Questions From the Mailbox: Allegedly Ruining Your Future, Deciding to Blog, and Wondering Whether to Tell Your Abusive Parents How You Feel

photo credit: flickr user

Editor’s Note: The Invisible Scar does not offer professional advice, only opinion.

The Invisible Scar receives many emails every month. Some have questions or comments best shared with our readers in this “From the Editor’s Mailbox” column. Though our main advice is for the reader to seek therapy from a professional, we also invite helpful insight or support. (Names have been changed and questions edited for brevity.)

1.) “I live with my abusive mother. I want to leave home, but she’s turned my whole family against me. I work for the family business, they’re telling me that if I leave I’ll ruin my entire future.”—Hannah, age 18

The desire to get out of an emotionally abusive home is reasonable. Once your eyes are opened to the reality of your abuse, you have every right to get in a safe place away from your abuser.

That shift in the emotional landscape often freaks out abusive parents. They want the abused adult child to remain exactly where they have kept the adult child for years. They do not want any changes in the systematic cycle of abuse they perpetuate. So, when the adult child awakens to the fact that he or she is emotionally abused, abusive parents will absolutely freak out. They sometimes will probe your weaknesses and exploit them. In this case, they know you worry about the future, so they say you will ruin it.

Know that you have dignity and worth as a child of God. “Human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.” 

You do not deserve the abuse. No one deserves abuse.

If you can live with a friend, rent out a room, or stay at a dorm, do so. If you can’t, come up with a plan to live in an emotionally healthy place, and start working toward the fulfillment of that plan. Start becoming more self-sufficient in your finances.

Give yourself some space to think. You are not ruining your entire future by separating yourself from an abusive situation. Instead, you are changing the game plan your mother had for you, the plan that kept you in captivity.

Please, seriously consider a future in an emotionally better workplace and home.


2.) “I am an adult survivor of the silent treatment. For years, I have tried to find a book written on this subject. There is nothing. Even books recommended to me by counselors and social workers do not address, the silent treatment. It’s like it never happened and it doesn’t exist?” —Allen

The silent treatment is very real.

Most of the information gathered for my article about the silent treatment comes from online research rather than books. I’ve not found very much about this horrific type of abuse covered in books. Dr. Gregory Jantz does discuss the silent treament in his book, Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse.  You can read an excerpt. Also, Elyn Tromey’s blog post at Life & Therapy is also a thoughtful post.

Readers, if you have any recommendations about books that mention the silent treatment, please mention it in the comments.


3.) “I was emotionally abused as a child and adult and made the decision to cut my parents off and heal myself which is what I did. I feel so much better. I am thinking of starting a blog to help others using WordPress. If you have any thoughts on this, I would love to hear them.”—Emma

Let’s talk writing first … Can you write well? Do you know basic grammar rules—and which ones to break for clearer, more engaging writing? Can you write, not with yourself in mind, but with a sense of respect for your readers’ time?

Your writing must be well-crafted to draw in readers. Most importantly, you need to honor their time by providing the best content you can produce.

Unfortunately, myriad online writers believe they can get away with sloppier writing because, hey, the Internet.

However, writing for an online audience means crafting clear, focused content—whether for personal or public audiences. (If you don’t know much about writing skills, pacing, or narratives, I highly recommend Everybody Writes by Ann Handley.)

Now, let’s discuss the type of blog …

Do you want to start a personal blog that discusses your own journey through emotional child abuse and shares current experiences? If so, I highly suggest you take time to pray about this project, reflect on your reasons for the blog then discuss its purpose with a trusted friend or therapist.

Know that a personal blog that is public (as opposed to being a private blog that requires your permission) often can be very triggering and exhausting for adult survivors on the road to healing. 

Though you may begin your blog with the desire to help, you may find rancorous parents (and their flying-monkey friends) filling up your comment box with their vituperation. Even if you change your comments to be moderated, you’ll have to sift through those abusive tirades from those trolls. (What a waste of your time.) Plus, you need very thick skin to not take the ignorant comments personally or abandon blogging immediately or fan the fire with your own retorts.

Or perhaps you want to have a blog only for specific friends to read with your permission.

Or you may want to write in a journal or on your laptop and share printed copies of your experiences with friends.

Do you want to start a regular website that discusses emotional abuse but doesn’t delve into your own personal experiences? As the editor and writer of The Invisible Scarwhich is exactly thatI say go for it. The more awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors, the better.


4.) “You may be educated, but show no wisdom. Instead of correcting a problem (if there truly is one), the narcissism and abuse you speak of I see originating from you. So go ahead and be cold-hearted, cruel and show no empathy or compassion for those who raised, loved and sacrificed for you.”—Frank

I’m publishing that snippet of a wordy, pejorative email to prove my point in the previous answer: Abusive parents sometimes read blogs and websites about emotional child abuse, and feel compelled to send hate mail. (You have been warned.)

Does that mean you should keep quiet? No, just make sure you’re in a very emotionally healthy place before you decide to start your blog. Most importantly, talk to your therapist about your intention and make sure you’re in the right head space to handle the rigors of your project.


5.) “Hi, just a quick one: If you’re an adult unable to escape a psychologically abusive parent’s influence, should you acknowledge their continuing abusive subtly, or just ignore it?”—Maya

You can escape the influence. Doing so is not easy. But it can be done.

A psychologist who knows your situation and all the details surround it is better equipped than I am to give advice. But I’ll give my opinion because you did ask whether to acknowledge their abuse or ignore it.

If you aren’t in danger of being physically harmed, I would most definitely tell your abusive parent how you view your relationship with him/her, how you feel, and how you will need some space to think and get therapy.

