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

(1000 Posts)
DontstepontheMomeRaths Thu 14-Aug-14 21:52:23

It's July 2014, 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
March 2013
August 2013
December 2013
February 2014
April 2014

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 your 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 defences 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 behaviour. 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 offences 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 behaviour. 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 realise 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

This final quote is from smithfield posting as therealsmithfield:

"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

LookingThroughTheFog Wed 20-Aug-14 12:49:28

Goodto, you're following a script.

You are, in that last post, panicking because you want to make your own choice - your panicking so much that you're almost physically unable to make the decision (I recognise it because I've felt it a lot).

You're desperately trying to justify what ought to be a perfectly normal choice or transaction. The counting of favours done in either direction; this is your mother - would you make your children count favours you've done for them? It's not a normal part of a functional parent/child relationship - you both should do what you do because you want to because the other simply matters.

You're putting yourself down - the fear of 'taking the piss' is overwhelming. You're saying that you don't have the balls. You're attacking yourself horribly for being in this situation where NONE OF IT is your fault. You've been conditioned to only ever see the bad in yourself.

Jesus, your wanting to make people happy is something you've put down as a negative! There's nothing wrong with it! It's true that you need to be aware of when people therefore take advantage, but actually wanting to make people happy isn't actually a fault! And if people do take advantage, it's not because you're weak or wrong or bad - it's because THEY are horrible people!

Argh.

Massive, massive hugs to you. It feels horrible. I know it does.

Here's a little thing that I learned about myself from therapy. It may not relate to you, so apologies if I'm projecting.

I want to please people. I want to please people to the extent that I feel panicking fear at the mere possibility of not pleasing people.

I must do the right thing all of the time. If I make a mistake, I risk angering or upsetting people which is nearly as bad as not pleasing people. It comes with a risk of being literally hurt. It got to the point where I was so addled and broken that I'd hurt myself if someone else wouldn't just to make the whole thing feel 'normal'.

I am constantly scrabbling for perfection in myself, I go all out to impress others, and if that faint praise doesn't come then I work harder and harder and harder. Without the praise, I feel empty and lost and I stray too close to the physical pain.

The contestant scrabbling leaves me exhausted. Cripplingly tired. I am more liable to make mistakes, so I come down on myself hard when that happens. I call myself all the names under the sun.

I note other people living to a lower standard than I've set myself, and that enrages me. It's unfair that those people get to lie and cheat with no repercussions, whereas I'm stuck scrabbling for perfection.

I must work harder. I must avoid the pain of angering people, and I must strive to be the most impressive person in the room. I panic and my mind spirals out of my control because I'm tired and I can't keep up with my own and everyone else's demands.

Does any of that sound familiar?

This is where it came from:

My father did not love me. He did not protect me. I learned early to try to be the perfect daughter for him - I gave 100%, I put myself second always, hell, I was conditioned to protect HIM above all other people. How fucked up is that for a parent/child relationship? We'd taken the wrong bloody roles!

Always there was this tentative promise that he might one day love me if I just tried a little harder. The comment 'you're getting there' was said to me so bloody often along with 'I'm proud of you' but the latter only followed an achievement. He wasn't proud of me for just being. He never, ever said 'I love you'.

So the little Looking tried harder and harder and harder to please him and get that tantalising, promised Love. Only him. Nobody else mattered, and I learned to cripple myself trying to please him. He dumped me anyway. Literally walked out and refused to speak to me for 3 weeks. As I grew up further still, I had literally no clue how relationships were supposed to work. I didn't understand unconditional love until my children were born. I understood myself to be basically unlovable; after all, if I couldn't make my own father love me, what hope was there elsewhere?

So I continued to sacrifice myself for other people - colleagues, partners, the person in the street - I'd go all out to make them love me. I couldn't keep up. I'm human, apparently. I will fail, and that hurts so much it scares me.

Therapy taught me to look at myself regularly and think 'who am I trying to impress here?

The only answer should ever be 'me'.

Does it matter to my future happiness and wellbeing that I slightly misunderstood that instruction at work? No. I'm human, it happens, and I'm prepared to take responsibility.

Do I want to make someone happy by pleasing them? On some occasions yes, on others no.

Will I let them take advantage of me? No. Giving is now done on MY terms because I choose to do it.

Does it matter that Dad cannot love me for who I am?

No. Because I do.

LookingThroughTheFog Wed 20-Aug-14 12:54:07

Sorry, in the time it took to write that, your last post came in.

thecardinal Wed 20-Aug-14 12:55:48

Oh Lord, Goodto, I'm sorry to hear about all this. thanks to you.

What Looking outlines above is so horribly true. That's how my existence is and I am knackered by it. I'm starting to wonder if my parents have been less loving, than engulfing. It was always "we love you, now try harder."

