The Invisible Scar

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

Types of ECA

When emotional abuse is shown in movies or TV programs, the abuser is often a huge, ugly, fierce-looking adult. The abuser never looks like the kind-faced person next door. The abuser is never an ordinary person, never someone known to his neighbors, never someone who shops at the local store, has friends, or keeps a regular job. The abuser is easily to spot. The abuser might as well carry a sign for all peopledismissive-parents-sm to see.

In real life, however, abusers aren’t always that obvious. They might look huge and fierce—but they can also look gentle and meek. In real life, emotional child abusers can be far sneakier. In some cases, no one but the abused child will know the adult is an emotional child abuser.

And the weapons used for emotional child abuse don’t rely on strength and bulk; the abuser relies on words and emotional warfare.

Though emotional abuse does include outright screaming (called terrorizing), people who watch such movies or TV programs may think, “Oh, I yell at my kid sometimes. Who doesn’t?”  What they fail to realize is that—unlike normal bursts of temper—emotional abuse is long-term… and the shouting is part of a long series of shouts.

Emotional Abuse Is Systematic

“Psychological abuse of a child is a pattern of intentional verbal or behavioral actions or lack of actions that convey to a child the message that he or she is worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or only of value to meet someone else’s needs.” (Samantha Gluck, Healthy Place: America’s Mental Health Channel article)

How emotionally abusive parents tear at the child’s sense of self varies. Here are some examples of the different types of emotional child abuse.

Types of Emotional Child Abuse

Giving the silent treatment

“No discussion of emotional abuse through words would be complete without including the absence of words as a form of abuse. This is commonly known as the “silent treatment.” Abusers punish their victims by refusing to speak to them or even acknowledge their presence. Through silence, the abusers loudly communicate their displeasure, anger, frustration, or disappointment.” (Dr. Gregory Jantz, “Portrait of an Emotional Abuser: The Silent Treatment Abuser” article)

The abusive parent will withhold attention and affection until the child caves in and apologizes for whatever the abuser perceived as a slight or insult. Through a series of silent treatments, the abused child will learn to be silent, to be docile, to never speak against the parent—because if the child does, he will not be loved or spoken to or even acknowledged as a human being.

Ranking children unnecessarily

In emotional child abuse, children are placed in pecking order. A parent continually compares his child to another (a sibling, a neighbor’s child, anyone who is a peer to the emotionally abused child) … and the abuser will always find his child to be lacking. The ranking can be for anything as sitting still during dinner to doing chores; anything is cause for comparison. The abused child will never rank high. Never.

Being condescending

Abusive parents treat their children as if the kids are beneath them.

Bunny boiling

This type of abuse destroys something that the child cherishes.

“Bunny Boiling is a reference to an iconic scene in the movie “Fatal Attraction” in which the main character Alex, who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, kills the family’s pet rabbit and boils it on the stove. Bunny Boiling has become a popular reference to how people sometimes exhibit their rage by behaving destructively towards symbolic, important or treasured possessions or representations of those whom they wish to hurt, control or intimidate.” (Out of the FOG website)

Whatever the child treasures, an abusive parent will take away or destroy.

Gaslighting children

Abusive parents will play mind games with their children. It involves saying or doing something then pretending it never happened or happened differently from how it really happened.

“Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity.” (Theodore L. Dorpat,”Gaslighting, the Double Whammy, Interrogation, and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Analysis“)

Parents will say or do things then deny them or change the details consistently, so the child ends up doubting his or her memory. The parents will often also set up the child as being mentally deficient or “fragile,” so that other people who know the child will think that the child is either lying or incapable of recalling things correctly. Again, the abuse is a lifelong campaign, a consistent theme in the child’s life.


“Scapegoating is a serious family dysfunctional problem with one member of the family or a social group being blamed for small things, picked on and constantly put down. In scapegoating, one of the authority figures has made a decision that somebody in the family has to be the bad guy. The mother or father makes one child bad and then looks for things (sometimes real, but most often imagined) that are wrong.” (Lynn Namaka, “Scapegoating“)

Often, the emotional child abuser will encourage, through his or her actions and treatment of the scapegoat, the other children to also pick on the scapegoat, so that the scapegoat has no allies in the family.


An emotional child abuser will sabotage a child’s calm and peace. For example, if a child looks forward to a television program, at the last minute, the emotional child abuser may deliberately set forth a ridiculously long chore list to be done before the child can watch the show. (Think of the evil stepmother in “Cinderella,” who set up Cinderella to fail by giving her too long a list of items to do before the ball.) Or the father will deliberately schedule a family meeting at the same time that a child had planned ahead of time to attend a friend’s birthday party. Like all forms of emotional child abuse, sabotaging ruins a child’s sense of security.


The opposite side of scapegoating is favoritism.

“Favoritism is the practice of systematically giving positive, preferential treatment to one child, subordinate or associate among a family or group of peers…. Favoritism becomes dysfunctional when actions and opportunities, resources and liberties are systematically denied or applied inequitably for no logical reason and without just cause.” (Out of the FOG)

An example of favoritism is when an emotional child abuser will let one child get a car ride to school with friends, but the other child must walk or ride a bicycle to school even though that child also was offered a ride by friends. Or one child has a completely different set of rules to adhere to while the other child has less or more relaxed rules.


An emotionally abuse parent will maintain a sense of power of his children by creating conflict between them. The children will be manipulated into conflicts with one another.

For example, a father will talk to Child A about Child B and say how he is upset with Child B because Child B said some terrible things about Child A. Child A will then be angry with Child B for both hurting her feelings and also for making the father sad. Child A and Child B will rarely discuss the incident because the parent has set up the children to distrust one another. Another example: a mother will vent her feelings about Child D to Child E, describing that child as taxing and irritating and whiny… then Child D will start viewing Child E in that light. Child D trusts the parent and will take her side. Meanwhile, the parent will talk to Child E about Child D.

Pathological (or compulsive) lying

“Compulsive Lying is a term used to describe lying frequently out of habit, without much regard for the consequences to others and without having an obvious motive to lie. A compulsive liar is someone who habitually lies.”

An emotional child abuser will often lie to his child. The lying will often go hand in hand with gaslighting, so that the parent will deny the lie. For example, a parent will tell a child, “If you get straight A’s this quarter, I will buy you an iPod Touch.” When the child gets straight A’s, the parent will deny the statement. “I never promised you an iPod Touch!” The combination of the lie and then the outright denial, if it’s habitual and consistent, will cause the child to begin to question his memory and, in some cases, sanity. The child becomes increasingly self-doubting.


Smear campaigners carefully and strategically use lies, exaggerations, suspicions and false accusations to try destroying your credibility. They hide behind a cloak of upstanding heroism and feigned innocence in an attempt to make as many people as possible think their efforts are based not on their vindictiveness, but on upstanding concern.

Because emotional child abusers wage lifelong campaigns against a child, a smear campaign often begins in a child’s early years and throughout the child’s adolescence and even into adulthood.

For example, an emotional child abuser will emotionally abuse a child then tell his friends that his child is “overly sensitive” and “prone to exaggerate.”  Even if the abuse is terrible and obvious, the parent will downplay it to the child, telling the child that he is “overly sensitive” and “prone to exaggerate.” Whenever possible, the emotional child abuser will refer to that child as “overly sensitive” and “prone to exaggerate.” Friends, relatives, neighbors and, in some cases, siblings, will begin forming that perception of the abused child. Because the abusive parent has set up that child to be seen in that light, the abused child will often have no one to turn to for support or help… and if they do, they are not believed and told that they have always been “overly sensitive” and “prone to exaggeration.” Worst of all, the emotionally abused child will be conditioned to take abuse but not speak up or expect anything better because they view themselves as “overly sensitive” and “prone to exaggeration”—though if they related the facts of the events to an outsider (who has not been conditioned for years), the outsider would see the obvious abuse.

Note: The types below were mentioned in the Emotional Abuse Defined post. 

Ignoring. Parents ignore the significant events in the child’s life. They ignore the child in general and refuse to discuss any interests or activities that the child may have. They seem bothered by the existence of the child. The abusive parent will cut short conversations, interrupt the child, mock the child for his/her interests, and treat the child as if she is a nuisance.

