me as I heal, and Im sure people see a difference on the outside. When I first started my healing process I remember writing on here about a neighbor that I used to be friends with who became very rude and discounting towards me. At that time I was still trying to be nice and saying hello in hopes that she would act differently. Well, I stopped doing that because I realized how much she disrespected and discounted me and asked myself why I would even want someone like her for a friend? I just ignore her now. I’m sure she has seen the change in me. It’s not that it matters whether or not this person sees a difference. The point I am making is that if you change on the inside, even if you didn’t tell anyone about the healing you’ve done, it’s bound to be visible


The fake game in my family is nothing is wrong, everything is fine and exactly the way it should be. It doesn’t matter if we are hurting inside, we smile, we never rock the boat, discuss things openly. Unless it’s me and my problems, those we expose and talk about.

I am guessing it has a lot to with my Mother’s narcissistic wounding, she is unable to discuss my childhood and to be honest I think she flies on automatic pilot most of the time. I think a great deal of the scapegoating that comes my way, the way she always sort of runs me over by trying to rescue me, telling me what I should like, what I should do, how I should improve myself are so habitual an ingrained in her that it never occurs to her they are harmful to me.

A lot of what I am reading about healing is we reach a point where that stuff just doesn’t bother us anymore, but that bothers me. I want to confront her and tell her she is wrong about me because if I just let it roll off of me, she will never hear my side,

Which of course brings me back to square one, I guess I haven’t fully accepted my Mother’s limitations. I just have a hard time seeing this healing work unfold without ever convincing her that she has been wrong and has been projecting on me my whole life. I know I have to get out of the space where my healing imagery includes making her see. But if she can’t see the real me, all we will ever have is the fake game she created, which includes me as somebody else other than who I am with a history that is grossly distorted.


Kaycee and DXS
Excellent comments Kaycee. It is so very important not to minimize any of our trauma. It is a childhood survival technique to minimize our own trauma ~ we do it to comfort ourselves when there is no other comfort and it becomes a habit but it is like dismissing ourselves the same way we have been dismissed by others. Learning to validate myself went MILES towards my healing.
hugs, Darlene


I confronted my mother a couple of months ago – I sent her a letter listing the ways that I had been hurt by her. She responded, to my surprise, and my husband went to speak to her. After he tried to explain to her what I was hoping for, I heard nothing until a few days ago. She called my husband and said “I have nothing to offer so there will be no discussion.”

She doesn’t understand why I need to talk about anything. She doesn’t talk to anyone about anything. Why can’t I just forget about being molested and abused most of my life and keep quiet so that I look normal?

The thing I’m having the most trouble with today is how many times people who are so kind and helpful in so many ways want to try to tell me that my mother really does love me, she just doesn’t know how to express it (or something like that). I don’t even know what to do with that concept. Am I supposed to find that little evidence in the midst of all her neglect and abuse and feel good about who – her or me? Does it make it OK to mistreat me for most of my lifetime because she had occasional warm feelings toward me underneath all the criticism? Is this supposed to help me forgive her?

It’s not OK that she has treated me so badly for so long, and trying to acknowledge that somehow under all the crap she loved me only makes it all harder to understand and somehow just plain WORSE!

Somehow I know it’s really up to me to decide what I’m willing to believe here, but I’m having a really hard time allowing myself to just say to myself that she DIDN’T love me! No matter what anyone else wants to believe about her, the only way her behavior makes sense is if I stop trying to connect any of it with love.

Anybody else have this problem?


The question I must ponder, is do I play the fake game? It is in essence what I have always done.

Can’t answer this for you, but I played the fake game for YEARS! Then I moved 3,000 miles away and “found me.” Then, it was ME for 363 days a year and “FAKE IT” for 2 days a year (I always made sure it was ONLY two days at Christmas, citing “gotta get around blackout dates with the airlines….”)

My mom and I played the same game. Instead of telling the truth, we justified our own hidden agenda.

I am now trying to get to TRUTH with her.


The point I am making is that if you change on the inside, even if you didn’t tell anyone about the healing you’ve done, it’s bound to be visible

Had that issue at work today. A woman who had been there three years did not like the fact that I knew something she didn’t (with me being a newbie…) or me asking managers questions instead of her. She bit my head off. I told myself that she had issues and she was a poop and I ignored her. Later she gave me a suggestion but did it in a more “civil” way that I did not find condescending. I still think she is a poop and I will continue to ignore her.