Here’s why I believe you should tell your abusive parents (if they are not a threat to your physical well-being) how you feel…

  • You have a voice. Though it’s shaking from fear and nerves, you have the right to use it. Speaking up for yourself is a right you have. As an adult survivor of emotional child abuse, you have not used this voice very much, but it’s yours. Reclaim it. Use it. Speak up for yourself.
  • Your abusers need to hear it. You cannot change your abusers; only they can change themselves. But they need to know this truth about themselves. They’re not going to want to face the horrible fact that they are emotionally abusive parents. However, they need to be told. Don’t perpetuate the lie, don’t feed into their delusions. Be who you are meant to bean adult with dignity and worth living in the truth.
  • Your abusive parents may change. In some cases, the abusive parents may not be deliberately abusing their child. In their ignorance, the abusers continue the behavior they learned from their parents and do not really understand that it’s abusive. Or the abusive parent may see the light and realize they need to change. That possibility exists. (Unless your abusive parent was a narcissist.) The change will not be immediateit will require lots of work and therapy for them, and a proven change of behavior sustained over a long period of time.

Onward, friends.

Veronica Jarski is the founder and writer of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad online publications. She also is the author of an e-book about waking up to the realization that one had an emotionally abusive childhood.

From the Editor’s Mailbox: Being a Trusted Adult to Your Siblings, Going No Contact, and Why Therapy May Not Work for You

photo credit: flickr user charles clegg

photo credit: flickr user charles clegg

Editor’s Note: The Invisible Scar does not offer professional advice, only opinion.

Here’s a look at the most common questions popping up in my inbox lately and some thoughts regarding them.

My younger siblings live at home, and they’re being emotionally abused by our parents. What can I do?

Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse hotline, and talk to a qualified crisis counselor about the details of your situation. By calling, you are not immediately reporting abuse—so don’t be afraid of calling. You will be able to ask the professionals there about the best way to handle such an issue.

In addition to what the professionals might tell you there, I’d suggest doing what you can to love, support, and nurture your siblings as much as possible.

For example, if your parents are neglectful, you can reach out to your siblings and just listen to them, hug them, show them that someone in this crazy big world loves them unconditionally, encourage their (healthy) interests, etc. Or if your parents tend to be overly critical of your siblings, you can make time to talk to them in an encouraging, soul-building way,

Say your siblings love to draw or paint, then encourage their art, take your siblings to art shows, give them books about art, look at the art they produce, listen to their talk about art, etc.

The heart of an abused child starves for attention, for acknowledgement, for love…. and if the abusive parent does not offer that, the child will often turn to other people and things… Be that trusted adult that your siblings can turn to.

Know that one person can make a tremendous positive difference in a child’s life.  This article by Josh Shipp discusses the power of a trusted adult in a teen’s life. I’m not familiar with all of Josh’s work, so I’m not fully endorsing—or not endorsing—his work, but that article’s worth a read for people wondering how to help emotionally abused children in their lives.

Moreover, myriad adult survivors of emotional child abuse are alive today and on the path to emotional health because one adult in their life cared about them. Those trusted adults were coaches, teachers, librarians, neighbors, etc., that took the time to see the child, to listen to him/her, to let that child know that he/she matters. They weren’t creepy or overly fawning adults; they were adults who could be trusted, who could be like a beacon of light in the child’s dark childhood.

Those people made a huge difference. You can, too.

How can I make my parents’ stop abusing me? They are always gaslighting me, making fun of me, and making me feel awful. But then sometimes, they’re nice. How can I just make the abuse stop?

You extract yourself from the relationship. You get the hell out of Dodge.

Your parents choose to abuse you… Now, you choose to get out of the relationship and create some space for yourself.

Whether that decision is permanent, only you can decide. But until the abusive parent shows remorse, apologizes, and exhibits a sustained (read: for a long time) change of improved behavior, the adult child should stay away and get emotionally healthy.

“Improved behavior” doesn’t mean that your abusive parents are nice to you now and then. They should always treat you with respect and love. “Normal” parents drop the ball here now and then, but they are good people who have a bad day—in contrast to abusive parents who are mostly bad people who have good days.

Many truly awful human beings have their moments of being charming and sweet and engaging. Many abusive people have sparkling, loving sides that fool people. But emotionally abused children know that any good moment with the abusive parent will be outweighed by the many, many, many terrible moments. And yet somehow, the abused child will focus on the brief glimmering moment of good and try not to think too much about the bad.

Don’t let yourself get caught up in looking at those rare pretty photos in your memory and avoiding the giant gaps in between them. Keep your eyes wide open. Walk in the truth. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and to pull away from abusive people.

I want to go No Contact with my parents, but I don’t know whether blocking their number or not answering their phone calls is too extreme. Do you need the permission of the other person to let go? What happens if they don’t let go of you?

If you want to go No Contact with parents who are toxic to you, then do it. And, yes, going No Contact means to not allow them into your life… which means blocked phone numbers and emails, etc.

“Going No Contact is not an attempt to change a person or to teach them a lesson,” states the Out of the Fog website. “If it were it wouldn’t be No Contact but a bluff and an ill-advised one at that. Going No Contact is more about protecting yourself and letting go of the need or desire to change another person.”

You don’t need anyone’s permission to go No Contact. The best part of being an adult is that you get to choose who to have a relationship with. Familial ties, circumstance, office environments, etc. can put people in your path, but you get to decide whether to socialize with any of them. You get to decide what is best for your emotional health.

You have the power to say…

  • “No, I no longer want this toxic person in my life.”
  • “No, I do not want to be an emotional punching bag for this person anymore.”
  • “No, I will no longer put myself in the path of an emotional vampire.”
  • “No, I will not give my time and energy to someone who will turn on me and treat me like shit.”

You have the power to say…

  • “Yes, I matter, and I have a voice.”
  • “Yes, every person is precious to God, and that includes me.”
  • “Yes, I have the right to live a life free from someone else’s toxicity.”
  • “Yes, I can and will choose how to spend my time and energy.”
  • “Yes, I will choose friends who are loving and kind and supportive and not toxic.”