Corrupting. Parents teach the abused child to be a racist and bigot. They encourage violence and anger, and they advocate bullying. The parents reward the child for substance abuse or bigotry; promote illegal activities; and/or reward the child for such behaviors as lying, stealing, etc.

Terrorizing. This behavior is what people first think about when they think of emotional child abuse. Parents threaten the child verbally; they yell, scream, or curse. The parents swing from rage to warmth to rage, ridicule the child, and/or force the child to watch inhumane acts. The abusive parent keeps the child on edge, jumpy, nervous about meltdown. Emotionally abused children often end up extremely attuned to the parents’ tone of voice, slightest movements, nonverbal cues, in order to try to avoid a blow-up.

Isolating. Parents leave the child unattended for very long periods of time. They keep the child away from family, friends, and peers, etc. They punish the child for engaging in normal activities choresand make the child become a misfit. They force the child to do excessive chores or excessive studying to keep them isolated. The child will not have the same opportunities as his or her peers to engage in social interactions but be forced to constantly sacrifice his childhood for the sake of the parents’ demands.

Inappropriate control. Parents exercise overcontrol—which robs children of the opportunities for self-assertion and self-development. Or parents show a lack of control—which puts children in dangerous situations or at risk to be in them. Or parents show inconsistent control—which leaves the children feeling anxious and confused.

Though difficult to detect and substantiate from the outside, the child is abused… and the emotional abuse leaves deep-rooted, invisible scars in the child’s psyche that canimpede their intellectual, social, and emotional development.”

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.


72 thoughts on “Types of ECA

  1. Wow! This is incredible. I have faced each once of these as a child and I am still facing these (I’m 36 and not surprising that I have am now an adult with a lot of weirdness and issues!!). It is comforting to know that there are other people out there who have faced the same things. I am yet to meet anyone who has the same kind of parental issues as me. But if there is an entire blog post on this topic, then I suppose there has got to be at least one other person who has similar experience as me!

    Liked by 6 people

    1. One of the prevailing themes for The Invisible Scar is: You are not alone… An emotionally abused person can feel like the loneliest person in the world and as if no one understands what they’ve endured. We hope to build a place here where people can read and feel understood and, most of all, that they matter. Peace to you…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi just read all the different scenarios of child abuse from parents. I have experienced every one of your examples including severe physical violence too.. I thought it was me making my parents like this since I was very young but have now realised that all the different kind of a abuse has a name so my parents behaviour has not been normal for all these years. I am 47 and they are still to this day abusing me, to a point where I am left shaken and simply feel like I am a failure, mistake, should never have been born and end up putting the phone down on my own parents. I have come to realise that I am not on my own and I wish and hope everyone who has been abused by any member of family, comes forward


      2. Actually I am alone sorry to say bit many abuser is the victim apparently I say that with love in the kindest way possible but please don’t be mad I’m sorry but I just am


    2. I am 27 years old and have been suffering emotional abuse at the hands of my mother since I was 14 actually it started when I expressed a desire to be different to her, I have dealt with abusive and demeaning insults “you’ll never amount to anything” “you betray me” “I’m going to tell all your friends exactly what your like” “you’re not normal, there’s something wrong with you” this amongst years of screaming, slapping and her ability to make me feel like i am worthless has seriously affected my self perception and self esteem and it was only when I met my fiancée last year who studied psychology that I actually realised what has been going on for years, I never actually realised I was being abused I actually thought everything was normal. you are not alone and now I am aware of what has been going on I am starting to heal myself, emotional abuse leaves scars that nobody can see and it has massive effects to the spirit and psyche, I believed that I was abnormal and that everything she said about me was right. It has been a horrible experience but I’m very lucky to have the friends and fiancée I have, he single handedly pulled me out of the dark and made me see that I am strong, beautiful and capable of anything and made me realise how evil and damaging my mother is. YOU ARE NOT ALONE and I hope that this message may serve as a demonstration of solidarity. We are children of the universe, no less then the trees and stars, we have a right to be here !

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Wow!!
      Im 56 years old, and now back here at home due to my father having a stroke and helping my mother with him.
      Nothing changes for sure!!
      Just tonite i was totally berated that a message from my mother that i was to relay to another family member when telling her yes i told him…she asked me what?..i repeated back to her what she wanted me to relay..and said that she never said that..and that i ALWAYS screw up and will never have me deliver any message again…
      Of course i had self-doubt but i remembered what she wanted me to say and she denys it
      Very hurtful!! 😢


  2. Others reading your website and the comments observe that you’re responding for you to responses as well. Replying in order to comments is key for you to conversation plus you’ve got to be able to lead by simply illustration and reply for the remarks to encourage other people to reply at the same time .


  3. Glad this was wrote as it absolutely describes what I went thru and validates that me leaving and keeping a distant relationship with my parents was the best thing I could do to survive their extreme sickness. They both are dead now (mother died in March 2013) and I can honestly say I feel relieved and free. I am choosing not to have contact with my brothers and sisters as they are part of the cult. Everything here described it all in full what I went thru. there has to be a name for this illness and I will tell you, my mother was the sicker of the two, she was from poverty as my dad was from upper class but over time became like her as she dragged him down to the point his own sister refused to connect much with him. Well friends, at least we know we were not alone like that had us believe and that we are ok. We are stronger then we thought and we made it. Let’s make sure we don’t ever repeat their behavior because we know that it is a filthy nasty way to live and we are better then that. Lots of love to all of you who read this because you really deserve to be loved unconditionally! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lucina,

      Sorry for all that you’ve endured, but glad that you feel validated. And a thousand times yes to this thought: “You really deserve to be loved unconditionally.”

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  4. I am 43 years old and I cried when I read your Suggestions to Adult Survivors. When I was 23 and still living at home even after I graduated from college, I had a disagreement with an older sister. She attacked me verbally in such a vicious way that I was reduced to tears. When my parents came home and found me crying, I told them my side of the story. My mother said that I needed to respect my older sister and to acknowledge that my older sister would always be right in any argument. Shocked at these words, I asked her that if my older sister would always be right then it meant I would always be wrong. She said yes. I told her that I cannot continue living there under such conditions. My mother said that I could only leave if I marry or if I enter a convent. I felt as if I was locked in a jail cell. My father was the only ally I had in the family. He supported my decision to live on my own and kept me safe from my mother’s toxic influence. He died 10 years ago.


    1. I have escaped, but some of my sisters still live at home. I try to help them as much as I can, I want them to get out, to get away from the damage they are suffering, but they arent even really aware of what is happening to them. Even though it has been 10 years, the damage to me continues everytime i become aware that the same things are going on with my younger sisters.
      I am glad that you are out. I am glad you had an ally. Be strong!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Blacksheep, I too had a father who was an ally and the buffer between my emotionally abusive mother and myself. He died six months ago, and I can’t bear my mother any longer. I’m 53 and live in a different town, but she still manages to find ways to show me I’m unloved and unwanted. She denies any wrongdoing even though the evidence is clear: all of her (adult) children are damaged. I think the only way forward for me is to stop contact with her, which will mean no contact with the rest of the family either, since she’s at every event.
      I’m sorry you lost your father when you were only 33.


    3. Blacksheep,

      I am so sorry for all that you’ve gone through… Unfortunately, abusive parents often scapegoat one child and highly favor the other.

      You were so fortunate to have such a protective father! How wonderful to have had an ally and good memories of him.

      Peace be with you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I posted a comment here two days ago, sharing my own childhood experiences. But it was taken down after only a few hours. Did I write something inapppropriate?


    1. Blacksheep,

      No, nothing comes to mind…

      The comments take a bit to show up because I moderate them, and so there’s a bit of a lag.


  6. I’m -still- dealing with abusive parents, because after 20 years of no communication between us, I thought maybe they’d be ready to face up to the lives they’ve lived in relation to me. After two years of trying to ‘work things out’ and ‘have an adult relationship’ with them, I’m coming to the now educated conclusion that they will always be abusive. The ‘types of emotional abuse’ outlines the story of my life.


