I Vowed I Would Never be like my Selfish Unloving Mother

dysfunctional mother daughter relationship
stormy mother daughter relationship

I used to live waiting to be good enough. I thought ~ “as soon as YOU say that I am important, then I will be important.  When you say that I am lovable, then I will be lovable. When YOU say that I am worthy then I will BE worthy”.  Deep down I believed that someone else would determine my value. I had to learn to stop operating under those beliefs. I had to stop seeing myself through the unloving eyes of others.

When I was 14 years old, I vowed that I would never be like my selfish, unloving, self centered mother. That was a serious vow and that memory is one of the clearest memories that I have. I don’t remember what happened the day that I made that vow but I remember it was one of the only promises that I ever made to myself.  I knew somehow that our mother daughter relationship was dysfunctional and that my mother was on the toxic side, I just didn’t know what I could do about it, or how long lasting and deep the effects of her way of relating to me would be.

When I went through my process of recovery from dysfunctional relationships, I took a closer look at the vow I made to never be like my toxic mother.  I asked myself what that meant to me and what specifically I had been referring to back then. I saw my mother as someone who didn’t care about others and cared about herself too much. She didn’t care about me. She discounted my feelings and she discounted my needs. She was disloyal and dismissive.  She was cutting and mean. She humiliated and embarrassed me in public and her actions and statements made me feel unworthy of respect or love. My mother (who demonstrates many signs of narcissism) was very selfish and self centered. My mother and I had a very dysfunctional and toxic mother daughter relationship.

More recently I took a look at this whole dysfunctional mother daughter relationship and the ongoing damage that it caused to me, in an even deeper way.  My narcissistic mother put herself first. So I vowed that I would never put myself first. My mother didn’t go without so I wanted to be the opposite;   I would go without many things to prove that I was not like my mother.

Somewhere along the line I decided that my needs would never come before others because that would mean that I was “like my mother” and in putting myself or my needs before anyone else would be showing those same signs of narcissism and since I had learned as a child that my needs didn’t matter, it was easy for me to stop listening to myself and discount my own needs.  I was proud of myself for doing it! That decision represented the vow that I made not to be like my mother. And I didn’t realize that I was taking over from all the other abusers in my life by agreeing that my needs would come last. My motive was understandable, but the practice was funky and dysfunctional.

When I decided that I would never be like my mean and toxic mother, I went to the other extreme and ended up being just as dysfunctional and I ended up treating and regarding myself exactly the same way that she treated and regarded me; as unworthy and unimportant. I discounted my feelings and I discounted my own needs. I put myself last. I humiliated and embarrassed myself by not ever standing up for myself and my own actions reinforced the belief that I was unworthy of love.

It’s a long uphill climb, learning to overcome this self discounting treatment. I still catch myself putting myself last under the guise of being a wonderful person and contributing to the greater good of mankind.  I have done it with my family and I have done it right here with my website and my readers.  Spreading myself so thin that I get sick, all because I vowed that I would never be like my narcissistic, dysfunctional and toxic mother.

I have been rethinking that vow lately.

The way that my mother did relationship with me was dysfunctional and toxic. The way that I learned to do relationship with myself as a result of how I was raised, was also dysfunctional and toxic.  By realizing where I got the ideas and teachings about HOW to treat myself, and how to NOT be like my selfish, toxic and dysfunctional Mother, I discounted and devalued ME, in just the same way that she did.

I still vow that I will never be like my unloving mother but today I am learning that what I regarded as the opposite of my mother is still toxic and dysfunctional. I had to take a look at the whole picture in order to see that I was not actually setting things right by being the total opposite of her because I was still disregarding me. (As I had been taught to do by her example)

Putting myself first is not narcissistic at all. The difference between the way that my mother regards herself vs. others and the way that I regard myself vs. others is that I believe all people are equally valuable. The way that my mother operated was that SHE was the most important and that HER needs were the most valuable.

The truth is that we ALL have equal value and that self care and self love when done in a healthy way, will actually benefit all those in contact with the person who practices it.

Everyone is welcome to share. Please feel free to use any name you wish if you feel unsafe about posting with your real name. I look forward to reading your responses to this article.

Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time

Darlene Ouimet  

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98 response to "I Vowed I Would Never be like my Selfish Unloving Mother"

  1. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 13th November

    When I think about narcissistic, that label probably fits my dad. He ruled my childhood home and life with an iron hand and my mother let him. If you asked my mother anything, her answer was always, “Go ask your Dad.” I don’t remember her ever making a decision in my childhood. When I left home at 19, by running away, I swore that no one was ever going to control me like my dictator dad did and I was never going to be like my mother who never made a decision in my childhood. I saw her as weak and my dad as strong.

    I did like Darlene in her decision to become just the opposite of my mom. I, too, had to learn that the extreme opposite of dysfunctional behavior is still dysfunctional. Why, because there is no balance in that kind of life.

    Because I didn’t want anyone to control me like my dad did, I became the controller. I married a man who was gentle and easy to control. Like my mom did with my dad, my husband let me tell him what to do. He let me be in control. I thought that would make me happy and would make me feel safe. It didn’t. Sometimes people would try telling me what I was doing was wrong. I wouldn’t listen and I would get my feelings hurt. My husband wasn’t one of those people. He just went along with me for the dysfunctional, angry ride.

    At 27 years old age and after 7 years of marriage and having 2 babies 16 months apart, I hit my emotional bottom. One day, I remember hearing myself shouting at my husband that I hated him and my life. I remember some part of me looking down at the scene and hearing what I was saying and being in shock because I knew that I was the problem, not my husband. I knew that I had terribly hurt him and that he wasn’t who I really hated. I hated me. That was the day, that I started to realize that controlling wasn’t making me happy or safe or any of the things that I wanted out of my life.

    Fixing people and circumstances wasn’t my responsibility. The only person that I could work on and fix was me. It took me a few more years before I was ready to fully decide that being a dictator like my dad wasn’t what I wanted to be. It just didn’t work for me. It turned me into a person that I didn’t want to be – my dad. I had to learn that dictators weren’t strong. They were rageful and scared. It was many years before I was able to see my dad as the scared little boy that he was. It was hard to admit to myself that in order not to become like my mother, I had become like my dad. Those were the only two role models that I had. Neither was healthy.

    I didn’t want to be like either of my parents. I was in 12-Step programs before I found healthy role models to follow. I needed their help to find out who I was. It was a rather lengthy process but who I am today was definitely worth the time and effort.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 13th November

      Hi Patricia
      Great comments! Thank you for sharing and for highlighting this from another angle.
      Hugs, Darlene

  2. By: J Posted: 12th November

    Fair enough — I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a Delorean though! 🙂

  3. By: J Posted: 9th November

    No tears this time Annalyzza, but not from lack of being moved by what you wrote. I **REALLY** appreciate you saying that becuase I’ve been giving myself all kinds of grief since posting what I did (especially with other people getting upset & worrying that I wasn’t helping things by getting angry). I really felt like I was trying to express what I felt (a VERY rare thing for me) but tried real hard to not just attack for the sake of attacking (or at least attacking about other things). All very confusing, and I haven’t felt able to post again in that one, so if anyone reads this, I’m sorry if I added to people’s grief.

    Darlene, I’m still kind of confused by that thread, but I apologize too if I let my emotions harm other people in what’s meant to be a healing site. (Not asking for an explanation btw. Just not quite sure how I feel about it all).

