Jan
16

What We Hear when People Suggest that our Expectations are Too High

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efb blog 1I received a question or maybe it was a suggestion on the blog yesterday regarding a post that I wrote about quotes that cause harm; here is what the writer asked:

“Could the cause of most of our problems be that we live with expectations? Live without expectations and accept things for what they are? No expectations, no disappointments.”

Lets talk about this.

This brought up so many things for me and it isn’t the first time I’ve been told that my expectations were the root of the problem… “my problem”.

The first thing that came to my mind was the child, (and not just ‘the child’ but the child who was ME) who is abused, molested, discounted, shamed, hit, blamed, neglected, … is being told that he or she should not have ever expected to be loved, cherished, nurtured, respected, protected and taken care of.

Is this person suggesting that “Most of my problem” is that I wanted to be loved……….??

Then I thought about how this is the same ‘self -blame’ that I talk about all the time; if only I had never expected to be loved, then I wouldn’t have been disappointed.

This directive suggests that asking for simple respect and regard is expecting too much. 

And what about the part that directs us to “accept things for what they are”.  It’s interesting to me that this writer didn’t realize that accepting things as they really are is exactly what this blog is about; the difficulty is that actually ‘doing’ it is not nearly as easy or simple as it sounds and we are NOT trying to accept that our expectations are too high in the first place because they aren’t. Here is a tiny list of the things that I accepted for what they are which resulted in the freedom I enjoy today;

I accepted that my family was abusive.

I accepted that they were not going to listen to me.

I accepted that based on results, they were not going to change.

I accepted that even if I left, they were not going to care.

I accepted that in their view, the problem was me.

I accepted that the problem was never me.

I don’t expect them to change. I am not asking them to change. I am not asking them to hear me anymore because I tried that for YEARS and it didn’t happen.

The truth is that I simply decided that I was not going to be treated like that anymore.

This person asks “Could the cause of most of our problems be………” and this statement suggests that we cause our own problems. And we hear “We ARE the cause of most of our problems” and we try to accept that because it is the same brainwashing that has been crammed down our throats since we were kids. It is the grooming process that caused us to fill with shame and self-blame in the first place. It is familiar and exactly what we were accustomed to ~ but NOT ANYMORE.

And the final comment in the short question/suggestion is “No expectations, No disappointments”.  

What kind of suggestion is that? Seriously! What the heck does that even mean and tell me HOW that would be done and why having no expectations is an example of high self-esteem and healthy self-worth?  It sounds like ‘giving up’ to me. It sounds like accepting the way abusive people treated me. I tried that for over 40 years and it didn’t get me anywhere good.

Here is my question to the person who sent me this;

How did you happen to land on my blog? What were you looking for when you landed on my article “Inspirational Quotes that Cause Harm”

I want to know you feel the need to leave these judgemental and directive comments because that is how you have survived all these years from the ways that you have been devalued and disrespected and you need to tell me that the truthful answer to these questions we have is so painful that you would be happier if I would just stop telling it. And I want to tell you that the truth IS the answer, not the problem.

I want to know if he lays in the dark at night wishing his life were different, trying to console himself by reprimanding himself  by telling himself “the problem is that your expectations are too high… the problem is you”..

And I want to tell him that his expectations are not the problem. It isn’t what is wrong with you, it’s what happened to you – that is the problem.  

And most of all, and this might be a little bit of a dig but what the hell ~ I want to know if he even read the article that he is commenting on.

What do you think? How did this question/comment/directive make you feel?

Exposing Truth, one snapshot at a time,

Darlene Ouimet

Related Posts ~ The Problem with Statements like “Get Over It” 

~When Inspirational Material triggers Self Blame

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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Categories : Freedom & Wholeness

164 Comments

1

The comments made by this person feel like the gateway to despair, that door I walked through in my childhood to hopelessness. It feels like depression. It feels like an armor we put on as children that becomes a prison if we adopt it as a way of life as we become adults.

It feels like the learned helplessness psychologists talk about where experimenters put dogs on a grid that shocked them and there was no way for them to get out. The dogs gave up and even when an escape route was provided, the dogs did not attempt to leave, they had learned they were helpless.

It feels like a self fulfilling prophecy that leaves us on the sidelines, spectators watching those with great expectation live a life.

I think many of us get stuck there, with that childhood coping mechanism that never matured. It is directly tied to worthiness, the ability to be hopeful and to expect that life can have good things to offer for us and that we are deserving of such and possess the ability to make and bring good things to ourselves.

2

Darlene-I feel/think that the person who wrote this comment is either in denial about their own abusive childhood OR is an abuser themselves (or both). It’s the same old victim blaming mentality. First off all…a baby/child initially does not even have the capacity to “have expectations”. That is a higher cognitive function that say, a 2 year old does not possess. Furthermore…of course we need to have expectations of how we will be treated, of what is or is not acceptable. If we go to work…do we not expect to get paid? Does a child have no rights? (whether they are aware, can articulate it or not). I thank you for your blog and the way you speak with such honesty and detail. It’s so very helpful. as to this person’s comment…it simply makes no sense to me unless I look at it through the lens of victim blaming the abused child rather than putting the responsibility on the abusive parent(s)/adults.

3

Hi Darlene, I’ve really enjoyed reading through the latest posts here today.

On the subject of expectations. I had a flatmate once who was abusive to his girlfriend and generally quite rude. I asked him why he was like that, and whether he should maybe let his girlfriend go, since he couldn’t be kind to her. He said, ‘nah, it’s not like that, I learned from an early age that if you lower people’s expectations they’ll be really grateful when you’re actually nice’ !

So there you have it. It reminds me of the ‘players’ – the guys who talk about speed seduction and so on. They talk about a method which involves ‘negging’ – being negative towards a woman so she wants your approval and feels she has to work harder to earn it.

I thought a lot in the past year about my expectations, especially after discussing the problems I have with my family with a few people, and also reading through this blog, which I find very helpful, and similar forums.

You discuss facing the reality of our parents, facing the truth that they’ll never love us the way we hoped they would. So, to me this is about managing expectations. Accepting their behaviour was very liberating for me.

So in a sense yes, if we have abusive parents then we can have no realistic expectations that they’ll change, but that’s specific to that particular scenario, I mean once we recognise that they can’t offer normal love, then we can stop beating our heads against the wall metaphorically, and seek love elsewhere!

I totally understand what you mean by the effect of an abusive childhood, which lowers our expectations and encourages us to accept abuse. As the examples in the first paragraph attest, sadly there will always be abusers ready to take advantage of vulnerability. I’ve been victimised too as a result of low self esteem. I still have to be careful to remind myself of what is and isn’t abusive, such was my conditioning my instincts don’t always function like people with normal self esteem.

I was amazed at the reaction of both my parents recently when I called my dad on his abusive remarks to me. I said – ‘I feel disrespected when you throw rubbish at me when I get in the car, and say things like “that’s where the rubbish goes”‘. He went mad, said ‘oh f**k off’, told me he was going to MAKE me get out of the car, walked round to my side of the car then started throwing rubbish at my head.

Later, there was a family get together, and I rang mum to say I was hurt by dad’s behaviour and didn’t feel happy about coming to the get together. She went mad too, Saying ‘that’s just how dad is and we have to accept it, you see things wrongly, you’re the one who everyone has to walk on egg shells around. You have no idea what we have to put up with your behaviour’. It was an extreme reaction really. All I could say in response was ‘well, I’m just saying I don’t want to come along to this get together, so you won’t have to “put up” with me’. (I felt relief!)

In fact, these days I welcome their crap behaviour, it gives me all the excuse I need to continue saying ‘I don’t feel comfortable at family get togethers’. It’s been my mantra for three months., interspersed with ‘I’m a bit under the weather’. I did say on two occasions – ‘I’d like some time and space’, which they don’t respect, not that I expected them to!

4

I hate these “inspirational quotes”. And I think it’s great to ask “What do these expressions mean anyway?” When someone uses one, what do they want you to hear or understand? And if you hear or understand something different as a result of your experience, do they explain the difference and listen to your understanding of the meaning and how you reached it?

So many other ideas our abusive families convinced us were true in ways THEY wanted us to understand them also have other meanings for people whose experiences were very different. If you’re going to attempt to share “inspiration” with people, you might start by realising that your platitude could hurt them and why that might be true. Maybe the process of listening to the different meanings might be more damn inspirational than a fucking stock phrase.

I also remember the “But that’s just the way she/is and you have to accept it.” And the unsaid part of that was so many things. Things like “And you’re not allowed to talk about it, complain, refuse to engage, refuse to please, remove yourself from the situation, ask for different behavior, tell anyone else,…” and probably a bunch more.

I guess I’ve accepted my disappointment, sadness (sometimes), rage (sometimes) that my family mistreated me. I’ve accepted that my attempts over decades to have a better relationship with them respecting me as an equal have failed miserably because they never saw me that way to begin with. I’ve accepted that none of them really saw me for who I was. I’ve accepted that they were mostly emotionally stunted and attempted (and did not succeed)in cultivating that same emotional stuntedness in me.

5

Wow, just when I get to a point where I think I don’t need to come here any more, Darlene creates another post to show me I have a ways to go. Great post!

I have accepted that my feelings were never important to anyone, so there is no point to express my feelings.

I have accepted that other people get to define what kind of person I have to be.

Those are my two biggies!

NO MORE!

6

I got to thinking in terms of the people who have abused me and how they complain that I expect too much. I really just want to be treated with the same respect that human beings should have for each other, without condescension and eye-rolling.

Then I think about what they expect from me and that REALLY is too much. They expect me to know what they want and what they want me to think that they think without actually communicating any of it to me. I’m expected to NOT be bothered when they treat me badly and never express “bad” feelings.

If I’m nothing but a bother, I won’t expect anything from them except to leave me in peace.

7

I am so happy to be reading this article today just when I was feeling a bit down. Thank you again Darlene for your insight. There are past articles here on this site about the victim being shamed by therapists, supposed “friends” and others who are clueless about our loss of innocence and unbearable pain. I truly believe that the most damaging comments that we can receive as an abuse victim is being blamed for the abuser’s behavior. There is just too much shame and blame going on with:

You should be over this by now…

If only you had not been in the wrong place, at the wrong time, etc…

You don’t understand the abuser’s background….

I know somebody who had it ten times worse than you…

Many times on this site we have talked about all these accuser statements. I too was scarred by past therapists and there was only one woman therapist at the end who was any good, after a long string of trying different ones. But she was not really that altruistic,either. After she moved across town to a higher rent area, her fees went up and I just couldn’t afford to keep going. So there was another loss in my life. There is a humorous view on why certain men entertain prostitutes, even if married, and it’s been said because the man only wants someone to talk to! I don’t know but I view these therapists as sort of like a pretend friend who can only perform if you give them money! LOL!

There was one especially nasty,rude, and arrogant shrink man who gave me a bad time. He basically related to me a story told to him by his friend. This friend had been a pet owner with a few different animals–I can’t remember exactly which species. One of the animals, I believe a large dog?, killed a smaller animal for food. The friend summed up this experience by saying, “it’s only a small animal.” Then this nasty shrink man further insulted me by saying that my Narc parents’ abuse was like the food chain with the stronger animal attacking the weaker animal! In other words, I should just “let it go” because my Narc mom abuser was just acting out her role like in the animal kingdom! Unbelievable! This nasty shrink man was laughing an evil laugh, like a villain in a horror movie, and told me that some of his past clients had tried to sue him but that they could not reach him! He was too high up with his credentials to be sued! He appeared to be like a sociopath himself.

I thought about his story. It’s been said that one’s treatment and attitude towards animals says a lot about one’s views towards other people.There have been studies on modern serial killers who teased and abused animals as a child and look what they grew up to be like. Note how there was no real empathy or compassion towards the small animal that was killed. Also, the pet owner could have separated these two animals since he had the power to control the situation! Both men viewed animals as easily replaceable. I wonder if abusers view their victims almost like an easy prey in the wild.

I have owned several cats and few pets in my life. I know that there is a vast difference between domesticated pets who were raised in a kind, loving home and thoroughly wanted and cared for versus wild animals. A real pet becomes a family member even equal to your own child. I’ve seen family photos taken by pro.photographers where they include the family dog in the photo and the pet owner even gives their last name to their dog/cat, like “Muffin Miller”. LOL! Animals in the wild are raised by instinct to just survive.

I know that many times here I have mentioned my true religion of Celtic Paganism. I respect all positive Faiths and I do accept reincarnation and past lives. There are certainly many different relgious views regarding the purpose of animal lives and animal souls. Much of eastern thought views animals as a sort of group soul that is meant to evolve through time and ultimately become human. (I do share this belief). But the key point of this view is when an animal is cared for by a human, then their growth is rapidly accelerated through love. Domesticated pets can quickly jump levels in a lifetime to evolve into being human with an individual soul.Love is the key that transforms everything and it’s what distinguishes say a feral cat from a beloved pet. The pet develops an identity based on love where it devolops a real relationship between pet and owner. There are so many stories about pets who have protected and saved their owner’s life or even died for their owner! So, yes I do believe that love changes everything and love is all!

In the beautiful classic children’s story, “The Velveteen Rabbit”, by Margery Williams, the stuffed animal rabbit becomes “real” through love. He becomes a living rabbit in his next incarnation. I would like to believe that those who can feel love and act on it do grow and improve through time. Those who feel nothing like these horrible shrinks and Narc.parents and abusers keep repeating their behaviors until they can learn.

“All you need is love, love
Love is all you need”—Lennon/McCartney—The Beatles

Blessed Be!

8

On the “inspriational quotes” post, I agree most of them are a load of crap. But I actually liked this one:

“What screws us up most in life is the picture in our heads of how it’s supposed to be”

This is exactly what has messed me up. The “what it’s SUPPOSED to be.” But, I learned the “what it’s supposed to be” from watching my mom.

I am trying to get away from “supposed to be.” And, no, I’m not comfortable with family get togethers, either. All PHO-NEE!

9

Oh wow Hobie! My momster would also tell me “But you’re supposed to know” without her telling me anything.
But considering “expectations”. Yes I do “expect” (or is that “hope with confidence”?) to be treated with respect by others. If that doesn’t happen, well I accept it and make choices accordingly. Like get the hell out…

10

Darlene,

I don’t know the context of that person’s comment to know if it was a sincere question or a directive–an accusatory directive. Either way, it deeply saddens me to consider that people believe in that and live by that. It feels like a resignation to live with abuse or neglect. It sounds like giving up hope for anything better.

I understand the self-protective thinking that guards against more disappointment (because mistreatment is hard enough without adding disappointment to it). I remember living that way. It’s agonizing to constantly have hope thrown to the ground and smashed and stomped on. It seems so much better not to hope. Or to make the focus of the hope that, “Maybe tomorrow I’ll learn to not expect so much” or “When will I realize that I have no right to complain?”

I remember not so many years ago believing that I was the problem and feeling consumed by shame for having wants and needs. My heart aches for the precious person I was who was discounted so much that I believed that I deserved it. I’m in tears thinking about the multitudes of us who have been victimized and made to believe that it was our own fault.

It’s really amazing that you’re ringing the Liberty Bell and declaring freedom, not only from oppressors, but from oppressive beliefs. Ring on, my friend!

Love and hugs,
Christina

11

I wanted to add that asking someone else to explain what they understand as the difference in the meaning of something doesn’t mean that their version automatically should get given credence.

12

Yvonne! I am gasping and saying HOLY COW! “It’s just a small animal?” Food chain? You aren’t kidding? Of course you aren’t….

I don’t mean to get biblical here, but your post reminds me of the religious thing of “what ye do to the least of me, you do for me.” I so believe in this that I won’t kill a spider, instead, I will put it on a piece of paper and throw it out the door. (Ok, I confess, mosquitoes, I will squish with a toilet paper and toss down toilet…) If I see an animal in the road, I will swerve to avoid hitting it. I hate it when people say, “if it’s too stupid to stay off the road….”

13

What I hear when people suggest that my expectations are too high, I hear abuse- blaming the victim- and if it’s a victim speaking then I hear self-abuse. Really, having the expectation to be treated like everybody else wants to be treated, with respect, how can that be too much?

Hobie, (#6) as usual your comment added a lot to Darlene’s great post. Loved that second paragraph! Maybe we could use that (para)phrase with our abusers: “Could the cause of our problems be that you live with expectations? Live without expectations and accept things for what they are. No expectations, no disappointments.” LOL!!

14

Hi Darlene
Yes indeed, that statement that my problems are caused by my expectations sounds like my mother. I bought into it for a long while as it is echoed by various other religious and enlightenment texts. It is also in Marcus Aurelius’ (former ancient roman emperor) Meditations. He was a Stoic and he writes, essentially, that if you don’t like something, then change how you think about it(!!). But if you look at the quotes as a whole, there are some at, for example
https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/17212.Marcus_Aurelius
then the conclusion that I am to blame for how other people treat me is NOT what is meant, at least not by Aurelius. It is, however, what my mother meant, she meant, effectively, that I was arrogant and egotistical to want to be treated with ordinary care and support, that it was she who was the abused child and so I should be thinking about her needs and not her treatment of me, and so on.
My freedom from this particular form was abuse, was to repond, OK, if that is what they think and want to do, fine, but I do not need to hang around and be treated that way.

I have struggled with the notion of acceptance and forgiveness, and I think Darlene you do a great job of pointing out the fallacies of abuser’s thinking, that these philosophies mean that it is OK to be rude and cruel to others, especially their own children, that the victim should accept it as how it is, and so on.

It is not OK! Also, far from being a character flaw, having an idea of how things should be, that is, that we should be kind and loving to each other, is a really important idea, because “how it should be” informs us how to be a parent, sister and aunt that is not abusive. (Of course, we see in the news about terrorists trying to make things how they should be from their own extremist ideological viewpoint, and to them I also say, no, please accept my culture in my own country..)

These are not easy ideas and talking about them is so important. Anyway, Darlene, I just wanted to say a big thank you to you again.

15

Hi Kaycee
I agree. When I read the comments this person (which I did not publish by the way) I wondered if he was pleading for me to see this a different way… as if I agreed with him, that we are in part responsible, that he could find peace. But then I read the article that he was trying to post on and I realized that he was telling me the same crap that I had been told my whole life. He was suggesting that I return to that ‘learned helplessness’ ~ he probably believes like 80% of the world, that it is easier to just ‘not fight’ to get our lives back.
But we know different!
Thanks for sharing,
hugs, Darlene

Hi Anon
I agree with you as well and some of what I just wrote to Kaycee just now also applies to your comments.
Thanks for being here and for sharing,
hugs, Darlene

16

Hello golddust!
I love your comment ~ thank you for sharing this example! It is perfect and really shows the insanity of it all.
I could have written exactly what you said, the way that the blame is put squarely on the shoulders of the person who the rubbish is being heaped on!! ~ right down to the egg shell thing! (my mother said that constantly too)
AND Good for you saying that you were not going to be going over there they won’t have to “put up” with you! EXACTLY! Well done!
Hugs, Darlene

17

Alice
Yes, what the hell does “that’s just the way he/she is and you have to accept it” mean? There are two things there… the dismissing of the treatment AND the directive that we HAVE to accept said treatment!
Well we are standing up to declare that we DON’T have to accept it. period.
Thanks for sharing,
hugs, Darlene

Hi DXS
YAY for “NO MORE”!

Hi Hobie
EXACTLY ~ what are we really asking for??? I realized one day that I was simply asking for respect. The same respect that they demanded from me when they treated me with disrespect. And if they don’t want to have a mutually respectful relationship, in a sane world, what they heck did they think would happen?? I realized that I had a choice.. that is really all that took place.
hugs, Darlene

18

Hi Yvonne
Why would understanding the abusers background help us???? I hate it when people say that. It is so dismissive and I know that people are extremely brainwashed and these meaningless things come out of their mouths, but so what?

About the therapists stuff ~ I just want to say that I charge by the hour to work one on one with people and I am really good at what I do. I don’t think that the fee is the problem, and it is really sad when a person can’t afford to get help or to continue but on the other hand I have had hundreds of people ask me to work with them who can’t pay and if I don’t charge, I can’t buy groceries. And honestly, (ask my clients about the value I give) I don’t charge nearly enough for the service that I provide. I don’t think that the fee is the issue when it comes to the ones who don’t help or who make things worse. I just had to get that out in my own defence. I wish I could help everyone, I really do.
Hugs, Darlene

19

Hi Christina,
Beautifully written comments! (and so great to see you here!!) I love the imagery of ‘having hope thrown to the ground’ ~ that is exactly what my life was like year after year after year before I came out of the fog.
Thank you for your encouragement too ~ I will keep ringing that bell!
hugs and love, Darlene

Hi Elsie
Yes I agree! Thanks for your comments, It isn’t asking too much!
hugs, Darlene

20

Hi Elizabeth,
Yes, I have given a lot of thought to the original and intended meaning of some of these sayings and how they have been twisted to enforce compliance. Controlling people ALWAYS want to make sure you are looking at yourself (as in trying harder for them) because they are terrified that if we ever believe we are OKAY, then we will see them and how pathetic that they are. And they know it. They know that they are doing all this crap.
I too made the choice not to be around it.
Thanks for sharing,
hugs, Darlene

21

Hi Darlene,

I started off my New Year with my pastor telling us “don’t look back…press on!!” as the people all around me cheered him on and I said to my husband until you look back there WON’T BE any moving forward!!! So many well meaning people get it all jumbled up and when you are someone who has suffered from complex trauma it can be quite damaging to hear these kinds of remarks. It wasn’t until I was able to drudge through all of that muck and mire from my past that I was able to see the red flags flapping in the wind over comments like the one’s you are talking about in your posts.

Now when I hear comments like these I try to be more pro-active in educating people on why people like me can’t see their own worth and why we can’t just “press on” and unfortunately what I am being met with is a bunch of people who don’t want to hear the truth!! I can only imagine what you go through but I am not letting these people deter me from spreading the word that until society as a whole is willing to take a good hard look at how we treat our own children we as a whole can only expect things to get worse not better.

My initial response to what this poster said was of sadness. I felt his pain. I don’t know what context he wrote this in without seeing the whole post. He sounds like someone who was beaten down by too many people who didn’t have his best interest at heart. He sounds down right gloomy to me and someone who has lost all hope of ever feeling like they deserve the right to expect anything good in their life without feeling guilty for doing it in the process and we all know where that stems from.

Thanks for such a great post. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I think with the New Year we are bombarded with these so-called words of wisdom that only aide in covering up the real truth about where our problems really originated from…mommy and daddy.

Peace,
Kris

22

Darlene,

I just read your response to Kaycee #15. In that case the heck with him!!! He isn’t going to help anyone including himself with that way of thinking. Thnx for expanding on this because I wasn’t sure where your tone in your post was coming from but now I do!!!

Kris

23

Hi Darlene and all,
“Your expectations are too high” is no different from “you’re too sensitive”.However,in normal life circumstances,the exact same quote might have nothing harmful in it.It might refer to a picky woman in a dating situation.The problem with inspirational quotes in general is this:

They work perfectly for normally raised people (i’ll call them nr), but they can be triggering for the abused.I’d like to enlarge a bit about the huge gap between the survivors/victims and the nr.Why do us victims become a niche? People run away from victims in general,afraid of the unknown.They don’t know how to treat us.It’s not only victims vs. abusers,but also victims vs.the normally raised.Usually,communities share like-minded people or,in caes of EFB, the same pain in our heart.But we also live in a world that doesn’t accept us.So,we are rejected both by abusers and by the nr.Personally,this hurts me.My friends only accept me if they don’t know about me being abused.As soon as they find out,i get the wierdest reactins:fear,disgust,blaming me,shock,pity etc.

Sure,i found my place here at EFB and i’m grateful.But i have many other things to share with the world,with society in general,besides being abused.There’s so much more to me than having pathological parents.It’s like a woman wearing glasses,and people identify her only for her glasses.In other words,abuse is not my entire identity.I want to enjoy other aspects of life that have nothing to do with abuse.I can only integrate by hiding my pain and my situation at home.But silencing my pain is not fair to me.Truth is,i’m envious of the normally raised,although it’s not their fault for being born priviledged,for having a good start in life.

Sometimes,when i’m in the park,i spot happy families.I walk a few steps behind them.I want to feel their positive vibe.I hold on to their energy and i feed on it while i’m home until the next day,when i go to the park again.I need to hear their laughter and their kind words to each other.For a moment,i imagine myself as being part of that family.It nurtures my soul.

