The Reason People don’t Hear what You are Trying to Say

Freedom on the other side
freedom on the other side….

It is very common that when the lights go on and we start to come out of ‘the fog’ that we realize we have been living in for a long time, we are excited to tell others what we are discovering and it is frustrating when they react as though we are crazy.  You know that look; the look that says “WHAT the HECK? You must be Nuts”

Sometimes people try to talk us out of what we are discovering before we are even finished talking about it. Even worse is when people refuse to listen at all as if to say that if they can’t ‘shut us down’ they will simply block us out. This type of reaction is defining in the way that it sent me the message that I was not worth listening to, or that I ‘was crazy’ or out of my mind, ridiculous, exaggerating etcetera. It was dismissive. The bottom line with these types of reactions is that I had been discounted, devalued, not permitted to have any impact and very much what exactly what I have been used to living with for so long, so the automatic response is NOT to fight to have a  voice, it was to question myself again.   

It’s typical for a survivor of any type of abuse to try and understand “why” these people do not want to ‘hear them’ and it is also typical to conclude that the person on the receiving end of our story is rejecting our story because they don’t understand it, have never been a victim of any type of abuse, neglect or devaluing/discounting treatment and don’t relate to it in any personal way.  

But this is usually NOT why the receiver of the information we so desperately want to discuss, will reject our discoveries. It is far more common that the receiver of this information is way too familiar with it themselves and would rather not face it in their own lives. Think of it this way; if you are in denial, there is no action needed but if you come out of denial usually there are a few decisions to make.

At the beginning of my process of emotional healing, after almost 20 years of searching for the answers and finding only Band-Aids when I needed surgery and stitches, I attended a 3 day seminar about the misuse of power and control in relationships put on by the new therapist I was seeing at the time. The lights started to go on about the second day. I started to pick up on a few things about my mother and about my father in law that offered some clarity into the struggle that I had in relationship with those particular two people. My father in law was more overt in his relational style than my mother so it was easier to see his style of controlling my husband and me, then it was for me to see my mother’s more covert style of controlling me.

 That night I came home and burst into the house excitedly telling my husband Jim that his father was an abuser! I stated something like “I know what is wrong in our lives…YOUR father is an abuser!” My husband looked shocked and then he started to look angry. I started to explain what I was learning about how people misuse their power to overpower others and my husband Jim was looking at me like I was nuts! This was HIS father; I mean Jim should have known better than anyone about how his own father ran the show, and how relationship with him was a one way street but none the less he tried to shut me up.

I was excited! I had this feeling that I had found the answer to something extremely important, and I wanted to share it with my husband but he was not hearing me! He didn’t want to hear me. He couldn’t hear me. And the truth is that he was terrified to hear me.

Through attending this seminar about the misuse of power and control in relationship, I was just beginning to comprehend that the “problem” wasn’t actually ME and that glimmer of hope was beyond any hope I had had for years, but Jim was afraid to hear that in case the problem was HIM. And since he believed that his father was his “life’s blood” he could not possibly endure to visit the idea that the problem might be his father either.

Suddenly, Jim wasn’t very happy that I was attending this seminar.

And I was really disappointed. Here I thought that he would be excited to find out that I was discovering a new definition of relationship. That I was learning what LOVE really was and what it wasn’t; that I was learning how controlling abusive people believe that they are the most important person in the relationship and that they keep their victims believing that trash so that they don’t have to operate from the healthy relationship style of equal value, that I thought he would feel like I felt; like I was on a new road to understanding and to healthier relationship and that this road would lead to a happier place for us! And he shut me out.

I had lived with expressions my whole life and I had never thought about them in relation to what they meant. Expressions like “it’s my way or the highway” and “if you don’t like it, tough”. I accepted a social pecking order because it was all I knew.  Learning about the misuse of power in dysfunctional relationships, now that was new and it fit with so much of my history with both my family and my husband’s family.

