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"But we took you to stately homes!!!" - Survivors of Dysfunctional Families

(1000 Posts)
DontstepontheMomeRaths Fri 19-Dec-14 17:30:22

It's December 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
July 2014
October 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:

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."

flippinada Sun 22-Mar-15 23:08:31

Yeah my step mum worked in a caring profession too.

Something else I've remembered from a recent conversation with her. She referred to her own DGD as a 'little bitch' (she seems to like that insult). Said DGD is 5 years old btw.

roland83 Sun 22-Mar-15 23:13:16

Oh dear, that's crazy! She has major issues!

I suffered with an idiot step-dad, they were always arguing and picking fights with each other. As a child it's awful, I will be trying for children in a couple of years and I think back and wonder why my mum allowed me to listen to all that, why didn't she leave him? Spineless and selfish I suppose.

My dad was similar to your too, to be feared.. I don't remember cuddles or anything from him, he too has mellowed, but is still useless and inconsistent. Not quite sure how I ended up being such an awesome person really grin well, at least I have my sense of humour.

roland83 Sun 22-Mar-15 23:52:27

Facebook message from my sister now, asking how I am and a lot has been happening and to let her know when I want to chat.. So, bad news spreads fast huh.

I guess she'll be wanting the gossip.

flippinada Mon 23-Mar-15 07:56:47

Roland sorry to disappear on you, needed an early start this morning.

Yes, I think she does. But it's odd. It was dropped into casual conversation and it was one of those moments where you think, OMG did they just say that? Wish I could say I challenged it. Afraid I just froze.

With FB messages I always try to remember that an instant answer is not required - polite, obedient me struggles with this though.

flippinada Mon 23-Mar-15 08:00:28

Another similarity, dad and step mum weren't afraid of fighting in front of us. On one occasion, my SM pointed at me and screamed =it was always screaming) "you treat HER like your wife not me!" Yuck.

MeerkaRIPSirTerry Mon 23-Mar-15 08:15:48

good grief how creepy was that flip!

my stepmother volunteered, won't write the details, fits the pattern of being in the caring professions. Funny really. In a black way.

GoodtoBetter Mon 23-Mar-15 08:46:36

my mum was a teacher, another in the caring professions.

flippinada Mon 23-Mar-15 08:46:41

Yes - the blackest of black humour.

GoodtoBetter Mon 23-Mar-15 08:48:18

all quiet here, no more e mails but I expect her present will turn up this week for DS' birthday on Thursday. he'll be seven shock how time fliesshock

roland83 Mon 23-Mar-15 09:25:41

Oh Flip, your dad and step mum sound definitely creepy every time you say something, how odd.. not surprised you have struggled to come to terms with it. Are they still together now?

I've had another call and voicemail from Grandma this morning, saying mum is going up the wall.. hmm Not sure why really, all that's happened is she hung up on me, and I cancelled my day trip down to visit, hardly crime of the century. I've said to Grandma not to worry, I'm sure mum will be fine and this has been blown out of proportion. I need to put myself first at the moment and won't be ringing her. If she's really bad she needs to go to the doctors really.

I still feel this tinge of guilt/sadness not sure what, but I also know I'm entitled to not have to speak to someone, so I'm sticking to my guns and just getting on with my day.

Facebook I've ignored for now, it's like I know people won't understand so why try to convince them? I know I'm right in seeing it for what it is, so everyone else will have to judge me if that's what they want to do. I think my silence is deafening though, everyone else in the family usually rants and raves.

roland83 Mon 23-Mar-15 09:27:08

Meerka How strange it's so common, I never realised.

Good Hope your son has a lovely Birthday! and let's hope you don't have any emails.

flippinada Mon 23-Mar-15 09:46:50

Happy birthday to your son Good - I hope you all have a lovely day smile

Funnily enough three of my friends have a birthday today too. Lots of March babies!

flippinada Mon 23-Mar-15 09:49:29

Roland yes they are still together.

It does sound creepy doesn't it. I don't think anything physical happened, but there were a lot of inappropriate comments and behaviour.

hippymama1 Mon 23-Mar-15 09:51:25

My EA family members too... They are amazing with the feelings of other people... Just not with their own family!

I've been reading the daughters of narc mothers website over the last day or so... It's actually terrifying. Not everything matches my experiences with my family but a lot of it does...

