The Invisible Scar

raising awareness of emotional child abuse, its effects on adult survivors & the power of words on children

For Adult Survivors of Emotional Child Abuse

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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

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.

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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.

journalWrite 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.speak-the-truth

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.

 

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356 thoughts on “For Adult Survivors of Emotional Child Abuse

  1. I am eighteen, and although legally an adult, I’ve opened my eyes to this type of abuse when I was sixteen. However, I have no financial means to leave my situation at home. As the saying “forgive and forget” goes, I have forgiven them, but it is difficult to forget when you can’t escape your situation and find a place to breathe on your own.
    I feel like my emotional abuse was subtle abuse, small things here and there (with the occasional outburst) that it just piled up.
    I don’t know what to do because I don’t know if there’s any aid for me, in my case. I have endured this all my life (when I was younger I had fantasies of running away), and will have to keep enduring this until I graduate from college. I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.

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    1. I’m 25 now and I’m in a similar situation right now, I have no financial means to leave my situation. I had to move back with my dysfunctional family after graduating college 4 years ago since I didn’t have a job and I’m still having difficulties now. There should be programs to assist you Hai since you’re 18 and I’ve found a majority of them help people up until they are 25. That’s one of the reasons why I can’t/haven’t left; I have no one to help me. I would call 211 in your area and see the programs.

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    2. To both of you. My sincere wishes.
      Recovery is never easy.
      But your understanding of what is going on is a very good beginning.
      For now you have to tolerate the bad situation.
      Protect yourself. Minimize contact when you can.
      When you are ready just walk out the door.

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  2. Since I have cut contact with the abusive family ie, dads ex wife and twin younger brothers who mimic her behaviour towards me, other family have withdrawn from me apart from my long distance uncle, nana n grandad who knew what she is like. I have a support network in friends, spouse, playgroups and now a new work experience placement. Things in my life are finally ironing out. I’m no longer confused about non genuine relationships or chasing unobtainable acceptance from abusive people who disregard my human rights.
    I’m so happy, confident and strong now. Iv read lots of useful sources of information such as this thread, personal boundaries etc. I started a word press blog sarahproctor2014.wordpress.com and a google account blog.
    The internet is a great support in not feeling alone in this part of my life journey. I’m not afraid of the truth anymore and I don’t have time for people who doubt me or choose not to understand. Those people are not positive influence. I surround myself with positive genuine relationships now and I don’t fret about blood relatives treating me so disgustingly. Im so grateful that I came across this post in December. Thank you for writing it.
    Peace and love
    Sarah xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I applaud your courage. Once you know the truth and are no longer in denial, it’s difficult to go back to the way things were. Some relationships are just not (emotionally) healthy.