I guess I haven’t fully accepted my Mother’s limitations.

Kaycee, I’m having the same problem. I so want my mom to say, “You were right, I was wrong, I’m very sorry.” But she thinks she did nothing wrong. My feelings are hurt, I’m “too sensitive.”

Also, Mom doesn’t “get it” about messages being heard versus what was said. To her, she said what she said and I should “hear” what she said. But I hear different “messages” than what she actually SAYS. That’s been proven over and over in books and training classes. Mom thinks this is crap.


Thanks DXS and Hobie. I am dealing with the feeling that saying nothing is in a way letting her rest in the idea she is right. I struggle with a few other things as well. I have studied my family history and have identified an insidious pattern of abuse, scapegoating and intense shaming. I have even talked to people from different branches of our tree on that confirm they too have seen this phenomenon on their sides of our tree.

The stories we hear about many people in our tree (so many who have died prematurely) are so negative. While I am certain some of the scapegoats and shame absorbers ended up abusers themselves, many just lived out sad lives suffering as the black sheep.

Even after their deaths, the shame deflectors/projectors of the family made sure the distorted stories, the lies, the covert “poor Linda, she just never could get her act together and we all tried so hard to help her” followed the scapegoats to their graves and became their memorials.

I don’t want that. I want to scream “Liars, liars” from the mountain tops, I want to expose them and tell the truth. You know the kind of stuff that has always gotten me into so much trouble with my family lol.

That and I shudder when I think about what my own legacy will be.
I recently talked a bit to my Mom about her younger sister, my Aunt who died at 42. When my Aunt was dying, her Father (my Grandfather) openly wondered to me whether or not she was being punished by God for all of the running around she did as a teenager. My Mom said she slept around a lot and brushed off my Grandpa’s comments as being a “religious thing.”

This Aunt had the self worth of a dead fly. She manged to get married and stay married the second time, have three children and build a life, but I think her inner landscape probably looked a lot like ours. She struggled, struggled with herself and struggled with her place in the family and with the relationships in her own nuclear family. I took care of her sometimes during the two years she was dying. I know that she only slept with two men both, both of whom she married.

Yet 24 years later, after being married for over two decades and raising a family the distortions, exaggerations and lies were being told to her niece,that she was some kind of hellion. I identify a great with my aunt. I think even if she had slept with 30 men in her teens that information should be protected as her private business, not something to be passed down to the next generation. I have been given the same honors as my Aunt.

My teenage escapades did not even come close to resembling the stuff my friends were doing, they were rather unexceptional give or take a couple of highlights. But in family lore I was wild and out of control requiring great “tough love” efforts from my martyr Maddonna Mother who did things like trick me into walking into a house where the whole family would be waiting for an intervention over my latest boyfriend.

I just don’t want what happened to my Aunt to happen to me you know? I want my side of the story out there.


Hi Everyone!!! The e-book ~ MY BOOK!! “Emerging from Broken ~ The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing” is finally almost ready to publish!! One of the big things left to do is collect the endorsements. And how better to get them then ask for them from YOU ~ my readers and the commenters here on the website!! Please help me by sharing the impact that this website has had on you on my new post here: I hope you will consider helping me out with this!
Thanks everyone, hugs, Darlene


Kelly – awesome! Thank you for sharing.
Joy – Yes, going back into that box is not something I want to do either! It does hurt not having family but it hurts even more trying to get back into a box.
Cathryn – Thanks for sharing ?
FinallyFree – Yes, it is disgusting to me as well. Luckily when we do this work we break the cycle from continuing.
Karen – so sorry to hear that you had such a rough childhood. No child should be subjected to that treatment.
Kaycee – Yes, stepping out of the scapegoat role is hard because it is so engrained. So glad that we are doing it now.
Quietly Emerging – So awesome that you are becoming who you always were ?
Alice and Hobie – I struggle with this as well. Why do we need to be around people who treat us poorly? Would we remain friends with someone who treated us that way? Why does “family” get a pass?
Spence – Thanks for the share.
Darlene – Thank you! I love reading your words. They make me feel stronger!!
Eddie – How terrible for you to have gone through that. I’m so glad you realized that you are not the problem. So glad that you broke free of that dysfunction.
Hobie – “the only way her behavior makes sense is if I stop trying to connect any of it with love.” Exactly. There are a lot of people out there with skewed definitons of love. I find that the people who say things like “well she’s your mother” or “she loves you” often have their own childhood wounds they don’t want to face. People who came from loving families get it.