24

Laura – your post #23 brought to mind a book that someone lent me to read. “The Dance of Anger”. It offered a lot of possible responses to poor treatment. The method was basically to respond to angry people without your own anger. It encouraged setting aside your own feelings to reach out in attempt to understand what is behind the anger in hope of restoring a relationship.I kept thinking as I read the book, why does the author keep insisting that I change my behavior to try to change what really can’t be changed.

When I returned the book – I told the lender that the suggestions in the book may work for “normal people” but I’m not dealing with “normal”. I actually have TRIED everything that the book recommended at one time or another and it backfired on me every time.

I was very grateful that the lender understood me. She responded “You’re making the right decision then.”

Hobie

25

Hobie,i agree.It seems that the majority of opinions and lifestyle advice,even motivational quotes,are for the normally raised.Survivors just don’t fit in anywhere,except for specialised forums and blogs.Also,there are books especially written for the abused.Even optimistic up-lifting quotes are not made for us,although their specific goal is to encourage,such as:life goes on,don’t look back etc.Their purpose is good,but to many of us,they are insulting.The same for words such as the famous “should”.It’s only an indication,but for us it sounds patronizing,like a command.We often hear the abusers voice in places where there’s only good intention.Between friends,a simple teasing joke such as “you’re ugly” can cause the victims to hurt inside,while the normally raised just laugh it off and have a good time.

Here is the trap.Some quotes are not meant to cause harm.It’s just that we see everything through a blurred distorted lense,because of what happened to us.When i read books,i keep in mind who the message is for.That way i don’t feel neither offended,nor triggered.I join the lender who told you that you made a right decision.The book was about anger.But there’s anger towards abuse and anger towards a minor conflict in a normal family.In that case,the author might be right,but his words don’t apply to victims.Perhaps they can be put into practice in normal cirumstances.Then and only then,changing your behavior may have an echo in others.But abusers have no communication skills.They are self absorbed and couldn’t care less about you changing your behavior.

26

Hobie #24, what you described about that book reminds me of the maddening ” be the bigger person” cliche. Why did I always get selected to be the bigger person? It’s akin to rolling over and playing dead. I know the answer now. It was because me being the bigger person represented the path of least resistance. The other person usually was an irrational, persistent, conflict- oriented person, and the third party offering the hated cliche knew it. Far easier to get Amber to give in and think she was getting a doggie bone with the grand title of “the Bigger Person”.
Trying to understand the other persons view in a conflict is okay, but it should be reciprocal. If preserving the relationship has to be one sided because the other person is too selfish to care about my feelings, then I don’t want or need that relationship.

27

Darlene,

Thank you for this post. It really struck a chord with me. For most of my life I’ve been surrounded by abusers (first in my FOO) who told me I expected too much and that I should just take what was/is given to me and not protest or complain. Even in counseling (many different counselors) I was “told” in varied ways that I shouldn’t expect more than I was given. It felt like a conspiracy by the world to keep me down and to never have hope for better treatment. That life was to be endured and to not seek or hope for better things/treatment in life. What ensued was decades of depression while in my FOO and then in a marriage that set me up for even more emotional and verbal abuse. What struck me about what you said was the part where you couldn’t believe that that person who posted actually implied that the expectation to be loved by your family is having too high of an expectation. I don’t think it’s too much to ask but my FOO seems to think so. Because I talked about the abuse, three of my four siblings became angry, protected/protect the abuser (so-called dad), and cut me out of their lives. Just because I wanted to be loved and cared about by my FOO, they verbally and emotionally abused me and abandoned me yet again continuing the generational sin of my dad. The abused have become abusers because they won’t acknowledge their own abuse. My pleas to be loved and included and still retain who I am as an individual were met with abuse and abandonment again. Why should anyone accept this as okay and having too high expectations?

28

Hi Laura # 25,

You make so many good points. I think that because we were abused we do see things in a different way then “normally raised” people do and I think that we do have to learn how to be aware of our triggers so we don’t take what people are saying out of context but what gets me is when I try to share my point of view on how something that was just said might be interpreted by someone who was abused I am met with an unwillingness to hear what I have to say and that is what I find to be disrespectful. The point is we do come from two different worlds and unfortunately just the mere fact that we were abused causes some people to be uneasy but that is something that they need to work on just like we need to deal with our triggers. It all comes down to mutual respect and once again society as a whole is not willing to give us the respect that we deserve due to their own fears and insecurities getting in the way when the topic of child abuse is brought up. Boy does that sound familiar!!!

As far as these “words of wisdom” spouting out of people’s mouths all around us I think that we need to find our balance and not get carried away with making a mountain out of a mole hill but at the same time we can’t ignore something that is blatantly demeaning to someone who was abused and that continues to perpetuate the same sick way of thinking that our abusers inflicted upon us like the poster did on Darlene’s site. We need to be cognizant of the fact that normally raised people don’t see things the same way we do but that doesn’t mean that they are trying to get in their digs at us either. It just means that we need to educate them more on how what they are saying can have a negative impact on someone who had to endure complex trauma at the hands of their own parents.

Also from your post # 23 you talked about how you get the weirdest reactions when your friends find out that you were abused and I don’t mean to discredit them in any way but my initial thought was are these people really your friends??? I have 3 close friends and none of them react weird towards me and they all know that I have DID. I get nothing but warmth and compassion from them and our relationship has more to do with every day things then anything to do with me being abused and the only reason I am bringing this up to you is because I want you to have people in your life who mutually respect you and the reaction that you are describing to me is a reaction that I would expect from society in general but not a genuinely true friend. Maybe I am misinterpreting what you were saying but if not I hope this helps.

My heart went out to you when you described how you would imagine yourself being a part of that happy family. I know how you feel. So many times I catch myself witnessing love between family members and I think to myself I will never have that. All those unmet dreams go into the grieving pot that we have become so familiar with.

None of us are defined by our abuse alone. We have so much more to offer then just that but I want to be a part of the solution that ends the ongoing denial that our society so desperately wants to hold on to when it comes to admitting just how devastating being abused as a child really is and how it affects you for the rest of your life.

Peace,
Kris

29

Hi Darlene! Happy 2015!
Reminds me of something else my momster used to say “Beggars can’t be choosers” and I didn’t really understand much of what she meant by that. Something like “You’re not in a position to make any decision so you’ll accept whatever we deal you” Or “your position of dependency means you have to take whatever you’re dealt”.
My momster would argue that it was “my choice” to interpret what she said and did “that way” but I was also not allowed to question what she meant.

I used to laugh about “Catch 22” being a favorite book of mine. No wonder:)

@Everyone, my mother considered herself to be in the most normal of normal, regular families. It was her touchstone, what she was really after through her marriage and kids. How disappointed she was in some of us when we failed to bring her it all. And in many ways, my mom was “ubernormal” in her kid-driving to swimming, cake-making in a pinny, homework supervising (even beyond her own level of education).

And I’m sure if you asked her she would affirm absolute normality in her child-slapping, son-favoriting, part-time-working, tv-flopping, life. The real “not normal” was me. And I haven’t done anything “like everyone else” ever. (I mean, of course I have, but the “argument” is held that I’m otherwise. This is a blessing and a curse.)

30

My parents treatment left me with very little to no expectations that I could do or be anything. I was really groomed to be helpless! I was also groomed to consider myself to be worthless of anything good and big and successful. I think back to those years as a child/young adult and even until a couple of years ago, and now I can see things for what they were very clearly. I did miss many opportunities to be or do something or to discover who I was and if I had gifts or talents in doing things…I was trapped in fear of failure and feelings of helpless overwhelming no expectations for myself. I hope this gives someone here hope….those lost chances because of parental abuse and neglect and being forced to believe that I should have no regard for myself or try for something great for myself or have any good expectations for any of that….it actually hasnt been too late! The chances for learning and growing and discovering might be different since I am no longer 20 or 30 yrs old , but they are still there in new ways and just as much fun and importance. My abusers were wrong about me and now I know it and am free of it and life is now filled with exciting expectations. Life didnt cheat me…it is still out there for the living no matter how old or young we are, and I am so grateful to understand that at this point in my life when most women are bemoaning their lost youth and looks. I am actually loving and embracing changes and life and new experiences …and even my looks…which I used to get made fun of for. Those low to no expectations are CRAP, and people who spout that off to others might either be abusers themselves or they truly do not understand how wonderful it is to have high expectations..which are normal expectations. To me, having expectations is like having hope.

31

I remember several times being told my expectations “were too high” because I made an issue about how my family was treating me…belittling, sarcasm, condescending, ridicule. When my little boy was six, my first husband left me for another woman. During that time, I was devastated because it appeared that we were going to divorce. Although I didn’t date anyone until nearly three years later, I met a man out of state who was interested in me and we began to keep in phone and email contact and he understood that I would not see him until after I was divorced. My ex, who had left me, was a control freak with borderline tendencies. After he left, he set up a recording device to record my phone calls and a recording device to bug my interactions on our computer. He also worked for the phone company and had access to my outgoing and incoming calls. He contacted my narcissistic family to let them know that I was having an affair! And that he really wanted to work it out with me, but I refused to let him come home! Total lies! He didn’t want to work it out but he triangulated the situation with my sister and parents. My family has always scapegoated me and he knew how easy it would be to do this! Until I met my husband I have today, I remained celibate except for one kiss from one guy in between husbands. Anyway, before my husband left, the garage wall siding and insulation was taken down and the wind was blowing into my house making the house chilly. After the divorce, my mom got my brother and brothers in law and my dad to help me. Now, my ex-husband had helped all of them with house projects while we were married, so it was not as if they were asked to do something way out of line. I made a bunch of food for the workers and everyone came over including my sisters, sisters in laws, and all the little kids while they fixed the siding. It was apparent that the whole family was angry with me. My one jerk brother in law went on my computer to spy on my goings on to see if I had subscribed to any dating sites. (I had not). He laughed because I had dust on my ceiling fan and ridiculed me for it. My other brother in law acted terse and rude. My brother did not show up, despite that we had helped him move more than once. They made ridiculing comments about my online boyfriend (which was never really a boyfriend, just someone I could talk to and lifted up my days and eventually found someone else before my divorce went through.) They laughed and laughed and humiliated me. I never asked for help with my house again. I had neighbors or paid for a handyman and risked being scalped which sometimes happened. They made fun of me all the time. Like I was a loser who could not find a man. The ironic part is that I met a great guy a couple of years later after that. He’s a big, tall, handsome man who has a tremendous education with two master’s degrees in scientific fields, better looking, more talented and accomplished than my brothers-in-law and my brothers put together. He smelled out the family dysfunction right away, but it wouldn’t have mattered, they had nothing to do with him really, were completely unfriendly because how could a loser like Eira get someone like him, there must be something wrong with him! Ha ha! I got the last laugh. So now I barely have anything to do with my family.

Going back to this subject, I did NOT have too high expecations. I just wanted to be treated like a regular, normal family member, not condescended, not looked down on, not scapegoated, not poked fun of. But it seemed the only role that was available to me was the rock bottom role in the family, the rug that they scraped their shoe on, the person they could poke fun of and no one ever defended or stuck up to. When I found my strength and my boundaries, I was kicked out the family so fast my head spun. Their story is that I quit them, but they quit me as soon as I told them I would not be mistreated or made fun of. They barely will look at my husband because he is a giant and has a very deep voice and will not tolerate any disrespect.

32

I love your comment and your kind words to me,Kris #28.You understand me completely and you also bring up some very important and relevant issues.The expectations thing depends very much on the context.Some children are picky when it comes to food,some women are too picky about choosing a men etc.If the quote refers to that,i’m ok with it.But if it refers to me being abused and having no expectations,then of course i get triggered and upset.”No expectations,no dissapointement”.I heard women going through a breakup saying just that,but regarding love.I agree that the idea in itself is totally wrong.

The normally raised must be educated.There are so many campaigns for protecting the environment.Why not also for understanding the victims? Information might help building a bridge between the 2 worlds.The final goal is to unite them until they become one.It’s risky telling somebody:”I was abused,so please don’t say x, y, z.” In reality,the list of triggering stuff is huge,and the nr will eventually get tired of avoiding triggers and walking on eggshells around victims.That’s where the rejection comes from.I’m sure it’s not out of malice on their part.If i were nr,i wouldn’t know how to trea a victim either.That’s why raising awareness is the solution.

I know that people reacting weird are not my friends.I just don’t know how to call them.If i walk away from them,i’ll be all alone,and i don’t want that.I once had a toxic friend.After i opened my heart to her about my abuse in detail,she had the nerve to harm me even more.She’s from another town,and she talks to her normal parents via skype.One day,we were in the park.She brought her laptop and she engaged in a loving conversation with her parents,with me there.I was sitting on the same bench right next to her,hearing how much they miss each other.

About the happy family illusion,we both feel the same.My heart goes out to you too when you describe your grieving.We have many things in common.I’d love it if i could talk to you more here on EFB.We have similar ideas and i’d love to exchange them with you.In my situation,virtual friends are better.The normally raised have limits in understanding me,but i don’t blame them.I explain to myself that there are 2 types of flowers in the world:the ones who grow in the forest and have plenty of light and water (the nr), and the cactus who grows in the dry desert (us,the abused).BOTH types of flowers are exquisite in their own beauty.Who opens their eyes shall see.

33

Hi Laura,

Your analogy regarding the two types of flowers is beautiful. I added it to my list of sayings that brings me comfort. Indeed the person who is brave enough to open up their eyes shall see. This also made me think about the flip side of what we abused have that the normally raised don’t. We have a shared camaraderie like no other. We share the worst kind of pain. The pain of being abandoned by our own parents and being taught that “who” we are was never good enough for them to love us and by experiencing that pain it gives us the innate ability to empathize with people on such a deeper level under a variety of different circumstances then the normally raised person could ever imagine doing. It works both ways but we are fortunate in that we have the ability to build our own “new” families that love us for “who” we are. The normally raised will never be able to experience the level of feeling that we can once we emerge from broken.

I understand what you are saying about the friend situation. You had to endure some really insensitive people who did not have the ability to empathize with your situation and you suffered immensely because of it. Virtual friendships are amazing and it is how I first started coming out of my shell because it was a safe environment for me to do it in but I want to tell you that it wasn’t until I was able to reach out to people in person that I was able to build up enough trust with inside of myself which enabled me to reach out and do more things with people, that eventually led me to being able to EXPERIENCE some joy and actually have some fun for the first time in my life. I want you to experience that too and you can’t get that on-line but I am more then happy to be your virtual friend just the same!!

I know if someone like me can do it anyone can because I am telling you I isolated myself for 48 stinkin years!!! Nobody got in!!! I challenge you to find the courage to reach out to somebody again. Don’t let those ignorant people stop you from forming bonds with people who will bring you comfort and joy too. There’s a whole other world out there and remaining in this abused world is not the answer. The normally raised got us on that one!!!

Peace,
Kris

34

Unfulfilled expectations causes anger to develop in the person not having his expectations met. This is not about unfulfilled expectations. it is about accepting what is and moving forward from there.

35

Hi Alice # 29 Every time I read you post with your coined phrase “momster” I crack up. EXCELLENT choice of words. I heard the ole “beggars can’t be choosers” for an eternity too. Glad I don’t have to hear it anymore!!

Hi Finally Free #30 Your words were really encouraging. I was taught that same “helplessness” too and it crippled me for a very long time. Very hard to overcome that sick mindset. When you wrote “Those low to no expectations are CRAP, and people who spout that off to others might either be abusers themselves or they truly do not understand how wonderful it is to have high expectations..which are normal expectations. To me, having expectations is like having hope” you were spot on. We all deserve to have high expectations. It does mean hope. We need to hang on to it for dear life because to me it represents seeing our own worth and believing that we deserve to be treated with mutual respect and that we have the right to expect happiness in this world just like everyone else does. To me it represents love of one’s self.

Hugs,
Kris

36

Hi Kris
When I started ‘all this’ I thought the whole world would want to know! I thought my mother would finally listen to me and then she too could have what I had found (freedom and wholeness and real love) but she didn’t. And most other people didn’t want to hear about it either so I moved on to the ones who did want to hear it! (and turns out that there are millions of people who DO want to hear it! Yay!)
It will be the enlightened that change the world, not the one’s who refuse to hear. I am okay with that now. 🙂
Hugs, Darlene

(p.s. about the context of the way this guy wrote the comment, I wondered at first if he was confused, but then I read the original blog post that he was commenting on and I realized that he was offering his ‘solution’ which was a judgement… I guess he isn’t ready yet.. “

37

Laura, and everyone in the discussion about the term “normal”.
I have given a lot of thought to this over the last 10 years and what I have realized is that it isn’t about normal vs abuse… it is about LOVE vs NOT loved. This is more clear if we see Love as an action word. And the real kicker is that people who HAVE been raised with REAL love are actually VERY understanding about what we are talking about here and very supportive of those of us who draw serious boundaries. It is the ones in denial of their own situation that try to convince mistreated people to try to understand the perpetrators of that mistreatment.

This whole thing has nothing to do with money or privilege either. It has to do with the misuse of power and control. When I took my life back I took it back from ALL the world that didn’t accept me. And I don’t involve myself in any way with any of those types anymore. That is the work part of this ~ to change on the inside enough that we SEE who those abusers are and keep walking when the approach us. Well… easier said than done but it is doable. I did it. 🙂
hugs, Darlene

38

Hi Lynne
The thing that was so hard for me to understand was that half the time they are lying; They don’t believe this crap that they feed us because if they did, they would LOVE us in the action of the word. Love does not ask the one loved to put up with abuse. Love does NOT abuse.
Thanks for your post, I know the distress you are talking about,
hugs, Darlene

Hi Hobie,
Good catch on the way the book was directing people. Love doesn’t ask love to change.
hugs, Darlene

39

Hi Amber
The thing about the bigger person and that whole thing is just another tactic. These people will say anything to get what they want. The real bigger person faces the truth about the situation and doesn’t justify abuse! I hate that tactic!
Thanks for sharing, Hugs, Darlene

Hi Alice
Happy 2015~ !!
I would love to have the chance to respond to someone “are you calling me a begger? and exactly what do you mean by that??” LOL No one says that expression to me anymore… (not complaining!)
I heard all that crap too about ‘my choice to interpret whatever they said differently than they said it’ but today I know that LOVE doesn’t treat people that way. Love doesn’t dismiss peoples feelings or rights, call them ‘beggers’, devalue or look down upon…. well I could go on… lol
Living in freedom from all that is heaven on earth!
Hugs, Darlene

40

Hi FinallyFree~
YES we were groomed to BE helpless! That is how the whole dysfunctional system works. If they used their power to empower us to be independent and functional, then they would not be able to control… and then they would not have their object jumping through hoops in an attempt to ‘prove’ that the perp is worthy, lovable… ugg.
Great comments!
hugs, Darlene

Hi Eira
Love your final paragraph ~ YES we were never asking for something crazy.. our expectations were really right, perfect and human. And the minute that they even think we are treating them the way they treat us, we are banned.. that is a truth leak right there. Real relationship is a two way street full of mutual respect.
Hugs, Darlene

41

Darlene #36, I thought exactly what you thought. We really did want the best for our families. Too bad they didn’t want the same thing for us but I can’t help them and I know it so you are right. Time to move on to the ones who do. Thnx so much for your response. It really hit home. I feel like I have been banging my head against the wall for a very long time on this one. Intellectually I knew that I couldn’t help them but I was still holding on to the hope that somehow I would be able to get through to them and have that mother /daughter relationship that I always dreamed of having and now the truth finally just sank in. It’s just not going to happen is it. WOW.

When you know, you just know!! It’s a mixed blessing. On the one hand I feel a sense of relief and on the other I need to grieve my loss. God has been trying to reveal this truth to me for quite some time now. I think I just needed to hear it from somebody else in order for it to sink down into my heart and that somebody just happened to be you!!

Peace,
Kris

42

hehe Kris:) I sometimes find stuff about her to laugh at:) She’s not the brightest button in the sewing basket either;)
Darlene, that was funny too:) I wonder if our relationship would have been better (or at this point, exist) if she had been able to laugh at herself, apologize for being batshit insane sometimes. But I never saw her do that. Not once.

43

In my experience, lowering expectations is often an invitation for (further) abuse/exploitation. If you live by the idea that they are your parents and you are duty-bound to have a relationship with them, then going in with the lowest of expectations, and trying to manage the problems as they come along, trying to keep up “boundaries” and “limits,” is probably the best advice there is. I think it’s impossible, though, to completely devoid yourself of expectations. You were born to these people who were meant to fulfill a role. They signed up for you to have expectations on them!!! —To care for your basic needs and wellbeing while you were growing up. They failed, causing whatever degree of damage, and now they don’t want to hear about it; they want to continue to dictate a reality that in no way helps you but instead causes more damage, just because that’s what works for them (except it doesn’t). It’s absurd to force yourself to endure that. I think I grew up with the belief that we are all meant to take care of each other, and be understanding and accepting of people’s incapacities, so if my parents fail—for whatever reason—to be good parents to me, that in itself doesn’t relieve me of my own obligation. I.e. if I was accountable to a god of some sort, it would be a cop-out/excuse to say, well, look at them and what shitheads they were to me! That would be trying to shirk out of my own responsibilities—it doesn’t matter how other people behave; I’m to be held accountable to standards independent of what other people are doing. (That’s not what I believe anymore, or rather I have different ideas of what that means.) And as for them, of course I’m supposed to understand and be sympathetic toward all the reasons why they were not able to fulfill their responsibilities. But then, okay, there’s some leniency—if you have mental/emotional problems so bad that you cannot perform your duties, it’s like getting a doctor’s note to say it’s okay to go no contact. You’ll get this god’s sympathy, understanding and forgiveness for being a fallible human being, having had to break that contract. But what kind of god would make you sign up to take care of people who will cause harm to you your whole life (when you were but a child), a god whose love, sympathy and forgiveness toward you for having failed to live up to impossible, self-destructive terms/expectations, exist on the condition that you try your hardest to try to live up to those terms/expectations, just so that you can have the privilege of being born… (to a life of pain)? What a horrible set up! That sounds like an abusive, power-hungry, controlling, sadist of a god, pairing me up with people to have a life that has broken me down so many times that it is impossible to have a relationship with them, but not to worry, said god will still be with me, loving me through my brokenness, forgiving me for my inability to fix/heal my family. Of course it’s just an abstraction of the laws of my family, taken to the laws of a god or Life, the universe, whatever. It’s nonsense. It’s interesting to take it to that level though, because I see how deep the dependency, the cripple dependent on a shoulder, first crippled by the one now offering the shoulder, how that would slowly lend itself into a kind of Stockholm Syndrome with your own conception of the universe, life, or a god (like those who believe suffering is good, being abused is the universe’s, or such a god’s way of teaching you life lessons, making you a better person because through the trials and tribulations of healing through the abuse, you are a richer person, which, so they believe, wouldn’t have happened without the abuse, ergo abuse is good). But it makes no sense! So now I think two things: one, that I signed no contract with Life, had no obligations, was the child dependent on parents who made a choice that came with responsibilities that they weren’t able to live up to for x number of reasons, and displaced them onto me, etc. And two, I did actually act entirely in the realm of care because I spoke the truth that may have offered them a path toward healing but they rejected it. I chose the truth that lies hand in hand with caring/love and rejected their destructive version of “caring.” And I am loved (by whatever), or I am loveable, not in spite of, not anyway, but because of and inclusive of my choices that have been an extension and reflection of the truth of who I am and what I believe in and my attempts to live accordingly (not always perfectly but with intention/commitment).

Giving up the expectations on myself is the hardest, letting go of the going-round-in-circles, trying to make sure in my mind that everything really was impossible. Really, it seems more like my problem is that my expectations (of others) are prone to be too low, not too high.

44

The article takes me back to my dating days, after another breakup and/or disappointment somebody told me to lower my expectations. I was dumbfounded, and I am so glad I didn’t because now I am in a happy marriage with two wonderful children. Even 20+ years ago I knew not to settle for less when it came to a lifepartner, and I when I met him I was preparing myself for the eventuality that I would never find some one and to live alone. Never ever lower your expectations, it is not worth it

45

What an excellent post Alaina! From what my mother has said, she also had some expectations of her own concerning her children. Things like they would “just go along with things”, or that they would “be grateful” towards her after she had provided roof/clothes/food (never mind how outrageous that sounds).

That we would “make her proud”. That we would “be there later in life to take care of them.” That we would have kids in our turn and get married to people she liked. That’s quite the list already. Before you’re even born no less!

I’ve also met people with expectations of motherhood that were entirely about themselves and once the child became a reality they fled.