    And also Darlene, Annalyzza’s paragraph to you above says pretty much exactly what I’ve been feeling for some time. I’d been thinking of offering if there was anything I could do to help (financial help is not really an option at this time) but then all the other mess happened and I got worried I’m more likely to do harm then help. (I know even if that is the case, it’s a one-off so far out of several genuine dialogs I’ve been able to take part in and that I’ve found helpful or interesting)

    But anyway I wanted to echo the sentiment at least. I do have a very strong tendency to feel like I owe the world to anyone who helps me, and then to take offense or over-think things and want to disappear and never see/speak to them again. Doesn’t make it easy to participate in therapy-type activities. Not sure why I’m saying this. I guess just to try and acknowledge that I imagine many of us here have a lot of unhelpful baggage that’s gonna come out at times, and that being the one who’s running a site where that’s the case, only earns even more respect from me. Hope that makes sense.

    And A-L, thanks for saying that about getting back to the conversation, but no rush. I also find it takes a long time to think about/write on such heavy topics (also tend to forget where I was posting & lose track of conversations a bit).

    PS don’t think I mentioned yet – the date went well! We could talk easily, and both laughed a lot. Might be going out again this weekend! It’s exciting, but is also bringing up a metric crap-ton of emotional s**t from past relationships, and probably even more about feeling like I’m lying/omitting truth about how broken I am at this point in time. So that’s been pretty hard. But hey. At least I’m trying I guess.

  4. By: AnnaLyzza Posted: 9th November

    PS J, once I get the laundry caught up and a few household matters taken care of (that I blew off last week) I plan to get back to our conversation.

  5. By: AnnaLyzza Posted: 9th November

    Hi J & Darlene,

    J, I’m really enjoying our conversation and have been trying to find time to respond to your last post properly. I also appreciated your comments in the other post thread in which you stood up for Renae. You have a big heart and we share a tendency to immediately stand up for the people we care about! Looks like people were being triggered by that conversation – this is intense stuff we’re all processing so such emotional exchanges are bound to happen. I appreciate how you can express your anger/hurt/indignation in a way that is clear and emotive but still respectful.

    Darlene, it’s true, you are only one woman and I have wondered how you keep up to all this! Last week when I was really actively posting I ended up spending a few hours per day writing/editing, which resulted in the housework and laundry etc. piling up! So I feel for you, trying to write a book and be a wife and mother and have a life and earn a living while also holding this space for others to process and heal from their traumas. It takes a lot of energy to hold a space like this – I admire your strength and comittment. I find sometimes I get overwhelmed by the posts and have to take a step back, so i admire that you are able to stick with this and with all of us in whatever stage we’re in, on top of everything else you’ve got going on. If there is ever any way I could help you out so that you can keep on doing what you do, let me know. I hope to make a financial donation soon, once payday rolls around, because i do understand that you are trying to make a living, and your insights have helped me reach new epiphanies that clearly I needed/was finally ready for. So thank you!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 12th November

      AnnaLyzza and J.
      Thank you for your encouragement and offers to help. At the moment the only thing I am short of is time and money.
      Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: J Posted: 6th November

    Tears again, AnnaLyzza.

    Thank you for your beautiful words and sharing about yourself. Your first paragraph is something I could have written word for word about myself. I’m a bit flustered atm (brain feels overloaded – had to deal with a family get-together today – three generations of dysfunction on both sides at once!!! No wonder my head hurts) and not feeling very clear on what I’m thinking or wanting to write. Someone said they even appreciated my swearing up above (or my self-censoring gave them a chuckle – too many posts to read back to find it) which kinda felt validating for me trying to be myself when I post. Still worry about offending people though. I think I said in one of my other posts, the somewhat frightening thing is that what I write here actually IS the censored version (compared to my thoughts, which can be full of some truly ugly, sick shit in my darkest times).

    Damn I’m struggling to write tonight. Having to stop and distract myself every couple of minutes for a bit. Barely slept last night though, and then with the stress of getting through family event unscathed it probably shouldn’t be surprising.

    I really appreciated you sharing about your relationship AnnaLyzza. I really do need to hold on to that hope that two people can create a relationship that is positive for both people despite the individual struggles etc.

    I think you mentioned not dumping all the crazy on the table during the first date (not in quite those words perhaps). I’m quite worried about that, because I’ve gotten quite used to just switching off the internal filter when talking to people (I think due to all the various therapists/psychs/GPs etc I’ve been seeing over the past six years). I also seem to feel that if I don’t tell people about where I’m at (negative/dysfunctional stuff particularly), I’m being dishonest about who I am or something. Or maybe it’s more that I’m scared of people rejecting the “real” me, so I feel I have to make sure they know all the shit about me that I’ve been scared would make them reject me from the start; rather than risk holding back, having something develop between us, but then having to “admit” (or be found out in) all the weird shit I’d been hiding and being rejected at that stage when it would hurt even more.

    Also I guess I’ve switched off from life so much last few years that even the simplest questions like “what do you do for a living / for fun?” will entail me lying/holding back the truth, because otherwise I’d have to admit that I stopped working because of my mental health, that many days it’s a MASSIVE achievement just to even get out of the house, that I’m broke, have hardly any friends, blah blah blah blah blah.

    One thing I sometimes say to people is something like “I’ve got a few ongoing health problems”. This feels like a bit of a compromise between blatantly lying and saying everything’s great (something I feel I was blatantly indoctrinated to do by my parents, and unfortunately have gotten extremely good at — lots of people I see around my local area at places I go for lunch etc often comment on how happy I seem etc), or saying “I’ve been desperately clinging to the last shreds of hope that are stopping me from wanting to kill myself, actually. How’s your morning been?” (sorry, that’s my extremely bleak attempt at humor in the face of all my negativity. apologies if it’s too dark).

    So I guess I can try and just skirt around it by saying something like that (the ongoing health problems, not the suicidal tendencies — sorry bleak humor again… think it helps me talk about this shit) and trying to steer the conversation away from things that make me feel sorry for myself. That’ll do for a start. My parents just got back home so I’m trying to type furtively while switching windows quickly if I hear them coming. Feels just like being back in high school and trying to check your email during computer class! 🙂

    Hope everyone’s well, I think I’ll come back later tonight once they’ve gone to bed.

  7. By: AnnaLyzza Posted: 5th November

    Hi J,

    Thanks for your posts – I really appreciate hearing that something I’ve shared has been useful to someone else. To be honest, I must be craving approval and acceptance and validation, because I find that I will post something, then afterward I will feel horrible and embarrassed about what I have written and I worry that you will all think I am stupid or who the hell am I to comment on this subject or that I am a blathering know-it-all and you are all rolling your eyes when you see another long post from me. Where the hell does all that hateful self talk come from I wonder? Anyway, I feel a lot of anxiety every time I post something here, but when someone takes the time to respond and provide feedback or agree with a point or relate to what I am saying, I feel this huge rush of relief and gratitude. I don’t know why I feel so unsure of myself and so fearful/anxious about sharing my feelings. I know I feel like a bit of a survivor-poser because I was not subjected to the abuses that many of you have survived. I feel like I should just quit whining and be thankful that my family wasn’t worse.

    What was that you said about being gentle with myself? : ) As you can see, that is a very timely and much needed suggestion! The funny thing is, I thought I was pretty kind to myself. I have learned to be my own champion and advocate. But I did not really realize until I admitted to you how I have been feeling about posting, just how hateful the self-talk is behind my fears of sharing my thoughts. Normally I would now spend 20 hours trying to figure out why I have such a fear of speaking/sharing, but since my latest epiphany about my obsession with “Why” (see my latest post I made on Darlene’s latest blog post), I’m not going to obsess about that right now. I’m just going to be aware that I’m doing this to myself and try to change out those old tapes.

    But thank you J, and everyone else who have responded to my posts – it has helped me feel like it’s safe to continue participating.

