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

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It's January 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

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

unschoolmum Tue 19-Feb-13 17:54:24

Bedtime, Alice Miller says that when you discover your truth and remember what happened to you instead of repressing it, the anger, guilt, fear etc will start to heal itself. I find that I am too logical about it all. I remember it, dissect it but don't really feel it. The healing only can happen when you can feel it. Although, I have had a number of extremely emotional moments recently when anger and upset have come out in shaking and crying. I think these are the times I truly have allowed myself to feel the pain. Other ideas I am experimenting with is drawing with my non dominate hand. I have also bought some clay and plan to make sculptures of my feelings or to use the clay to release my pain eg stabbing, tearing it etc. Someone also recommended a punch bag with a photo of my Dad or Mum stuck on! It sounds a little weird but I’m not hurting anyone so I think these ideas are worth a go.

I am trying to rediscover and connect with my inner child but at the same time trying to discover how my toxic parents live within me eg my own narcissism, anger, jealously, inability to accept difference etc. I have only just started on this journey so who know what I will discover.

Oopla Tue 19-Feb-13 18:30:32

Just screamed the scream of 31 years of repressed anger.


I'm just going to hit something inanimate really hard, will be back later.

grinThankyou xx

FairyFi Tue 19-Feb-13 22:26:18

Ooopla just wanted to check that you know that your mother is not inanimate right? [before you go off in search for something to hit] grin

FairyFi Tue 19-Feb-13 23:01:43

should have said, before that last, so glad that you could scream all that out.. its good and the beginning of internal change. I hope you can feel calmer now. xx

Oopla Wed 20-Feb-13 08:36:52

I do feel better thanks Fi!

Its my youngest's 1st birthday today and sadly grandma won't be coming. Grandma won't be coming because she's a bitter old soak who can't resist making everything all about her.

I'm so glad I found these boards, you've saved my sanity grin thank you

Theveryhungrymuma Wed 20-Feb-13 14:04:11

Hi all, dr has put me on ads until my counselling comes through. I'm already feeling a bit different, as though the edges are softer, I'm able to think about things a bit more.

Anyway I've found out that dm has enlisted my 18 year old db to testify against my father in court at their divorce hearing? And seems to think she will get a bigger share of the house? Can this happen? He has been emotionally blackmailed into this as far as I can see.

Also found out he won't be going to the uni of his choice, (db)but staying with her and travelling about an hour a day to the nearest one. This is to eek out keeping her house from being sold for my father to get his share. Really pisses me off. My db thinks he is being wonderful and selfless and helping my poor poor mother. Try telling him that no real mother would make demands on her kids like that. Utterly brainwashed the poor kid. She is buying him alcohol and allowing parties to happen while she's at work in her house to curry favour with him.

I need to move far far away.

Theveryhungrymuma Wed 20-Feb-13 14:06:12

Oopla happy birthday to your little one. grin Hope he/she has a lovely day.

FairyFi Wed 20-Feb-13 16:45:51

thats good new veryhungr that the ads working for you. That scenario is just awful! Nothing should surprise but it stil does. I can't think of much worse than being involved in your parents divorce!?!? how awful! no decent mother /parent would do that. She has no right to keep the house. but then again db now 18 and being selfish here possibly, by taking and taking in exchange, seeing what a good deal he is getting.

and special Happy Birthday to your LO Oopla

unschoolmum Thu 21-Feb-13 08:39:17

Theveryhungrymuma, it is so painful when your parents manipulate and control siblings. My Db hasn't spoken to me for ten years after we had a fall out over my business. My parents fuelled and manipulated his feelings. When he was a young man he lived away from home whilst studying. This is when we were closest but after he moved back with them it was just a matter of time before the triangle reinstated itself with me on the outside. There is nothing I can do to help him. He thinks my parents are fantastic. He is 43 and spends most of his time at their house (even though he owns his own place). He runs his business from their house. He has sacrificed his chances are true happiness - a partner and family. But the prize for playing their game is Mum cooking for him, helping him pack his orders and inheriting their entire farm. All I can do is focus on healing myself and ridding myself of the narcissistic wounds I carry.

Your mother really does sound narcissistic. You could try watching films together that feature narcissistic mothers eg the Black Swan or the Fighters. But until your Db sees the toxicity, there isn’t much you can do. He may never see it as in my brothers case.

