Permission to Live; Busting through Beliefs and Survival Systems

Permission to live and the truth about family
When the Lies Die by Azelinn

For many years, I didn’t even know that I sought “permission.”  It was a normal way of life for me growing up to need permission for everything. I am not talking about permission to sleep over at my friends, or permission to go to the corner store. It is healthy for children to need to seek permission for those things. That is about safety. I am talking about needing and seeking permission to think, permission to be who I really am, permission to make a decision on my own and in reality, seeking permission to live.

Seeking permission started because a big part of my survival system was about doing what was expected of me and being what and who the adults and my dysfunctional paretents wanted me to be.  And I was so afraid to be wrong. It was dangerous to decide anything on my own without approval. That was just the way I grew up. I didn’t know that I COULD think for myself. I had never been allowed to OR encouraged to so I had never learned how. And this is largely because of the consequences of saying or doing something wrong when I was a kid.

Eventually, I felt like I needed permission to breathe.

As I got older I had this constant feeling of not being able to breathe.

I wondered “how I should feel” instead of having feelings.  It was like I had to have the “right” to have my own feelings. I was not given permission to feel. “I am scared”, was met with “don’t be silly, there is nothing to be scared of.” “That hurts” was met with “no it doesn’t”and when I think about it today, how did someone else KNOW if something hurt me or not? How many times do kids get slapped when they yell “OW”? How validating is that?

Not having permission to say no, to say stop, to say ouch or to feel sad. Not having permission to be happy, to be me, or to say that I don’t like mashed potatoes. I didn’t like them, and I gagged on them, but my father made me eat them. And I never thought that that was wrong of him, but I put having to like or dislike certain foods, into the grid of not having permission.

I was constantly told that I was wrong. I was shut down and told that my personality was too dramatic and that I talked to hear myself talk. Then I was reprimanded for being too quiet, moody and sullen. I was spanked and then told that if I didn’t stop crying that I would be given something to cry about. I learned and believed that crying, even for being hit and consequently being in physical pain, must be wrong. All of that is extremely invalidating not to mention confusing! Having a steady diet of mixed messages nurtures confusion and a faulty belief system full of conflicting beliefs and no permission.  This is a dysfunctional way to grow up.

Over time I learned that at the root of the problem was always something that I did wrong. No wonder I learned to try harder and harder to do things right. But “right” was never defined. One day something I did was right and then the next day it was wrong. Nothing was consistent.

Being hit with a belt and convinced that I deserved it went along with the other false beliefs and they blended into each other; false beliefs such as that I caused other people to fly into a rage, that I caused people to dislike me and that I caused people to feel certain ways and to be in certain moods. I believed that I caused my mother’s depressions. I believed that I caused her to get the strap out and beat the shit out of me. As a teenager I believed that I caused the sexual abuse that happened to me. I was not believed, validated or protected afterwards.  At the same time I was told that it happened because I had a crush on the man who came into my room, which in reality indicates that I was believed but denied my right to be safe. Since I did have a crush on him, then I thought that it must be my fault after all and that I “must have” done something to cause it.

Because of the times when I was convinced that I had done things to deserve those beatings, or done something to “attract” being sexually assaulted, I even went back in time and applied these lies to child sexual abuse and physical abuse that I suffered as a small child, believing that if the assaults and molestations were my fault when I was a teenager, then they must have ALWAYS been my fault. Therefore, I believed I was the reason I was targeted for sexual abuse; the reason my mother cried and why she was so depressed; the reason my mother raged and even the reason that my father left. I believed that I was doing something wrong in the ways that I talked to my mother’s boyfriends, and the list of what I thought I was responsible for was absolutely endless.  And it formed because each of these beliefs built on each other and each one served to support the other one.

It is not just the blatant suggestions that cause the belief system to form full of lies, but phrases carelessly thrown out to a child by an adult also serve as the glue that supports all the self blame. Statements such as “you asked for it” “if you were more like “someone else”, “if you were not so loud, or so quiet” “you get on my nerves” … the list is too long to even go farther, but these lies and beliefs intertwined together with all manner of indications that I myself, attracted certain situations, sometimes mixed with “just enough truth” that I was too confused to think straight. All this created the lasting cement that was the foundation of my belief system.

And it was time to get out the jackhammer and break it down. And when I took a good look at all of it and began to expose the lies at the roots of all this “programming” and dysfunctional family system stuff, I was able to begin to embrace the truth and finally give myself validation and permission. Permission to think for myself, permission to speak; permission to live; permission to be me; permission to be right and to make choices; permission to feel and permission to breathe.

Please share your views and feedback

Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time

Darlene Ouimet

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87 response to "Permission to Live; Busting through Beliefs and Survival Systems"

  1. By: Aren Posted: 22nd March

    I am sitting here in tears. This is my childhood minus the sexual abuse. I am sorry you had to experience that. And the sad, but eye opening thing is, I say the same negative crap to my six year old. Thank you for this post. It helped me start to understand me and my life. But, most importantly it pointed a finger in my face telling me to stop the vicious cycle! I always swore I would never treat my kids like my parents treated me. I will change this. My kids are simply too important not to.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 23rd March

      Hi Aren
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken! I am so glad that you have realized this!
      Thanks for sharing,
      hugs, Darlene

  2. By: Charles Browne Posted: 28th November


    I have come across the website in my searches before, too.

    Since you mentioned sex addiction in your first comment on this page I would like to leave the below links. I have also dealt with sex addiction in my life. If not useful to you directly. The links may be useful to someone else.