    Congrats to you, J, that you have asked someone out for the first time in a long time! I love what Darlene says about how life must go on even if we are in the process of recovery! I love that!! As much as I have wished that the world could stop turning so I could get my shit together, we do have to keep on keeping on. Sometimes it’s a good thing to have to leave my head and wash the dishes and cook supper, sometimes it’s excruciating to have to pretend to be a functioning human being while processing some really painful stuff.

    But if I had chosen to wait until I had all my issues handled and was an always-functional, non-needy, non-crazy person before I dated or got married, I would still be alone! LOL! I’m just lucky I found someone who had been taught how to manage a high-maintenance, high-needs woman with skill and grace! My husband’s issues and imperfections make him my perfect match, and thankfully I had the sense to surface from my craziness frequently enough to be charming enough to keep my husband from leaving me along the way. We work because I’m a little bit domineering and a fear-based controller, while he was raised to be more submissive and deferential. We work because despite my issues I am a loving hearted person and so is he – neither of us likes to hurt the other and we both feel terrible if we do. We are both pleasers and peace-makers so ultimately, we really both do care if the other person is happy or not. So our mutual codependent need for each other’s approval works! LOL!

    Thankfully we also genuinely like each other. I’m crazy and needy and a chronic, obsessive over-thinker which can be a bit much for even the most selfless of men, but I’m also funny and smart and a hell of a cook and am intermittently inclined to care about my husband’s needs as well as my own. He is funny and smart and kind and handsome and he puts up with me and even loves me despite my many faults, which is perhaps his most attractive quality! ; )

    My point is, we were both pretty broken and each had issues a-plenty when we met, we’ve faced many issues throughout our marriage – he is not the compulsive self-analyst that I am and I get frustrated that he doesn’t work as hard as I do at self-improvement. But maybe my compulsion to be self aware really reveals that I don’t feel I am loveable just the way I am. My husband doesn’t consider himself fundamentally loveable or good enough either, which causes him some struggles and annoys me because I see how wonderful he is. (Nice that I get annoyed when he doesn’t love himself more – see what he has to deal with??) Anyway, our marriage has not been easy and we have had a few times where one or the other of us, and even both a couple of times, have wanted to walk away. But we have kids and we adore our kids and don’t want to put them through a divorce unless we are really 100% sure that being apart is worth the pain and heartache it would cause us all. So, our better qualities help us love each other through the hard times from without and the dysfunction from within.

    We have both grown and become better, healthier people because we’ve had each other’s love and support and the motivation of being better than we were to keep this marriage together. So in my case, being married has been an essential part of my growth process. A marriage partner truly is one of our most powerful mirrors through which we see where we are at and what issues we need to face next. As long as we can, as you pointed out, not confuse our partner with our parents or confuse their failings with our own, and they are strong enough and self aware enough to do the same, then we have a fighting chance of being each other’s catalyst for growth as well as each other’s support and safety net.

    The best book I ever read, the one that literally saved our marriage during our most recent big challenge, is called Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix. If you google his name, he has a couple of websites, books, and lots of resources for singles and couples. This book changed my perspective on my marriage and invited me to see possibility for growth and transformation where before I saw only the same old issues and problems that we never seemed to get past. His theories on how marriage/relationships bring up our unresolved issues with our parents (and siblings) is bang-on in my opinion. If you’re worried you’ve projected your issues with your parents/yourself onto past partners, you’re probably right! That’s what we do, according to Harville. That’s what everyone does, like it or not, and if we can learn the skills to work with that and grow from it WITH our partner, then we can turn our marriage/relationship into a sacred workshop of profound healing.

    So, I guess you could say I’m living proof that a messed up, damaged person can be married and a mom and make it work, even while I’m muddling along on my path to wholeness and happiness. I passed on more of my junk to my oldest son than I wish I had, but thanks to the posts here I am going to focus less on that and more on what I can do now to love and support him in a constructive way.

    I’m not casual about self-improvement though – I work my ass off at, full time all the time. I read, I try out various therapies, I monitor myself all the time and am constantly analyzing everything I think, say and do – which is perhaps a bit more intense than is necessary! This is a reaction for sure to my mother’s denial – I have seen first hand the unnecessary suffering caused by those in firm denial of their shadow side and I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to cause people pain because I’m a coward and can’t face my own ugliest self. I am trying to tone it down a bit and instead approach it from more of a Buddhist Mindfullness practice – to be aware of myself but to not judge myself and condemn myself either.

    And I try not to hold my husband to the same standard of self-awareness that I aspire to. It’s hard though, sometimes I do wish he was more keen to delve into his own psyche and confront his issues. I think that it is easier for him to believe that it is somehow his fault or failing when his parents treat him in unloving ways, rather than to deal with the painful truth that they are selfish and unloving. He is quite afraid of his childhood pain, and I wish I could lend him (or force upon him sometimes) my own strength and my tendency to come out swinging if someone hurts me. Someone hurts me, I get mad first and don’t feel the true hurt and grief over it until much later. Someone hurts him, he feels just the hurt, and believes automatically that he deserved it. : (

    Where was I going with this? Oh, if you are going to date, just try to take it slow, don’t feel obligated to delve into your issues right away. See if you even enjoy this woman’s company or not first. See if she makes you laugh or if she’s easy to talk to, is she fun to be with? Do you have things in common? Do you feel good in her company or uncomfortable and on edge in any way? you find things to talk about besides, can you do things together that are fun and enjoyable? My husband and I love each other because we like each other’s company and have fun together – thankfully our dysfunctions also happen to be compatible and mutually bearable! But had we both started off our first dates revealing all our issues and insecurities and neuroses to each other, I know we wouldn’t have been too interested in continuing to date!

    And while you are exploring this relationship, get yourself a Harville Hendrix book and read it! Continue to do your own work, and be gentle on yourself as you do it. And if the date doesn’t go anywhere or doesn’t go well, don’t beat yourself up and assume you’re unlovable! It’s okay for you to choose not to be with someone for whatever reason and it’s okay for even someone we are interested in to not reciprocate. As long as you don’t give the other person the power to determine your worth, then if they love you or don’t is not as shattering. Rejection still hurts – both to give and to receive, but the fear of that discomfort shouldn’t stop us from trying to connect with others in meaningful ways.

    Not that I think you’re headed for rejection, I’m just saying that our fear of reaching out to people and connecting to them in the first place is really the fear of their ultimate rejection. I fear posting here because what if someone secretly thinks I’m a blathering idiot (rejection) or someone else is offended by what I say (rejection) or someone else challenges me and disagrees with me (rejection). What if I’m really not welcome here (rejection), what if this is an established club of survivors who are suspicious of a new person (rejection)? What if no one here likes me? (rejection) Yeah, I’ve got some rejection issues of my own clearly!!

    I guess my point is, not everybody is going to love us. I scared off a few guys before I found my husband. I also rejected a few guys who liked me more than I liked them. I’ve met guys who were crazier than I wanted to deal with! (when they’re crazy but don’t know it, that’s where I draw the line! – I can handle crazy but aware!) And I got pretty jaded and had basically given up on marriage by the time my sweet, safe husband came along. And though I still have my moments where I’m sure I’d be better off alone, the fact is he is taking care of everything today – the kids, meals, cleaning, so I can sit here and type long posts on the website, and he has not been upset with me that I blew off the housework all week long because I’ve been immersed in reading adn responding to the board – he supports me wherever I’m at and is waaay more patient with me than I am with him – what’s not to love about that? He has truly been my living breathing angel and still is, and I manage to reciprocate to him as much of the same love and support as I can muster. I have had to learn how to do that – it did not come naturally, but that is another story.

