How a “Leeching” Belief System Creates Havoc



Sun breaks through over a Canmore mountain

A belief system that says, “I am a nobody, I can’t do anything right, I’m just stupid” wreaks havoc in a few different ways. I believe we were born with an unconscious sense of our own value; deep down, in each of us, there “dwells a beauty”, a person who is loved and can love. But trying to function with a totally opposite belief system creates a swirling, anxious situation inside, as if two rivers are colliding head on into one another and the water is all confused. In my last three posts (1, 2, 3), I’ve been describing my Dad’s belief system and how it was passively handed down to me as a child. His belief system also created havoc in my family, just not the really obvious easy-to-see kind.

Someone with a “I’m a nobody” belief system still wants to be valued, because they are human. Because my Dad didn’t value himself he sought to find his value in other ways. One of these ways was to put a lot of responsibility on his family to do the work of his own failing self-esteem. He believed that he was loved if his wife cooked and cleaned and took good care of him. He believed he was loved if we didn’t say a mean word towards him or be upset with him in any way whatsoever. If he put himself down, we would disagree with him and try to tell him that the opposite was true. Because he didn’t communicate his thoughts and feelings, my Mom, brother and I were forced to try and read his mind. If he was in a bad mood we ALL could tell- we became so skilled at reading his subtle signs and passive communications at the expense of learning to communicate for ourselves. If we sensed he was upset, we would do the work to try and make things better. Though my Mom would try and encourage better communication, he was so extremely uncomfortable and uptight about trying that things would end up more anxious than before. He was the passive King in our home and we learned to treat him with kid gloves. In living this way, my brother and I learned that love was all these things. Love meant compensating for someone else’s poor self esteem. Love meant not making the other person upset. As children who did not know this was so backwards, it also meant sacrificing our own needs to be built up and paid attention to in order to build up our parent. So the cycle continued. My brother and I grew up with this huge sense of lacking and low self-esteem of our own. We naturally lived to please other people. And all the while, the pain was brewing deep inside.

The last five years have been a process of seeing these things as the truth of my story. In learning the truth that all these subtle “leeching” dynamics between a parent and his children can have just as much damage as more physical or obvious kinds of abuse, I was exposed to a whole new world. I learned that these things were not my fault. I learned that my depression and anxiety has definite reasons and weren’t just symptoms of a messed up person.

Of my two parents, my Dad’s belief system had the most impact on me. Deep down I believed I was a “nobody” as well and I relied on other people to tell me that this wasn’t true. This wreaked havoc in its own kind of way, testing relationships and causing me to miss out on great opportunities that I felt I just wasn’t worthy of. As an adult, the responsibility to live differently is now in my own hands. Now that I know that this belief system is not my real inheritance, not the one I was meant to have, I can choose to embrace a new one. I can choose which river to follow. Today I am working to change my belief system. Today I take on the primary responsibility of nourishing my own self-esteem.  Today I am taking another step into freedom and living in the truth.


15 response to "How a “Leeching” Belief System Creates Havoc"

  1. By: Louise Posted: 4th March

    Wow Darlene. I have just stumbled on your site – and this article had tears on my ears. It is exactly describes my relationship with my own father. I’m working with a therapist now on my issues about being a people pleaser, and ‘anticipator’ and have been thinking it’s had a lot go do with my role in the family and relationship with my father.
    I can describe countless examples where my father (and my mother acting in fear of my father) passively communicated ‘you’re not worth it’. It breaks my heart also to think how this has effected my adult life; not opportunities I didn’t take as I thought I didn’t deserve them, men I attracted who were as unavailable as my father. I’m now in my early 40s and I’m determined to not have this pattern affect my life anymore. I’m at the beginning of my work – any resources you know of would be very helpful. And thank you for sharing your story. It’s helped me enormously.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 5th March

      Hi Louise
      Welcome to Emerging from broken! There is a ton of information here! You landed on a very old article by Carla who co-authored this site with me in the first 6 months of it’s life, but this site itself is still current and there are over 400 articles, all with discussions and all about this kind of stuff. I am so glad you found comfort with this post!
      hugs, Darlene

  2. By: marquis (female) Posted: 2nd March

    Hmm, my parents have a very poor belief system. Their crap goes back to the 50s children are seen and not heard. My dad feels like a king if women would bow down to him: cook, clean (why does he want a clean house yet he is a hoarder?), give him sex when he wants it, etc so he can be/feel like the rich Arab men!