The finer points of going no contact are explained well by this article from Out of the Fog organization.

And remember: If someone armed to the teeth with daggers to wound you, bared teeth to rip you to shreds, and a mind determined to hurt you came to your front door, would you open the front door? No, you wouldn’t. Now, if someone is hell-bent on hurting your soul in that way, why would you let them in?

How can I get people to see me as okay and that going to NC was the best thing I ever did with my life?

The above question comes up a lot in my inbox. A whole lot.

Here’s the truth of the matter: You can’t make anyone understand you and sympathize with you… You can’t make anyone really get it, and few people do.  Most people have loving, kind, and well-meaning parents, and they cannot see how any parent would be as hurtful and destructive as yours.

They are fortunate.

But you, dear reader, have had a different sort of childhood. And some people just don’t get it. That’s all right—you don’t have to explain yourself to them.

Your gift to yourself—and you deserve this—is a more peaceful life, without your abusive parents’ drama and their abuse.  And that is a huge and wonderful thing.

Live your life in the truth. Good people will see how much happier, calmer, and healthier you are in comparison to who you were. And if some people don’t, they weren’t friends to begin with. And as you meet new people who don’t know about your past and who ask about your parents, tell them that you’re estranged and leave it at that.“I’ve chosen not to have my toxic parents in my life.”

Let your life, your newer and emotionally healthier life, this honest life rid of parental toxicity, be your testimony. Praise God, you’re living an emotionally healthier life. Enjoy it.

And don’t forget that readers of The Invisible Scar understand the value of going no contact. You can always find support here in the comments or post something on The Invisible Scar’s Facebook page.

Therapy isn’t working for me. Why are you pushing therapy?! It doesn’t work.

Therapy may not be working for you for a few reasons:

  • Your therapist sucks.
    Not all therapists are good. Some are laughable, some are terrible, some should’ve definitely chosen a different career. That’s why it’s important for you to do your research and take time to find the right therapist for you. Know that doing so can take time.
  • You hate the idea of therapy… and you’re only semi-interested in your therapy sessions.
    “Everyone who wants to engage in therapy can benefit,” writes Margarita Tartarkovsky in Therapists Spill: 11 Myths About Therapy. “Not surprisingly, people who don’t have a modicum of motivation to change probably won’t.” Therapy can be hard, and if you drag your feet to it and don’t open up very well, you may be doing yourself a disservice.
  • You haven’t gone to therapy for very long.
    Healing takes time… lots of time. Be patient with the process.

Don’t give up on therapy. Don’t give up on yourself.

Sometimes, watching movies help me work through my emotional child abuse. Is that too weird?

Only one person asked me this question, but I had to share it. The question plugs into the fact that people love narratives, we love stories, we grow and learn through stories, written, told, and presented.

No, you’re not being weird.

Good movies reveal ourselves to ourselves and shed light on the human condition. That’s why watching the “Tangled” movie led to a very long blog post analyzing the narcissistic personality disorder of Mother Gothel. And why I’m taking notes about Finn from “The Force Awakens” for another article…

Onward and upward.


veronica-jarski_authorVeronica Jarski is founder and managing editor of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad publications, such as Kapost, MarketingProfs, and Ragan. She also is the author of an e-book about waking up to the realization that one had an emotionally abusive childhood.

From the Editor’s Mailbox: ‘Earning’ a Parent’s Love, Experiencing Flashbacks, and Explaining NPD

[photo credit: flickr user dorkymom]

[photo credit: flickr user dorkymom]

The Invisible Scar receives lots of emails every month, and some have questions best shared with our readers in this “From the Editor’s Mailbox” column. The subject matter merits more input, and, though our main advice is for the sender to turn to therapy, we also invite helpful insight or support.

Here’s a look at the most pressing questions from readers this month. (Only names have been changed.)

Q1: My mother just shouts and screams at me but really it’s intolerable. And, yeah, the dilemma that “Am I too sensitive that I got hurt just by this?” “She’s my mother… Maybe this is the price one needs to pay to get some love.” “She should be hated or loved?”—Kate

This question has many different components, so we’ll break it up into those components and address each one:

My mother just shouts and screams at me, but it’s really intolerable.
One should not shout or scream at another person regularly. Yes, people do sometimes shout and scream; it’s normal to be upset and get irritated/angry/frustrated and shout. However, it is not normal to do this regularly.

The constant shouting and screaming is verbal abuse.

Shouting at someone and screaming at another person shows a completely lack of respect for the dignity of the other person.

Am I too sensitive that I feel hurt just by this?
To feel hurt by someone screaming and shouting at you is a normal reaction. When shouted at, some people shut down, others feel hurt. But it is normal to not enjoy being screamed at.

Emotionally abusive adult children have often been conditioned to blame themselves for feeling hurt by the abusive parent. The adult survivors have been trained to take abuse then squelch any feeling of hurt by it. This is one reason why so many adult survivors of emotional child abuse have health issues; they have been suppressing their very normal reactions to abuse and are getting sick.

This conditioning to blame oneself (the recipient of the abuse) rather than the parent (the abuser) is one very real reason why adult survivors must go to therapy. Their ability to know what is normal behavior (or at least within the range of normal behavior) has been corrupted by abusive parents.

(Granted, sometimes adult survivors of emotional child abuse are hyper-sensitive, but this is a very big subject to cover. We’ll do so later this year. However, in this case of a mother screaming at the child regularly, the answer is clear that no, the child is not being sensitive.)

Maybe this is the price one needs to pay to get love.
This sentence is heart-breaking because it is a familiar one to adult survivors of emotional child abuse. The adult survivors longs for love, wants paternal love so desperately… that need is normal. However, the abusive parent is acting unloving, so the adult survivor believes the change needs to happen in him/herself. The child feels s/he must change.

