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"But we took you to Stately Homes" - survivors of dysfunctional and toxic families

(997 Posts)
toomuchtooold Thu 28-Dec-17 08:39:17

It's December 2017, 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
Oct 14 – Dec 14
Dec 14 – March 15
March 2015 - Nov 2015
Nov 2015 - Feb 2016
Feb 2016 - Oct 2016
Oct 2016 - Feb 2017
Feb 2017 - May 2017
May 2017 - August 2017
August 2017 - December 2017
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.

The title refers to an original poster's family who claimed they could not have been abusive as they had taken her to plenty of Stately Homes during her childhood!

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
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
The Echo Society
There are also one or two less public offshoots of Stately Homes, PM AttilaTheMeerkat or toomuchtooold for details.

Some books:

Toxic Parents by Susan Forward
Homecoming by John Bradshaw
Will I ever be good enough? by Karyl McBride
If you had controlling parents by Dan Neuharth
When you and your mother can't be friends by Victoria Segunda
Children of the self-absorbed by Nina Brown - check reviews on this, I didn't find it useful myself.
Recovery of your inner child by Lucia Capacchione
Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nazakawa

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."

ssd Thu 28-Dec-17 12:59:11

thanks for letting me know all that toomuchtooold

I've never posted here before but I'm at the end of the road. After a sleepless night because I had contact with my sister, I've realised I'm waiting for her to die until I can be happy. It's that simple. I can't tell anyone else this, they would just not believe me. I just don't want my sister in this world, in my head and my thoughts, I want her gone, but I dont know how to do this. I had counselling this year but had to leave after 6 sessions as I ran out of oney. It helped a bit but my mind is still stuck on everything it's always been stuck on.

Basically my sister makes me feel crap. Crap and invisible, like me and my feelings dont count, dont matter and never did. She doesn't need me, her life is full of daughters and family and friends and an adoring husband. But my life isn't that full. I do need her, I always did. And she's never needed or cared about me. I'm not imagining it or being a drama queen. Anytime I've tried to speak to her I've been shushed down, like a moody teen, like someone being silly. So I shut up.

I dream of the day I get a phone call to tell me shes dead.

ssd Thu 28-Dec-17 13:10:08

I dont know if the word FOG applies to me. I dont feel fear or obligation or guilt. I feel sad, lonely, isolated. Apart from dh and the dc's I have no family that cares about me. And I crave this, totally and utterly. That's why I still contact my brother and sister. I dont know what I'm looking for, well I do. Just something normal some everyday interest in me or my kids. Some basic care like I've always given them. But it's like a stranger has contacted them and they just tell me how wonderful everything is for them, over and over. I've never been honest with them, I wouldn't know where to start. I can't bare for them to know I am vulnerable and need something from them, when they would never contact me or see me again if I didn't contact them. I'm the youngest by over ten years, my parents are dead.

There's more to this of course. I just wanted to put it down somewhere. Last night when I couldn't sleep I kept thinking of this thread and feeling like its my only chance to try to sort my head out.

ssd Thu 28-Dec-17 13:13:09

I dont know if this is the right place for me. The problem isn't my parents, though they played a part. Reading the above op, I can see if someone finally confronts their toxic parents they are met with anger, disbelief, lies, screaming. But how do you cope with indifference? I can deal with anything, but indifference to me, I cant deal with that.

toomuchtooold Thu 28-Dec-17 19:57:38

There's people on Stately Homes with ignoring parents, I do know that ssd, so hopefully someone will have some insights for you.

You do seem very attached to your siblings (for someone who's married with children) and that makes me wonder what it was like when you were growing up. I wonder what roles you and your siblings were put into. It happens in all families to some extent. I wonder if you were the outsider - your siblings closer in age perhaps, or older than you? It sounds as if their approval has become something you are really dependent on - and that makes me wonder whether there was something you didn't get from your parents that you are still looking for.
You say your siblings are only interested in telling you about their perfect lives. Do you think their lives are really perfect? IME, the more people have to tell you this stuff, the less secure they actually are in their own happiness. It sounds as though they are as concerned with your opinion of them as vice versa, although the difference is that you want to really connect, while they just want to be top dog?