I'm struggling a bit with it - do narc people know what they are doing? If they didn't know it might somehow make it easier for me to cope with as they are unwell themselves. Or am I still just taking responsibility for their bad behaviour and justifying it to myself?

Hope you can have a nice quiet day now roland brew

flippinada Mon 23-Mar-15 09:53:54

I agree that you are entitled not to speak to someone if you don't want to. It's very hard trying to put boundaries in place with someone who is used to trampling all over them.

I have a friend who has a similar relationship with her mum. I don't want to go into details because it's not my story to tell but I recognise a lot of the behaviours you are talking about.

roland83 Mon 23-Mar-15 09:59:18

Thanks hippymama - I too wonder if they know they do it.. I can only speak from my experience, but I've felt that my mum knows sometimes she is out of order but justifies it because it makes her feel better. She fell out with her sister's recently, so I can see a lot of similar thought processes. She generally just feels sorry for herself, but when I try and discuss why I'm upset and unhappy, she just doesn't really listen and gets defensive and angry towards me, and starts off the cycle again.

Yes flip I think my mum is so used to having me there, that she can't cope with the fact that I'm not at the moment. She's been relying on my emotionally since I was 12 when my parents split up. It's only the last year that I have decided I don't want this role anymore, and I guess she doesn't like that. I've decided that it's not up to her though! It's affecting my life in a negative way and she's just getting worse over time, more and more pressure, despite me being upset on the phone a few times saying I've got so much work and I can't cope with her ringing me and putting stress on me. She didn't really care.

MeerkaRIPSirTerry Mon 23-Mar-15 10:27:33

hippy with people who behave in a narcississtic fashion .... I myself think that it's complex, but can be summed up by 'toxic people come in a variety of flavours, but most of them sort of know what they're doing is destructive and at the same time sort of don't know'.

I reckon that underlying someone with NPD traits behaving so poisonousnessly isn't happiness but a desperate insecurity allied with an odd sense of entitlement (I reckon most toxic people have massive reservoirs of fury in them if you scratch them just a little bit).

I think as the years go on this sort of people behave in small ways that they know are not good, but they kind of bury that knowledge because they can't bear to be imperfect ... they can't bear not to be good. I think some of them genuinely believe they are entitled to have what they want too. Then the aching insecurity leads them to behave in worse and worse ways ... which they can't accept are bad becuase that would mean they are doing a bad thing so ofc they assume the other people are bad instead. And so it spirals down from little decisions into patterns of behaviour into habit into unbreakable channels of thought and behaviour.

All the while, they know but can't let themselves know they are behaving badly ... until some day, lots of them honestly forget that they know better ways of behaving and they come to really deeply believe it.

I also think there are a smaller proportion who know what they do is bad and damaging and just don't care as long as they are alright. Other people don't like to think that that's so, but imo it is.

There are some people who would like to behave better but just don't know how to or can't. They do the best they can with what they have, but it's not enough for the vulnerable people around them sad

~just my views~

flippinada Mon 23-Mar-15 10:37:40

hippymama I have often wondered that about narcs too, if they aware of their behaviour, can they help it or not? I have asked that question many times myself (I suspect my XP is one) but don't know the answer.

My personal thoughts are that they live life on the surface, it's all about seeming to be successful and being admired but they have no depth or inner life.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 23-Mar-15 10:43:50

I have often wondered that question as well, I found this excerpt from Lightshouse helpful:-

"Narcissists do know wrong from right. If they didn't, they wouldn't hide their unfair actions like they frequently do. If you ask narcissists whether it's fair play to cut someone off in traffic or take credit for someone else's work, they'll easily be able to tell you it's not right. And if they do either of those things, they will attempt to hide the fact that they've done it. This is because they do know it's wrong, and they don't want to lose the admiration and respect of others who will think less of them for having done so.

However, the diagnosis of pathological narcissism involves the presence of insufficient empathy. Even though narcissists do know hurting someone's feelings is wrong, they still aren't capable of really empathizing very much with (and therefore, caring about) the person being hurt.

So when narcissists need an ego fix, they do what they know is wrong (like putting someone down), largely because they lack the empathy that should stop them. Then, because they are aware that what they did is wrong and that people will think less of them for it, they cover it up so they won't have to pay the consequences. (Narcissists don't like consequences. Those are for little people.)