I tried confronting my Mother, asking her to respect my boundaries. It is bizarre how she can just ignore me, act like I have said nothing and the next time she sees me she will just pretend nothing was said. I am so worthless to her I do not even deserve the respect of acknowledgment.

I am realizing that unless she can be in a position of rescuing me from a crisis, I am not and will not ever be important to her.

My childhood was wrought with crisis. My Mom would over expose me, violate my privacy, share everything about me with everyone and make a production out of rescuing me.

I am having a hard time with this acceptance phase, the getting to the point where my mind isn’t obsessing on how to make my Mother see what she has done and change and be a real Mom. I am having a hard time seeing how to get from this feeling of needing her to love me so badly to to being okay with knowing she never will.


It is funny. I have worked so hard on this stuff. I wrote my letter, talked to my therapist about it. I felt so strong and in just one split second, all that work I did, all of that strength I felt was flipped on its head and I am that little girl who is hurting her Mother by having feelings again and I am filled with shame, fear, self doubt, self hatred and hopelessness.

When I called my Mother out on ignoring me she said she knows I had a crappy childhood, she is sorry but she has spent the last 30 years making it up to me and she can’t change the past.


Kaycee: I can relate so much to feeling like you’re back at square one and that your mother ignores you ever having said anything. My mother is the same. It’s like what I say has no bearing on anything, ever, and she goes back to talking to me like I’m 5.


Hi Kaycee
This happened to me too, and those feelings are the result of the same ‘dismissive’ treatment. Ask yourself (or you mother) this; how has she spent the last 30 years trying to make it up to you? What are you asking her to change that she can’t change?
hugs, Darlene


Darlene and Kaycee,

I’m with you both on all of that. I’ve had some pretty heated conversations with my mom and the next hour it’ll be like nothing happened. Thinking back, over the years I’ve brought up the dysfunction in small ways and the response was always an irritated “Well, what do you want me to do about it,” me answering that question, getting told it’s not possible, and then them pretending like everything is ok. Lather rinse repeat.

Something I’ve recently noticed is that I always feel like I have to leave the house spotless and clean up after myself constantly, to make it like I wasn’t even there. This feeling even followed me when I was living in an apartment alone, with only my own space to consider. But it was like my mom was constantly following me around in my head telling me to clean this, clean that, that should be there, etc. But, looking around my family’s house where hopefully I’ll only be staying for a very short while longer, I see their messes all the time. So again, my presence is a nuisance, but theirs is ok.


I asked my Mom very specifically to not run me over. Like at the last family gathering I was talking to a person about the fact that I had just pulled my son out of the private school he was attending because his teacher was being mean to him to the point where he pretending to be sick to come home in the middle of the day. My Mom barged into my conversation, said it all worked out for the best because my son was doing great in his new school and that now it was time for me to focus on the future and talk about the good things in his new school not his old one.

I also told her that it was not okay that I’m not allowed to talk about my childhood(she put her foot down about that about 25 years ago) but she could say things like I was so “lost” in school as i child (I was being abused badly by her second husband and scapegoated by her).

My sister talks about how she had to leave college to come home and help my Mother with me because I was so out of control, so not true(she was too enmeshed with my Mother to be away and doesn’t do friendships well), but everyone in my family believes them.

It is not just what they say. The looks my sister gives me when she says these things,they are lethal like “You know you ruined my life” it is a shaming thing, like she has given up so much because of me. She sits on her golden throne and acts like she is a good person because she still allows me in her presence.

My Mom acts like she is patting herself on the back for sending me to a very small private school because I got lost in the big public school (my Grandparents paid for it though, not her). I was curled up in a ball, I hid behind curtains of hair, I felt like a circus freak because that is how I was treated at home. I was scared out of my wits most of the time. I might as well have had a target on my back at school, but I was like that because of what was happening at home. But my Mom is so self righteous when she says it, like I was such a troubled child and she was benevolent and caring and rescued me from myself by sending me to a private school to save me from all of my deficiencies.

My family isn’t always horrible to me, but I always feel horrible around them. I never know when the next zinger will come, who it will come in front of or why.