Change, however, must happen within the adult survivor’s heart and the abuser’s. The adult survivor must learn to limit exposure to the abuser. Create space away from the abuser; don’t put yourself in the firing squad. Tell the abuser to stop, and let him or her know that you will not see the abuser until a profound change has been sustained for a long period of time.

Love is not a screaming match. Love is not abusive. Love is not a dark powerful force that destroys another human being. The love of a parent is to be freely given to the child. A child is to be loved and respected and cared for by the adult; it is the right of a child to be loved by his/her parents.

The best definition of love comes from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited. It is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offense or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes. Love never comes to an end.

She should be loved or hated?
This is a very difficult question. To feel hatred toward one’s abuser is normal. Even feeling a confusing mix of “love” and “hate” is normal. But that doesn’t mean that hate should take up permanent residence in an adult survivor’s heart.

Many adult survivors struggle with “honoring one’s parents” when the parent is abusive.

To answer that question, we’ve asked a Catholic psychologist. He said that one can honor the position that a mother or father takes; one honors the role of a parent and what it is supposed to be… and an adult survivor can, in time, pray for his or her parent as a sign of honor for the position. But all that does not mean that the adult survivor needs to pretend false intimacy with the abuser or even maintain any sort of social relationship with the parent.

An adult survivor of emotional child abuse doesn’t have such simple emotions as love or hate toward the parent. A strange brew of love, hate, anger, frustration, pity, confusion, etc. exist. Which is why, as always, we advise therapy to help the adult survivor navigate through the morass of emotions.

Q2: I wondered if any adult sufferer, who is trying to put the past behind them, looks at themselves in the mirror to see physical features in themselves that they are trying to forget. We can’t help genetics, but it is painful to see the eyes/nose/mouth of a parent who you are trying so hard to forget, staring back at you in the mirror. I look away or try to focus on bits that are  more me. How do others cope?—James

We’ve asked a group of adult survivors of emotional child abuse this question and answers included…

  • Remember that just because things look the same, that does not mean they are the same. You are your own person, not a replica.
  • Focus on the differences, not the similarities, of your looks. You may have the same eyes, but whatever, you have a totally different mouth or nose.
  • Make a change. Maybe you get your ears pierced or wear contacts instead of glasses. Highlight something that’s uniquely you.

Readers, what tips can you add to this list?

Q3: I just spoke to a friend who is moving back to a place that has some really bad memories for her. She’s an adult survivor of emotional child abuse and has not yet completely dealt with it. She’s worried she might have a breakdown once she goes back to this place where she spent a part of her childhood.Irene

Adult survivors of emotional child abuse often experience flashbacks to the abuse. Your friend might very well have these, but she can teach herself different techniques to deal with these.

The In Care Survivor Service Scotland produced this free downloadable guide, “Anxiety Flashback and Grounding Techniques,” which is packed with self-care ideas for handling flashbacks.

Q4:  I have been separated from my children’s NPD father for almost 3 years.  I am very concerned that my 19 year old son has taken my place as his father’s “scapegoat.”  Can you suggest a jumping off point for explaining this to him before it’s too late.  An article or place to start.  I needed someone to jump in and make me aware of my skewed reality and I think he needs the same.—Clark

Talking to your son about your ex-husband’s NPD will have to be  handled delicately at first. We suggest a gentle yet clinical approach… Lovingly tell your son that you’ve been reading about narcissistic personality disorder… See how your child reacts to this. Your son may chime in with, “Oh, that sounds like Dad!” If not, gently suggest that you think your son has a narcissistic father.

You can find resources for adult children of narcissists here.

Q5: Do you know of any support groups for the emotionally abused spouse? I need more support. I haven’t been able to find support groups for survivors of emotional abuse.—Vivien

You may want to call your local women’s shelter and ask for support groups available to you. (Emotional abuse is domestic abuse.)

This Facebook Group, Women’s Emotionally Abused Support Group, may be a good resource to find a local support group.

[photo credit: flickr user Ken Douglas]

[photo credit: flickr user Ken Douglas]

 


Veronica Jarski is founder and managing editor of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad publications, such as Kapost, Loyola Press, MarketingProfs, and Ragan.

On Finding a Therapist; Helping Someone Abused; and Wondering Whether You’ll Ever Get Better [From the Editor’s Mailbox]

[via]

[photo credit: Menno van der Horst]

I receive a lot of email from The Invisible Scar readers and answer them privately as time permits. Some questions, however, have a more universal appeal or would benefit from readers’ input, so I’m sharing those in this month’s edition of From the Editor’s Mailbox. (The questions are all real, the names are not.)

Can you suggest a type of psychologist to go and see or what to do? I feel so lonely and no one understands me. Everything on this site is in line with what’s been happening my whole life.  (from Matt)

I highly recommend using the Find a Therapist form at Psychology Today to find a therapist near you.

Keep in mind that choosing a therapist requires a little more than just picking out a name from a list of professionals near you. You need someone who you feel comfortable with, who you feel “gets” you, and who are hopeful.

Many therapists offer a free first-time consultation, so use that time to interview them to see whether they are a good fit for you.

Consider asking a therapist about:.

  • Their background
  • Their focus (For example, you’ll want someone who understands emotional child abuse.)
  • Their philosophy regarding the purpose of therapy
  • Their approach to therapy

Also, keep in mind the general feeling you get when meeting them. (If they creep you out, don’t keep going to them, for example.)

You can get some great tips about choosing a therapist from Tracey Cleantis, LMFT.