    On the below page, scroll down to where it reads “Coping and the “feeling thermostat””. That section tells why we were drawn to the addiction in the first place.

    The below “7 Negative Effects of Porn” page is the only page I have read on the below website.

    Roots of Sexual Addiction – Mp3 Audio File

    The below audio file is from a Christian perspective but for non Christians I think it has a lot of useful information on sex addiction.

    The below web page I have saved and read from time to time; when I need a reminder.

    Advice from a Failure by Jo Coudert

  3. By: AM Posted: 2nd November

    Hi Charles, thanks for sharing. I’m starting to agree with the “I am me” part, although its slow. I know it rationally but my feelings aren’t really tagging along. I’m balancing on a rope and if I fall to one side I’m crying, feeling sorry for myself and think I’m stupid to do all of this. If I fall on the other side I’m full of rage and feel obliged to continue and push myself ever harder.

    Sometimes I still believe I’m imagining it all. That if I’d just drop my self-inquiries and my will to self-improve and focus on what I do instead, and make new plans and try to “get what I can get” from life, then I’ll be better off than trying to understand myself.

    I don’t buy it anymore, but I do agree there has to be a balance somewhere.. I’ve realized that this kind of work takes a looong time. Like years, SEVERAL YEARS. And most of the things I find and discover about myself is really not positive things. I’ve got an especially hard time accepting “bad” sides of me since I was always momma’s little good boy. There’s a kind of “hope” element in all of this, to trust on blind faith that things will get better “later”, which is pretty hard to do for me at least.

    I wonder how everybody else is doing life. How they are living their lives without thinking on these things. How they can be carefree and I can’t. Or maybe rather how they can tackle their problems in life and function as human beings in more healthy and natural ways than I can. Why can’t I shrug it off and “get on with it”? I kind of know why, but it still annoys me.

    By the way I think I’ve found my improvement resource for the next couple of years:
    I’ve been focusing on that website along with this one for the past couple of months. I think the difference between the two is that this website is about self-empowerment while is about understanding human nature (doing parts work). For now, I’m following the program at (it’s damn slow and damn hard, it will probably take me at least 3 years) while reading articles here on different specific topics I need help with, or if I need to express myself or tell some part of “my story”.

    It’s saddening to read that you’ve given up hope on relationships.. I know we should really be working for ourselves, but I think I get a lot of energy/willpower from wanting to have (good) relationships in the future. It’s hard for me to lower the walls and let people in so it’s probably ten times worse for you. I hope that your path will cross with somebody who’ll inspire you to invite some hope into your heart again.

  4. By: Charles Browne Posted: 8th August


    “…because I’m afraid I’ll disappear, I’m afraid I’ll change somehow, that I won’t be me”.

    I think the psychological definition is “enmeshment”. I’ve read some on the word; it comes from us not having our own identity. Thinking/believing that we/ourselves are not enough. That somehow we don’t measure up.

    My looking for help in my twenties didn’t start until I was about twenty-four. The kind of help I was looking for in my twenties was focused on how to have a positive attitude and how not to be shy/insecure around girls. I really thought my lack of a positive attitude and my insecurities were the problem. I only made a few trips to the library and bookstore during those years. I didn’t spend much time in those places. I mainly focused on reading things like the “Quotable Quotes” section of “Reader’s Digest” and things of that nature. I really think I thought that if I could change what I thought was my bad attitude into a positive attitude then bango presto life would be wonderful.

    When I was around fourteen my dad was in the process of starting his own business while still being employed with the company he worked for. I don’t remember being aware of this business venture at that time but when I was fifteen the new business had started. I didn’t know it at the time but my dad’s new business venture started to fail fairly quickly. All I recall is that life within the family had become even more isolated. When I was fifteen my mother was on the phone with someone, I don’t think she knew I could hear, and the only thing I remember her saying to whoever she was talking to was, “I can’t take it anymore”. Meaning she couldn’t take it anymore. I can’t say for certain but looking back at that now I may have walked away with the knowledge that I (me) wasn’t going to get any help, and I really needed help.

    When I was around late sixteen or early seventeen my family moved to a different neighborhood. Whereas before my parents had owned their homes, this time they were renting. I think my dad at that time was in the process of wrapping up the legalities of his failed business. One morning, I think it was a weekday and shortly before I left for school, my dad was by the front door hitting my mother. I remember seeing that and saying to my dad, “Don’t hit my mother”. He did stop.

    I can only remember one other time that my dad may have hit my mother that I am aware of, but that might be a false memory of mine. Anyway my dad wasn’t a habitual hitter but obviously under the surface that tendency/threat was there.

    When it came to girls I was very insecure. In the eleventh grade I walked up to a girl at school that I had never spoken to before and asked her if she wanted to go to the prom with me. Yea, I was that guy. Of course she said no.

    Google books had the “On not being in a couple” chapter from the Stephen Grosz book online so I was able to read the chapter without purchasing the book, though I might still purchase the book at some time in the future. I am glad that the story in the chapter evolved into something other than where the first few pages implied that the story was heading :).

    Having read the chapter I can’t see that chapter as being similar to my ‘struggle’. But maybe on some level in a way it is. But at my present age I wouldn’t choose to use a word like “struggle” to give it a definition. When I was younger I might have chosen to look at it that way, but now I would see it as just the way things went, and I can also see now that it needn’t have gone that way and it was well within my capability to have changed the direction, if only I had been able to see where the dysfunction originated, and to truly realize, and understand, that I am not my father, and I am not my mother. I am ME.