I don't know if it does apply to you, but definitely examine those reactions.

GoodtoBetter Wed 20-Aug-14 13:00:11

It's all unfolding now. Feels like the world is shifting. Will write later.

Meerka Wed 20-Aug-14 13:01:54

goodto, congrats for standing up to her. I hope you're ok. Remember, you are a reasonable woman, she is not.

thecardinal Wed 20-Aug-14 13:03:32

YY to that! Take good care.

LookingThroughTheFog Wed 20-Aug-14 13:05:23

Hope you're OK, GoodTo.

Meerka Wed 20-Aug-14 13:09:18

Can you call on your husband for support while this is going on, good?

GoodtoBetter Wed 20-Aug-14 14:36:27

Thanks everyone. I'm not experiencing the narc rage, she went off on one at Dbro and he told me what she said:

Called my Dh "sly" said he was a crap father

That she basically brought up my DS for the first year of his life. (WTF?)

That I had invited her "in the coldest voice imaginable" for Xmas dinner last year. That she only had a tin of beans in the house so she had to come for Xmas dinner (that doesn't even make sense)

That I had said I hated every minute of living with her (pretty true, but I never said it)

That DH had turned me against her

That we only moved in with her as we couldn't pay our mortgage (WTF?)

That we "have had her fucking life savings" The money I have is basically the money left when my dad died.

She's told my uncle (her brother) "everything" and he is keeping an eye out for houses in N Ireland but she doesn't think she can afford to go back

The only thing keeping her alive is her cats (so not her GC then?)

She told Dbro not to tell me any of it. Where do I go from here? I'm not supposed to know about this rant and I won't put Dbro in a spot, but how can I realistically have anything more to do with this nutjob?
It's basically exactly the same as when we moved out, although at least she said a bit of that to my face.

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 20-Aug-14 14:56:12

GoodtoBetter

You cannot realistically have anything more to do with her now and even without your brother telling you all these things that she said. There's no going back from this.

He has managed to put distance both physical and mental between he and his mother, you need to do the same as he has done. You will also need to protect your children from their grandmother, it will do them no favours at all to be subjected to her at all. If she is not already she may well perhaps go onto choose favourites and make one of them her favoured grandchild (just as she did with you and your brother as children) and/or over value or under value the relationship with them. She will use them as narcissistic supply just as she has used you to date, she conditioned you and trained you.

It is NOT your fault she is the way she is because you did not make her that way. You can be free of her, really you can!.

Meerka Wed 20-Aug-14 15:36:57

good, in the gentlest possible way ... is this really such a surprise?

You know she twists everything. You have for a long, long, long time.

What she's saying - that you DH has turned you against her - is absolutely typical of someone who can't cope with the idea you might be thinking for yourself. As for the rest, it puts her in the position of hard done to heroine ... exactly where she likes to be, I suspect.

In the past, has she made these sorts of crazy accusations to your brother? And as Golden Child, you were exempt .. Until you started to stand up for yourself. Also she might be getting worse as she gets older.

Agreed you need to put the distance between you and her and keep neutral, neutral, neutral in dealing with her. Also that she needs keeping away from the grandchildren, as far as you are able to.

Do think you are lucky, actually, that you and your brother get on so well. Has he managed to come out the other side ok? Also, how do you get on with your uncle? Does he see the real person he's dealing with, when he talks to your mother?

LookingThroughTheFog Wed 20-Aug-14 15:38:58

Where do I go from here?

Where do you want to go from here? Thinking seriously and calmly, what position do you want to be at Christmas, so in four months from now?

how can I realistically have anything more to do with this nutjob?

Like Attila, I'm not convinced that you can, but you are going to have to make some hard choices.

Meerka Wed 20-Aug-14 15:50:25

are you ok, good?

GoodtoBetter Wed 20-Aug-14 16:30:08

I'm Ok. Dbro came over for a bit. He's going home tomorrow. He's been great. He's much further along than me and says he's has had about 1000 euros of therapy and so is much calmer. He just doesn't react, detaches and ignores.
This is all what she said when we moved out (some to me and some behind my back to Dbro).
It's sort of not a surprise and yet a bit foundation shaking, or at least stirs some stuff up...anger mostly.
I'll see her briefly when we pick up Dbro tomorrow. I'm not arranging to see her again. If she asks about Sunday I'll say we're busy, then we're away for a week and I'm not arranging anything for when we come back. If she cries and says she hasn't seen the children I'm not responding. She knows where their schools are, she can wave to them on the patio at break time. I'm not taking them to see her.
She's poison.
I was going to write to my uncle but Dbro has persuaded me that it's all more interaction with her and dancing to her tune and will just make me look as mad as her. If he's worth having in my life he'll see through it. Detach, ignore any attempts to create winged monkeys.
I think it was Looking who wrote a long thing about people pleasing....that is me to a tee. I think I might look into a bit more therapy at some point.
I feel like this is another new start. Time to be me, nearly 40 and I'm beginning to live my own life and learn who i really am.

