Punishment as a Control Tactic in Abusive Family Systems



escape abusive family
there is peace and freedom on the other side…

Happy New Year! Welcome to a new year Emerging from Broken!

I talk about the belief system and how it is developed and how we are brainwashed into believing that the problem is us in the first place. There are specific abuse tactics that are used to cement this brainwashing which cause the ‘fear of consequences’ for going against the controller in a dysfunctional relationship. One of these tactics is ‘punishment’ or ‘fear of punishment’ and like so many other abuse tactics it is very often issued in a way that is hard for the receiver of that punishment to put a finger on it. Remember that the foundation is laid very carefully to discredit a child in an abusive or dysfunctional family and to make sure the child is always looking at themselves when it comes to where the problem originated or who it originated with.  This part of the grooming process is usually rooted in psychological abuse although it is often cemented via other types of abuse.  

There are many ways to punish people without physically hitting them or calling them names.  There are tactics such as “the silent treatment” “withdrawal of attention” or “withdrawal of interest”, in other words “rejection” and those abuse tactics communicate a message very clearly, even if we are not consciously aware of that message. When we are kids and an adult uses psychologically abusive methods to ‘punish’, most kids understand the consequence of their action (rejection) but don’t always recognize the actual message with any clarity or consciousness.  Then, the way that we learn this acceptance of the message without questioning it very deeply (out of fear of the consequences), is carried into adulthood with us, therefore as adults we don’t see the tactics we have already been successfully groomed to accept without question.  But the fear of the consequences may be very much still in control of the now adult victim.

For example, the time my father-in-law took my 2 year old son out of the farm yard without telling me he was taking him. I freaked, thinking my baby crawled under the fence and was lost in one of the many fields or had been mauled by a cow or had been cornered by a coyote. We have literally miles of land. I jumped in my car to go get my husband and there was my father in law, with my husband in one of our hayfields with our 2 year old son. Without thinking (normally I would never have stood up to him) I told him to never take our child out of the yard again without letting me know. He got angry with me! He was so angry that he spat out that he would never take him again.

There was something about the way he said it though that gave me an erie feeling as though I was the one that had done something wrong. I agonized over that whole thing, justifying to myself that I was right, that I HAD to know where my son was, that I could not actually be expected to just “wonder” where he might be at any given time. But I was really scared too because I had dared to talk back to my father-in-law.  I ‘knew’ that I was going to pay for my actions.

He came over later that day saying ‘gramma’ (my mother in law) had told him he was out of line, but instead of apologizing, he told me off, saying that I was going to turn my son into a ‘panty’ if I continued to be over protective of him in this way. I call this the old “I’m sorry but……” and “sorry with a but” is not sorry at all.

But guess what? I didn’t argue with my father in laws lecture. I somehow just swallowed it. I sat there and took it. I accepted his words. I let him be angry. My silence very likely communicated to him that I accepted that *I had been out of line with my expectations* and that ‘grandpa’ should NOT have to tell me when he is taking my son somewhere.

‘Grandpa’ never took my son or any of my kids without informing me after that day. And he never took my kids anywhere with permission either. Looking back on it and in my opinion, he totally lost interest as a grandfather as of that day. My in-laws never took the kids to the amusement park or to the zoo. They didn’t babysit and they didn’t have the kids for sleepovers until they moved and could have the kids for a few days without (my) supervision. My father in law was not interested in watching dance performances, music concerts, hockey games, or any of the other things that I always thought grandparents were interested in being a part of when it came to their grandchildren. At some level I suspected that it all started that day when I dared to speak up to him. It was ‘the punishment’ that I had been groomed all my life to avoid and then that one time I just burst out with mama bear fear.

Later when I was coming out of the fog of how abusive and dysfunctional the relationship I had with my father in law was, it became very clear that he had punished me (or he thought he was punishing me) by withdrawing his interest and involvement as a grandfather. I think this was especially true if he thought that his involvement would give me a break or do me a favor such as through babysitting or taking the kids out somewhere.  

‘Punishment’ (consequences for going against the one in control) as an abuse or control tactic is for any kind of stepping out of line. Children and adult children are ‘punished’ for going against the wishes of the one who in ‘in control’ of the one who is ‘boss’. Sometimes I have to think about what really happened when I realize that I am the one without family. Sometimes I have to remind myself WHY I finally stood up for myself and my kids. Sometimes I really wonder if I made a mistake in my choice to stand up to the dysfunctional family relationship stuff and I have to remind myself just what my requests were that ended up with my kids not having grandparents anymore and with my husband and I not having any extended family.

My requests were for equal value and equal respect.  I asked for some of the things that they demanded from me with one difference; I was still willing to respect and value them. They however, were not willing to respect or value me.