    Mom talks to us like we are her freakin psychiatrist and my ex therapist said how I should tap into her inner child and told her ‘that’s you people’s job to tap into that inner child, why are you letting it be up to me? You just told me you can’t solve other people’s problems or place high expectations on them.’ Yea, caught her in a lot of contradictions. We were their punching bag too, my mom has zero independence and she is almost 68 yrs old! She never worked hard for herself before meeting my dad, already have two dead beats her old boyfriend from high school and my dad.

    Of course, she refuses to even look up resources to help her out with things and she doesn’t want gov help (they were on food stamps in the 70s sister told me the story). My dad is a straight up narc will do anything for attention, makes you upset and grin in your face, professional liar, etc these are things I don’t/never talk to with people – I mean, he wasn’t home enough that’s why I always spoke about the issues with my mom. People say ‘so, your mom raised you?’ I said ‘hmm, yea, might as well call her a single parent dad was never home or came home when he felt like it and left again for years and years.’ People think because she “raised me” that she pays the bills and had to laugh she pays no bills, she has nothing in her name.

    Anyway, about resources, she said white people is out to get her still living in Jim Crow! You wouldn’t believe how many people have “excused her living in the past behavior,” but for me, they wouldn’t do that for me. I said ‘stop using Jim Crow as an excuse not to do something,’ she screamed of course. Both of them spoke ill of one another and mom said ‘he’s trying to turn you guys against me,’ actually, both of you have turned us against you two! Again, they said they did nothing to us and were the great parents!

    Great parents according to them is not being there for the kids, not supplying their needs they should pay for it (how does a minor do that?), letting them go hungry, dad says having 25 kids is great for his taxes but doesn’t have to take care of them, etc. I told my ex therapist ‘you don’t find none of this disturbing to you and you’re a parent?’ Never got an answer. My dad loves to have his ego pumped as long as you tell him he’s great, he is just fine. Hmm, a self esteem issue? For him, his self esteem is fine. I guess so when you terrorize other people you are the greatest in the world!!

    My dad feels women don’t have a place in this world just sex and making babies; they need to stop trying to compete with men. Hmm, thinking about this now and reading this blog it’s making me think is this the reason why I had issues with jobs? I never had a job at 16-18 years old, didn’t get a job until I was 19 stayed there for 7 mos and quit, got this 2nd job stayed for a week and quit, then I was just a student until I graduated and then went back to looking for a job. I finally got a job now at almost 30, I felt I couldn’t do a good job at any job. My mom spoke negatively about jobs especially when it came to white people, I heard more negative about jobs than positive (even had teachers speak ill about having a job they just loved their paychecks). I never heard of pros and cons about having and not having a job.

    He said his daughters can be in a world with men, wait a minute, you said women (includes your daughters) have no place in the world with men?? They should be at home with their easy bake oven baking cookies and serving the man. Hah, my mom sees nothing wrong with this?? She said ‘never mind your father blah blah blah,’ we don’t get why she couldn’t be the “hero” or “role model” to us, but since she has nothing to her name, zero accomplishments, did absolutely nothing with her life, etc she can’t be a hero or role model.

    “Some people say that once a person gets a certain age that they are just set in their ways, that they can’t or wont change, but I don’t believe that age has nothing to do with change or with accepting the truth. It boils down to a choice!”