    1. Glad to hear that you’re not in communication with the abusers, although it is painful to have a lack of resolution.

      Unfortunately, some abusers will never own up to what they did.

      May you continue to your path to healing…


  7. Thanks for this site. I believe it is going to help me a great deal. I have been on and off a journey and rocky road to heal from my verbally/emotionally abusive father (who has no idea that he is of course) – he has no issues, don’t you know. The rest of my family is not much of a help and I feel really alone most of the time. I don’t trust people very easily most of the time. I need support groups (can’t afford a therapist right now) and sites like this to help me through. I am sorry that everyone has felt this pain, but at least we can find some comfort that we are not alone in this fight.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. No, you’re not alone, Jeanine! And I’m glad you are able to find support here…

      As far as finding support, perhaps you can call your local therapist and ask if he/she can recommend a support group. That should be a free phone call, and most therapists would be happy to help.

      You can also find pro bono counseling offered by local churches or nonprofit organizations. For example, Catholic Charities offers free counseling in certain cities.

      Best to you on your journey towards healing…


    2. Oh I am so sorry I stumbled on this nearly two year after you posted, I can only hope this is linked to your email. My dad was an abuser! An abuser in every sense, verbal, emotional, physical and sexual. The rest of my family is also not any help, my brother denies and my sister denies that he is even her father. I feel that people that have been abused need to take that sadness, that energy and that pain and make something productive. I only say this because, the only way I have healed is through being a nurse. I currently work as an ICU nurse and the best relief I can get is through helping someone else pain. This is what makes me a caring person, a worthwhile person and If you take these emotions of pain and neglect and feed them into something you look upon with admiration , you have won! Please find it in yourself to be a leader, a caregiver and a friend. Most likely you know that you deserve those titles!


    1. Metro,

      I just replied to Jeanine about this… I think a phone call to a local therapist or church might be able to offer some direction regarding where to find a support group or counseling.

      I’m also creating a Facebook page for the Invisible Scar, as a sort of virtual support group as well… I’ll unfurl that tomorrow, on the Invisible Scar’s second anniversary.

      Peace to you on your journey towards an emotionally healthier life!


  8. Thank you to everyone who responded to my comment It’s great to know that I am not alone in feeling this way about a parent that I am supposed to love. The holidays are here and once again I am being made to feel that it’s my fault the whole family is not going to be together. Just hearing my mom’s voicemail message made me feel so sick to my stomach. I read somewhere that the best way to win an argument is to not be in one. So my strategy is to just clam-up every time my mom wants me to explain myself. It works but it is also tearing me up inside. I am trying my best to be strong because I know that if I ever try to explain to her how I am feeling, she would find a way to make me feel that it’s all in my head. Twenty years ago, for about 6 months, I did tell her over and over again how I was feeling. I finally realized she was not listening and so I just stopped talking. The rest of the family (except for my father) thought I was just being childish and treated me accordingly.


    1. Sounds familiar. My family has labeled me ‘snobby’ rather than ‘childish.’ Anything to detract from the real issue.

      I do recommend reading and learning about setting boundaries appropriately. While it is challenging to speak up, ‘claiming up’ is not helpful in the long run. My first thought when you said that was that if I felt that claiming up was my only option, then it would make sense to stop associating with her altogether. Otherwise, I like to simply tell my mom ‘I don’t accept being talked to like that. Can you please rephrase that?’ Or ‘I am happy to speak with you, but I will only do so if we’ve established mutual respect for each other.’ I will also tell her flat out if something she is saying makes me uncomfortable. If the boundary is set and she tries to argue it or berates you for it, she will at least know why you’ve stopped engaging her and will (hopefully) know how to get you speaking again by abiding your boundaries. If not, my experience is that they just don’t say anything.

      Good luck to you. It is still a battle with my mom, but it looks like she’s starting to avoid me (I guess confronting her about my past was too scary for her to handle). Her avoidance of me has put me in a new position of feeling abandoned. I know I will get thorugh it, but I have to be true to myself, no matter what they (both parents, and siblings) choose to do.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. My experience is with parents who smear, and exert over-control. I’ve always known something has been off, but I’ve always second-guessed and back down again because I would begin to question whether I was even sane. They’d tell me it was in my head. They still tell me I “twist words”, “read into things”, “over-exaggerate”. To the point now that they have begun insulting my wife, claiming I’m just a follower (even though I’m in a leadership position within my own community), and am being manipulated by her. All of this followed up with lines like “you don’t know the pain and grief you’re putting us through. You’re hurting us.” whenever I take a stand to disagree with them on something (like our will for who gets our children if we both should pass).

    This realization is definitely a huge step for me. Thank you for writing this.


  10. I am 43 and finally have come to the irrevocable conclusion my Mother has NPD. My Father too, and a violent alcoholic to boot. As a small child I was aware my mother did not like me, resented me and was very cold to me – from about the age of 6 I understood something was very wrong. My father took an affectionate interest in me, taught me to read when I was 3 and was encouraging. I do believe that rankled terribly with my mother who became jealous of this relationship. She screamed at me a lot, or ignored me or hit me frequently with a wooden spoon. I was a very bright, inquisitive, sensitive child and very compliant and well behaved. Both of my parents were young, self centered and immature and had 3 children by the age of 28. They were ill-equipped to be parents, both vain and self centered and focused mainly on their physical appearance and clothes. Money was tight and my mother had social aspirations which could not be met. My father violently beat my mother in front of me when I was 6. She had gotten into bed with me in her evening dress (she never held or hugged me so when she got into bed with me I knew it was odd) when my father burst into the room calling her a slut and beat her violently. From this moment the game changed as the father who I loved became Bad Daddy and the mother I was frightened of became Poor Mummy.

    Shortly after this my mother put me in the bed with my drunken father every Saturday night, as she did not want to sleep with him. Time and time again although I screamed and cried and begged, I was forced to share a bed with a 6’2 man who was incredibly drunk. I was 6. Whether he knew it was me or not I don’t know (although it helps me to believe he was so out of his mind with drink he was confused) but I was molested. I tried sleeping in a sleeping bag under the covers but was pulled out of it. I cannot bear to think about it because it is so distressing but what makes it so vile is my mother forcing an hysterical child into a bed with a lecherous drunken husband. It does not bear thinking about. During this time I stopped talking, started bed wetting (when taken to the doctor my mother told him nothing at all could have upset me – an early indication that no one would defend me) and having dizzy, fainting fits and had to be taken to the hospital for head x rays. ALL the hallmarks of an abused and betrayed child which were conveniently ignored. I was 7 years old then. I tried telling my Grandmother I was “depressed” when I was about 8 and was told not to be “so ridiculous – children can’t be depressed”

    In the many intervening years I have seen my mother as the innocent victim of an abusive husband and religiously excused the relentless attacks on my emotional and mental wellbeing. I have tried to justify her behaviour as a result of her unhappy childhood (so claimed) and unhappy marriage.

    I parented her. She held me in front of her as a human shield, cowering behind me when my father hit her. She would then complain about me to him over inconsequential matters (I didn’t eat my mashed potatoes) so I was beaten too. I did most of the house hold chores. I was constantly criticized – too fat, then too thin, too emotional, then too cold, my hair too long, then too short. Every time I had a success in school I was greeted with “well who cares what you have to say any way?” then praised in front of the unsuspecting public as “doing so well”. Every abusive act was COVERT, death by a thousand cuts, sly, sneaky, dehumanising and degrading. Every big occasion I was told how “awful” I looked or how “annoying and irritating” I was. When I got my first career break it was only due to the designer suit she lent me for the interview. Every Christmas gift was something I didn’t want or need while my brothers presents were carefully chosen. Virtually every meal cooked when I returned home for a visit as an adult was always the one dish I loathed since childhood – and then I was called “Impossible to please”. I was never hugged or held or complimented. Every gift I bought her (even from the age of 7) was “just not my taste, tacky”.

    I had no personal privacy – my diary was read, she would burst into my room when I was changing “there’s nothing to hide from me”, my breasts were squeezed when she thought I was sleeping to evaluate my development when I was 12/13. I attended all my medical appointments alone from the age of 12. I never had any tips about personal grooming and hygiene matters I had to discover myself. I was I know now neglected while she was always glamorous and well groomed.