    I did end up not getting married and I never even came close to being married. I never had a girlfriend, and never came close to being in a relationship (adultery doesn’t count). When I got out of the navy I ended up being a job hopper. There is no stability in that. I didn’t “individuate” from my parents and I think they liked it that way, or at least were accepting of it. They never gave me any indication that there was a ME. They were so wrapped up in their own individual emotional wounds, and lives, to even notice that I was.

    In some ways, looking back across some thirty plus years, I think I can see that some of my insecurities might have been “acts” and that I might have actually been way better than I gave myself credit for being.

    I think on some subconscious level I might not have wanted to find out if I was like my dad. I wouldn’t have wanted to hit my wife, or girlfriend, even once and I suppose there would have always been the chance of that having had happened. Once would have been one too many times for me. Best, for me, I guess not to have gone there (relationship) to find out if it would happen.

    But I am not my father and, this isn’t advice, whatever you experienced with your parents growing up, you are not your father, or your mother, either. You are you, not them, or anyone else in the world, YOU ARE YOU.

    You picked up on my experience with the next to last therapist. I did include that in my comment, without explaining why had included it, though I should have, to show that when going to therapist one isn’t going before God. Just because someone wants to lead us somewhere, even if that might not be their intention, doesn’t mean we have to go. I think what happened in my next to last therapy attempt is that the woman asked me why I had come to see her, and I think I told her I didn’t know, or something like that, and she tossed out what she had tossed out as a possibility as to why I had come to see her. She didn’t seem interested in having me as a client. It was in the evening time when I saw her so maybe she was wanting to go home.

    BTW, at this older age I am not seeking a relationship anymore. I don’t even want to entertain the thought anymore. Too much water under the bridge for me. But if I had been in my twenties or even early thirties and known what I know now, I surely would have worked on myself, in the correct areas, and should the opportunity have presented itself I would have jumped right into a “healthy relationship” with a woman. That will be one of the regrets of my life, that that didn’t happen for me.


  5. By: AM Posted: 27th July

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    Sometimes I think my main problem is that I’m more self-focused than other people. It’s as if the experiences I’ve had force me to consider everything in life as a threat to my own existence; that I simply can’t change, can’t move on, and keep fighting every change, trying to stay in limbo, in a gray zone where I don’t have to be someone or something, where I can live without existing too much.

    I can’t make friends or get intimate because I’m afraid I’ll disappear, I’m afraid I’ll change somehow, that I won’t be me. Somehow I don’t accept myself “unconditionally”. I have to work very hard to accept a self-image that I create for myself, and if some person challenges that image I perceive as deadly threat to my existence. Of course we are social creatures, every interaction changes us, every deeper relationship changes us..

    Perhaps this is what we didn’t get from our parents, somehow, that we think we need to fit a certain, precise image to feel OK about ourselves. Perhaps this is a child’s understanding of the “Divine Plan”? If things happen too fast, if we get too involved with someone, if we “show ourselves” too honestly, then we run the risk of judgement, of love, of having to be someone for someone else: we risk all the natural social processes that change people.

    And we don’t trust people? We’re afraid of people? I wonder if I’m just afraid of rucking my self-image. Perhaps I value this image of myself that I can finally live with higher than any relationship or life experience. Perhaps this is what keeps me living in my cage of fear?

    There’s a maimed ex-slave from Greece who wrote something about this stuff. He has interesting perspectives, one of them being:
    “For what else is tragedy, but the dramatized sufferings of men, bewildered by an admiration of externals?”

    In my case, I wonder if not my “external” is my sense of self, the identity that I can live with and am afraid to change since I, ultimately, don’t believe that “I” — whomever I become — is acceptable, lovable or even just OK. I think what he’s talking about is that the point is our lives, how we choose to live it, not who we are or what we are or what has happened to us.

    I feel I agree with this in some sense. At some point it’s time to accept our pains and start to try building our lives. Nobody will ever be perfect. What kind of life do we want to build? Can I accept myself enough to do that without being paralyzed by second-guessing myself and dooming every change to failure?

    I don’t know how this works, but at some point we have to ask ourselves this question and add building our lives to the process of healing ourselves. I’ve been afraid to do it because I’ve felt that I wasn’t qualified to want things in my life — as if I still only have the authority of a child, even in my own life.

    I’ve thought a lot about nature. If I take an axe and hack away at a tree a bit (but don’t kill it), the tree doesn’t complain.. It just starts growing again immediately after, as fast as it can. It does the best it can do. Do we?

    For us, it’s as if our sense of self gets damaged, that we can’t grow again until we accept the changes to our identities that the damage has forced.

    Then again, to ignore our pains and just force life by “pure will”, because we need to “get over it” probably leads us to repeat our parents’ mistakes but in different formats.

    It seems like a difficult problem. I’ve started reading the following book too, and doing the exercises that they contain.

    I’m going to try this one too:

    It’s a damn maze, all the things that are available today. But as you said, it’s for sure a lot easier for someone earnestly seeking help to find it today. I’m going to try to look for a good therapist, but I’m ready for a period of being picky. There’s too many people out there who don’t really have the capacity to care for others but do it for other reasons (your “Just tell me your gay”-therapist seems like one of these ones).

    Anyway, good luck to us both and other people looking for healing. Who’s to say a life was better or worse than any other life?