    I hear this all the time and don’t believe it myself. I think what gets people set in their ways is may be experience, maturing, and growing – is that a possibility? When someone uses ‘it’s their age’ that just excuses their bad behavior. My ex therapist said ‘your parents are almost 68 and 69 years old, they are set in their ways and won’t change.’ No really?? I knew that, but I couldn’t understand why she said they have different reasonings for what they do and she couldn’t explain it herself! I told her since you said they won’t change, what’s with the you should have feelings/love for them anyway? She got huffy when I said that.

    Dad always talked about how stupid mom is which she is – both of them are beyond stupid absolutely say crap that makes no sense at all! They are suppose to be so highly intelligent where people walk the ground they worship! Her beliefs are from her mom, some of them the ones that I know about not sure about her dad.

    “I keep telling myself that losing my family of origin all at once is like having them all die in some disaster but the truth is, when it comes to my parents, they never existed. They never gave themselves a chance to be because they were so busy pretending to be someone else.”

    Agreed. My dad and his mistress running around like a legal married couple, seems like my mom is the mistress lol. People think that my sister is so distraught and upset because she doesn’t have a family and she said ‘I am not upset at all, I am free and that’s what matters to me.’ Yea, she got called a selfish child by a lot of people thinking about herself and not her parents after “all they’ve done for us,” what did they do again??

    “He was the passive King in our home and we learned to treat him with kid gloves. In living this way, my brother and I learned that love was all these things. Love meant compensating for someone else’s poor self esteem. Love meant not making the other person upset. As children who did not know this was so backwards, it also meant sacrificing our own needs to be built up and paid attention to in order to build up our parent. So the cycle continued. My brother and I grew up with this huge sense of lacking and low self-esteem of our own. We naturally lived to please other people. And all the while, the pain was brewing deep inside.”

    “I think that is how come some people don’t change is because others just write them off or give up on them.”

    Agree, write them off, dust it under the rug, and call it a day. That’s what people still do, not helping anything, but they “accept the bad behavior because a lot of old people are just miserable to them.” They are just “senile” because of their “old age” so there isn’t anything we can do about it – typical attitude.

    Agreed, except my sister never lived to please people. I learned that from my mom she is such an ass kisser and people pleaser! She kisses my dad’s ass every chance she gets agrees with him and when he isn’t around she didn’t agree with him – if that isn’t a mirror image of him I don’t know what is! I don’t know if my brother was a people pleaser, my sister always told him to stand up to them. I think he does too much for my mom since he wasn’t treated any better by her anyway only when he showed success that’s when he got hugs and kisses from mom, other than that, he was “always trying to be white,” ” a sell out,” and “brainwashed by my sister for her evil ways.” I always told people ‘why don’t you try watching a lousy mother people please everybody?’

    My mom said she doesn’t do that anymore. Yes, she does to my dad she said I don’t cook him dinners. Before he left to go back to CA, she cooked him a head of cabbage, what’s with that??!! She said he wanted a cooked cabbage, but you said you wasn’t gonna cook it for him! She calls that “not cooking for him, just making a cabbage,” I think a lot of people would call that “cooking for the man!”

    Ex therapist said ‘your parents could change if they want to,’ but they are not going to isn’t that what she and everybody else told me? It sounds like she is placing expectations on them, maybe my ex therapist needs to listen to what’s coming out of her mouth! We never had needs growing up, our needs consisted of their drama for each other – champion their drama/bitterness and hey, nobody cared about our needs! They said children have no needs (children are seen but not heard?), they are just children that’s it. Sounds like putting a child in his or her place, what place would that be?!?

  3. By: Pam Posted: 24th May

    I think more than not having a dad is all the pain and damage that his behavior caused. The damage lives on for generations. All because he has such a deep need to be the sole center of attention. It is also sad because he is so sick but it is impossible to get through the lies to help him. My coping mechanisms caused damage also but there is hope that the damage can be limited because I embrace truth and am able to account for the wrong things that I’ve done. His coping mechanism won’t allow for that.