Please know that you are not alone in your story. Though you may feel that no one in your family or friendship circle understands what you’re going through, the world is vast and filled with people experiencing different stories. Myriad people have suffered through emotional child abuse in various degrees, and hope exists for an emotionally healthy present and future. Keep moving forward…

What kind of professional help would you recommend in the case of a 23 year old that has been verbally abused by her mom since she can remember? Are there any other online resources that would be useful given that she’s right now overseas until late summer?  Also, how can she help her mom recognize that she needs help as she’s in denial that she’s doing anything wrong at this point despite the fact that she’s still doing it to her? (from David)

I recommend a mental-health professional. You may want to suggest that your daughter use Find a Therapist and see which of those do telephone meetings. (Some of them do.) Your daughter can go to respected sites such as Psychology Today and check out their verbal abuse articles as well as Psych Central’s articles on verbal abuse.

I also suggest books such as “Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse” by Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D.; he devotes a whole section to verbal abuse.

Be careful not to overwhelm your daughter with resources right now. Offer those books and resources but, most importantly, listen, love, and just be there, without judgment or correction.

Awakening to the reality of one’s abuse requires a special sort of bravery, humility, and patience with one’s self.

An adult survivor who has been abused by a parent doesn’t need to focus on the healing of the parent. No. The adult survivor of emotional child abuse must focus on herself/himself. Everything has already been about the parent. The adult survivor doesn’t need to go into therapy while thinking about how the parent can change or what the parent needs to do.

The adult survivor needs to protect his/her heart and find his/her own way towards an emotionally healthy present and future.

The adult survivor can tell the parent, “I need some space to think and process the nature of our relationship. I feel like I’ve been verbally abused by you, whether on purpose or not, and I need some space to process it all.”  

The abuser will, more likely than not, freak the hell out: How dare you say that! How dare you think that! I never did anything like that! I have ALWAYS been there for you! I have done EVERYTHING for you!

Those self-centered replies just underscore the fact that abuse exists. The adult survivor must stay strong, create space, and not react to that sort of crazy. The best reply, if any, to those tirades: I need my space right now; I’ll let you know when and if I am ready to talk at some point. If the barrage of emails, phone calls, etc. from the abusive parent continues, the best reply is silence.

In some rare (but not unheard-of) circumstances, an abuser may say, “Really? You feel that way? I am so, so sorry… I’ll give you your space and think about what I can do to make you feel more loved.” (People have shared with me that this has happened to them, so it is possible.)

But it’s best to know that reactions to “I need space” will vary.

I am the divorced spouse of an abusive NPD. Our daughter was the scapegoat, and has escaped to college successfully (which is being explained as my “stealing” her affection). My son is the golden child (in part, I suspect, in an effort retaliate for the older child’s escape). What can I do to help him? His focus now is meeting his father’s expectations as he knows the consequences of failing to do so (shunning or banishment). (from Donna)

The best advice would come from a mental-health professional; some of our readers are just that, and perhaps they can chime in with the right answer.

My suggestion is to gently approach your children separately and voice your concern that you have seen examples of an abusive relationship, that you are concerned that they have been emotionally abused… Let them know you love them and care for them, and recommend some websites or books, and then put them in your thoughts and prayers that they will be guided towards the truth and towards healing.

You don’t want to force them into seeing what they might not ready to admit or to handle. You need to be a good soundingboard for them and a safe person for them to talk to. Always let them know you love them, encourage them to begin therapy, and listen.

Adult survivors of emotional child abuse who have not yet awakened to the reality of their childhood often do have unfaced feelings that something just was not right about their childhood, so this news may not be a surprise to your children. But do not force the issue.

What should I do if I’m 23 and can’t move out of my parents’ house and have experience emotional abuse from them and my siblings? I have a disability, which makes finding employment difficult and applying for disability. (from Ashton)

I really suggest finding a therapist who is experienced in counseling others in this situation.

A possible suggestion would be to find friends or other family members who may be open to your living with them. Or perhaps, if you are a churchgoer, you can ask your priest or pastor if he has suggestions for low-income housing.

Meanwhile, what you can do is to find a good therapist. You need someone to vent to, to guide you through this process, to have a safe place where you can just be yourself. A therapist can provide all that and much more.

Also, many emotionally abused teenagers find themselves in circumstances like yours and the advice to them may apply to you:

  • Spend very little time at home.
  • Make your room your sanctuary.
  • Guard your private thoughts from your parents.
  • Find good, safe friends to spend time with.
  • Find means of expressing your feelings through art, music, journaling, etc. so your emotions have somewhere to go.
  • Seek help.
  • Keep hope… If you find yourself feeling lost or alone or deeply depressed, please call this number for help.
My question is, do I have anything to live for? How sad that I have to write a complete stranger asking this. I have spent the vast majority of my life wishing I were dead. I feel like my choices are either leave and get myself into more debt and fail harder at life, or stay in the “safe” situation, at lease have food and shelter available, but compromise myself in the process. Are things ever going to get better? Can I ever live with myself for not rescuing my mother? Can I just keep disappointing everyone I know with my lack of mental and emotional strength until everyone I know hates me? Is there any point to all this? (from Taylor)

Yes, you have everything to live for.. You are a human being, a gift from God who loves you, no matter what. He loves you because He made you… No matter how successful, how unsuccessful, how pretty, how ugly, how rich, how poor, how anything—God loves YOU. (The abuse was your parents’ choice, for people have free will.)

Say your decisions may have been poor. Or you may not have achieved what you wanted to achieve. You may be going through a horrible, horrible time. But you still matter. You are still a human being worthy of love and dignity. Your life is still a gift.

That said, you need to take care of you. And that means finding help for your depression, finding healing, finding the ability to get up and move on and put one foot in front of the other.

Take care of  yourself by finding professional help. Get a therapist—immediately. You deserve an emotionally healthy life. You deserve to recognize your life for a gift and see the wonders and treasures inside you that abusers have tried from preventing you from seeing.

