Archive for dysfunctional family
How many times have you heard the instruction “Just Let It Go”? How many times have you personally been commanded to “let it go and move on”? How many ways is that statement communicated to people who are simply trying to justify their pain? How many insensitive people tell hurt people to “forgive and forget” or to “stop living in the past”? Last week, someone on the Emerging From Broken Facebook page directed ‘everyone’ on the page to “get over it and just let it go” and this sweeping, careless statement inspired me to write from a slightly different view point about the directive “Let it Go”.
In my view today, letting go is no longer about trying to simply forget injustices done to me. It is rather offensive to have been directed to let go of wrongs that had never been acknowledged in the first place. I was being told to ‘forget’ events that were mean, wicked and sometimes even illegal and to stop trying to have my pain validated. I was being told to let go of things that most of the people in my life were denying ever happened to me.
And you know what;
I did let go. Here is what I let go of;
I let go of the idea that successful relationship depends only on me.
I let go of the expectation that things would change if I just tried hard enough.
I let go of the belief that if only I could figure out how to be who they wanted me to be, that they would love me.
I let go of the hope that I would one day be good enough to be seen as an individual with valid thoughts and opinions of my own and I realized that they don’t get to decide how valid I am OR how valid my decisions and opinions are.
I let go of the idea (that I had been brainwashed to believe) that I had no choice. Read More→
“In the minds of my parents, they are the victims; I am the abuser.” Christina Enevoldsen
I began writing this blog post a few years ago inspired by the blog post on the Overcoming Sexual Abuse website “Exposing the Incest Family Secrets”. In this article Christina Enevoldsen shares about how her mother’s dismissive treatment of her makes it clear that the message is “you are nothing”. She quotes her mother’s statements about her and the fact that her parents sued her for writing her blog, “Overcoming Sexual Abuse” exposing her father for sexually abusing her and her mother for disregarding it. Christina’s parents sued her for defamation of character and emotional distress. Through their case, they wanted to shut down OSA and silence her voice.
Christina and I have become close personal friends through the passion we share for advocacy work. The fact that her parents sued her had a dramatic effect on me. An anger and frustration came up in me that caused me to lose sleep; I could NOT get my head around how a sexually abusive parent could SUE the child that was sexually abused. Christina’s parents were suing for ‘emotional damages’. In Christina’s article she shares about the way she was convinced that she was ‘nothing’ and how she went on to regard herself as nothing just as they taught her her value.
In her Article, Christina writes about her struggle and breakthrough in dealing with the deeply implanted childhood belief that she really was the bad person that her parents accused her of. She makes a statement in her article that just jumped out at me and hit me ‘differently’ and at a deeper level than usual. She wrote “Abuse is about powering over someone else. I’m not taking away my dad’s power; I’m claiming my own power. I’m exercising MY right to tell MY story of MY life.”
I have known for a long time now that abuse IS about powering over someone else but what struck me differently is the way abusers, manipulators and controllers see this statement; the way that parents with entitlement beliefs UNDERSTAND this statement is what struck me as shocking. Read More→
Please join me in welcoming Carrie H. and her debut article on Emerging from Broken. Carrie writes in a brilliant style filled with emotional honesty and compassion both for herself and for others who understand the grief we feel when we find it necessary to draw a boundary with our own families of origin. I am honored to have Carrie as a guest writer on Emerging from Broken. ~ Darlene
Self-Love and Navigating the Waters of Grief by Carrie H.
When my husband found out that his father was dying I asked him how he would make it through. How would his sister make it? How would his mother make it? “Our love will hold us together”, he answered. Wow, I thought. I watched as he and mom and sister held each other that day. The day they knew one of their family members was dying. In that moment I realized that love was absent from my own family of origin. In my family, love did not tie us together, which was why getting through a dark time seemed so difficult from where I was standing.
When I pointed out the Truth to my parents and sister, that there had been verbal and emotional abuse, I was abandoned. I had visions of us healing together as a family – that’s what loving families do – but I’ve had to let those dreams go over the past few months.
Their reaction to me revealing the dysfunction merely proved the dysfunction. Instead of looking at their own behaviors and their role in our family dynamic, they chose to point their fingers at me and to blame me for their pain. You see, once I stepped out of “The Matrix” – which is what I call their faulty belief system regarding love – they became very uncomfortable. I told them that there was an elephant in the room that needed to be addressed. I held up a mirror and they ran screaming. In regards to the elephant in the room, my sister wants to pretend it’s not there. If we don’t look at it, it can’t be there, right?? My father, always the spiritual bypasser, admits it’s there but says life is “just an illusion” so we are “one” with the elephant. My mother says I’M the elephant.