Something clicked into place for me that weekend but getting Jim on board was a whole other story! He had to overcome his fear of facing the truth about his father way before he accepted what I had discovered about his father. He was terrified to ‘see’ his father through that grid of understanding.  He falsely believed just as I always had that it was far easier to go along with the way that things had always been than to see the truth and advocate for changes in our relationships with our families.

I persisted in learning about the true definition of love and in my discovery of what healthy relationship was and eventually I realized that even my marriage to Jim was not based on mutual respect or equal value. That was when I realized that if Jim saw his father as controlling and demanding, he would have to see that in himself too. That was not something he was willing to do right away; he liked things the way they were and he had no motivation to change. But I was no longer willing to live in the dysfunction. 

Eventually, Jim had to get some help if he wanted to save our marriage. And it was interesting (and frustrating to me at the time) but the way that Jim was finally able to hear me, was to face the dysfunctional father son relationship that he had with his father. He had to see how controlling and manipulative that his father was with him. He had to see the truth about how one sided his relationship with his father was. It was very painful but in the end Jim getting clarity on how he was regarded and disregarded by his father and in seeing the truth about how his father treated and regarded his wife ~ (Jims mother) ~ enabled Jim to see himself in relation to the way he saw me and our kids and how he believed his needs/wishes etc. were more important than ours were. He saw that he didn’t regard us with equal value to himself.  

My husband saw ‘giving up his power in exchange for equality’ as a death sentence. He believed that ‘his power’ was all that he had and all that he was. It was a big part of his identity.  His self-esteem was grounded in making people comply and obey his wishes.  (Just like his father and my mother.) If I jumped, Jim believed he was loved. That was how I proved my love; by being the way he wanted me to be. Just like I did with my mother. The cycle of abuse continues when the grown up abused children adopt the false definition of love they have been raised with believing that compliance and obedience equals or proves respect, love and self-worth and the partner in the relationship goes along with the belief that compliance and obedience will eventually lead to being loved.  It doesn’t matter which angle that the false definition comes from, neither is the truth.

Hand in hand these dysfunctional relationship ideas rule the relational world and keep the cycle of abuse and the misuse of power, going. It is very hard to face the truth about disregard and disrespect especially when it comes from our own parents, but living in the dysfunction, trying to guess all the time what was ‘expected’ of me and what to do better next time, was exhausting and therefore even harder.

Jim and I did our individual work and our marriage relationship recovered. Jim surrendered his belief that ‘control over me and the kids’ proved his worth. Our parents were not interested in giving up their power in exchange for equal value and thereby gave up having any relationship with their own children and grandchildren.  

Jim and I and our three kids (2 of whom are now adults) are thriving. Our relationships are all based on the true definition of love and are no longer about compliance and obedience.  We are no longer exhausted. We live life to the fullest in freedom and wholeness.  All of this happened because we were willing to look at things the way that they really were and we were willing to see that there was truth that we had not considered yet.

So next time someone shuts you down and discounts your story or your discoveries, tells you that you were not abused or neglected and infers that you are ‘nuts’ or crazy, don’t be too quick to conclude that they have never been through it themselves. Perhaps, like Jim, they are just trying to avoid having to make major life changes that facing the truth about all this stuff brings about.  Don’t let that stop YOU from making the changes that YOU want to make to improve your own life and relationships.

There are two main topics in this post. One is about the way that people react to our stories, discounting and trying to shut us up. The other is about the cycle of abuse in dysfunctional family. Please share your thoughts about these topics or any other thoughts that you wish to share. I look forward to the conversation!

There is freedom on the other side of broken;

Darlene Ouimet   

The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing


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90 response to "The Reason People don’t Hear what You are Trying to Say"

  1. By: maja Posted: 3rd September

    actually been told in therapy to shut it – in group therapy they would first motivate me to trust them and open up – instead of just supportng the other members of the group

    when i finally did – layer one was okay, layer two was frowned upon and after layer three i was asked not to share anything anymore but in private with the therapist, even tho he was on a six week leave at that point –
    it was hard to have opened up to be told ot please hold it –

    this happened a fewtimes –

    til the point i started to question if anyone out there could actually listen to this story and be witness of my process at all –

    the therapist i have right now does do that – but after all these years of different experiences it feels raw still

    when i started to gain instight people seemed taken aback too taht i wasn t that weak victim they had loved me to be –

    i thought they would cheer me on

    for now that seems to happen only online, or mostly online at least – which is nice as it s something but
    it does feel lonely as well

  2. By: Elaine Posted: 4th February

    One more post that sounds like it is aimed right at me. I deal with not being heard now that I understand what happened as much as I did when I was raised as an invisible family member. It always feels so good to have an issue that is one of mine addressed and validated. I learn so much from you and those who share their experiences. Thank you.