Also, keep your life in perspective… You may have disappointed people around you (or not; I cannot know this), but the world is HUGE. Even now, where you live, you cannot possibly know every single person there. It’s a big, big world. And it’s full of future friends and all good sorts of people in it.

Find healing. Get help. Know you matter. Hang in there. And when everything seems too hard, please call.

One Foot - AV

Can I send you a question about something that’s going on with me? I have no one else to talk to. No one else understands. (from many, many people)

Yes, please feel free to use this contact form to reach me. Know that I get a TON of email, so I am slow in responding. (Which is awful to admit. But it’s true.) Please note that I am just your friendly neighborhood child-abuse-prevention activist, just a layperson, so I do not offer professional advice.

Your best bet for replies is to leave a comment on an Invisible Scar post and let the amazingly supportive and knowledgeable readers share their suggestions, comfort, and resources with you.

Onward and upward,
Veronica
managing editor | The Invisible Scar

2-Year Blog Anniversary: A Heartfelt Thanks to Readers… and Some News

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Dear readers,

Two years ago today, The Invisible Scar was launched.

For some time, I had been wanting to write a blog post on my personal site to raise awareness of emotional child abuse, but I had too much to say, too much information kicking around my head, too much of a desire to just write one post.

After consulting a few esteemed friends (and praying a whole lot), I wrote a series of blog posts about emotional child abuse then published them on the newly launched The Invisible Scar.

Now, The Invisible Scar receives a staggering amount of views per month and myriad comments.

So, it seems that my hope for The Invisible Scar to be a good, safe place for raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors is coming to fruition.

Thank you, readers… Thank you, friends.

Thank you so much for your willingness to talk about a very difficult subject, to share your own hard-won lessons and heart-breaking stories, to comfort one another, to encourage each other in your awakening to the truth and the path to emotional healing.

Thanks for your courage in opening up about emotional child abuse, for your desire to share your journey with one another.

Thank you for being here.

You are a blessing to The Invisible Scar…

Now, on this blog anniversary, I wanted to share some new things for this year on The Invisible Scar:

  • The Invisible Scar is now on Facebook
    I just created The Invisible Scar Facebook Page as a place for adult survivors of emotional abuse to ask questions and find support. I’ll be sharing links to resources there as well as letting you know when a new post is up.
  • A regular publishing schedule is planned
    The Invisible Scar is run by just one person, so the publishing schedule these last two years has been erratic. However, I’ve an editorial calendar now, so the time between posts will be less than it has been. Planned articles include exploring the bunny-boiling phenomenon, misconceptions about emotional abuse, and a look at parenting in the movie “Frozen.” That’s just a peek at the articles coming up, but if you have a topic that you’d like explored or if you’re a mental health professional who’d like to be interviewed, please feel free to email me at theinvisiblescar[at]gmail.com.

Onward and upward,
Veronica
managing editor & content creator of The Invisible Scar

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From the Editor’s Mailbox: Smear Campaigns, Spreading Awareness, Maintaining Relationships With Abusive Parents, and More

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[photo credit: Kat]

As managing editor of The Invisible Scar, I’m always open to receiving your emails and comments. Sometimes, I get a flurry of emails on a theme or that have answers that benefit more than one person. I tackle those questions in a monthly post called From the Mailbox.

Here’s a look at the emails that hit my inbox and questions that led folks to The Invisible Scar this month. I’m jotting my thoughts regarding those questions, but do keep in mind that this site is not a substitute for professional advice. (For that, please find a good therapist you can trust.)

Here’s what’s on readers’ minds this month:

“How can I spread awareness about emotional child abuse?”

Dispel the silence. Let people know that emotional child abuse is real. It exists.

To paraphrase the writer Baudelaire, the greatest trick of the devil is to convince you that he doesn’t exist. That lack of belief in its existence allows evil to flourish. Evil flourishes when no one speaks against it.

You can spread awareness in many ways:

  • Write about emotional child abuse and share those articles online.
  • Write about your personal story in a blog. Many people do this under pseudonyms to protect their private lives. Be aware that writing a personal blog does open you up to receive negative comments because trolls exist on the Web.
  • Use your social media platforms to share information about emotional child abuse. Are you on Facebook? Share articles about emotional child abuse there. On Twitter? Tweet about it. You need not be the Debbie Downer of your social network, though; share articles about emotional child abuse and good parenting, tips for parental time-outs, how to speak to one’s children, etc. At The Invisible Scar, we focus solely on emotional child abuse because that’s why we’re all gathering here. But on your social networks, vary the content for your audience.
  • Be honest about your childhood when discussing it with friends and family. You don’t have to corner people at parties and go painstakingly through every detail, but be honest and brief in discussing it.
  • Reach out to people who are hurting. One of the greatest pains of suffering emotional child abuse is the feeling of being isolated, unwanted, and not understood. When possible, reach out in love and kindness and listening to those hurting. Just listening to someone who hurts makes an enormous difference in a person’s life.
  • Mindfully step in when you hear someone being mistreated.  You can speak up for others without attacking the parent; just be kind and subtle. A true story: Years ago, I was in line at the grocery store and minding my baby girl when a lady and her preteen daughter stood behind me. The lady looked at my baby girl and said, “Oh, she’s so cute! They’re adorable at that age. And then, they become THIS.” And she pointed to the preteen. I replied, “Every age is a good one. And how awesome that you have a girl who you can chat with and do fun things with.” And the lady said, “Hm, I guess” and grew quiet, and the preteen gave me the loveliest big smile.
  • Pray for survivors of emotional child abuse. People always use prayer as a last resort. “It’s the least we can do.” No, it’s the most. Prayer is lifting our hearts to God, and we can lift survivors of emotional child abuse in our prayers. The prayers may not change the abusers—God gave everyone free will—but the prayers can help those who hurt. Know that I keep all readers of The Invisible Scar in my prayers. Please keep me in yours.
“How can I maintain a relationship with an abusive parent?”