Also having “no expectations” can also be misunderstood as in fact having expectations NOT to be treated well. It’s a strange sort of negative that can hide in statements like that.

46

Just reading all of these stories, all the things we were told, it is just shocking. It is the opposite of everything I want to teach my child. I am helping him through a bad time right now, letting go of a friend that has not been a good friend, who says demeaning things to him and does a great deal of gossip spreading behind his back. As painful as this is, reading the experiences everyone here has had, I feel good about teaching him to expect more of the people he calls friends and allows in his inner circle.

I was always told by stepfather, not to bite the hand that fed me. I was told I would marry Joe six pack and be barefoot and pregnant my whole life. I was also told as a very young child that I was completely responsible for my own emotions and feelings and if I chose to be sad, angry or upset over what was happening to me then I was the cause of my own unhappiness. Its funny how abusers can take these self help ideas and twist them and make them something perverse.

I want to teach my child to recognize his feelings and empower him to leave behind those who fail to live up to his expectations of how someone close should treat him. I want him to have higher standards for himself and others then those I was raised with.

47

Hi Alaina,

Your post really resonated with me. Everything you said described the mentality of my mother and father. It didn’t matter how badly that they treated me. I was expected to take whatever crap they dished out and be ok with it. The mere fact that I was their child automatically put me at a lower level in their mind. A level where there doesn’t need to be any mutual respect. A level that says I have to eat their crap and be happy about it and then to top it off SOMEHOW I still owe them just because they are my parents. It was never enough. No matter what I did it was never enough to please either one of them and now I see just how futile this sick way of thinking really is and how damaging believing their lies cost me throughout my lifetime. They taught me not to have ANY expectations when it came to my self but when it came to them, the world was the limit.

I struggled so long with the concept that God holds me responsible for taking care of my parents in their old age no matter how disrespectful they are to me and now I know the truth. God entrusted THEM to take care of ME when I was a child. To nurture me and comfort me and to teach me my own self worth. They did none of the things that God entrusted them to do. Now I see it wasn’t God’s voice that I was hearing in the back of my head telling me that I had to take care of them it was theirs. The very same one’s that brainwashed me into believing that what they were doing to me was alright. It wasn’t God’s voice at all. Now I hear God loud and clear. He doesn’t ask us to take care of people who are abusing us. Once we offer our help and they refuse He tells us to stay as far away from them as we possibly can because they are toxic to us in our lives and He is the one who will take care of them from there on, not me. What a wonderful realization. No more feeling obligated to people who have done nothing but hurt me my whole entire life. Who never once were there to help me or comfort me or just plain old respect me as a human being let alone respect me for being their child.

Thnx for the great post. It’s a real eye opener.

Kris

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The expectations of adult children by their abusive parents is marked as “popular” on Slate today. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2013/02/abusive_parents_what_do_grown_children_owe_the_mothers_and_fathers_who_made.html?wpisrc=burger_bar

Some interesting links in there too.

@Kaycee. Yep, I was also told “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” and how extraordinarily offensive that is, I can’t even begin. It suggests that the child is something like an animal, not a human.
We also talk about “raising” children. Like what? Turkeys? Wheat?

I’m really happy (it brings me hope:)) to hear about the help and guidance you are providing your son. I recall running into bullying issues as a kid and the response from my mother was “Just get on with it” with no suggestion on “How” exactly I might do that aside “stop being friends with them then”. I guess I was lucky if she spent 5 minutes on the “problem”.

Later on she criticized me for “always burning bridges”.

When you said “I was also told as a very young child that I was completely responsible for my own emotions and feelings and if I chose to be sad, angry or upset over what was happening to me then I was the cause of my own unhappiness. Its funny how abusers can take these self help ideas and twist them and make them something perverse.” Same here and this is exactly why I so dislike these “self-help” phrases.

In my case I’ve actually delved pretty far into the study of my mind and emotions (via meditation) to see for myself whether in fact I do “choose” my thoughts and feelings. And my conclusion so far is that it’s an extremely mixed bag. I mean aside that if I really COULD choose how I felt, don’t you think I’d straight up choose something nice and pleasant? Contrast this with her “You make me angry” statements and you have a recipe for batshit right there.

Here’s another article on the issue http://users.ugent.be/~wbeyers/scripties2011/artikels/Barber_1996.pdf and the author has also written a book http://www.apa.org/pubs/books/431663A.aspx

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and if I chose to be sad, angry or upset over what was happening to me then I was the cause of my own unhappiness.

whoever came up with the “you choose your reaction” garbage should be jailed for malpractice.

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HI Alice,

When I was a teen, I was doing something for school (a career and personal planning questionnaire) and one of the questions was to ask my parents if and what their expectations were of me in my life. At first, both my parents said that they had no expectations (my parents were/are always good at giving the correct answer; they’re quite good at talking the talk and I’ve had to weed through the inconsistencies and hypocrisy), but then my mom said that she had no expectations, except that I be happy. My dad and I tried to explain to her that she probably meant “hoped” not “expected.” My mom maintained that she meant “expect” but didn’t explain, while my dad and I went on in linguistic explanations… Now, looking back, it’s interesting because, indeed, I was expected to be happy. I lived my life as though it were a crime and a shame to expose sadness/depression, as did my mother, the expectation to always be better than whatever might have taken you down…. And of course their answer that they had no expectations was complete balderdash. At the time, I was living by the rules so much and for so long that I was disconnected from the fact that my life had been dictated by those rules. I’d internalized their expectations so deeply that I imagined them facets of my own personality and life, that that was just what life was—exactly as they would have me believe. It was only as I tried to separate later on that I started to get a clearer understanding of their rules/expectations, the script they had me living by. It’s super confusing, though, when you grow up with parents who sound like really good parents, who know what it is to be good parents and speak as though they live by those principles, seemingly totally ignorant of what they are really teaching and behaving/modelling most of the time, when not waxing philosophical about their elevated, socially-concerned ideas on life. It’s insane to me that they might not know their own contradictions! To me it was so ingrained—we are to present ourselves this way, but I must fulfill XYZ expectations, pretend as if it’s “natural” to me, in fact believe that it’s natural, and make sure to keep ABC hidden from view/knowledge.

And thanks for sharing the articles with everyone, Alice! I read the first one (the second one I have saved—it’s a wee bit long!). I appreciated it.

Kaycee (and Alice),
I appreciated what you wrote about your son. I had a hard time with friendships. I had the same basic group of friends all through elementary and high school and starting in grade 3, probably every year at least once, my friends would ditch me, talk about me behind my back, so basically ten years of this. For the most part, I would just wait it out until they liked me again. I might find other people to sit with during lunch hour. The first time it happened (in gr.3), it lasted a month. It actually started with me running away from my best friend one lunch hour (I’d started it like I was playing tag and then I just ran and she didn’t follow and then I wanted to be myself and walked around the school grounds on my own. I guess I hurt her feelings and then for a month she and my other friend wouldn’t have anything to do with me and would say shit about me.) I cried myself to sleep for a month. (Eventually I started going to find a friend in another class to play with her during lunch hour and that seemed to bring about the reconciliation, but that’s another story because that friend ended up hurting me the most over the years, the girl I kept trying to make like me more, did a few things over the years that were almost purposely self-humiliating, even though in the end I don’t even think I liked her anymore; in the end it became more about making things stable for myself, just to have people to sit with during lunch, even if I was a grouchy depressive, though I wasn’t always, sometimes I’d joke around, etc, when things were better; it went in cycles). I remember wanting to tell my mom back then, the first time, and not being able to get the nerve. This wasn’t so long after her brother had killed himself and my parents had separated for a little while, then got back together. My mom was this loud, busy woman, so set on her own ideas of what it is to be a good mom. She was not the mom who would listen and work with me. And I always had this constant reminder of her martyrdom, like she had enough to deal with in life and in “being a mom” to have to deal with me (haha). She was the head of the household, doing all the things to make life run. She eventually found out what happened through my teacher about 6 months later. I remember her asking me why I hadn’t told her, but it felt like she was just mad about that (like anything that made her feel like she might not be the greatest mom became accusatory toward me). She called my best friend’s mom. It just felt like she was making work for me because I had to deal with my friends being mad at me because their mom’s had gotten mad at them because of my mom phoning. And I thought my best friend’s mom was meaner than mine because she yelled more and her dad would hit her (or spank her) long past when my parents had stopped spanking me, so I felt guilty for my mom getting my friend in trouble…. In the years that followed, my parents knew nothing of what I went through at school. They decided on things to explain away why I didn’t go out, why I stayed in my room all the time. My mom would ask me why I didn’t talk to her, if I was okay. She’d tell me to smile. I always kept my mouth shut, said I was fine. I’d learned. As a kid, when my brother bullied me, I was supposed to just ignore him. There was a period of time when he would call me a loser or weird or swear at me, never mind the punching and all that, on a daily basis, it seemed. Younger than that, I remember sitting on the bathtub ledge crying over something my brother had done or said and my mom telling me that there was no point in crying, it didn’t do anything. I learned from these experiences. After my breakdown, when I started talking about my upbringing, my mom acted like she’d had no clue that I’d been unhappy, no idea, despite everything, despite a call from the guidance counsellor, despite common knowledge that I “lived” in my bedroom. My mom’s words: “I understand that you believe that you had an unhappy childhood.” It took her so long to finally admit that “in retrospect,” looking at a photo of me from those years, for example, that yes, I’d been unhappy… but she had clearly known back then. I’d been living by the rules under the surface. Whatever she may have put forward, as though things had changed, nothing had changed. She ruled the roost, things went her way, and her way never worked for me in the past, so why would I trust her? She knew I hadn’t trusted her either; she admitted that a couple years ago. But then what? Nothing. The family way seems to be just wait it out, hope it works out fine, pretend it’s fine, life goes on and there’s always something else, and if it turns out it was a disaster that caused real damage, pretend you had no idea. It’s so deeply engrained that you actually believe that you had no idea. I used to live inside that and I know the surface thing of “i didn’t know” and then the deeper I know that I knew—about many, many things in the immediate and extended family. Denial fractures your brain in way that it is in a way true that you really didn’t know but you also did know, because it keeps all the pieces in different places. When you’re ready to be honest about life, all the pieces start to come together, and you start to understand what you knew all along.

Hi Kris,
It’s interesting for me because intellectually I don’t believe in God, as a being, but I know that I have an obsession with “meaning” that basically fits the idea of a god. That voice I have comes more from my dad and his ideas than my mom. My mom was the one in charge, but my dad was the one who always spoke of putting yourself in other people’s shoes. My standards intellectually came from him. There was this idea that my mom was just “right” about things. She felt her way through life and believed in things because of instinct, intuition and gut feelings, so she said. The idea was that she was a really good mom, though. My dad once said that if my mom was religious, she’d be a fanatic. The idea was like if it weren’t for the fact that she was naturally right about everything, she’d be a tyrant. My dad is the son of a preacher and he struggled with all that, went from rigidity to a more touchy-feely religion, ended up in a cult, his father pulled him out of that, then he rejected religion, became an atheist, and now has a more allegorical belief in god, minus church. He’s a passive person, following my mom, and for much of my growing up his emotions were kept under wraps. I had a relationship with him based in talking about ideas. We were similar. Part of that was the grooming thing, though, the script. It was my dad’s philosophies that kept me bound in from an intellectual stand point. My mom controlled me through my fear of her; she had the hold over emotions. With my dad, it was about making him proud, being wise, the bigger person, as Amber was talking about. What he was really doing was teaching me how to be a good victim, not a good person. How to repress. Approval based in making people happy, being diplomatic, understanding, etc. A lot of that is fine, great even, if the people you’re dealing with are reasonable and also living equally to those ideals. But otherwise, it just means complete exploitation.

I’m with you, whether it be by god, life, chance, etc., my parents were given an opportunity; they were entrusted with a child. And they blew it. If there is a god, that god didn’t plan on all this for me. There was no divine plan for me to be disregarded. By definition, it just can’t fit. If such a god wanted all that, then that god is not God, but, you know, the other guy, dressed up as God. Taken to the abstract, it makes sense—dysfunction, as a controlling force, can be described as evil because it kills parts of you spiritually emotionally. If you believe in God, how do you fit in that evil as something within god’s self, so to speak? It’s a contradiction in terms basically. For me, what we’re talking about is that which is good, feeds good, wants and hopes for good, love, etc. vs. that which is destructive. The destructive can’t be inside the good, can’t be a part of the good. It’s crazy how we actually come to believe this stuff! I am sure no god, no good, could want you to hurt yourself for the purpose of nothing, of feeding into a system that is never satisfied and simply hurts others more. Something can contain both good and bad, but goodness itself by definition is just good. That’s it. It’s really dumb how confused a person can get by things that are quite simple and obvious. Certainly speaks to the power people can wield over other’s minds.

OKay, that’s all. Got to get on with my day. Thanks all.

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DXS, I agree! I don’t know what anyone else thinks about it but isn’t it “interesting” to find “spiritual advice” that seems to line up with what an abusive parent would say? Alaina’s post “nailed it” as they say!

I don’t think my mother knew anything about the whole “self-help” industry (and the only reason I do is because I was looking for ways to deal with growing up in such a horrible environment that I started buying self-help books at 16 or thereabouts.)

It’s way more probable that it came “naturally” to her to blame me for being unhappy at the way she was treating me and she also saw no conflict between telling me on the one hand that I “made her angry” and “chose to be unhappy” at the same time. But like I said, “not the brightest button”.

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Haha, DXS, I agree too!

Maybe the first person who said that meant that if someone really makes you angry, you can choose not to take a baseball bat to their head—maybe that’s more what they meant in terms of choosing your reaction.

You know, these parents, they don’t say things to make sense, they say things to get you to do what they want. Getting what they want is what makes sense to them! So, you know, whatever fits. In that sense, they can be quite “clever” in all their maneuvers… they had us tied for a long time. They may not be the brightest in their logic, but they seem to be quite good/skilled in knowing how to use things to their advantage. You can bounce around between seeing how stupid the things they did, said, were but then how conniving they were, too, in getting what they wanted. With quite a few people in life, I’ve wondered, Are you really stupid or really, really smart? How many times have people been duped by the idea that they “know not what they do,” so you forgive them and they keep getting to do what they’re doing? There’s no doubt that there are times that their stupidity “works” for them, so you start wondering… I’ve seen one of these types smirk when I made a comment suggesting something along that line. By that time I was a pet, behaving as wanted, making a comment about tactics he was using on someone else, suggesting he knew what was what and that it was purposeful. As long as I was saying it like it was okay, a joke, accomplice in his tactics, then great, but if I put power behind it, renounced it, etc., believe me, I’d be met with a denial and complete bewilderment so thorough I’m sure he’d really believe himself that he had absolutely no clue.

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I was told last night that I was too “needy” and that’s why my two older siblings don’t want me around (sister-in-law imparted this knowledge). How is it “too needy” to want to be loved and cared about by your family? That was my question. They don’t want me around because I speak the truth. Even when I do it carefully I’m still made out to be the bad guy and the projecting of all of the bad feelings from growing up with our narc dad are dumped on me. So nice to be talked about behind your back. After many years no contact because I got tired of being the only one carrying the relationships, they give me one chance (day) and because I didn’t conform to what they wanted they reject me and abandon me again (just like dear ole dad). Who wants to be a part of people like that anyway…

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Haha Alaina, great points all round! I’ve purposefully avoided going to visit my mother on occasion because I was afraid that I might very well hit her (although not with a baseball bat!) and so I held off.

And you know I contrast my holding back with her letting fly and slapping me as a kid. It definitely boggles my mind. And sometimes makes me think I should actually have slapped her when I had the opportunity. But we all know that would have been considered “assault” haha.

You asked “How many times have people been duped by the idea that they “know not what they do,” so you forgive them and they keep getting to do what they’re doing?

I’m still very much on the fence about whether they know or not. And perhaps they also very much know and just don’t give a damn because the daughter’s “place” is at the end of the family pecking order. Or they could believe in some other thing that justifies their behavior entirely (like a “too willful” child should have that will broken, which is something I heard at least two female family members actually say!)

I guess the difference is that I haven’t actually forgiven them. Mainly because they have denied doing anything untoward or that was not “just the done thing at the time”.

It kind of reminds me of the period when men thought it was ok to beat their wives.

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“No expectations, no disappointments.” … Sounds very much like “You’re being unreasonable to want ____. You’re too sensitive for feeling anything when you don’t get _____.” But being loved and treated with respect is vital to our wellness as human beings. It is a basic need/right. Who in the world would ever say: “you’re only hungry because you were expecting to eat today.” … um, no. I’m hungry because that is what my body needs in order to freaking LIVE. Ignorant people.

KR

(note to Darlene: I didn’t change my name’s spelling to be shady, haha – there’s a story behind it. Just part of my journey. Also, I am so happy to see the success and growing number of ones following of your beautiful website! Congrats!)

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Yeah, Alice, I’m sure they think it’s okay, and right, in fact. But what they say very often shifts whatever fits. Sometimes they take up a stance like the ends justify the means and their intentions for the ends were good, so just because it turned out bad and the means were bad, it was still good. They are very busy in self-justification. I don’t think that they are “really, really smart” but sometimes it seems that way. I think it’s “natural” to them at this point, like riding a bike. I have enough amassed memories to suggest my parents knew stuff—not the way I know these things, having deconstructed it so much… It’s almost like intentions are supposed to trump everything—like they’ll use all the tactics to get you in line but you’re supposed to also be bigger than the tactics, and do what they want because you know “deep down” they love you, so be the bigger person, put aside their flaws. Almost like the tactics are evidence of how much they care because their weaknesses in resorting to these tactics show how much they want you to love them, how much they need your love (this is perhaps specific to the kind of abuse I went through, fitting to my mom’s emotional needs), such that I’d love her despite her unfair treatment—as though I could prove love, love her out of her brokenness, etc. How much did she know she was using this? But if I didn’t play the bigger person game, then I wasn’t being a good daughter, at which point my dad would come to do her bidding to get me in line. She would stand by as that happened, knowing it was happening, holding the idea that my relationship with him was independent of her, yet knowing exactly the things he was saying (as well as defending what he was saying—but not to me, to someone else). They have all sorts of ways to make bad be good or okay. They need to believe in their good. As long as they are living inside it, and wanting their reality the way it is, they can’t have it so they know the way we know. But I don’t believe it’s because they’re not enlightened or because they’re too hurt, too broken, brain damaged to understand. Their motivations are clear as day to us once the fog has cleared. I’m just highly skeptical when the fog gets them what they want in life (even if it doesn’t work long term), to say that they’re victims of the fog, which is what I think it’s saying when we say they’re too stupid to know what they’re doing. It’s like they have a roadblock in their brain, construction zone, but the workers have disappeared. Stupidity that always benefits yourself is interesting. Personally, my stupidity tends to not benefit me. Plus, I’ve had these moments where the masks slip and I have a sense but denial is powerful and fractures things, lots of ways to excuse, justify, minimize, blame-shift, etc.

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Alice,
The other thing is that the way I was used emotionally is very much in line with how my grandma used my mom, and my mom knows how destructive that was. Faced with my experience, my mom simply denies and ignores and yet she still continued despite that to put forward expectations that reflect the same warped belief system. She doesn’t like being the victim of that symptom, but likes being the benefactor, but doesn’t want me to tell her that she’s making me her victim. I tell her that she is and it’s like being met with a brick wall. But at core my story is just another version of her story, another version of my grandmother’s story, etc. Definitely cultural as the article you just sent says (I only started to read it). But my mom knows the pain from her own experience, and not something cut off simply back in childhood. The dynamic was still alive and kicking into adulthood. My mom can only admit to similarities to her own mother if it was just unconscious treatment that did me harm, but stuff that suggest a motive, of her benefitting from using me, is the stuff she refuses absolutely… Well, anyway, I really have to get going now. Jeez, got too caught up…

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Hi Alaina 😀 I have to read this one properly a few times to understand.

But I can offer my initial reaction FWIW. It sounds like your parents were very articulate, intellectually-strong (ironically, the kind I wished for rather than the ones I had!) And that they put both of those great qualities in the service of something…well, else. I don’t know what to call it.

In my mother’s case, (now I have to question!) neither of those abilities seemed to be available to her (or so I thought and she didn’t try to convince me otherwise) and so her recourse was flat out denial and (feigned?) misunderstanding whenever I tried to broach “issues”.

Or if I went further, like, “really” pushed it with her, there would be a lot of crying and “I can’t do anything right! I was TRYING to do my best” kind of a meltdown until I would feel so terrible and wind up apologizing for hurting her so (or my father would make me apologize).

I also found your comments about your father very interesting. I mean I tried so much to be like him (rather than her). And on the whole, it’s been a “better” decision but better than, er, what?

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These abusers do know what they’re doing-notice how they turn it off when there are witnesses around.

I also used to wonder if my mom knew how mean she was to me but gradually realized that she could turn it off if there were people around. Though she hid her abuse of me from most, she was comfortable being mean to me around my sister and her best friend, and both often remarked about how mean she was to me.

Whenever I tried to talk things out with her, to every topic she’d say “I don’t remember that”. It was incredibly frustrating never being able to discuss anything with her because of her memory problems. When I was in my late 20’s and on a mission to “fix” the relationship I accidentally discovered that she was stonewalling. She’d kept insisting on “not remembering” when I tried to discuss things–I told her that we needed to get her to a neurologist because something was wrong. Suddenly she remembered everything and even added details to prove to me that she wasn’t senile.

Years later she was still using the “I don’t remember that” trick and I felt a strong urge to take my fist and smash her face in. Not long after I left for good.

Now that I’ve been gone for around for 14 years, she and her associates bill me as the evil daughter for abandoning such a sweet old woman.

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Lots of great input on did our parents know that they were abusing us. Before I started therapy 2 years ago if you would have asked me if I was abused I would have told you no. I would have told you that my childhood was good despite the fact that I have DID. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you one darn thing that was good about it but somehow in my head it was good. Hence the term generational abuse comes to mind.

The core nature of generational abuse is based around denial. Denial about how their own parents emotionally rejected and abandoned them and how horrible that really felt and its about doing anything that they possibly can do to avoid feeling those feelings ever again and if that means abusing me to shut me up and to keep me from triggering those same old emotions that’s what they are going to do and that is what generational abuse is all about in a nutshell.

Did they know…yes but it was on a subconscious level out of their full awareness and that’s because generational abuse involves brainwashing that normalizes the abuse to the point where you don’t even believe that it is abuse anymore. Hence that is why I used to say that I wasn’t abused but now since I came out of the fog I say you would have had to have been deaf, dumb, and blind not to know that what went on in that house was abusive. But that’s the whole point. Generational abuse does just that. It silences you. It makes you believe that what you are seeing really is happening to you. It muddies the waters so you can’t see that you are being abused and it becomes a way of life that is normal to you when the truth is it is beyond sick.

To me the truth is we ALL knew. We all knew underneath all of this garbage that how we were being treated was wrong. That’s why we used any means we could to cover up that pain through our addictions or whatever else we needed to do to do it and that includes
passing down the same sick warped belief systems that our parents taught us onto our own children. We just weren’t consciously aware of doing it just like they weren’t and until you are willing to break the cardinal rule of asking for help this same sick cycle of mass destruction is just passed down from generation to generation with no hope of anyone coming out of it alive.

Unfortunately when you are the one who emerges out of that fog first that doesn’t mean that anyone else around you wants anything to do with your new found freedom. They are still in it and until they are willing to come out of it there is no chance in holy heck of you ever having a mutually respectful relationship with them because generational abuse doesn’t have anything to do with mutual respect. It has to do with protecting yourself from any possibility of the truth coming out and that truth is how horrible it was to never feel loved by your own parents.

To me at that point it is up to them. They can either choose to have a mutually respectful relationship with me that involves owning up to their part in all of this mess and showing remorse for the pain that they caused me or they can choose to remain in the sick cycle of “lie to yourself until you die” and continue to feel the pain from their past that they chose not to deal with.

From what I have seen 9 times out of ten they will hold on to their denial like a life preserver when the truth is that is the very thing that is causing them to drown in their own pain. That’s why I am cutting that string. They aren’t going to take me down with them anymore. They made that choice not me.

