Adult Survivors of Emotional Child Abuse

Facing the truth of one’s emotional child abuse takes a special kind of courage. But to be an emotionally healthy adult, the truth must be known, so that healing can begin, and the pattern doesn’t repeat.

An emotionally abused child who does not, as an adult, face the truth of their childhood is in great danger of repeating the cycle of emotional abuse with his or her own children.

“As long as [the experience of cruelty] remains hidden behind their idealized picture of a happy childhood, they will have no awareness of it and will therefore be unable to avoid passing it on. It is absolutely urgent that people become aware of the degree to which this disrespect of children is persistently transmitted from one generation to the next, perpetuating destructive behavior.” (Alice Miller, “The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for Self”)

Unfortunately, because emotional abuse is often tolerated or because the abusive parents are very secretive in their abuse (hiding their true selves when in public), emotionally abused children will assume that how they were treated at home was natural. They have no frame of reference. And so, the child will develop a skewed sense of what a healthy relationship is.

Emotionally abused children become adults with little or no self-esteem; a deep, pervasive sadness; problems bonding with others; and a tendency towards self-destruction.

Hope Is in the Truth

Emotionally abused children will not always become emotionally abusive parents, however. Studies indicate that the number of abused children perpetuating the cycle of abuse is far lower than previously thought.

“In a survey of such studies, Joan Kaufman and Edward Zigler, psychologists at Yale, concluded that 30 percent is the best estimate of the rate at which abuse of one generation is repeated in the next. ” (New York Times article, “Sad Legacy of Abuse: The Search for Remedies“)

The study shows that the denial of abuse can be the greatest indicator of future trouble. Hence, the abused child who grows up to be an adult who denies having been abused has the greatest risk of becoming an abuser. But adult survivors of childhood emotional abuse who awaken to the truth of their damaging childhood, and strive to do the opposite of what they have been taught will NOT emotionally abuse their children.

If the adult seeks therapy and healing from an abusive childhood, the adult child can break the emotional abuse cycle and not perpetuate the abuse with their own children.

Healing from an emotionally abusive childhood can be very difficult, but as Andrew Vachss says:

Adult survivors of emotional child abuse have only two life-choices: learn to self-reference or remain a victim. When your self-concept has been shredded, when you have been deeply injured and made to feel the injury was all your fault, when you look for approval to those who can not or will not provide it—you play the role assigned to you by your abusers.

It’s time to stop playing that role, time to write your own script. Victims of emotional abuse carry the cure in their own hearts and souls. Salvation means learning self-respect, earning the respect of others and making that respect the absolutely irreducible minimum requirement for all intimate relationships. For the emotionally abused child, healing does come down to “forgiveness”—forgiveness of yourself.

How you forgive yourself is as individual as you are. But knowing you deserve to be loved and respected and empowering yourself with a commitment to try is more than half the battle. Much more.

And it is never too soon—or too late—to start.

Please seek professional help, read good books, turn to supportive friends, and don’t give up. Ever.

15 Tips for Adult Survivors of Emotional Child Abuse

An emotionally abused child usually continues being emotionally abused by the parents long into adulthood. The patterns have already been established since the child’s earliest years. The dynamics of the family have been set into place. Nothing is to drastically change it—unless the child grown up awakens.

Some adults experience a jolt, a sudden flash of memory, that is triggered by an event, a song, a movie scene, anything, really. Others remain asleep until the abusive parents become abusive grandparents—continuing the cycle of emotional abuse to the adult survivor’s children. Others will just reach the point where they cannot take it anymore; enough is enough.

And the abused child-turned-adult awakens, slowly realizing that not everything is as it has seemed. Everything is different now.

Taking the red pill regarding your emotionally abusive childhood leads to a very difficult path—but the important thing is that it is a path. You no longer remain stuck, wondering about the pervasive depression or sorrow.

Best of all, you can break the cycle. You can heal. You can reclaim yourself.

Here are some suggestions as  you begin your path to healing.

