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: Hope Posted: 25th February

    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.

  2. By: S1988 Posted: 24th February

    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.

  3. By: Light Posted: 24th February

    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.

  4. By: Hobie Posted: 24th February

    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.

  5. By: Alice Posted: 24th February

    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:)

  6. By: Hobie Posted: 24th February

    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.


  7. By: Alice Posted: 24th February

    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.

  8. By: Hope Posted: 23rd February

    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.

  9. By: mary Posted: 19th February

    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.

  10. By: Anna Posted: 19th February

    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.

  11. By: Alice Posted: 18th February

    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.

  12. By: Keira Posted: 18th February

    @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!


  13. By: Hope Posted: 18th February

    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.

  14. By: Keira Posted: 18th February

    @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.
    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 🙂


  15. By: Alice Posted: 18th February

    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.

  16. By: Hope Posted: 18th February

    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.

  17. By: Hope Posted: 18th February

    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.

  18. By: Kathryn Posted: 17th February

    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.

  19. By: Beth Posted: 16th February

    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.

  20. By: Alice Posted: 16th February

    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.

  21. By: Jay Posted: 16th February

    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.

  22. By: Kris Posted: 16th February

    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.


  23. By: Amber Posted: 15th February

    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.

  24. By: Light Posted: 14th February

    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.

    • By: Carlos Posted: 2nd February

      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,


  25. By: Mary Posted: 14th February

    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.

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