Peace,
Kris

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I have been doing a lot of thinking on “learned helplessness”. It is very interesting that abusers want to ensure that the person they are abusing is forced into being helpless so that they dont fight back or even realize that they could fight back. My life in the past feels like it was a fight every day to survive, and then a fight to function as an adult in “the real world”, and a fight to overcome, and then a fight to get free and healed. The mental and emotional and physical stresses and abuses were a fight to figure out and make sense of. And yet, all along I WAS helpless in so many vitally important ways. How to cope with life and people and my own self in a healthy way, how to succeed and feel great about that success, how to love and enjoy life and challenges instead of dreading, fear and anxiety. And i never learned how to fight THEM back! I could go on and on on this topic. It irritates me so much even now to think of how many years I took all of that crap from my family and others because I had learned so well how to be helpless…and therefore a target of sorts. And yet, looking back , I see that I was actually a fighter and must have had a lot of strength to survive and overcome in the many many ways that I have. The abusers were the weak ones and the ones who were cowards. How twisted! They are the ones who chose not to fight and face the truth.

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Hi Alice,
I think a lot of it with my parents can be explained by them just not wanting things to be true. There were always moments when the truth came to the surface, sometimes in little ways, sometimes in bigger ways. But life goes on, other things take over, and everyone’s playing to the same tune. And there might have been a resolve to change behaviour, but a reluctance to do things that would mean letting go of the power attained through that previous behaviour (which means that even if surface level things change, nothing at core changes). Kris’s comments about generational abuse and denial are, I think, solid and true. With my family, on both sides, my parents aren’t in denial about the pain of their experiences growing up. I think there are definite areas they haven’t fully looked at, nothing is particularly resolved, but they’re definitely not in the land of my parents were wonderful parents. It’s like they got halfway-through the process we’re in but then something happened. I can tell you exactly what that something is, too: death. My dad, his brother drowned, then his parents died in a car accident. My mom, her dad died in a logging accident, her brother killed himself. There are some serious dynamics that make fully dealing with these issues extremely difficult, including taking into account the other members of the family who are alive and how things connect, every action having a reaction and whatnot. I could explain specifically, but it would probably take me ten pages to write out all the dynamics. I’m not sure how much it’s the pain of the past they are avoiding so much as the cost of being fully honest. The risk, the vulnerability, so much to lose. If not everyone is on board about things, then what? I believe their need to hold onto the power position in relation to me, in regards to not recognizing certain things, has much to do with their relationship and position to other people (this could be even with people who are dead)… All this being too difficult, and sweeping things under the carpet and living to image and what they want to believe about life and themselves, much too easy, when everyone is playing that game for their own reasons. Someone like me just doesn’t fit anymore. Can’t I just hold onto my knowledge in my own mind and let that be? Hold myself detached, make limits/boundaries, deal with present reality, rather than requiring a full spotlight on the past? Because that’s the way the family is held together (and for a while, that might work, but not for long). My parents’ intentions weren’t to harm me. Their awareness always comes in the aftermath. The problem is one of taking responsibility and all that would entail. There’s a lot at stake and so they want me to make do with their partial recognition—but for me there’s no halfway. There’s the truth and then there’s more truth. I won’t settle for a mix of truth and denial/lies/omissions…. The reason why I let go of denial (slowly over these ten years) is because the cons outweighed the pros of living in that system and playing the game. For those inside it, the pros still outweigh the cons. Even if it leaves them with this core pain, etc., sometimes you choose to stick with the devil you know. It takes enormous courage to be honest with the world, to be vulnerable, to let the truth fly, not knowing the costs and being so cut off from what true freedom is that you don’t know what it is that you’ve lost in exchange for false comfort. Denial is blanket. Truth is harsh.

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Kris…I appreciated what you wrote comment #61! The paragraph that “To me the truth is we ALL knew”…really struck my heart. I think you are absolutely spot on. Actually, everything you wrote was powerful. At the end when you wrote about the abusers hanging onto their denial 9 times out of 10 is so true! You really write about the truth of things very clearly and I appreciate it.

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Kris
Your post (#61) is incredibly well stated. I especially like the boldness of the last paragraph. I’m with you!

“They aren’t going to take me down with them anymore.”

Respect!

Hobie

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On a Facebook page I follow, a “healing” message was posted last week. In addition to a beautiful picture of a lung, the poster wrote “Being grateful for everything”– Here is how my reply, and the subsequent reply progressed:
———
Poster: “Being grateful for everything”

Me: Agreed, 95%. There are some things to consider not being grateful for. There are some things that are bad, through and through, where being grateful for them could deny someone the right–the need, even–to appropriately hurt.

Poster: These things are lessons. Being grateful for them allows you to move on from them.

Me: We can be grateful for the lesson and still not love the thing, I believe. Things like disease and violence teach us great lessons. We don’t have to love the disease or the violence, in my opinion.
————-
I feel like I’m not being heard. This is one of those quotes–one of those things people say– and as well-intentioned as it might be, I don’t think it’s right. I’ve spent the better part of 30+ years trying to make this true– that I could be grateful for everything– that I could find the sunny-side of everything. And yes, there ARE great lessons to be learned from hurtful things. I think, though, it’s unfortunate that we don’t get to feel/experience/own the hurt before we try to learn from the hurt. We try to make it “feel good”– the way so many of us were taught– that it was fine, that it felt good, that everything that was actually was the oppostite of what it was– we should be grateful that we are hurt? I don’t think so. We should be whatever we are and work toward what we might have been that was lost along the way, perhaps.

Perhaps the commenter you reference in this blog didn’t realize how this would sound– perhaps they can’t hear in it what some of us can. Honestly, it is hard for me to hear it. What I heard at first was an honest question– a wondering whether we would be better, get better, live better if we could accept where we were and that it was where we were meant to be. And that, like the quote I debated on Facebook, seems great, right? But we might not be where we are meant to be– we can keep working toward a stronger, more empowered self. We have that right. And we have a right to say that what we experience/experienced that was hurtful (or that we have come to realize or are beginning to realize) is not something for which we are grateful. We have that right. It is one of so many rights we have.

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Hi Gin,
I remember a discussion like that in philosophy class I was in. People just aren’t thinking. It’s easiest to understand by taking an extreme. Ask them if they’d have the gall to tell a holocaust survivor they should be grateful for Hitler because it was a learning experience.

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Finally Free #62…Thnx for your kind words and your post resonates so close to my heart too. That learned helplessness crippled me throughout my life. It is so important to be able to overcome this sick mind set so we can thrive in our lives instead of just surviving all the time. I remember last year when my mother told me that I never had the drive that she did and how I was just plain weak because I fell into depressions…which by the way were caused be her abuse!!! Her last attempt at keeping me stuck when I confronted her about the abuse. She didn’t want me to learn how to stand up on my own two feet because in her mind that meant that one day I would no longer need her and that would eventually lead to me leaving her.

Her manipulation caused me to second guess every move that I made. I felt guilty whenever I made a decision on my own without asking her first. When I look back I see how she kept me under her thumb. Even when she wasn’t there she was in the back of my mind making me feel guilty any time I didn’t include her with my plans. It was such a sick enmeshment that I had with her. She could do no wrong in my eyes as she strangled the life right out from underneath of my feet.

You ARE the strong one. Every single person on this site is the strong one because we have the courage to face the truth about how our parents threw us all away. It hurts!!! Lots of pain and hard work goes into figuring all of this sick crap out but once you do it no one can take it away from you and that’s when you learn how to thrive instead of just survive and that is where the real freedom lies.

Hi Hobie,

Thnx for your compliment. Where I came from being able to accept a compliment is a huge feat in itself!!! Lol I always love reading your posts as well. You have a very unique way of describing things that makes me think of things in a different way then I ever would have thought about them before. I say that to myself all the time. Such talent.

Doesn’t it feel good to be able to say that “I am not going to let them take me down anymore!!” We have come such a long way in our recoveries in order to be able to say that. It makes me feel proud because I know how much hard work and pain it took to get to this place right along with you and everyone else on this site. We deserved so much better then what we got but now we are learning we don’t need other people to give us what we can already give to ourselves. LOVE and RESPECT!!!…but it sure is nice when other people do!!! Thank you for that.

Kris

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Thank you ladies, it is nice to know that there are people who understand that Love and Respect should not have to be earned, but given freely out of that love and respect. It is sad that a lot of us had to learn to love and respect ourselves on our own. and thus be able to give it to others without conditions of behavior.

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I used to be friends with a group of women, all of our kids were in preschool and we used to hang out together. One particular woman’s father was ill and not doing very well. We used to comfort her. When my mother was ill, and my relationship with her has always been tumultuous, aggressive, and abusive, My so-called friend would tell me that if I act sad and depressed, that I was no fun to be around and that I was depressing. Another woman said to me that it’s no good to have expectations. Because in doing so, you always hurt yourself. I used to argue with her and tell her that this was absurd. And, to both women, I’d tell them that people have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. And that respect is a two way street. We never saw eye to eye. I was always wrong, they were always right. Needless to say, when our kids grew older, we drifted apart. I guess it was never meant to be.

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These comments about normally raised vs. abuse really resonate with me. I read that Dance of Anger book as well, and it’s been a lightbulb moment for me in this post that those strategies only work with people who are mentally healthy individuals. Of course!! I used to read a lot of self-help books, and some are helpful, yet now I see how the strategies just may not work. If the other person doesn’t care about my feelings, or may simply not respond – then what is left to “work out”?

I’m in the process of going very LC with two of my siblings and my mother. Some days the grief is very deep. How could they betray me and do this to me? Some days I have flashes of emotional freedom and lightness. It is a relief that there is nothing left for me to try, no striving to get them to change.

My childhood left me with no rudder, and even worse I didn’t realize that I had no rudder. I didn’t know my interests, values, my SELF. I didn’t experience myself as a separate person from my family. The irony is that I would have had to be grounded and sure of self to see how enmeshed I was – yet the two can’t coexist. I was an emotional vessel that was in constant emotional pain and reactive. It’s only in the past few years that I have experienced emotional growth and a more solid sense of self.

Darlene and Irondust I got the walking on eggshells comments as well.

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When I was talking with my golden child brother about my mother, expressing again my dismay that she won’t be consistently supportive re: sexual abuse from my father his response was “it’s an issue of personal responsibility…if you don’t find relationships fulfulling it’s up to you to move forward”.

It’s as if he used new age self-help book slogans against me. It seemed like he was saying “if you don’t like it, leave”. No support or understanding.

He also said my feelings were unjustified.

That was the last verbal conversation we’ve had. I later emailed him a calm yet honest response, and he followed up with “I’m sorry I am not responding in a way that you want; know that you are loved.

I don’t feel loved by him and haven’t spoken with him since. I have “personal responsibilitied” him out of my life.

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Wow, such excellent posts all round today! I’m really learning a lot from everyone’s ideas. Thank you!
About gratitude, well, it’s yet another “forced feeling” that my momster insisted I have and express despite there being nothing at all to feel grateful for. Because had I felt it, it would have been natural. The returning of love towards the person who has shown you love.

I’ve twisted it sometimes in myself so as to seem as if I am “grateful” for all of the “unique abilities and interests” that living with an abusive family has led me to develop. Haha. As if I’m “lucky” to be be the way I am when I’m clearly not lucky to have had all of this forced on me. To have to deal with the aftermath in so many ways that other people who have not been mistreated do not have to deal with.
Quite right to ask if the victims of a genocide are “grateful” for their tyrants.

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Alice–
Wow! This really resonated with me. The idea of gratitude as a forced feeling. This is DEFINITELY something I experience as passed down through, primarily, my mother. The idea that if you did feel gratitude you would–that it would be natural– is oddly eye-opening for me. I think I’ve always had this sense that I “don’t feel right”– that the way people do feel, I can’t or don’t. And I think there’s some truth in that– that feelings are/have been all messed up. But gratitude– when I feel grateful, I do feel grateful, whether someone has told me to or not. Interesting…

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Light, I am glad you have experienced growth and the more solid sense of self the last few years! Your insights about the Dance of Anger and other forms of advice from self help books are great. It is amazing to me now that so much advice is dished out to victims of abuse for them to be the ones to reach out, to forgive, to try harder, to talk in a certain way to the abuser. It seems strange to me now. I remember my mom tried to get me to read the Dance of Anger book and she thought it wonderful. She also assumed I was a very angry person. I flipped through the book, but never read it. She was consistently trying to get me to read other self help books that she recommended, but I usually didn’t because they always seemed to be about her and I didn’t know how to apply them to myself or my life. I used to wonder why she wanted me to. I got the feeling she was trying to “fix” me.

It sounded to me like maybe your brother was trying not to rock the boat by talking to you the way he did? I am so sorry for all of the pain you have experienced with your family. Your comments seem like you do see through so much of the dysfunction in your family…..now if only the pain could be taken away sooner! I feel for you and send you hugs and comfort! I understand the pain of not wanting to part ways with bio family, yet they don’t change, don’t respect, don’t try to reach out in compassion etc etc…..I also have three brothers and understand how it can be! Hang in there !

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Thank you, Finally Free, for your words of support. It means so much to come here and feel warmth and encouragement.

Yes it’s tough to lose touch with family….as so many on here know. It’s hard to make it in this world as an emotional orphan.

As for my brother, he may be trying not to rock the boat with my mother (they are both in power positions) but he rocks it with me when he criticizes, blames, and shames me. He pretty much verbally shoves me out of the boat and leaves me to figure out how to get to shore. My other brother has much the same position – he has outright told me he “doesn’t want to change his relationship with mom”. So that means that he emotionally abandons me (unless I want to continue a relationship with him and therefore invalidate myself). As my therapist says it’s “an impossible choice”.

My mother has so much power and I feel powerless within the family. I was in the unfortunate position of asking for my brothers to see my side of things (i.e. understand how painful and frustrating it is that my mother has not/or been half-hearted/or said yes then changed her mind about supporting me in the face of my father’s covert sexual abuse). They don’t seem to “get it” or maybe the truth is too awful or they would give up too much power. I was also (as many here are) working against the cultural stigma of saying anything bad about a parent, and I suppose it could be seen as trying to come between a parent and her child (my brothers). I wasn’t asking them to abandon her, I was asking for each of them to find a way to validate me as well. They won’t.

I am trying to focus on empowering myself in other ways, by eating well, exercising more, having positive interactions, bringing laughter and love into my life, exploring my passions, etc.

As for the self-help books, and constructive conflict resolution. I tried for years to try that technique “I feel ___________ when you ____________”. I do find value in it, but only with people who are also trying to be constructive. I also find value in asking people what they meant instead of deciding that I know and being hurt. This has really smoothed out some interactions.

For myself I believe in hitting the bully back (verbally) in some situations. So if someone says something crappy, I might say a shocked “What?”, or just give it back on par. I’ve become much more able to be “in the moment” – it’s a new skill for me. If I don’t know the person and they push my boundaries I might walk away because you never know what people are capable of.

Thanks for listening and I wish for all of you light and love and courage.

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I spent decades waiting on my mother to get it. I spent decades waiting on her to change so that I could be free. I didn’t understand that I could get free on my own and raise my expectations. You should never be ashamed of having expectations to be treated like a HUMAN BEING. I hate when people use the phrase people are human to excuse assholes who abuse others. That is not being human. Being human is loving people and accepting them fully. Not constantly criticizing them and degrading them. Having no expectations is a ridiculous idea and just another way to stay trapped in the cycle of abuse.

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Just to qualify the last link. The download link on the page links to a download server farm which may or may not be the best option for getting hold of this book. I bought a copy second hand.

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Hi Alice
I had to delete the link to the book you posted for that book due to the server farm ~ can you just post the title of the book and author instead or amazon link is fine too? Thanks!
Hugs, Darlene

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Light, I love to see that you’re more ‘in the moment’! I’m getting better at responding when things happen but I still find myself hypnotized into not responding and then being upset later that I didn’t say anything. Can you share how you acquired your new skill at being in the moment?

I think all my years in 12 step programs too has undermined my self confidence.

Mary

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Hi Darlene!

Sorry about that! I realised after I’d posted where the download link went.
Here’s an Amazon link http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0140211578/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1422236137&sr=8-1&dpPl=1&dpID=51obwb8LRZL&ref=plSrch&pi=AC_SY200_QL40

RD Laing was also criticized as having been an abusive parent himself. As was Alice Miller. Both Laing’s and Miller’s sons wrote about them in books of their own. Both of those are on my to-read list.

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Hi Alice
Thanks for posting the new link!
Hugs, Darlene

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Mary and Light, I really get the not being able to respond ” in the moment” thing. Similar to Mary, I still find many times that I freeze when someone catches me off guard with something very rude. I’ m stunned by their comments and can’t react right away. Mary I also end up thinking about it later and ruminating on what I could have said. This is one of my biggest sticking points. It’s exactly how I behaved as a child on the playground. I never talked back when kids bullied me. I feared the consequences, either physical or emotional. .interestingly me not saying anything did not protect me from the emotional consequences I feared. The bullying continued. I was an easy target, an easy dumping ground for kids that boosted themselves up by putting someone else down.

The whole thing started long before I started school. My mother was a bully with her mean words and with the strap. I didn’t have to do anything wrong to suffer the consequences. If she was in a bad mood she would let loose with her rage and the belt. She always managed to find some offense to punish me for. What I learned from this was that people are unpredictable and irrational and that I had to be on guard at all times. The bullies at school were unpredictable too. I never provoked them, but at random times when they needed a boost for their sagging self esteem they would find me and bully me. The world was not a safe place.

I think it’s the feeling of fear from these old experiences that causes me to freeze. I’m still trying to reconcile that as an adult some of the consequences are less likely to occur and that there is more I can do if something does happen. But the fear is still strong and usually wins out.

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“Could the cause of most of our problems be that we live with expectations? Live without expectations and accept things for what they are? No expectations, no disappointment”

That sounds like someone angry about being lied to and telling another lie, instead of accepting the truth.

I would like to change that quote to:
“Could the cause of our problems be that we believe lies? Live expecting the truth, and yes do accept things for what they truly are. Disappointment is part of the human condition. Being free to experience the truth is what makes us truly human!

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Hi Mary,

Sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you! Being able to respond in the moment has been a slow slog with plenty of backtracks, but for me I have learned more about how to respond in the moment a few different ways.

First, from observing other people. This includes friends, people I don’t know, and therapists. One therapist pointed out something very valuable to me: that when someone said or did something I was automatically deciding what it meant and often getting offended. It was a boundary issue that I had – I thought I “knew” what the other person’s intention was. He showed me how to ask for more clarifying info – this has smoothed out many interactions and saved an important friendship. I’ve also picked up phrases from therapists during our sessions.

Another source was from reading personal growth books, or books specifically about how to respond to verbal abuse, or manage conflict, deal with difficult people etc.

Finally, just watching people at any gathering. I am always amazed at how some people can just deflect or make a point using humor.

Another piece of being able to do this more often is becoming more sure of myself and not shrinking when out in “the world”. When I’m more comfortable I’m more relaxed, and can face and “see” uncomfortable situations that I’m in more easily. I used to just zone out and not even realize just how stressed and uncomfortable I was…I was so used to enduring and toughing it out. It’s kind of like being fully in my body.

Here are some gems I’ve picked up along the way that have helped me immensely, especially when I don’t know what to say: “I don’t know what to say”, “I’d like to think over what you’re saying and get back to you”, “What do you mean?”, “So you’re saying…..”, “I wish I had more to give” “I don’t have more words”, “So you’re saying (this), but you’re also saying (that), how do I make sense of that?”, “Criticizing me? That feels bad”, “What?”, “Did I do something/say something that you think is wrong?”..if they say yes you did such and such, then I might reply “I think what I said/did is OK”…if they don’t agree, then I could say “It sounds like we each see it differently”. Also, I will turn the tables and say “I wonder if I said to you….(whatever putdown)…how that would feel to you?”. Of course the stronger putdowns and insults get the immediate stronger response.

In stressful situations I try to build in small mini-breaks such as going to the restroom, calling back later, keeping it short, spending a few minutes by myself, going for a walk, avoiding sitting directly across from a difficult person, etc. and of course avoiding stressful situations altogether.

Of course tone of voice and body language matters a lot – my goal is to sound even and low key. I remind myself that the same words can be spoken in a softer voice rather than a stressed voice!

I am far from perfect from this, but in an ideal world I’d like to respond consistently to off comments. However as I mentioned before, if it’s a stranger I may not say a word, because I don’t know what that person is capable of. Also, if I am in the wrong I try to be humble and apologize.

I hope you found this helpful! Light

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I also believe in hitting the bully back, so stronger replies include “It’s not OK to talk to me that way”, “I don’t like the way you’re talking to me” or just saying the same words back that they just said to me, preferably with wit. It all depends on who it is and whether I want to salvage the relationship or it’s beyond repair. Going to someone higher up in the chain, like at a store, or school, or job is a possibility. Leaving aka no contact or low contact is also an option.

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Light, I know your two posts were to Mary; I wanted you to know that I picked up some good ideas from you! Since I tend to freeze when people are nasty, intrusive, rude etc. I think it’s good to have a few handy responses to pull out of the basket. I also love Darlene’s ” Why are you talking to me as if I am stupid, have no feelings, don’t deserve to be respected…etc” the hardest thing is in real time to get the response out. As I’ve said in earlier posts, I tend to get stunned, which makes me freeze when someone comes out with a rude remark and I am rendered speechless. It is only after the incident is over and the person is gone that I start thinking if what I could have said. This is one if my biggest sticking points to overcome in the process.

Could you elaborate on how you have learned to ask for more clarifying information from people? This sounds like a good tactic. I too tend to decide what someone means and many times in a negative way. I’d love some guidance on exploring it further with the person to understand where they are coming from and if it is really a problem or just a misunderstanding of intentions. Thanks Light and have a great day! Amber

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Hi Amber! Thanks for reading my post and I’m glad I gave you some good ideas. Yes, I like Darlene’s comebacks a lot. Like you, I have a tendency to freeze and still do…then feel the feelings later.

Anyway, back to what you requested. My therapist was the first to teach me how to do this. I would relay an interaction to him, and how I felt about it (angry, offended etc.) and I may have said “I know he/she meant such-and-such!”. And he would reply, “how do you know?”, and then “maybe she/he meant _________” and he’d give me an alternative, or the therapist would just give me a quizzical look and a shrug like maybe/but maybe not. My boundaries were so weak that I actually thought that since I had this feeling (e.g. anger), their motivation must be what I think (usually negative!). Just from the way he responded I learned that I could be way off and it also encouraged me to be direct and find out by asking (if I wanted to). It’s a little embarrassing that I thought I was so right. Oh well, live and learn.

So I learned to ask, either in the moment or later. This is for interactions that aren’t abusive or clear cut rude. Usually it’s a pretty straightforward…”The other day, when you said such and such, did you mean?….or “I wasn’t sure what you meant” or…did I understand correctly…”…or even “I wasn’t sure how to take that”. Then I stop talking and listen.

Hopefully if it’s a relationship that has trust, I will be able to take how the person responds at face value. If they’re antagonistic towards me, that speaks volumes.

I’ve also found this approach helpful when someone says something borderline rude, but maybe they’re just having a crappy day, or they’re a new acquaintance and testing boundaries. I find that asking about it gives them a chance to save face and rephrase in a better way.

Not everyone likes to have this kind of discussion, and I do best with people who are open to resolving conflict in this way. It’s a red flag for me if I am on the receiving end of consistent off-comments that I keep feeling the need to clarify or set limits on, or if the person becomes angry when I ask about the issue, etc.

Here are some comebacks I WISH I had said:

“Do you realize that you just rolled your eyes at me? That’s disrespectful”.

“Are you bored with what I am saying, because you just pointedly looked at your watch”.

“When you say people are strange, who are you referring to?” (I felt he meant me).

“Why do you think that my feelings aren’t justified?”

I’ve had a few victories recently too, where I DID speak in the moment and it felt awesome. Sadly, being able to face people and do this meant that I’ve had to accept what others – especially family members — are saying. I asked for clarification, and they clarified their viewpoints (negative about me) that are no longer acceptable to me. At least I am no longer glossing over these hurtful words and behaviors pretending like they didn’t hurt and they’ve done no damage, because they HAVE….enough to cause me to go low low contact.

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Thanks Light for your response which clarified a lot for me and gave me some very helpful ideas. It was a lightbulb moment for me when I read about how you think you know what someone means, because I saw myself and how I react to things people say ( and usually with a negative interpretation too). I wasn’t consciously aware that I do that until today! And it never occurred to me to ask for clarification. Asking for clarification could accomplish a number of things. We could find out that we were totally off base with our interpretation, but on the other hand, if the person acts uneasy or embarrassed or comes back with a nasty comment, then we have lots more information to consider in figuring out the truth about the relationship. I can’t wait to be in a situation to explore this now, and I will certainly come on here to let you know what happens when I try it out!
I get the feeling that I still may struggle with the outright very rude and nasty people. I still get intimidated by them; they represent my mother to me. But someday, I will get there!
Thanks again, You lived up to your screen name, and brought a light of hope to me in an area I have always struggled with. Big hugs to you, Amber.