So narcissists will do insensitive things to get their narcissistic supply, because they both want it so badly and because there's no empathy to make them feel for the people they're being unkind to. Then, because they are aware it's wrong and that it makes them wrong, they cover it up and (perhaps sometimes unconsciously) deny it, gaslighting and projecting their way out of responsibility so that nobody, including themselves, will see them as imperfect for having done it. (And if you see them as imperfect, then you're a serious problem, because as long as you're there to remind them they're not perfect, they'll have to think about the concept, and they just plain won't.)


Do narcissists know they hurt you?

They know you're hurt, but they don't feel your hurt.

Do narcissists know what they're doing is wrong?

They know what wrong is, and they may do it, but they cannot accept the concept of being a person who does anything wrong, because that means they're not superior and perfect. So narcissists vehemently push away the information that they've done something hurtful. They do know what a hurtful act is, and yet they have to deny that they did it.

Narcissists use a number of different ways to deny their hurtful actions (and to try making you deny it along with them so you'll stop complaining). Blaming others, gaslighting, labeling someone who complains about them cruel, lying, making excuses and playing the martyr are a narcissist's typical responses. Whatever it takes to stop all recognition (by them and you) of the fact that they were inconsiderate can be expected.

So yes, narcissists are aware that they've hurt your feelings and that it's wrong, but they just cannot accept that knowledge. They deny it to prevent narcissistic injury, and desperately want you to deny it as well. And usually, they deny it so quickly and so habitually that it doesn't even register in their consciousness before the excuses and protests are given out.

Typically, when told they've hurt your feelings, a narcissist's denial takes the forms of insisting you're not hurt, or that you shouldn't be hurt, that you're wrong to be hurt, that they didn't hurt you, that you're too easily hurt, and that you shouldn't complain because they're hurt worse".

More Here:

flippinada Mon 23-Mar-15 10:44:58

Roland this is just a thought so feel free to disregard but from what you say about your mum, it sounds like the mother/daughter role has been reversed - as if she is expecting you to look after her and cater to her.

roland83 Mon 23-Mar-15 10:46:20

I agree with both of those views, very well put.

flip your last sentence speaks a lot to me, and that's my mum! I think she's desperately trying to recreate the parent/child dynamic so that she feels like she has a purpose again. She's abroad and so she's techinically retired now, and she has wayyy too much time on her hands and nothing to focus on. So, she put all this focus on me, and I have a very busy life, working 70 hrs a week, saving for a house, hopefully have a family of my own in a few years, I'm 31. I can't cope with this now, let alone later and the anxiety I've had is unreal, she knows this, yet she didn't back off.

roland83 Mon 23-Mar-15 10:49:55

flip Yes, exactly right! & I feel awful for taking away her support when she needs it, but she's not thought about what is best for me at all, just gone along on her own selfish mission to be happy by using me and my emotional strength. She's mid 50's, she shouldn't be like this.

In times when she has been happy, with her ex-husband, or at least occupied by the arguments etc, then she wasn't focused on me at all, even when I was a child still. I feel resentment that she wasn't there for me when I needed her, but expects me to be there for her now.. when a) she isn't a child b) it's only because she is bored/unhappy c) when I ask for emotional support back she's quite rigid in her replies and there's no depth of emotion.

roland83 Mon 23-Mar-15 10:50:32

Typically, when told they've hurt your feelings, a narcissist's denial takes the forms of insisting you're not hurt, or that you shouldn't be hurt, that you're wrong to be hurt, that they didn't hurt you, that you're too easily hurt, and that you shouldn't complain because they're hurt worse

Yeh, that sums up my mum at the moment.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 23-Mar-15 10:51:32

My narcissistic BIL maintains to this day that he was badly wronged by DH so cut us off. He knows his brother is even now to a degree hurt but BIL does not care at all.

He cares for nothing but his own stupid self. This man (along with his mother) saw it fit to use a community hospital's cafeteria purely to eat lunch. Who on earth thinks it okay to do that?!. I saw MIL there as I had taken another relative for a medical appointment; we were walking back to my car as they were and she said that they had stopped there for lunch. He saw it as a great joke. Neither of them as I say had any medical reason for being there that afternoon.

flippinada Mon 23-Mar-15 10:55:19

Attila I always appreciate your posts - the narc description sounds exactly like my XP.

roland she sounds very selfish. It's not fair of her to treat you like that, not all.

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