I realized that the only way my family would accept me was as their scapegoat, as the one who Read More→
Earlier this year my 16 year old daughter hit glare ice, flew off the road and crashed her car. She hit the first tree and took it out which caused her to roll and flip into the air, crashing 5 feet up on the passenger side and wrapped around a second tree. Her face and hands were covered in blood and cuts from the broken glass and she thought her arm was broken. When she was taken to x-rays in the hospital she fainted.
The images of her near death were haunting. I couldn’t stop imagining what she went through, her fear and how much worse it could have been. Even though she walked away, even though I was fairly sure she was going to have a complete recovery, the feelings, emotions and fears that came up for me were overwhelming.
On the third day after her accident my entire body was ‘humming’ with fear, emotion and flashes of the way my mind imagined the accident. I felt nauseous, exhausted and totally stressed out. I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t concentrate on a book, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t even escape with mindless television shows. I found myself reaching for weird food, like potato chips and chocolate and I reached for them as though they were a life preserver. I ate mindlessly and in a frenzied manner and as I shoved things in my mouth I became aware of the thought that I somehow believed eating those foods might block the feelings of fear and anxiety out of my mind. I had this crazy belief that eating those foods would squish the fear and flashbacks of her accident and all my feelings of helplessness, down and away from me.
I felt like I couldn’t cope. I felt like there was ‘nowhere’ to go and nothing I could do about it, that I was powerless over the outcome of her accident, that I was helpless and I had been helpless in that moment. And in the case of my daughters car accident I was powerless and helpless but the problem was that I felt like that ‘powerlessness and helplessness’ defined me as ‘useless’ and as a ‘failure’ as a mother, as a woman and even as a person.
Useless and a failure;
And I had this nagging feeling that this feeling I was trying to get away from was very familiar for me. I had this sense that this feeling was something that I had had for most of my life. And while I was in bed that night, half awake, half asleep, it came to me; this is the feeling that Read More→
I get nasty emails from upset mothers who think I am a spoiled trouble maker whining about some fictional terrible upbringing and discounting my right to tell my own story. The truth about what I am really doing is all right here in writing. I started Emerging from Broken because I wanted to heal the world. That may have been a lofty goal but I sincerely wanted to make a difference in the lives of other hurting adult children of dysfunctional, controlling and manipulating families. I wanted to bust through the false messages about ourselves that so many of us were struggling to accept instead of to reject.
I remember my mother saying to me that she didn’t know what she did to ‘deserve’ a daughter like me. (She may have used different words like “I don’t know what I did to deserve ‘this’ but the message was the same and it’s the message that does the damage. ) She said it as a judgment; she said it with exhaustion, despair and frustration as though she was at the end of her rope, exasperated by my actions and my attitudes; exasperated with me. And I felt so bad that I was such a disappointment to her. In the past I never questioned that it was me, I just tried harder to be the daughter that she ‘deserved’ and the daughter that would make her proud and maybe the daughter that would be good enough for her to finally love. Really I just wanted her to love and approve of me.
But when I came out of the fog I had been groomed to be in for most of my life, and started to question my beliefs about myself and the blame I placed on myself, I looked at her statement through new eyes. I started looking into just what she/they did to deserve the trouble she had in her relationship with me. I started to look at the details of the message her actions communicated to me about me.
Emerging from Broken (this website) isn’t about blaming blameless parents for the mistakes that they made. It isn’t about being mad because when I was a teenager my mom didn’t let me go to the school dance or because I got grounded for smoking. It isn’t about not getting my own way and not being allowed to use her car when I was learning to drive, it’s about being told in all kinds of verbal and non-verbal ways that Read More→
“They say “But she is your Mother!” and I respond “Yes, and I am her Daughter”. Darlene Ouimet
I have found so much freedom in realizing that I don’t have to explain or justify my decision to draw boundaries with my parents or with anyone else, to anyone. I don’t have to help people ‘understand it’. I don’t have to defend myself or prove myself. There is a reason that some people don’t accept my decision to disengage from my parents and family. There is a reason that this offends certain people but the reason may not be what you think it is. It certainly isn’t what I originally thought it was.
Throughout the comments in this website, and on the Emerging from Broken Facebook page, people often share the belief that people who haven’t ‘been there’ or haven’t walked a mile in these shoes don’t understand what we are talking about when it comes to having parents who are unsupportive, disrespectful abusive or dysfunctional. For a long time I agreed but I have come to realize that this conclusion isn’t as accurate as I used to think it was.