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    2. Lynette, I feel I can relate to you as I think we’re in the same age ballpark. I’m 51 and have just truly awakened to the emotional abuse suffered at the hands of my Dad for my entire life. I’d never even heard the term ’emotional abuse’ before but once I did, things started clicking. I always knew my father was critical, fault-finding, angry, never satisfied, always pointing out errors and making ‘helpful suggestions’, using guilt tripping and the silent treatment. And that’s just when we’re in a small family group. Add extended family, in laws or friends to the mix and he ridicules, humiliates, pokes fun, puts down… He loves to get a laugh at my (all of us really) expense. My journey really began in Oct 2014 when my partner and I went to couple’s counseling. I began to realize that he was emotionally abusive and likely narcissistic personality disorder. As I began to explore that, I learned that most victims of emotional abuse learned it at home and that’s when the real work began… I am about to confront my father. I have told my mother (who bears some responsibility for not always stopping his abuse), my sister and my brother of my plans. I want to have a constructive not destructive conversation, but I am prepared for the worst. Hopeful, but realistic. I am going to tell my father what he has done and how it has affected me. And I am going to tell him it stops now, the paradigm is shifting. He no longer has permission to abuse me or anyone else in my presence. My sister and I took the majority of his abuse and she totally gets it. My brother is somewhat in denial, knowing that Dad often goes too far, but minimizing the damage done. He did say he would back me up though. My mother, bless her, said she supports my decision and asked ‘what can I do to help?’ They’ve been married for 54 years. I said, ‘you can back me up when I call him on it.’ When he calls my sister ‘fat’ and I tell him that is inappropriate and cruel, I said ‘Mom, I want you to say, that’s right it is inappropriate and cruel.’ She said, ‘I will do it.’ There’s a family dinner tonight. Though I haven’t had the conversation with my father yet (I plan to do it this week, I’m waiting for the book I ordered for him “Toxic Parents” to arrive) I am sure he will have a put down for someone tonight – he almost always does – and I am going to call him on it. When called on things, his pattern is first anger to try to intimidate us, then guilt tripping us by sighing very dramatically and in a poor lonely voice saying “Well, I just won’t say another word,” and when that doesn’t elicit his desired response, then he goes into the silent treatment and will sit down somewhere alone and pout or glare. One of us, usually my mother, my brother or I, pretty much always goes to him and tries to cajole him out of his mood, ‘Come on Dad, come back and join us, we’re having a great time.’ (Makes me sick and angry right now just thinking how we feed his ego with that BS.) Well, this will be the first test of my new plan. I am 51, he is 80. It is about damn time for him to be stopped. I am under no illusions that, especially at 80, he will have a sudden aha moment – or should I say a come to Jesus moment – considering he both a Lutheran pastor and an Episcopal priest? It is very hard for him to admit fault, say I’m sorry. But he’s under no requirement to finally be introspective. He is, however, from now on, under the requirement that he not abuse anymore. I cannot stop him from being who he is, but I can and I will stop it from being imposed upon us. I cannot change him, but I can change the paradigm.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Thank you for reaching out to me. I applaud you for speaking up. We must beak our silences if we want to heal. Your father has the characteristics of a narcissist. be prepared tor the fallout. Confrontation with a narcissist almost never has a happy ending–your siblings may start backing away and you end up being the bad guy because narcissists are master behind-the-scenes manipulators. It was a good idea to start with the book–tangible proof. However, this will only infuriate your father. They hate to be called out. Please let me know the outcome of your family dinner. Thank you for connecting with me. The day I found out that there were other daughters like me was the day my healing took a huge leap. Blessings.

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  3. Thanks alot for article. My life had always been a miserable hell due to my parents. They wanted to make us competitive and excel in life, but they were always too harsh. Beating, emotional torture, making me compromise because I am a woman is a usual practice. They don’t realize it’s wrong, they consider us their holy property or cow that can be punished in whatever way they like. I do have alot of issues, as an adult living still with my family and admitting that my family is emotionally/physically/socially and mentally abusive towards me is the biggest and most painful truth of my life. I was completely shut-down as a child when i tried to talk out against it. I still live in here with them, in air of uncertainty, not knowing what will trigger them and they will beat me black and blue. Hope this ends well. I’ve completed my Masters and as soon as I get a job, I’ll move out of home

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  4. Thank you for a really well-written and poignant article.

    I’m several months out of a divorce from a narcissistic woman whose behavior very clearly mirrors that of my narcissistic mother (my father died when I was young). For years and years, all of my relationships were modeled after the childhood mold of having any of my authentic feelings or needs being turned around against me. If I was upset about something and needing basic care and validation, I would be told that I was being unloving, that my anger or sadness was my problem, that I was being too critical, or — my mother’s favorite line: “stop digging up the past, what’s done is done. why can’t you just move on?” I just never had any sense of boundaries or selfhood, and ended up with a wife who fit into that world-view…

    I’ve spent the past year not seeing my mother or my sister (my sister is the compliant “purple pill” child), and this has been difficult with two young children and a completely narcissistic ex-wife (she cheated, lied, embezzled — and then accused me of “emotional abuse” with no basis in reality…)

    I honestly can’t reinitiate contact with my mother and sister because I’m too angry. Too much authentic emotion. And this anger is always used by them as a lever for them to judge and belittle me at a time when I feel very vulnerable. It’s simply an emotionally impossible transaction to take on right now. And I’m able to embrace the cold, harsh reality that things may never change.