When my sister had her children she made sure to mention over and over the entire list of people she was leaving her children to if something happened to her. All of her husbands siblings were on the list, but I was not. She made sure to go through that list as I was struggling with infertility, usually right after one of my miscarriages.

When I graduated from college, she told me at my graduation party that she had the most important job in the world, being a mother. By that time I had all but given up on ever having a successful pregnancy. It was another 10 years after that when I finally did have a child of my own.

My Mom canonizes my sister, she calls her an old soul, acts like she is the Madonna of all Mother’s. She often looks at me with disgust and acts horrified over my parenting. My sister is an engulfing Mother, she has kept her children sheltered.

I had many plans for how I was going to raise my son, but to my surprise when he was born I realized he was his own person and he has his own ideas and his own plans lol. I give him the kind of freedom that honors his needs, his temperament and this doesn’t always sit so well with my family. But he is a happy, well adjusted little guy. He doesn’t have the kinds of awards my sister’s children have, he probably isn’t going to be valedictorian or have presidential scholarships like my sisters kids, but I don’t make him sit at the table doing homework four hours a night or give up his time to socialize on weekends like my sister did with her kids. If I did that he would be just miserable.

So much of the shaming in my family is covert. It’s like everyone is walking on a tightrope above the rest of the world and that makes us special somehow, like everything that isn’t sanctioned by the Queen is beneath us. I’m the one who is always upsetting the balance and they see themselves as superior people just for putting up with me, but they also see it as their duty. I do not ever feel like an equal around them and that is what I asked my Mom, to be treated like an equal. She ignored that email too.

L, what a poignant picture that is, having to erase all traces of yourself because you do have the same privileges as the rest of the family, but your presence will be tolerated as long as you provide maid services. “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong” I so get how that feels.

Darlene, I have been a train wreck at times in my adult life and my Mom has called in the troops to help me from myself, like when my husband and I separated, when I ended up the psych ward wanting to kill myself. Once when I got really, really drunk and asked her to pick me up she drove me straight to the hospital and arranged for me to have substance abuse treatment (extreme over reaction, I thought). She has given me money from time to time, she helped pay for some of my college. I am pretty sure those are the things she is talking about. She is always at her best when I am at my worst.


I just want to add a comment here about how is amazes me to read about the perseverance of members here and their refusal to give into the belief that they are the problem as so many in our FOO would have us believe. To say that each and every one of you are “strong” makes that seem like such an inadequate word. I often reflect back on my own history and wonder how I have made it these 5+ decades – childhood sexual and physical abuse, emotional wreckage, teen years of drug abuse brought on by the former, leading to suicide attempt, along with alcohol dependency learned from an alcoholic father, decades of DENIAL that there was any problem, the list goes on and on. How on earth did we all make it this far? Darlene, you have been an inspiration to me on so many of your writings here on your blog. I know I don’t contribute much or often, but I read silently in the background, absorbing, healing, and with a thankful heart. Thank you all for sharing your past and your pain, I can’t begin to tell each of you how it feels to not feel alone in my thoughts, because I know so many of you have had those same thoughts. Back to the shadows now, but again, thank you one and all. 🙂


Hi Eddie, it is nice to find other people who actually really get it, makes me feel not so crazy. I am amazed there are so many of us and so relieved to find there is a growing body of literature out there to support people who have been what we have been through.

Identifying people who have endured narcissistic abuse should be required for every therapist in training. I am saddened when I see other boards for depression and such and can easily recognize someone like us yet everyone is giving them the “forgive and forget” advice and “your Mom really does love you” stuff. You know it may years or it may be never that these people find the key to why they feel the way they do.

Today I am working on terror. My Mom used fear and to control me. If I did not do what she said something terrible would happen and when bad things did happen, somehow it was always my fault. Normal testing of boundaries for me turned into traumas that I am just now trying to resolve, decades after they happened. My sister soon picked up on my Mom’s tricks and used them to make me always do whatever it was she wanted “Fine you don’t have to go with me but if you don’t I will get kidnapped and murder and it will be all your fault.”

Now as an adult I terrorize myself, it has an almost OCD quality to it. If I do everything right nothing bad will happen and if it does, it wont be my fault. Fear is on of my biggest hurdles.