    I have tried and tried to be a good daughter. But I began to realise communicating with her was impossible unless it was about trivia – clothes, makeup and gossip. I began to realise she bad mouths everyone and has few friends. Nothing is ever her fault. I began to realise I was constantly short of money because I spent it on her, taking her on trips, holidays and out to expensive restaurants she likes to frequent – trying to do the right thing. I felt responsible for her well being and comfort. She is only 64 but has now started to behave like an invalid. When I felt aggravated and upset by her I berated myself for being callous and uncaring. I hated her calls and demands but hated myself more for hating them.

    I have spent thousands of euro on therapy trying to feel better about myself, I constantly had awful, negative, self loathing thoughts about how much of a failure I am and how irritating a person I am. Meanwhile I have been happily married to a wonderful man for 15 years, have a lovely home, good friends who enjoy my company, a wide variety of interests- yet I still believed I was fundamentally flawed.

    I have gone no contact since last September. It was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. I discovered she told my husband I “see things that aren’t there and say things that aren’t true”.

    Now I have heard she is telling her friends I was fired from my job as I am a junkie and an alcoholic. I took a voluntary severance package after 18 years! I had read about smear campaigns but my God, I have been blindsided by this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are very brave, Dolly. I am so sorry you endured all that abuse. I cut my birth family off last August and it’s been even harder than I expected. Hang in there!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This is a huge eye opener for me. I realized that something in my childhood had been off, but had never been able to put it into words or what exactly was going on. Like Terry, above, I dealt with parents who smeared both me and my younger sister, and exerted over-control. I also had a father that dealt with extreme mental illness in terms of child abuse and manic depression all the way from his younger years. I lost track of how many times I was told by my mother, “Oh, don’t be so foolish! You’re always so oversensitive!”. I was always the “over-sensitive” one. My sister was always labelled the “insubordinate, especially when it comes to finances.” My mother is from a long line of entrepreneurs and so this was a particular hot spot for her to hit my sister on. My mother also had this weird thing where she’d make me feel guilty if I needed to use the bathroom during long road trips – to the point that it became a disorder later in life. My father had strange tendencies as well. He would never attend family milestones, like family vacations or sports events. My mother, however, always became overly involved – she was the mom who made herself look like the hero. Her kid couldn’t just go to church – she had to be the superintendent of the entire program. Her kids couldn’t just be on a swim team – she had to be a regulations judge. Her kids couldn’t just go to school – she had to be on the school board. The list goes on… and here I am finally realizing all this, and Mother’s Day is coming up… geez.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Both Mother’s Day & Father’s Day were extremely difficult for me this year– it’s the first time I haven’t acknowledge my parents. I went to nearly zero contact after confronting them 3 March 2014 (the end of the confrontation, my mother told me, “I want to encourage you to challenge your perspectives,” among other blame-shifting and denials.).

      I was the “overly sensitive” one and my sister was the “scapegoat” (or as my parents said, “defiant” and “rebellious.”), so I can identify quite a bit with your story. Also because mental illness is heavy in both of my family lines.

      Though it’s “late,” I hope you made it through the holidays mostly unscathed. Keep your head up.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow. Reading over these comments, even finding this website is a revelation. I am 48 years old, and had an epiphany over the weekend – that my mother has been emotionally abusive to me my whole life. The weekend before, we had had a fight, and she informed me I “wasn’t being a good mother”. That was the last straw for me – I have taken criticism about anything and everything, but that crossed a line, big time. I have only communicated with her via email, and that has only been twice. I have attempted to write her several times, but what I write will only perpetuate things.
    I’ve been criticized about my hair (she hates that I color it), my tattoo (I could get it removed) and my cleaning (I won’t even go into that). Now she knows that I’m dating a man with children, and horror of horrors, I spend the night at his place on the weekends. I “am not setting a good example” and she cannot believe that I would put my own child at risk like that. At risk meaning leaving my 17-year old by herself. Which she isn’t exactly by herself because 9 times out of 10 she’s spending the night at a friends, or out with a friend.
    I am tired of the judgments, the criticisms and the comments. If I don’t do something her way, it’s “wrong”. I have repeatedly told her it’s not wrong, it’s just a different way of doing things.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. If there were a check mark box next to each of the forms, I’d be able to check ALL of them, except maybe “terrorizing.” My mom’s abuse of my sister & I was (until VERY recently) always covert. It’s in the silences, the looks, the “I’m concerned about,” and more.

    I am still learning just how bad the abuse was for me. My older sister “escaped” around 14-years-old by running away from home (repeatedly). A little before my 18th birthday, I graduated high school (completing it in 3 years, aside from being the first in my family to graduate high school!) and went to Navy boot camp.

    For pretty much the entire time since I was 9, I felt my sister had abandoned me. It’s only been since I confronted my parents with the abuse (my father is an Enabler) 3 March 2014, that my sister and I have reconnected and eliminating the triangulation my mother uses with EVERYONE in the family. I cannot express how good it has been, or how many tears I’ve cried, over having a sister again! She was the “scapegoat” and I was the “golden child” (if I complied).

    This month there’s going to be a larger confrontation, this time my sister confronting BOTH of our parents, and with the support of other family members! This is a huge, huge, huge deal. I didn’t know that when I confronted my parents the ripple effects would shake the worlds of two generations! I didn’t know that during my confrontation with my parents–having not communicated at all with my sister in at least 5 years or so– I had told them the same thing she had told my mom a couple of times. I didn’t know that my sister had felt so incredibly isolated in being the “only one who knew the truth.”

    We– my sister and I– are on the journey to healing. We are adult children of a narcissistic mother and an enabler father. We are blessed, however, in that we are getting believed and supported by a blood uncle, his wife, and at least one of his daughters! We are facing GENERATIONAL abuse, that stems from the “maternal line.”

    I have been blessed, because God protected my children, even from me during some horrific times in my life. I have been given His grace and strength to STOP THE ABUSE– I did not do to my children (who are now teens) what was done to me. It has been a difficult process, though– I haven’t had the guidance of “examples” to follow, not really. Love led me.

    I turn 37-years-old this month. I have a 16-year-old son and a nearly 14-year-old daughter and they are the lights in my life. They are valued and treasured and they feel secure in love. I have been married for just over 17 years to an amazing man who has been faithfully supportive through everything.

    The journey is not over, but I am moving from “survivor” to “victor.”

    To others who are awakening: It’s hard. It’s hard to awaken. For me, it is worth it. I am giving my children a better life. I am giving myself a better life. YOU DESERVE TO BE! You deserve to be loved, to be liked, to be FREE. You deserve to have your own opinions, have your own beliefs, and find your own way. It is your God-given freedom to do so.

    As my post script, I add this nice little “shocker:” My father was a pastor for many years, most of which were when my sister was still at home, and for a few years after that. Our abuse came from our narcissistic mother, our enabling father; covertly and covered by Scripture that was converted/perverted to suit whatever brainwashing my mother wanted to do. I did throw out religion/doctrine, but I did not throw God out– for indeed, He is the One who brought me through it all.

    To your freedom, my fellow Awakening.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad to read that you and your sister are healing together–that you were able to break the triangulation. I find it interesting what you say about “GENERATIONAL abuse, that stems from the ‘maternal line.’” I do believe that it is a learned abuse that is passed from one generation to the next. I’m not surprised that your father was a pastor and that Scripture was “converted/perverted to suit whatever brainwashing my mother wanted to do.” I don’t want to get too deep, but narcissism, as you may already know, is the complete opposite of the teachings of Christianity. And narcissists love to tear down Christians (turn them into enablers) thereby nullifying God and his power. In my own case, I know that the abuse is generational, but I don’t know if it stems from the maternal or paternal side. Take care and God bless you.