  6. By: Charles Browne Posted: 10th June


    I need to clarify something in regard to myself and I need to post this for my own sake. I’m not being defensive when I post this because I have lived my life in the past defensively, and in a reactive manner for a considerable part of my life, and I know what that is.

    When I post above about my having put up with a few people at various times im my life having made the insinuation that I might be ‘gay’, and how that affected me. It is not a case of my somehow being ‘in the closet’ and just needing to own up to my condition.

    The simple fact of the matter is that at a very young age I fell into the hands of a perverted child. A perverted child that just happen to be younger than even I was.

    And many years later that child told someone else about it, how he even remembered it I don’t know, and I got slammed with that information unexpectedly one day at a time when I was still very young and already starting to have trouble adjusting to life.

    And for the next four years (and really thereafter) I spent my life in a very confused and depressed state, and no human adult that was in a position to help even bothered. I was just ‘a problem’, but no one even bothered to investigate or delve into why I was ‘a problem’. The years of fourteen to eighteen to my understanding are critical years in a young person’s development. It is where they start to spread their wings and learn to live in a social society. Well, I missed the boat on that one. And had that garage experience never have happened I suspect that I might still have had life issues just because of the way my parents were. But maybe my life issues wouldn’t have been as deep.

    From fourteen to eighteen there were a few people in my life. I wasn’t a total loner, but inside I was a loner, and I did spend many unhappy hours and days alone. The friendships I had back then though were one sided. I didn’t know how to interact; I was a friendship sponge. I offered nothing. I had nothing to offer and I didn’t know how to be a part of friendship. I was in survival mode.

    In the Bible Jesus makes the statement (I’m going by memory so it might not be exact), “If a man lust upon a woman with his eye, then he has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. I’ve known about that verse, those words, and I know what it means, but recently I got to thinking about it. What it means is that NOT ONCE was a man that has ever been on this earth to have ever lusted after any woman. Man and Woman would have still entered into marriages and babies would have still been born, and Man and Woman would have still had marital sex.

    One of my many transgressions in life is that I committed literal adultery with a woman that worked at a place I did a long time ago, she happened to be married, and that lasted for many months. What both she and I were were two broken people doing broken things together.

    I do wish for you the healing you seek AM. YOU CAN DO IT!!!


  7. By: Charles Browne Posted: 7th June

    Hi AM,

    You have written a lot to consider. As I remember it the only fantasy type thinking I got into in my teenage years when I had started to withdraw and hide from people was to want to be a mountain man. To live by myself somewhere. At that time a program called Grizzly Adams was popular on television and Grizzly seemed to have it good.

    When I was thirteen to around sixteen I did listen a lot to the Kiss group that was popular back then. When I was around sixteen I got rid of the albums because I felt that my listening to them was starting to have a negative affect on me. But I substituted the Beatles for Kiss and started listening to them a lot.

    When I was eighteen the only option open to me for employment was to go in the military. I did four years in the navy and spent the time refueling jets on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. The navy bootcamp is, at that time anyway, one of the easiest bootcamps and I barely passed it due to my physical condition. I was malnurished and basically not much more than skin and bones. I was fortunate to be on the ship I was on and the division I was in because I got along fairly well with the people there.

    I liked the work on the flight deck because it kept me busy, and I realize now, that I didn’t have to think about things. On the flight deck you had to pay attention at all times on what was going on around you because if you didn’t you could literally die.

    But when there weren’t flight operations going on, and I was below decks doing nothing, my timidity would come out sometimes. I was someone who had been traumatized in his adolescence and someone that got to where he intentionally avoided people, and now I was living in close quarters and close working conditions with other men on a military ship. The time that I was in the navy women weren’t on aircraft carriers, except maybe the occasional female pilot or nurse, and we rarely saw them.

    Though I got along with the people and they liked me I was still me; I was still the people avoider. I never went up for rank in the navy. I stayed an E-3 even though the chiefs at times did ask me to take the petty officer exam. Even though in time I did become one of the refueling crewleaders and was responsible for the two or three guys that were in my crew; I think I was afraid of having the official designation of having authority which even a lowly designation of E-4 would have brought.

    The times the ship would pull into ports in other countries, I may or may not have gone ashore. So the ship might be in a port for three days, and even when it was a day that I could go ashore, I might choose to remain on the ship. I didn’t know how to relax; I didn’t know how to just be.

    When my four years was up I got out and returned to my hometown and my parent’s house and proceeded to go into the deepest depression that I had ever been in. That depression lasted for six months until I found employment as a stockroom worker in an electronics store.

    AM, from what I have read in your post you have asked yourself questions and made realizations that I never thought or considered to ask myself, or realized, when I was in my twenties or even thirties.

    When I was in my twenties the Internet didn’t exist. The only options for help, information wise, were what could be found at a bookstore or whatever was in the local library. And those options were hit and miss on locating information that might actually help. I remember being in my mid-twenties I think it was and checking out a book from the library that had some title like, ‘On Being a Man’ or ‘Becoming a Man’, or something like that. There I was in my twenties trying to find information on HOW I SHOULD BE! Sad Stuff.

    When I was seven I had an unfortunate experience with another boy in his family’s garage. That experience stained my life. I have never had a question of my sexuality; I know that I am a heterosexual. But having had that experience in my early life it left me to doubt myself in my life. Couple that with the fact that my parents, for whatever reason, did not validate me as having worth, and I was left to look to other people to tell me who I am and when you run up against people, as I have, that look for homosexuals under every rock, and they question on if you are ‘gay’ or not, it gets tiring. Plus I do not act effeminate, and never have that I know of, but it got to where I automatically watched my actions just to make sure that I didn’t make some effeminate gesture or do something that might be construed by others as being such.