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Thank you, Amber! Big hugs too, and please let us know how it goes.

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I sure will, Light! I was thinking some more about getting clarification from people by asking certain questions. There could be some highly skilled manipulative people that may answer the questions in a way that makes them seem innocuous. We may not have them figured out right away, but their actions AFTER the conversation, both short term and long term actions will shed more light on what kind of people they are. It’s good to mentally file away information on people because the big picture will eventually emerge.

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Thanks for your very detailed response, Light! I think I’m in the two steps forward, one back stage but it’s better than no change at all.

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Dear Amber,

First of all, Amber I’m so sorry for your past school bullying. I have never understood how people defend the bully by saying, “you don’t understand their unhappy home background” or “they’re just a slow student and not like you”! I would say to these people “Up yours”! LOL! Look at my life at how abused I was by my Narc parents and then see my poor genetics and environment. I always had the common sense that if you have nothing nice to say then don’t say it. Trust me, no one taught me this rule at all. I believe that I have always had a lot of compassion for people since I was so hurt. I don’t understand those who feel they are justified with dumping their anger on others.

There was one significant episode of school bullying in my life, plus a few funny remarks by mean kids when I was younger. It was in junior high school when I had changed to a private school. There was a boy/girl clique and they were simply too wild for my taste. They all seemed to be like spoiled brats with a lot of money and very angry. This clique wanted drug/alcohol parties and sexual experimenting and they were only like 13 years old. They viewed me as easy prey and were insulted when I refused all of their invitations. I was verbally harassed and a couple of the boys tried to kick and physically assault me. I did take this to the school principal. The advantage of being in a private school is the fact that students can be expelled and they almost were. They immediately straightened out due to fear of dealing with their parents.

Amber, I feel your pain. I was very hurt growing up for being a quiet, good girl, good student type, and not popular or much of an athlete. My Narc parents couldn’t care less if I was happy or had friends. Amazingly, I had a strong circle of girlfriends as a child when I attended public school. I think that changing schools really hurt me when I was expected to socialize at the private school which was much more of a class system. It breaks my heart to this day when I read those mean bumper stickers saying, “my kid beat up your honor roll kid”. Why is it that the more intelligent and serious students are always treated poorly by the mainstream, but the athletes and extroverts are idolized? Why is it so shameful to be called a “geek” or a “science nerd” or a “bookworm”? For the record, I have NEVER wanted to convert and become an extrovert or an in-person. If I am minding my own business and not provoking anyone why can’t I receive the same courtesy back?

When I was a teenager, my social life was more painful than being a child. I changed schools and I believe that I changed a bit inside and began to build walls around me. My life at home became worse with my greedy, selfish, and violent Narc mom. I was afraid to bring friends over to my house due to my crazy mom’s outbursts. I managed to have a couple of nice girlfriends and that was it since Mommie Dearest did not allow me to go out to these school events and activities.

The other side to bullying is that these bullies have different perceptions than you or me. Most of my true blue friends in my adult life are very metaphysical types like me. I had a good male Pagan friend who happened to be gay and also a great psychic reader. So, I asked him about a long list of specific incidents both in my adult life and growing up. Surprisingly, going through a long list of incidents the common theme seemed to be jealousy. These bullies were actually jealous of me and had created a fantasy in their head regarding me. They thought they knew me but of course not since I was a private and reserved person. According to my friend, these bullies were jealous of my parent’s big luxury house (no, they did not know that I was abused and treated more like a slave). They were jealous of my high grades (I studied a lot and earned this). They were even jealous of my appearance (in grade school I was teased a bit for being goofy looking) and now in my teens I was labelled “pretty” but I was not popular with boys and this disturbed the mean girls! In my young adult life, I was bullied by mean roommates who were disturbed by the fact that I was such a neat and organized person who always made my bed and cleaned my room! LOL! Translation: you can never win with a bully if you are outside of the average box. If you are either a slow student or a superior student then you’re bullied. If you are not very good looking or a pretty girl then you are bullied. If your family is too poor or too rich then you are bullied. If you have a different religion—like me with Wicca—and not mainstream Christian you are bullied.

I am sorry that mainstream culture cannot accept major differences in people. These people do not hurt me that much anymore since I am older and wiser and stronger. I am not in this world to please others but to live my life on my terms. I think that I am a nice person and these words from bullies do not affect me that much. Hope this helps.

Blessed Be,

Yvonne 🙂

94

Dear Light,

I have read many of the books on self-esteem and assertiveness, too. I know the book methods for dealing with verbal self-defense. It takes a lot of practice and it doesn’t come easy. I can recall when I was in my 20’s how much I would freeze up and be shocked by what others said to me. There are just too many incidents to name in my young adult life dealing with adult bullies.

Like you, I try to question and brush off these people with just a slight comeback remark. There have been incidents where there have been many extremely angry and rude people seeking to harm me. Trust me, I can be equally strong back and this surprises many people.

One of my favorite comebacks is not taking a few seconds to even think of a clever, but rude reply back. I can always snap back by directly demanding them with, “Why are you such a nasty person?” “Is there something wrong with you being such a nasty person?” or “Have you been taking your nasty pills today?” and “Go back to kindergarten and learn some normal manners, B****!”
LOL! I use a good strong voice while making direct eye contact and turn around to walk away. If they continue shouting at me then I say nothing and continue walking away with my back turned and it’s much more powerful than trying to argue with insults back and forth.

I’m a Taurus bull sign and I’m basically peaceful and caring. But when I get seriously provoked then I can get very mad and that surprises most people. I actually enjoy putting these people in their place now.

Blessed Be,

Yvonne 🙂

95

Yvonne, thank you for your heartfelt concern! That’s what I love about this website. Lots of understanding and caring people. I do believe that jealousy is behind a lot of bullying. I also believe that some people just look for an easy target and bully that target because it makes them feel superior even if for only a short time. Perhaps some kids envied me for my grades. I do remember a girl threatening to beat me up in the girls bathroom because I got an A on a test and she didn’t. But I think most of the bullying in my case was because I was very withdrawn and fearful and they knew I wouldn’t fight back. They could verbally assault me and I wouldn’t say a thing. My mother also didn’t care if I was clean, she cut m hair herself and it was uneven and stringy because she would only wash it once a week. She didn’t buy stylish clothes for me even though we could have easily afforded stylish looking clothes from a less expensive store. Instead she spent that money on clothes more fitting for my grandmother than me. She also dressed me in hand me downs. She once got a pile of clothes from her sister which had to be atleast two decades old and made me wear them. So the lack of cleanliness and ridiculous clothes gave the kids plenty of ammunition to pick on me about. My mother never cared what I looked like but she was dressed to the nines and went to the beauty salon every week to have her hair styled. Sometimes I think she wanted me to look lousy. She didn’t take well to aging and didn’t want a daughter to outshine her in any way.
Whatever the reasons, bullying is wrong and it does a lot if damage to the one being bullied. I’m sorry you had to experience bullying too Yvonne. It sounds like you cope with these bullies well now and Im glad for you. Thanks again for listening to me and responding, Amber.

96

Hi all,
Today something awful happened to me.I had to go into town with my narc father to solve something.He told me he was going to dump the trash first,and then we’ll meet at the bus station.I waited for him at the bus station for about 15 minutes,and he did not show up.I got worried,thinking that something happened to him.I went back home and i told my mother in a panick.She assumed that he went to a bar,and so he did.I asked my mother:”What if he’s drunk? How will i go with him now?” But my mother did not care,as usual.She forced me to go back to the bus station and wait for him.When i stepped outside,my father was in front of the block,furious and insulting me.He told me that i had no brain,and that because of me,there’ll be another scandal in the house.He told me i should have waited for him to finish his coffee at the bar,without my mother finding out.When i told him that mature adults take responsibility for their acts,he started reminding me of all my past failures:”So what if you are responsible? Big deal.It didn’t get you far anyway.You don’t have a job etc”.They had made me quit my job and that’s why i’m unemployed,but that’s another topic.He switched the discussion back to me and my flaws.

I’m tired of shutting my mouth for fear of being hit again (when i told him about maturity,he was about to hit me again).I’m tired of fighting for my sanity every day.I’m tired of pretending that i have a normal life while i’m in public,keeping appearances.I’m tired of hiding dark family secrets.I’m tired of being humiliated in bad therapy when the reality is that my abusers are the ones who are mentally ill and need therapy.In therapy,i’m tired of answering abusive questions that only stirr up all my hurt.Doctors questions touch me where i hurt the most.I’m tired of numbing my pain with food,listening to music in bars,walking in the park and watching tv.Their illness is not my fault.Why should i suffer for it?

97

Hi Laura,

You shouldn’t and don’t have to suffer for it. It’s completely within your rights as a human being to expect to be treated with love, care, trust and respect. That goes for everyone, including your therapist. Easier said than done, I know. But it IS possible. You have choices as to where you physically are every day, whether you agree to others’ requests, and whether you stick around to be on the receiving end of what others are dishing out. It can be very difficult to extricate oneself, especially if a person is strapped financially, there are other extenuating circumstances, or the emotional ties are just so strong, but it can be done…over time if needed. I know how hard it can be to do so. It’s not your fault. You’ve got your own life to live!

(((HUGS))) Light

98

Hi Light,
Thank you for your kind words.When i first came to EFB,I was afraid of being caught by my abusers and punished for telling my truth.Gradually,i discovered something i never expected,not even in my wildest dreams.All abusers are coward vampires,afraid of the light.My abusers see that i’m spending much time in front of my computer or outside.I bet they are starting to wonder if i told anybody else about what they do to me.I feel them shaking at the mere thought of somebody else knowing about their crimes against me.Before i started exposing them publicly,they were much more sure of themselves.Now,after they cross the line with me,they act hesitantly,they avoid talking about it,instead of throwing the old “you deserved it” in my face,like they used to.I sure wasn’t expecting it,but it’s a welcomed,long waited for change.I encourage all victims to share their abuse publicly.Do it wherever you feel comfortable,no matter the website,but just do it.You’ll find more than emotional support.Personally,i spent years of my life squeezing my brain in search of an answer:what makes abusers vulnerable? The truth makes them weak,but not if it’s told in private,when you are alone with them.Inside the house,that’s where they are powerful,it’s their turf.The truth made public,that’s what makes them tremble.Abusers thrive in the dark,but start to decay at daylight.It harms them,just like the religion cross decomposes the evil.

Did anyone here experience something similar after going public? I’m referring to seeing abusers fearing us for the first time.

99

@Laura #98

In telling my truth I definitely felt/feel healthier and stronger than I ever have. (thanks to the wonderful posts, and community here on EFB for helping validate so much of what I had gone through, and guiding me along the way!)

And I can definitely relate to the fear of being ‘caught’ talking openly about my abusers on EFB – I even had spent time preparing a response just in case they brought it up. I would’ve said:

“When a person goes for therapy for emotional troubles .. is it not ‘slander’ for them to speak to their therapist about their troubled history … Rather than pay a ton of money to a therapist, which we cannot afford as a one income family with two children. I choose to use the wonderful services provided by this certified professional that I found online. Now, what I choose to do for my own emotional health is a personal issue. Therefore – what you have done, yet again, is invaded my privacy and exploited it for a personal attack against me. This is abusive and unacceptable.” At which point I would end the conversation and walk away. BUT, thankfully it never came to that.

However, I began making decisions that revealed that I was ‘sticking to my reality rather than theirs’ (firmly holding to my healthy boundaries, standing up for myself and my children… etc.) and … I’m not sure if their reaction was that they were afraid of me … Though … now that I think about it, maybe they WERE. They DEFINITELY treated me like a threat that had to be ‘neutralized’ or … really, even destroyed if necessary. Trying to convince everyone (including my husband, children, family members, ones in the congregation, close friends and in-laws/+husbands other relatives) that I was/am a ‘liar’, a terrible person for ‘what I’ve done'(going NC), and that I have mental problems (said in a tone of concern, but always used as a means to ‘discredit my testimony, should it ever reach the ears of anyone’).

Laura … thank you for even bringing up fearing us for the first time. Now that I have given it thought, that they were really just reacting because they were in fear of me … I actually feel even more empowered. (Great point!)

KR

100

Hi Keira,
I also feel empowered by your words.You gave me an idea about a possible answer if i ever get caught,telling them that i go to free therapy online.Come to think of it,EFB really is therapy for me,much better than my ex doctor.Speaking of him,i went to that bad therapist after i was hit by my father.My sister recommended me to him.Things are starting to add up to me.After i was hit,my narc sister did not call me once to ask me how i feel.She found a doctor for my father.She plotted with him to give my father a depression diagnosis.In reality,victims are depressed,while abusers are violent.Anyway,my sister made my father look good.The plan was to burry everything under the rug.When i first found out that she was going to take him to therapy,i was shocked.Knowing my sister,she couldn’t possibly expose my father.Now i understand.

If my abusers ever found out about me unraveling the truth,it will be from my sister’s mouth.Unfortunately,she is one of those victims who doesn’t admit having been abused.She’s begging for parental love.I feel so sorry for her,but there’s nothing i can do to help her.One day,she came to visit my abusers.She went to the bathroom and she never got out.My abusers got worried and opened the door.My sister was on her knees,rubbing the toilet with a brush in order to make it clean.Nobody asked her to do it.She humiliates herself and would do anything for a tiny bit of love.There are times when i feel i am healthier than her.I faced the truth and i try to see things as they really are,unlike her.

Keira,your abusers try to convince everyone that you were a liar with mental problems.Same here.When i was a child,my abusers were making illegal money.In that purpose,the house was always full with dangerous men who were in conflict with the law.The men and my abusers were always drinking with my abusers,locked in a room,neglecting my little sister and me.One day i came home to find a cloth stained with blood in the kitchen sink.As a child,my body reacted very ugly to the abuse.While i was a pupil,up to puberty,i used to soil my pants in the classroom,in front of my teacher and colleagues.Sorry for the foul language.In every fight,my mother uses this against me.She tells me i was always mentally ill,that’s why i can’t think straight.Now i realise that my problem was not mental,but my body reacting.My mother always shamed me for my embarrassing past.

My posts may be triggering for many of you,and i’m sorry.But in the future i plan to go to the police,and i need proof,a written evidence.My abuse is mostly emotional and sometimes physical.That’s why it’s hard to proove to the authorities.There has to be a estimony,just in case.

Keira,keep sticking to your reality.It takes a lot of inner strength to do it.

101

Laura,

Thank you. I am grateful that I have the support that I do have (My husband and his family/relatives have really stepped up and been there for me/protected me/tried to squash any of the slanderous things said about me) Between them and Darlene’s work with EFB and the community here – I feel like I’m finally on the right track to feeling like a ‘normal’ person. (whatever that means, haha)

I’m so sorry for what you had to endure 🙁 And for your mother shaming you for things that were not your fault. Even if you’re out of the situation, it still takes time to heal emotionally from abuse and to get their terrible words out of your mind and way of viewing yourself. I’m happy that you realize that your “problem was not mental, but your body reacting” … realizations like that went a long way, for me, toward building a measure of self-worth. (I hope it is doing the same for you!)

I completely understand needing to have written evidence. Even though we have no plans of legal action at present, my husband and I only allow written communication from my relatives just so we can have documented evidence, rather than ‘he said, she said’ crap that they always would try to pull. It has really helped to keep things in writing as well because then I am able to refer back to the conversations/interactions, especially if I find myself thinking “Maybe it wasn’t THAT bad …” then I read it and immediately am brought back to reality … “nope. it WAS that bad.” Their being that blatantly abusive, even in writing, has really helped validate our choice to go NC. (NC for me, LC for my husband, as they have been directed to only communicate with him if necessary.)

I wish you the best in your efforts to do whatever you need to do to address your past and present pains, Laura.

102

Keira,
Searching the internet,i found that my body reacting the wai it did was called somatisation.In simpler terms,it means a physical reaction to an emotional torment,especially if the pain can not be released by talking,in which case it’s all bottled up inside.At that time,i felt gross and ashamed of myself.As an adult,i could never set boundaries with my mother because she always brought up my issues.She even persuaded everybody else that i’m different,that i have special needs and that i should be taken to a special school for the handicapped.Back then,i felt that my accusations towards her were the product of my imagination,of my sick mind and damaged brain.Luckily,now i’m finally able to place the blame and shame where they belong.My mother went to school and she was a martyr in front of the teacher,who took pity on her for having such an ill daughter.Today,my sister still believes her lies.She even told that i’m not able to live on my own and be free.”Who will cook for you,pay your bills and take care of you.You need somebody for you are disabled”,she told me.

In my neighbourhood,there’s a school for children with special needs,including autism.After watching those children after classes,i saw that i’m not like them,so my mother was wrong.

Keira,i’m glad that you have your husband by your side.It’s good to know that he could never be brainwashed,no matter what your abusers told him about you.In my case,my abusers managed to make me lose my friends and my job by spreading lies about me.

I’m grateful that i have your support and the others here on EFB.You made great decisions in your life.I hope i’ll be able to follow the right path,too.

103

Laura,

What you were told (“Who will … take care of you? You need somebody for you are disabled”) is SO similar to the overall message that was repeatedly given me. Basically: “Without me holding the pieces together, your life would fall apart” … I look back now and I see the meaning behind those statements. The abusers in my life gained self-worth by making me feel like I couldn’t do ANYthing on my own and thus THEY were SO needed, important, and heroic in their own eyes, as long as I was hurting and not able to stand on my own two feet without them. As long as they kept bringing up my issues, it served to help them feel like they’re doing better – they chose to use an unhealthy/unloving way of validating themselves and their worth.

It became a cycle, they’d belittle me until I felt like a failure and became depressed enough that even basic things felt like too much for me to handle (keeping a clean home, dishes, laundry, taking care of a crying child) and I would inevitably end up calling for help. They would swoop in -so heroic- and while helping me with whatever it was, there would be a running commentary from them on how “A good wife would NEVER have this many piles of laundry left unfolded …” or “As a TRUE christian, I ALWAYS keep MY house clean” … it was this long visit filled with comments that put me down and lifted themselves up. And I’d be left spinning with self-loathing at my feeling like a ‘failure’. And the depression would get worse, and the cycle would repeat. (me in pain, they swoop in as a ‘hero’ and better than me, then me in pain and I later call them for help again)

Now that I’ve stopped that cycle and am away from their commentary, (and I’ve been able to work on healing), there has been SUCH a huge change in what I’m able to do. Keeping up with chores, and not being overwhelmed by them … just feeling like a functioning, capable human being. I thought I would never be able to “do it on my own” – just, deal with daily life. And I am still uprooting the echoes of their painful critical statements … but I’m healing. I’ve been taking on more and more – things that once left me so overwhelmed, I now do without giving it a second thought. I hope that, with time, you’ll feel the same.

I’m happy for you, that you were able to prove to yourself that your mother was wrong about you … (I feel like I’m finally realizing the difference between who they said/say I am, and who I GENUINELY am as a person – SUCH a relief!)

I can relate, too, to the pain of losing ones that you thought had your back. Out of all of my relatives (Aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, grandparents, siblings – we were a big family) only 2 are still in contact with me (2 of my younger brothers in their 20s). Everyone else in my FOO has bought into the lies, even outright working to spread the lies about me. I guess, it is just revealing about their character – about what kind of ‘friends’ or ‘family’ they really were. (a friend who believes lies about you, and doesn’t stand up for you, was probably not as good of a friend as I had thought they were. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very disappointing thing to discover about them. But, at the same time, I tell myself … who needs people like THAT in your ‘corner’ anyway?)

It definitely leaves this void … these ones that you would’ve done anything for, so quickly turning on you. So, I’ve had to make my own ‘patchwork’ family out of friends, and my husband’s relatives … its taking time, but I’m appreciating that I am finally surrounded by ones who are a healthy influence on me and my kids. (I’m grateful to have been able to find suchlike ones…its scary to feel like you’re starting over making roots for yourself.) I hope things work out for you!

104

Keira,
Abusers playing the heroes who save the poor victim reached its peak when they made me lose my job.After i graduated from university,i got my first job.I was a teacher at a school and i loved it the minute i set foot in there.I woke up with a smile on my face every morning.Plus,it was far away from home and the work environment was great.My abusers forced me to quit and go to a second university,one which i hated from the very minute.The pressure at home was huge:”If you don’t do it,we’ll…”.Fill in the blanks with emotional violence,put downs,threats,narc rage,the whole display.Forced by my circumstances,i did something i’ll never forgive myself for.I insulted my work colleagues and my boss and i created a suffocating atmosphere at my workplace.I fulled myself into thinking that it was a lousy job anyway,while in reality it was my dream job.Even with my toxic attitude,my boss did not fire me.At the end of the school year,i left my job and enrolled in the second university that they picked for me.I had endless fights with my abusers,telling that that uni was not right for me,i couldn’t keep up with the exams and i wanted to withdraw.Another series of tantrums followed,so i had to shut up and kept failing my exams.My abusers are “sacrificing” themselves so that i could get academic education and i’m ungrateful.They shove their sacrifice and their money down my throat,and this continues to this day.Meanwhile,i kept phone call contact with my boss,asking him for advice on other matters,but i haven’t told him about my abuse.My boss is an excellent empathic man.He didn’t ask me to apologise and he listened to me on the phone and was there for me like my abusers never did.He told me i was like a sister to him and he felt the need to protect me.I guess,deep down,he suspects that i’m traumatised,but he didn’t dare to ask me.As a head master of his school,he was more human than official boss.In my old job as a teacher,there was a narc mother who wouldn’t let her son go to class.She wanted to keep him home,all to herself.My ex boss organized a work meeting with all the teachers in the school,and together we started looking for solutions to help that boy.The reason i’m writing about my ex boss is because my heart aches for calling him on the phone and telling him about my abuse and explaining why i left after insulting everybody.He once told me that he had friends in the police;maybe it was an intentional hint.He said he had wanted to be a policeman himself as he wanted to put all jerks in jail.I weighed all the pro’s and con’s of calling him.There are millions of pro’s.There is one single con,and that’s that i’m afraid to do it.What if he rejects me? What if his wife gets it all wrong and misinterprets things and calls me a slut? My con’s come from fear,and fear is never a good criteria.

If somebody here on EFB thinks it’s a good opportunity i should take and call him,please encourage me to do it.When i pick up the phone to dial his number,i immediately feel stupid and coward and i give up.

Keira,i’m sorry you lost your friends due to abuser lies.It’s good that you are aware they were not your friends in the first place if they couldn’t think for themselves and form their own opinion about you.In normal circumstances,you would have discovered their true nature on your own.The breakup would have been natural,not brutal.On the bright side,your abusers functioned like a barometer.If your friends believe them and not you,that’s how you test their quality.If they remain in your corner,than they are worth it.What a test!

Keep comparing those 2 things:who you genuinely are and your abusers lies.That’s the gateway to freedom and healing!

105

Laura,

I wish I could tell you “GO FOR IT!!!” when it comes to contacting your old employer. But I don’t really know you, him, or the situation. And I wouldn’t be the one living with the consequences, you would. (that’s not meant to sound ominous, because it may have good results as well) Its something only you can decide.

But, I do know that when I struggle with worrying about getting my feelings across verbally I write a letter to the individual instead. Then I have a chance to go over it beforehand and do my best to make sure it cannot be mis-interpreted and that I’ve conveyed all of the things that are important to me to get across. When I try to express myself verbally on important matters, I tend to let anything interrupt my train of thought and back down/change the subject, or I just plain forget some of the things that I wanted to bring up.

I can’t really tell you how to handle it, but … I hope that things turn out well for you, whatever you decide.

KR

106

Darlene,
Thank you for the courageous and intuitive work you do on this site and in your ebook. Since childhood, I’ve struggled with how to cope with the remnants of abuse. While I knew that I had been treated wrongly by my family, I (until recently) did not label what happened to me or its aftermath as abuse. Like you, I tried to forgive my parents, taking into account their difficult upbringings. I believed it was my fault for not being the daughter my parents wanted and if I could only do better, my parents would love, respect, and accept me. When I tried to express my feelings I was ridiculed, spanked, or told, “get over it”, “stop exaggerating,” “forgive and forget,” among other gems. Once when I told my father, “I just want you to love me,” he replied, “I don’t see how you can expect anyone to like you, much less love you.” I was regularly told I was a “slob” and “worthless.” Despite making very good grades and achieving high test scores on standardized tests, I was punished any time I received less than 100% on a test and/or assignment.