I asked to be heard. I asked for my mother to stop talking about me and lying about me to other people and to stop inferring that the sexual abuse was my fault.

I asked my father to listen to me, to actually show in some small way that he was interested in me. Talking to my father was exhausting because each time he cut me off and changed the subject (about anything including what my kids were doing or an accomplishment of mine) it was a painful reminder that he didn’t care. And even these small requests were too much.

I asked my father-in-law to let me know if he was taking my child away from the farm yard. Just let me know so I don’t worry. And that request was grounds for punishment that went on for years.  (Or so he thought; the truth as I know it today is that he did me and my kids a favor. Nothing good could have possibly come from my kids spending a lot of time with such a toxic and mean spirited man.)

So today when I feel bad that my kids don’t have grandparents on birthdays, holidays and other special occasions, I think about the alternative and what I had to do in the past in order for any of us to have a relationship with those so called grandparents. The alternative was to jump through all those crazy hoops. The alternative was to love (in the false definition of love which is obedience and compliance to their unreasonable wishes) and then not be loved in return by the same rules they taught me to love them.  The alternative was to be treated like ‘nothing’ in front of my kids which only taught them that;

a)     I can be treated like this and I won’t do anything about it

b)    That I actually agree that this treatment is right. (compliance is consent)

c)     That this type of treatment is how we show love and respect for your elders

d)    That certain adults have more rights and more value and should be excused from respecting or considering other people.

e)     That power and control is the most important thing to have in any relationship. Without it, you get treated like crap.

Today I am grateful that I decided NOT to teach those destructive ‘false normals’ but rather to take a stand against them. I am grateful that know what real love is. I am grateful that my husband and I have broken the cycle of abuse and dysfunctional family systems in our family with our own kids. I am grateful that I model and teach by example, love, respect and equal value and that my husband and I are a great example of mutual love and respect for each other in our marriage. I am grateful that although our family gatherings are often small, they are so much fun!  I am grateful that I learned a new way to have relationship based on equal value and that we use our power to empower and not to tear down and disempower for the purpose of control. I am thrilled to have found the truth and to have found freedom and wholeness through that truth.  

Today I reject being treated with disregard and disrespect. I am not afraid of their ‘punishments’. I am no longer a victim to a dysfunctional family system. I no longer bow down to the dysfunctional pecking order. I embrace equal value for all!

I had to look at the FEAR of the consequences as an adult and through the grid of the truth. If my fear was basically the fear of being rejected by them, the truth about that is that I already was rejected by them. I had never been accepted; I had never been heard or even seen. My wishes and needs were not important to them. That is rejection. And the truth is that my children were also being taught this same dysfunctional family system; compliance and obedience. They were being taught that they didn’t matter much either. So the truth is that I had nothing to fear and I had everything to gain.

Please share your thoughts and your insights, your struggles and your victories, your laughter and your tears and remember if you have a concern with privacy, you are welcome to use any name you wish in the comment form. Emerging from Broken has a facebook page, however your comments here will not be published anywhere but HERE in the website.

Exposing Truth one snapshot at a time;

Darlene Ouimet

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Related Posts ~ The fear of good-bye if you don’t comply

How Children become the black sheep of the family (click)


90 response to "Punishment as a Control Tactic in Abusive Family Systems"

  1. By: Pam Posted: 20th January

    Hi Melody, I know you didnt address me, personally but I read it and can’t help but say something because I had so much of this in my family of origin. I know how confusing it can be when you are trying to do what is right and then have people twisting faith into a club to maintain control over you. They used to make me question everything by that tactic because I wanted to trust them and I trust the Bible and God. When I was able to see that it really was a tactic, it took the power out of the tactic. It’s really a disgusting form of abuse and I feel for you. Staying focused on my needs and the family I created also, helped me keep my priorities straight. Hang in there.


