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

(1000 Posts)
DontstepontheMomeRaths Sun 25-Nov-12 21:48:27

Thread opener here: smile
You may need to right-click and 'unblock' it after downloading it.

It's November 2012, 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

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 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 us 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

Follow up to pages first thread:

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)

I have cut and pasted this because I think it is fab. Just in case anyone misses the link.

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:

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

forgetmenots Mon 26-Nov-12 08:04:04

Bumping the new SH thread...

DontstepontheMomeRaths Mon 26-Nov-12 08:20:54

I don't think I have a full house yet grin

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 26-Nov-12 09:23:29

"You were always a difficult child"

I had that all my life, and only realised recently how evil and insidious a thing it is to say to your own child. It went a long way to me normalising my ex-husband's abuse - after all, I deserved it, right? Since I have always been so difficult to get along with...

Anyway, this morning I am musing about how afraid I am of turning into my mother. I am angry. She's angry. I blame them for shit parenting, and how it has affected me. She spends her time moaning about how she was the "neglected middle child".

She took her anger out on me, my sister and my dad. I don't actively put people down like she does, but I am an avoider. Passive aggressive.

I really have to get rid of all this anger and self-hatred and let go of it, or it's going to continue to poison me and possibly others. I'm just at a loss about how to do that: the anger and self-hatred are there. I try to be aware of them, to cope with and counter them, but they're still always there.

forgetmenots Mon 26-Nov-12 10:07:18

I think there is a middle ground hotdamn. I think it's ok to avoid if it's done as an active, positive decision (NC) rather than as a punishment or withholding, if that makes sense. It also gives you space to deal with the anger you rightly feel rather than adding to it with more hostility from her. None of us are perfect but you don't 'actively put people down'. I'd say that tells you immediately that you are dealing with your anger better than your mother did, you are not her.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 26-Nov-12 11:04:02

We are both (my mother and I) processing unsatisfactory childhoods in different ways; neither of them healthy.

I at least recognise the issues, and harm myself more than I harm others (not a great outcome either). I just know that I can't be truly happy (and I also risk adopting mom-behaviours) as long as I carry this overwhelming self-hatred. But it is anchored so tight...

I am so tired of always being depressed, or teetering on the edge.

I've been in therapy, I regularly work through an online CBT workbook, I make the bleeding effort to exercise, eat well, socialise, etc to keep from sinking into a black hole. But the black hole is always fucking there, and always pulling at me.

I hate this.

I know I need to get rid of 2 related things: anger, and self-hatred.

The anger: I know that the origin of all this shit is how I was parented. But handing that anger back where it belongs didn't work, since - surprise! - shit parents don't rush to make it up to you when you point out that you are angry at them, and why. So I'm left nursing that anger, really, to continue justifying going no contact.

The self-hatred: totally woven into me. I don't know if I'm supposed to go all zen meditation and observe it without following the self-hating thoughts with my mind, or go all new-age and feel the pain, and cry the wet hot tears that I feel inside me. Both methods are polar opposites: it seems a bit schizophrenic and counter-productive to try both. Which I think is what I am going to do anyway.

Posting this brain dump even though it's somewhat unformed.

BiddyPop Mon 26-Nov-12 12:30:59

I am getting my ammo ready for a showdown with my mother over NY. I heard yesterday that she has stolen my thunder with a present for future SIL for Christmas that I had been working on for 3 years as their wedding present next May (I had mentioned having difficulty finding 1 part 3 months ago in her presence, she'd never heard of the idea before, but apparently now has it for FSIL for Christmas - probably got Dad to get a full set in USA when he was over). That, on top of getting rid of things from Gran that I would have loved after she died, and being so horrible about Gran and her family this year, and to me too, have made me decide that IF that present is given, I will use it as the "straw that breaks the camel's back" and let her know what I think (as she has let me know plenty of times). And then pull back HUGELY from her. I don't think I will go NC entirely, but reduce my interaction with her and talk to Dad at work rather than at home (phonecalls).

I am also getting fed up of 1 DSis, who has gone back to live at home, thinking she rules the roost and complaining about people not staying in touch etc. When you can never get hold of her nor does she ever get in touch unless she needs something or needs an outlet to complain about another sibling. So I am not putting up with her anymore either.