As regards how you cope with the indifference - I think that if you can't move your relationship with your siblings into a closer footing (and it sounds like you have tried hard), you need to mourn the relationship you wanted to have with them. It will hurt, but IMHO it's a hurt that you need to be able to feel before you can move through it. It is a really sad thing.

ssd Thu 28-Dec-17 23:00:34

thanks so much for replying to me, what you have said makes a lot of sense..I think I'm trying to be connected to my siblings as they are the only extended family I have left alive. I was always treated as the baby, they both treated me like one of their daughters growing up. But its became a bit patronising, they both call me "darling", but they have no feelings of care towards me, the way older siblings might feel about a much younger sibling.

The thing you said about them wanting to be top dog when I just want to connect is very true too. I dont feel they are interested in my opinion of them, they've always been the one who knows better than me and my opinion has honestly never been asked or listened to. I am probably looking for their approval, I'm not sure about that. I know after my dad died, my mum felt the same way about them as I do, she told me once they didnt feel like family anymore and I knew exactly what she meant. We didn't discuss it much, we just knew they had moved away and didn't need us anymore. I looked after mum, they left everything to me, also after she died.

It is just sad, I just wish I didn't need them to care about me, just a bit,

ssd Thu 28-Dec-17 23:08:14

I've been mourning the relationship I didn't have with them since mum died and I realised how much I meant to them.

But I can't seem to totally let it go, I still try now and them and contact them, looking for a chat or a connection, but I just come away feeling like shit. Is this the FOG? I dont know, but I can't work through it or get over it and I dont know why, I'm usually a strong person but I feel so alone with no family outside dh and the dc's.

I'm just looking for family, for some connection to my past. I love dh and the dc's but I need more and having siblings there, alive and living but totally not interested in me or my family just kills me.

WhiteCat1704 Fri 29-Dec-17 14:24:05

I just came back from a week at family home. Went with my DH and DS(2). As always it was far from perfect but this time my DM has overstepped the mark so much that I truly don't know what to do..
I am vegetarian and I brought my son up's been important to me. My mother asked at xmas dinner if she can give him meat and I said no. When we were heading back-she was giving me a lift to the airport- she told me she gave him was in the morning when I was asleep and my DH was downstairs with DS. She has done it behind our backs.
I lost my temper and shouted at her saying I wouldn't even feed her dogs without her permission and she massively overstepped her mark
.she is now offended and not talking to me because I "don't respect her".

This is not a first time she went against me since DS was born but so far it's the most offensive..She criticizes my parenting CONSTANTLY..since she met him at 2weeks old I'm changing, feeding, clothing him wrong..Now I'm also spoiling him and generally unreasonable as I don't "discipline enough" and he is "a little terrorist" and she "will teach him and not let him get away with this behaviour".

She criticizes my parenting and me in general..even to my DH...

My DS is not a good sleeper, still wakes 2wice per night and more if in a new place. My mother takes a great pleasure in saying how he doesn't cry with her and sleeps very well..She says it when I'm shattered after a sleepless night because its a new house for him...In 2 years she has spend 3 nights in total with him...

Me and DH want to buy a house together
.we put an offer on one..She has been going on and on how its too small..She only seen photos!!! In a next sentance she starts how her house is nice and big amd great for children..

I'm just at loss what to do now..She was supposed to visit for a week at the end of January I'm not sue I want her too...We are going for my brothers weddi g in February but I'm not sure I want to stay at hers..

We have very little support with DS and she offered to stat with him for a weekend so we can go away..I now question her motives and feel I can't trust her..

I just wanted a nice xmas..sad feel like shit now..

Lizzie48 Fri 29-Dec-17 15:11:21

Ssd, I really relate to this. I was never able to admit this to anyone until recently, but I was desperate for my abusive father to die. When we were in hospital with him at the end, I was watching the machine detecting his heart rate, desperate for it to stop.