    This is a really difficult journey, but, yes: new and amazing new relationships surface when you’re able to piece together this painful puzzle and realize: you were hurt, deeply; you’re alone in this effort; you are fundamentally good and whole and loving; you will never hurt your kids the way you were hurt. I’ve been lucky to have found a new community which feels genuinely balanced and reciprocal, where I can give fully of myself and not feel used, and where others give fully of themselves as well and feel valued by me. And my relationship with my children is really the guiding light. My new family has no resemblance to my old family.

    Still: one day a time. There will always be rough days, when memories and bitter emotions bubble up.

    Thanks again for a great article. Always comforting to know we’re not alone, and that there are some clear steps forward we can take towards a happier future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear blogger/writer,
      I stumbled upon this blog when i was searching for – abused by father. In short, i feel i was physically and emotionally abused by my father at 15 years and may be my mother is a narcissistic.. She was and is being abused by my father. I moved to a different country(usa) after i got married 2 years back. I am now 12 weeks pregnant and filled with anger in my dreams about my father and i feel guilty about it. I have seeked help before but none of the therapist got me. I am scared i will treat my husband like how my father was and pull him away from our child. I want a healthy relationship for my unborn child. Your blog brought me to tears many times. Thank you for empowering .
      – harshitha

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    2. Ben, this sounds a lot like my story. I lived for 8 years with my partner regularly calling me selfish, spoiled, unloving, uncaring, uncoupling, you caused this, you need to fix it, etc, etc, etc. When I could no longer take the abuse and ended our relationship, that’s when my journey back to my childhood began. I learned it was no wonder I picked a man with narcissistic personality disorder. My father had indoctrinated me into the manipulative, mind-bending ways of a skilled emotional abuser. I made the connection that I picked a partner who mirrors my father and then tried to make him love and accept me, just like I tried to make my father love and accept me. (Just to be clear, my being gay is not an issue in my family and has never been part of the abuse, my father and family accepts my sexuality fully.) You wrote your comment almost a year ago. I can’t help but wonder how you’re doing now. What do I have to look forward to?

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  5. It has been a long journey to healing and developing healthy relationships with those in my life, particularly my children. The biggest lesson is to be good to yourself in real ways, to be kind and in a way be a good parent to yourself. I had to let go of family and friends. That meant raising my children in an environment that was free from the toxic relationships of my childhood. This page has some great advice and I fully support all it says. For those going through this, hang in there, be kind to yourself and seek help. The journey does get easier, love is there for us all and we can truly form better relationships moving into the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am a 50-year-old adult survivor of emotional child abuse. I have sought therapy and broken away from my parents, sister and extended family. My parents have a very strong public persona of being kind and gentle, so it is practically impossible for anyone to believe what really happened.

    The problem is that my parents and sister continue to pursue me. I have asked them many times to respect the boundaries, including a formal cease-and-desist letter, but they continue to try to make contact with me sporadically, insinuating that there is something wrong with me. It feels like harassment and continuation of the abuse.

    Is there anything I can do to stop them? A restraining order? Civil suit for harassment? I just want them to stay out of my life.

    Thank you for your help.

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    1. In my opinion, the best thing to do is to ignore them. (I know this is difficult to do.) Also, do not read anything that they send you, emails, letters, texts, voice mails, etc. Narcissists hate to be ignored and will try to get a response from you to feed their ego. Anything that you do, restraining order, etc., will be breaking your NC and feeding into their egos.

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    2. Me too had a brother who wouldn’t accept i didn’t want his contact.
      Forgive me for my solutions….but i seriously and unrelentingly abused him
      and continued to demand he stop contact.
      He couldn’t stop.
      I arranged for his ex-wive to re-start contact and demand support
      for child support that he avoids and then later seriously started organizing ex-wife adult
      children to demand for their inheritance ie land.

      The guy saw i was serious and he shut up his communication.
      All i am saying is be aggressive. Fight back.
      Do not back down. They will give up because they are the ones invading
      your territory. You can win this violation. So do it!

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  7. Wow. So I am reading just this first page, and nothing could be more true about everything in my life. I am a bit astounded. (Although even in this moment I notice that any emotional response this could have caused, has been curtailed by what my family have said about emotions being bad).