    At the risk of breaking the record of the board’s longest post, I just want to add that it took work on my part to be ready for a good guy like my husband, and it takes work to keep this marriage going. We have to choose each other and the well being of our family over our own individual selfishness every day – and we don’t always! So we have to communicate and negotiate and learn to resolve challenges and forgive. But as long as we’re both willing to come to the table and do our part to keep this marriage going, we’ll be able to pull it off. Find someone who is as committed to personal growth and self improvement and to doing the necessary work to nurture a marriage/love relationship as you are, who genuinely likes you and appreciates who you are and what you are capable of contributing to the world, and make sure you feel the same about them! Don’t settle for anything less that than, J.

    Good luck on your date!! : )

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 6th November

      Hi Annalyzza

      About one kind of abuse vs. another kind of abuse ~ There is no “worse” abuse. Abuse is abuse and what happened to you is what YOU are dealing with. Did you know that almost all victims think that what happened to them wasn’t as bad as what happened to someone else? It is a coping method. We are all dealing with and healing from the damage that was caused. Neglect and emotional abuse causes just as much damage as physical and sexual abuse and so on. I had to remind myself all the time that there was a lot of emotional damage from each event that took place when my personhood was devalued no matter what the type of devaluing was.

      I think it is normal to want validation when we comment such deep stuff. I felt that way for the first year that I wrote this blog! Being heard and understood was the first step in my healing process.

      Everyone ~
      I want to mention to everyone again ~ this blog generates 1000 comments per month and I have a lot of trouble keeping up. There are always at least 4 active posts generating comments. I am trying to finish my book and never seem to have time because I have such a heart for the commenters and want to answer them all! I really need to get back to work (income) here too. I hope that everyone understands that I can’t keep up with the comments part of the blog all the time.

      Hugs, Darlene

  8. By: J Posted: 5th November

    PS on a personal note, I just texted a girl I met a few months back to ask her out for coffee and she agreed — this will be my first date since my last relationship ended over two years ago (and only the second time I’ve tried asking someone out since then). Needless to say, I’m both really excited and sh*tting myself at the same time!

    It feels like a positive step to be “back in the game” so to speak, but actually I think I’m mainly scared because I feel like I’ve got so many problems that it doesn’t really seem fair to try and involve someone else in my messy life. Obviously I decided to ignore that voice for a bit or I never would have asked her, but I am worried that this fear is a legitimate one. But then again, if I keep following that train of thought, I’d never be able to talk to anyone again. Blah!!! Stupid head.

    OK this was going to just be a quick post to share my news but now my f**king brain is racing, so I probably need to try and get some of this out or I’ll never get to sleep. I’ve only had two serious relationships, both were seriously flawed (from both sides, I think it’s fair to say) and both went on way longer than they should have (much easier to say in retrospect, obviously). Probably too long a story to discuss the details, but I will say that it’s only been since the last one ended that I’ve come to realize the full degree of my parental control/emotional abuse etc and started to see that as the reason for the bulk of my current dysfunctions (rather than just blaming myself for nearly all of it, as I had done previously).

    Also, I now think that the very nature of both those relationships were hugely influenced by me subconsciously seeking out what I was used to in family relationships. And also that I transferred a lot of the blame etc that I now think should’ve been directed at my parents to both of my partners. I think I’m confused because I can’t see a middle ground between looking for someone who I think can “fix” me and then attaching myself to them in a death grip, or trying to be self-sufficient and not even talking about my mental health problems, my current inability to support myself etc etc. Also I can’t see a middle ground between cutting myself off from everyone forever because I’m too broken/don’t deserve love (or whatever other thoughts come up to stop me), or looking for love but trying to “protect” or shield the other person from all my pessimism, hopelessness, dysfunction, repressoin, blah blah blah.


    So I’m trying to remember not to ask for advice, but I guess I’m interested in anyone’s thoughts on the topic of looking for love/companionship vs. trying to “heal” yourself before doing so, and what worked/didn’t work for you etc.

    Hope everyone’s doing well!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 5th November

      Hi J.
      Not advice, just opinion and my own thoughts on this: Life does not stop because we are in recovery. I had to continue to raise my kids and deal with my marriage while I was going through the process. Lots of times I thought it would be easier if I just moved out of the house for a while and dealt with “my stuff” alone. But that wasn’t realistic. Being aware of your relationship dysfunction goes a long way towards not repeating the same mistakes. There is danger in using a relationship as a coping method or escape from working on our own issues, but on the other hand, there are a zillion ways to escape working on our own issues. 🙂 new relationship being only one of them. I am an advocate of going forward. As I said… like goes on and we are in the business of LIVING or getting back to living! yahoo.
      Hugs, Darlene

  9. By: J Posted: 5th November

    Hi AnnaLyzza,

    I just read your post (#37) and found several things I related to. The first was about finding crying overwhelming. I also have trouble crying myself, although if I’m with (or sometimes even just talking on the phone) with someone who I feel understands and cares about me, I break down completely. Been doing that quite a lot lately, and I really wish I could learn to let myself cry without needing someone else’s presence, because it’s one of the only ways I’ve found that relieves the crushing pressure I feel in my head at times. I’m really glad you were able to cry! I hope it helped you feel better.

    The 2nd was about coping by retreating into your head. I think that’s what I did for many years, and I suspect that the regular messy breakdowns of late are related to finally feeling some of the grief/pain etc I hadn’t dealt with at the time (or hadn’t even realized was there to be dealt with, in some cases).

    I wanted to say that I really admire you for being aware of your issues and trying not to pass things on down the line to your kids (even though you don’t feel like you did as well as you’d like to have done with your son). One of my biggest fears in life is having kids, because there’s so much of my mother in me and I can’t imagine being able to raise a human being at all, let alone in a healthy way (I’m hardly able to look after myself at this point in time), so I can relate (in theory at least) to it being upsetting for you. I wonder if you could try and be gentle with yourself and give yourself credit for the huge step of having even started the process at that stage (rather than just blindly following the same path, like so many of our parents seem to have done)?

    I hope you don’t mind that suggestion; I just know it’s one of the things I struggle with the most (being gentle on myself).

    Your paragraph about wanting your Mom to find healing, but then realizing that she might not be able to cope with that process, really touched me. I think that’s pretty much where I’ve gotten to in thinking about my mother. I think for a long time I’d felt stuck between at times WANTING to hurt her like she hurt me (eg try and pull down the walls surrounding what I see as her “fantasy world”, especially the way she maintains illusions about having the perfect family etc), and sometimes feeling sorry for her for having been broken too (there’s a photo of her as a small child with the biggest carefree smile, and it makes me really sad becuase I don’t see her smile like that much), but at the same time not standing up and protecting myself against the shit she puts me through. (I hope that makes sense. It’s very late, and it feels a bit confusing even to me).

    Finally, the bit you wrote about always trying to look at situations from the other person’s point of view got to me as well. I can’t specifically remember that view being pushed on me, but it’s definitely been embedded pretty deep within. The problem with this theory (that I’ve only recently started to recognize) is that it ignores and/or denies your own right to have feelings and for them to be considered by the other person (at least, that’s how it’s played out in my life over the years). Again, I don’t feel like I’m putting my thoughts into words very well, so I hope it makes sense. I also relate to finding it so hard to feel anger (let alone actually express it!) and the guilt over even having such feelings in the first place. (Big f**king mess inside my head!!)

