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"But We Took You To Stately Homes!" - Survivors of Dysfunctional Families

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It's March 2013, and the Stately Home is still open to visitors.

Forerunning threads:
December 2007
March 2008
August 2008
February 2009
May 2009
January 2010
April 2010
August 2010
March 2011
November 2011
January 2012
November 2012
January 2013

Please check later posts in this thread for links & quotes. The main thing is: "they did do it to you" - and you can recover.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Welcome to the Stately Homes Thread.

This is a long running thread which was originally started up by 'pages' see original thread here (December 2007)

So this thread originates from that thread and has become a safe haven for Adult children of abusive families.

One thing you will never hear on this thread is that your abuse or experience was not that bad. You will never have your feelings minimised the way they were when you were a child, or now that you are an adult. To coin the phrase of a much respected past poster Ally90;

'Nobody can judge how sad your childhood made you, even if you wrote a novel on it, only you know that. I can well imagine any of us saying some of the seemingly trivial things our parents/siblings did to us to many of our real life acquaintances and them not understanding why we were upset/angry/hurt etc. And that is why this thread is here. It's a safe place to vent our true feelings, validate our childhood/lifetime experiences of being hurt/angry etc by our parents? behaviour and to get support for dealing with family in the here and now.'

Most new posters generally start off their posts by saying; but it wasn't that bad for me or my experience wasn't as awful as x,y or z's.

Some on here have been emotionally abused and/or physically abused. Some are not sure what category (there doesn't have to be any) they fall into.

NONE of that matters. What matters is how 'YOU' felt growing up, how 'YOU' feel now and a chance to talk about how and why those childhood experiences and/ or current parental contact, has left you feeling damaged falling apart from the inside out and stumbling around trying to find your sense of self-worth.

You might also find the following links and information useful, if you have come this far and are still not sure whether you belong here or not.

'Toxic Parents' by Susan Forward.

I started with this book and found it really useful.

Here are some excerpts:

"Once you get going, most toxic parents will counterattack. After all, if they had the capacity to listen, to hear, to be reasonable, to respect you feelings, and to promote your independence, they wouldn't be toxic parents. They will probably perceive your words as treacherous personal assaults. They will tend to fall back on the same tactics and defenses that they have always used, only more so.

Remember, the important thing is not their reaction but your response. If you can stand fast in the face of your parents' fury, accusations, threats and guilt-peddling, you will experience your finest hour.

Here are some typical parental reactions to confrontation:

"It never happened". Parents who have used denial to avoid their own feelings of inadequacy or anxiety will undoubtedly use it during confrontation to promote their version of reality. They'll insist that your allegations never happened, or that you're exaggerating. They won't remember, or they will accuse you of lying.

YOUR RESPONSE: Just because you don't remember, doesn't mean it didn't happen".

"It was your fault." Toxic parents are almost never willing to accept responsibility for their destructive behavior. Instead, they will blame you. They will say that you were bad, or that you were difficult. They will claim that they did the best that they could but that you always created problems for them. They will say that you drove them crazy. They will offer as proof the fact that everybody in the family knew what a problem you were. They will offer up a laundry list of your alleged offenses against them.

YOUR RESPONSE: "You can keep trying to make this my fault, but I'm not going to accept the responsibility for what you did to me when I was a child".

"I said I was sorry what more do you want?" Some parents may acknowledge a few of the things that you say but be unwilling to do anything about it.

YOUR RESPONSE: "I appreciate your apology, but that is just a beginning. If you're truly sorry, you'll work through this with me to make a better relationship."

"We did the best we could." Some parents will remind you of how tough they had it while you were growing up and how hard they struggled. They will say such things as "You'll never understand what I was going through," or "I did the best I could". This particular style of response will often stir up a lot of sympathy and compassion for your parents. This is understandable, but it makes it difficult for you to remain focused on what you need to say in your confrontation. The temptation is for you once again to put their needs ahead of your own. It is important that you be able to acknowledge their difficulties without invalidating your own.