    I knew there was a problem a few years ago, when my therapist made a few comments, but I was always reticent to use the word abuse, because I felt like it wasn’t bad enough and that other people must have it worse and I was somehow degrading their situation. And anytime my social worker etc saw any of us, everyone had their charming public faces on.

    But then recently I accidentally mentioned something that had happened in my childhood to a friend, and their shocked reaction led me to start telling them things about my family. Now I have someone telling me that that was not right, and that I didn’t do anything to cause it, I have realised just how insidious this all has been. I have long abandoned my father, but now I realise the complicity of my mother, and how incapable both of them are, no matter how hard they may think they are trying (if that is indeed in their minds). And yet I do feel guilty at realizing this about them, like I have betrayed them! I can’t believe how much I am realizing that I have all these thoughts.

    Seriously I have had 10 years of therapy, and have learnt so much. But this has hit me like a train in the last month. Unfortunately, I realized just as I have had to return living at home for a few months. It suddenly makes sense, the multiple mental health problems, the triggers, the failed relationship. I feel such an idiot that I couldn’t see. And I really have to move out when this period is over.

    PS. I’m hoping this account isn’t leading to an email address or anything, could you guys let me know if the name (pseudonym) links to details? It really would not be good if this comment/account was discovered by my family while I live back in the house (I don’t say ‘home’ anymore).

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  8. Thank you for this page.
    I was feeling really shitty and restless about life this morning but this gave me some strength to go on.
    I was brought up by unhappy parents. My mother was both good and bad. She was abusive physically and emotionally. Growing up, there were so many fights.
    But she was also my pillar. She had her good days. She realized her wrong and we tried to build a relationship. While in the process of that, she got diagnosed with cancer and we struggled. I struggled so bad. I was mad at her, but at the same time I didn’t wanna lose precious time with her. It was tiring and traumatic, the whole process of her fighting cancer.
    She has since left.
    My father and I aren’t close. He provides for the family financially but since young he always seemed distant. I won’t make comments about him as a husband to my mother, but as a father, he knew what was going on, but did nothing to help. So slowly, I feel very little towards this man.
    Shortly after her death he lost his job. I started to feel the bulk of emotional abuse.
    Initially I fought fire with fire. Then I calmed down and tried to keep an amicable relationship.
    But that’s not enough for him.
    I have moved out but his calls and texts still haunt me.
    He doesn’t respect my decision of moving out, thinking that I don’t respect him at all. Which is hurtful, given all the effort I’ve put in.

    I am so tired of this shit. I’m upset that I have a stain with me for life. It’s hard telling my friends this because they can’t feel the pain I feel, the hurt I feel. And I don’t want to go over the long story of why things are the way they are now.

    It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in this. And not hear stupid things like: “He’s your father….I’m your father”
    As if that’s a natural given right that I have to put up with this shit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Respect. Yes, that’s a powerful weapon that a parent has. All our societal conventions and all our major religions tell us to ‘honor thy father and thy mother.’ As children we are raised thinking we owe a debt to our parents. But this is what I think. Our parents owe a debt to US! We did not chose to be born, they chose to start a family. The burden of proof is on them. If we have loving, supportive, uplifting parents, then our gratitude is fair. If we have controlling, manipulative, hurtful parents, then they have not earned our gratitude. Respect is a two way street – and it starts with how our parents treat US.

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  9. I had a moment yesterday that triggered bad feelings from my childhood. I feel like I am well adjusted even though my childhood was not fun. Since I had some time away from home when I moved out at 18 my mom and I have mended our relationship. It is strained at times, but things are good between us. She is a different person now that she has no control over me. But sometimes it feels more confusing the more time that goes by. I sometimes feel like I should just “let it go” because my relationship with my mom has been great, but then something happens and I get all these emotions that I cannot control and I hate her for everything all over again.