  2. By: Melody Posted: 20th January

    I recently had a blow-up with my dad because I had asked him for some respect in specific areas on FB and with regards to my family’s schedule, and because I said some things wrong, he picked apart my concerns and disregarded my requests for respect. When my husband contacted him on another issue asking for privacy for our family in a certain area, he responded with an apology for any offense caused, some sugary sayings but no clear desire to change what he was doing without a fight. So I got a third party involved who could talk to my dad directly (we live out of state) and advocate for my family. I did this to avoid my husband getting dragged into a big battle/stalemate, and to protect my family. From my understanding of the what the Bible says and the God I believe in, I believe my responsibility is to my husband and family unit now, and my parents’ desires must come second. My dad then attacked me on email for “having dishonored God” for not getting his “permission” before talking to someone outside of the family about our issues. Thankfully the outside person was totally supportive and didn’t judge me for not having the “correct” attitude, etc. I have had a lot of support from other people who are healthy and Christians, but now my dad is refusing to respond to me- a form of punishment. He wants me to call him and talk on the phone, but having been bullied verbally by him before, I am not about to go through an episode of verbal or spiritual abuse on the phone whilst pregnant. What I find so horrifying is his total lack of empathy or care for my pregnancy or respect for my wishes. I also have had guilt from my mom for not “just forgiving”, and she “shared” things with my brother and sister-in-law about how I have not allowed her as much “rights to her grandchildren” as I allow my friends. This is based on some issues I thought had been resolved, but her jealousy continues because apparently I am meant to keep my son away from anyone but family despite living 1000s of miles away. My parents have been able to visit us as much as and sometimes more than the other side of the family, yet nothing is good enough for them. There are clearly many issues here, but what is so sad is the punishing of ME for my parents problems. I can forgive by my God’s grace, but I don’t want my kids to think that such treatment of others is ever acceptable. The silent treatment is counter-productive, and it will only hurt my dad, just as the guilt-trips will alienate me further from my mom. I’m not saying I get everything right in this relationship, but it is hard when you get blamed for speaking the truth in love according the same Bible you both profess to believe is true. It is doubly hard when you not only want to forgive, you are TOLD to forgive, and you are told to keep things within family, yet family members are turned against you, and forgiveness is clearly withheld from you. I am glad for your site and thankful for your stories- glad to know I am not alone.

  3. By: larae Posted: 16th January

    Thank you for this site! It has truly shined a light on the abuse I have experienced and finally given me some clarity and understanding of what happened. I have suffered from emotional abuse and rejection from my mother, father and older sister my whole life. After I got married I hoped to have a whole new family with my in laws. That turned out to be even worse. If we didn’t obey, comply or allow them to do what they wanted , even in our own home, we were punished through silence, rejection, threats and aggressive behavior. I so badly wanted a “family” because I never had one that I allowed their abusive bad behavior to go on for years. We have now been kicked out for standing up by giving a polite no and only get silence, while they spread gossip and lies to the other relatives. I have struggled for so long wondering what we did wrong and tried to fix things only getting more abuse in return. I think my lost fantasy of a “family” on both sides was the hardest to cope with. . I feel really alone sometimes like we have no one and wonder if we did the right thing. Knowing others have felt that way too gives me relief that we are truly not alone and we did not do anything wrong. Now I just have fear, fear over what will happen next. We confronted the mil and got excuses but never an apology. there is no remorse, only her desire to pretend nothing ever happened. She is coming to town in March and I don’t want her in my home but feel so much guilt over it like I would be making things worse, not keeping the door open and keeping her grandsons away from her. the grandsons she only calls on their birthdays. my husband says we should just get it over with but I don’t want to keep on going through more pain. Its phony and there is no change in the mil. just don’t know what to do anymore. I pray all the time asking God for guidance and a clear answer, hopefully I will know before March. But Thank you so much for your blog. It and the others comments have brought greater healing and comfort.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 16th January

      Hi Larae
      Welcome to efb!!
      Great share. Isn’t it wonderful when we realize that we are not alone and that it was not US that was the problem. The fear is normal. I had to examine it often and the root was always in a false belief system. Keep reading; there is lots here about that!
      Hugs, Darlene

  4. By: Melody Posted: 14th January

    Thanks again Darlene for all that you do,
    it really is a gift!

  5. By: Melody Posted: 14th January

    Darlene, Wow what a post, it never ceases to amaze me how you can come up with new insightful posts so often?! No writers block for you…. Anyway, EFB has enlightened me as to my family dysfunction. Since I knew I had problems with my birthmother and birthfather my whole marraige, I got very close to my husbands’ family while raising my kids. I have just recently started seeing us as a couple as the blacksheeps of the family on my side and my husbands’ side also! I had only considered all of those years that my family was the problem. Looking back on it I remember Christmases where we were punished for not bringing the kids 2 both sides of the family on the same night. We were just starting out in life so money was tight, my husband frequently was required to work Christmas Eve, a 2nd shift. I didn’t want to drive by myself with little ones in the car all the way up north. When my FIL saw us the next day he was visibly angry and said “You can go and get those presents yourself I’m not going to help you!” I now see this as his way of punishing us for not coming. My husbands’ little brother is very dysfunctional, divorced with 2 kids and one child has developmental delays because the mother did drugs while pregnant with him. MY MIL and FIL run all over town with these grandkids and basically coparent with my brother in law. This same brother in law did not come to my daughters’ wedding (even though he is her Godfather) or to my son’s Graduation Open House this summer. My husband and I were really hurt by this, but when we said something the FIL got mad at us! So apparently we are held to a high standard of must show up and bear gifts, but the younger brother does not have to. This same brother has never once that I remember showed up for any of our kids birthday parties or given a gift. But this is required of us. My inlaws feel so sorry for those particular grandkids because there was a divorce and the trainwreck life they’ve had due to how their mother is. (Her drugs and alcohol, etc.) These grandparents were constantly at my home most of the years while my kids were growing up, then it stopped when my daughter was in highschool. When my kids said “What happened to our Grandma and Grandpa , they never come around anymore?” My husband asked his mother about it, she said “It’s not your time anymore. And we never came to your house to see you all those years, but only your kids.” My husband was floored, but it has changed the way he thinks of his mother now. I never imagined that we were the Blacksheeps on both sides! But now I see it….We are at the point now that we really think about what we choose to do on this side of the family. It’s shocking to see that my MIL put an expiration date on her grandchildren, mine are too old and she’s busy now with the others. But having said that I’ll try not to do that to my kids, as I just found out my daughter is pregnant with our first grandchild! I’m trying to stay positive and focused on my immediate family and not our birthfamilies at this time…Peace all and thanks again for this site….