You can’t.

Adult survivors of emotional child abuse want to be able to have healthy, loving relationships with their parents… but their parents are toxic people.

That longing is a scar that adult survivors of emotional child abuse bear. It exists. The scar shows that the adult survivor was wounded. But it cannot be undone.

However, an adult survivor can make sure not to put himself or herself in a situation to receive yet even more scars from the toxic parent.

Of course, only you can decide whether to remain in a relationship with abusive parents. But at The Invisible Scar, we encourage No Contact with abusers. (The author of Cutting Ties: Knowing When It’s Time to Walk Away at Luke 17:3 Ministries has questions to help you make that decision.)

“Why is my mother emotionally abusive?”

The short answer is that no one knows for sure.

Some psychologists talk about a cycle of emotional abuse. A child was emotionally abused by a parent who was once emotionally abused by a parent who was once emotionally abused by a parent, etc. But if that cycle cannot be broken, then why is it? Why do some adult survivors end up not emotionally abusing their children?

Some scientists mention that it could be genetics. But then that doesn’t quite make sense either. Alcoholism makes sense due to the physical component of alcoholism. But how can there be a gene for being a horrific parent?

You can look at the specifics of your own family tree and perhaps get to a mild understanding of how this abuse has emerged.

But for the sake of healing, it’s best to not focus on the why.

“What can I do about smear campaigns against me?”

A smear campaign is more than someone just saying something rude about you. It’s the systematic shredding of someone’s reputation by spreading lies, accusations, and insinuations.

“False Accusations, Distortion Campaigns and Smear Campaigns can all be used with or without a grain of truth, and have the potential to cause enormous emotional hurt to the victim or even impact their professional or personal reputation and character,” states Out of the FOG.

“[Smear campaigners] hide behind a cloak of upstanding heroism and feigned innocence in an attempt to make as many people as possible think their efforts are based not on their vindictiveness, but on upstanding concern,” writes Light on her blog.

So, what can you do about it?

You may feel inclined to do some or all of the following:

  1. Defend yourself  by confronting the smear campaigner
  2. Defend yourself to every person who has heard the smear campaigner’s accusations
  3. Take the smear campaigner to court for slander
  4. Launch a smear campaign against your abuser in retaliation
  5. Ignore the smear campaigns
  6. Talk to your closest friends about the smear campaigns, the truth regarding them, and ignore the smear campaigner

Every situation is different. Only you can decide whether to do 1 or 2; that may depend on your relationship with other people who know your abuser. In a family situation, you may have some relatives who you still want a relationship with, and you may want to discuss the reality of the situation with them.

Option 3 requires that you talk to a family lawyer about the situation. As I am not a lawyer, I can’t offer an expert advice on this matter. Option 4 sounds like a terrible idea, which will only escalate the situation. I strongly urge you not to retaliate. Options 5 and 6 seem to be the best options.

As painful and terrible as a smear campaign is, it will weed out the false friends and lukewarm relatives from your life. Anyone who knows you and loves you will not listen to the reputation-shredding gossip. You will be presented with a very clear view of the battlefield, of who is on your side and who is on the side of the abusive parent.

Your army of friends and relatives who stand beside you may be very small. You may even find yourself alone on the battlefield, with the corpses of old relationships all around you. But you will not be shredded. You will still be standing, you will be alive in the truth. You will be stronger than you ever thought possible because you didn’t let fear or other people’s opinions of you determine who you are.

* * *

Living in the truth and light can be so hard at first for adult survivors of emotional child abuse. They’re used to live in a hazy, nebulous reality created by their abusers. Adult survivors are accustomed to trying to find value in who they are by seeking the approval of others and adapting who they are to others expectations.

But in awakening to the reality of the emotional child abuse, adult survivors can start moving towards a life in the light and truth. They can start extracting themselves from the entanglements of abusive relationships. They can begin to understand that it’s better to be seemingly alone in the truth than to be surrounded by liars.

Why did I say “seemingly”? Because you are not alone. You’re here among others who share similar experiences. And you matter.

[via Sarah Joy]

[via Sarah Joy]

From the Editor’s Mailbox | Signs of Emotional Abuse, Links, and Parental Alienation

photo credit: Bjorn Giesenbauer

photo credit: Bjorn Giesenbauer

I tackled my mailbox this morning and saw several repeated questions, so I thought I’d share the answers in a post. Here are the most recent questions from various folks.

How do I know if I’m being used? Am I being abused?

I get a lot of mail from folks sharing their personal stories and asking me if they are being abused. In almost all cases, I do see signs of emotional abuse, but I always recommend that people go to counseling, whether through their church, free counseling at their local college, help lines, pro bono counseling from charities, etc., and share all the details there with someone who can guide them to an answer and, most importantly, resources to awaken from the abuse and get on the path to a healthier emotional state.

If you cannot afford counseling or if  you do not wish to start counseling until you do some research, I’d suggest reading about emotional child abuse and seeing whether you see the signs of it in your own upbringing or signs of the affects in you as an adult.

Some people think that it’s best NOT to read about it because “you can incorrectly self-diagnose” and they equate that situation to reading about diseases and thinking you have them.

I don’t agree with that mindset at all.

In my experience, adult survivors of emotional child abuse find it extremely difficult to awaken in their realization of what has happened (and continues into their adulthood). Most adult survivors of emotional child abuse would rather not wake up to the horrible reality of the abuse… So, there’s little danger of someone reading about emotional child abuse and recklessly thinking, “Oh, this is me.”

If anything, an adult survivor of emotional child abuse will research a great deal to find out the truth of what has happened.

If you are wondering whether you were an emotionally abused child (and an adult child of emotionally abusive parents), I suggest reading this page and checking out these resources.