YOUR RESPONSE: "I understand that you had a hard time, and I'm sure that you didn't hurt me on purpose, but I need you to understand that the way you dealt with your problems really did hurt me"

"Look what we did for you." Many parents will attempt to counter your assertions by recalling the wonderful times you had as a child and the loving moments you and they shared. By focusing on the good things, they can avoid looking at the darker side of their behavior. Parents will typically remind you of gifts they gave you, places they took you, sacrifices they made for you, and thoughtful things they did. They will say things like, "this is the thanks we get," or "nothing was ever enough for you."

YOUR RESPONSE: "I appreciate those things very much, but they didn't make up for ...."

"How can you do this to me?" Some parents act like martyrs. They'll collapse into tears, wring their hands, and express shock and disbelief at your "cruelty". They will act as if your confrontation has victimized them. They will accuse you of hurting them, or disappointing them. They will complain that they don't need this, they have enough problems. They will tell you that they are not strong enough or healthy enough to take this, that the heartache will kill them. Some of their sadness will, of course, be genuine. It is sad for parents to face their own shortcomings, to realize that they have caused their children significant pain. But their sadness can also be manipulative and controlling. It is their way of using guilt to try to make you back down from the confrontation.

YOUR RESPONSE: "I'm sorry you're upset. I'm sorry you're hurt. But I'm not willing to give up on this. I've been hurting for a long time, too."

Helpful Websites

Alice Miller

Personality Disorders definition

More helpful links:

Daughters of narcissistic mothers
Out of the FOG
You carry the cure in your own heart
Help for adult children of child abuse
Pete Walker

Some books:

Homecoming
Will I ever be good enough?
If you had controlling parents
When you and your mother can't be friends
Children of the self-absorbed
Recovery of your inner child

"I'm sure the other posters will be along shortly to add anything they feel I have left out. I personally don't claim to be sorted but I will say my head has become a helluva lot straighter since I started posting here. You will receive a lot of wisdom but above all else the insights and advice given will 'always' be delivered with warmth and support."

Happy Posting (smithfield posting as therealsmithfield)

Midwife99 Mon 04-Mar-13 17:31:11

Yes true the body never lies. Close proximity or physical contact with my parents makes me feel nauseous & I start pulling my hair out - something I used to do when I was a teenager. sad

Badvoc Mon 04-Mar-13 17:39:17

Oh god, yes!
At Xmas when things were really bad I was in bed with the most horrendous migraine for 3 days!
They actually make me ill!
I am all for forgiveness if the person truly repents their behaviour...but few ever really do ime.
My siblings would be genuinely shocked to know how much I resent them.
The idea that I should have been treated any other way is just not one that occurs to them.
I see my parents on my terms now.
And I like it that way.
I see my siblings very rarely anyway, so no loss there. I do wish I saw more of my nephews and niece, but maybe that will come as they get older....
My eldest nephew loves it here. After the last party here he told my sister that "I love auntie badvocs house, it's full of beautiful people" smile sad
I think he means that we play with him, and have fun. Not that we should be adorning the pages if vogue!

unschoolmum Tue 05-Mar-13 08:59:55

What books has everyone read and which did you find best and why? Has anyone done work on improving their psychological boundaries or boundary strength? This is my next focus.

Badvoc Tue 05-Mar-13 09:03:36

Toxic parents by Susan forward helped me.
It made me see that even though I wasn't sexually abused, or anything awful like that, the patently I recieved was "inadequate".
It did help me,knowing I wasn't the only one, too.

FairyFi Tue 05-Mar-13 09:38:17

daughter of narcissus - only just started reading.. I have heard its good and an enjoyable read, but I think its very boring so far sad - purely because I couldn't be less interested in the intricacies of how life was supposed to be lived by the rich and famous and the social expectations and niceties, unnecessary and uninteresting 'bulk' to my mind (you know, how servants were employed, how being a winter resident was so important or not, how awful and boring it was to be in this 'class') that could be too soon a judgement, I am still hopeful of some real grist, and less of the lives of the rich and famous as I don't really have an appetite for that.

Boundaries are my biggest challenge right now, but I have put a lot in place, just don't know where the lines lie on many things.

I'm pleased to see a book review here unschool xx

oldtoys Tue 05-Mar-13 10:41:07

well I'm reading 'Quiet - the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking' by Susan Cain

Not directly related to the narc mother etc but helps me immensely as I was always told by her to be more sociable, etc etc when all I wanted was to be left alone to read etc as spending time alone gave me immense peace in a very chaotic stressful household back then.