1. Seek professional help from someone who understands emotional child abuse. 

Before signing up for regular visits with a psychologist, have a preliminary meeting to gauge whether the counselor and  you are a good match. So much can affect a counseling session—from the setup of the room to the type of therapy the counselor favors. Some counselors prefer a very aloof clinical approach; others are more inclined to Conrad Baars school of thought.

2. Create some distance between you and your abusive parent.

You will find it difficult to put your new thoughts in perspective if you are still immersed into your parents’ lives. So, you need to create some space. Let them know that you need time to think about things.

“Adult children who have never spiritually and emotionally separated from their parents often need time away. They have spent their whole lives embracing and keeping and have been afraid to refrain from embracing and to throw away from of their outgrown ways of relating. They need to spend some time building boundaries against the old ways and creating new ways of relating that for a while may feel alienating to their parents.” (“Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No and Take Control of Your Life, pg. 38)

In some cases, adult children will find healing, and they will eventually find new ways of communicating with their parents that is healthy.

However, do note that in many cases, especially when dealing with narcissistic parents, your saying you need space will be seen as throwing down a gauntlet. In some extreme cases, narcissistic parents will sense that their adult child is beginning to awaken and the abuse will increase (and even get outrageous).

3. Don’t give up! Stay awake, stay vigilant.

Give yourself space in which to think.

“You should not continue to set yourself up for hurt and disappointment. If you have been in an abusive relationship, you should wait until it is safe and until real patterns of change have been demonstrated before you go back.” (Boundaries book, pg. 38)

Again, in the case of narcissistic parents, they are never going to get it. You should talk to your therapist about that fact and about toxic relationships.

4. Take your time.

As you awaken, you will find yourself with all sorts of emotions rushing through you. Emotionally abused children usually do not have a great gamut of emotions, so many of these feelings will be uncomfortable, difficult to stand, inspire guilt. For example, you will feel anger towards your abusive parents—and then, you will feel guilt about thinking such terrible things about your parents. That’s natural. You’ve been set up your entire life to only think of your parents’ feelings and not your own… but that’s going to change. Take your time, explore different emotions, go to therapy regularly.

The adult child will have a hard time slowing down, at first. The child within them is used to jumping to serve the abusive parent and reacting quickly without thinking, for fear of punishment. But you no longer have to fear your abusive parent. Take  your time. Take all the time you need… as long as you move away from the abuse and toward healing.

5. Educate yourself about emotional child abuse.

You’ll be going through myriad emotions, so you should read to better understand how healing is a process and will not happen overnight. You can find a starter’s recommended readings here.

In the book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No and Take Control of Your Lifeby Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, the clinical psychologists discuss the severe impact of being raised without boundaries and its affects into adulthood. Also, look at the various sites here for information about emotional child abuse and healing.

6. Be patient and loving with yourself. 

This merits repeating. Many adult children who awaken grow furious at themselves for having taken the abuse for so long. Be kind to yourself, however. The emotionally abused child that you were had no understanding that the abuse was not normal. The emotionally abused child was raised in emotional captivity—how could she or he know about anything else? View the fact that you have emerged from such captivity now as a miracle. Be grateful that you are awakening. 

7. Surround yourself with good, supportive friends.

Humans are social creatures. We need others. We need community. The awakening to one’s abusive childhood can make the adult child feel like they have no one in the world… but they do. Turn to good friends (some friends may share their own similar stories). If you don’t have friends who can relate to you or offer the emotional support you need, consider online forums for help. (Just make sure the fit is right. You want healing and resources for healing with healthy doses of ranting—not constant nonstop ranting.)

“Fear of being alone keeps many in hurtful patterns for years. They are afraid that if they set boundaries, they will not have any love in their life. When they open themselves up to support from others, however, they find that the abusive person is not the only source of love in the world and that they can find the strength through their support system to set the limits they need to set… The other reason we need others is because we need new input and teaching.” (Boundaries book, pg. 39)

8. Understand you may lose friends and family members—but let them go.

 When an adult survivor begins to process his abusive childhood, he will start becoming a different person, a more authentic self. The mask of “the perfect upbringing” or the “happy childhood” is stripped as the adult comes to understand that what happened in childhood was neither normal or healthy. Some people in the survivor’s life will have a huge problem accepting what is happening.