Oh, Kaycee, I KNOW what you mean! I am living with my “mother” right now, and I am still being terrorized! The old messages are creeping up – will she abandon me, etc. I can’t believe that I am 50 years old and it took me this long to figure out that she is a narcissist. I figured this out only last month and I am still dealing with the grief that she never loved me. The problem that I do not have the courage to leave. I feel that I am not worth it. My confidence is gone – that is, if I ever had any in the first place, Why can’t I just stand up for myself like I used to when I was younger? I have just given up. I don’t feel that I am worth saving anymore. How do I get past these feelings? All I want is one person to reach out to me and tell me that I am a good person. I feel like my life depends on it right now. I have a two choices that don’t seem very good – I have to leave her, or wait for her to abandon me. Either way, I will be alone and that is a life that I am not looking forward to.


When I called my Mother out on ignoring me she said she knows I had a crappy childhood, she is sorry but she has spent the last 30 years making it up to me and she can’t change the past.

Making it up to me? Yes, my mom said the same thing, but she continues to do the thing of “manipulating a situation to look a certain way.” Why does she have to manipulate a situation to look a certain way if she is “trying to make it up to me?” She is not. She still wants me to be what she wanted me to be. And she denies the “manipulating.” Until I


Hi Spence. I think we have been brainwashed. I think we have flawed thought patterns that keep us from seeing the truth. We are conditioned to feel unlovable, incompetent and afraid. This keeps us dependent on them. It’s the fog everyone talks about. Getting away is kind of like trying to get out of a cult.

DXS, yes, I know how that feels too. There are so many ways my Mom is different with me, so much that is the way it always was with her. I know now that she never loved me. I think if my stepfather had killed me she would still be telling everyone how it was my fault somehow. I see my moms declaration of love as a great effort on her part to tolerate me. I know without question my mother projected the parts of herself she perceived as bad on me and that she projected the parts of herself she adored on my sister. I think she congratulates herself because she allows me to hang around, but my position in the family is still crystal clear and she is aghast that I’m not more grateful and doesn’t get why this would be intolerable for me. I guess I just want to be around people who see me as equal and wh want me, not the benevolent queens who bestow their gifts upon the undeserving serf like I am some sort of a pet.


Sometimes it feels like I have been a victim of maunchausen by proxy syndrome in my mother. In looking up the definition, it includes inducing and exaggerating or fabricating psychological, behavioral or mental health problems. The child learns how to please the parent by playing the role of the “sick one.” Interestingly the cure is to remove the child completely from the parent as even visitation puts the child at risk of further abuse.interestingly too, it is the most lethal form of child abuse and the abuser is often able to seduce others into enabling or unintentionally participating her abuse of the proxy in response to her concerns and demands.

I was used in my family as a lightening rod, to absorb the shock of of my Mother’s bad choices in men. I was used to shield my Mother and my sister from my Mother’s mentally ill, abusive second husband. I was sentenced to endless punishments that left me alone with him while my Mom and my sister could get away and take cover from his craziness. My mom blamed me, came up with stories that I dug my heels in and that is why he picked on he me.

But I was terrified of him and the things he did to me. I did everything I could to please him. I didn’t know then the family scapegoat is not allowed to succeed that I had to be labeled bad no matter what, even f I was good. My mom was always disappointed in me, exasperated with me. I shut down inside. I had to white out my colors and douse my fire inside. I had nothing, I was allowed no self worth.

My mom exaggerated everything I did, I wasn’t allowed to be normal, I was such a burden on her and she would make a full scale production out of dragging my sister and the rest of the family into one of her shaming rituals. She did a “tough love” intervention after she left her second husband and needed to put the spotlight on me and show her ultra religious family she was still the golden girl despite her divorce.

She tricked me and had my extended family all waiting in house for me to tell me I was out of control and I needed to change my behavior. She always exposed me to humiliations like this, even when I was young “What are we doing about Kaycee?” was often the topic of family dinner table conversations. When the big tough love scene happened I was a teen, doing normal teen things. I never did drugs, I wasn’t sleeping around. Why would she humiliate and shame me like that in front of Grandparents, Aunts, cousins? I cannot ever imagine exposing my child in that way.

It really feels like it was maunchausen by proxy, that she made up and exaggerated and even induced problems in me so she could look like the martyr devoted to her problem child and everyone would think she was such an incredible mother and stand in awe of her. That way nobody would noticed she married a child abuser and stood in the other room while her husband wrapped the cord to the vacuum cleaner around my 7 year old hands and was shocking me with it while she was ignoring my screams in the next room. I had run over the cord while doing my chores and the vacuum had chewed the rubber off the wires.