This book is giving me the justification I need to be who I am, and not listen to that critical voice telling me I'm 'too quiet'

Going to read the Toxic Parents one next.

Salbertina Tue 05-Mar-13 10:44:31

OT- also a fan, did you see her TED talk?

I like Children of the Self-absorbed also transactional analysis is good re boundary-building. Less keen on Toxic Parents and Alice Miller, found too full-on for my situation but i know lots on here have found helpful.

tangerinefeathers Tue 05-Mar-13 20:44:28

oldtoys I also read a huge amount growing up, it was my escape from living up in such a cold home.

I am in a dilemma at the moment. My mother has agreed to have my DS (2) once a week at the same time as my little niece. He loves playing with her and seems happy when I leave, but when I rang this afternoon to arrange to pick him up he was crying in the background, very upset.

She brought him home immediately and he had a dirty nappy (as in soiled, not just wet). When I picked him up last time he also had a dirty nappy, and I am beginning to think she doesn't change him (and that was possibly why she was so keen to bring him over; usually I pick him up).

I think she knew I wasn't happy, as tonight she called twice, always a danger sign of her trying to 'regain control', the second time I didn't answer but she left a message saying she wanted to buy him a little car and was that OK.

What I want to say to her is I don't mind about the car, do it if you like, but please if he's got a dirty nappy either change it immediately or ring me and I will do it. I know she thinks I should have toilet trained him by now and perhaps this is how she does it - simply doesn't bother to change nappies or let them be uncomfortable past a certain age. I wonder if she was like that with me.

The other thing is we were out for dinner last week and DS walked away and she offered to go and get him; he was lying on the carpet and she dragged him up by the arm and escorted him back to the table. He had a look on his face that was hard to describe, kind of shocked obedience. She can be very rough, I never like her touching me/getting too close and I'm sure this is due to the way she treated me as a child.

I also know that she will quite happily leave him to sit and cry, and simply ignore him at times. He also never gets a nap there so comes home exhausted.

I am thinking of making the day she looks after him a half day, as he loves seeing his cousin.

It would cause a huge drama were I to pull out of the arrangement altogether, and he would miss out on playing with his cousin. But am I ignoring warning bells here? I simply don't trust the woman.

Sorry for the ramble. I can't sleep for worry that I am exposing him to harm and needed to offload!

FairyFi Tue 05-Mar-13 21:34:11

ws interested in the TA book that you mentioned Salbertina as I'm into boundary building right now... is it just called TA? Considering CBT too as a tool to repatterning

Oopla Tue 05-Mar-13 23:01:35

Tangerine- only you know whether she should look after your child. If you're feeling uncomfortable though really think about why. If you're feeling it, he will too, and he doesn't have the language to tell you why. Could you not mention the dirty nappy situation? Not feeling like you can is as much of an issue as the nappy.

I was once in a shop with my then toddler ds and mother, he was trying to test her and I caught her about to smack him. Will never forget her face as she looked up and saw me measuring her up. I would've straight put her on her arse!

FairyFi Tue 05-Mar-13 23:16:07

tangerine go with your instincts, rely on yourself to know best, your DC your call totally, too bad if any don't like it... not their DC so not their decision. We can't be cowards about this, regardless of potential 'huge drama' its better to have that than your DC suffer? You have seen her rough handling and neglect, so much so that you are now not sleeping.

Wet nappies for hours don't really pose a problem but dirty ones do for them, on many levels, it is unhygenic and neglectful of her, plus you know she smacks, even though I guess shes knows you wouldn't agree with that?

I think you have all the ticks necessary here. xx

Hissy Tue 05-Mar-13 23:19:29

TF, you know what you have to do. You child is. Not being looked after properly.

Feign a tummy bug or something, then a 'not himself' and feverish. Then say tbh, you happy to leave things the way they are, with you. And then get the cousin's mum to do a playdate if that works for you.

You have to make the right choice for your child. He's suffering, and only you can stop that.

My DS is 7, and a forced change of clothes that were too small was enough to put me off letting my DM having DS too often.

Just say you want to change the arrangement to half days. You do not need to explain or apologise. You're his Mum and an adult. Trust your gut. Don't be afraid and if she reacts badly, feel free to withdraw all visits there without you and arrange more play dates separately with his cousin. Her reaction will say it all.