If your abusive parents were a great part of your life, your social circles may overlap. Word of your “needing space” will spread through your social circles. If your parents are particularly destructive, they may spread terrible rumors about you and do everything they can to convince mutual friends and relatives that you are mentally ill, that you are a liar, that you are somehow suffering a breakdown.  Narcissistic parents will tear down their child to save themselves and their positive image; they will even claim to not know what is happening or why you are not happy in the relationship.

Know that, if your abusive parents are abusive in secret, most people will take their side. If your parents are charming and “pillars of the community,” you will find yourself alone in your truth.  

Don’t cave in. Go to therapy. Educate yourself. Hold fast to the truth. Better to be alone in the truth than in the company of liars and their followers.

You may also find some of your closest friends not believing you and turning from you. They remember you as a happy person, always compliant, always talking about how wonderful your childhood was… They will have problems understanding that you were raised in a dictatorship, that you always used the wording that those in charge made you use, that you knew all the dictator’s slogans about being happy—and yet, deep inside, you were dying emotionally. Some friends may reject the hurting you because they do not want to either look at their own childhood, look at their own parenting, or look for a truly caring relationship.

Let the people walking away from you go. Let them go. True friends, good friends from the heart, will come and replace them in time.

“The problem with friends and family is that they know us as we are. They are invested in maintaining us as we are. The last thing we want is to remain as we are… With some exceptions (God bless them), friends and family are the enemy of this unmanifested you, this unborn self, this future being. Prepare yourself to make new friends. They will appear, trust me.” (author Steven Pressfield, “Do the Work)

Remaining steadfast in your pursuit of an authentic life will be difficult—but you will not regret it. Your heart will hurt. You will feel sad. But you will also feel a deep sense of empowerment and self-respect—new feelings to the abused child.

9. Keep a journal.

Write down what you are going through. Don’t stress about proper grammar, punctuation, etc. Just write whatever you feel. Get it out. Like Winston Smith in George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” you must write your true feelings.

Write about…

    • Memories that come up (Don’t edit yourself. Let it all out.)
    • What pisses you off and what pissed you off (Your journal will never tell you to stop ranting. It will never tell you to just let it go.)
    • What is happening in your relationship with your abusive parents.
    • Good advice that you may have received.
    • Epiphanies that you may have had
    • Whatever you want to write about
    • Quotes that inspire you.
    • Your side of arguments.

Don’t forget that you can also use the journal to draw your thoughts, sketch things, and even clip out magazine articles and glue them on pages.

The journal will prove a worthy companion on your road to healing. It will show you the places you’ve been and the progress that you have made. 

10. Be mindful of your relationships.

In awakening, the adult child may realize that many of his/her relationships mirror the same destructive pattern as the one they have with their parents. The adult child, not knowing any better, may have friends who treat them with the same abusive language and attitude that they have had in their youth. If you come to this realization, again, be gentle with yourself. You didn’t know. In captivity, you made friends with captors of different sizes and colors and shapes. But now, you can change this. You can choose your relationships. 

11. Pray or meditate.

Praying to a higher power can help you focus on the ultimate relationship. It also helps you reach beyond yourself, beyond the human relationships, to find the love that does not fail. However, some abused children have had their religious faith or beliefs used against them by their abusers. Know that the abuse comes from people, not God. Talk to your priest, minister, rabbi, etc. to discuss your conflicted feelings. It’s all right.

12. Let yourself receive love.

If you have a good circle of friends, if you have a spouse who understands what is happening, let yourself receive that love, support, and understanding. The adult survivor can find it hard to be loved. (“How can anyone love me if my own parents didn’t?”) But know that your parents’ failure to love you is a failure in them—not you. You are lovable.  