    Yesterday my husband dragged me through the house and roughly threw me out of the house. He didn’t “hit” me, but I feel that this episode was almost just as bad. We used to get into horrible fights in the beginning of our relationship and he knew my childhood experiences. I told him I couldn’t stand for any type of abuse (not that anyone should put up with any kind of abuse). He actually changed, we have been married for 5 years now and he is sweet, loving, helpful, a great father. I thought those rough times were behind us, but then he just blew up at me during a normal argument. I was actually scared and hid outside because I truly was not sure what he would do. He felt bad pretty quickly, and said he would never hit me. I told him I was actually afraid of him and now I am not sure that he wouldn’t hit me.

    All of this is reminding me of those nights as a kid that I cried in my room as quietly as possible waiting for my mom to yank me out of bed by my hair. Or the times I would run knives over my wrists while doing the dishes and try to muster the courage to actually do something. I even tried suffocating myself with a sheet by shoving it down my throat, but I just threw up anyway. Part of me knew that once I was old enough I would be able to leave and have a better life.

    I thought I had emotionally dealt with my childhood, but how can i get past anything when my husband pulls a stunt like that. And what do I do now?

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    1. Tabitha, you haven’t dealt with it, you’re ignoring it. Your husband physically abused you. Period. It reminded you of your mother’s behavior because it IS YOUR MOTHER’S BEHAVIOR. Things feel familiar because they ARE familiar. You wrote this comment 9 months ago and I sincerely hope you are on the road to recovery now. If not, there’s no time like the present. You think you should just ‘let it go’ but here are a couple things I’ve learned… 1) The only way to get over it, is to go through it. 2) Yes, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, but you still need to walk through the tunnel. 3) As painful as it is to go through the tunnel, it’s the only way to eventually stop the pain.

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  10. Thank you so much for this article! Sometimes you need a reminder that this is really something that others have also experienced.
    First, I apologize for not reading others’ comments. I’m posting here in the “journaling” vein recommended in the article, and because I just need to get this out today.
    My mother is an abusive narcissist. I had been slowly working toward that realization all my life, but it came to a head three months ago when my dad suddenly died. All of her abusive behavior was on display in a distilled form in the weeks after his death and there was no possibility of denying it.
    With therapy, I have pushed on and been maintaining a “distance” relationship with her. But now, with my dad gone, she wants more from me. She wants me to take her abuse like my DAD did. And I can’t. She tormented him constantly for years, and he tried his best to shield me and my brother from it. Without the living buffer (whipping boy), she’s a danger to herself and others.

    She had a fight with my brother recently and called me (hoping i would take sides, of course). Instead, I did my best to be “dad” the peacemaker. I thought it had worked. But then she turned around and, without warning, blocked all calls from me and my brother and sister in law.

    This only brought back the pain of the constant undeserved rejection I received from her growing up. I’m so furious at her. And I’m also worried about her – a recent widow, with known mental issues and instability, and not much money to her name. I feel responsible for her physical well-being, at least. And her cutting me off just EFFING HURTS! I’m really not sure what I’m supposed to do now. I do feel responsible for her. I wish I’d pushed harder to have her sign over Power of Attorney. I fear she needs to be committed to a mental health facility. And she’s left me hurt and powerless, once again. Knowing that she couldn’t care less about the harm she causes leaves me feeling conflicted, and part of me does wish something bad would happen to her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If she’s truly a narcissist, she won’t harm herself, but she will love yanking your chain about it. Her blocking your calls is ‘the silent treatment.’ You feel punished because it is punishment. She wants to manipulate you into breaking through to her, pounding on her door, blowing her phone up day and night. Then she’ll let you back in, as soon as she feels that you have been sufficiently chastised. Your desperation to breach the silent treatment is just what she needs, it shows her that you have learned your lesson, it shows her that you admit it was your fault and that you are sorry for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I am nineteen years old and am currently a sophomore in college. I never realized until this year that what my parents did to me was emotional abuse. I had always felt like a failure and like I will never be good enough for anyone, but that was because of everything I had failed at succeeding to do, not because of things my parents had put into my head. I have never truly been able to grasp the idea of how God can still love me and do all those things for me, knowing that I am such a failure; because of that, my relationship in God was also a bit broken since I believed I had to work my way to God’s approval and love just like I have had to work my way to my parents “love” and approval.