Have you read Toxic parents? Ad might be a necessary solution for now but I don’t think it will help you long term as they will prevent you really feeling your pain which you need to do in a focussed way to become well again.

tiptop2 Thu 21-Feb-13 20:29:10


New to this thread and relatively new to coming to terms with how much my childhood has affected my self esteem in adulthood. After quite a bit of counselling, I am in the process of confronting my parents with the issues I have. Both (Dad more) totally controlling, often critical and not much praise. Not narcisstic I don't think, just used criticism to put me down and not 'get above my station' etc etc. Talking to Mum seems to be helping, although she sort of denies it, she also does accept how I'm feel and wants to work through it.

Dad on the other hand, cannot see at all what he has done wrong. When I explain certain things he does (ie making a joke which is in effect putting me down and critising me about something, but because it's a joke it doesn't mean anything, ha ha ha,) he refuses to accept or acknowledge that that is what he's doing...'it's just a joke, i would never do anything to hurt you'....

How do I deal with this? My reaction is just to leave it and not discuss it any further with him because I don't think it will help...but that seems defeatist given I've come this far.

I'm 34 I've been carrying around a lot of this for years and it's taken a great deal to bring it up with them but I feel it's a start to my road to recovery.

I'm slowly working my way through the threads but if anyone has any advice on my particular situation I would be most grateful.

Oopla Thu 21-Feb-13 20:55:53

Hello tiptop, I'm new here so no advice but wanted to say well done for confronting, (I'm at the point of thinking about it and it makes me feel very afraid)
Do you get on well with your mum, she seems nice to be so accepting of your feelings.
It sounds like your doing the right thing by bringing stuff up with him, maybe when he's mulled it over a bit it might sink in a bit and he'll come back to you. I read a lot on here though that most parents just will never accept any wrongdoing, and will never change. Coming to terms with that is prob as hard as facing the parent I imagine.
Well done again, hope someone comes along soon with more help smile

tiptop2 Thu 21-Feb-13 21:37:59

Thanks for the response Oopla. The whole process has been petrifying and if i'm honest, not sure it is worth it esp with Dad, as this stage. Feel like I should have just kept everything swept under carpet! But I hope it does make it me feel better in the long run. I certainly feel better with my relationship and discussions with Mum. I said some very honest things to her and was really sh*tting myself about her reaction as we're a family that don't really do talking about emotions (no wonder I'm having issues!) but I do feel as if a cloud has already lifted.

Interesting re I need to deal with the fact they won't change. That's right I guess. I need to work out how to deal with my reaction to their digs which is really hard, as I'm so over sensitive to it now. Mum said the other day it feels to them like they are walking around on eggshells around me..because I snap at them when they criticise me now...I used to just say nothing...I need to find a more mature reaction but it's difficult..I'm still very angry and me raising my feelings now (by snapping back at them to show my disapproval) is new and scary for me and I don't really know how to harness it.

Midwife99 Fri 22-Feb-13 07:39:37

I don't think you need to harness your reactions to them criticising you. They need to stop doing it! You must say something every single time they do it!! Until the learn to stop!!

unschoolmum Fri 22-Feb-13 10:10:17

Hi Tiptop

I would recommend the book Toxic Parents. It will guide you through 'confronting' your parents. Your Dad does sound toxic! But I often wonder the part the other parent has played. Why didn't your Mum protect you from your father's emotional abuse? Didn't she know it was wrong? Why not?

tiptop2 Fri 22-Feb-13 16:01:57

Thanks for responses. I have ordered that book today, thank you.

I don't know about Mum. I genuinely don't think she sees it but I don't know how she can't. I will def raise this with her and see what she's says. My guessing is she won't recognise it at all and say that I'm the angry/hurt one and are now just putting it onto them. Perhaps I am but where has that anger/hurt come from - I'm not going through this process for the fun!!!

unschoolmum Fri 22-Feb-13 17:06:54

Tiptop2, exactly! Why are you the angry one? I believe my pain to be rooted in my childhood. My parents feel they did their best blah blah and that my brother doesn’t share my views, I am the odd one out and therefore the problems lie with me and not them. I am sure most people reading this forum can relate to that. Most children of toxic parents believe all kinds of bad things about themselves so sometimes it can be hard for us not to give into these messages when we feel so many people around us blame us, think we are flawed etc.

Oopla Fri 22-Feb-13 18:21:20

Downloaded the toxic parents book a couple of months ago and couldn't put it down. Makes so much sense. Just starting to go through it again.