13. Accept change.

Your life will change in both enormous and very tiny ways once you awaken to the truth. Holidays, Sunday dinners, etc., will be different once  you have distanced yourself from your abusive parents. At first, you will feel a crippling loneliness… but then remember the truth of how those holidays or dinners were. You may have had some beautiful moments in your relationship with your abusive parents—but be honest with yourself. How many good moments did you really have? How wonderful were those events really? 

You now have the opportunity to make your own traditions for holidays and events and Sunday dinners. You no longer have to abide by rules and decrees put into place by your abusive parents.

You get to be the adult. Embrace that fact. 

14. Find a creative outlet.

Take up running, knitting, drawing, sailing, sewing, woodworking—anything. Your mind and heart will be going into overdrive as you awaken. You need to find something that can be a healthy balm on your frayed nerves and fragile heart.

15. Don’t give up.

Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Rest, sure. Take a little time to just lose yourself in music or TV or books for a little while… then continue on. DON’T QUIT. Don’t stop on your path to healing. Sometimes, the sorrow will be biting and cold—but don’t quit.

Know you are worthy of love, of respect, of kindness, of happiness, of dignity.

Know you matter.

Know that your life does make a difference.

Just waking up to the fact you had an emotionally abusive childhood?  This 92-page PDF can help you during this difficult time. For just $7.99, you receive What Really Happened: Finding Out You Had an Emotionally Abusive Childhood (and Tips for Healing).

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.


383 thoughts on “Adult Survivors of Emotional Child Abuse

  1. Hi, thank you so much for this post!
    You’ve made things so much more better for me by shining a light, to shoe a clear path through the darkness and I’m sure or hope it is the same for others who read this.
    I didn’t realize until recently that my parents and older sisters were all emotionally abusive to me and continue to be.
    I first thought something might seriously out of order when they were unusually critical of little sister, I guess I didn’t notice it before, now I choose to NOT do any of the emotionally abusive bullsh*t that my parents do when I’m with my little sister. I’ve got to be a big brother who can change to inspire and hopefully help my little sister grow up more psychologically healthy than I did, im 20, she’s 5.
    With that said, having a larger purpose can help push you forward, and for anyone this can be seen as a journey where by taking it we are inspiring others.
    Thank you so much! I’m grateful for you for writing this and being a guide for me.


  2. Thank you for this beautiful article. I’m a survivor of emotional abuse and have been slowly dealing with it since 2011 (when my sister, who went no contact in 2001 with my family, first woke me up to the fact that we were emotionally abused). It has been a very long struggle but I am slowly starting to set boundaries with my parents and stand up for my own beliefs and feelings even when they contradict my parents’. I especially appreciate your point about gaining some distance (physical and emotional). I think there is a lot of shame surrounding the idea of adult children being in limited or even no contact with adult parents, especially when those parents are elderly. I’ve found that keeping a physical and emotional distance and having limited contact with my parents from afar has actually strengthened my relationship with them rather than damaged it. Sometimes, you just have to protect yourself and distance is the only way to do it. There should be no guilt or shame surrounding that!


    Liked by 1 person

  3. My older, special needs, autistic sister, who is also my Irish twin, is dying. I came home yesterday from the hospital after enduring 24 hours of the most dramatic and nasty behavior towards me on behalf of my mother and younger sister. (I’m the middle.). We’ve been told that my twin has perhaps a week left, but I’m only talking to her on the phone because I can’t deal with my mother and younger sister without wanting to harm myself.

    I couldn’t figure out why until my very dear friend who held me today as I sobbed asked me if it was possible if I had been emotionally abused by my mother when I was a child. I’ve been aware through therapy that my mother turned me into a coparent when I was ten years old (my parents divorced when I was 6) and expected me to take care of my younger sister while she worked. That was never a problem, but when I read this blog and started thinking back to different instances, I realized that what she, my mother, did to me all my life was abusive. It came to a head at the hospital yesterday when she slapped me after I tried to comfort her and told me “NO” rather loudly in front of a social worker and a physicians assistant and then five minutes later wept against my younger sister when she comforted her. I’ve been tabling all this emotion because she’s losing her daughter, even though I’m losing my sis, but I’ve been taught that my feelings and emotions are not important and voicing them makes me selfish. I suffer from depression and anxiety and have thought continually about suicide. My younger sister once told me to “kill myself so this family can be happier”. When I told me mother what she had said, my mother accused me of lying.