  14. Every word of what was said describes my father’s behaviour towards me. Even through I do not have a relationship with him anymore, the abuse still carries on via instigated conflicts with my brother and sister. He is a very sick man and his determination to ruin our lives is surreptitious from other family members which means that we cannot say anything for fear of being rendered mentally unwell. My father will take his vindictive and manipulative behaviour with him to his grave which means that the only time we will have peace is when he is dead. The prevalence of emotional abuse to be finally recognised is long overdue, this is why I have included it in my university dissertation. Even though I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones due to the support and love of my husband, at 44 years of age there are still times when I cannot articulate my emotions, thus demobilising me for long periods of time because of the inner pain.


  15. Thank you for this excellent site! Although I know all about the abuse I endured for most of my 61 years, I still need constant reinforcement and support–especially when well-meaning friends try to talk me out of it. Since separating from my birth family a year ago, I’ve gone through countless emotional storms and wanted to die more than once. And that was after almost lifelong therapy and 27 years in 12-step groups (which I highly recommend). We need to know we are believed, and that we are not alone. And we need to hear it over and over again, because the damage inflicted by all that abuse will never be “healed.” We can learn to live in spite of it, and even to live well, but it will always be there lurking; we will have to defend ourselves from those horrible thoughts forever. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree.

      I’m so sorry that you struggle with the doubt associated with this. I recently tried to talk to my mom about her behavior towards us growing up (I’ve tried before; it never ended well). I try to encourage her that talking through this and acknowledging the pain caused could help our relationship develop, but she won’t hear it. She (and my dad, which is very upsetting, since he was my saving grace for so long) continuously tell me that I need to stop blaming others and take responsibility for myself (as if trying to reconcile the pain by talking through it isn’t about doing just that). The irony is that I am the only one in the family of six (four kids) who is making any headway in terms of becoming an emotionally well-rounded person. Nevertheless, when they turn on me like this I start to doubt myself. I doubt my own feelings and whether they are right. But how can they be? I just feel so much pain and sadness now that I had hoped could be eased by nurturing an honest, open relationship with them. They seem to think, however, that not facing it is the best way forward. If that were the case, they wouldn’t be so unhappy.

      Anyway, I feel for all of you. I hope that we can keep a discussion going here that can help us through these doubts that we inevitably must battle with on a day-to-day basis.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I have suffered though every item on that list. People thought my family was the Brady Bunch. I was so brainwashed I didn’t even realize any of this until my parents divorced when I was in my 20s. I was a perfectionist as a kid…I had to be otherwise I would be made to feel like a failure. Both my parents burdened me with their problems from the time I was a small child. I grew up with no sense of self. I was just an extension of them. I was always a leader at school and extra-curricular activities, but I was always trying to fix other people’s problems. I’ve learned that my mother is a narcissist and my father is histrionic. They are both selfish individuals who see me as nothing more than their shoulder/punching bag/garbage can/care giver/conscience/scapegoat. To this day my father cannot make a decision without trying to get me to tell him what to do. He never takes responsibility for his actions, and he blames everyone else when things in his life go wrong. He allowed my mother to fraudulently use and abuse my credit and didn’t care because she was no longer asking him for money. I’ve set boundaries with my mother and sister (narcissist jr.) who talk behind my back and each of then tell me the cruel things the other one said. My father is just so disrespectful and rejecting that I’m having a hard time dealing with him. I’ve asked him on several occasions not to ask me about my mom and sister, and that he should call them himself if he really wants to know what they’re “up to”. I’ve told him that I refuse to talk about that kind of hurt and negativity. I’m trying to focus on the good things. He called my husband behind my back and said that I need help because I’m angry. Both parents constantly talk about me to everyone behind my back. I have no one. I want to move far far away from them. My mother will show up at my door even when I tell her I’m busy or I’m going out. I have been putting off having children so that I can finish my degree, I found out that my mother has been telling people that my husband and I were trying to have children but we gave up – the implication being that I cannot conceive. I’m 34 and I just feel like…when is this going to end? Will I ever get past this pain? I’m learning to set boundaries but I feel damaged and I feel like I should leave my husband (our marriage is turbulent (he drinks and his mother has borderline personality disorder which affected him, and his father was a total doormat enabler) I am genuinely trying to break cycles but I feel he just talks BS and knows what to say. I don’t even know what’s acceptable and what’s not sometimes. I always confront him, and never enable, but It’s like I fell in love with one guy and as soon as we got married he turned into someone else. He is disrespectful then apologizes…but does it again, and again, and again. I’m really confused. I thought I was on the right track, but one conversation with my dad tonight led to all of this dishing. Were it not for my boss who is a father to me, I think I would just pack my things and leave everyone behind. I don’t think I know enough about myself to even be in a marriage. The new me would not tolerate my husband’s shenanigans. He just craves the explosions that would happen in his household. I like peace and quiet, so he will usually provoke me sometimes cruelly to get the drama fix. I always call him out on it but it’s so exhausting. We were in counselling, but the counsellor said we have nothing to worry about because he and his spouse were like us…$20,000 we’ve made progress, but at the end of the day we both know he has to want to change, and stop drinking. I don’t want kids with him until he changes…if that’s even possible. I want kids, so I suppose that will be the deal-breaker.


  17. my biggest fear was to be ending up like a mother like mine. i thought the abuse of my mother was the worst kind of violence even though i didn’t experience any big physical violence i dont know if it is natural human selfishness where you think you get through the worst thing in the world and now i read the comments and as i relate i felt pain and relief of not being alone at the same time. if i learned from what ive been through it is an awful thing to blame a child that has not any guilt but born into a toxic envoirment .


  18. I have just read this blog after having yet another emotionally abusive episode with my mum, I started to have thoughts that I was being emotionally abused a few weeks ago, but the abuse has been going on since I was a young child and I’m 17 now, 18 next month and I really want to move out, but I don’t know how because I have no money because my mum won’t allow me to get a job. I just can’t take it anymore but I feel bad for my sisters who are also going through the same abuse I went through as a little kid and that I am still going through now, especially the aggressive emotional abuse, I have cried myself to sleep so many nights over this and I just don’t know what to do, I used to think there was something wrong with me but now I know it’s not. The abuse really affected my self confidence and I am only just struggling to get it back now. If anyone on this blog could advice me on what to do or who I could talk to, I would greatly appreciate it!.


  19. Oh my goodness, what I relief to read this and find out that its not just me. I have only discovered what emotional abuse and that my mother has been doing it all along is in the last few weeks and I am pleased that I am not alone. I am almost 30 and my mother has done this to me constantly over the years and currently going through another series of her silent treatment at the moment. My brother has always been the favoured child regardless of what he has put my parents through. I am fianlly coming to terms that it isnt my fault and what a relief that is!


  20. this clarifies so much! I am an adult, married, successful, have a child and I am perceived as the ‘bad guy’ i voiced my concern a year ago to my mother about her approaching my child and being manipulative and argument ensued then a year later no true relationship. She wants it her way or she punishes me. She can no longer send me to my room for days to sit with no communication or hit me so now she gives us the silent treatment. She has allied the family with her story. my sibling who has been on the. receiving end if her abuse almost seems ecstatic to be on her good side and is leaving me out in the cold. She has no true interest in her only grandchild which I am now very relieved about. My husband is quite disgusted with their behavior he comes from the complete opposite. This holiday we went away just our family and decided to delay dinners etc with family and friends…still nothing from my side. I have come to terms with the fact my child will not have a set of grandparents who want to be involved. They of course tell the rest if the family we are the ones who hold him above them..all lies. My mother tells people what they want to hear then acts a different way. I am not allowed to say that I disagree with her or if I dont like what she enjoys then I am against her. It is a very controlling environment I know that my child will be looked upon later as an outsidee. They will treat him the same way but fortunately for him they will not be involved or invited to any of his events. they missed his 3rd birthday. I
    think my mom hates that she has no control over me. I dont ask for money or things i only ask for love and understanding. She used to put me down when I was. child I was not allowed to be apart of group activities that she had no connection to. I now have decided to act as if they are dead. I have my own family to take care of and I have dexided to not allow these traits to become inherited.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I keep rereading your post because I am also an adult, divorced, successful with two children and I am perceived as the “bad guy” because I told my mom’s brother not to post negative comments on my pictures on Facebook. Instead of handling it like an adult he went running to my mom who took it upon herself to lash out at me. She told me I am not invited to any family functions till I apologize to him. Wait I’m an adult. I called and asked him to leave my mom out of it. Well he felt the need to tell me I have “voices in my head” and I have a problem. My mom then lashed out to me reminding me of all the bad things I have done in my life. 2 of my 4 sisters jumped on the bandwagon and lashed out at me. I haven’t spoken to any of them in a week. Today is my mom’s birthday. My sister just texted me “today remember the woman who gave you life, gives of her time and loves you unconditionally”. She is also the woman who keeps a laundry list of everything I have done wrong in her eyes since I was born and pulls it out whenever she feels like it. She has my ex-husband on a pedestal and doesn’t see him for his wrongdoing. I am the bad Catholic. Growing up my dad was the physically abusive person while my mom tore me down emotionally now they act they it never happened. I’m 42 years old and the negative events of my childhood still weigh on me because I am never allowed to forget. Now I sit here at work wondering do I call her and get my weekly tongue lashing or do I go on as if it’s just a normal day?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. For a long time (until just recently actually), I lamented over the fact that my mother didn’t want anything to do with my children–her grandchildren. I guess since was the “bad” child, my children were too. Now, I see what a blessing it was. The way I see it, there are only two ways it could go with your children. She can mess them over the way she did you or she could poison them against you. Either way is not good. It’s probably best that you moved on as though they don’t exist. Nothing positive rarely comes out of a relationship with a narcissist.