  3. By: Tracy Posted: 16th January


    From the get-go after we were married, my inlaws always said “we will wait for you to contact us about getting together so we don’t interrupt your lives.”

    Um~ that is #1 a set up because it puts in ALL on us to visit, initiate contact etc. IF we don’t adhere to their hidden agenda /meet some higher expectations (we never knew what they were) but were punished for not meeting– we always felt like we were in trouble. Never enough visits. Children. (Which my mother in law would refer to us as to her society friends). The only exception was they would call us every Sunday _(which I despised)because my husband was trained to divulge our whole week to them- gag. That ended pretty quickly.)
    #2 a way to induce guilt and compare us to the golden brother and his wife who NEVER did anything “wrong”…in other words kissed their behinds.
    #3 It made me want to see them less and less because I felt this pressure to have the “perfect” visit….blah blah blah….

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 16th January

      yes, I can totally relate to that and I agree with you on all points!
      hugs, Darlene

  4. By: Kris Posted: 15th January

    Hi Eira,

    I feel your pain. What an awful decision to have to make but sometimes our FOO’s don’t give us any other option other then going NC because it is better for our own well being. Only you can decide what’s best for you. I am in the same situation as you but I haven’t gone completely NC yet but it is looking like that’s where I will end up too. It makes me sad too but if it is any consolation I think it is a sign that we are getting healthier with inside of ourselves. We aren’t willing to settle for their scraps anymore and dealing with their dysfunction just isn’t worth our health anymore.

    When you wrote about how your father said forgiveness isn’t earned it made me think about what forgiveness really is. To me forgiveness is a process. It is not for the other person, it is for you. Forgiveness involves acknowledging what happened to you, getting real angry over that betrayal of trust done to you, and then allowing yourself to feel that pain associated with that betrayal and then you get to grieve the loss involved with what happened to you. It doesn’t mean that you have to continue to have a relationship with the person who harmed you and in many cases you are better off staying away from them until they can prove to you that they are genuinely sorry for what they did to you and that they can be trusted again. That means acknowledging what they did to you to begin with and feeling genuine remorse for it.

    Your father wants to skip that part. Your father doesn’t want to hear that because in the end he knows that what he did to you was wrong and acknowledging that to you is like a death sentence to him due to his own issues getting in the way. He would love for you to just keep on sweeping everything under the rug. That is the swan song of a dysfunctional family. Him telling you that forgiveness isn’t earned is just his way of saying that he isn’t willing to do what it takes in order to make things right between the two of you. That is his choice.

    You can’t make him see it. Only God and he can do that and he isn’t willing to do it. Nothing that you do will ever change that. The wisdom comes in knowing when to leave it in God’s hands and it sounds like you have already done that. Hang in there. You survived their abuse. You can survive this too. It’s ok for you to feel heartbroken. Anyone who has gone through what you did would. You get to be angry and you get to be sad and you get to grieve the losses involved with this whole mess.


  5. By: Amber Posted: 15th January

    Eira, I feel for you today. I can’t advise you what to do; that’s a personal decision, but I want you to know that I heard you through your post on here.
    I think we all have the hope that somehow, someday, some way, people will see the light and we will get that apology that we long for and they will change. The hard part is that we don’t have control over another person’s behavior. We can’t make those things happen because it is out of our realm of control. But we can realize, as much as it hurts that their reaction is not our fault. It is a reflection of the way THEY are. I understand WHY you are hurting after getting that letter from your father. It sounds like he is asking for a free pass where you are supposed to forgive and forget without any accountability or effort made on their part. Kind of a repeat performance of the same scenarios a lot if us have been dealing with for years. I see things quite differently. To me, forgiveness is earned and I do not grant it freely. Sending you lots of hugs, Amber

  6. By: Eira Posted: 15th January

    I need some support today.