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 14th January

      Hi Melody
      Sometimes I think it is sad that I never run out of things to write about! I watch TV and something reminds me of the dysfunctional belief system and I read comments here and it sparks a memory of something I have not talked about yet ! I am going to start making videos in addition to the writing so I can produce content a bit faster.
      Congrats on your daughter being pregnant! That is really exciting!
      Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 8th January

    Thanks Darlene for the new post, and to all the commentators here. Changing my life every day. Heading over to “What goes around comes around” right now. Gracias, Amen.

  7. By: Pam Posted: 8th January

    Janie, What my parents did to my child was the most hurtful thing they ever did. It was the ultimate betrayal. I know I chose to leave my children in the trailor with them because of the false concept of forgivness that I held, at that time. I thought if I forgave, I had to let all barriers of self-protection down, again. I now understand that as a choice to over-look offenses and let them ride and that isn’t true forgiveness. That kind of forgiveness has no healing power because it isn’t forged from truth. It is willful, blindness that only, opens the door for more abuse. That would never happen, today.

    I know my son was very hurt by this and the appology I owe him(and will give to him as many times as he needs to hear it) is in how much regret I have in accepting as true, the blindness of false forgiveness that allowed him to be abused by the same people who abused me. I still feel that fear in my throat and that knife in my heart. I don’t ever want to forget that feeling because it reminds me that evil is very much alive and well and abusers with no remorse aren’t people to be trusted; not even when they are your parents and your child’s grandparents. I don’t want to be part of a family held together by lies and ruled through abuse.

    Thanks for seeing my pain and the empathy you demonstrated in your comment. That empathy means a lot to me.


  8. By: Tricia Johnson Posted: 8th January

    This does not just happen in families, it happens in churches. My husband is a pastor and was forced out of his last ministry because “not enough white people were joining.” I quote this because this was what they told us. The leadership of the church – deacons, trustees, etc – used “punishment tactics” such as you described here and literally forced us out, going so far as to harass our kids. They walked away without talking to us and told everyone they were “not welcome” even though we’d not had the opportunity to say even one word to them. They launched a horrific gossip campaign, including cyber-bullying, which left us reeling.

    Thanks for your writings. Abusers like this need to be exposed.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 8th January

      Hi Tricia
      You are absolutly right! Abuse and the misuse of power and control happens everywhere; in churches, the workplace, schools, govenrment, etc. And punishment is one of the tactics for sure!
      Thanks for sharing and adding this insight!
      Hugs, Darlene

  9. By: Janie Posted: 7th January

    Hi Pam, I felt like crying when I read that post! Your heart must have been in your throat when he returned without your little boy! And, coming from the heart, you let your guard down, and tried to forgive, but they still tried to turn your children against you. Typical. It is amazing to me, how many times we let our guard down, and are manipulated into doing so. How coming from the heart, and a higher place of love is aways used against us! We are just trying to do what is right, make peace in the family, though sometimes, there can be no peace with these groups we are blood related to. Darlene is so right, about their sense of entitlement! It is like they see family members as property.
    Dawny, I could so relate to your MIL story.
    It is amazing how little thought or care they put into a gift for others, but expect to be presented with the Hope diamond, or something, for their birthday and Christmas. And doing the playroom over as a “gift” for the grandkids? come on!
    I dont give my mother any personal gifts anymore. I give (or send) a gift for her and my father,and it is always geared towards something my father likes. She is very displeased by this, lol.
    Before my little sister crawled back into her hole of denial, she told me that she used to save all of the bargain basement, seconds, sweaters my mother gave her and her family as Christmas gifts, for her big inlaw family reunion. They were a large family on her husbands side, and part of the summer get together was a clothes swap. She took great pleasure in dumping those items into the pile. Me,I would just through them right into the good will box………..
    Isnt it funny how MIL got “unmad”right b/f the holidays, so you could show up and be part of the fake holiday scene? Do you still put yourself through them? Or have you created another tradition?
    At first, it was upsetting to me, not to go, but now, I feel a sense of peace and control over my own life. In a wierd way, I feel more like a “grown up”, not the motherless child, who will be given the shaft at the fake festivities……….