    Part of my confronting my parents was to give them one last chance to make things right with me. Not having things right between me and my kids would be heart ache beyond belief for me. I want to know if I’ve hurt them and I want the chance to make it right. It didn’t mean anything to them though. They are so caught up in projecting and believing in their false self that my offer was only a threat to them because it was an attempt to reach the real people inside all of the lies and pretense. I think I am mournful that they rejected my offer as much as I am hurt that they threw me away again. Your article made me aware of that. I’ve never known who they really are and I probably never will.

    I think I am at that age where people naturally look backward and assess. My looking backward is mostly painful. I also think about the heritage that I will pass on to my children and grandchildren. I don’t want to pass on my pain. I want to have encouraging stories to pass on to my grandbabies and I have those in my grandparents but when it comes to my mom and dad it is a blank. It was a suprise to my grandson that I have parents and a sister and brother who are still alive. I never talk about them anymore. I keep telling myself that losing my family of origin all at once is like having them all die in some disaster but the truth is, when it comes to my parents, they never existed. They never gave themselves a chance to be because they were so busy pretending to be someone else.

    Today, I am feeling very sad for them and grateful that I have the realization that gives me the chance to be fully me. What a loss to so many of us that there are so many broken people in the world who live a life of coping only. That is a great human resource lost to us all and a world of needless pain and agony.

  4. By: Pam Posted: 24th May


    My dad would put on huge and often violent dramas. I remember him being drunk and shooting at a red star because he said God was staring at him. Later that night he and my mom were struggling over the gun because he was going to kill himself. Other times he would fake a heart attack or kick a hole in the wall. Once I had a favorite record that I played repeatedly and he blew up, tore my record from the player and broke it. Before I started school, he decided I was small so he wanted to show me how to throw a punch. He told me to hit him on the jaw, so I did. The next thing I knew, I was under the table. My dad is like a small child who needs to be the center of attention and he also threw temper tantrums like a small child. My mother was always shooshing us and telling us to ‘be quiet so we wouldn’t hurt Daddy’s feelings’. When he was home we were all on egg shells. He was a terrorist.

    I struggled for years trying to understand him and I made it way too complicated. His motivations are very shallow. His number one need is attention. He will do anything and I mean anything just to be the center of attention for five minutes. He lies so much that he doesn’t even know what is true about himself and what is a lie. A narcissist is just a broken person who uses lies and pretense as a coping mechanism. In a way, I believe they are the most fragile and the most beyond hope because it is impossible to get them to let go of the lies long enough to know there is anything wrong. The truth sends them into a tailspin of lies and distortions and abstract fantasy. They fear that wich could make them better or even make them aware that there is a better way.

    I think I have babbled on here because I’m trying to decide what kind of lasting impact my dad has had on me. For all the pain and agony he caused, I truly can’t think of any lasting impact because it was all a lie and when I got old enough I saw that the person who was ‘Daddy’ to me never really existed. He is lost in his lies. He doesn’t know who he is and I don’t either. He’s going to die soon but in truth, he never even existed.

    It is stupid. I want to cry now but I don’t even know why.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 24th May

      Once again Pam, I relate to your comments
      I realized that I never really had a dad. My father will also do anything for attention. I am not sure about the lies but the attention YES.
      I felt like crying when I read your post too… because it reminded me that although my father may not know who he is, he never saw me once… (he never bothered to SEE me, see who I am, hear me, he never saw the me in me.) and I got ripped off. I didn’t have a father. and that is pretty sad.
      But the truth set me free.. ~ it wasn’t my fault, it was his. He might not have been capable of anything more, but that is also not my fault and I had to pay for it anyway. Not anymore.
      Hugs, Darlene

  5. By: Carla Posted: 2nd May

    Hi Alexa~ Thanks for visiting here and sharing your thoughts. It can certainly feel that way in depression, that you are nothing. I think that’s what depression’s main function is, to make us feel empty, to numb the feelings that are there. The more I dug deeper below the depression, the more I realized how much was really living underneath. It is a worthwhile journey and now I know that I am so much more than the depression that I struggled with.