  21. Thanks for your blog and your post. This is really helpful. I relate to a lot of what is stated here as I see my mom in so much of it and in particular, being the giver of the Silent Treatment. She started giving me the silent treatment when I was age 10 and stopped when I was age 20. From the few things I’ve read about spousal abuse and in particular the Cycle of Abuse this seems similar to my experience when my mom first started giving me the silent treatment. The first time lasted about a day and a half. In this time my mind was spinning, trying to think of everything I had said or done recently that would cause her to give me the cold shoulder. I couldn’t think of anything outside of the normal kid stuff. And she wouldn’t tell me, which made me more anxious and fearful since I thought it must have been something really bad if she wouldn’t talk about it. When she decided to talk again, she profusely said she was sorry, kissed me on the top of the head and hugged me.

    She said she would never do the silent treatment on me again. I held back in acknowledging her in a moment of mistrust, but then quickly forgave her and said so and hugged her back. When I found out the reason for the silent treatment, it was so trivial. I just remember thinking that she went silent over something so normal for a kid. I was shaken because I thought if she could give me the silent treatment over something normal this time, she could do it again. But I wanted to believe her at her word that she would never do it again. And several weeks later she gave me the cold shoulder again. It lasted longer. I apologized to her thinking it would make her stop or at least lessen my sentence. But, it seemed to give her greater resolve. The apology was less this time and I was more mistrusting. When I found out the reason later, again it was trivial. After this time the silent treatments would get longer in duration, lasting many days or weeks and when I got in my mid-teens they could last a couple months. As the silent treatments went on, my mom stopped using an apology to break her silence. She simply tried to start talking to me again. At first she was sheepish about this kind of reconciliation. Later, she seemed a bit angry and entitled that she should have to do all of the work in breaking the silence (why didn’t I try harder).

    Anyway, thanks for letting me vent. I’m in my 50’s and have been carrying this around with me 40-some years. I’ve talked to therapists, groups and friends who would try to listen. I did an Internet search several years back and only the silent treatment between adults was being talked about then. And now things have changed and I am thankful.


    1. This is so heartbreaking. These behaviors affect (infect) every part of one’s life. I wish we could all share a big, supportive, loving hug. It’s so hard to truly recognize your value when you were taught at a young age that who you are isn’t okay. My mom was a screamer. But the consequence of these behaviors are similar. We don’t trust easily, and that affects all of our relationships for the rest of our lives. Stay strong. Caring about each other is important. 🙂


  22. I’m turning 34 in a month and a few days ago I started an email dialogue with my father with whom I had cut ties 6 years ago, and with other members of my family too and more recently with my mother who is a sick crazy abusive person. My father is finally ready to listen to me and so far what I have told him my story is as an abused, bullied and neglected child, he says he didn’t know. My father did give me the silent treatment and I also have abandonment issues but I am finally being heard, and no matter what they say, I strongly believe that telling the truth is the first step to healing. There is nothing more unbearable as keeping a horrible story to yourself because it eats you alive. Tell the truth, be authentic and tell the truth if not to your abusers but to people who are going to listen to you without judging you. And if they judge you, keep distance with them because they are not wiling to help you. It is very very difficult and I find myself to be so lonely and misunderstood that sometimes I want to die. I feel so exhausted and that my life is a failure and I am tired of being strong and in finding myself in situations where I very often end up being bullied or where my reputation is being ruined by some nasty women, so terrible to me that I have to leave. I am exhausted and I cannot take it anymore. I want to be happy and to have my own place instead of renting a room, I want to be in a committed relationship with a man who is going to accept me just as I am, lovable unconditionally, I want to have a decent stable job and most importantly I want to be less vulnerable to people’s nastiness. How can I do that? I don’t know anymore, it feels like I am stuck and I am so scared of taking another step that is going to be a bad choice for me again. If someone knows, then please tell me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Aurelia, I came across your comment by chance. I’m an EFT and transformation coach. Since I come from an abusive environment and have lots of experience on both living and recovering from it, I decided to start helping women overcome the resentment, pain and negative beliefs that stem from having an abusive mother. I’m 42 years old and after intensive work on my personal self-growth and on healing my past traumas in the last 5 years, I finally feel I’m becoming connected with myself. I’m becoming real me, which was never possible or safe in the past. What’s even better, the relationship with my mum has become very good. Due to the inner-child work and other techniques I’ve been able to see things from a different perspective, stopped accusing my mother and have been achieving resentment and anger free life. I suggest you try EFT tapping. It’s a very simple yet powerful tool that does magic in abuse related problems. There’s lots of free information on the topic, but if you feel you’d like to connect with me and have a chat, you’re free to send me a PM. Whatever you do, remember one thing: the recovery takes time, lots of it, and it’s not always easy, but it is possible. All the best, Verena Potocnik

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Me too! (Well, maybe not exactly in your situation of course, but I’m hardcore empathizing with you right now.)

      In my area, I put my foot in the door with a Celebrate Recovery group (it’s like an addiction recovery group based in Christian principles.). If that’s not your thing, I understand. The idea of a loving ‘God’ is often rooted in what we experienced from our parents (it’s a subconscious thing.). But like this article said, I’m choosing to believe that the darkness present in the world was the abusor unfortunately working through my parent’s pain; they aren’t my enemies, and neither am I.

      You didn’t deserve what happened to you; it was wrong and surely you do have people who can empathize with you and comfort you. You are allowed to feel however you need to feel about your past, and I pray that you find healing and strength to be vulnerable from the good and God-pieces inside you. You’re worth it; you’re writing your story and a living work of art just because you’re alive and breathing.

      Not because you’re accomplished or have a great life in terms of success, happiness or material wealth — but because YOU, just being a human being endowed with love by the King of the Universe, is worthy of being loved. Your worth comes from that calling and truth; that you were made for so much more than this.

      Your identity is in the fact that nothing you ever do or don’t do, want or don’t want, get or don’t get, have or don’t have, or even choices you make or don’t make, don’t determine the core of who you are.

      At your core, you’re loved beyond measure. You’re worth dying for. You were died for; you were pursued in your darkness, seen in your weakness, comforted in your loneliness and held when you broke apart. You are wonderful; I hope you can see how worth it you are – no matter what labels others or this world throw at you ❤

      -Romans 8:28-39 – be blessed today, friend!


  23. Fascinating, and sadly my abuser (mother) is GUILTY of all of the above at one time or another, with the silent treatment being a favorite and smearing my persona so that others do not believe me when I explain that I am the victim of abuse.


    1. My mother’s favorite was the silent treatment too. And leaving me alone, even when I was just 5 & 6 years old. If I tried to talk to her during the silent treatment, she would become very mean. It didn’t take long for me to understand that I wasn’t to talk to her at all. The more I understand, the more I see how crazy my childhood was.