I feel like my mother purposely handicapped me by subjecting me to abusive men and emotionally crippling me so that she could get attention and be seen and worshipped as an all sacrificing Madonna.


Yeppers, that is Munchausen by proxy. I hadn’t heard of it until the medical shows made program stories on it. I’m glad they did! Now I know!


My Mom came out and blamed me for the way I sat in a dress at 6 years old. I felt so betrayed and never trusted her again. They were both mentally ill sick people who raised the siblings who turned out as ruthless and heartless and as self-absorbed as they were. Glad I escaped a torturous marriage and family and finding freedom far way from them!



I am so sorry that happened to you. Some of what you say resonates with my experiences. I have always felt like I am the lightening rod for the family. The one everyone is exasperated with, the one causing problems and having outbursts, the one who just doesn’t “get along”.

Yes, I cried a lot when young, stayed all alone in my room, and the outbursts came later – in my 20s. The frustration of the denial, the subtle passive-aggressive bullying, the non-support and emotional neglect, the losses of all my siblings leaving the household one by one leaving me all alone to deal with my parents, my father’s sneaky boundary busting and my mother ?refusing? to see what was going on –why yes, there were outbursts! Only I couldn’t see and articulate clearly what was happening, so my message wasn’t that sophisticated. I didn’t “get along” because the abuse and neglect were not acceptable. Yes, my siblings were on the receiving end of some of that, but they had a level of respect I never had/have. And they received automatic validation that I had to fight for for decades and it still wasn’t very satisfactory. That in itself was and is infuriating.

So Kaycee, when you mention Munchausen by Proxy I can see what you mean. I was talked about privately behind the scenes, which is hurtful. Your shaming rituals sound horrid. For me there weren’t full-scale productions, it was more like quiet desperation in a roomful of people who didn’t want to talk about it (with me)….as long as the status quo was maintained and the power system was intact, with me at the bottom, there was no need for them to change a thing.

There really isn’t any healthy solution for me to stay an integral part of my family as long as there are the lies, denial, and power structure of which disrespect is a part.

Now I want to develop an alternate family and have ongoing healthy and happy interactions with others. Intimacy and closeness. Laughter and fun. Sharing and helping. Fulfilling my dreams.


Hello Fellow EFB’s,
“Friends are the Family that You Choose” (don’t know who said this) You Can Choose who your Family is, too. NC is the most beneficial tool we can use to help us through our Journey to the “Bright Side of Life” (never knew there was a Brighter side) and Beyond, to the Land of Happiness and all of the feelings and needs we crave, want, and need! No more hiding, no more coping, no more…
I have not been living a life of my choice, it was someone elses, doesn’t even matter whos’, it just wasn’t Mine!
Now I’m finding the Me and Mine and I’m finding this all so Exhilarating and Exciting and Fun!!! I have been choosing “My Family”!