A different DSis was visiting yesterday, and full of complaints about the project that DBro and FSIL had asked her (Sis) to do for their wedding, that Mum is taking over and trying to make HERS. Her controlling tendancies are stretching (she wanted 3 full grown adults - a size 18, size 20 and a 6'4" - all to travel in the back of the car with DParents on a 6 hour journey a couple of months back, and return, rather than make their own way at all. And then she'd have complete control over what they did all weekend too as it also involved going to another village a few miles away with no public transport). And now she's trying to get these same adults to travel to the wedding in her car, a 5 hour journey each way and about an hour away from Church, and including a whole weekend of different events. So the groom has said he's doing his own thing (hiring a car), and another DSis is taking her car and collecting her DP en route.

I reckon I have enough to deal with in my own immediate family (DH and DD) that I don't need to put up with their issues anymore.

ThistlePetal Mon 26-Nov-12 14:42:00

Just marking my place here, have just started reading Toxic Parents and have posted on Salbertina's thread.... Feeling v shaky about how things with my parents will turn out but can't go on like this anymore. Another one looking for the middle ground, I think!

garlicbaubles Mon 26-Nov-12 15:10:30

Thank you for this elegant new Stately Home, MomeRaths smile

garlicbaubles Mon 26-Nov-12 15:30:40

HotDAMN, can I just thank you for your posts today? I feel stuck, too: not in exactly the same way, perhaps, but I'm aware of "undeserving" being so baked into my being that I am actually choosing negative behaviours to reinforce it. Dammit. I have no advice but it's strangely helpful to hear you mulling it over!

Firsttimer7259 Mon 26-Nov-12 15:33:29

Finding myself quite down with christmas coming up. Last christmas the treatment of my SN daughter by my F in partic caused me to go NC (following an attempt to talk to him about why he'd been ignoring her, it didnt go well) Anniversaries are tough plus we've just looked at another SN nursery for next year and things with my DD feel terribly real just now. Somehow I cant believe that I have to go through all these hard things alone, that my family just dnt care. Its totally stupid of me because not chasing after support from my family has really freed me up this year to gte real help and real suppport. But just this week it feels awfully hard

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 26-Nov-12 16:01:42

Hi garlic. Currently I'm reminding myself that everyone deals with low self-esteem, to a greater or lesser extent (although the problem clearly goes very deep for children of inadequate parents).

I'm also totally going to try the new-agey blubbering. It's been welling up inside me for years, and I have intellectuallised my pain enough. I think I am going to just feel it for a bit (maybe for a designated amount of time in the day so it doesn't turn to wallowing?), and the rest of the time focus on observing it in a detached way.

So I am going to give expression to the hurt child and just cry (if I still remember how). I'll tell you if it's helpful!

It's also bothering me to recognise in myself those parts of my parents that I have contempt for: my father's fear and anxiety, my mother's simmering anger about her own childhood. Because, if I have contempt for them, then that means I hate (bits of) myself... this self-hatred seems determined to come at me from all angles!

Hmmm. I thought I had accepted them for who they are, but I wonder now if I really have, considering how little I am able still to accept myself.

I think another blockage to me accepting those parts of myself -- the fear, the anger -- is that if I accept it in myself, finally, then that means I have to welcome my parents back into my life? Yes, I think that's the biggest obstacle, actually.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 26-Nov-12 16:12:15

Hi Firsttimer. Yeah, Christmas is awful when you have a problematic family. I fully expect this thread to be humming with activity around the 25th of December - I know I'll certainly be using it!

What are your plans for the day?

This will be my first Christmas alone - and I mean really alone: I don't have a partner or children, my sister doesn't cross the ocean for Christmas anymore (...she can't stand my parents either, but has an adoptive family of sorts in the country she lives in where she can spend family holidays). Last Christmas with my parents really convinced me that I find them too difficult and unpleasant to be with. So this year I will be going for a long walk in the forest with my dog on Christmas day, followed by dinner in front of the fire and a film. I will also be lining up as many Skype calls as I can with my far-flung loved ones, so that I don't go nuts from isolation.