    I decided to go no contact with my parents.

    My dad wrote me a letter in which he stated that I need to forgive them of everything they have said and done, automatically, without any apology or admission of guilt. He said that forgiveness should be granted freely. He said forgiveness is not “earned.”

    I might as well be talking to a brick wall.

    I am thinking of writing a letter inside two balloons, one for my mom, and one for my dad. I will thank them for the good they have done me, and ask that God take care of them both. I will ask God to to have mercy on them. I will tell them I am praying for their highest good. I will enclose a verse from Mathew 5:23. I will ask them for mercy and for mercy for myself. Then, this spring, when the thaw comes, I will enclose another letter if I still feel the need and put it in a mason jar and throw it in Lake Michigan saying anything more that has been left unsaid. I will sing a favorite hymn while I am doing this.

    I feel heartbroken.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 16th January

      Hi Eira
      I hate it when people demand forgiveness. That isn’t even close to how it is laid out in the bible! (if he wants to use that reference he should use it correctly) He can ‘say’ whatever he wants, just remember though, just because he says it, doesn’t mean it is true.
      I am sending you hugs, squishes, big hugs and lots of validation!!!!!
      love, Darlene

      Everyone ~
      There is a new post on the home page called “What we hear when people say that our expectations are too high”. I really want to talk about this one..
      Hope to see you there too!
      hugs, Darlene

  7. By: DXS Posted: 13th January

    “Our parents were not interested in giving up their power in exchange for equal value and thereby gave up having any relationship with their own children and grandchildren.”

    Oh my god. Last month, I wrote my mom a letter telling her I wanted treated equally and not like a kid. She hasn’t spoken to me since, except to write a letter saying, “I never meant to hurt anyone….”

    That’s it, she doesn’t want to give up power!

    I was never allowed my own feelings, only the feelings SHE felt I should have. Faked my entire childhood. And now I think she faked hers, and continues to fake it.

  8. By: Tracy Hansen Posted: 13th January

    This is me. I could have written your piece Darlene!

    “Our parents were not interested in giving up their power in exchange for equal value and thereby gave up having any relationship with their own children and grandchildren.”

    This is where my family (husband and 2 children) have been in regards to his parents for 7 years. 7 years! My husband thinks it is because they are respecting our boundaries of not wanting them in our lives (this was never said by me) .

    The real reason there has been no contact except the occasional card from him to them– is because THEY DO NOT WISH TO ACKNOWLEDGE OR CHANGE THEIR POWER. Therefore, they dont have a relationship with us or our children.

    My husband needs to work on accepting this.

    Thank you so much for this piece. I dont feel so alone. I married in to a family where my mother in law is the power freak. In my FOO , it is my father who is the power freak. Both married people who enable them.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 16th January

      Hi Tracy
      EXACTLY! Why is it up to the kids!!? (It isn’t) My adult children are now 21 and 23 years old. Their grandparents NEVER make an effort to actually contact them. (they have sent cards and money every year until this year but no effort to actually talk to their grandkids)
      Thanks for sharing!
      hugs, Darlene