  24. I feel like choking (metaphorically speaking), being able to come up with blatant examples like this from my childhood when reading these descriptions. However, my younger sister (the adopted scapegoat of the family who had to do the insane lists of chores and always had it worse than me in terms of privileges), was diagnosed with RAD. My mother says it was her fault they got divorced; as if my mom had no part in it, as if she was the victim when I remember her clearly being a jerk, (not intentionally), but at least to my younger sister, if no one else. I didn’t have it that bad, although I’m not gonna lie, it sucked–feeling like whiplash emotionally or spiritually, the way Mom could react when I tried to assert myself or stand my ground when she verbally would attack me for not being like person A, or how A, B, and C were probably talking about me at their dinner tables because of how much I messed up that day. Or to stop being scared or crying like an unempathetic, too weird, overly emotional baby. Or getting in trouble for things my younger sister did and having to be lectured and not allowed to leave or talk back to her, or I’d get punished or grounded too. Saying sorry ‘like I meant it.’ The silent treatment happened whenever I was rude or displeasing to her by interrupting her on the phone or blatantly breaking her rules and rebelling. She would promise me things and back down on them because she didn’t feel like it or I messed up and got in trouble and ‘should have thought of that before I decided to disobey.’ I was left alone a lot in stores or when Mom would be disciplining my sister with all her time, energy, emotions and physical affections I never got because I stopped demanding then for awhile when I realized my needs wouldn’t be met and weren’t that important anyways. My sister took up my mom’s energy and I was left, (metaphorically speaking), in the corner for awhile, escaping and hoping to disappear from it all, or find someone to perfectly Love me and never leave me. I brought those unrealistic expectations into romantic relationships and eventually realized it was me and God, not these imperfect people who were hurting me and who I was hurting to fill this need in me. I think I can heal with Him, but it’s a long and scary process at times. It’s worth it, though.

    Like right now, I’m incredibly angry at my mother as I type this. She claims my father’s emotional abuse was the reason they divorced; I won’t deny her her pain, but I have personally experienced pain from her (not my dad), while my dad was more of an emotional safe haven of sorts, when I was growing up.

    My mom hates my dad, attacks me verbally when I act like him, and doesn’t want me to hang out with him when it’s ‘her time,’ yeah, my dad feels the same way about my time at my mom’s, but I believe he has forgiven her and is moving on.

    According to my youngest brother, my dad emotionally abuses him. This idea is reinforced by my mom and all family members on her side; they like compartmentalization and pretty much not talking about my dad, like not really a whole lot.

    According to my mom, my dad is brainwashing me and emotionally abusing me by causing me guilt because I say I care about him, and yet don’t follow through on my words because I’m not really supposed to care about him per my mom’s ‘advice.’

    My younger sister is now out of our home and in rehab for RAD and drugs. My mom always said she could try harder with her grades cuz she was smart, and if she didn’t start caring or trying harder, she’d ‘end up on a streetcorner, living in a cardboard box.’

    My dad was distant during my childhood; I don’t even think my mom liked him then. (They didn’t show a whole lot of affection, even when I was an only child.)

    One time I was stupid and locked myself in the bathroom, (I was 5ish.). I cried and begged for my mom to come save me and let me out (I was terrified and didn’t know what to do or didn’t trust myself enough to figure out how to unlock the damn door.) My mom was in the living room a few feet away, getting our movie set up because I was having a sleepover that night. She called back to me to “calm down, take a deep breath, and figure it out. You got yourself in there, you can get yourself out. Just think.” I was seriously terrified and confused and knew it was all my fault that I was so stupid and scared and didn’t know how to unlock the door because I wanted her to come help me. I cried and banged on the door in anger and fear and said “I can’t do it; I can’t do it!” I may have asked for her to come help me, I don’t know. She said something to the effect of “yes you can. And you better hurry, or the movie is going to start without you.” I tried harder and unlocked the stupid thing in a blaze of fury and relief. I went to the living room where my mom was sitting with my friend, and was angry, but she didn’t want to address the issue. I was supposed to be mature and responsible and keep my feelings in line, so I wiped off my tears, made sure my friend knew I was happy and not angry or sad inside, took a deep breath, and forgot about it all watching a good movie.

    Stupid stuff like this happened a lot to me; I’d make her promise to not leave the house when I took a nap, and I’d wake up and she’d be outside on the phone. I only found her outside after I frantically ran through the house screaming her name in fear, thinking I’d surely been lied to and abandoned and rejected and was alone and so stupid for actually trusting her. When I got up to her, she told her mom to ‘hang on’ and asked me why I was crying and what was wrong; I was angry and scared and tried to tell her that, she kinda gave me a hug and placated me, then I went back inside and she went back to her phone call. I Learned to suck up my undesirable feelings or deal with my bad behavior or ‘bad feelings’ on my own.

    I tried to ignore them, but here they are.

    What do you guys say? Are both my parents emotionally/verbally abusive in their own right and my siblings and I are just unluckily caught in the middle of two hurt children in adult bodies? Cuz who exactly am I supposed to go to when my mom and bro say my dad is emotionally abusive (I trust my bro more on that front), and my sister says my mom is emotionally abusive, as does my dad (I’m more inclined to trust my sister with RAD than my dad…she experienced my mom more. And if my dad was such a jerk, why should I trust him even though she’s hurt me and I personally don’t have a reason to hate my dad?). Basically, self-trust, intuition (whatever it is) is at a nill.

    I’ve gotten involved in too many hurtful relationships to throw myself out there to a hurting, hurtful world.

    God seems safer, but even that is a bit scary at times.

    Any thoughts and advice (as well as wisdom from an outsiders’ perspective), would b lovely! Message me with questions or whatever :). Thank you and blessings to this blog!!! ❤


  25. My sibling destroyed several very symbolic and personal items of mine. One was a dress, size 4, that I wore to my high school on my sweet sixteen birthday. When I was a senior, I didn’t still wear it, but it hung in my closet. One day, I found it missing. Then I found a dress I owned torn in half. I cannot tell you how soul crushing and obliterating that moment was for me. I felt violated and trespassed on. I never found my b-day dress, but I put together that it had been completely destroyed and thrown out. It was a part of me, my history and something extremely important to me. I reacted by throwing something of the violator’s away. When I told my mother, she made me retrieve the items. ie. it was ok for my things to be destroyed, but not theirs. It was a total bunny boil and it ached like something I cannot even tell you. It will forever hurt me, not just b/c of what happened, but b/c of what didn’t happen. I have never spoken of this, too afraid to hurt the relative who did this. I actually told my best friend about 10 years ago. She’s the only one who knew. It was one of the worst things I ever experienced from this relative, quite possibly b/c no one cared when it happened. It was so messed up.


  26. I just came to this website yesterday. My husband and I are in marital counselling and at our most recent session, I divulged that I never wanted to get married, but did because my mother told me that my feelings of doubt were selfish and that I would never find anyone as good as my (then) fiance who would put up with me.

    In our session, the therapist indicated that she rarely *gives* advice, but said that I needed a “parentectomy”, that it sounded like an abusive and toxic relationship.

    And so I started looking things up and ended up here. I had no idea. I always thought I was too sensitive, that my mother was hard on me to get me ready for the world, that what she did, she did out of love. I’m sure, in her own way, she does love me, but it doesn’t negate the twisted behaviour.

    I’m learning a lot. Mostly, though, that she will never admit wrong-doing and that any change has to be on my part.

    Any tips on how to overcome feelings or worthlessness and the self-hating internal dialogue?

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Great article. I’m 60 and still get the silent treatment from my mother. I’m sure she has a mental illness like personality disorder. My father died on one of her silent treatment binges and she wouldn’t phone me and tell me. I used to always call her when something wonderful happened to me, always hoping to get some sort of recognition, a well done pat on the back, but it never happened. I’ve given up now. I feel good when I do something I’m proud of and I don’t need to share it with her any more. She is quite sick now and unfortunately I don’t feel much of anything for her which I find very sad.


  28. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint the emotional abuse from my father. His attitude is incredibly manipulative and covert. He’ll never tell me that I shame him or I’m worthless but his attitudes and actions say that I’m a constant disappointment.