My father was a workaholic attorney and my prime abuser. My mother was his co-dependent. They were both very visible and highly respected members of our community. As a child, I thought my mother was the better parent, but now that my father has passed away, I realize just how much of an abuser she was as well. For some reason she seems to delight in my misfortune. When I told her I was engaged, her reply was, “Are you pregnant?” She often told me,” I guess you found out you’re not as smart as you thought you are.” I sincerely believe that my mother’s hatred of me is rooted in her intimidation of my intellect. My mother is/was stylish, athletic, and popular–things she valued, things I wasn’t.

As a result of this pain, I have been depressed and anxious for most of my life. I abused alcohol and engaged in risky behaviors. I shudder when I think about the ways I have allowed others to debase me in exchange for what I hoped was love. I have trouble finishing things. I dropped out of grad school after finishing all my classes, except for writing my dissertation. I had a 4.00 GPA. I’ve written two novels (90% complete each) but can’t bring myself to complete them. I married a man I didn’t love because he seemed to love me. The only true happiness I have is the love I have for my children. I have tried very hard to be a good mother and do things differently. Yet, I have made mistakes. At times I hate myself for that.

Clearly, I have a long way to go. I am 39 and don’t want to live like this anymore. I want to change and yet at times, I feel like the dysfunction is part of my very core.

In October, I sent my mom a letter explaining how I felt and that things would need to change in order for our relationship to continue. She never acknowledged it. We have not spoken since. I mailed back the Christmas cards/money unopened. It is painful beyond belief. The other day we were looking at pictures and my 3 yo pointed to my mother and said, “that’s me and my grandma. Where’s my grandma?” It filled me with such a horrible feeling. What do I say to my children about this? I have two 9 yos too.

107

Hi,

I love what Kris (#21) said about being lectured to “just press on, don’t look back” about your past. At 66, I am still having to look back at snapshots of my life to see what was wrong. You need to do this so that you can process the information and put it in it’s place.

I have heard so much that “that was in the past, get over it”. This is our life and made us who we are today. Why should we only remember the good things, but forget the bad? Both influenced our lives and our ability to communicate. We cannot “just forget”. That is impossible, no matter how much we want it to be so. The incest, the beatings by both of my parents, the psychological and emotional tearing down, the lies told by my mother now…how can you just forget? It has an effect on your dreams, your psychical well-being, your relationship with others, everything.

I hate the instruction, “don’t take everything so personally”. If it has an effect on you, it is personal!

Hope (#106)

Even though my father had an incestual relationship with me from age four until I was sixteen (and he tried until the day I finally was able to withdraw from them both in 1997 (I was born in 1949), I have come to realize that my mother was the greater abuser.

My father died 2013 and my mother has worked nonstop to try to discredit me. He admitted everything he did to my siblings and my sister-in-law, so how was it that I am lying?

She says we owe her money, I am a slut, I am selfish if I don’t share our “wealth” with my siblings (we are by no means wealthy, but we have been married for 43 years and my husband is a retired Navy CAPTAIN).

I have found that even though she beat me and hit me more than my father did, the psychological abuse is by far worse. What love I received in that relationship, however warped, came from him.

I asked my sister-in-law if my mother had pictures of me growing up and all of my graduations from my grandparents (my parents did not take pictures of me). I was told that my mother had burned them all. She did not think I wanted them? My grandparents were sweet loving people and I lived with them part of my early childhood, which is probably what kept me reasonably sane.

So, except for a large picture of me when I was three that my grandmother gave me before she died, I don’t have anything. She also gave me several other things, family heirlooms, that she thought I would like. Now I suspect, she knew that I would see nothing after she died.

Hugs to everyone,
Linda

108

A psychiatrist I went to said you try too hard to get people to understand, not everyone is going to understand you. Often I wished I would.ve heeded her advice and shut my mouth. I can’t stand the ideo of one more person saying get over it, it makes me cringe almost as the thought did of having my abuser touch me again. I triggered more than I have in a long time by writing my Uncle who is a priest, I have been shunned by all but one relative they will never convince and I was hoping he would be one other I could be real with. I got a long article about forgiveness, I wanted to throw up. The Catholic church is what caused more grief by advising my parents forgive my brother for he knows not what he does, that was their take home message to me. Like hell, he knew exactly what he was doing, but just another way they let him off the hooka and themsevles. I forgave a long time ago for my own sake, but that doesn’t mean I’m done processing, big difference but few get that. For me opening up other than on here or similar sites is my only option because unless people have been through it they either are uncomfortable and shut you down or don’t care and trying to explain myself isn’t to my benefit with anyone who is ignorant on the subject. I am glad I am gaining wisdom at least here, it would suck to not have some place to vent.

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Hey Darlene, it’s been awhile since I’ve visited your web site and I feel like I’ve grown a lot since then.

When I read that quote, it made me feel like the writer of it has very low expectations on how he/she wants to be treated. It made me feel sad inside because it hits that place in me where I “had” to accept unacceptable treatment because my care takers didn’t care enough to be better caretakers. I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life trying to figure out who I am and what my true value is. I’m growing everyday and my standards of how I want to be treated are also higher. You web site taught me to set my standards higher and for that I am truly grateful. My self esteem and self worth were so low that I would accept scraps and feel like I wasn’t worthy enough.

It’s a very dark place to be. It’s only through others standing up and speaking out that I had the courage to fight for myself and believe I deserve to be loved. If I could start my life over I would wish I could have had parents who would have loved and nurtured me from the very beginning. The most difficult part of my journey has been staying out of self pity for the life I could have maybe had if I would have believed in myself more. I’m 50 now and I am grateful I still have some time left to make something of myself.

I’m not sure what that is yet and I hope in time it will sort itself out. For now I just continue learning to love myself and surround myself with positive resources and people. Thank you for being one of those people in my life that shines the light on abuse.

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Hi Linda,

I am still looking back all the time to. There is no other way to move forward and unfortunately more crap keeps popping up along the way so what the heck are we supposed to do!!! Like you said, we either find a way to process these traumatic memories and put them in a place that makes sense to us in our lives or we succumb to the voices of our abusers who told us to never look back and we all know where that will lead us to…more pain, aloneness, and fear and who needs any more of that!! There is no other choice BUT to deal with these traumatic memories if you ever want some peace in your life.

My heart goes out to you for all the abuse you had to endure. I too feel like the emotional abuse and neglect that I suffered at the hands of my mother had the worst overall affect on me. She was the master mind behind all of the brainwashing that taught me how to second guess every move that I made making me feel guilty for wanting to do things on my own and preventing me from ever being able to stand up on my own two feet.

Her level of betrayal ran deeper then my father’s. I was closer to her. Finding out that she not only knew about the abuse and did nothing about it to prevent it to discovering that she abused me just as much as he did but only in a different way to figuring out that she was the one who brainwashed me into believing that the abuse that was happening to me was actually normal was the ultimate betrayal that just about sent me over the edge.

It is overcoming that betrayal that was the worst for me. My father was a mean nasty drunk. You knew what you were getting with him but her I didn’t see any of this coming because I had her in such a fantasy world where she could do no wrong I never would have believed that she abused me when it was staring me right in the face. That’s how good she was.

She was the master manipulator behind all of this mess and she was going to do whatever she needed to do in order to keep what was going on in that house a secret from the rest of the world and that included killing off her own daughter in the process. I hope it was worth it to her because now the very thing that she was so afraid of to begin with actually happened to her. She no longer has me to call her daughter.

To think we get to compare which kind of abuse was worse but that is the reality of what we had to endure. So glad you survived.

Hugs,
Kris

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Hi Mary,

I am glad you can see right through all of that B.S. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that having sex with your child is the wrong thing to do. Why is it that the abused are always the one’s who are expected to go to their abusers and offer their forgiveness as if they were the one’s who did something wrong to begin with??? As if forgiveness has anything to do with them anyway. I got what you were saying. Maybe it’s just me but when I am the one who does something wrong I go to the other person and offer MY APOLOGY and then I find ways to MAKE IT UP to THEM. It involves showing MY REMORSE!!! That step always seems to fall through the cracks when we are dealing with our abusers unless of course you are the one who was being abused. Then skipping that step sticks out like a sore thumb when these ignorant people try to tell us to just skip over that step and move onto that merry land of forgiveness without giving us the necessary time to process all the junk that our abusers tossed our way.

In a previous post I wrote to Darlene about how I was frustrated that people did not want to hear the truth about how being abused as a child affects you for the rest of your life and I said to her I could only imagine what she goes through and she wrote this to me in response and it really helped me be able to put things into perspective now. Here is what she wrote:

When I started ‘all this’ I thought the whole world would want to know! I thought my mother would finally listen to me and then she too could have what I had found (freedom and wholeness and real love) but she didn’t. And most other people didn’t want to hear about it either so I moved on to the ones who did want to hear it! (and turns out that there are millions of people who DO want to hear it! Yay!) It will be the enlightened that change the world, not the one’s who refuse to hear. I am okay with that now.

I am embracing what she said because now I realize I am only going to drive myself nuts trying to convince a bunch or people who DO NOT want to see the truth due to their own issues getting in the way just like my abusive parents did when I tried to explain to them how their abuse negatively affected me. They are all in the same pile of denial. It is futile to try and get through to them.

That’s why sites like this are so important for people like us. We do get to vent and we do understand and no one here is trying to run away and hide from the truth like our abusers do. It is a breath of fresh air amidst a garbage dump full of lies that our abusers try to get us to believe about ourselves in order to make themselves feel better but we know better then that here.

Sorry you had to endure such abuse as well. You really seem to have a good grasp on things. Glad you were able to overcome.

Peace,
Kris

112

About 3 years ago I found you Darlene and your blog. I was confused, afraid, felt alone, and heartbroken. With your posts and a couple other sources I have been pulled from the frontline of my fear and pain. I’ve been diagnosed (which helps) as something I never thought I would be. It was shocking and offered it’s own inhibitions, but once embraced, just fine.

I have worked through so much of the “trash” of my childhood that I’m still wondering WHY I let it go for so long. I no longer blame or feel incomplete. I had another baby which now they total 4 and my husband of 16 years is by my side. I celebrated my 33rd birthday in perfect clarity of who I am.

Thank you for your help so much along the way. Some days all I could do was read your blog and wonder “why me?”…. now I know. My children will NEVER have the childhood I did, nor will they grow older without love.

This is a GIANT thank you Darlene! <3

113

Hi All,

Happy Valentine’s Day!! I hold all of you close to my heart. Thnx for being there for me throughout the year.

Peace,
Kris

114

Then there are those days you feel blessed.
My Uncle is very spiritual, something must have spoken to him as he sent a real beautiful letter. He said he was aware there was a division between me and family along time ago, he was glad I gave him enough information for insight, not about the abuse itself but all the roles everyone played when they bastardized me forcing me to pull away from the ranks. He knows the incest happened now but as I told him I processed and have been over that for a long time, but the betrayal by all almost killed me onc when it first happened and finally when I did come back and got treated worse. He has always been a beacon of light, treated me with respect and saw my light I am grateful for those who did see my light, my school counselor, my best friend and family, two of my brothers who passed young, they were beautiful brothers, it was hard to lose my two allies and so early but they have been my angels to draw on, my three grown children, and husband. It’s kind of funny that out of all of the siblings I am the only to have a long lasting relationship. They’ve had multiple partners or one sister not at all for 25 years. Maybe because i have empathy and I’m not self-centered and love to nurture and take care and help and I can’t lie. They didn’t ruin me, they just put me in a box for a while, but I found my way out.

115

Today I am trying to love myself, on this Valentine’s Day. The dark web of betrayal, exploitation, denial and lies in my family of origin – along with an unwillingness to “talk about it” – has held me back for far too long. I’m in my 50’s now…if I don’t break loose now I might not ever…

Some things happened in the past six months that finally made me turn away. I found out something my brother said about me to my mother that confirmed the scapegoating. He also came right out and told me my feelings(toward my mother, who didn’t back me up) “weren’t justified” (who says that to a victim of sexual abuse?! – jerk). My mother took back important words that she said to me that initially were very healing. A niece once again criticized me from out of nowhere.

These aren’t my friends or “my people”. It’s quite lonely; I’m not married and don’t have children. I do have a few friends, an avocation that I love, and my pet companion.

So many on here write so many things that could be my story. My story, that I thought was so unique…well, it turns out it wasn’t at all when I’d been reading other people’s detailed accounts and family dynamics. Comforting, and yet hard to read in black and white.

My mother and brothers are heavily invested in the facade of “happy family”. I get the feeling I’m mucking up the works and causing problems with my unwillingness to be invalidated and unheard. Yes, they want to skip right over that part. Apologies, if at all, take years to extract a crumb. They have done some nice things for me/with me, but it is impossible to reconcile the deep betrayal on this issue of sexual abuse.

The metaphor that comes to mind, especially with my mother, is that our relationship is like a house. My mother has a pickax and a sledge hammer and she is silently wailing away at the foundation, gouging it, creating fractures, making it crumble. At the same time, she is offering a pretty wreath for the front door, scented candles so it will smell good, and paint. The house looks good, but it’s not on a strong foundation and will collapse.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. LOVE.

116

Light, that is a good metaphor to describe what your mother is doing. It’s all about image, how it looks to everyone else and all the dirty work gets hidden underneath. And I too thought my situation was so unique until I read Darlene’s articles and what everyone comments on here. Seems to be alot of horrible family situations around. Sending you healing hugs.

117

Hi Light,

I feel your pain. I don’t know that we will ever FULLY be able to overcome the damaging affects caused by that deep level of betrayal that our parents inflicted upon us. So many emotions are tied up in all of that. I think that is something that we will have to deal with on some level for the rest of our lives whether we have contact with our FOO or not but it no longer has to rule us. My mother’s whole identity is wrapped up in that pretty little house too. The truth is that house is filled with a bunch of dirty little secrets that she is still trying to cover up and convince her self that they never even existed to begin with but I know the truth now.

You’re right. You ARE the one “mucking up” their lives right now and that is a good thing!!! It means that you know your own worth and you are no longer allowing them to dictate what you should think and how you should feel anymore. It is a blessing. Don’t let those few “nice” things that they did for you blind you from seeing all the “not so nice things” they subjected you to that robbed you from “who” you are that crippled you along the way that cost you dearly by having to live a life full of pain and suffering at no fault of your own all because they chose to never deal with their own fears and insecurities that they took out on you. Don’t make anymore excuses for their poor behavior. Stand up for you.

I don’t know what the right answer is either. I am hanging on by a thread myself with very minimal contact with my own family right now. I don’t know how to have a relationship with someone who refuses to admit that they did anything wrong when I am sitting here beyond wounded yet I understand the sick dynamics of generational abuse but that doesn’t give them the green flag to continue to disrespect me. So to me it comes down to what am I willing to accept. Am I able to set my own boundaries and stick with them or will I crumble under their pressure to be like them still trying to obtain that love that I never received when I was a child? That’s my biggest fear.

I am afraid of me and my ability to handle this situation. I don’t trust myself. I don’t want to go back and live that way anymore so I stay the heck away from them and I am happier because of it but a part of me still thinks that my mother doesn’t have a clue why I am doing this because she refuses to see the truth and her role in all of this so here I sit hanging by a thread. Afraid to make that final cut. Still holding onto the dream that somehow… one day… my mother will accept me for “who” I am instead of the person that SHE wanted me to be and finally give me that love I never got before when I was a little girl growing up just because her own issues got in the way. Not because I wasn’t good enough.

In other words I am still fooling myself!!!

I guess I am just not ready yet. Understandably so. So I feel for you too. It’s not easy cutting that last string because it represents giving up the hope of ever being loved by your own parents and who wants to do that but they never loved us for “who” we really are to begin with. That is the catch 22 in all of this and that is a hard reality to accept. In their minds we weren’t good enough and we never will be. We’re just the ones left behind having to hold their dirty little bag but NOW it’s only if we let them do it to us. We have a choice now. It’s just a really hard choice to make.

Peace,
Kris

118

Oh, yes–these guilt peddlers with their breezy rejoinders of “No expectations, no disappointments.” Sweet lord, this sort of thing is quite triggering, because according to this flawed syllogism, if I feel grief or joy or sorrow or fear then I am somehow at fault, as if being human itself was a character flaw.

Before I knew that I suffered from post-traumatic stress, I made one last-ditch attempt to convince my narcissistic (and probably BPD mother) that what she did was driving me to the edge of madness and death. What she hissed into the phone’s receiver was both chilling and revealing:

“I cannot drive you crazy. Only YOU can let ME drive you crazy.”

This is what our noble host Darlene calls a “truth leak.” The oppressors, at some level, are conscious of what they are doing; feeling entitled to abuse at will, they blame the injured party for crying out in pain. Oh, if only I was more Stoic, more Buddhist, more Christic–a cool and detached Marble Man, who to quote Erasmus is “a stony semblance of a man, void of all sense and common feeling of humanity,” I would be able to endure my family’s psychopathology without complaint, and because I felt broken and violated, it must be MY fault (according to my mother’s wacko logic), MY lack of spiritual resolve, MY inability to turn struck cheeks on demand, because when I was a child, my mother taught me that to “covet,” to want anything for yourself, was a sin against God. Thus, I was subtly groomed to be the family savior and, eventually, the family whipping boy, an efficient two-for-one deal. (So, act now while supplies last!)

While I was emerging from my own fog, I stumbled onto a Chekhov short story, “In Exile,” that takes place in Czarist Russia and focuses on three characters who have been sent unjustly to Siberia: (1) an anonymous young Tartar; (2) Old Simeon the ferryman; and (3) Vassili Sergnevich, a former nobleman. By the banks of a freezing river, the Tartar, newly exiled for a crime he did not commit, weeps bitterly for his absent wife and family; however, instead of comforting the boy, Old Simeon scolds the Tartar for his lack of detachment, claiming that he will be happy as soon as he embraces the “want for nothing.”

“What do you want your mother and your wife for? … Just foolishness, my friend. It’s the devil tempting you, plague take him. Don’t listen to the Evil One. Don’t give way to him. When he talks to you about women you should answer him sharply: ‘I don’t want them!’ When he talks of freedom, you should stick to it and say: ‘I don’t want it. I want nothing! No father, no mother, no wife, no freedom, no home, no love! I want nothing.’ Plague take ‘em all.”

As Simeon continues his smug moralizing on the liberation of zero expectations, Vassili Sergnevich, who has already been in exile many years, crosses the river in the ferry and sets out on the road, in the heavy snow, desperately seeking a doctor who might be able to cure his sick daughter. A forlorn hope, to be sure, but Vassili dearly loves his child and is willing to do anything to save her. When the Tartar notices Simeon’s “told-you-so attitude” at Vassili’s plight, the Tartar denounces the ferryman’s arrogance:

“He good … good. And you … bad! You are bad! The gentleman is a good soul, very good, and you are a beast, you are bad! The gentleman is alive and you are dead…. God made man that he should be alive, that he should have happiness, sorrow, grief, and you want nothing, so you are not alive, but a stone! A stone wants nothing and so do you…. You are a stone–and God does not love you and the gentleman he does.”

Truly, Anton Chekhov was a great-souled artist, and his story shook me to my core because it was a wake-up call, one of many on my own long road. I am meant to live; I have a right to love and grieve and feel and be human; and I will never let another huckster sell me Sour Grapes in the guise of enlightenment.

This is why I am so grateful to find Darlene’s blog: She validates us; she encourages us to speak our truth.

119

Happy Valentine’s to all!
I spent mine by myself kind of enjoying that I didn’t have to go through all the BS:)

““I cannot drive you crazy. Only YOU can let ME drive you crazy.”

I’ve heard so many variants of these phrases. My own smother (yes that first s was intentional, it might replace “momster”:)) also a fanatic pupil of the “you choose to feel bad” repeaters of repeaters. But what these people are missing is the understanding behind any of those ideas. And by understanding, I mean “through lived experience” which they show they don’t have because in the same day they can say “YOU MADE ME SO ANGRY” and mean it as hard as they can slap you.

Anyway, they will trot these words out without understanding anything about what they mean. I don’t know about other people here, but if I asked what smother meant when I was a kid, I got punished for ‘talking back’. Now there’s another truth-leak because a person able to distill the meaning of such things would be happy and able to explain and could do so in a way that the listener could view through their own experience.

The punishment is very exactly because they CAN’T explain it because they don’t understand it beyond the phrase because they have no experience of what the fuck they’re talking about.

120

I was/am the stubborn type! After many years of being abused by my narcissistic mother, I began to fight back. I wanted to get the love and good treatment that I knew that the mother, whom I loved, should give me. I wanted her to be kind to me. However, my efforts to get the love that I wanted only achieved me getting ‘pushed out of the nest’ as soon as I turned 18 years old. I joined the Navy and moved from SC to California and stayed there for 21 years. She never asked me to move back to town!
But, that did not stop my want and need for my mother’s love. And, I did eventually move back to my home town. That was when the real hell began. I tried hard to achieve good and fair treatment from my family. I had been back home for 18 years at the time of my mother’s death in 2013, and I did not come anywhere near achieving my goal of winning her love. I was always told that my expectations were too high.
I spent many years in therapy, but most of my years out of therapy, because I couldn’t find one that would validate my ‘right’ to be treated kindly by my mother and family. It doesn’t seem like they ‘get’ the issues that the daughter of a narcissist is dealing with. Again, I was told that I needed to accept the reality of what is and accept the fact that I would never get the love from my mother that I wanted and needed.
The therapist that I met with just made me feel ‘at fault’ for wanting too much and ‘at fault’ for not being able to accept things the way that they were. The pain was/is compounded by the putting the fault on me.
After devoting my entire childhood to my mother it was very hurtful to be tossed away when she no longer needed me; she had achieved acquiring a new source of narcissistic supply in my stepfather and his teenaged children. And, to discredit me she scapegoated me.
Being the child of a narcissist is undermining and painful enough, without having the entire family enlisted to discredit me.
I am so glad that I read your article! It really helps to get it all into perspective.

121

I was discussing today with my bro the techniques used by most succesful liars and manipulators, our mom including. This technique is taking something with a grain of truth and plastering it anywhere it sounds fitting. The idea that having no expectations, no hurt feelings is true. Hence it is hard to argue right away. But lets look deeper. I must not expect parents to behave like parents, basically have no expectations of parents at all, like not feeding me or killing me or anything. So yeah, this is yet another case of some manipulator, that cleverly stuck a wisdom bit in a situation to ruffle the feathers.

122

Beth– I understand the dual drives of flight and return. One force drives you away, to find and build a life far from the one that caused you pain. But at the same time, I have always felt the need to go “home,” still yearning for love, respect, and acceptance. In my life, it’s been almost cyclical. I think I’m finally getting it though. Going home = bad. Those people (my biological family) are never going to fulfill my hopes (never mind expectations–they disintegrated a long time ago).

I too have had bad experiences with therapy. My parents took me to several therapists when I started “acting out” as a teen from all the abuse I had endured as a child. They wanted me “fixed” aka compliant. Only once did a therapist suggest a connection between my issues and my parents’ abuse. When she suggested this connection to my parents, they terminated her and found a counselor who was more in tune with their perspective…that I was difficult through no fault of their own.

These early negative experiences with therapy have prevented me from seeking help later on throughout my life. Even now, I would love to find a therapist who I could trust. But I just can’t bring myself to risk meeting another one who invalidates.

123

Question–Aside from Darlene’s blog and e-book, have any of you come across any other books that you’ve found helpful in confronting/validating/overcoming a dysfunctional upbringing/unanswered expectations. So far, Darlene’s writings and the posters’ comments on this blog have been the most helpful and eyeopening to me. I’m just wondering if any of you have found any other helpful books.

124

Hi Hope, I’ve found Alice Miller’s books really good. Also R.D. Laing. I’ve found some books are for getting validation of my experience, and validation that yes it was actually abuse and that yes it did actually have far-reaching effects. But that’s just the first step. And anyway, isn’t that still only about seeking validation outside of ourselves and allowing others (with the authority of authors) to define things?

Overcoming is from my experience a very practical reworking of all of my experience and beliefs. While the principles can be in a book (Darelene’s is very good:)) the exact terms probably can’t be because they’re so personal. Sharing them here online allows us to find commonalities.

I still get triggered by some things because I still believe some completely absurd things about myself that were taught to me over thousands of hours and many different ways by people who did so out of their own self-interest and not mine.