  9. By: kelly Posted: 23rd October

    Hi Darlene,
    I have been so blessed to learn so much from these forums and your blogs. When I was a young mother, both of my kids were molested by a caretakers nephew. My 3 yr old Son mentioned this abuse, and my Daughter agreed with her brother. Of course the kids never went back to that location, and legal proceedings were started. In that process, my kids were to talk to a state psychologist about what had happened. I took the kids to the first apt, introduced myself to the “doctor”, and introduced my Daughter. The “doctor’s” first comment was “so tell me about your daughter’s incident”. I asked him what the heck he thought he was talking about, telling the “doctor” that saying a huge word and adding my Daughter’s name to that statement, inferred HER being responsible for being molested. I told the “doctor” that my Daughter knew what happened to her, knew how to spell molested, and she knew that she WAS NOT AT FAULT. The “doctor” suggested that I needed anger management, to which I replied that he had better look for another line of work, because he was a complete moron, didn’t know anything about kids, and certainly was not good enough to COUNSEL a dog, let alone my kids. I also told him that if he thought about sending a bill for this waste of time called an appointment, he would then know the meaning of crazy…. My kids got the RIGHT HELP, and we never saw a bill….
    Both of my kids have always known that they are my world. I still have learned so much from this site in just the short time I have known about it. Please keep up the great work, and know that there are people out here that really, really need what you are doing in their lives. Respectfully, Kelly

  10. By: Raven Posted: 12th February

    YOu hit the nail on the head when you made this statement, “…So next time someone shuts you down and discounts your story or your discoveries, tells you that you were not abused or neglected and infers that you are ‘nuts’ or crazy, don’t be too quick to conclude that they have never been through it themselves. Perhaps, like Jim, they are just trying to avoid having to make major life changes that facing the truth about all this stuff brings about.” I know as I live and breathe that my two siblings live in this place. My littlest sibling goes as far as blaming me for all of the issues in my FOO. Instead of blaming the ADULTS when all the dysfunction and abuse was happening to me and my siblings, it’s easier to blame me the scape goat. I also remember someone posting an article about Patrick Carnes, and his beliefs on Trauma. Why people are so inclined to blame the victim. This puts the blamer in the position of NOT having to do anything, other than just side with an abuser. If one stands on the side lines and watches, aren’t they just as guilty and culpable of being abusive?? I know so. I just think its is awful how when one lives and acts their truth, they are often discarded and thrown in the trash. This is where I have a lot of issues. Being rejected, I am still working on this one. Thanks Darlene. Good post today!!

  11. By: Nadia Posted: 12th February

    I told my husband and children yesterday that if I was given 2 choices ….either you face your Mother, or walk away from this family, I would actually say that I would have to walk away from my family…this is where I am…I love my husband and children. They are my life. BUT…there is no way that I could even think about facing the person that mentally and emotionally used me. I was confronted by two family members in the last four days. The are older and have no idea what she put me thru. They do however know that she can be very selfish, rude, and self centred.
    Having said that, nothing I can say a out my “revelations” about walking away from the abuse, will change how they see things. They are old school Italians who stick by their family, no matter what. I refuse to do that . I did it long enough. Hubby still has a hard time with it but he stands by me and so do my kids. He does however feel guilt and embarrassment when it comes to what “people are saying” …I don’t care what they think they know…I’m done.

  12. By: Obi One Posted: 11th February

    Nobody gets what they need until they first respect themselves enough to demand it and command it. A dysfunctional family will surely not give it to you and most people don’t have the time to feed you needs. We are blessed if we can find a small group who will really listen, hear correctly and help. Hard lesson to learn but we have to love ourselves first and that is the hardest work. Loving and forgiving ourselves. The rest is a piece of cake in my humble opinion. It just means you have to stand up for yourself without being rude yourself and learn what is and isn’t appropriate. My problem was I was suspicious of everybody and it was my problem because I was an adult so I couldn’t blame my father. I thought everybody was like him. I was old enough to make my own life without him and to make my life choices, I was scared to change, but when I discovered I was in control of how my life was going to be, I was way more empowered than before. I didn’t have to listen to his voice in my head. I didn’t! I only had me to blame for who I became. I worked hard,but I am freer now, 10 years after discovering that it is my life, nobody else’s and my responsibility to do what I have to do to be happy, that was so big for me. I. Don’t know if I even cared if anybody heard me then, I just knew I was on the road to getting better even if I had to be alone all of my life, I knew being alone and happy was okay better even than being with someone and being miserable.

  13. By: Marmie Posted: 11th February

    ” Our parents were not interested in giving up their power in exchange for equal value ”

    How do I find out if my parents are willing to do this?

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