I felt horrible about it and could never admit to it. The reason was that there was a large part of me that loved him and grieved for him when he did pass away. I understand now that I was grieving more for what I didn't have, and I put on rose tinted glasses for years.

Until long buried memories came back to DSis and me of childhood SA. Now I understand that intense reaction in the hospital, why I wanted my father to just die so that I could be free.

But I can tell you that death doesn't remove that person from your head. My father is still there in my head, even nearly 20 years later. But I know that in time I will be free, once I can deal with the horrible memories.

You need to know that hearing the news of your sister's death, if it were to happen, won't make you free of those feelings of being crap. You need to be free from the past, regardless of whether she's alive or not.

I haven't got there myself, maybe a New Year's resolution for 2018? thanks

toomuchtooold Fri 29-Dec-17 17:13:19

Just to say - waiting for a death, you're not the only ones.

myidentitymycrisis Fri 29-Dec-17 18:16:37

I have been a reader of this thread over the years and its been a source of comfort to me.

I wanted some perspective DM's recent behaviour. She has a history of depression and anxiety and hospitalised at one time during my childhood. My siblings and myself were raised by DF (deceased) after she left the family home. So our relationship has always been strained,
as she didn't parent me, but sometimes seems to want to in a very awkward way, which makes me feel incredibly anxious and uncomfortable.

I invited her to dinner with me and DS (22) on the 24th. She asks 'how's Dsis? is she ok? only we are not seeing her at christmas" (Due to Dsis work schedule). She often uses a pitiful voice that seems to imply everything is worse than it is. I tell her DSis is fine as far as I know.

22nd, I mention to DSis I am a bit unwell with a throaty thing.
23rd, I get a first thing call from DM asking 'are you ok only Dsis mentioned you were unwell?" [pathetic/concerned voice].Reassure her I'm fine. It sounds worse than it is. Ten minutes later DS calls: "DGM has been on the phone to him, she is worried about me" He has also reassured her.

Two hours later she is at the door - she never comes uninvited - I say to DS 'WTAF she is properly mental!" DS asking me not to be horrible to her but I find it really hard to tolerate her stupid anxieties nicely.

She tells us how she had to come, she was so worried,
Me - I already told you I was fine. So did DS.
She has been ringing round emergency surgeries incase I'm unwell and need medical help over the holidays. But the one she went to before is closed down, so she was ringing the hospital.
Me - well that was a waste of time.
She is given a cup of tea and politely moved on. I am already feeling ill, and pressured to make Christmas happy for DS who doesn't deserve this crap, and who thinks she has always been nice to him. He doesn't know that she went to A&E saying she was worried she was going to harm him, when he was about 7. She'd agreed to babysit for me for a weekend. SS got involved and I didn't talk to her for a few years over that.

Next day she came back and we pretended Christmas and DS was satisfied I hope.

She rang on 26th, I was out. On 27th to check I was ok and did I need any help? I was quite abrupt by then; " I DO NOT NEED ANY HELP" .

She is not being nasty, but endlessly pestering me and as a result really making everything about herself.

Thanks for reading if you got this far.
Am I going mad?

toomuchtooold Fri 29-Dec-17 19:14:09

White at that sounds really hard to deal with. My mother was a little more covert in undermining my parenting but it was the same ballpark. It's so shit, it's like just this constant attrition. She seems to want to prove to herself that she would be a better parent to your DS than you are. It's funny how they all think that and anyone who's ever been in their care thinks, I wouldn't let you look after a dog... the sleeping stuff is a nightmare, you get invited to stay and then whatever routine you have is messed about with ("oh it won't do him any harm to stay up a bit late, it's Christmas!") but them when his sleep goes down the pan it's your failing as a mother. My MIL (who otherwise I really like) would do that with my DNs when they visited her and then tell me all about how badly they slept and how much better my kids were at sleeping... yeah thanks DMIL, I'm sure SIL appreciates you sharing this, and no we won't be staying over at yours any time soon...
Regarding the planned visits, you can cancel all that stuff if you want to and find a hotel - you can say DSs needs total silence or a really onerous routine or whatever you like - whatever you say your mother will draw her own conclusions/say what she likes about you, so who cares? The important bit is to protect yourself from your mother's sniping and your DS from whatever sorting out she has in mind for him.