GoodtoBetter Wed 20-Aug-14 16:35:00

In answer to the question, what do I want...I would be quite happy never to see her again. If she died tomorrow I would feel only relief.

LookingThroughTheFog Wed 20-Aug-14 16:58:26

Ok, while you can't arrange for her to die tomorrow, you can arrange to never see or speak to her again.

Completely. Cold turkey. Brother comes out of the house to the car and you drive off. You block or change your number in the phone. You don't answer the landline to her (see if you can get a caller ID). You delete the WhatsApp, and delete her from your Facebook if you have one.

You will not open the door to her. You will cut off any kindly family members wanting to pass a message along with a 'sorry, I'm not talking about Mum.'

You have to be proactive about this. If you start with 'I just won't respond' or 'I won't answer', you will find you still have to hear her, and she will bait you and bait you.

You don't have to tell her you're busy on Sunday. You just have to NOT TALK TO HER AT ALL.

2littlerascals Wed 20-Aug-14 19:35:10

In a previous post on a different thread I started I mentioned I've recently gone NC with my parents. This discussion is probably best here... Mother has narcissistic personality disorder. My brother and I got emotional neglect, some physical neglect. I then also had some sexually abusive behaviour from my brother. Brought up (but no longer) a Christian I was for a long time very "good" and forgiving about all of it. Until therapy for panic attacks/anxiety when it all came out and I saw it for what it was. And realised the effect of it all on me - years of emotional/psychological problems.

Thing is I feel stuck. Stuck in the anger, resentment, sometimes hate, pain, disappointment... of it all. Which parents stir up when I see them. Stuck in the memories. My brother - young and confused and emotionally abused at the time - has apologised but he's inherited a really good dose of the self-centredness. So he's not that much help.

If I break off from folks for good this will mean I lose contact with most of my family except Gran and brother. Uncles, Aunts, cousins will stay out of it - and away. That's too much for me. If I maintain some contact, from a distance, with cast-iron boundaries that will work probably but .... just want to let go of the emotional memories and emotional reactivity - and get out of the FOG - which I'm really in.

Going to read some of the recommended books but any advice from people who've got out of FOG (I'm a softie) and out of the memories be great.

Meerka Wed 20-Aug-14 21:31:17

Hello 2little. I saw your thread and have been thinking about it.

Is skilled therapy an option? Unfortunately it costs, the NHS is so stretched it's hard to get privately. Possibly some short term CBT therapy might help but probably longer term therapy would help greatly.

On a day to day level, I think a lot of us find living with the more difficult emotions hard. Practical things help such as hard exercise, some physical outlet for the energy created by the anger. Some people punch a cushion. Some people write it down in a diary or an unsent letter.

It does help a lot to have someone close you trust to talk to, specially if they have some degree of personal experience themselves.

For myself I swim and go to the gym (at least when im not knacked from the baby-sleepless-nights). I talk to my husband, must bore him silly poor man but he's very patient and understanding.

Sometimes the emotions still come back and one thing I've learned is not to just bury them. To let them breathe and to give them space, but also not to wallow in them. Thinking over and over about how hard done to you are tends to create the habit of anger and feeling sorry for yourself. It's a sort of narrow balancing act to know when to give the emotions space and attention and when to say okay, enough. I do know that I really don't want to become a self-pitying and bitter woman when I'm older, decided that fairly young, so I have chosen (when the feelings aren't overwhelming) not to indulge in them often. It's helped slowly decrease the strength of the emotions over the years. This weekend I learned that some of my father's stuff that I had hoped would come to me because I loved it, has been given away. It hurts, and I'm both acknowledging that to myself and also taking a deep breath and trying to let it go.

Having said that (and it's only my experience) I suspect that as a 'good christian' you'll have had so much pressure put on you to forgive and to essentially pretend that you don't feel furious and hurt and bitter. Giving yoruself space and time to feel that way is probably the way forward at this stage.

Might it be an idea to let yourself feel all these more difficult emotions for a time, say 2 years, and then say that after that you're going to try to let them go? (maybe that wouldnt work, just a suggestion; practical answers are kind of hard to come by in this territory).

2littlerascals Thu 21-Aug-14 07:27:28

Yes. I'm not a pity party for one kind of person. I want to be up and at 'em. Only I'm not!

I'm in therapy. What I find is that going over it and someone being nice and sympathetic and pointing out how dreadful it was doesn't help me move out of it. And I then just feel shocking. I've come a long way (hospitalised with severe depression as had other stuff happen). But still my head is full of it all. I suspect what I do is shove it all down (very good at that as well taught...) and then woooosh it comes up again. I want to move beyond my story. I don't want the defining story of my life to be a woman who was made ill because she was neglected and trampled on by an NPD mother.