I have really been enlightened by reading all of your comments. I appreciate the similarities of so many of us. I notice that we have great empathy, kind hearts, old souls and real feelings. I believe this does make people uncomfortable, the FOO cannot thrive with any of us “rotten apples” not drinking the dysfunctional kool-aid. I was hyper-critiqued by my step-mom and not defended by my dad. She was a psych major and had me clinically coded, by her own non-expert opinion. She implied I was gay in 7th grade and stated why she believed that… all very strange reasons. I recall getting mad and telling her to go lay down by her dish. She talked about me “behind my back” but purposely in ear shot with her evil guests. Then when I got a boyfriend just to prove she was wrong she called me a slut and threw my cat at me in the car while my dad was driving and it clawed my face. Who does this? Blamed for salad dressing spilled all over the inside of the fridge, no getting out of that… her word against mine and by then I had totally given up defending myself- it was pointless. In 4th grade I was told to stir Bernaise sauce, 15 minutes after their “quickie” it was scalded and my arm was killing me. Then I was yelled at for ruining dinner. I was called a spoiled brat because I had a pony that my mom and step-dad gave me. My youngest step-sister 5 years older than me at my moms would drive over to get me at my dads and we’d go ride together. My mom and step-dad felt it was good for us, and we both loved it. My step-mom, one night after riding and being dropped off, and going to bed, I got thirsty went to get a drink and heard her: “B is a spoiled little rich brat, walking around all self-righteous in her riding clothes. She’s also is never going to be an Olympic gymnast- so she needs to get over it!!” I know now she was insecure, jealous and mean, but my dad not defending me really sucked. The truth was my step-sister and I worked hard, did chores, and I was on a junior Olympic training team for gymnastics, nobody would drive me so from 2nd-4th grade I rode my bike two miles to go train. When we moved, because my step-mom didn’t want to live in “my mom’s house” my dad drove me and that was my alone time with my emotionally disconnected PTSD dad- a medic in Vietnam. He had a few screaming, yelling, crying meltdowns about Vietnam, as a kid witnessing that is beyond disturbing. When their first child was born they made me the built-in babysitter, no regard for my life. The baby’s room was next to mine and they were determined to let him cry it out. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t take what I felt was abuse of the little guy crying in a blacked out room, so I rescued him nightly and had him fall asleep next to me and would put him back to bed, praying I wouldn’t get caught. I had an average of 3-4 hours of sleep and had an eating disorder and severe ulcers by 9th grade. Because I was not doing well grade wise my step-mom thought I had a learning disorder. I was severely depressed and then got yelled at for not applying myself when I tested high in the standardized tests, but a 25 on the depression scale, 24 was deemed severe. I moved full time in 10th grade with my mom and SD, they were great parents but had a lot of work to undo what was done to me. I never rocked the boat, always agreed, did everything they said. My SD grounded me for a month for “being agreeable” and not being assertive, valuing myself, or having options. I tell him now he should have grounded me longer. My mom died 2 1/2 years ago from leukemia, I did her hospice care and my brother, his wife and 3 step-sisters, and step-brother offered me help during the day. It was horrible to watch, they and their children were closer to her than their bio- mom. I promised I would do it and as she said, “B, don’t leave me to be cared for by a stranger, you do it.” I felt more like I was losing my best friend, a child, and a mom all at the same time. She and my SD who is alive and well, always believed in me. But, in my depression from the loss of her, combined with my hormones out of whack (post menopause at 40) I feel horrible about myself. Like a burden, like I’m not good enough.. I always felt like I could earn love- I guess from the years with my dad and SM. If I obliged I was good, if not bad-all love was conditional. My dad is still just some guy, more like an uncle and my SM, matured into a good friend. I used to think she delighted in my personal problems but I don’t anymore. My step-children are being tormented by their mother and we had psych evals done on the kids. Overt incest, detachment disorders, etc.. I think it upsets me because they are hurting. They only see her 6 days a month.. I try to be boringly predictable but sometimes feel like I get blamed or labeled by the kids and my husband for not being good enough, or they think any slight behavior like their moms’ means I’m like that too. But I keep trying to not buy into that, they don’t trust women, my husbands mom was horrific to him, blamed him for all that is wrong in the universe, their mother is the same. I tell them you are mistaking me for someone else, and your powers are useless against me. I hope you all know that you are all so loved. Thanks for reading a little of my history.. Love to all.


I stumbled across this website tonight and have been crying reading all of these posts. I recently have begun to truly realize that my parents were emotionally abusive or psychologically manipulative. I’ve been making a list of everything I can remember and I plan to confront them (lovingly) soon. They will probably call me crazy, probably say that I deserved it all, blame me for being a “difficult” child, etc. Regardless, I am ready to face this abuse, get it all out and begin the healing process.

This post in particular brings to mind more than a few incidents, but one in particular took place when I was a teenager. My Mom had a beautiful family heirloom ring, from which the little diamonds had been missing for some time. Occasionally she would mention the ring and how she wished she could wear it but didn’t have the money to get it fixed. I saved my money until I had enough to get it fixed for her birthday one year, and since I was young, not experienced with jewelers, turned to my grandmother. My grandmother took me to her jeweler and we dropped the ring off. I paid to have the best quality diamonds available put in the ring, and I was excited almost to tears. I anticipated the delicious moment when Mom would open the box and see her ring, good as new! Instead of thanks, I got YELLED at, grounded, and lectured on and off for DAYS. Mom said that I had only gotten it fixed because I was somehow expecting her to give it to me for my 16th birthday in a couple of years (the thought never crossed my mind!) and yelled at me that I would NEVER see that ring. She told me I was lucky the jeweler did not ruin the ring and scolded me for “pretending to be all grown-up.” For years she brought up that incident as an example of my alleged poor judgment. She gave the ring to my sister (who actually sneaked the ring from her jewelry box for me in the first place) and said I wasn’t worthy of it. To this day that hurts so bad I wish I could simply forget about it!