Personally I'm fed up of lumbering around with all my emotional baggage, its so draining, I want to drop it all and concentrate on doing the best I can for my kids. Had I realised quite how messed up I am I would have waited before starting a family. I am really critical with my DD -a pattern I didn't realise I was replicating from my own childhood till I had a good think about it and watched my mum carefully.
I can't have her growing up feeling like I did. Hard to get a balance.

Oopla Fri 22-Feb-13 18:23:14

Sorry for the waffle! Have a lovely weekend everyone, wrap up warm! Xx grin

Yes oopla I struggle with my DD too, to not repeat the same patterns from my childhood sad

I definitely find it hard with my Mum. They do not accept they have done anything wrong and I find myself thinking it's my fault or I imagined it all etc. I'm always first to apologise and the more I lurk in this thread, the more I realise how far reaching my issues are from childhood.

FairyFi Sat 23-Feb-13 00:43:43

I know that I learnt loads of awful patterns from my parents, and have had to start all over again, its been exhausting having to rethink every single way of dealing with anything, instead of just knowing how to instinctively do stuff. I hate many of the ways I have mismanaged stuff, and then bringing up own DC in abusive relationship sad doesn't get much better than that!!!!!

The hardest and most unfair thing is that noone would wish to be treated like this as children and adults! but then have to be responsible for getting their own behaviour so wrong and having to be responsible for changing that, which is so hard, and takes your whole life to do!! well it does seem so for me. Now I'm out of abusive relationship but trying to work out who the feck I am! Who's the me underneath all this.

I am hoping its different if only because I accept I have done so much wrong, just trying to make sense of a world that seemed so cruel all the time.

Bedtime1 Sat 23-Feb-13 05:35:21

Very hungry mama - I know how you feel my mum does exactly what you have described there with my sister who is 19. She lives at home with mum. Mum plays all these nasty games t curry favour. Different scenarios but same crap and it's frustrating to see this going on and destroying my relationship with my sister through lies and manipulations! I feel your pain.

Bedtime1 Sat 23-Feb-13 05:54:46

Tiptop- what you said there resonated with me about the snapping at them when they criticise. I used to brush it off more too but now it seems to hurt more and like you I'm angry. Its like opening up a box and seeing things all in a different light... That lid has come off and now it's like where do you go from here. Its a lonely experience especially when your made out to be the bad guy and the one causing the troubles. The worst thing is i question myself when I'm not getting along with other members of the family. It's hard when siblings are backing the ones causing the pain, as they are caught up in the web. You Being made to believe "well it must be you" as you don't get on with your siblings. When that's not true it's just they refuse to see or can't see what's going on. I feel ganged up on. Thinking its me. Maybe I can't interact with others, socialise, maybe there's something wrong , maybe they are right. This then knocks my confidence in myself as a person and I think nobody will like me if I get to know knew people, so a nervous wreck before I even start. Then you push others away so you don't get hurt then vicious circle of nt having many people around you, just a lot of toxic negativity fuelling that low self worth.

Bedtime1 Sat 23-Feb-13 06:10:11

Sorry for waffling but another thing just came to me mothers day is coming up. I don't feel like sending anything or a card even. I see it that your thanking your mum for something and as it comes each year, then what do I really have to thank her for over the past year since last year. Most of the year has been heartache, guilt trips and pain for me.
Does anybody else do this though I get caught up in a spiral of should I send something or should I nt right up until the day. What plays on my conscience is we buy for my husbands mum but she is good to him. But I feel guilt so then I feel I should buy my mum the same . Previous to that I had resolved not to buy a thing but then I ordered my husbands gift for his mum so added same for my mum at last minute. Now I am back to thinking with this feeling of but I don't want to give it now as I don't feel I have anything to thank her for just a load of pain she causes to add to lifes challenges. Life can be tough without unnecessary crap flown at you as well. It's a vicious circle . Sometimes she is nice on the phobe and I block out the rest but it doesn't take long for her to change when you give her an inch. Can't really describe that but it's like when she senses a weakness she gets more cruel. Then when I stand up to her it's then being nice to me.

Midwife99 Sat 23-Feb-13 08:36:42

Oh god the Mother's Day dilemma!! confused

I'm going to pick a very plain card with very few words in it. So I'm not thanking or praising her, just wishing her a nice day. Iyswim? No sentimentality and no gift. Just a card by post. But my Mum is away on the day.

I find the day difficult anyway as a lone parent. It'll be like any other day, nothing special about it at all for me.

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