    I’m 52 years old, a teacher, a mother of my own special needs child, a wife, a friend and this is all coming to a head now?!?!?!?!?!? I feel like I’m coming out of my skin, especially when the waves of tears pull me under. I’m exhausted. I manage to tread water for a little while because of my son and my husband but then the wave swamps me again. I don’t know what to do. I feel so alone. What do I do?


    1. Oh—I can so much empathise with your story. It took me so long for the penny to drop and I think when it does it is cataclysmic: you’re overwhelmed with feelings and rage and grief. I too found out late and I also suffer from depression and anxiety, and was the target of my family’s humiliation. I believed their narratives about me: useless, unstable, ridiculous. I know I carry them into every encounter with other people, even now. For the moment, try if you can to take a few days away from your family and get some perspective. Going hiking is a good way to remind yourself of your own self-reliance and inner peace. All courage to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My parents were alcoholics. When we complained about not feeling well we were given forced enemas by my mother. We never were given dental or medical care unless it was an emergency.
    I and my oldest sister survived and became successful adults, my youngest sister was codependent to our parents. I was there for them when they died but I never shed a tear. Yes , I went through counseling for years, but I am still working on forgiveness.


  5. I am so sad, emotional but also empowered to realise there are so many adult children feeling just like me. I am a 44 year old child who has only recently realised how my passive agressive narsisstic mother has tried to control my life so far. Last night is the first time I spoke back after a horrific episode while my 2 children were at home. I am tired of pussy footing around someone who makes an issue of anything that doesn’t fall into her negative thinking. It kills my mother that i have fought hard through a tough divorce with 2 small children….have now got my own home, healthy happy children, a decent job and a new man who loves and spoils me. I need to move on but its so difficult to let go when I’ve been made to feel guilty for my mother’s insecurities and negative outlook on life. Thank you to all for sharing. We can overcome this xx


  6. I’ve felt something was wrong for a really long time…but It’s was hard to accept because she still showed she cared about me in some ways, so I thought maybe It would change but it didn’t. I’m 26 years old and I’m still living with my mother. After reading a tweet today I started researching and ended up here and all the emotions I don’t even know I just feel like I’m suffocating right now. I feel like that every time I hear my mother walking in my room or even if she’s in another room. She talks to me I get angry because I know she will ask something or just make me feel useless, most of the time I do what she says because she makes me feel like I have to help her, I have to do what she says and if I don’t she gets mad…start saying I’m useless, but when I help, she always find something I’m doing wrong, or will keep saying I’m useless if I say no next time. It’s like I’m her biggest disappointing. She asks why I’m always sad, say I should stop being sad because it’s not good to be negative, asks what’s wrong but when I say how I feel she tells me to stop playing the victim. It’s exhausting. I just wanna move from here but it seems like every time I try something just stops me. I just want to be free.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was physical abused horrible by my mother my entire childhood. I set boundaries but still tried to win her love, it was so confusing to me! My son was accidentally killed and the cycle was somehow broken with her trying to win her love.
    I think I am the mixed up one. I have 2 children, a wonderful husband and after counseling- I am happy –
    She is now on her dealthbed, and band me from the hospital and funeral services.
    Why am I having all of these sad memories?


  8. Thank you for this information. I’m trying to heal after complexed systemic child abuse. I’m not getting professional help so think you. I can use this till they realise I need therapy again.