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 8th January

      Hi Everyone!
      I just publishe a new blog post. This one is about that old saying “what goes around comes around” when it is used as an abuse tactic. This woman even uses the bible as PROOF that she is right about her daughter and children in general not having a right to draw a boundry with their parents. Her comment was SO typical that I had to write about and share it with you. It is a fog busting thing!
      Here is the link: What goes around comes around used as a FEAR and Compliance Tactic
      Looking forward to the conversation!
      Hugs, Darlene

  10. By: Pam Posted: 7th January

    Dave, I’m happy to read what you’ve written and glad you’ve found some measure of support. I know when you do work through it, your life and how you view yourself will be completely, changed.


  11. By: Karen Ranes Posted: 7th January

    I was no contact with my family for nine years. They cut me off. When my abusive Dad died in 2003 my husband and I felt we needed to support my Mom who had had 50 years of hell so we jumped back in to help and support her. I only have my brother (GC) and his son. No other supporting relatives as they were driven away years ago. My contact became her chance to start abusing me again. I never realized until EFB that she was my main abuser. He was a narcissist and totally wrapped up in himself. She on the other hand had neglected, abused and put me aside since I was a young child. Her treatment was so normal to me I never saw how she groomed me to be a victim.
    Left to grow up with no adult skills, relationship skills, love or affection. To me a norm.
    Becoming a teenager I began to look for love and affection as a doormat with no boundaries of any kind. Abuse was a “normal” to me. I see that she was the one who set me up for emotional
    distress and a lifetime of misunderstanding.
    I have been “there” for her for the last 9 years. A thoughtful and caring daughter. I have been loving and said it to her. Hugged her and tried to teach her loving behavior by modeling it.
    I think she saw it as weakness and an opportunity to use me. In the past 3 years my emotional distress became unbearable. She was at the center of it.
    I am NC for a year now. I am better each day. Only 3 of my stressed out incidents of bad coping this year. Thats a wow for me. A personal best!
    She is 81 and in failing health. My GC brother is now having to deal with everything.
    No matter what happens up north I do not intend to resume contact. They are very bad for me.
    I do not care how I am viewed for standing my ground. I’m sure I am being called the bad crazy
    Karen again. Whatever. It bothers me less and less and I hope someday I won’t even think about them anymore.

  12. By: Dawny Posted: 7th January

    I can so relate to this post on punishment. My ex NMIL once returned the Christmas gift we gave her to the store then mailed us the refund with a thinly veiled hateful letter. She referenced feigned empathy at “how difficult it must have been to find a special and unique gift for her, but she unfortunately does not need it”. She overheard my ex telling his sibs that we bought a different version of the same gift for my mother. I guess that somehow lessened the gift for her. By the way, HER gift to her grandchildren was finishing her basement into a nice living area because the kids played down there and she thought they’d appreciate a nicer space. I thought it would have been nice to just do it, but to call it Their Gift just seemed weird. She didn’t speak to us for nine months after that. Not until she wanted us to come to Thanksgiving dinner so she could continue the illusion that they were a happy family.
    The other in laws joked to me “lol. You used to be Golden now you’re checked off the list”. They had already been through her cycle of treating you great At First, until you made her mad.
    I just wish my children were no longer related to Her.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 7th January

      Hi Dawny
      When I look back I can see so much of this crap that I didn’t see clearly before. And of the 4 grandparents, they all have different ways of controlling. My father is totally passive. So passive that he IS abusive. Where as my father-in-law is very transparent in his aubsive nature. Looking at different ways that abusers ‘play the game’ has helped me a lot to see the cycle and how it is kept alive and functioning. (and that is what helps me to write about it in a fog busting, truth exposing way!)
      Thanks for sharing.
      Hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Connie Posted: 6th January