    Moving away to college was the big eye opener for me when I finally got to live on my own. The problem I face now is going home for breaks, and especially summer. The longer I am away from home, the more confidence and respect I regain for myself, but the second I go home it all comes back again. I honestly thought that my mom was beginning to change and accept me, but in a second it all goes back to how it was. I am almost finished with my second year of college, and I am terrified to go home and start the abuse again. The worst thing is I love my family and my parents and I want to see them. I could not stand to be away from home for an entire summer, so I don’t want to stay at college for the summer either.

    Thankfully, I have an amazing boyfriend who knows my deepest insecurities and hidden past, and who accepts me in spite of them. However, the damage left from the abuse has put a little wall in our relationship as well because I do not know how to receive love, and I forget to give him the love he deserves because I am trying to heal myself at the same time. I have finally come to the conclusion that I need to seek help, but I am scared. I have no idea what to do, and I have no money, and my parents are paying for my college and car and they remind me of how much I owe them every second. I don’t know what to do…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I just got off the phone with my therapist after one of my sessions and felt so disheartened and beaten down, so I googled ‘how to overcome an abusive mother daughter relationship’, and I found this article. It hasn’t taken away any of the pain, but it has made me feel less alone, less crazy and comforted by all the other people who have suffered at the hands of emotionally abusive parents. I told my therapist that I didn’t want to try to have anymore ‘honest’ conversations with my mum about my awakening (I like that word!) because after I’ve had them, she feels much better because I have helped her see things about her life too and then she clings to me as if I am her mother, and it is just too much. She goes from mother to daughter to lost child to resentful and vicious and I can’t take it anymore. He reminded me that this is abuse, and to hear those words always cuts me to the core. I called it a total head f***, and he agreed.

    I feel so stuck because I feel so bad for her, she is in so much pain and will never heal, and I feel as if I am betraying her by choosing myself and my own healing. I can’t listen to her tell me about her old job, or her new job, her German classes, my sisters wedding, my uncle and why he hasn’t called her, it’s rarely ever about me, and when it is I usually get a ‘oh aren’t you lucky I never had that’ type comment. I love and I hate her, and I know that I am just caught up in the abusive cycle, and that it is possible to break free, but I am so exhausted. I have nothing left to give to anyone it feels. I can barely give to myself. My dad just perpetuates the cycle and makes her worse, they make each other worse, and it breaks my heart to watch them, but that’s all I can do. I’ve already wasted 30 years of my life trying to fix them and their relationship.

    She tried to call me while I was having my session, we spoke on Sunday, and all I could think was ‘we don’t need to speak, what do you need to talk to me about’ and I haven’t responded. I feel so dreadful but I just can’t. I can’t call her. I can’t talk to her. Something is stopping me, finally, after all these years, I am actually beginning to accept the reality that she is not mentally healthy, nor my dad. I don’t want to feel angry anymore, but I’ve not yet processed all the years of pain I had to suffer, and all the self hate that I still have inside as a result of trying to deny, repress and deny the reality of my situation.

    What do you do when your parents just don’t hear you, don’t listen to you, don’t accept you for who you are? How do you function as a human being if the two most important people in your life can’t take care of you properly? I still think to myself ‘surely it wasn’t that bad, they can’t really be mentally ill/unstable/unhealthy’ but deep down I know the truth, as I always have done, that they are not capable of loving me the way I want them to, or giving me the emotional support I needed to grow into a healthy adult. It is so hard to accept that, as a result, I am emotionally stunted and unavailable myself. I’m working on it, I’m in therapy and have been for nearly 3 years, I have just started to attend group therapy and I am cutting down on alcohol, casual sex and emotionally unavailable men as my coping mechanisms. It’s a test though, to look at myself, accept and forgive myself.

    I am so grateful for all of you who have shared your experiences on this page, so I wanted to do the same, and to those of you who are just awakening now – I am so pleased for you. It may seem impossible now, to rearrange and reorganise your life to such a degree, but it is possible. In December 2013 I was signed off work with anxiety and depression, I went home to my parents hoping to find answers/support (made things worse I think), I struggled (understatement) but eventually I got the courage to buy a working holiday visa, book a holiday to Australia, and upon my return to London, decided to come out here 6 weeks later and get a job, find a flat and to truly see who I am. I’ve been working for just over 3 months now, and despite my difficult session and ongoing struggle with my parents abusive cycle, I am definitely awake.