    Plus in my case I was never a ‘chick magnet’. I would have liked to have been :), but I wasn’t.

    The next to last time that I sought therapy, I think it would have been in the mid nineties, I set up an appointment with a therapist and when the evening came to meet her I went to her office, and I’m sitting in a chair and I get about two or three sentences out of my mouth, and this woman that I had just met some three minutes earlier said to me, “If you told me you were gay I could help you”. I said to her, “Well, I’m not”. And that was another fairly short therapy attempt by me. I didn’t even ask her why she had said what she said. I wasn’t going to get in a dialogue with her.

    What happened to me in life AM, and what I needed to learn in my twenties when I was actually looking for help but didn’t find it, is that I grew up in childhood and teenage years starving for affection that should have come naturally from my parents but didn’t. I was left with a void inside myself that I didn’t understand, and emotional hurt that I didn’t even know that is what it was, and mental anguish. I didn’t intuitively know how to self-soothe in a positive way. Wait a minute! Real men don’t self-soothe do they? Real men drink lead and spit bullets don’t they? Actually I think real men self-soothe quite a bit. Only most learned to do it in childhood, when they didn’t even know they were learning to do it, and so in their adult years probably do it by reflex without thinking about it.

    BTW, Thanks for the title of the Stephen Grosz book. It has been around seventeen years since I read any books having to do with personal growth or personal problems, but I’ll pick up a copy of the book from Amazon when I am able.

  8. By: AM Posted: 6th June

    Charles Browne, you describe my life so far. Your story reminded me of another story in a book I just read about a man who had given up a similar struggle [1]. As with the book chapter, I found myself in your story and started crying while reading it. Reading about other people’s experiences helps validate my own experiences, lessening the feeling that “I imagined it all and I was just born/somehow turned out like this”. In the same spirit I decided to also give a longer account of my own story.

    I was a very insecure, sensitive and fearful child. I had horrible nightmares that I couldn’t wake out of. I sometimes saw horrible “creatures” while awake. On occasion, when I was alone, I saw physical objects moving that simply shouldn’t have moved. Even now, especially when I’m low, I still get scared of the dark and need to light a lamp to be able to sleep. There’s a childish fear inside of me that something will “get me” or something “horrible” will happen. I know it’s irrational but sometimes I don’t have the energy to argue with myself and just turn the damn light on.

    I still feel like Darlene describes, that I need permission from someone to do things, or just to live my life as I see fit. I’ve only recently realized that this is a big problem, this fear of “failing my life”, which makes any important decision impossible to make.

    I see my parents’ attitudes to me as similar to the ones you describe. My father was rarely a part of our family and when he was he was very controlling. Not explicitly, he never voiced an honest opinion of his own or wanted anything, but he somehow “set” the emotional mood that made me feel very afraid. He felt like a unpredictable psychological bomb, waiting to go off, but he never did. Without saying or doing anything you could touch or even THINK of, you ended up thinking like he wanted or just feeling plain awful. He creates a strong desire in everyone around him to somehow appease him. To this day, when I spend time with my father, I get the feeling I’d imagined all my worries and my insecurities, that I’m just like that. It’s what I know he wants me to think. He has a way of politically playing or just “being” that establishes his world and overrules everyone else’s. I can’t understand how he does it, or even what it is that he does. But children/my friends were always scared of him, even the desobedient ones turned into “angels”/scared puppies with him. Needless to say, he’s very successful in his career and financially he’s currently in the top 1-2 % in my country. I still don’t understand his motives, what drives him in life, or even who his real friends are.

    My mother was severely abused as a child. Her fight to “undo” her wounds and give us a “normal life” overshadowed my own life. Somehow, we weren’t allowed to think that things weren’t good. Whenever I voiced concerns, I got to hear how good things were. At every turn, she would tell me what a happy, wonderful life I’d lead and how easy things were for me and my siblings. Somehow, though, my life was always about my mother. About her success in freeing herself from her past, from her parents. I started to associate my mother with what was “good”. Whatever she said, I would do. After all, she was the great martyr, sacrificing her whole life for our betterment. She trusted me especially – she even told me that I was her “favorite child”. She also entrusted me with the information that my father had problems “getting it up” in bed. I was around 13 years old. I now realize that my mother had great emotional needs of acceptance and nurturing, and that she unconsciously filled these with her children. After my parents’ (horrible) divorce, she blamed any problem I/we had on my father, convinced that he was the root cause of evil while she had done everything “for us, for the family”. Of course, we never discussed that she left my father for his little brother. That was somehow a necessity, the way “she could survive” and “escape” from my father’s horrible grip. Even today, ten years later, she became convinced my father poisoned her with heavy metals at the end of their marriage and this was the reason for her latest physical problems. The worst part is that, after trying to communicate a bit with my father, I actually can’t exclude that possibility. If he’s ruthless in general, I can only imagine what he’d become if somebody crossed him in such a humiliating way as she had done.

    Today, all of us children fear our father (though not all of us admit this) and we generally (consciously or subconsciously) do our best to avoid or distance ourselves from our parents.