But I know that the stress of impending Christmas is part of the reason why I am so down at the moment. I'm usually more reliably upbeat. Can't wait for the holiday season to be over; it's going to be a bit grim.

FunBagFreddie Mon 26-Nov-12 18:18:28

Hi there, is it ok to join the new stately homes thread please?

Also, did anyone elses' parents say..

"Your too sensitive."

"You can't take a joke."

One would think that if a 7 year old routinely cries about stuff you say to them, it probably isn't very funny!

garlicbaubles Mon 26-Nov-12 19:51:57

Welcome, Freddie smile Yes and yes! I'm too sensitive and spoiled the fun when I failed to share the hilarity over some humiliating prank perpetrated on me.

They're the two 'victim blaming' statements most overused by bullies.

HotDamn, do let me know how your blubbing turns out! I still don't cry. Reading that bit of your post made my 'uncried tears' rise nearer the surface ... wondering if I dare cry for myself, properly? confused

I will probably be doing Christmas on my own again - depends on family members, but it's likely. I'm quite comfortable about it now and will be available (if you want me) wherever I end up! Have you chosen your dinner yet?

DontstepontheMomeRaths Mon 26-Nov-12 19:58:51

I had that all my life, and only realised recently how evil and insidious a thing it is to say to your own child. It went a long way to me normalising my ex-husband's abuse - after all, I deserved it, right? Since I have always been so difficult to get along with...

^ ^ ^ ^

This made me cry. My ExH was such an arsehole and so selfish and I excepted it all. Towards the end he tried to strangle me and kick me and I normalised it. I thought, 'this is just what men do when they loose their tempers.' As my Dad was very physical to me when growing up, even as a teen he still whacked me across the face and my twin brother used to try and strangle me a lot when angry, or just hit me, as he also had a hideous temper.

I don't like myself, I have very low self esteem and confidence and I do wonder if I will ever (despite therapy) break free of these feelings.

I've cried a lot of this weekend, since I first realised I couldn't attend the family gathering. I think I'd buried this issue with my Dad since Mum's preposterous idea of a Fathers Day card. I'd simply buried it all.

Your posts HOTDamn are very insightful and thought provoking.

Freddie, I've read your post, that sounds very difficult sad

Thank you Garlic but I simply copied and pasted someone else's thoughtful wording and web links blush

This is a very special thread. I may not visit for months at a time but you are all so welcoming when I do. I feel like I belong here, instead of feeling like I'm the unreasonable one. It's a rare thing to find people who understand, listen and support, like this thread.

My family make me feel like I am always in the wrong and my feelings are irrelevant, that despite my Dad's abuse I should 'fix it'. They all enable and minimise his behaviour and in fact due to this, I was brought up to apologise, even when I wasn't in the wrong, to accept all blame, as it must be my fault sad This is what my Mother wants me to do yet again. He of course has never apologised to me in his life, nor would he this time.

It is difficult to know how many apologies would be enough to fix things this time. As once you approach him to try and reconcile, it is like a damn bursting and this stream of vitriol comes out, on and on it goes, e-mail after e-mail, as you repeatedly apologise. And even then when you meet, he is still angry with you but better than it would have been otherwise. My brother went through this to try and fix things. He suggests I do the same. In fact he strongly urged me to. This pressure to fix things, even though my Dad sent me the most awful e-mails and texts is very hard.

I think unless people truly understand though, they cannot possibly comprehend why I have chosen to go NC with him. He is no ordinary man. He is not reasonable and in fact without him in my life, I feel calmer and at peace. No walking on egg shells any more.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 26-Nov-12 20:02:00

Welcome Freddie!

I got "you're too sensitive" and "you can't take a joke" ALL the time from my abusive ex-h. But I was a grown woman and not a 7-year old child (and it still hurt!). I'm so sorry for the little girl you.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 26-Nov-12 20:16:12

Oh Biddie, I missed your post earlier.

Regarding the showdown you are planning: just be aware that your mother will not acknowledge your anger, and will not apologise. So if a tiny part of you is hoping for that outcome, it may be wise to avoid the showdown altogether, as you may end up even more hurt. (I learned this at my cost).