I was watching a v good youtube video on letting go, a Buddhist one. I think this is for me the way. I can't change what happened and what they did to me over 30+ years but I can "let it goooooooooooo".

I've decided I will dip in and out of my relationship with family. Contact when I'm up for it, NC when I'm not. My brother is supportive of it - he has had a v distanced relationship with them for years - and he is there for them to talk to. No guilt for me!!

I've been smoking, drinking too much vino, and been on medication (I had a dubious bipolar diagnosis, so overweight). I think you're so right - exercise to deal with the emotion. I find when I do meditation this helps too. It's about moving the emotional energy isn't it.

Ah well - nearly time for my double trouble to wake up! Have a cracking day and thanks for the input. Very good not to be alone in this, though obviously sorry there is so much c* around.

Meerka Thu 21-Aug-14 08:53:55

What I find is that going over it and someone being nice and sympathetic and pointing out how dreadful it was doesn't help me move out of it.

Yes, absolutely! I suspect that you may need a different therapist, one who challenges you a bit more. It's unpleasant but damn constructive, done in a skilled way. Space to talk is important but once you've had that, you need to move forwards and the right therapist can nudge you to face the thistles in your emotional shoe to get you moving forward.

meditation is supposed to be excellent. I'm supposed to do it too but er, bit lax there!

I do know that alcohol can hold back your recovery because it's a depressant. More so if there is a question of mental ill health

Hissy Thu 21-Aug-14 10:01:11

Good i'm so sorry this has happened, i've wanted to post earlier, but am on holiday and phone won't let me post when tethering.

When did your DM say all this? When he went there after being with you? Or over the phone?

She's shit herself while you and he have been away, hasn't she? Hence the manic texting/PA crap.

Now she's triangulating. sad not knowing your DB was already WAY ahead of her.

There's no way back from this, you can see that.

Once you've got over the initial shock of what she's said (basically the OPPOSITE of the actual truth) I think the whole thing will be blown open, and it would do her some good to know that actually your DB did tell you, because what she said was so heinous and wrong you had a RIGHT to know what this woman was saying about you.

It'll show here that there's NO support for what she says/does and that she has no allies.

I reckon that ought to be enough for her to finally ftfo back to the uk.

Can you still access your original thread Good? I suggest you read it and see where you started from. She was hell bent on destroying you and your family.

GoodtoBetter Thu 21-Aug-14 10:24:40

Hi hissy hope you are having a good holiday.
We came back from the beach with Dbro (where she'd been by turns ignoring and harrassing me by text) and Dbro was at hers that night and all the next day and has flown home this morning. So yesterday was his only full day. Her rant started the moment he got up yesterday basically. He actually recorded parts of it on his phone! But I don't want to hear it. He says if I waver he'll e mail me the recordings, ha ha! I picked him up this morning (so saw her briefly) and had a chat at the airport.
Basically I am not contacting her from now on apart from to tell her I've arranged for the dog to be kennelled. I expect after a few days she'll start another narc rage or hoovering, but this is it. This is the end. I won't do this any more. I can't. I won't have my children exposed to that crap and the favouritism of DS is as bad as ever. She will ultimately golden child my DS and scapegoat my DD and then set them against each other, or DS against me/Dh. Dbro pointed out that she will almost certainly try to "steal" DS and turn him against us. It's what she does. Slagging me to my uncle is an attempt at the same, an attempt to create a winged monkey, as is the ranting to Dbro, she's trying to triangulate.
So, a new era begins. She can service her own fucking car, she can sort her own fucking crap out and if she thinks I'm going over on Sundays to play happy families or seeing her at Christmas she can fuck right off. She can enjoy her can of beans on her own.
Dbro says he would go NC but he's almost NC anyway so he's just going to continue in the same vein and if some day she pops her clogs he'll happily share any inheritance with me, ha ha!
She will no doubt now disinherit me when she works out I'm basically ignoring her, but I don't care. I don't care at all, and that's quite liberating. I am not afraid, this is a new start.
I'm not going to tell her I know what she said to Dbro, there's no need, she's said it all to my face before and I was a fool not to cut her off then. Detach, ignore, she doesn't even deserve an explanation and anyway she would just say I was lying.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 21-Aug-14 10:28:29

"Basically I am not contacting her from now on apart from to tell her I've arranged for the dog to be kennelled".

I would not even tell her that your dog is now being kennelled, no contact from now is precisely that. Radio Silence from you now must be maintained and block all means of communication from her.

Good luck to you!.

Meerka Thu 21-Aug-14 10:57:03

< in awe of good >

GoodtoBetter Thu 21-Aug-14 11:10:07

Don't feel very awesome, but thanks. smile

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