    Now I see people aren’t together because of chance. Neither of my parents were open to me emotionally. I don’t feel my parents were ill-intentioned. I believe they both had grand plans for me, or at least for “me in THEIR lives”, but they were completely indifferent to what I was (a child) and who I was (me?) and my needs (nurturing, listening, attention). Not because they wanted to be, or necessarily lacked conscience, but because they couldn’t be anything else. There was simply no room for me, or my siblings, in our family. None of us got into any love relationship before moving into our own flats, all of us in our twenties. Because I understand all of this, I can’t be angry with my parents. My mother did the same, she often talked to me about her process with her parents, that she “understood” them. Frankly, I don’t feel that understanding my parents help me much in any way.

    All of this led me to a problem of sexual addiction at a very young age. Then, when I was in middle school, I got shocked into isolation too. I experienced a deeply humiliating event, in the scientifically worst sense of the world [2, 3]. I cut myself off from everyone and spent my youth playing games, reading fantasy books, listening to hard music and imagining I was someone powerful, burning down the world. Besides other nightmares I began to have dreams of me sexually abusing women, controlling them with strange machines, etc. Not healthy.

    I still don’t know if I can love or if I just have a need to take care of someone or if I’m just scared to death of being alone. I can’t get too close to anyone either, though, then I feel scared to death again and angry. So I play this social “back-and-forth” game with everyone, friends included, helplessly alienating myself from the people that I feel would help make me normal.

    Somehow I’m thankful for somehow managing to escape the effects of my family conditions long enough to get involved in other organizations. By pure force of will, I forced myself to act normal, to always work and never rest/think. This was a consequence of me pushing myself down, I know, but it was also how I met my girlfriend. She fell for that dependent, stable act.

    This was a stroke of luck. She’s been very patient with me, clinging on to me in spite of my semi-unconscious attempts to shake her off. She’s (impossibly) earned my trust which allowed me to voice my deepest feelings and thoughts to her. And I realized that I do need to see a professional therapist, I do need to stop jumping on a million work-related projects and instead start to care for myself. Now I think we’re about to break up – maybe she DID fall for the act or perhaps I just tired even her out – but she made me realize who I was, how badly I’d fared and how very weak I really am deep down. I’ve been running around mindlessly for the past 10 years and just now, with her help, I’ve forced myself to calm down, realize how deeply my problems really run and start to truly want to “fix” myself.

    Me, I’m still in my twenties. But I don’t know what to do, how to fix this. I recognize what you’re describing, the wheel of “got to fix me”. I’m in that same wheel, and I just can’t seem to just “live my life”. Sometimes I feel all this personal analyzing is causing many of my problems in life, but when I didn’t do any thinking, I became a mindless, super-productive working zealot. When I stop to think, I become depressed and can do nothing. I’m planning to go see a therapist as soon as I got the cash to do it. I should’ve done that much earlier, I just didn’t realize there was a “problem”, I always thought I was just that useless, that I somehow deserved this emotional torture that I unconsciously made my life into. I don’t know how to accept myself fully, and who/what I am and what has happened with me, without turning myself into a victim, helpless to improve the way I live my life.

    If you find a solution, please tell me. Personally, I’ve come to believe that these problems are subconscious – especially because there is no physical abuse event that I can associate my problems to. It’s as if “nothing happened” but obviously a lot of things happened. It’s like being afraid of an emotional fog where my mind is the sun. The fog disappears when I turn my mind towards it, but whenever I look away and try to focus on living life the fog comes back, bringing its feelings of anxiousness and fear with it. Perhaps subconscious problems need subconscious solutions.

    I’ve been doing Kundalini Yoga for the past year [4]. I’ve tried so many things – especially religious/spiritual things – and for the first time, I feel as if “something” is really happening. For moments I feel like I’m 16 again, and I feel some of my childhood fears strongly. Some strange dreams have returned. Just some days ago I felt really scared, as if I would be able to remember something that I wouldn’t be able to handle. I pushed it away with a cigarette, but I felt hope. It’s taken me 10 months of almost daily yoga practice to reach this point.

    Its still too early for me to say whether this practice really helps me, or if it just makes me more emotional. I feel that I won’t get anywhere with just my mind, that I’m running in circles, hitting invisible walls everywhere. People help, but they can’t bring me out. I’ve always felt that some spirital activities go deeper, somehow. Perhaps they speak with the unconscious. Sometimes for the better and sometimes for worse, depending on the people and belief system involved. In my personal experience, the less of strict belief systems and the healthier/more normal/truly compassionate people involved, the better. Now if this yoga practice can somehow help break that circle, or at least change it, I’ll continue to try it out.

    As somebody mentioned, joy is perhaps the most important part in all of this. My life has been so dark, so serious. I feel that if I wait to try to have fun and enjoy life – at least as much as I can – until I “fix myself” I’ll be living a very serious and lonely life.

    My determination now is to continue my work with myself. Meanwhile, I want to try to make the most out of life. To live as fully as I can, have as close relationships as I can tolerate, to try to get new friends, try to have fun, try to stay in the moment whenever I can. And just accept myself, that I have these issues and that I’m down from time to time. I don’t want to put my whole existence on hold just because I’m fucked up. I don’t deserve that, never did.

    I guess that’s continuing like before except that, this time, I’m not trying to hide anything from myself and I’m consciously try to heal myself at the same time. I hope that’s possible, to heal myself AND live.