Also, please know that I always think about and pray for those folks who do send their stories to me… I keep you in my heart.

Parental alienation

That was not so much of a question, but I’ve received emails from readers discussing the “phenomenon of parental alienation” and wanting me to share information about it.

No.

The most I will do is to define it and explain why this site will not address it.

Parental alienation is “a social dynamic when a child expresses unjustified hatred or unreasonably strong dislike of one parent, making access by the rejected parent difficult or impossible. These feelings may be influenced by negative comments by the other parent or grandparents, generally occurring due to divorce or separation. Characteristics, such as lack of empathy and warmth, between the rejected parent and child are other indicators. The term does not apply in cases of actual child abuse, when the child rejects the abusing parent to protect themselves.”

The main two reasons I won’t be addressing it on this site are…

  1. “The term does not apply in cases of actual child abuse, when the child rejects the abusing parent to protect themselves.” The Invisible Scar is about actual child abuse…
  2. The term itself is vague and not widely accepted.

Can I link to your website? Can I link to an article?

You sure can. I mentioned in my copyright section that I don’t want entire articles lifted from The Invisible Scar without express written consent, but a link to an article here or the website is just fine. Can’t spread awareness without sharing links, am I right? If you’ve a question about it, please drop me a line at theinvisiblescar[at]gmail.com.

Where are you?

The Invisible Scar has not been updated since April (well, until I publish this post), but I’m back. As I’ve mentioned before, The Invisible Scar is run by just one person, and I was pulled in several directions for the past few months. The dust has settled, though, so I will be getting back to a regular publishing schedule. Thanks for asking!

* * *

Thanks for all your emails, both with questions, comments, and stories.

We’ll be back to posting regularly beginning this month.

Onward and upward,
the editor of The Invisible Scar

How to Read an Online Article About Narcissism

This morning, I read an online article about narcissism yet decided reading-womannot to share it for two very important reasons:

1. The information within the article was incorrect.

2. No research was cited at all.

Despite those two facts, the article was heavily shared on social networks. The current trend is to call anything like self-esteem a “form of narcissism” or simplifying the ubiquitous selfie to “absolute narcissism,” which explains the high volume of social shares and comments the article received.

As a professional editor with a background in communications (emphasis on journalism), I felt compelled to write a few lines about how to sift through information and how to find those shining gleams of well-written, informative research.

Here are a few tips on how to read an online article. (Note: You need not read everything online this way. A hilarious article, an essay on birds, a recipe for macaroons, etc. do not need to be analyzed. Unless you’re me. Then you end up analyzing everything.)

  • Skim the article first.
    If you skim the piece, you’ll be able to tell if the piece is well-written, which often, but not always, signifies clarity of thought. Some horrible ideas are expressed clearly, so clarity does not mark the article as possessing good information. You just don’t want to waste time on a convoluted piece.
  • Check for links.
    An online article that makes bold assertions, such as “so-and-so said this” or that “12% of whatsits did this,” should link to that information. Don’t believe so-and-so said it unless you have data proving that the person did say it. A research piece should allow you information to read further and provide links to do so.
  • Check the quality of those links.
    If you’ve ever written a school report on deadline and with minimal resources, you know that you can come up with statistics and quotes from the worst sources. So can online authors. For example, information gleaned from Psychology Today may weigh more heavily than information about personality disorders taken from a magazine about cooking.
  • Read the article again. This time, read it slowly and take time to consider the information there. Picture it like a meal: Instead of wolfing it down, savor and reflect on the overall taste and experience.
  • Read more than one article on a subject.
    If you read a fantastic article about gaslighting from one source and you find new bits of information in it, make sure to read more about the same subject. Unfortunately, many people read one article about a subject and assume knowledge of it. For example: I don’t know a lot about snowboarding, but during the Winter Olympics, I formed opinions about some snowboarders… though I know nothing about the sport. I had to give myself a mental shake and remind myself that what I know about snowboarding is: snow is involved and so is a board. 
  • Read a lot and read often.
    When you regularly read some newspapers, blogs, websites, etc., you start to know which sources are reliable, which authors have solid information, which ones to avoid, etc. Also, you’ll know enough about the subject to have your BS detector go off if something seems suspicious.

* * *

At The Invisible Scar, we strive to provide links to whatever information we find regarding emotional child abuse. And if you ever have a question or comment regarding the content here, do use the contact form to drop us a line.

photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc;

From the Editor | Your Real Identity, a Comment About Comments, and a Thank You

I’ve a little memo pad with scribbled replies to some emails that I hoped would form one cohesive email.

They haven’t.

So, here’s a hodge podge of a blog post addressing a few concerns and comments from The Invisible Scar mailbox.

  • Please double-check your identity before you comment.
    I’ve been getting a lot of email from folks who have posted a comment then realized that they’ve used their real name when they would’ve preferred to be anonymous. Please make sure you’re using the name you want. If you have made a mistake, do drop me a line, but please know that I only check The Invisible Scar mailbox once every week, so I won’t get to your email as quickly as you’d probably like me to. I’d hate for you to stress about your name being public!
  • Comments may take a while to appear.
    As I said above, I only check my combox about once a week, and that’s when I moderate comments.
  • What about the children?
    Several folks have asked about raising children when one has been emotionally abused as a child. I’ve an interview lined up with a psychologist later this month to get answers to those questions. (I’m a layperson with a bent towards research but am not a professional therapist or a psychologist. What I share on The Invisible Scar is just my take on findings, so please do seek the support of a professional counselor.)
  • Thanks for the show of support.
    I deeply appreciate the kind comments regarding support for The Invisible Scar site. Though the reasons for the existence of such a site is not a happy one (it’s a tragedy that emotional child abuse exists), I’m glad to see that people are finding themselves not quite so alone as they thought.
  • Always remember that you are not alone. You’re a child of God. You matter. You are loved.