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


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

164 response to "What We Hear when People Suggest that our Expectations are Too High"

  1. By: Phil Posted: 20th July

    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.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 25th July

      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

  2. By: Branwen Posted: 2nd February

    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

  3. By: Carlos Posted: 2nd February

    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.

  4. By: Ally Posted: 28th July

    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.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th July

      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

  5. By: Ally Posted: 28th July

    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……..

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th July

      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

  6. By: Mary-Grace Posted: 22nd July

    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.

  7. By: Mary-Grace Posted: 22nd July


    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.

  8. By: Theodora Posted: 28th May

    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.

  9. By: DXS Posted: 17th May

    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.

  10. By: Molly Posted: 16th May

    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.

  11. By: marquis (female) Posted: 12th May

    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?”


  12. By: Vicki Posted: 10th May

    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.

  13. By: Andrea Posted: 20th April

    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

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 22nd April

      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

  14. By: Coco Posted: 3rd March

    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.

  15. By: Alice Posted: 2nd March

    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.

  16. By: Alaina Posted: 1st March

    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.

  17. By: Gabbi Posted: 1st March

    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

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 1st March

      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

  18. By: S1988 Posted: 25th February


    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.

  19. By: Hope Posted: 25th February

    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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