    I also want to learn to just let myself feel things and validate myself. Very encouraging to hear of someone making progress in that way! I think I’m more at the stage of only just realizing there’s actually a road there to consider walking on! But all in good time, I guess (there, I’m actually being gentle with myself for once! Miracles happen!!) 🙂

    And finally, from my point of view, don’t apologise for long posts. As I said, there was so much that I either related to or learnt from, so I’m really glad you shared!! Anyway, I reckon I give you a run for your money on the “long-winded post” front — once I start, it just seems to keep on rushing out! 🙂

  10. By: carol Posted: 4th November

    i found this site wheni was having problems with my mother and how she still thought she had the right to tell me andmy husband how to liveour lifes.
    not speaking to her has lessened our stress levels but the problems are still there. she wil not ever see me as a person in my own right. knowing that hasnt helped me cope with the stuff from my childhood or the lies and mistruths my mother has tried to pass off as the truth. as an adult i now see why my parents treated us the way they did, doesnt in any way excuse it but because this is the core issue it the one that is still deeply buried. why is it that intellectually i can understand the whys and therefores yet to actually believe it happened to me, well my emotional side wont deal with it. so im left trying to pick up thepeices and rebuild me, all the time having to take other people into consideration cos how it is fair on my husband and child that i cannot control the action i was trained all my life to give, even when im tryign so hard not to.
    it all so confusing

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 4th November

      Hi Carol
      Yes it is all so confusing. We are dealing with a life time of false teaching/false truth and brainwashing/conditioning and it takes time to sort it out. I found that it got better and more balanced as time when on and as I kept going forward.
      Hugs and love and keep striving! I am so gald that you are here!

  11. By: AnnaLyzza Posted: 4th November


    I really appreciate what you said about the pendulum of extremes in parenting styles from one generation to the next. That has given me a lot to think about. I definitely try to bend over backwards to make sure my kids feel validated and loved and accepted for who they are etc. etc., but perhaps if I over-do it they will grow up to be needy, self-centered little narcissists who can’t do anything for themselves because I did everything for them. I need to regain some balance for myself and also figure out a balance between being nurturing, responsive and present but not a door-mat who doesn’t expect anything from them in return. Thanks for the perspective!!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 4th November

      I just wrote and published another post about this subject. This new one is on the side of grieving about the way that my mother regards me. That she didn’t want to even TRY to have a relationship with me. I look forward to the discussion on this new one too.
      You can read it here ~

      My Mother Doesn’t love me AND the Process of Grieving

  12. By: AnnaLyzza Posted: 4th November

    Hi Robert & Darlene & everybody,

    I too have thought alot about the “primordial longing” for our parents’ love and attention, and the void that exists within when our needs weren’t met as children, and we shouldn’t forget the pain we feel when our needs also aren’t met or we continue to be abused in adulthood. I agree with Darlene that even the love of a spouse can’t heal that void.

    I am married (together now 13 years) to a very loving, gentle, loyal, nurturing man and I know that his willingness to support me and stick with me even when I’ve been fully acting out of my shadow side – when I’ve been needy like a little kid or angry like a teenager or unreasonably jealous and suspicious, critical, over-controlling, with irrational expectations, withholding, moody, prone to anxiety and panic attacks, hostile, etc. etc – has certainly been an essential part of my healing. He taught me through his example how to be a loving partner, that is for sure. But, a huge reason he is so long-suffering and endures my many issues is because of his family dynamics. The men in his family catered to the moods and wants of his Mother – keeping her happy and not displeasing her was what his Dad did, and was his role as well so of course he married a high-maintenance woman like me! (In our case, our good qualities and our dysfunctions blend together beautifully! I’m probably more thankful for that than he is!) But, thankfully for him I am ruthlessly self-aware and I try really hard to monitor myself and deal with my own shadow-crap when it comes up. I struggle to rein my shadow in alot, but I try hard and apolgize sincerely when I catch myself. If it weren’t for that I may have overwhelmed him long ago.

    Anyway, he is a good man and has a very loving nature – you could say he is a “heart centered” person and being with him has done a lot to open my heart up and help me get back in touch with my true, loving self. But as for filling my parent-love-void, come to think of it, until I found ways of healing that void on my own, nothing he did was ever enough to really quench that longing and my need for reassurance, approval, attention, care-taking. His love and complete acceptance of me, warts and issues and all, has been healing for sure. I don’t know where I’d be without that. But that alone was not able to stop the yearning for and the grief of not being parented.

    But saying that, I should clarify that though my parents are prone to narcissistic behavior and haven’t always been capable or willing to give me what I needed, they are fundamentally good-hearted people who wanted me and cared for me. I was never told that I was hated or not wanted and I was never treated with the heartless contempt described by Pam and Darlene and Joy and many others. My Dad was affectionate and approving (of what qualities of mine he liked – less so of the qualities that threatened him!) and my Mom told me she loved me all the time. So, I don’t know what it feels like to be opening disdained by my own family. I don’t know what it feels like to be hated and utterly rejected. So I don’t know what that kind of void feels like, or what it would take to fill it.

    My void is different – I’m not sure really how to describe it. My parents were generally loving, but that love was tainted by their neediness – “love” for me came to be associated with being used because my parents would often hide taking something they needed within the pretext of giving something to me. I’m not sure how much they loved “me” or even “knew” me, if that makes sense. They are quite approving if I make choices or conduct myself in ways that are consistent with their view of who I am/should be, but get bristly and disapproving and irritable and withholding if I behave in ways that conflict with their beliefs and expectations. So I realize that there are limits to their love and acceptance of me. I still feel like my parents don’t really know me at all. I guess you could say I was loved but I was not really parented/nurtured. My mother could be very over-controlling and smothery and was SO needy for SO long. My Dad had an adoring mother who did anything and everything for him, so as long as I fussed over him and adored him and played that role as well, we got along great. If I was angry or “difficult” or reflected back something to him that he didn’t like to see, he could be pretty mean.

    Anyway, my point is, as much as my husband has earnestly tried to make me happy, it was never enough to heal the anger and depression and hurt and need that I was carrying around. I had been raised to care for my parents and they were looking to me (unconsciously) to fill their own voids, which of course left me with a void of my own. I tried very hard to get my husband to fill that for me and nearly drained him dry. Ultimately I had to heal that myself.

    It has helped for my Mother to suddenly evolve and start behaving like a Mother. I know that this helped heal my heart a lot. She isn’t perfect by any means but she actually cared about ME for the first time in years and years without wanting anything in return. No strings, no hidden agenda. She came to my rescue when I was going through a rough time and was genuinely there for me, whereas in the past, her “help” was always way more work and stress than it was worth.

    I’m not sure how I would have coped/endured if she had just kept on the same as she’d always been. I have read that the primordial yearning for unconditional love from our Mother is just a reflection of our yearning for the connection we had with God/Spirit before we left that realm and came into this world to be born. I have read that by cultivating that relationship and pursuing spiritual paths that lead to the experience of connecting to Divine Love, one can heal the true void. I have taken a lot of comfort in pursuing such paths. I do think, though, that getting to the point where I realized that my parents did not have the capacity to give me what I needed and that I had to let go of that hope/desire and just take care of myself helped free me to a degree from the pain of the longing for what I hadn’t had and wasn’t getting. Also realizing that no one else BUT me could fill it, taking my husband off the hook for that too, was also essential.

    So ultimately I agree with Darlene – understanding yourself, refusing to believe anymore the toxic, hateful lies about yourself that your family told you, challenging those old tapes, and choosing a path of self-acceptance and self-nurturing is the only way to shrink the void.

    For my Mom, it was only when she stopped trying to get her void filled by me or my Dad and began to properly care for herself that she healed and transformed. She didn’t do this willingly or with any conscious intent other than realizing that she had to make lifestyle changes or die, but even without the awareness of what she was doing, very positive changes occurred not just for her but for our family. It was amazing to witness the power of her embracing self-care and becoming her own source of nurturing.