    The difficult thing for me is that I do have good days with him, and I bounce back to thinking everything’s OK and I’ve been wrong about everything. I am absolutely terrified of him and have a fear of hearing men raise their voices.


  29. Reading these, this is my mother. I have no fond memories of her. All I have are those times of abuse. I left home many years ago, basically to escape my mother. I don’t have any feelings one way or the other on her death a decade ago. I didn’t mourn her passing with great sadness, I paid respect to her, but after what I lived with I couldn’t mourn over her and how she treated me as her son.

    being blamed for breaking something I never touched and despite protesting my innocence, I wasn’t believed. (age 10-11)

    the time I made a mistake on math homework and she rubbed out the entire page of answers (age 10-11)

    the time she threw a folder at me after marking some work at me and accused me of being stupid and/or lazy (it was a special education class age 10-11)

    the time she said I was a “nothing, and that I’d always be a nothing” (age 10-11)

    the verbal insults (eg “little sh*t”, “useless”, “get out of my sight I don’t even want to look at you” etc.) (as long as I could remember)

    the time I vomited one night after being out with her and my brother that day. Her only response after asking who vomited was “clean it up!” (age 12-13)

    the time I had a board game I’d play and after getting angry with me, stomped on it and smashed it to pieces (age 13-14)

    the times of silent treatment, sometimes for weeks (as long as I could remember)

    when I got hate mail, and the accusation of me being abused at home came up in a different letter addressed to someone else, that was the issue she defended, it was more about her integrity than my social welfare, there was no comfort for me or how I dealt with the mail I received (age 12)

    How my brother and I had been planned to go to the same school, but because of zoning laws, I was now to be sent to another school, which my parents were fine with, but when my brother was also being forced to move as he was already at the school, it was then we moved suburbs to accommodate him. (age 12)

    Was I fed, clothed and educated with a roof over my head? Yes. Was I loved? I didn’t feel it.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. My younger brother told me that our mother has poisoned our 12yearold sister against both him and our older brother.and that our younger sister just believes everything our mother tells her.He also told me that our younger sister doesn’t even say hello anymore to him and that she shoots him dirty looks.Even though he rarely talks to her.Whenever my older brother walks into the same room as her she walks out.My younger brother also told me that our mother’s + fathers constant put downs hurt his self-esteem.And that she expects him to wait on her hand and foot.He even said he is not a slave and that he wants to be treated with dignity and respect.Our parents are always complaining about how lazy both our brother’s are.My mum also told me that my younger brother is lazy and nasty.My mum doesn’t realize though that my younger brother has spoken to me about what is really going on here.Our father even called my younger brother a fucking idiot.My brother told our parents one day that he thinks he might be depressed and they ignored him.He also told me that they picked his college course for him and that he hates it.He also got kicked out one time for uploading a photo of himself smiling and wearing a funny hat in a museum on a school trip.Our parents thought he had been out to a bar drinking.He was also kicked out for wanting the day off after it.He is the scapegoat of our family.


  31. I am so relieved to have read this post, and to understand that what happened to me is not a figment of my imagination. I am 16 and moved out of my Mum’s house when I was 12, however, I didn’t realise that I had lived through emotional abuse and that it is the cause of all of my insecurities until a few months ago.

    I have two older brothers that suffered with me, and the oldest is still trapped there at age 21 and has now been completely turned into a reflection of her. There was no particular ‘scapegoat’ or favourite child, it changed weekly depending on who she thought was bad and good at the time. Silent treatment and isolation was a big part of the abuse, if we were to ‘misbehave’ in any way she would force us to stay in our rooms for long periods of time without food, water or toilets and then afterwards come to us and say “are you ready to apologise?”. She once made me stay in my room for a whole day and night (I ended up wetting my pants) until the next morning, because I had slept past my alarm. Silent treatment was extensive as well, suddenly and without reason she would completely ignore us and pretend we didn’t exist, to the extent of making food for every child but the one she was ignoring for days at a time.

    She would often ‘gaslight’ and also went into incredible detail about her sex life and other ‘adult’ things when we were all below 10. She blamed us for everything from financial problems to weight gain and my parent’s divorce. She would purposely sabotage our happiness, I love animals and because she knew this she would force me to watch videos of animals being abused/killed. She would tell me that I didn’t love her enough because I didn’t make her things, so I would then make her a card or a present, and upon receiving it she would rip it up or throw it in the trash in front of me,

    Trying to make our Dad out to be the ‘bad guy’ was one of her biggest things. She compulsively lied about things that he did, told us that he had a gun and wanted to kill us, told me that he couldn’t control his sexual urges and would rape me, whenever there was a bump in the night she told us it was him coming after us etc. She made us steal credit cards and phone sim cards from him. Constant insults about him.

    She often threatened to kill herself or us. One day she counted out 30 of her depression pills onto the counter and told me that they were all it would take to ‘sleep forever’, she once demonstrated with a knife how to slit her wrist and said ‘it would be so easy’. One night she put us all in the car, sped around town and stopped at the top of a steep hill and said ‘I could so easily let go of the brakes’.

    She had, and still has, everyone around her completely convinced that she is a godsend and that our Dad has poisoned us and that’s why we don’t speak with her anymore. It makes me sick to think that everyone believes her lies and that my oldest brother is still in that environment, now alone.

    I feel the effects of her abuse every day and know that I have a lot of healing to do, but I am in a healthy, loving and supportive environment with my Dad and Stepmum.

    Thank you so much for creating this site.


  32. I have faced a lot of these and gave a try after two years the last couple of weeks and saw that my wife and daughter had to suffer as well. At this time, I have decided to move away from this.

    I got very emotional when I have decided to say good-bye to this. This writing has made me feel good about myself. Thanks a lot!


  33. I am 25 years old and I have a brother who is 10. He is currently being raised by my mother, sister, and sister’s bf. My mother was emotionally, mentally, and physically abusive to me for many years. My sister was emotionally and mentally abused after I left the house (but she is now like her). My brother I believe from what I’ve seen is mentally abused and manipulated. He behaves like her and is rude and disrespectful to our father (he separated from our mom about 2 years ago). My father tried to see him when he has his visits but my mother is always interfering, allowing my brother to talk crap to our father, and making excuses as to why my dad isn’t fit. I want to let my brother know that I will always be around if he needs anything so he doesn’t feel he can only rely on the toxic people that are raising him. What can I do to show this because he is sometimes rude to me or doesn’t want to talk. Any tips would be appreciated!


  34. I’m 30 and I can’t remember a time when my father wouldn’t scream at me for things that weren’t really important. I cry every time he just as much as raises his voice still, even after I moved out. The last time he really screamed I was sick and had to throw up. I still cry every time when I read something about emotional abuse and I don’t even know why. Normally I don’t let my feelings get to me that way.
    For me the hardest part are my own contradictory feelings. I hate him, for all the hurt that he caused me, I hate him because I flinch every time someone (especially men) raises their voice and because I have major depressive disorder and self harmed in my teenage years, I think at the time I just wanted to take a bit of that hurt I felt inside and somehow but it outside. A manifestation of my pain, even if I made these scars myself, I feel lile it is still partly his fault.
    But even though he did all that, I feel indebted to him. I never suffert poverty and sometimes he would be warm and friendly and buy me things, which only made it harder when he lashed out again.
    I strongly connected to the part about being atuned to little signs. I can always tell when he’s about to burst but sometimes his mood did swing so swiftly that I had to live on edge constantly, when I still lived home.
    It really took me a long time to understand that what I suffert abuse too. When I was younger I would always tell myself that others had it worse, other parents hit their children and nearly every parent had screamed sometimes in their life. I always told myself that wothout realizing what deep scars this treatment left inside of me. The only thing I am thankfull for is that I am not on the same path my father is. I never raise my voice, I never insult others because in my head there is always that image of his red, sweaty face calling me names or telling me that I am a disappointment and I don’t deserve to be his daughter. I swore to myself, that I would never never do that to someone else. I swore to myself that I woild not become him and till now I managed. I hope that I can comtinues this path of grow.


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