    Stay strong and keep going xxx

    Liked by 3 people

    1. For me the guilt was that one key milestone to work through and it’s a continuous one. I do notice that whenever I’m in more contact with them (via text or email/no phone calls for me) that’s when the old feelings start creeping in. And that’s my cue to build back the boundaries, the walls that I need to stay in the light, in this happier awakened state. Stay mindful of the triggers. This gives you power. You’re taking all the right steps in the right direction! Keep going!! Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. “we don’t need to speak, what do you need to talk to me about’ and I haven’t responded.” I can so relate to this. I started awakening almost 20 years ago, but it’s taken me this long to get to the point where I don’t want to even talk to them any more.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I’m sorry you’ve been in pain, I know how much work it takes to get to that point – good for you getting there. I spoke to my mum this weekend and I couldn’t pretend to be glad to talk to her, but I felt terribly guilty for not wanting to. I admire your strength to be able to do this!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. This website feels like one of the most comforting and safest sites I’ve ever come across. Thank you!

    I’m a victim of emotional and physical abuse and was in the dark throughout my entire childhood as well as my early adulthood. I never questioned the abuse; rather, I was convinced the welts and bruises on our (my sister and I) backs, legs and any other unlucky body part that got in the way, our bleeding mouths, broken lips, scratched eyes, you name it, were a result of our inability to be good kids, it was our doing. Fear, terror and combustible outbursts of punishment (especially while at the dinner table) were the pillars of our rearing. Add to the mix religious fanaticism with its Bible teachings, a despondent father, and an out of control bipolar/OCD/narcissistic mother. This is all I knew since I can remember and what I believed to be a picture perfect family life. To the outside world, that’s exactly what we appeared to be.

    I took on the protector role, my sister being younger than I was. I would physically shield her with my body, then get double punishment for stepping in. I was five. Among many things, mother was jealous of my little sister who was only three years old (mother doesn’t deny it til this day!!). Needless to say, most of the contact involved screaming, belittling, comparing, guilt-tripping, name calling, I could go on and on with just the emotional part. Two perfectly co-dependent children who for some reason panicked and wouldn’t stop crying if their mother wasn’t around. Aargh!

    After years of continuous emotional un-attachments and instability in my adult relationships (which I never related back to my childhood), I found the help of a therapist. Interestingly, it took a bit to work through to the acknowledging of abuse; it happened after I addressed the guilt issues. When I finally “awoke”, I decided not to have any contact with either of my parents. I needed space to think, feel and react like a real person without their emotional control. That ended up being about 5 years of separation and relief. No matter how hard the shunning, I stood my ground for those two kids who lived in constant fear.

    My biggest feat to this day is not feeling guilty over my decisions towards them. Although, I admit I have to be keenly aware (daily!) of any guilt creeping in. I now have very distant relationships with both parents (no phone calls for me); my sister and I fully support our mother financially. Now that we’re past our 20’s, my greatest concern is my sister’s well-being. At times I wish I could’ve shielded her from everything but know I couldn’t because I was also a child who needed saving. I don’t know how much she remembers but I do know she’s constantly suffering the effects of the abuse via her own abusive relationships and low self esteem/worth. She goes to a therapist but is still in this constant emotional whirlwind. She says she’s broken whenever I speak hopeful the she too can have a healthy relationship. This is a complexity that I need help with. Is reminding her of the things that happened helpful or more damaging? Do I hold a key to her healing? Or am I overstepping some boundaries? I welcome all and any thoughts, please?

    I thank you for sharing your struggles and exposing the abuse that’s swept under the rug all too often.

    Love and healing to us all! It’s possible!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your sister’s life is showing you she needs help. Tell her about your experiences. It may trigger her own memories. She will certainly need professional counseling too. Instead of financially supporting your mother, get your sister a good therapist.

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