    [1] The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz, chapter “On not being in a couple”
    [2] Check out “Humiliation: Its Nature and Consequences” by Torres and Bergner ( and
    [3] “The Humiliation Dynamic” by Donald Klein (
    [4] I’ve been doing exercises for the first three chakras “Journey through the Chakras (1) – yoga DVD” (

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 7th June

      Hi AM
      Welcome to EFB ~ You wrote : “I hope that’s possible, to heal myself AND live.” My answer: It IS certainly possible! I did it.
      I think you are going to like it here.
      hugs, Darlene

  9. By: Charles Browne Posted: 6th January

    I apologize beforehand for the very long comment. I hadn’t intended to type a lengthy personal history. I have read a lot of the comments that others have left on the website and many of those comments have been helpful to me in beginning to figure my own things out.

    I don’t know how, but maybe in some way my own experience might be of help to someone someday. I’m just sorry I ended up telling of the experience in one go.


    when I was thirty-eight I found myself walking up to the place that I worked at the time saying these things out loud to myself, with no one else around that could hear: You don’t define me, Let me be me, Permission to live, sir.

    I know I was saying “let me be me” more or less to my mother. And “You don’t define me” I was saying more or less to everyone in the world (besides myself) and I was probably saying “Permission to live, sir” to my dad. The thing is I didn’t or just wasn’t able to take those phrases I said to myself back then any further than just saying them to myself those few times. I never stopped to analyze the phrases, or question what they were really about, or where they were coming from; though I think now that inside myself I might have known.

    Then when I was around forty-seven the sixty-three year old daughter of my neighbor across the street came to visit her mother and I found myself asking this woman that I didn’t really know if she had had a happy childhood, and she replied that she had. And I didn’t say anything further to her in regards to that topic, not that I had anything else to say at that time, but I think now that an understanding must have been coming to the surface in my mind that all of my life’s troubles in my adulthood stemmed from the treatment and the negative experiences of my youth.

    So there have been long time gaps in my coming to the realization of what exactly happened to me and what exactly I HAD lived through, and that is so sad to know when I think about it. I seem to be a slow learner with certain things. So much time wasted. So many things that might have been that never will be, because those were the things of youth.

    I know that in articles on this website Darlene Ouimet has written that when she was in her late thirties or early forties that she was close to ‘giving up’. Well I did give up at around age thirty-nine. I had been on the hamster wheel of life constantly since I had entered adulthood at the age of eighteen. I had fallen off of that wheel, and gotten back on it, so many times that it became tiring.

    The wheel that I rode is the same wheel that a lot of people have ridden. The wheel of “got to fix me”, “got to make me better”. The wheel of “What’s wrong with me?”; “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Somethings wrong with me. Years of this and I haven’t been able to figure it out yet!” The wheel of “I hope this gets better soon.”

    I did seek therapy three separate times in my life. Once at age twenty-seven, once at around the age of thirty-three, and another time at around the age of thirty-seven, if I remember correctly. And all three attempts ended up being one or two time visits because I didn’t know what, or how to tell them what, I was seeking help with.

    In my early, mid twenties I read a few of the self-help books: “The Power of Positive Thinking”, “You Can if You Think You Can” and “Think & Grow Rich”. I read David Burns’ book “Feeling Good”, though I now remember almost nothing of what was in it. And some books I don’t remember the names of. I even did Benjamin Franklin’s ‘self-improvement’ plan for a short while in my twenties. Nothing helped.

    At the age of fifty I reached my desperation point and literally cried out to God and asked him to let me know before I died what had gone wrong in my life. And I did receive an answer at my fifty years age. And I do believe the answer came from God. And the answer was “Parental Indifference” and “Shocked into Isolation”.

    I knew what the “Shocked into Isolation” was though I had never thought of it in those words. That happened when I was fourteen years old when one of my “friends” said a nine word sentence to me that brought back memories to me of something that had happened when I was seven years old, and that one sentence sent my little fourteen year old world reeling, and turned my existence upside down. I became a loner. I became scared and literally hid from people. I started to overdress. Meaning in summer time I would often wear a jacket. I suddenly became acutely aware of shame though I didn’t know what shame was. No one seemed to care. And even if I could have, I didn’t know who to ask for help. I don’t think that asking someone for help ever crossed my mind.

    I went to a private Baptist school from kindergarten to eleventh grade. For my last two or three years at that school I never again went into the school cafeteria to eat lunch with the rest of the students. I sat by myself, alone, on the side of the building at lunch time. One day the vice principal of the school strolled up the sidewalk and saw me sitting, leaning against the building and said to me, “What, Are you a loner?” and kept on walking. Never paused in his walking to his destination. I didn’t try to give a reply to his question. I probably wouldn’t have been able to give a reply to his unkind question. I was only around fifteen years old.

    Had my parents not been indifferent toward me things might have, probably would have, turned out differently. I can’t remember one ‘real’ conversation that me and my parents ever had in my life. My dad wasn’t a question asker in the caring sense; he was a statement maker. I came to realize last year when I started honestly thinking about things, through the grid of what Darlene calls ‘self-love’ and ‘self-validation’, that I was most likely scared of my dad. Both of my parents, though I think they told themselves that they did care about me, were never available for me parentally or emotionally, though we all lived in the same house. My parents never sexually abused me or physically abused me. The whippings I got with a belt, when I did something wrong, seemed to stop when I was around ten.

    At that Baptist school I went to I wasn’t bullied or anything like that, I just withdrew into myself and ceased knowing how to BE. I was left on my own to figure things out. And in my twenties and early thirties I tried various things to come out of my ‘shell shocked’ existence with varying and short-lived levels of success. But always there was this inner hurt/confusion that I couldn’t seem to understand or heal, or get rid of, or even know where it came from.