125

@Hope #123

For me, so far, “Emotional Blackmail: When the people in your life use fear, obligation, and guilt to manipulate you” by Susan Forward – was one of the most helpful ones for practical applications … It helped me identify my abuser’s behaviors as the specific manipulation tactics that they were. Seeing their tactics exposed like that really helped me feel like I actually AM a sane person. It helped me feel empowered and able to detach from their efforts at manipulating me.
Example:
Rather than feeling stabbed by their painful responses when I would bring up an issue, I could look at their response/behaviors and mentally say to myself “oh! I read about that. When they say ___ they are hoping to get ___ response from me so that it takes the responsibility off their shoulders and so that I will give them what they want, which is ____.

Something about breaking it down like that really helped me. My former response to their manipulative tactics was always that I would become so overwhelmed by their ‘crazy-making’ that I would inevitably give in, regardless of how deeply it would hurt me to do so. But this book, along with Darlene’s work, helped me handle my interactions with them in a way that I felt like I was still in control of myself -regardless of their efforts at manipulation- I could look back to those interactions and be proud of my calm, mature response – regardless of their behavior. It helped me see things for what they were. Which gave me strength.

Kind of a long answer to your question, but hope it helps 🙂

Keira

126

Alice and Keira, thanks for the book suggestions. I ordered a few as a belated B-day present to myself. I’m especially looking forward to Emotional Blackmail.

Alice, you’re right about seeking validation outside ourselves, especially with respect to self-proclaimed experts. I however am new to this. In October, I sent a letter to my mother outlining my feelings and asking for certain concrete changes. She did not reply. Apparently, neither me or her grandchildren are worth the effort of even addressing my letter. Intellectually, I know my letter was justified, but still, every day I question whether it was the right thing to do. I question my actions and feel guilty.

I hope to someday feel that sense of internal validation, but right now, I’m looking for outside support so that I don’t revert to my old self and can allow these changes I’ve made to work.

127

@Hope #126

I absolutely relate to how you’re feeling. When I began standing up to my abusers I felt the exact same way! When I’d start feeling like that,questioning myself & my decisions, feeling guilty …. I would look up as many definitions of ‘abuse’ or ‘toxic behavior’ as I could get my hands on. (just to reassure myself that I’m not ‘over-reacting’ to what genuinely amounted abusive behavior.)

And … okay, this may seem a bit ‘cheesy’ – but I swear it helped me immensely … I kept a file on the computer giving myself a pep talk. Here it is, word for word:

===============================(BEGIN QUOTE)================================
Keira, here are some quotes for you to remember how STRONG and wonderful you are as a person. You are worth keeping around! You really are doing a great job.

“There comes a time of reckoning when children surrounded by narcissistic family members decide that they can no longer be part of this deluded, cold, cruel group of people to survive. Many of these children leave home early, find supportive friends, or simply strike out on their own. This is quite remarkable and these individuals deserve our deep respect. These are the courageous ones. We are inspired by these extraordinary people.” – October 11, 2012 by Linda Martinez Lewi Ph D

You are courageous, extraordinary, inspiring, deserving of deep respect. Look at what you’ve overcome!

Do NOT listen to the talk of hurtful people … You’re NOT being judgmental of people … You absolutely have made room for others ‘imperfections’ … BUT there is a MAJOR difference between forgiving an individual making mistakes versus creating or submitting to patterns of behavior and treatment that are unhealthy for your family. It no longer becomes a ‘mistake’ when a person repetitively chooses unhealthy behavior. It is no longer ‘just an imperfection’ when a person chooses to ignore the obvious pain they are causing. Especially since they’ve been confronted about it multiple times It is not your responsibility to ‘forgive’ or ‘fix the relationship’ when the other individual refuses any ownership for the problems they bring to the table. It is OK that you’re moving on…. NO … more than that … it would be unhealthy and dangerous for you -and your children- to stay stuck in that cycle of abuse!

You have made one of the most difficult decisions in your life … and your abusers are trying so hard to suck you back into their unhealthy web … You are a strong woman for doing what you must in order to stay alive and protect your family, Keira! I know sometimes you’re exhausted by all of this … but you really should be SO proud of this, Keira. You are being an amazing mother and woman for doing this! … You’re strong enough to break the cycle and give your kids a better chance at life than what you had! You. Are. Strong!
==================================================(END QUOTE)===============

I know, like I said, it probably comes off as ‘cheesy’ … but when you come from a place where you really don’t have a healthy support group, ya gotta do what you can. right? haha

Anyway, I read and re-read that thing over and over and over … (among other things I found reassuring, articles on the subjects I needed validation for .. etc.)

Hope you enjoy the books you’ve ordered!

Keira

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Hope and Keira, haha I must have come off as so assured! I also have a large collection of book marked pages of validating writing from all kinds of sources:)
I also have a folder of the horrible emails I received from my family before I went NC. I would read them to remind me of what they were saying to me very exactly. On those occasions I felt better and wondered if I ought to try again.

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I had a pretty good therapist. She really understood how dysfunctional families work.

I had decided to see my family on holidays (my mother does things like an easter egg hunt and nice dinners) for the sake of my son experiencing the normalcy of people enjoying a meal together and so we did not have to be alone. My therapist warned me, and almost unnecessarily, to not have realistic expectations of them. It was nice having the meal, and of course it was dysfunctional. I went into it knowing this and decided to take the good with the bad. The problem was that as I described the situation to my therapist who sat there nodding and smiling, it made me very angry. Really, she was simply acknowledging the absurdity of their behavior and validating me. And there lies the problem for me because although I understand, my feelings seemed secondary to acceptance. I have understood and accepted the reality of my situation for years, but it has not helped. It just makes me sad that I have been lied to for so long. It hurts to have been raised by people who refuse to support me except very superficially as long as I fit into their ‘puzzle’. And it felt that day like as long as I fit into the puzzle my therapist was trying to help me put back together, everything would be ok. But its not. And I can’t blame her really. I don’t think I need a therapist, I think I need people to love me, and that is just not going to happen with a therapist.

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The whole family are abusers, particualrly the ones that want to come off innocent and caring, they are the most deadly. My brother never penetrated me, I fought back, but that was part of his kick, frustrating you to breaking point, not letting go of his wrestling hold and watching you go out of your mind. The rest of the family ff me emotionally and don’t want to let go either. My daughter lives near them, she called the other day to tell me she went to Bingo with my sisters, she said Melanie (my sister) is a real sweetheart,I had a big gag response. The last time I heard that phrase was just before my cousin unleashed her poison venom that put me in the guilty seat for not being kinder and more open. My cousin repeated what my family told her, that even if they gave me $20k each from the will I probbaly wouldn’t have nothing to do with them. One they never tested that out, two, it’s too late, and three they are likely right. It’s not the money but what they have burned in their cold hearts, that I am the black sheep, as long as they take that position what is there to talk about? I told my daughter she is free to do as she wants, if she wants to have a relationship that is up to her but don’t try and sell me on my family. My sweet sister was in collusion with the rest of them, it was her choice, her betrayal stung most of all, the rest I expected it, her I did not. I told my daughter straight out, what is in it for them to establish something with her is meerly for parading her before others to say we can’t be that bad if her daughter is okay with us. I said beware, they have underlying motives for everything they do. I wish I had the guts to go knock their heads off, but they aren’t worth the energy I’d waste, My one meddling brother in one month took me from we are here for you, were going to straighten out Mom and Dad, I begged him to forget that, he went forward, he consoled me later to tell me it is a lost cause, (like I didn’t know that already)to days later rolling up and stating your out of the will and speeding off, to a few weeks later trying to guilt me in to sending an anniversary card to Mom and Dad, the siblings went out of their way to rent a hall and throw them a party. I did alright and it said in it I want NC. I was boxed in a corner and that was my reaction, I wanted to push them away and the only way to do that was get nasty back. It was the only time I lashed back, but they pull that one out and use it hard, but all of their antics and behaviors are never brought up, just mine. It makes them look all innocent to others, how could I ever have been so mean. They make me sick, made me sick and are sick, no way do I want to be dragged back, not through anyone, not even my daughter. so the sooner she gets the picture and stops relating stories about what she did with them, she can do what she wants, but I really don’t want to hear about them. Well I guess one story made me laugh. The entitled graced witch is taking a few trips on her ill-gained riches. Good for her, enjoy this world while she can because the next level might not be so entertaining. So here is my other sister who offered to pay my daughters bingo but told her not to tell the queen. They have some strange relationship. she is older but acts like my sister has now taken the place of my dominating, over-bearing mother. Pretty damend twisted and proof they are way too mentally ill to want to be near them. I told my daughter I’m quite content here and more than happy that I am 500 miles away. I am going to have to be firm that she not relate any stories about them, I’d rather not know, don’t care.

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Question: I’m running into feelings I can’t deal with on my own. I know I need help. Does anyone know of any keywords I should look for in reading the bios of potential therapists? I’ve had bad experience with therapists that wanted me to rush toward forgiving my parents. I’m not at all ready for forgiveness. I need to process and overcome the abuse first. What words/orientations/schools of thought should I look for? Avoid?

Thanks for any insight.

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Hi Hope,
The ones that I’d avoid on that count are the “family systems” or “family dynamics” therapists in favor of individual treatment. Those coming from religious backgrounds may be more likely to push forgiveness but you never know because in many cases those religious backgrounds mean that the concept hasn’t been corrupted the way it has elsewhere.

Best would probably be to interview them and sound them out about their stance on abusive families and forgiveness.
The whole “But forgiveness is for YOURSELF” spiel should be a red flag. Any forced version of it, red flag. Same goes for therapists who insist you cut ties.

Darlene has a great post on it somewhere.

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Hi Hope & Alice,

I went through a number of therapists over the course of my life and at least a couple of them did more harm than good. Alice – I fully understand your suggestion to avoid those with religious backgrounds because of the push to forgive, but I’m confused by your suggestion to avoid the “family systems” therapists.

The most recent therapist that I’ve had has truly been the best for me and I was in such bad shape when I fell into her office that I outright TOLD her that I needed to trust her immediately and I hoped I wouldn’t regret it. She had been recommended by pastor that I’d learned to trust over years so I took him at his word.

So yes, she is a pastor herself in a large religious organization and she is particularly familiar with family systems. She was able to recognize my role as the family scapegoat almost instantly and didn’t push forgiveness or cutting ties, though eventually I did cut ties and she was supportive while keeping it my decision.

Hope – I’m afraid I’ve only offered you more confusion in terms of finding a good therapist. At this point, my thought is to ask potential therapists if they’re familiar with Darlene.

I wish you the best in your search.

Hobie

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Hi Hobie!
My reasoning around “avoid family systems” therapists is due to what I understand as being their primary intent (to help heal the relationships rather than the people) And as such I don’t see them as quite as interested in the patient (the person) who presents in front of them. The other thing is that the role-based (e.g scapegoat, goldenchild etc) conceptual understanding of the family is a useful map but it might not always fit the actual terrain. What I’m saying is maybe the systems therapist is more interested in their system than the person in front of them.
Like the “forgiveness-based” therapist is more interested in their ideology than the (real) person in front of them.

But that’s all just my opinion:)

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Well Alice, it only seems to prove that it is REALLY REALLY HARD to find a therapist that will genuinely help!

It makes more sense to me now why you would avoid family systems therapists. Maybe I was just lucky that my therapist didn’t fall into any of the pitfalls that she could have.

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Hope – I’ve met many therapists over the years and had some great ones and some not so good. Since most won’t do a free consultation, I put my questions together and hope to have a brief conversation over the phone. I take notes. Unfortunately this is usually limited to ~ 10 min for them, since they’re often between clients, and I found I needed 15! Anyway, I listen extremely carefully….not only to what they’re saying but how they are saying it. Do they seem warm? Relaxed? Do they do all the talking or do they ask me questions? Do I feel listened to? Insurance? Availability? If there is any little thing that makes me feel uncomfortable I don’t follow up. One of my questions is do they have a particular approach e.g. hypnosis, family systems, dreamwork, etc. That may be a good time to ask about forgiveness. They can really vary in approach. One therapist said that she didn’t believe in talking about the past and I could see that would be an uphill battle. Another actually scoffed when I said something (so she was out). Any time I didn’t listen to my gut I regretted it.

If you go in thinking that you might have to interview 10+ in order to find one that fits, and might have to meet a few even with the expense, to be sure, then it may be easier to take if one doesn’t work out.

I am very happy with my therapist now. She was recommended to me.

Also, if you google “how to find a good therapist” you will get a lot of ideas.

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This is good advice. Though I don’t live with my mother anymore, every now and then, I still have some anger and hurt build up inside of me. It’s been less than two weeks since I left her apartment. My head says that I have to accept that she won’t own up to her treatment of me, but my heart is still figuring that out.

I have another suggestion of getting help. If you can’t afford traditional therapy (such as yours truly) you can check out therapy books from the library that focuses on dealing with dysfunctional families. One I recommend is Susan Forward (I personally had a phone session with her once!) Her books don’t push forgiveness nor pushes no contact. She advises the reader to do what’s safe for him/her.

I hope my suggestion has been of assistance.

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Hi S1988, I’m a big fan of the library too. Also, I just finished Forward’s Toxic Parents. Wow! The section on perfectionist parents relates to me exactly. That’s cool that you had a phone consult with her.

I’m sorry that you’re going through a hard time after moving out of your mom’s apartment. I wrote my mom a confrontation letter in Oct. She did not respond and we have not had any contact since. It is extremely difficult. I have bad days and better days. It’s funny though, even on the bad days, I experience this building sense of freedom that ( as the family scapegoat) I’ve never had before. While sad to admit, the fact that they did not love me frees me from ever having to fail at earning their love again. It will be a long road ahead, but for the first time, I feel optimistic that I’m going to get my life on track.

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Light, Hobie, Alice,
Thanks for sharing your ideas on finding a therapist. Finding a good/compatible one seems to include a bit of luck! Light, thanks for the interview ideas. I agree that it’s probably best to go in to it thinking I’ll need to interview several. I’ve recently had an “ah ha” moment in realizing that I am the family scapegoat. It explains so very much about almost everything in my life. I am quite angry that I have been put in this position and that it has taken me so long to figure out the underpinnings of everything wrong in my life. For that reason, I had thought a family systems therapist might be good fit. On the other hand, as Alice mentions, one doesn’t want to be solely pigeonholed as only representative of a “type”. We are all individuals.

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Hope,

Yes, this is difficult for me, especially since this is not the first time I separated from her. The first time was about six years ago, and I lived in a town about a few hours away for four years. I ran into some tough financial times and decided to give my mother a second chance. Things seemed okay at first, but later, I felt as if I was living my childhood over again: being scolded for peccadilloes, given unsolicited advice, and being forced into things without my consent. When I realized she hasn’t changed, I felt duped and also realized that because of my upbringing, I learned to be passive and was an easy target for bullies in school. I got caught up in the patterns of trying to get her to understand me and win unconditional love. I finally realized she would never change when I told her about being bullied as a result of getting mixed messages about expressing anger (I was a “bad girl” for being mad, but I was expected to stand up to others.) and I felt suicidal as a teen after being picked on a lot and feeling that I couldn’t be a good-enough daughter, she just said to get therapy, but didn’t apologize, as if my pain is my fault.

Now, I plan to keep contact on a very, very, limited basis. If I’m going to be around her, I’ll keep it to a few minutes. I can’t be around someone for long who claims to love me, but sees me as a naughty child rather than an adult, and who thinks I’m being hateful or difficult after I told her over and over for years why I’m hurt by her. I can’t have a relationship with someone who won’t stop behaviors unless I heavily insist they do, or sees me as a minor or possession. I only have myself to blame if I tried to have a relationship with her only to be fooled again.

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I suppose I’m writing this because I need help,

But I am in an abusive situation and I can’t get out, in fact the only way to get out is to speak up and report it to one of my friends.
So I guess my question is: is it ever too late to speak up? Because it has been a long time and now suicide is seeming more plausible at this moment.

Will I be able to face it? Will the pain be too much? That’s something I’ve been afraid of, something that’s kept me from facing it.

So from people who know, people who have been there before; Will I be able to survive it?

Sincerely -TryingToBeliveThatIAmStrong

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Hi Gabbi,
No, it’s never too late to speak up. If anybody in your life ever makes you feel that way, they are misguided or simply don’t have your best interests at heart.

Darlene often says that the pain of not facing the truth was worse than the pain of facing it. I believe that’s probably true, particularly once you’ve gone through it and attained distance—looking back, seeing the difference between the constant burden and weight of pain of not facing it vs. the acute, tumultuous, roller-coaster pain and emotion of going through it. One thing I know about myself is when I don’t speak up, I continue to think about it and it chips away at me. The fear of the pain, the fear of what’s going to happen, is also painful and damaging in itself. You can never predict what’s going to happen. But if suicide is seeming more plausible, that speaks to how unbearable your reality is and how much your spirit is yearning and needing to be free. I believe if you believe in yourself, you can survive anything. Believe that you know your experience. Believe that you know the truth. Believe that the problem is not you and that you don’t deserve this pain. The world is not always a great place (to say the least) but it’s not always a bad place. There are people who will want to help you. There are people who will care. Finding them, weeding through bad seeds, knowing that it’s not you, is hard work. Finding faith in yourself and finding those people in the world who will help you find that faith is what will make all the difference. All this stuff is easy to say and much harder to work through. I’m still trying to find my voice to speak up about something in my life, too (I’ve broken free of other things, though, and do believe it’s worth it). It’s difficult. My heart breaks thinking about you, anyone, considering suicide as an option, though I have many, many times considered it myself. It’s completely understandable but completely heartbreaking to see, to imagine, the good human spirits of the world broken by abuse, cruelty, to such a point as that. No one deserves such pain. I believe that, in amongst all the horribleness of life, there is a world that so much wants to love you, so much wants you to reach out for it and wants to reach for you, too, but that maybe this is only possible with the courage of speaking up, that without that, a wall remains between us and that love that’s crucial to being alive…. Sometimes, most often times, we keep ourselves inside ourselves for protection; it’ll keep us safe. Except that eventually it won’t; it starts to eat us alive because we aren’t meant to be isolated in our experiences. We are social creatures who need love like we need air. And we deserve it. You deserve it. Anyone in the world who treats you in a way that makes you feel the opposite has something wrong with them… If you’re here, wanting, thinking about facing everything, it speaks already to how strong you are. It’s often those who are weak, who’ve hurt us so much, who deny everything, who keep us believing that we aren’t capable, aren’t strong, etc., but it’s a lie to cover up their own weakness and our strength. There’s always so much self-doubt in this process, but sometimes it’s just in doing it anyway that we learn we can do it. I’m not sure anybody has serious regrets about speaking up. Even if things go badly and it’s very painful, still you can hold onto how much courage it took and that will feed your strength. People can try to kick you down, but facing the pain and speaking up is in my experience long-range an act of empowerment—just for the simple fact of having done it and knowing you did. Being able to pull yourself out, to look at things from a distance, to see all that you’ve come through and are working against, instead of getting too pulled into the pain of the process is key (though sometimes it really sucks you in)… I guess you just get dealt these cards in life, for no particular reason, life’s unfair, it’s shit, and for me, you reach a point where it’s either face it, go through it, or die—spiritually or literally. That being said, pressure is intense, not good. Do things that you want to do, when you feel ready to do it. Should-ing yourself is never good. And in some situations, you can just walk away without ever speaking up, that will be good enough, and all you need. It’s about how you feel and what’s best for you… Anyway, I hope this helps in some way. My heart is with you, whatever you choose and however it works out.

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Hi Gabbi
It is never too late to make a new choice. It is really hard to address this in an online comment ~ we are not equipped to help with that here, but I urge you to call the international Suicide hotline. They can provide you with information about what to do next etc. It is also a good idea to go to the police and file a report if the abuse is severe. Here is the link: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
As far as surviving the pain, The pain was worse before I took some action on my own behalf. When I looked back, I realized that the pain I was so afraid of was pain that I was already in for so long so I had nothing to lose but the pain itself. Having said that, I urge you to speak to someone in person or on the phone about this.
Thank you for sharing. I appreciate your desire to move forward and I know how hard it is.
Hugs and love, Darlene

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Hi Gabbi,

Another vote for never too late! I hesitated to respond to because I fear saying the wrong thing but I found myself thinking on occasion “Suicide would be exactly what the bitch wanted, which was for me not to be me.”

I have resolved on many levels to not give my abusers any of me, least of all my existence, my LIFE itself – to which they all felt entitled at one point or another.

My heartfelt thoughts go with you and I hope you also find local help to get yourself free from the abusive situation.

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I was reading this post and the insightful comments attached and wanted to share that finally, my parents expectations of me (fool 1 and 2 – I hope nobody here minds my play on the FOO acronym) finally got too much,and I stopped contact with them 18 months ago. I feel extraordinary relief, and up until I found this site recently, extreme guilt…  Gabbi, my parents expectations of me, their abuse, 2 ex husbands abuse etc. left me feeling that life was not worth living on many occasions. In my case, what I found useful was my dog – who would give her the same exceptional care than I? She kept me going on many a dark day, and still does. Here is “her” story…

My parents expectations of me are quite common (as I found since reading Darlenes fabulous book), and have never been acceptable to me (just as I have never been acceptable to them), I just didn’t know how to voice it effectively until recently. Up until then, I spent countless hours trying to speak my truth (or fantasising that they would let me), yet each and every time I was dismissed, made to feel worthless etc. etc.

Some of their expectations of me and commentary about me consisted of the following: 
Be a good daughter, 
make something of yourself, 
children should be seen and not heard (I am 40 at this stage!), 
don’t say THAT at the dinner table, 
you must be much thinner and therefore more aesthetically pleasing to the eye (I was 11 and placed on a starvation diet), Even at 35 when I was a size 6 she was still buying me size 12, demonstrating how she views me
you are too fat again (I had a baby!), 
you will never be a REAL doctor (I am finishing my PhD) – your brother of course is a real doctor (no actually he is not, he is assigned a courtesy title as opposed to completing a doctorate in philosophy, the original doctor) (and why did I start a PhD in the first place – to compete with my brother? Feel valued and respected by them finally? Probably other things as well), 
you aren’t smart enough to go to university (do something acceptable within the female tradional realm), 
keep your chin up, 
don’t look back,
 be beyond reproach (from whom I ask?), 
don’t be so sensitive,
 don’t talk so loud,
 don’t dress your daughters like this- we are going out to lunch with all the judges!, 
why do you wear only black, red suits you so much better (fool 1 only wears beige for goodness sake, but it is a designer label I guess…), 
on going to a colorectal surgeon after being sodomised by my ex husband – don’t talk to me about your sordid sex life, 
Don’t be such a drama queen – on discussing why “grandpa” only bathed with me (the other 3 grandchildren were boys). Apparently modern society is sick and mother can’t understand why it was and still is(!) totally inappropriate for her father to bath with her daughter after consuming 1.5 litres of home made beer (full strength) I think that’s half a gallon in US terms. Apparently I loved bathing with him, but she can’t understand why I displayed such “troubling” behaviour as a child…
why did you only get 96% for you last exam, where is the other 4% (thought I was too dumb to go to university), 
don’t talk to your mother that way (what, mirror the same behaviour, how arrogant of me!)
You are expected to thank your mother for buying sanitary productsand be damn grateful. But since it’s not something you are supposed to talk about how are you meant to know to thank them, but if you do then you mention “it” and then you’re in trouble again!
I was only jokin daaaaahhhhling, you take things WAY to seriously.
 and the list goes on…

Finally, after being diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, panic, agoraphobia (and probably a bit of OCD thrown in for good measure), and other labels, instead of medication, I wanted to choose a more holistic (shock horror!) approach. I was prescribed by my doctor an assistance dog (or service dog in other parts of the world). I still giggle about how I could get that prescription filled at the pharmacy! I tried to discuss it with fool 1 and 2, but the glazed look that came over their eyes conveyed the clear lack of interest in such matters – take medication of course! Being the overachiever and perfectionist that I can be (wonder where that comes from?) I decided to train my own dog and went through a training organisation. Of course I also did a nationally recognised course and became a canine behaviourist and accredited assistance dog trainer and assessor as well just for good measure (I wanted to make sure I trained my dog perfectly and placed so much pressure on myself whilst also working, doing a PhD, single parent and now this)… Fool 1 and 2 ignored the fact that my dog went to work with me, or if noticed, asked why is the dog going to work with you – countless repetitive explanations, to no avail… I even showed them my dog’s accreditation test results and her public access licence which comes complete with photo id.