  13. By: Sophia Posted: 4th November

    More thoughts on wanting to be different from our parents and “normalcy.” When we were younger, my brother and I discussed the horror of our childhood, and he said that all he ever wanted was a “normal” life, and that he would be different from our parents. I can see now that this didn’t help him much. Without really confronting his rage and trauma, and without ever questioning what normal really meant, he tried to plunge into this “normal” way of being. Two divorces later, he seems to have just gone numb and I feel like I can’t really reach him anymore. I also feel that he doesn’t really care about my triumphs in overcoming trauma. He will only really be interested in me if I succeed financially. He has told me that he feels bad that my childhood trauma hurt me so that I can’t seem to function well in the “real” world. He will only consider me healed when I am doing something to make lots of money so that he can brag about me to his friends. He actually told me this. This is all pretty ironic considering what a mess his own life has come to be, both personally and financially. I have to appreciate the fact that he IS the one person in my family who recognizes that we were abused, but I see that he still doesn’t see how he was duped by the idea of being “normal.” And now I am finally feeling the impact of GRIEF that he too will only see me as important if I make lots of money. I guess it is true that I don’t have ANY real family that loves me for who I am. I only exist for him in the context of how I will reflect on him to his so-called friends. I’m feeling very sad about this today. I am actually resentful too. Why should I do anything just so that he can USE me to prove something to someone else? Why doesn’t he care enough to celebrate the great strides I have made in healing and self-actualization? Is it because he himself put success ahead of healing and is now finding that a very desolate accomplishment?

  14. By: robert Posted: 4th November

    Hi Darlene,
    I’ve been thinking some lately about primordial feelings of attachment that a child usually has for their parents. These feelings are (or can be) “special” throughout a person’s life. There is a feeling of deep connection (possible) with our parents, with our siblings, and with long term friends that has a special value to us. This “longing” that I mention could possibly have been filled by some other person besides parents had I been able and willing to be completely honest with someone regarding the dynamics of of my inner world, and then they were able and willing to accept all that and love me. Usually what has happened in the past is that I would not open up in fear that I would be rejected, but rightfully so, eventually the crap would come up, and at least in my case, I was rejected. Most people, I believe, do not want to muck around too much with shadow-work. I am only guessing, but it seems that you have a mate that knows and understands all of you, and accepts and loves you in a deep way. Could it be that your loving relationship has allowed that longing to go away? Not all of us have been so fortunate. Learning to love and accept myself has been helpful, and most days this is enough, but there is something very special and beautiful when another person validates those beautiful aspects that are in all of us. Thanks.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 4th November

      Hi Robert,
      Honestly, I don’t believe that my feelings of validation come from my relationship with my husband. He has loved me in a healthy way now for several years but this feeling, this longing went away quite recently. Thinking about it more deeply, I think that it has something to do with when I validated myself by standing up to my father this past spring. He was the last key person in my life that I had not stood up to. I can’t “prove” that this settledness inside of me has nothing to do with my marriage, because I am married, but I believe in my heart that it has nothing to do with the fact that someone “loves me”. One last thing; I would not say that my husband knows and understands all of me either.. but that statement makes me think about the longing in a new way. That I always longed for that, believing that was the answer that would fill the void, and I don’t see it as the answer anymore. I still maintain that it is in seeking to understand and know myself, and in getting closer to self acceptance and in realizing how my belief system formed and where my self esteem got so damaged, that I have overcome so much.
      Thanks for your comments Robert and your willingness to share.
      Hugs, Darlene

  15. By: Pam Posted: 3rd November

    Darlene, I know you’re right and I still can’t believe how simular our stories are in regard to how our families responded to asking to be treated with respect. Mine absolutely will not say that what happened to me as a teenager was abuse. They hung it over my head for so long. I guess they just don’t want to face how cruel they are. Cruel and petty. I’m way better off too. It’s just somedays, I wish I had a mom and dad that put me first. I wish I could have known what that felt like. It’s stupid but I watch those drug intervention shows where the families are so concerned and wanting to help and I’m awed. There was never anything like that in my family. No one ever offered to do anything to get me off of drugs or even tell me they wished I’d quit. They just ignored it. They’ve never been around for any major crisis in my life. They were nowhere to be found when I attempted suicide at 18 and spent several days in a county psyche ward. When I told them about it, I might as well have told them that I’d had to flu. There was no concern. However, I know they are probably really playing it up as to how unloving and unforgiving I am and how I dishonored my parents. I can just hear it. You’re right, they can have it.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 4th November

      I know what you are talking about Pam. Reading your latest comments made me realize that I no longer have that longing. I didn’t realize it had gone away. Something about Roberts comments twigged some realization but I brushed it off. When I read your comments this morning I realized that I no longer feel like something is missing regarding not having parents who care. The longing is gone. Wow.
      There was this hole, this blank spot that I didn’t know what to call… but I think it was finally filled somehow. It took years. It wasn’t that it was my goal to feel this way, it just happened and it feels pretty good!
      Thanks for sharing!
      Hugs, Darlene

  16. By: joy Posted: 3rd November


    Am so glad you got to do things for you. I have been trying to be a good nurse to me and am not doing a very good job at that.. if i cared enough i would be under my covers. but still got the old tapes playing this evening that tell me i dont count. i know they are old stuff.. but my old mode is still kicking in. .but i suppose if one doesn’t care enough and one is sick could get worse.. right. so I better get getting myself to warmer places..i don’t feel comfortable paying attention to me . do you feel that way too? how does one stop the bad feelings about caring for one self when its really something one should do?

    I am sorry Pam you are without family. I am totally orphaned too!!

    (gentle hugs) if ok


  17. By: Pam Posted: 3rd November

    Joy, Thanks for caring. I’m doing fine. Sometimes, it is still a little wierd having no parents, siblings, or aunts, and cousins, but I’m okay. It is just like it was when I was a kid and ran away. Everyone took my parent’s side without even asking me why I did what I did. I keep telling myself that the problem is them but it is hard sometimes not to fall back into thinking I deserve to be abandoned. But I don’t stay there for long. Being out from under that sick influence isn’t just good for me but for my kids too. I never would leave my kids alone with my parents but I thought that after they were a little older, it would be okay if my parents lived on our property. Boy, was I wrong! My family really wasn’t good for my kids as they were treated as less than just because they were my kids. My youngest broke ties with all of them before I did. If I hadn’t been so blind things might have been different for them. I kick myself for that.

    I am having a nice day though. I took the day off, rested, and watched movies. It was great having a quiet day with me doing nothing!


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 3rd November

      Everyone ~
      I too lost my entire family. And my husband lost his also when we decided to fight the system and stand up for truth. So they can all get together and say that it was “us” (well my husbands parents say it was me which is a total insult to my husband as though HE had no choice in the matter.) They never cared to listen, although we tried to explain and back then the boundaries were SO slight… I told my mother that she couldn’t ever again say that it was my own fault that her boyfriend came in my room and molested me as a teen, because I had a crush on him. She was still bringing that up! and I was still taking it. But no more.