I have discovered that people who have or have had loving parents actually do understand what I am talking about; it is the people still stuck in defending their own abusive /discounting parents that fight the hardest against what I am saying. It’s actually makes sense that it is that way too; People who KNOW what love really is don’t think my mother and her actions regarding me were very loving; they don’t think that the way she treated me had any foundation in her love for me. People who had parents who modeled real love, recognize the truth about what love is. And they don’t stand up for neglect, disrespectful actions, discounting actions, corporal punishment, emotional abuse, verbal abuse or any other type of communication from parents that is less than love.
People who know what love really is and experienced that love from their parents, don’t think my father’s neglect and disinterest in me was loving OR normal. They don’t think he did the best he could. The reaction that I get from people who actually WERE loved by their parents is understanding and empathy rather than the judgment and criticism that we so often hear. Statements such as “but they are your parents” or “I’m sure your parents did the best they could” are not flung in my face by people who know what loving parents really are. Since I have come out of the fog about the whole dysfunctional family system I have met people who have a whole different reaction to my story; I have met people who say things like Read More→
What if My Mother or Father Dies Before We Resolve our Relationship?
“I used to worry that my mother or father might die before we ever have any kind of understanding or resolution between us. As I grew in understanding about the truth and got to the bottom root of all the dysfunction, I was set free from that fear.” ~ Darlene Ouimet
It is one thing for me to worry that my parents might die, but it is a whole other insulting thing when people ask me how I will FEEL if my parents die and they ask it as a judgement question; a judgement against me. It’s all in the voice infliction; the tone they use and I used to react to that tone in the way that I reacted to it when I was a kid. That tone was meant to snap me back to compliant and ‘respectful’ and it worked on me. My “guilt, shame and self-blame button” was very sensitized.
People share with me all the time how folks throw the following statement and question at them; “your father/mother is getting old and is in poor health, how are you going to feel if he/she dies?” My response to this question is; “what does his or her health have to do with the reason that I don’t communicate with my parents?” My parents had their whole lives to make a positive difference when it came to me. They made their choices, and apparently through the grid of how these type of statements are meant to be taken, my parents choices are acceptable but my choice NOT to put up with abusive and disrespectful disregarding treatment is NOT acceptable? That is insane. It’s like people are so brainwashed by this whole thing that they don’t even realize how stupid it sounds to be told to accept abuse/neglect/disrespect just because ‘they’ are ‘family’.
I wonder why no one ever asks parents estranged from their kids “how are you going to feel if your son or daughter dies?” Judging by the way my parents act, they won’t feel anything.
There are laws in place to protect children from some of the things that happened to me. Why are my parents exempt from those laws? Why is it up to me to put their minds at ease as they get closer to their final Read More→
Recently someone wrote, telling me that because she stood up to her dysfunctional family and drew a boundary, she is now missing out on ‘the good things in life’. The first question that came to my mind was “what good things are you missing out on because you drew a boundary?” In my coaching practice, the homework would be: Define ‘good things’ ~ what are ‘the good things’? What do you feel that you are missing now, that you had before? Why did you have to draw a boundary in the first place?
And the answers to these types of questions are always very revealing. When I answered these questions for myself I found out some of the lies that I believed and how they were rooted in the shaky foundation of my belief system.
For most people including me, those ‘good things’ that had to do with my dysfunctional family were a fantasy. I ‘wished’ that I had a loving family. The reality of those ‘good things’ was something very different from how I fantasised it was or hoped that it could one day be.
Christmas dinner and family holidays or celebrations were stressful for me and this continued on with when I married into my husband’s family too. Every family thing I went to was a reminder of how insignificant that I was even when at the time I wasn’t able to articulate how those occasions made me feel.
The boundary that I drew with my father was different than the boundaries that I drew when it came to over (more obvious) abuse. A couple of years ago I told my father that seeing him was a reminder of how little he knew about me and how disinterested he was in me as an individual. The way he disregards me is a constant reminder of how little I matter to him. It has always been that way.
My father is passive abusive. His emotional abuse is very covert. Mostly he just doesn’t care, doesn’t listen when I talk to him, doesn’t know anything about me, my life or my kids because he doesn’t care to know and he doesn’t listen to anyone who tries to tell him. To the general public, (and according to my siblings) my father is regarded as this ‘nice’ guy and he is never violent, never mean and never hurtful with his words, but the truth is that his relationship style is dismissive and disinterested all of which is very hurtful. I spent many years in childhood and in adulthood ‘begging’ (in all kinds of ways) my emotionally abusive father to notice me. The fact that he didn’t was and is very hurtful. There is a very loud message that is delivered to me when I am disregarded. The message is that Read More→
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 Read More→