  9. I was physically, mentally, and psychologically abused by my narcisstic father. The abuse started early in childhood and when I turned 10, the physical abuse started.
    I grew up with very low self esteem and used sex and alcohol to surprise the pain.
    I slept with all sorts of men, mean ones who would disrespect me, treat me like me like shit and for me it was very ok because I felt worthless! My father made sure he has taken any self esteem I had in me by constantly telling me that I would amount to nothing in life and looking for any opportunity to lay his hands on me.
    Tonight I have cried because I feel so miserable, alone, lonely, lost, confused and it is all from the PTSD
    I honestly don’t know if I will ever find it in me to forgive my father,but hope I can one day because the pain he caused me is sometimes to much bare when I remember.
    Sending all victims of parental Abuse love and healing! It is not easy 💗


    1. Dear friend,
      You will be able to deal with it. You are not alone on this planet. We are many who have been through this. For many years I did not even know my day to day life has been badly affected due to the abuse I had to go through my parents for about 11 years. I was lost in the ocean of abuse. And as you said I carried this mental scar for many years. An wounded man in the midst of chaos.
      One day one of my friend who was learning physiotherapy who had been noticing me told me that I may need a counseling. I took very lightly of what she said. But apparently I realised that I needed some sort of counselling .
      With my experience meditation and counselling really helped me. Now I’m very much in control.
      compassion, right concentration, right livelyhood, right companion, avoidance of wrong people, right speech, right view, right determination ,right action will be your good friends to fight against the demon.
      I wish you all the best from the bottom of my heart !


  10. I was physically, mentally, and psychologically abused by my narcisstic father. The abuse started early in childhood and when I turned 10, the physical abuse started.
    I grew up with very low self esteem and used sex and alcohol to surprise the pain.
    I slept with all sorts of men, mean ones who would disrespect me, treat me like me like shit and for me it was very ok because I felt worthless! My father made sure he has taken any self esteem I had in me by constantly telling me that I would amount to nothing in life and looking for any opportunity to lay his hands on me.
    Tonight I have cried because I feel so miserable, alone, lonely, lost, confused and it is all from the PTSD
    I honestly don’t know if I will ever find it in me to forgive my father,but hope I can one day because the pain he caused me is sometimes to much bare when I remember.
    Sending all victims of parental Abuse love and healing! It is not easy 💗


  11. Today I had a horrible fight with my abusive parent again (the one that is present in my life currently… the other one chose to leave during a crucial situation I am fighting alone, at only 20). I have realized today that I keep going back to this parent, expecting better from them, and being disappointed each time, but at the same time not being surprised about it. I have realized that although the good times (that are very rare, but somehow have come up more this past week, leading me to believe things would be okay, forgetting that those few days are not enough time for a permanent positive change to occur) are so good when they occur, they are not worth the countless bad times that leave me feeling depressed, hopeless, invalidate, unwanted, unloved, etc… so many negative feelings caused by my OWN PARENTS… and this article has truly helped me. I have learned a lot already about how my childhood has affected my young adulthood, things I did not even learn from my therapist. It always helps to get a fresh perspective on things, even if it’s a generic article online. This helped so much and I have written down a few quotes, and also bookmarked the page. Thank you for this.


  12. I was emotionally/psychologically and physically abused by my father. His psychological abuse was insidious and evil. One of the my earliest memories is of sitting the car with only him, parked somewhere, and him saying to me, “There is something wrong with you, I just can’t put my finger on it.” I think I was about 3 or 4 based on the car in my memory.

    His obsession that something was wrong with me went from my birth through my adulthood and until he died. He would say it in so many different ways. Meanwhile, he had zero empathy and showed zero love for me. He consistently planted the idea that there was something wrong with me in the minds of my sisters. He even did that with my nephews.

    A recent comprehensive study by the American Psychological Association found that people that were emotionally abused as children suffer more as adults than those that were physically abused. And, amazingly, more than those that were sexually abused. Their study results show that, “psychological maltreatment was most strongly associated with depression, general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, attachment problems and substance abuse.” Here is the study summary:

    I wish there had been a better understanding of emotional abuse when I was younger. I am now in my mid-50’s. I worked hard to at least have a professional life, but my personal life has always been a disaster. Failed relationship after failed relationship. Sometimes because I chose women that were abusive. Other times, in relationships with loving women, I was unable to form healthy attachment and accept and give love.

    I am now alone, single, and have no children. A year ago, I took stock of my life. I did not like what I saw. I have not been cruel to anyone, always followed the law, always worked hard. But I failed at the things in life that really matter – love and having a family, being part of a community, have rich connections to others.