    Last year when I got to thinking about the three phrases that I said to myself at the age of thirty-eight (that I mentioned at the beginning of this comment) I did a Google search and one of the phrases, or a variation of it, had the emergingfrombroken website come up in the search results. And that’s how I came upon this website.

    I wrote above that at around thiry-nine years old I did give up. Perhaps I just really took a long break.

  10. By: Pinky Posted: 31st May

    Even though I went through quite a bit of recovery in my haling process I never quite thought it out to the point where I thought I needed permission to breath.I took singing lessons as a child and I was never able to get the breathing down. I had several teachers but one great coach who has since passed away of AIDS. He always told me how good I was and felt I was withdrawn and said if I just got the breathing properly down I would be great , I was a dancer and only took voice lessons to help my dance career so I didnt think much about that but over the years I always wondered why I didnt get the breathing down. I take Tai Chi now and I do have the breathing down but now I am a different person your post made a light go off.All of the ther stuff I said is stuff I already knew. As you know I was one of my that ran a rape support group. It was faith based on run by a mental health clinic. A professional was only there to observe in case of problems. They wanted it to be a peer run group and people seemed to open up more that way leaders were always voted on. Anyway I have heard just about everything but this just hot me about the breathing. Thanks for posting!

  11. By: January Posted: 28th May

    I still find myself needing to gain permission to do certain things. My parents trained me well. I craved their attention, but as a child, if I touched one of them, or asked them for something the best I could expect was a no. More often than that my requests were met with slaps, spankings, beatings, yelling, foul language, etc. I learned to curb my needs. Nothing worked, & it was quite clear that I was strictly there to do as my parents demanded. Asking why meant physical pain…I didn’t like it, but I did get used to it. I mostly kept to myself…trying desperately to stay as quiet as possible lest I upset my parents. If they needed something though, I was expected to jump at their requests.

    I learned over the years that my needs were really inconsequential. If I needed anything beyond what my parents gave me, the answer was no. I have to say though…reading Jackie’s story really got to me. I cannot believe that anyone could get away with that much abuse. I am so sorry, Jackie. Hope you never have to put up with anyone like that again.


  12. By: Sonja Posted: 24th May

    Wow, what an article. I have been reading some of the posts on Face Book and a lot of it has helped. I still find it extremely hard to talk about because I don’t want my mother to be hurt. My “biological sperm doner” who helped to create me (he doesn’t deserve the title of “Dad” or “Father”) has been dead now for a long time. I can’t even remember the year that he died. I hadn’t spoken to my parents for 9 or 10 years and when I finally got a hold of my mom she told me that he had died. I was upset for about 5 minutes and then it dawned on me that I was relieved. I was so glad that he was dead. That meant I never had to face him again and hear his breathing as he looks at me. What I always hear ringing in my head is “How can you be so selfish”. “Think of other people”. How he would berate me and tell me how useless I was for not filling up the sugar bowl or the butter dish. Calling me a bitch and pushing me up against the wall with his hands on my neck because I dared stick up for my mother. I still can’t figure out how to do something for myself without feeling guilty. Then getting married at 19 years old ( my you know what forced us) and staying in a terribly emotionally abusive marriage for 14 years. When he kicked me out, I was so lost and of course went from the frying pan into the fire by hooking up with another emotional, and physically abusive man. Didn’t see my kids for over 2 years because of him. My guilt to this day overwhelms me at times. I have been to many counselors and most of them were very nice people, but it just didn’t help and I always stopped seeing them, I don’t know why. Reading this has put some more pieces of the puzzle together for me as to why I would do or say some of the things that I do. It’s just really tough trying to get yourself out of it is all. Some days are really good and other days…well all I can say is I don’t do much and don’t go anywhere. Then having Fibromyalgia on top of it all along with PTSD, anxiety and depression, some days I wonder why, but thanks for being to open with your words and helping me to understand, well…me. I look forward to reading more and learning more about myself as well. Take care.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th May

      Hi Sonja
      Welcome to EFB
      I hope you will read more; there is a lot of info in this site about how I put my life back together. I am glad that you are here!
      Hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Manda Posted: 24th May

    These are amazing narratives. You wrote what I think and how I feel as if you were in my own head. I don’t have the outright sexual abuse but there were a lot of sexual boundary problems. Nudity and uncomfortable comments. Everything else you said is true also of me. As a result I have Complex PTSD and Bipolar disorder.

    Now imagine for a moment…I am a parent of three kids ages 3, 5, and 9. Not having a model of good parenting and not having ever learned to manage my own emotions, I have struggled not to carry on the cycle. I have yelled terrible things to my kids, I have spanked when I didn’t want to (never with a belt though), I have told them they drive me crazy, make me angry, make me miserable. Everything I do a a parent I scruitinze because I am terrified of the developmental implications, but the next time something happens and I can’t control myself….I HATE MYSELF FOR IT. Granted I am 10 times better than my parents and there are multitudes more LOVING times with my kids than I ever had with my folks, and granted I am getting help and getting better. But now I see where my parents were coming from because their parents did it to them, probably 10 times worse, and they were hurting too….so with such compassion for them…I have no idea how to heal myself and clean up the collateral damage.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th May

      Hi Manda
      I had to set aside the ‘compassion’ that I had for my parents because I was using the “how they got the way they got” to excuse what happened to me. In order for me to heal I had to validate the damage that was done to me without adding on that my parents had it worse. There was no solution until I could validate myself without excusing them. (Today I can feel sorry for them, but not at my own expense anymore) This whole site is about how I did that.
      Hugs, Darlene

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