The fact you're awake worrying, is a sign as others have said x

I would call her on it. State that his nappy needs changing when dirty or he will get a sore bottom. If she mentions he should be potty trained by now, just shut her down. He's your son, you'll know when he's ready. She's had her chance, it's your turn, your son.

Firm boundaries are needed. It's that or she sees him less.

It's scary though, when you start to assert yourself x

tangerinefeathers Wed 06-Mar-13 04:58:33

Thanks for all the input. I also brought it up with a newish RL friend today and am feeling more confident about dealing with it now. It's so new for me to discuss my mother as anything other than a Living Saint with others, to really be honest about her true nature, and it's so good to know I'm not imagining things, which is how she would see it. She actually pretends not to notice that he's got a dirty nappy a lot of the time, which is how she gets away with it to herself and [she assumes] to me.

I think I'll keep the morning play as he does love seeing his cousin, but perhaps pick him up early afternoon so he has a sleep and isn't around her for long enough that she starts getting irritable/bored and misbehaving. [that makes her sound like the child, which she is grin ]

I am also going to take over a stack of nappies & wipes and make it clear to her that if she doesn't want to change him to call me and I will come early and do it.

She was always neglectful with our physical wellbeing. My DH is often amazed at how much physical discomfort I will put up with - being wet, cold etc - because I am used to it not being seen as an issue.

It's totally scary when you start to assert yourself! It is so not allowed in my family, to ever stand up to Mum. She simply cannot handle it, my two older sisters are the same.

Oopla that is fortunate you caught your mother in the act. I can imagine the expression too. Like a naughty child.

Hissy that is so odd that your mother would put your child in too-small clothes. It's this weird inability to respect/look after that is so hard to fathom isn't it?

Anyway the next worry on my list is how to give birth and get home from the hospital without her finding out for as long as possible. she behaved atrociously when my DS was born and I am keen for her to know nothing about this birth so she can't ruin it. But will save that for another time!

thanks again all. It's a shame we all have these parents but it helps to know I'm not alone.

Hissy Wed 06-Mar-13 07:39:22

They were birthday clothes, bought in his year size. He's always been enormous, so it was never going to fit.

When he asked to change, repeatedly, she told him it'd make her very upset if he did change out of them. Skinny jeans too, even if they'd have been the correct size, they'd have looked crap.

He's 7, he can tell me the idiotic stuff she does, and I can do something about it. Your baby can't tell you. He cries and screams to tell HER he's in distress, but, as she did with you, ignoring him, making him suffer is rewarding for her. Gives her a sense of control, and will make her victim pathetically grateful for any accidental kindness she shows.

Stop putting your fear of her before your son's comfort/wellbeing. Please. She neglected you, badly, and now she's doing it to your baby.

Don't ever feel bad for standing up for your children.

My DS didn't even START potty training until after his 3rd birthday.

Have you told your H what your M does to his son? Could HE not make an executive ruling, and take the fallout, if you are too fearful of her to do this?

I know how scared you feel, but please take a moment to realise that the amount of fear is irrational, as it's your childhood fear.

We're all with you, we all want you to be strong, and not let your mum abuse and neglect your child.

FairyFi Wed 06-Mar-13 07:46:48

TF good plan. .. shame for you about birth plans tho (as they don't normally include parents!)

yy normally a prime time for serious narc behaviours! so well done for preempting that. Good luck with successful plan.

I got smacked very hard, and beaten (if I didn't run fast enough!), maybe they would blame their upbringing, buy I've never smacked. I remember MIL smacking angry (didin't witness it) took DC back to her and made her apologise to DC, was shaking with grrrr....

Salbertina Wed 06-Mar-13 08:03:24

Fairy- while you're on, there are lots of TA books- "Introduction to TA" is a good one, also old classics such as "I'm okay, you're ok" HTH

tangerinefeathers Wed 06-Mar-13 08:06:33

hissy that is very familiar, the 'I'm going to be very upset if you do that' message.

I remember my mother knitted my DS a tiny red cardigan when he was a newborn and still all curled up, and I couldn't 'unstraighten' him to put him in it (very stiff, tight knitting) and she was upset and had a go at me that he'd never worn it. It was too small, end of story. I remember thinking, I couldn't care less whether he wears it or not, which was a new rebellion.