She will instead react with any or all of the weapons of the narcissistic parent: blaming and shaming you, flying into a rage, denying that what you say is true, or playing the martyr. All of these are methods to deflect any responsibility.

So: good luck to you if you are still going ahead with a showdown. It is bound to cause a narcissistic meltdown, and backlash from other family members who are uncomfortable when anyone rocks the boat. Those are tough things to ride out, be strong.

FunBagFreddie Mon 26-Nov-12 20:24:44

garlicbaubles Thanks, you're clearly another person who can't take a joke. wink

DontstepontheMomeRaths That sounds awful. I can also relate to feeling contempt at the bits of yourself that are like your parents.

HotDAMNlifeisgood I've also had X's' who've ridiculed me and then got angry because I can't take a joke. I've got into relationships with horrible men. I feel sad when I think bout how much of my life, time and energy have been wated on areholes. I'll never get it back and I know I need to let go and move on.

HissyByName Mon 26-Nov-12 21:07:08

HotDAMN, you can't turn into your mother, you're self aware, caring, loving, sensitive and kind.

Please see the good in yourself and know that its all down to you.... didn't come from her, did it....

Christmas scares me too, am planning for it to be 'end of days' kind of stuff.

She wants to see me this week, as she's been away, and is away this weekend too. I spent less than a minute on the phone with her yesterday, was non -commital and just fluffed through until the call could end.

Everytime there's interaction, there's pressure atm. I don't want any of it any more, i want peace, simplicity, love, kindness. I can't have that with these people, i don't trust them, i can't relax with them.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 26-Nov-12 21:54:42

Thanks Hissy. To be honest many of my good qualities do come from her, and I recognise that. We are very similar, my mother and I. We differ on self-awareness, and in the choice whether to take our unhappiness out on others, or on ourselves (neither of them a healthy choice). She can also be caring and loving, and it's a shame that she chooses to bully others in order to boost her own ego, and has too little empathy to notice or care that we are hurt by it, because without that trait she would be a marvelous person.

Reflecting on that, I suppose I'm ok with being like my mother: I like the bits I like, I'm happy that I have greater self-awareness than she does, and although I don't like the anger we share and I'm not happy that I turn my anger inward and hurt myself, at least I'm aware that that's what I'm doing and looking for ways to fix this. And I know I will always consciously avoid taking it on others, as she does, to the best of my availability. And be willing to acknowledge it if I fail to do so.

Phew! Thanks.

Will you be spending Christmas with your parents and sister?

Regarding her intended visit: well done for fogging her. Do you want to say no? Do you want to set different terms to the ones she is proposing - eg. neutral location, or her place, so you can leave whenever you feel like it?

No, you can't have peace, simplicity, love and kindness with them. But I am beginning to think that you (we) can have peace, simplicity, love and kindness within ourselves, even in their presence, iyswim. I imagine I would need years of meditation practice to get to that stage, but surely it is possible! Just carrying our own peace within us, somewhere where it can't be jarred by the emotional grenades they lob at us. I haven't quite figured out how this squares with being alert and protecting our boundaries, though... Because I find that protecting boundaries requires alert emotions, whereas gliding through turmoil like a zen swan requires emotional detachment. I'm sure it's possible, though. I know people who do it. Once again, I think the key is a strong sense of self, and a healthy self-esteem.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 26-Nov-12 21:56:09

*ability, not availability.

Dawndonna Mon 26-Nov-12 21:57:03

Thanks for the new thread Dontstep

HissyByName Mon 26-Nov-12 22:33:21

hotDamn, no, I'll not be doing Christmas with them. It'll be all about DS and boyf. Can't wait!

Well, until the family try to spoil it, of course!

I think you can still distance yourself from the worst traits, remember even our vile, snarling abusive exes could turn on the charm if needed to... Thing is, they had to turn it on. We have to turn on our nasty. Our nice comes first.

You are nice because that's who you are. You have an anger, because you have a flaming right to it. Maybe she does too, but she uses her anger against people. That's what sets you apart.

I agree the detachment is what helps us glide through it. I'm on my own with this, it worries me.

Not sure why, cos I know I can more than handle them, I've got a badge in twat management!

Is it our child fear that we feel now?

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 26-Nov-12 22:38:42

I believe so.

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