Just catching up on all of these comments.
kelly – I agree that we can choose to surround ourselves with people who are full of love.
Bronwyn – So glad you escaped that dysfunction and realize the truth – that we are all worthy of love.
SaraC – I am glad that you are finding this site as helpful as I have. Your story about the ring that you got fixed for your mother brings me to tears! How sad for you to have your loving motivation questioned. I know exactly how you feel.


SaraC, my heart aches for you, having made that very loving gesture to your mother only to end up having your motivations completely misinterpreted and on top of it to suffer multiple punishments which continue on. I think you know deep down in your heart that your motivations were pure and loving. You did not deserve how your mother treated you at all!! She sounds abusive as well as a very poor judge of character, and it is HER judgement about that incident that is poor. She did not deserve your loving gesture. I feel bad that she gave that ring to your sister. It seems like a spiteful action on your mothers part. I’ve got to say, I am a bit surprised that your sister would even accept the ring from your mother if she knows the background of what happened. I know I wouldn’t want to accept it under those conditions.
I hope you have other people in your life who appreciate your kind and loving heart. Hugs, Amber.


Hi Sara C.
Welcome to Emerging from Broken
What a horrible thing to happen to a girl who’s heart was in the right place! (I have a few posts in this site about being rejected by my mother over the ‘wrong’ gift according to her. This one is about her reaction to our gift one mothers day ~
I am so glad that you have found us! This is a wonderful community full of sharing and validation.
Hugs, Darlene


Sara C,

I’m so sorry that your mother did such an awful thing to you. I would have been so touched if I were your mom.

This is a great place to help sort out all that stuff – separate the truth from the lies. I’m glad you’re here!



When I was hit on the face by my father for not being able to open an EU adapter’s packaging in 2014, the following things were playing in my mind:

(I) That I am not trustworthy and stupid

I understood why my Dad hit me, but he could have just talked to me about it. Him hitting me showed that he doesn’t trust me. He chose to believe that I can’t act accordingly had he just told me: “Son you’ll get it eventually, there’s a trick to it, but if you don’t feel like doing it now, then I won’t take it against you.” Instead he took the no pain, no gain approach which in turn has resulted in me realising

(II) That he’s capable of hurting his own children physically

It wasn’t a punch on the face or a violent slap. But it need not be a severe hit for me, to come to the realisation that what is done is done. If he could hit me gently over something like that, what more if I did other things. I can recall myself telling him once that I accidentally spilt the tub of rice from the microwave as I was taking it off and I also stressed out: “Dad it wasn’t on purpose okay.” To which: “Of course you didn’t do it on purpose, because if you did I’d punch you on the face.” I fear for my younger sister even if she’s the “golden child” because it’s clear to me now that if you don’t give him what he wants, you’re automatically going to get your “just desserts”

(III) Our relationship as father and son is “over”

Well we still live together, until my bank account can finally get me a decent place of my own, but in saying that I am done playing the role of the “handyman”. If this guy managed to happily prance around Europe taking pictures and videos instead of bringing up the subject of his “honorable act”, then there clearly was no point in telling him how I felt. If he couldn’t even remember the first time that he taught me how to use a lawn-mower then he could easily deny all of my “accusations” towards him. Whenever I call him “Dad” it’s more of like a formality situation, rather than a “I’m so blessed to have this person for a father” kind of feeling, if that makes sense. He’s just “Dad” in title to me. If there were times where we had a good laugh over a TV show, then okay, but I haven’t forgotten that behind all that laughter was another side of him that’s on “stand-by” ready to pounce for the “sake of good” apparently. But yeah we’re done.

I haven’t fully recovered but after seeing the words like “I am not what they thought of me or made me feel” in this site, I am off toma good start. I just really wish there was a way that I would allow me to embrace all of those words naturally rather than have second thoughts. But then again I’m only starting and I am not the kind of person who starts something that he doesn’t intend to finish. It is however good to know that I’m not stupid, I can be trusted and that I am not deserving of whatever “love” it is they’re willing to give.

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