      The truth is very powerful stuff. It is so funny to me that none of them denied the truth as much as they just skipped it and made a new accusation. “Oh, Darlene, you always were so needy, sensitive, selfish… etc. ” You get the picture. Oh and I always heard that I was “dramatic, a story teller, etc.” I don’t care what they believe anymore, I am done with that system and I am so much better off without that crap now. As for my siblings… I doubt they are having much fun staying in that system. I seem to remember that they had lots of complaints about my parents before I stood up to them. Well they can have it. I love my freedom and wholeness way better!
      Hugs, Darlene

  18. By: joy Posted: 3rd November

    Hi Annalyzza

    I only know what I say from watching my siblings when they were the age of your son . I feel deep in my heart you are such a good mother and yet are a victim too.. of all those old belief systems.. . Sometimes . I think .. backing away .. allowing those we care about to feel what they need to .. and letting them know its ok to feel like that is the best we can do… Since everything else we have tried hasn’t worked. .I am still very much broken but am in the path to healing. and know how important it is not to blame ourselves for feeling hurt. how else can we feel .. when we are in pain.. Idon’t believe God wants us to suffer..like I use to ; but that God can pull us through it if we give God our hand.. GOd will not stop the pain but God will help us through it. God is not happy that we cry but God will dry our tears and hold us close.. The God I know now is so far different than the God I was taught to know . The God I know now is truly the God of Love ..

    I admire all you are doing Annalyzza ..thank you for all your words..

    Hugs: ( if ok )


    Hi Pam..

    I had a hard time letting out my tears.. because if I cried .. I “got something more to cry about” . .so when I finally break down. am like you. oceans pour out. .and there is a big ole flood to deal with.
    Hope you are having a nice day:

    Hugs and love :


  19. By: Pam Posted: 3rd November

    AnnaLyza, You aren’t rambling. You have a lot to get out. I didn’t just lose my parents,I lost my entire family of origen. It’s like they were all killed in some kind of natural disaster and I can’t talk about it, except here and have anyone understand why I had to do what I did. I’m the only one that ever held them accountable. My parents are very spoiled.

    I know that my great grandfather was terribly abused by his step father. They came to the U.S. from Germany and his abuse was so bad that my grandfather ran away at 13 and became an open range cowboy. A hard life. Sometimes, I wonder if my grandmother didn’t react to her childhood the way I reacted to mine. Not having enough attention, so with my kids, I gave them all of my attention almost all of the time. I over protected them and spoiled them in reaction to may want and I think that maybe, that is what made my dad so self-centered, also. My grandmother’s sister didn’t have children and her attention was focused on my dad as well. My mom was the baby of 7 and the center of her older sister’s attention. They always coddled her and never asked for anything in return. It seems like a pendulum that swings back and forth with each generation reacting to their own childhood while raising their own children and by running in opposition to their parents, they create dysfunction of their own.

    I wish I’d have figured it out before my children were grown but I didn’t. All I can do is try to share what I’ve learned but it is too late to completely stop the pendelum from swinging and I see my son making mistakes with his children while running the oposite direction from me. It hurts like hell but there is little I can do because my time has past. They have to figure some of it out on their own. They’ve also made mistakes in their lives that have nothing to do with me and it hurts to see them go through that, also. The world is a painful place and if we all weren’t slightly delusional, we’d go mad.

    I have a hard time crying about my own stuff too but then it comes out on silly things like movies. When I do cry about my own pain, it is hard to stop. I’ve had to deal with out of control people so much in my life that I always shut my own feelings down as a reflex for survival. Then a few days later, I have my reaction. We are complex creatures. If human beings could get their behavior problems ironed out, we’d live in a near paradise.

    We aren’t alone. Most people never talk about and try to ignore it but everyone has issues.


  20. By: Jasper Joy Posted: 3rd November

    wow, that’s amazing. thank you so much for sharing. i finally severed links with my toxic mother about 2 years ago, but i am still fighting free of the legacy of self loathing she left me with.

    peace on your journey


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 3rd November

      Hi Jasper,
      Welcome to EFB
      In order to get rid of the self loathing, I had to take a very close look at where it actually came from. It had been “taught to me” through the mesages that I got from others and once I saw the roots of that, I was able to change it.
      There is tons of stuff in this site about this topic,
      hugs, Darlene

      Maybe there will be a comment option like that one day! I have the same wish!
      I wish I could comment on everything, but I have a shortage of time!
      Hugs, Darlene

  21. By: AnnaLyzza Posted: 3rd November

    I wish this blog format had a “like” or a “LOVE” or an “AMEN SISTER” button you could just click on beside each post. Thank you so much Pam and Joy for your responses about my son – I got teary reading them which is saying alot, because years ago I vowed to shut down my crying ability and despite having tried to re-start it for healing purposes, it’s still hard for me to cry at appropriate times. (I shut it down because my mother cried so often and I found her crying so overwhelming…) You have both touched my heart – it is truly a healing gift to get such loving and thoughtful and wise responses from women who understand what I’m going through.

    I have coped with my life challenges by retreating into my head and thinking about my pain/challenges rather than allowing myself to feel them, and it has helped me make sense of things and I guess feel some level of control over the pain and probably has kept me from having to feel more than I could process/handle. Come to think of it, I suppose this is my way of disassociating. Huh, never thought of it that way before. Because I didn’t feel a thing when writing the post about when I was pregnant etc., though it was probably the worst, most painful time of my life. But now it’s like, oh yeah that, yeah it was hard – no intense feelings associated. Hopefully that means I’m over it but maybe it means I am just really good about analyzing/thinking my pain away and stuffing it somewhere in my body where it might make me sick someday. Hmmm.

    And I hope this ability I have to talk about horrible or upsetting things as calmly as if I were talking about the weather doesn’t result in me writing things that are triggering or upsetting to people. Oddly, when I read your posts I feel all sorts of emotions and sometimes I have to decompress because I resonate with your pain, but writing about my own stuff doesn’t set me off at all. Hmmmm. I’ll have to reflect on this.

    Pam & Joy, your advice about my son is right on. I need to continue to love him but also back off and let him have his own journey. He gets irritated that I am always worrying about him, so I’m trying to back off and just be there if he asks. I feel better about doing that now that the weird Prozac- edge has worn off. I was afraid he would harm himself there for a while.

    He can be very intense when he’s emoting, and sometimes I find it very hard to stay calm and present with him when he’s in so much pain. I can feel myself wanting to just snap him out of it because it is quite overwhelming to me – once again I want him to just be happy and be okay because it is stressful and exhausting and painful to me when he’s not. It shames me to realize how easy it is to be so selfish, and how easy it is to not even realize it if I’m not really careful.

    I really get what Jenny is saying about going back and forth between being overly-giving (but resentful) and overly-selfish (but guilty). Well said, Jenny, that totally nails me as well. As a mother I think I have swung between holding responsibility for everything for my son or expecting him to be way more independent than is realistic. So he has been bounced back and forth between anxious nurturing vs. me being withdrawn and irritable and not very responsive to his needs. I’m surprised he’s not bipolar – I worry a lot about schizophrenia. I’m not sure what to do or how to help him if it turns out he has either. I struggle to know how to help him with his depression. And yes I blame myself probably more than I should. While I was pregnant with him I started reading self-help books because I was bound and determined to NOT pass on the dysfunctional stuff from our family, so the fact that I didn’t succeed entirely is upsetting to me. I’m doing a lot better with my four younger kids who started arriving after I had time to do more work on myself and when I was in a better place emotionally.

    But you’re right Joy – I also believe that God has a plan, for me and for my son. I’m glad you believe that too. I have to believe that my suffering is for some higher purpose, I have to believe that there is some point to this and that there is some meaning in what I am doing/experiencing. It comforts me that you have been able to see that for yourself after all you’ve been through.