The kicker came when my aunt asked me to attend her appointment with a neurologist as she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. I arrived with my accredited assistance dog. My brother was also there (he is of course a well respected surgeon you know). Towering over me (thank goodness my “vicious” assistance dog didn’t defend me!) and ordered me to “get the f** outside. How dare you embarrass me at this office, this is a million dollar account and this surgeon refers hundreds of patients to me. Get this f**n dog out of here.” Of course, like the good sister I was, I took the dog back to the car, and went back to attend the appointment. The idiot didn’t realise that the other surgeon had already seen my dog while we were waiting and the receptionist came over for a pat and cuddle…

After my aunts surgery (and correctly predicting my brother would go to the fools), I wrote to the hospital where she was to officially obtain approval for me and my assistance dog to visit her. I naively thought if I could send them this approval letter, then they would accept that my dog is protected by law and cannot be excluded…

On emailing the approval letter from the hospital to fool 1 and 2, here is the response I received: “Given the fact that for some time our relationship is like treading on egg shells with you tackling sensitive issues is difficult.   Why I do not know but that’s the way it is.  Perhaps that’s the way you want it.  Do what you wish.  I am sure the hospital will accommodate you as you want them to.  If you and your dog are so important as to be put in front of common sense and the interests of others then the consequences rests with you.”

I am still trying to figure out how I got the hospital to “accomodate” me – I think the Declaration of Human Rights probably has something to do with it (and I certainly was not a party to writing this!), but it would be pretty arrogant of me to think I could force a hospital to change policy – I don’t have that much influence! Also, how dare I place the interests of myself above others! How dare I enforce my rights in this situation! How dare I place myself as equally important to others!

A friend tried to smooth the situation over, but apparently “if everyone went around enforcing their rights, then there would be anarchy”. Interesting words coming from a judge. There is more that was said. Apparently if I was blind, then my guide dog could be left home and I could get somebody to lead me in to the hospital. In addition, apparently I was an extension of themselves, so anything bad I did reflected on them and my brother. What foolery and arrogance on their behalf… I guess that was the point where I had had enough. 

I found it an interesting process to go through, in that hearing their views of the disabled (although am totally sure that it would only be if I was visually impaired a guide dog would be problem, rather than other people), I finally opened my eyes and saw what was going on (no pun intended). I externalised this and it became about me protecting my assistance dog. I think at the time it was easier to take on the protective role for my dog, rather than me call it like it really was in that I was attempting to protect me. Given the strong sense of social justice that I have (I am still a little bewildered how I learnt this coming from this “family”), I was able to stop all contact with them, just as I would if I discovered somebody had racist views for example. I choose not to mix with people that have such views, my parents became one of THEM. This suited me just fine. I emailed them and let them know my thoughts. To this day they are apparently still so bewildered that I have stopped contact “with absolutely no reason given”… They obviously don’t read their emails!

My dog gave me the permission to say to them “I am not going to be treated like this anymore”. I tried to live up to all of their expectations both in behaviour, personality, career, marriage and child rearing, but their expectations of me are just way too exhausting. They changed the goal posts so often that it is clear (now that I have removed myself for the situation), that it was all about control and perfectionism (among other issues such as emotional and physical abuse, placing me in the hands of multiple abusers and ‘turning the other cheek’) etc. The truth is I have always been considered an embarrassment. It would not have mattered what I said or did, there would always be faults found. I was the scape goat of the “family” and the cause of all that was wrong. I simply proved it by doing something as shocking as requiring an assistance dog (she’s really not well you know, but she’s only faking it on the other hand).

I think the bottom line in this situation is that they expected me to tow the line and uphold the family name and certainly an assistance dog visibly represents something is “wrong” in the family and might reflect poorly on them. They expected me to respect my brothers business interests and they “ruled” that my brothers reputation would be muddied with the presence of an assistance dog. From my point of view, I finally had a benchmark with which to judge them on. In that despite the abuse they had previously perpetrated on me in the past, I knew the law in relation to the Disabilty Discrimination Act and I expected them to respect the law (my father is a judge after all, and we must all act within the letter and spirit of the law – or so I was raised to believe). They did not respect that law, despite validation of the law with the hospital’s approval letter, and my clear expectations being voiced. The law in this instance validated me and my assistance dog. The law allowed me once and for all to ask and expect that the bullying behaviour stop. The law provided me the confidence for me to righteously say enough is enough, it was something tangible for me to hold on to – yet underneath was the little girl crying for them to accept me for who I am. The law finally unveiled their mask permanently to show me what cruel, narcissistic, controlling, perfectionist, sadistic, bullying abusers they really were. In my mothers words “all over a f**n dog”… Yup, all over a dog (my precious sweet dog who has saved my life on more than one occasion – well ok, she is 120 pound mastiff, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder! I adore her sweet nature, expressive eyes and even the slobber, and she adores me. It just helps that despite her sweet temperament her impressive size keeps people away from me to leave a respectful distance, just the way I like it!). They say dogs are the biggest a**hole detectors. I concur!

I feel validated to be able to express this here. It’s refreshing to be able to expose the lies and the false beliefs they instilled about me. I’m naturally a humanitarian so there is guilt when I talk of people this way. But the truth of the matter is that I hate them. I hate them that they took away my innocence. I hate that every day I look in the mirror and see a fat, ugly, lazy pig. I hate that my mind continually spins and replays every horrible event in my life. I hate that their words echo in my mind on a continual loop. And I hate it that I hate them. But I’m going to rebuild my foundation. It starts now!

In terms of “The consequences rest with you”. I’m still trying to work out what consequences he was talking about, but their consequence is the loss of a daughter – forever.

Please don’t lose hope Gabbi. Strength comes from the most amazing places. I would have never have expected my strength to come from my dog! My thoughts are with you.

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Hi Everyone ~ I just published a new post in the “mother daughter relationship category” called
“When Mother’s blame Others for their own Disgraceful Behaviour” and I hope you will all join me there. This post shares some insight into some of what is behind the reason’s mother act this way.
Hugs, Darlene

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First, I am so grateful I found this site and read so many situations that mirror my life.
Second, Hobie it sounds like our mothers shared a lot of the same behaviors. My mother also had several people who liked her but behind closed doors she talked negatively about them. If they only knew that most of the information she shared with them usually made up by her. She is now deceased but it still amazes that throughout the years no one really knew her. She was such a miserable person she didn’t love her own granddaughter (a sibling’s daughter). She would tell me she wasn’t a very good grandma because she didn’t love this child. Of course this child’s mother (my sibling) believes she is the entitled child and had to tell me (after my mother’s death) that she and her daughter were very important to her. Again, she would be floored to know her own mother couldn’t stand her 17 yr old daughter. There were several times I wanted to throw it in her judgemental face but did not want to hurt my niece.
Before I knew my mother was an accomplished liar and shit disturber I believed her and spent so much of my life wondering what was wrong with me. Now I realize she was damaged and just plain mean spirited. Wow.. if only I had realized all of this while she was alive but unfortunately, for me, I truly seen how selfish, mean, and narcissistic she was when she was in hospice. Now I am left with so many questions ..why did she do this to me? Why didn’t she see any positives In me? Why did she work so hard to turn my children against me? Why was she only at peace when my life was in a turmoil? Why wasn’t she ever happy for me? Why was everything my fault and ‘ I should have known’ better.( Wow, that phrase has hampered my life.) Why didn’t she ever think I was ‘good enough’ for positive things in life. Why ..why..why? If I had known this before she died I would have made her live long enough to set me free..but wait she did know I needed answers but she refused to give me any. Even knowing she was dying and I was still alive. What a selfish little person she was… I am stuck with resentment and anger filling every cavity in my body..
Thank you

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Hi Andrea
Welcome to Emerging from Broken!
I am really glad you are here. The resentment can all be released when we realize that it was never about us. Your freedom was never up to her and having the answers to those why questions are also not the solution. It is in realizing that all her actions were about her and never about you that we find real healing and release from the pain of it all. (and all the ways that I did that are posted through the 450 articles and in my ebook and all through the comments from others as well. You have found the right place!
hugs, Darlene

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Rational-emotive therapy acknowledges that while abuse builds the foundation for dysfunctional adulthood, the effects of abuse can be amplified in a culture where it is culturally unacceptable. However, laypeople and a sadly large number of practitioners will overemphasize perspective over the acts of the abusers. Sometimes it is a result of mulling over the concept when they don’t yet have true understanding of how to apply it effectively. People take useful theories and don’t apply wisdom to them, and cause harm.

Your commentary here is moderate and acceptable. You weren’t expecting cars and consoles and roses from your parents, you wanted the love and respect that children are born to need.

It’s important to note that it is your action of accepting that your parents’ actions were wrong is still an act, by you. However you are not waving it in front of people who are not as far along in their recovery, telling them it’s their fault they aren’t there yet. Nor do you pretend it has solved all your chronic problems and created a perfect life for you. People are not simple.

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marquis (female)
May 12th, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Hello everyone,

Haven’t been commenting like I used to still working and interviewing. I needed something like this as I was told for years especially by that damn ex-therapist how “my expectations were too high” and what I was explaining to her back then was I have no assets and need this and that (still looking for work in 2013) etc. She said I am placing too much expectations on my parents blah blah blah.

You know, too much of expectations has been placed on me to put them in high regards over everything else. They teach and preach that shit that we should expect this and that but when someone demands or maybe asks for it then we get chastised for even asking for respect! It’s like I told my boyfriend ‘are we teaching people to be assertive or door mats?’

My ex-therapist told me to accept things for the way they are, oh really? It was like yea, your parents are abusive but they are still your parents her usual line she used against me. I don’t call that parenting! I did question what is expectation? What is acceptable expectation? I think we really need to define what is logical and reasonable when we want/need something from ourselves and others talking about realistic expectation.

“Furthermore…of course we need to have expectations of how we will be treated, of what is or is not acceptable. If we go to work…do we not expect to get paid?”

Amen!

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This is a hard one. I know for me, in 2 12 step programs they teach us to accept all things. And when there is a problem we look at ourselves. I’ve done this and have found no fault. I can say that my sponsor told me my family has outrageous expectations of each other. For a minute I thought we did. But in all reality I expected to be loved, accepted, respected and nurtured. I expected my mother to be at my wedding (who wouldn’t). I expected them to involve me in their lives. I’m done, done with all of them. No contact now for 8 months and the hardest thing is being without the chaos. Im alone with my wife, and our home is quiet. Im not expecting a phone call or an apology. It’s over. I have no more expectations, I’m moving onto the people who can/do/will love me for me and will love me even when I change. I plan to grow and change. I’m not a bad person, just lost myself in this whole process. Finding me and finding my truth.. Without them and it hasn’t been easy at all. I can accept my abusers today, but I will never have them over for dinner or get a cup of coffee with them. They taught me a lot of lessons and I hope to learn from them. I’ve never felt apart of my family, I’ve always felt different, and in September I was black listed. That was the last draw. I need to get healthy for me and no one else.

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The last time I talked by phone with Mom, she said she “felt sorry” for me. I replied that I felt sorry for her! SHE GOT MAD! Just like one of my siblings did. I stand up for myself, or shoot it right back and they are “upset” that I’m not being the “wimp” they want me to be.

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Hi Darlene,

I feel your outrage. I grew up with a Narcissistic mother and older sisters. I have tried explaining to my sisters that our mother is Narcissistic, but all I have received from them has been weird disjointed messages ending with ‘I love you’, or other strange responses, but always the insinuation that I am the one with the problem because I don’t quite ‘get’ my mother as they do.

when I originally wrote my mother a letter asking her why she didn’t come to my wedding (and made sure the rest of my family also stayed away), I got the same response. I apparently needed therapy, I didn’t understand what real family was all about, I was always blaming her, and other sweeping generalisations which all apparently in her own twisted mind excluded her from having to actually explain in rational adult fashion why she told me she couldn’t make my wedding because she was broke, then sent me a cheque for a thousand dollars for a wedding present.

It’s all head games and the worst thing about that is that they ‘feel’ genuine and make you want to play if for no other reason than to try and stop the feeling you are going crazy.

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@Kris

I DID cut that final thread. My mom was the last link I had to my family. She was acting as a “go between” to try and broker a peace agreement between me and my crazy siblings. I trusted her and hoped she was accurately representing me in this blind chess game.

The last straw was when she told me she was going on a two week vacation with the sister who had caused all the damage! She wasn’t going to talk about any issues while on vaca so not to ruin their time together.
After she returned she told ME that I “just wasn’t trying hard enough”…

My scissors came out and SNIP. The line was cut. And I have not regretted it. Not for a minute.

In that one sentence I realized (at 48) the situation with my family and mother (83) was never going to change. Not ever. I was ALWAYS going to have to be the one to bare the brunt, to be the scapegoat.

I have chosen to walk away completely. So I grieved them all as a death. With that choice also comes no funerals, no weddings. I’m done with that part of my life and won’t be hooked in again. It’s a tough adjustment, but one day at a time and with posts like this, I am getting through it.

Note: Although my mom said “it would kill her if she lost me” she hasn’t contacted me once. She has texted my husband, but hasn’t called or written me. It’s been almost a year now. Today is my birthday and no card from her. Even if she did send one, which she hasn’t in years, I wouldn’t respond. It’s over FOR ME and I have to accepted that.
Not one other family member has contacted me since either, so really, my cutting the cord cut the drama out of my life. I realize now that I had the power all along.

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As I add my posts I realize how harsh I may sound to most people, but my family–many families it seems, as Darlene is confirming with her blog–really is dangerous. Real bullies. Real evil, meaning to do real and constant harm. As long as I allow them access to me and my own nuclear family they CAN, will, do and thoroughly enjoy, hurting me. So the choice was clear. Not easy, and it took a few final blows to break my denial on their true intent before I severed the relationships for good, but it was, to my utter amazement, necessary.
To go back into relations with them would be like getting into a pool of great white sharks, hoping THIS TIME they won’t bite me.

156

For a long time, I blamed myself for my mother’s treatment of me. If only I were a better daughter. A more grateful daughter. A more loving daughter. A more communicative daughter. It took me a lot of years to realize that it wasn’t me. My friends loved me for who I was, not who she wanted me to be. They told me I was great the way I was. They told me that I was doing a fantastic job as a single parent. They built me up and I finally accepted that is what people who love you are supposed to do. Not break you down. And certainly not tear you down.

I have a loving relationship now with my boyfriend. He has never met my parents, mainly because when we got to the point that I was excited for them to meet him, she showed her ass and he no longer wanted to meet her. I don’t blame him. His family welcomed me with open arms and are so different than my own. And by my family I am referring to my mom. I would still love for my BF to meet my brothers and my dad. But he is outspoken, and I know that he would feel the need to stick up for me at some point, and then it would reflect badly on him. And how could he meet them w/o her there?

I’m exhausted and hurting, as you can tell……..

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Hi Ally
What would be so wrong about your b.f. sticking up for you? Why would it reflect badly on him if the reason he was sticking up for you was valid? These are the questions that I asked myself when I was coming out of the fog. I had to really think about this stuff in order to claim the life that was rightfully mine.
Thanks for sharing,
Glad you are here!
hugs, Darlene

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Darlene, You are correct. See? I’m still trying to be the ultimate people pleaser, the calmer of the waters. He has shown me it’s okay to stick up for me. To ask for what I want, and not care about being super-polite. I am so scared of hurting others’ feelings that I neglect my own.

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Ally
And neglect your own feelings. It isn’t about being polite at all. It is about being treated with the same ‘respect’ that they demand of you. It is really simply asking for mutual relationship, mutual respect and love in the action of love. I had to think about what I was scared of… and the bottom line of where and how I learned to be scared of it. (you might like my e-book)
hugs, Darlene

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When you’ve experienced a lot of horrible things within your family (Of which society has covered and justified as honourable. With the people that fight back being considered wusses for successfully seeing through the bullshit), then of course we should have high expectations! Especially when we want to venture into things like falling in love. Because of my experiences within my family, I am afraid of ever opening up to any person, whatever the gender, because:

(I) Like hell I would allow my significant other to experience the wrath of some of my toxic (oh sorry I mean loving) family members.

(II) I fear that my said significant other will just be as vile as some of the people that I have dealt with within what is supposed to a “loving” environment (I’ve already experienced pain for 22 years, the next should be all about the opposite thank you very much!)

Furthermore, I would also like to point which aspects that you have written truly resonated with me in this particular article. Those being these points:
I accepted that my family was abusive.

I accepted that they were not going to listen to me.

I accepted that based on results, they were not going to change.

I accepted that even if I left, they were not going to care.

I accepted that in their view, the problem was me.

I accepted that the problem was never me.

I know that what I would like to add is just a repetition of these points, but I want some more healing to be done. So just to add from my perspective, this is what I have accepted:

-That my father has always favoured my sister and will never love her and me equally

*Once upon a time when I was 14 yrs old in 2008, a lady came into our doorstep asking if we are interested in karate classes. My dad being the martial arts enthusiast, was like sign both my son and 11 yr old daughter!
It’s already painful that I can’t say no to something I didn’t want to do, but this is where it hurt. When we got graded from white to yellow belt, my sister started to shine in every lesson we attended, knowing moves that were from that of blue and green belt level. Obviously my Dad has been giving my sister dear some advanced lessons behind my back (Yeah okay I know I should have approached my Dad about this, but I was hurting). It even got to the point at one time, after one karate session in 2010, my Dad was quite frank to me and said: The coach said that your sister may advance to orange belt before you because you have not set the benchmark, all of that whilst I was crying outside of the supermarket waiting for my Mother and sister were shopping. To comfort me? He said: I don’t favour your sister. Every time I talk to your mother, I always say that Carl is so persistent and will go far.
*My Dad has done other things to show this blatant favouritism, but this is one scar that still hasn’t healed.

-That my cousin is his ideal son

*My father considers my cousin from my mother’s side like his own son (Even if he doesn’t carry our surname, bear our facial features, or have an ounce of my father’s family’s blood). Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind having family outside of my
own, but it’s the special treatment that my cousin gets from him which irks me like:

-Buying him food or other stuff
-Calling him “son”
-Offering to pick him up and drop him off when his parents are busy

*I have a good relationship with my cousin and his parents, and his parents have never called me son and I actually respect and am fine with just being seen as a nephew. What gets to me is this. If my uncle and aunty bought me food and offered to pick me up or drop me off, my dad would be like: Have you no shame? Pay for your own food, or why don’t you pay for the bill in your next restaurant get together with your uncle and aunty. Oh and seriously you’re going to get them to drop you off? Yet my cousin gets a free pass for all of this because he is also my Dad’s “son”

It’s also hurtful to hear him say other things to set me apart from my cousin like: You know you have such a talent in maps at such a young age “son” (He told my cousin this a long time ago maybe when he was only like 5). When your older cousin was at your age, he was only good at naming cars. Thanks for pointing out that a walking atlas are just some of the ingredients for an ideal son Dad!

What also hurts is whatever my cousin and I venture in together, we are still compared! When we got into personal training (which I actually enjoyed as I didn’t really have a problem with my cousin) with the same coach, our bodies started
to improve. But my father didn’t stop on putting my cousin at the pedestal, saying things like: Oh my god his arms are a lot more toned and so and so.

I am sorry if I don’t sound like I am 21 from the content that I am writing, but I like to believe that we can still express pain no matter how immature we may come across regardless of whether you are 21 or beyond that.

161

Wow, Carlos. I just left a comment for you on another thread. When you say you don’t think you sound like 21, what you sound like to me is someone who has understanding way beyond their years. You have accurately described the family dynamic. You see it very clearly. That is a hell of an achievement for a 21 year old- I certainly could not have seen it at your age. My older sister is golden and can do no wrong, I am the scapegoat and can do no right, rather like your father favors your cousin and denigrates you. It took me decades before I could even begin to articulate the damage so even though you are in a horrible situation, you have already begun to find your way. It may not help with the pain, but I am rooting for you! You will be all right. Stick around! Branwen

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Hey Light,

I am loveless this coming Valentine’s Day (And will forever remain that way, which to me isn’t really a problem). I am sorry about the response to your sexual abuse. To excuse such actions, is a testament to how vicious these people truly are and I am glad that you’re no longer bearing with all the fakeness that they’ve constantly dished out on you.

I have completely disregarded the prospect of ever marrying and having kids (Even if in my heart, I know that I can be a better father than my sorry excuse of a Dad), as a result of all the toxicity that we are just expected to brush off and man up to. Just the thought of hearing my Dad beam with pride every time he says: “Carl’s going to make our lineage look superb once he gets an attractive lady to make babies with him.” And I am like in my mind what!? A vasectomy and or remaining celibate is the only option I see fit, if it were to mean that my yet to be born (or should I say never will be born children) will never ever meet someone like him for a grandfather.

Sorry to be off topic. Some of us may seek for retributions and apologies all we want, but the sad reality, at least to me, is that the saying “what goes around, comes around” has its limitations or “favourites”. And if ever an apology for a mistake that was committed has been offered, I can’t help but think that there lie some malice in that supposed sorry. Sorry for hurting us? or Sorry because you will eventually hurt us again and you expect us to be subscribed to an unlimited supply of forgiveness to give out just like that, is what comes to mind whenever an abuser apologises.

They haven’t won and if we are to be labelled as the bad ones, well they’re only lying to themselves and those forced fed principles of theirs. Whilst family could be excused for some actions, that “free pass”, I’d like to believe will eventually have an expiration date, once the limits have been pushed to the core.

Kind regards,

Carlos

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This an old thread, but I have just found this site. I’m “recovering” from a life surrounded by assholes, in a country where the culture devalues people like me. I have no choice but to jump back into it all very soon – I’m fairly sure I have to work for a living… we shall see.

I came to your site because right now, despite a decade of doing my best to prepare for life again, I’m feeling like I haven’t learned enough, that I’m not entirely prepared for what I’ll face next week. And i’m pushing myself hard with the methods I’ve learned to expose and shore-up anything that could avoid an avoidable mess.

That quote you’ve posted about expectations… I’ve just been writing my thoughts down on my problem these last few days and told myself, “…don’t have any expectations, it’ll ruin the possibility of relationship before you begin”. Your response to that suggestion is a good foil to the way I think right now. It exposes where I am still weak. Clearly there is still a whisper in my brain that it is/was all my fault. Which it wasn’t, it proveably wasn’t, so how does it still happen like that?

I looked at the “no expectations” mentality as rejecting my past method for approaching other people. My World was so controlling, I could only tolerate engaging with it if I knew, several steps ahead, how they would behave. Then (with varying success)I could jump out the way of their abuse. The bizarre game of “spiritual dodgeball” I ended up playing worked really well, right up to the point where it failed spectacularly!

So now I wonder, hey maybe I’m doing it wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t expect people to be healthy humans and I should just “go with the flow” when things start. That way, I would reduce my influence on the beginning; as if I were easing myself into a river to avoid immediately being torn apart by rapids I could not see. I had to believe that something “spiritual” would save me, because nothing else could.

You and I both know how abusers and controllers always do their best to hide who they really are at the beginning, and the World demands we get involved with people we shouldn’t… people who, if we had more time to decide and explore before committing, we wouldn’t have a bar of… but time is money… make your decision!… Modern Life screams at us for answers we simply don’t have and our emotional systems can’t take the endless fuck-ups losses and disappointments without serious reprisals and breakdown.

I’ve just had so many disasters that I’m over it all. What can I do? Swim to another country and try again in another culture? Perhaps me thinking “no expections, no problem” was just a reflection of my exasperation with a seemingly hopeless situation.

Believe it or not I’m “getting better”, (lol) and I do not know for sure that these people are as nasty as all the rest, no solid proof yet, but the preparation and waiting to engage has really given me an emotional workout.

I’m stuck in a conflict between two perspectives of mine. One is for hiding/recovering from the constant grief, fear and pain. The other, driven by a life-time of anxiety, is rational due-dilligence. One destroys the potential safety of the other when they come into philosophical opposition. If I discard both, I have two choices: Dive into the river regardless (potentially disrespect myself), or avoid everyone forever(and leave society forever, potentially dying in poverty and homelessness in old age). I just want to get it right this time, you know? I want it to be ok, and I can’t find anyone or anything who can say that it will be ok in a way I believe it.

Anyway, just a couple of pages/blog posts that I read here shows a real depth (yours) of understanding in these matters. Thanks for writing it all down. It’s really hard to find good info online these days.

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Hi Phil
Welcome to EFB and thank you so much for sharing! I am really glad you found my work and that it is resonating with you. You are certainly not alone!
Hugs, Darlene

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