Identity, my 2p on your mother's behaviour - she seems to be very belatedly and half-arsedly trying to play a mothering role in your life, and she also seems a bit addicted to drama. It must be really wearing. You're right, she is making it all about herself. I know we're not supposed to armchair diagnose and you've probably heard the s on here already but in your position I would be curious about whether she fits the profile for BPD or NPD. And no you're not going mad smile

Lizzie48 Fri 29-Dec-17 19:36:34

Yes, my mum constantly interferes in my parenting, undermines me in front of my DDs. She speaks about 'Granny's rules', thinking she's making my life easier, but what she's actually doing is infantilising myself and my husband. She jumps in and tries to take over when we're dealing with our DDs' behaviour. It's very hard to deal with.

ssd Fri 29-Dec-17 21:11:07

Lizzie48, I hadn't thought of that before. I thought if she died, it would all go away, magically, like it had all just blown away. But I can see now it wouldn't work like that. It feels like one more thing she has over me!! When I went to counselling, the therapist said to me "imagine having a box beside you and putting all your worries, thoughts, resentments, hurts, into the box and closing the lid on it. How do you feel?" and I felt my whole body relax and just sag. And she said you are like a different person already.

I so want to put all these mixed up feelings in a box and close the lid and be free of it all, but it's so complicated, I can't. It's such a burden to carry around with me.

I don't know.

myidentitymycrisis Sat 30-Dec-17 00:23:38

thanks for your opinion.It is all very wearing, but also invokes a lot of anxiety in me.
i really don't see her as a drama queen, i don't think I'm making excuses for her. Its more an expression of her extreme worrying, and it is kind of debilitating for her more than anyone else.

Cbeebiesgurl Sat 30-Dec-17 01:21:58

Hi all. Just posted this on the previous thread before seeing this new one: I've never posted on a thread like this. Just wanted to say I'm sorry to everyone that has had a tough time with their families. It's such a terrible, exhausting experience. I have had such a difficult time with my parents over the last 10 years. Although my childhood was not perfect, my family have been very difficult in my adult life. Would this thread be appropriate for me? Or is it more for trauma during childhood. Many thanks.

toomuchtooold Sat 30-Dec-17 06:24:29

identity so you think your mother's behaviour is caused by genuine anxiety then? Have you tried talking to her about it, does she understand how out of proportion her worrying is?

toomuchtooold Sat 30-Dec-17 06:26:24

Cbeebiesgurl it's for either, or both, really, if you want to post - there's a fair range of issues that people have on here.

WhiteCat1704 Sat 30-Dec-17 08:18:23

Toomuchtooold - you are spot on with this

"She seems to want to prove to herself that she would be a better parent to your DS than you are. It's funny how they all think that and anyone who's ever been in their care thinks, I wouldn't let you look after a dog"

I have been feeling increasing competition from her and criticizm is mostly about how she did stuff so I should do it the same way..
She has not been the best DM to me and my 2siblings but she refuses to admit she has done thigs wrong..she will either deny accusation, make up her version on just accuse me/siblings of being too sensitive and making stuff up.

WhiteCat1704 Sat 30-Dec-17 08:21:57

I suppose its helpless trying to understand WHY she feels the need to do this...I just wish my DS could get a normal relationship with his grandmother( he only has one) but it won't happen if she doesn't start respecting me and DH as his parents..and she won't..:/

myidentitymycrisis Sat 30-Dec-17 10:02:55

toomuch yes. She has depression and anxiety and has received lots of therapy over the years, including being an in patient.
To be honest our relationship is so fragile we have never spoken about anything on that agenda. and I don't really feel I want to engage with her, at all at the moment.
Although my past is always catching up with me and still affecting my life, I wonder if I can get some resolution without confrontation.