It was in those early days of feeling utterly shell shocked and totally absorbed with trying to 'tune into' my DS that I first started to see how irrational and selfish she was.

You're right, I know you're right. I don't know if she smacks but I've seen her handling him roughly, I could tell from his cry that she had hurt him. She's a naturally violent person, always has been, even her language is violent.

My DH will back me up. When I saw her for who she was after I had DS he said, 'oh, right from the first time I met her I wondered how someone could be so icy cold.'

He never told me because he's too polite...

I do think a morning play is OK as he sticks to his cousin like glue and she is older, four, so she couldn't' do anything to him in front of her and get away with it. But I am going to pick him up after lunch. This arrangement will only go for a year as then she goes to school and there's no chance my mother will have DS on his own, too much effort for her, plus I wouldn't feel comfortable.

FairyFi that is awful. Well done for making your MIL apologise. I was smacked too, more physically overpowered by her and she'd seem to lose all control, but I have never smacked my DS (well he's only 2 so I can't be too smug) and I hope I never will. What do they think it teaches, it's been proven again and again to be ineffective. Crap parenting, I think.

FairyFi Wed 06-Mar-13 08:42:37

thanks Sal will look it up on-line - although I have to say again how unbelievably helpful this forum TA is!

TF the awful thing was with the smack, DD (pre-school) came to 'us' as parents and said 'granny smacked me' looking all confused and upset, her NSDF remained motionless, whilst I started shaking! confused shock His NSDM smacked her and I looked to him and said, well? .... absolute silence.... not even a look, nothing.

tangerinefeathers Wed 06-Mar-13 08:52:37

FairyFi Bizarre. Used to relying on silence and denial, no doubt. At least with your DD a smack is so far out of her understanding of normal behaviour that she comes to you immediately and reports it.

The sad thing is, they smack to feel power but there's nothing to make a child lose respect faster in my experience, you might fear them but you no longer trust or even really like them sad

unschoolmum Wed 06-Mar-13 09:18:21

Tangerine, my Dad once looked after my daughter when she was a baby. I returned at 7pm and my Dad told me she did something in her nappy at lunch. She had poo in her nappy for 7 hours and her skin was almost bleeding. This was before I understood how toxic my parents were. I never said anything to my Dad and even allowed him to look after her again. The same man pinned my son down when he was 4 and beat him for playing with the cutlery. At the time, I couldn't go with my instincts because I was so enmeshed with them. You seem more aware than I was then.

Sorry Fairy, I was also smacked and caned as a child. My parents deny it!

oldtoys Wed 06-Mar-13 09:50:43

glad you're changing arrangements to have your son only with his cousin in the mornins Tangerine. Small steps, but you must be strong and assertive with her, even if you feel like you're dishonouring your mother or being disrespectful

the thing with these types of mothers is that they THRIVE on the power and control over you, even when you're an adult. And for some reason, we LET them.

it is hard to break the dependency on a mother figure, regardless of how nasty she has been.

But it's time to change - you have a new future with your own little family, and a massive duty of care to put your son first, who cares about your mother's reaction? Maybe it's about time she started to get a response from you. Maybe it's time?

And YY to getting your DH involved in speaking up as your protector - he doesn't need to have an argument, he can just answer calls for you, or answer her questions or you can say oh I don't know, you'll have to ask DH. Especially if you have a newborn due soon, you need your nest protected!!

oldtoys Wed 06-Mar-13 09:57:00

oh and the one and only time mother looked after DS when he was 18mths we had to go to a wedding, we returned late that night to find her sitting up on our bed, holding DS in a blanket, saying he just wouldn't sleep, I'm so exhausted.

Never mind the fact that she's had kids of her own, she didn't have to be sitting straight up at 1am?

Then next day, DS was able to tell me in his own little way 'Granny smack hand'. I was angry

oldtoys Wed 06-Mar-13 09:58:38

I am proud of myself that I have NEVER left them with her since. Hard, as yes I'd love more chances to do normal things like that so I could go out more with DH etc, but it's not worth it. So we do nice things during the daytime instead, like lunches out with the kids, or visits. And it's just as nice as we don't have the stress of having her involved. She just seems to add a bitter tang to everything.

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