    As that sank in, I realized that the abuse of my father, which I had tried to dismiss as “not important” once I became an adult and accomplished a few things …. that his abuse had defined my life. The adult that resulted was not able to trust, was not able to have a healthy relationship, tended toward isolation as a protective mechanism, and missed out on the most meaningful things in life.

    After being brutally honest with myself about the arch of my life, I am now I am in a deep depression and have severe anxiety. I have been unable to work and so lost my job and probably now my career. I am very isolated. I have trouble even leaving my house. I’m scared all the time. I struggle making simple decisions or doing basic things to take care of myself. I am taking anti-depressants that do not seen to help because they can’t change the facts of my life, my memories, and how empty my life is.

    I don’t plan to commit suicide, but I do believe that dying is preferable to living a pointless life into old age. I’d rather my nephews inherit the money I have saved than for me to spend it just trying to survive within this awful state I am in. It’s not enough money to survive many years anyway and every day that goes by I feel guilty for spending any of it when it could go to better use helping my nephews get a better start in life than I had.

    That childhood abuse finally caught up with me. I was trying to run ahead of it. I worked a lot. I kept pursuing relationship after relationship without realizing that none of them worked because of my problems and issues. I did many things that appeared “brave” – I traveled extensively, I worked in a foreign country, I experienced a lot of things. But I am now a shadow of my former self. I could no longer outrun the reality of how damaged my sense of self is, how low my self esteem is, how much the emotional abuse shaped my empty life. Because, now in my mid-50’s, I no longer have the energy or the “hope for a better future” that I once had.

    What I realize now is that where I am today – in a very bad state, afraid, without hope – was inevitable. I was living on borrowed time in a sense. I was running to stay ahead of the deeply wounded little boy inside me. Since that wounded little boy never healed, it was inevitable that he would surface and I would collapse as I have. At this stage of life, I do not feel like much healing is possible. I can’t change the fact that I have lived an empty life without love and meaningful relationships.

    I share this because for any of you that are younger adults and suffered emotional abuse as a child, I want you to get better help than I had. I have been in therapy off-and-on throughout my adult life. Each therapist recognized my father’s abuse, but none seemed to know how to help me heal from it. I hope that you can find a therapist that helps you heal. I don’t want anyone to reach the stage of life I am now in, feel like their life was wasted, feel like they missed the important parts of life, and feel hopeless and like there is no purpose to going on with life.

    Please find a therapist that can truly help you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Mike,

      I’m also a victim of emotional abuse from my father. Please don’t think it’s too late for you to heal. There are therapists out there that specialize in narcissistic abuse. There are books on it too. I’m starting to heal and I’ve just turned 40.