Lizzie48 Sat 30-Dec-17 10:40:56

Speaking about mothers, I'm so confused about mine. I know she loves us, but she's suffocating one minute and aloof and domineering the next. I would love you lovely people to help me resolve this dilemma, because I have 2 adopted DDs who I need to protect as well as me. Please bear with me as I go through it all with you.

1. She didn't protect us from our abusive father. I've given her the benefit of the doubt over whether she actually knew about the SA, as she don't remember her being around when it was happening. But she's acknowledged that at the very least she knew that he smacked us too hard and let him continue.

2. She's completely overbearing in her attempts to advise us. She loves to make things right for us, usually by throwing money at us and then controlling what action we take. At the moment she's pushing me to make a donation to her charity; it's hard to say no as the money did come from money that we inherited when my father died. We have supported her work in the past and it's really grating on me.

3. Whenever one of us is ill, she's over zealous in the way she tries to help us, ie suffocating. She takes over and treats us as though we were still children. This is probably what has created learned helplessness in my brother, he can't do anything for himself. He's 50 now. He's probably ended up with the wrong medication as he's been diagnosed with schizophrenia whereas I strongly suspect it's complex PTSD (DSis and I have both been diagnosed with PTSD).

4. She takes over the parenting of our DDs, even when both DH and I are there.

She herself had a traumatic childhood, lost both parents at 10, and suffered SA from the uncle who became her guardian afterwards. Obviously she had no therapy back then, and she has a history of minimising and refusing to see what's really happening. Looking at it now, she suffered EA from my father as well.

Sorry it's so long!! Sometimes I feel like I'm crazy to think badly of her, but I know that my DSis suffers similar anxiety.

Thank you for reading.

HorseDentist Sat 30-Dec-17 11:23:34

I haven’t posted here before but just wanted to rant for a moment and get something out.

I found out on Christmas Day that my Parents are still in Christmas Card contact with my abuser. I feel really uncomfortable about this and it is really stirring up buried memories.
I was physically and mentally abused by an unlicensed childminder from 18months to 3. Really horrific things to the point that I was suicidal aged 3. My mother was aware of some of the abuse but it would have inconvenienced her to take me out of her care so anything I said was always responded with “no she didn’t, don’t be silly”. I was eventually taken out of her care when I started nursery and my new childminder reported it to the police when I told her something. I did have police interviews but nothing ever came to court due to no evidence and my mother trying to cover her back. It was the word of a 4year old against 2 evil bitches.
I had a very poor relationship with my mother from then until a couple of years ago. We have been making a relationship and see each other a couple of times a year, however she still refuses to discuss that time.
My dad mentioned in passing an event that “evil Bitch” had mentioned in her Christmas card. Why do they still speak to her!!! It kills me that pay parents must be sharing details of my life with her. Potentially even pictures of my DS in their Round Robin.
I worked so hard to build a new relationship with my parents and now I feel like i need to cut myself off again. They still don’t believe me that it happened do they?

Lizzie48 Sat 30-Dec-17 11:31:29

I've had a look at articles on NPD and codependency. I think my mother is codependent and my father was a narcissist. My DSis and I have become codependent. I would welcome advice on this.

I don't feel I can go NC because I would feel so guilty about that. She gets so upset sometimes, yes using the waterworks sometimes to manipulate but she's also devastated by what happened to us as children.

She's so deluded though, thinks she was approachable when we were children, hence not understanding why none of us told her what we were going through. She wasn't at all approachability, she used to fly off the handle with us, expect us to behave like mini adults.

Sorry, I'm really so conflicted!!

Lizzie48 Sat 30-Dec-17 11:37:31

That's so hard, HorseDentist, and a real betrayal on the part of your parents to still be in touch with this woman. Betrayal is so hard to deal with, isn't it? thanks

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