    Pam, I understand about still loving your parents and wanting more than anything for them to wake up and grow up and heal. I wanted that so bad for my Mom, that she could find the strength to push through her denial and fear of the truth of her life and find some healing. I wrote many emails trying to explain it all to her and basically tear down her wall of bull $%*# about her family and how perfect it was, though I didn’t send them. One night I was working away on this very angry, very confrontational email and I had this moment of Grace, I guess, where I felt like some holy presence was telling me to stop, that what I was trying to do was actually cruel in the sense that I was going to force her eyes open to see things that she did not have the strength to see yet. That experience was a real breakthrough for me, to realize that she may genuinely not have the capacity to cope with the traumas in her past. I still stopped talking to her for 3 months because she would not stop doing certain things that I had repeatedly asked her to stop doing, but I also let go of feeling like I should or had to bust through her denial and make her face her past and heal.

    That experience started the whole letting go process, where I realized first of all that I did not actually need her to survive – I had been caught in our codependent dance because I wanted so bad to get the mothering from her that I hadn’t had and wasn’t getting, and sometimes she could be great but then she’d be not – it was unpredictable. And I had young kids and I believed that I couldn’t handle my life without her babysitting help etc. But after she disrespected my boundaries one too many times and I told her I would not speak to her or see her until she actaally listed to my feelings and promised to respect them and backed myself up by stonewalling her for 3 months until she quit trying to weedle herself back into my life but kept trying to step around the whole reason why I was putting my foot down, I realized during that time that I was okay without her – I was actually happier without the daily stress of her phone calls and the tension of having her constantly in my life.

    Realizing that I didn’t need her was hugely freeing for me. Didn’t mean it wasn’t still intensely painful that I couldn’t rely on her and that I essentially was an emotional orphan. But it was empowering to realize that I didn’t NEED her if having her in my life was more stress than not. Not sure where I was going with this…kinda losing my train of thought here.

    Anyway, my hope for humanity, including all our parents, is that they evolve emotionally and become capable of giving and receiving love and stop being such forces of destruction in their own lives and others. I can understand very well how you’d hope that for your parents even after all they’ve done. Because it is sad to see people in pain and causing pain.

    But I also understand your point, Darlene, about how our compassion for our parents can trap us into putting up with way more crap than we should. If ever I had a problem with someone in my life, if I told my mom about it she would always basically tell me to try to look at the situation from their point of view and forgive them. It has proven to be a very valuable life skill, I have to admit, to put myself in other people’s shoes before I judge them or react to them, but it was also invalidating. I’m sure that was how she coped with living with abusive and/or neglectful people – to make it okay somehow because well, they were having a bad day or they were tired or their work was stressful etc. To this day she cannot seem to stop herself from automatically defending the other person. For some reason, the object of my anger deserves more sympathy than I do, which has made me feel like I must be some kind of horrible ogre in my anger is that bad. It has also made it impossible for me to ever feel justified in my anger or betrayal or hurt etc. I always felt “bad” and mean if I let myself get mad at someone because I wasn’t being considerate enough of what they were dealing with.

    So, this whole compassion and consideration and understanding thing is a double edged sword. It can help us not take everything our parents did personally, and can help us forgive when we’re ready, but it can also trap us in feeling sorry for them and letting them get away with abusive behavior because we are letting ourselves identify more with their needs/feelings than our own. I was caught in that trap for a long time – every time I’d get angry at anything actually. I would automatically feel guilty and second guess myself and feel like a crazy irrational jerk for not being more understanding. My anger or grief or outrage or whatever never seemed to be justified. To this day I still try to keep a very tight lid on my emotions because of this. I hate the intense stress of having to analyze my feelings and the situation to death to determine whether my feelings are justified. I am learning how to just let myself feel things and validate myself, thankfully. But clearly I still have some work to do in this area!

    Anyway, I’m rambling. Sorry for the huge long posts. I don’t have really anyone else to talk to about these things, and it feels good to process/converse with all of you. Keeping things short and sweet is unfortunately NOT something I’m good at, so thanks to all who endure these long posts.

  22. By: Pam Posted: 3rd November

    AnnaLyza, It’s wierd though,even though my parents are like that, I still love them and deep down wish they would do something to get well. I know they are miserable and so lost in their own heads that they can’t figure out why they eventually lose everyone. They are like toddlers that view themselves as entitled to things and can’t understand when they are told no. It’s really sad.


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 3rd November

      Hi Jenny
      Yes, I am sure your mother had a tough life too. All this dysfunction starts somewhere; I am sure it didn’t start for my mother, with her. I write about my grandmother in this site too.
      The longer that I live in freedom and wholeness, the more compassion and understanding I have for my mother. I am okay with that now because she still does not respect my boundary, so I say no to her toxic relationship style. I used that “feeling sorry for her and the past she suffered” as an excuse to let her hurt me for SO long. Today the answer has been in not letting her have any excuse. I dealt with all my issues and she has that same choice. She choose to stay in dysfunction, I choose not to.
      I found the balance came with my understanding of the truth and the definition of what is best. Sounds easy I know and I know that it isn’t… but this IS the process and it takes time. I know that your persistence will pay off! My guilt feelings also came from a lie in my belief system.
      Thanks so much for sharing!
      Hugs, Darlene

  23. By: Jenny Posted: 3rd November


    It seems so crazy to me that when you talk about your mother it’s as if you know mine….I am not sure my mother was so consumed with herself and her needs though…I almost think she is and was in such denial about her own upbringing that she just handed down all of the bullshit she received without challenging her own beliefs…you have to actually admit there is a problem in order to solve it…

    I know exactly what you are talking about when you talk about wanting to be nothing like her…I too vowed to myself when I was so young that I would NEVER put a man before my daugther as my mother had. I was tested on that one with my daughter’s father after he abused her. I couldn’t deny what I was seeing…I guess the thing in life is that you have to always seek balance. I vacillate between being selfless and selfish….I struggle with this all of the time. I feel guilty if I put my needs first and then I get angry when I am putting others first all of the time….the balance I seek is somewhere in between those two extremes…I will never quit seeking that balance because my happiness and the happiness of those that I love are important to me..thanks for listening

  24. By: Jane Humphreys Posted: 3rd November

    I can relate to this article a lot…. I have tried to be “perfecr” as a result of having the most vile of narcissistic mothers; never giving myself a break, like most people do; looking for the most perfect role model around, and trying to be like them…. When I think of just being myself, and that being fine, it is frightening; I have been invalidated that much that I don’t know what myself is, and everything about me has been devalued, so, as has been said, it is a constant up-hill struggle, which sometimes makes you wonder if it’s worthwhile… I will be spending christmas alone again this year, my “famly” will be sat around together doing the usual christmas things, without any conscience, feeling or thought for anyone other than themselves and their needs… on some level, you have to ask yourself who the winner is?
    My best wishes to you and your recovery.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 3rd November

      Hi Sophia
      Yes, this is great advice! I like the expression “don’t judge your insides by other peoples outsides” too. I fear that “normal” if we are using the majority as a measuring stick ~ normal is messed up!
      Thanks for sharing.
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Jane
      I totally relate to your comments. I have asked myself a million times if I made the right decision when I stood up to my mother/parents for many reasons including the ones you mention here. I am the winner! but having said that, I know that sometimes I don’t feel that way either. Sometimes I feel like the price was too high. BUT I always come up with the same answer. The alternative was so much worse than the loneliness or rejection that I have felt since I stood up. There is so much relief and so much less hurt in my life now that I have taken my life back. I am no longer willing to live with the alternative ~ which was to do everything their way, to be who they wanted me to be, to take the blame for everything.
      Thank you for your comments. Hang in here! Today I have few of these thoughts anymore that maybe I made a mistake.
      Hugs, Darlene

  25. By: Pam Posted: 2nd November

    Darlene,That is just my term because I don’t know what to call it. Emotional incest is probably pretty acurate. It makes me as sick to think about it now as it did when I was a kid.


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