      Be well xx


    2. I just want to let you know, there is always help available. It might be harder to change your mindset when you are older – supposedly, by generic representations of younger people being assumed to be more “pliable” than older people – but it’s still possible. I strongly relate to the not seeing the point in using more resources when they could go to others with more “life” to “live” in them, so to say, those not tainted by abuse. But it’s still possible to feel comfortable with yourself and your life, if you reach out. It might take multiple times of reaching out, though.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Thank you for sharing Mike. Great news is you didn’t find out 10 years from now. You are aware that you WERE a victim. Life is a beautiful thing and us acorns are survivors. Strong survivors. I strongly encourage you to seek anything you need for healing. Whether it’s joining a men’s group or getting involved in community, volunteer work, anything. Your time is more valuable than any amount of $ in the bank. Your past may have been dragged down by being a victim, but that is your past. Don’t spend another day as a victim. Start living in your future. With healing, it will get better. I wish you luck and lots of Love on your new journey.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I have never had a good relationship with my mother, but I hadn’t even realized how bad it truly was until I was telling some friends stories from my childhood. That’s when they pointed out that the way she treated me was abusive. I do not know how seriously I would have taken the suggestion from anyone else, but my friends both had experience in their own lives with being abused. Prior to that I always felt like the way things were with my mother were my fault. I was not trying hard enough or I just was not good enough. It reached a point and is still at this point sometimes where I felt like everything about me was wrong. That there was nothing good or right about me and that’s why my mother doesn’t treat me like her boys. That is what makes it worse she will treat my brothers with love. Just not me. My whole family writes it off as we are too similar in personality making it hard for us to communicate and that it is ok for her to treat me like crap because she has a hard time with her depression. It is ok for her to rip apart any and every feeling of self-worth I manage to build up just because she is unhappy with her life. Now I have to live at home with her again because I failed at living on my own.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I continue to struggle with the verbal and psychological abuse of a combative, controlling and reality-challenged mother. I am alone in this battle. My life has ping ponged in and out of jobs, relationships, and mood states. Add to this the expectations of my father coupled with the freakish relation to one of the world’s top business tycoons (Michael Dell is my first cousin) which has exacerbated my anxieties for reasons that are too difficult to explain. Now in my mid 50s, despite working as hard to escape the my mom’s reach, I am back living with the monster, being economically dependent yet trying to remain disconnected from this disgusting person with an endless appetite for stepping on my dignity and sense of being. I know I must leave and never look back. Her verbal tirades and twisted accusations have not ceased – she has no control over them. The outburst bring me back to my early teens when she’d rage uncontrolled over nothing because it filled that hole her in heart with something. A loveless marriage and unresolved childhood issues coupled with an obvious brain disorder. And I, the Dell family black sheep, can never utter a peep about anything. I’m the sick one after all, and nothing I say matters. That’s the way my abusive mom and my enabling dad like it. Let Scott suck on all by himself the dank Dell family exhaust until it kills him. I survived so much – now at 55 I hope I have the gas in my tank to get out of Dodge one more time. I stuck around to help my Gila monster mom during numerous medical recoveries. I need to escape.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. My mother lives 20 mins away, my sisters live close yet it is my sister in brisbane (2 states away) who tells me that my mother has cancer. No answer when i ring, no answer to my message on answering machine. This happens so often!!!! I am left out of important information (cancer for goodness sake!) as well as get togethers and other normal family events. My kids have no photos of them displayed at mums house (my daughter actually looked in each room to find one) and she never sends birthday cards or makes an effort to be part of their lives. I actually got my birth certificate to check i wasnt adopted. I just dont get it. My mother really doesnt care about me or my family,neither do any of my sisters. How do you deal with this? Its not new i should just get used to it and to a degree I have but it stilll amazes me that I am cut out so often and so completely. How do you deal with this? My god its not like its new (i am over 60) but it still hurts me!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou! 🙂 I am so grateful to have found your website. 9 years since I started to ‘wake-up’; 9 years of back and fro with mother, limited contact, contact with my kids – then finally ‘no-contact’ for the last 18 months. I’ve read some wonderful books, and followed wonderful people online, but sadly, have mostly had very triggering experiences with therapists (all female!). Due to start with a male therapist in a couple of days. Your website has inspired me today to keep going. I will keep going. Never giving up – Ever! Thankyou 🙂


  17. At 39, I’m finally at the point when I have had to say ‘enough to my parents. Guilt trips, substance abuse, lies, undermining comments, temper tantrums, hot and cold moods, involving me in their drama, silent treatment for weeks etc My turning point came when my son (6) asked me why they speak to me like that. Enough.

    Any advice for how to deal with family members who don’t know that they are this way behind closed doors? I know I will seem like an ungrateful daughter but at this point I want to shield my beautiful little family from this toxic behaviour.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I needed this article right now. I have just now come to the realization that my parents are emotionally abusive. At age 11 I developed and eating disorder because they were constantly putting me down for my weight and looks. I starved myself until age 22. I also had depression, anxiety, and addiction to self harm. This whole time I thought the problem was me but after researching emotional abuse from parents- it describes everything I experienced to a T. I’m just in shock because I had everything in the world I could have ever dreamed of when I was growing up- but monetary support and material things don’t replace emotional support.

    Liked by 1 person

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