    Thanks Dave,
    Your words do help. You know I have had a great issue with crying in the past. When everything became so bad in my life when my husband left me, I had a complete breakdown. I cried, and cried….not just a normal cry; it was a deep, painful sorrowful cry that was born on very deep rooted unresolved paid and rejection. I spent every waking moment for months in this out of control crying jag that seemed to be totally out of my control. It was brought to an abrupt stop one day when my sister informed me that everyone in the family was fed up with my incessant crying and I would either stop it or lose all connections with my family of origin. I stopped because I thought losing them would surely mean death to me. Everytime I ever cried in my life I was laughed at or told is was unacceptable. I honestly believe crying is going to be a type of therapy I will need. My doctor recently told me about a book on cry therapy. I may have to look it up and see if it could be a useful tool for me.
    Here’s an example of something that happened to me just today that makes me think cry therapy might be something I need. I went out to get in my car and it would not start (it needed a jump). I cried so hard because I just felt so helpless. I felt like nothing ever goes right for me. When stress that most people can handle as a minor annoyance hits me hard….hits me really hard. Like I can’t handle it. Any stress at all provokes such great feelings of sadness and hopelessness inside of me. It invokes all of the hurts I’ve stored up inside of me for decades. It looks crazy to others, and I understand this, but I am also understanding until I rid myself of this excess baggage I will never have the ability to function normally in relationships of any kind. May God see fit to guide to and through this path of healing and enlightenment. Amen.

  14. By: Dave Posted: 6th January

    Connie – i have about the same # of years of inner turmoil as you…i am 49 and most of my abuse happened when i was 7 & 8 years old…the lying and emotional and spiritual abuse continued well into my adult years but my mother trying to kill herself and my sister running away from home and me being molested by an older cousin all happened within about six months of each other.

    I have suffered from pretty severe depression my whole life…i am slowly coming out of it…to say it has been a long, hard and painful journey would be an understatement…the last several months i have cried an average of an hour to an hour and a half every day…i have been crying for years but in 2012 i cried an average of an hour a day. Prior to that it was more like 15 or 20 minutes…the last 6 weeks or so have been incredibly exhausting because of all the pain…but i persevere and know that somehow God will get me through it and he does have a plan and will use it for good. I was never allowed to just “be” and always had to try and be perfect so my mother would not try to kill herself again and so hopefully my sister would not keep running away from home. I have used this website to share a lot and have managed to piece together a half decent support system through local community resources and a local christian counseling group where i am basically getting free individual counseling and pay for weekly group counseling…the freedom has come little by little for me…many days of crying, screaming, yelling, pounding my fist into a pillow…whatever release i felt worked at the time i would use…the biggest thing for me recently has been the revelation that NONE OF IT WAS MY FAULT and that i could not do anything to change the situation. I also have come to realize that God does truly love me even though i have known it in my head for a long time, because of all the garbage in my heart, his love has never penetrated deep enough for me to really believe it…i have to experience it…not just read or hear about it..that just isnt enough for me…i wish you well on your journey. I have done a lot of journaling and have a lot of posts on this website. Those 2 things have been constant for me in the past year although sometimes more frequently than others…being validated by Darlene and Pam on here has been huge for me…finally someone else understands !! Finally – someone else gets it and can relate to all the garbage and crap i had to put up with from my narcissistic self absorbed mother who systematically ruined our family with all of her drama and unhappiness and blame of everyone for how miserable she was…being validated was also huge for me as it was a human way of God saying “see you are not alone in this. Others are going through it too. – there is freedom and healing on the other side if you work through it and include me in the process” – hope this helps some !

    god bless,


  15. By: Catherine Todd Posted: 6th January

    Karen in #26 wrote: ” I was’t wanted or loved. I
    was useful. If I wasnt useful I was nothing. Until last year and EFB I was
    still trying to be useful and Im 58. Im not being used anymore.
    I wish you well because I feel the same way.”

    Karen, I’m 62, almost 63 years old and until EFB I felt the same way. Finally, at long last, I am mentally and emotionally breaking free. I stayed away “no contact” for over 20 years and it was the most peaceful time of my life. I “came back” into contact when my mother was dying of cancer, and a couple of years before, after many repeated attempts on their part. Boy was I wrong. Just like Pam said, some people never change. I paid for plane tickets for my son to go to family reunions, hoping that if I couldn’t have a decent relationship with them, maybe he could. I wanted him to have grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and all that did was poison him against me. God only knows the things that they all said. I’ve heard the “tip of the iceberg” and I am just horrified at the lies and distortion.

    The more I look into addiction, Personality Disorders and Mental Illness, the more I see so many of my family members. Just because many are “high functioning” college-educated professionals, that doesn’t mean that they are much different than the mean-spirited welfare cheating purse stealing hobo scammer out on the street. They are out to steal your soul and they won’t quit until they’ve got it.

    However, just like vampires entering into your house, they can’t come in if we don’t invite them. That’s the one thing I’ve learned and the one thing I know to be true. And like Darlene and others have said right here on this site, “Peace is an inside job.”