    Thanks for being here Alexa,

  6. By: Alexa Stewart Posted: 1st May

    Anxiety and depression is one hell of a nasty disease. even if you have everything but if you have clinical depression, you are still nothing.’**

  7. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 19th April

    To “Question for Carla” who asked if I had consent from my Dad to publish this series~ why would I need permission from my Dad to tell the truth about my own story?

  8. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 18th April

    Maryanna~ It’s great that you have found a renewed relationship with your mother! For my Dad and I, a relationship takes two people to work. I do believe he wants to have a relationship with me and is learning how to do this. Because of that, right now, we do have a relationship. 🙂

    Nikki~ I like how you say that we are never too old to change. I agree with that! For me, I definitely had to come to a place where I accepted that if I continued to pursue my own health, I might lose any relationship with my parents. I couldn’t force them to change, and in some ways, didn’t have to encourage them either. But in my situation, I did choose to encourage them and both my parents went to counseling to get help for themselves, which made a lot of difference for me. Still, I knew and still know that real love is not “Together forever at whatever cost.” Real relationship happens each day. They know that the choice to have a relationship is theirs as much as it is mine- and that it’s not something either of us can force to happen. But the more we grow, the more we want to have relationship with each other. So it’s a process that is always at work. It has been exciting to see changes happen because I’ve decided to pursue change for myself. You’ve got a beautiful heart Nikki! It is always exciting to read your comments and hear what is happening in you. I totally cheer you in going forward and continuing to seek your own healing.

    Patricia~ these are really good points and thanks so much for highlighting them! Hugs to you.


  9. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 18th April

    I can’t change another person. I can change how I react to that person. I can also change me and by working on myself the people around me change also in response to my changing. We can heal the world one person at a time. Carla and Darlene, we are changing the world by exposing these old beliefs and giving awareness to others. Great job, ladies.

  10. By: Nikki Posted: 18th April

    I read this blog out loud to my husband today as we where heading back home from grocery shopping. I am hoping it will help him for like me he to was raised in a belief system that is similar to mine.

    The one thing that I do know about my dad he honestly believes that he is nothing a nobody. I have tried telling him that he believes a lie and so has my mom tried as well. Such a belief system like that does get handed down to the children. I know I was one of them. To be honest it is death to the soul of a person when such is handed down.

    I now know that I am someone and that my life does affect others around me. I still face the struggle with bipolar disorder but the struggle I have with it now isn’t like it was. Actually it has been by me accepting the reality of this that has helped me to go forward. I am not sure which direction my life is heading but I know now that it has did a 360 from what direction it was heading and that is good.

    Some people say that once a person gets a certain age that they are just set in their ways, that they can’t or wont change, but I don’t believe that age has nothing to do with change or with accepting the truth. It boils down to a choice! So I don’t give up hope for my dad because he has changed some and it has been for the better but he still has a ways to go ..

    I think that is how come some people don’t change is because others just write them off or give up on them. I would hope that no one would give up on me so as the golden rule is do unto others as you would have them do unto you really applies here. But with that said I can’t change my dad I can only encourage him and hope that he can overcome these things in his life.. and at the same time I still have to keep going forward I can’t use him as my excuse for I have the same choice as he does that is to embrace the truth and let go of all the junk..

    Thank you ever so much for pointing these things out … the belief system of a person is the ground floor of understanding..

  11. By: MaryAnna Posted: 17th April

    For me it was very obviously part of my story. I suppose that made it easier? Although I also protected my mother emotionally during a difficult time I have found we have moved passed it and now have a very good relationship. Carla, do you feel like you will ever have a relationship with your father again?

  12. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 17th April

    Wow Patricia~ this is a truth that many of us know to one degree or another. It was scary and also freeing for me to realize that this was part of my story. Thanks for sharing with us again.

  13. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 17th April

    Very often with this type of childhood, the child becomes the parent trying to take care of the father or mother or both. I was the parent to both of my parents and they were like needy children. Both of them told me secrets that as a child I didn’t need to know. I was my father’s mistress and my mother’s emotional protector.

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