    The more I try to get “understanding” from almost any of my relatives, and ask them what did they mean by this, or why did they say that, the more the out and out attacks escalate. It’s as if they are fighting for their lives by having someone point out that they could be wrong about anything they do or say, and they will “go down fighting” even if it means the end of the relationship. If they couldn’t punish us into silence, they would do and say ANYTHING to gain compliance. My sisters and niece are all in on this.

    Now that my mother has passed, and gave instructions that she did not want to see me at her deathbed, it’s been open season and they all bought hunting rifles and plenty of ammunition. And they aren’t afraid to use it! It’s just unbelievable. Two and a half years of this while I try and try to resolve things and make sense of the nonsense they spew in their emails and phone calls. Hate mail and I’m sick of it.

    And all I have to do is walk away. I can’t bring myself to do that just yet, because the “it must be all my fault” and “I’m the bad one” is set so deep in my soul, but I can so clearly see that the more I try to to straighten things out the more twisted they become. These people do not want the truth to be known. They only want control, grudges and blame. And if they don’t get exactly what they want, LOOK OUT. “String her up from the highest tree!”

    So the more I read here the luckier I get: lucky to know there is a way out. NO CONTACT and NO BLAME because if it was “my fault” I would have surely fixed it by now. And that hasn’t happened no matter how hard I try. So it obviously takes two people to end a war, and if one side wants to keep fighting, and they’ve been fighting all along and the other side keeps saying “Why? Why are you doing this? Can’t you see this isn’t helping anything? Why don’t you stop and just listen to what I am saying?” that too becomes a “judgment” on them and they aren’t going to accept it.

    These personality disordered people have to be judge and jury, and they have victims, and I don’t have to be one of them. All I have to do is try my best and when that fails, STAY AWAY. I wouldn’t even KNOW people like this in my “real” life, as NONE OF MY FRIENDS ACT THIS WAY.

    NONE. It’s only the family that I was born into, and that is an everlasting regret but perhaps it’s to teach me some great spiritual lesson. If so, I’m ready. Dear God, please show me The Way.

  16. By: Pam Posted: 6th January

    Me Again, I want to revise what I just wrote, a little. Remorseful people can receive forgiveness but unremorseful abusers will use forgiveness on the part of the victim, as a cover to gain trust and abuse again.


  17. By: Pam Posted: 6th January

    Darlene, I have an experience so like yours but with my father and it is so painful that this post makes me want to cry. When my son was three and we were visiting my parents, my dad took my son with him to run some errands in town and he came back without my son. He had left him with some people he barely, knew to play with another little boy. I was terrified and I made my dad leave immediately, and go get him. My mom and my dad were both so angry and my mom told me that I should trust my dad to do anything with my child that he thought was right. I was called over-protective too. It made me doubt myself. They lived in a small travel trailor, at that time and we had to sleep next door in the church but I felt bad that I’d hurt my mom’s feelings so I allowed my kids to stay in the trailor. My dad punished me by doing something terrible to my son. He wouldn’t talk for five days. Part of it was that he got a fever that night and my mom didn’t give him any tylenol or come get me because she “didn’t want to do anything without my permission”. Or that was the passive-aggressive angle. My son had horrible night mares and would hold his hands like someone praying but he would cry and scream. He didn’t want to say prayers at bedtime anymore either. I took him to the doctor to check for signs of abuse and they could find none. He has terrible feelings about this memory but can’t remember anything concrete. From what I’ve read, he probably would have no cognitive memory except that his dad and I tried to find out what happened and resuced him. My children were never left alone with my kids again and I didn’t see them for five years. Then because I felt sorry for my mother, I let them back into my life. Then I let them move onto my property. They could never hurt my kids again physically, but they did everything they could do verbally, to turn them against their dad and I. I wish I never would have given them another chance.What upsets me the most is that I’d never go near anyone else that did something like that but because they are my parents, society told me I was wrong to cut them off. The truth is they are safe to trust and it was foolish to let them back into my life to hurt me again. They have no remorse for hurting others, ever. They only feel their own hurts, hold grudges, and seek revenge. It’s never good to be in any kind of relationship with such people and being related through blood doesn’t change that. I’ve reached a point where I forgive them but I will never forgive their abusive actions. Child abuse is unforgivable. Remorseful people are forgiveable but always, stay clear of those with no remorse.

    This post makes my stomach hurt because it’s about protecting our babies from the same things that happened to us by the very same people. People who think it is wrong to keep them at bay are very, ignorant. It’s important to never bow to ignorance and accept abuse.


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 7th January

      Hi Pam
      Wow, this is exactly the kind of thing I am talking about ~ that ‘entitlement’ that these people think that they have. The not only think they have it they BELIEVE they have a right to it. And so much of the outrage from partents when a boundary is set by the adult child (or even hinted at) is because they really believe they have those rights over us and our kids. It is such an “ownership” thing. I totally understood your whole comment, including why you let your kids stay in the trailor, and that your Dad punished you through your son. That is what happenes! And that is the cycle too. I am sorry that you and your kids went through this, but I am glad that you can share this today.
      Hugs, Darlene

  18. By: Karen Ranes Posted: 6th January

    Dawny, that was so well put. I so agree with your sentiments!!

  19. By: Dawny Posted: 6th January

    To Mama Feeling Helpless,
    I am in the same position as you with an emotionally abusive ex spouse. I wouldn’t normally presume to give you advice, as I am not an expert, but perhaps I can help in some small way by sharing some of my choices. I try to allow my children to express how their dad makes them feel and to explore why the issues. I try to show compassion and empathy without getting too emotional so that they don’t focus on my feelings or feel they need to protect me. For example, if they say Dad says your crazy, I focus on how it would make any child feel to hear their parent based (sad or mad etc) rather than express how much it irritates me to be put down by him. I try to remember what I loved about him and tell them they inherited those good qualities. I never make negative comparisons . When he says mean and hurtful things to them I say That wasn’t nice, That isn’t true, you didn’t deserve that, I’m sorry you were told that. I try to reflect true reality back to them, not the lies he tells them. As they get older I try to teach them the psychological terms for what he is doing(projection, denial, misdirected animosity). They are getting it and are less inclined to internalize his negative messages to them. I have also spoken to them about the abuse their father suffered in his childhood. Not to excuse his behavior but to help them understand that it isn’t because of anything they have done. I talk about generational cycles and express my confidence that they will be able to break the cycle and not repeat his (or my) mistakes with their own children someday.
    Gosh, I could go on and on. The biggest thing for me too was getting over my guilt for having made him their father and feeling responsible for what he’s doing to them. I found that sentiment got in the way of focusing on THEM and THEIR REALITY and made them focus on me instead of me the mother focusing on them.
    I read good advice in Patricia Evans book on verbal abuse.
    It is a continuous process. I wish you well and your children too.

  20. By: SMD Posted: 6th January

    How is realizing I role modeled being the scapegoat a great realization?…I’m puzzled…

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 6th January

      Hi Sonia
      Because we can’t change anything until we realize it!

  21. By: Karen Ranes Posted: 6th January

    Thank you Diane. My healing is due in a very large part to the understanding I have gained from EFB and to all of you posting here. I truly felt my family situation was unique. Discovering the pattern of abuse is so widespread is in itself terrible, but also very liberating. I no longer carry the heavy burden of “badness” and emotional anguish for not being able to cope with my family.

    To Mama Feeling Helpless:
    I was that child at 13. But my mother pretended everything was OK as she was in denial. She
    reinforced the abuse by her denial. I was taught to accept it and never question it so I did to survive. You
    see it. You are a POSITIVE example to your boys. You can speak the truth to them. A 13 year old feels so powerless. My Dad isolated us from all family. I was taught to never speak of family matters. (There would be an unspoken punishment) And there was no one I could go to except
    my mother and she had been beaten down by 20 years to the point of complete acceptance.
    She taught me to endure. I feel for your boys but with you as their Mom they will at least have love and truth to offset the control and dysfunction.

  22. By: smd Posted: 5th January

    Diane, thanks so much for your hugs & comfort!

  23. By: Diane Posted: 5th January

    Karen, what you endured that Christmas because you decided to do something different and fun that didn’t include your father…so he “punished” you by rejecting you ..that was a terrible thing to do! I am so glad that you are not allowing yourself to be used or abused like that again….that you have taken back YOUR power and control over your own life. I can tell you understand what I went through and how I felt and feel now looking back! It amazes me as I have read your comments over this last year all of the things you endured from your family….and how clear you now sound as you are also looking back over what your family did to you, and as you are understanding more and more about the power and control tactics too. I feel sad that you suffered what you did, but I love your comments about all of your insights now!!

  24. By: Diane Posted: 5th January

    Sonia, I am so sorry that your efforts were rejected! It certainly seems that you have gone the extra mile….and then some…to have relationships with your family. It is so obvious that you were trying hard to connect in a kind way while attempting to be brave and deal with issues that parents should be concerned about with their children…even adult children. And you are seeing this clearly…this is about control and power….and to “punish” you. How disgusting! I can totally understand why you feel angry and hurt and disappointed because they won’t simply give you mutual respect! To not give you comfort when you dared to bring up what had happened to you is disgusting! I am sad that you are sad, but I have to applaud you for sticking up for YOU this time around and realizing that you do deserve to be comforted, and you do deserve equal respect! Hugs and comfort to you!!

  25. By: SMD Posted: 5th January

    sorry about the spelling errors…hope it’s legible 🙂

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