Brainwashing in Dysfunctional Family Systems and that deep down feeling of Unworthiness

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dysfunctional family systems
when a bad seed isn’t bad

Every so often I get a comment that I just have to share with everyone because it is so full of the truth that can help so many others. This is one such time! This comment from Doren came in on my article “Survival Mode and an Alternate view of Narcissism.” Doren has given me permission to re-print her comments for the sake of highlighting this very common concern;

Doren wrote: “All my life I’ve been in survival mode, barely able to make eye contact in public (in case people see the ‘real’ bad me I guess), trying always to please them, and if they have a problem with me they are right and I am wrong. It stems from this deep down feeling of badness in me—it’s hard to admit, but this feeling of badness gets to where I think I’m evil or the devil himself and that I will go to hell when I die. This has caused me a lot of distress and I wonder if feeling such a degree of badness is normal?

Here is what I struggle with—that I’m the ‘exception to the rule’, that yes other survivors deserve healing and are essentially good but NOT me. Perhaps this just tells me how ingrained my sense of badness is.

I have no choice but to work to heal or to die. My entire life has been greatly diminished due to childhood. It hurts so much to see the extent of the damage, but inside I feel, to get better I have to face this. Essentially I have been in hibernation since about 15. And I have thought that this was because I am weak, bad, unmotivated, etc.” Doren

I can assure you that this degree of ‘feeling’ is normal and even common. This is how we are brainwashed to become submissive and compliant. We are convinced that we are ‘bad’. We are slowly persuaded that everything would be okay with ‘them’ if only we were not such a problem.  Part of the problem is that we have been so convinced of their faultlessness that we forget to examine them or any of their actions. It doesn’t occur to us that they don’t abide by the rules of love and relationship that they demand we abide by.  That is what ‘brainwashing’ is.

The definition of Brainwashing: (link from the free dictionary by Farlex)

1. Intensive, forcible indoctrination, usually political or religious, aimed at destroying a person’s basic convictions and attitudes and replacing them with an alternative set of fixed beliefs.

2. The application of a concentrated means of persuasion, such as an advertising campaign or repeated suggestion, in order to develop a specific belief or motivation.

So there we are; children, brainwashed to believe a bunch of false stuff that we have been taught about ourselves. That we are BAD. I believed I was so bad and unlovable that God himself rejected me. ( I was taught that I was a disappointment so what other conclusions is a child to draw?)

Manipulators, perpetrators, controllers and dysfunctional family system members,  brainwash us to make sure that we don’t shine the light on them. We are so busy trying harder that it doesn’t occur to us that perhaps our parents are not ‘God’ after all. And furthermore, society does not support this idea of shining the flashlight on the dysfunctional family when it comes to healing the root of the problem, at least not when it comes to overcoming abuse, depression, PTSD, OCD, eating disorders or any other issue people seek help for.

Society would rather that we ‘take responsibility for our own issues starting ‘today’ as in ‘leave the past in the past’. We are advised to ‘see where we ‘made our beds,’ be accountable for ‘choices we made’ and just ‘get over it’.  It takes guts and a lot of hard work to bypass those typically accepted directives and work on the root of the problem. Add to this the fact that we have been effectively brainwashed into believing that the problem is us and that by the time we start searching for an out of the box solution we are extremely weak not to mention that many of us have NEVER stood up for ourselves before AND have never been validated in anyway about any of this either!

I realized fairly early in the process of emotional healing that I too believed that freedom and wholeness were meant for others but not for me. I believed that I didn’t deserve it. And that belief was rooted in the same brainwashing.  I had to dig deep into the origins of all those beliefs and the actual/traumas/events/messages given to me and the reasons that I believed those messages as the truth about me in order to re-wire them back to the truth.  I had to see where the broken began in order to heal.

Like any other repair, it helps to know exactly where the break is.

People write to me all the time saying that the abuse I suffered was way worse than the abuse they have suffered. I always wonder what blog they have been reading! Not because I don’t think what happened to me was ‘that bad’ but because of what the authors of those comments share and that they don’t think the abuse they suffered is as ‘bad or as damaging’ as what I suffered. Most victims don’t realize the extent of the damage and feel that they don’t really have ‘a right’ to sympathy or even have a right to be angry about what happened to them. Many people believe that if the abuse they suffered wasn’t sexual or physical then it isn’t as ‘serious’ but the truth is that ALL abuse has its roots in psychological and emotional abuse. When a person is raised in a dysfunctional family system that teaches that what happens to you is your own fault but what happens to everyone else is a tragedy it’s no wonder we can sympathize with or validate others but can’t apply that validation or sympathy to ourselves. When a child is convinced that ‘they are bad’ it takes some effort to reverse that belief.

It is stunning that 95% of victims believe that they are bad people and undeserving of love because of this deep belief that their parents or other perpetrators of abuse were ‘right’ in the ways they define the child.  And there are those little human things we do, like one time I bit a cupcake and tried to cover the bite up with icing but I got caught and punished and that little event served as PROOF to me, that I was a very bad girl and that I deserved the abuse inflicted on me. It seems funny now, but at the time it was devastating to me because I really believed that proved that I was a plain nasty unlovable child. And as I got older and made poor choices I used those things as ‘proof’ that it really was ‘me’ instead of realizing that if I had been raised with love and self-esteem in the first place, I would not have made those poor choices.

I get a lot of email through the comment form and through comments on this blog about these two things that Doren is bringing up expressing the depth of belief about how ‘bad’ victims think they are and the suspicion that healing/wholeness and freedom is meant for everyone but them.

There is a powerful exercise that I suggest to my clients; I suggest they write out their pain story with as many details as possible, without fear of judgement or consequence and without editing it and then read it to themselves as though a child is telling this story to them.  Some people invasion their daughter or niece. Others pretend that this is a child they have met in a hospital.

How do you react to this broken hearted child? Do you think the child deserved that treatment? Do you think that child is bad and brought it on themselves or that they must have been ‘such a burden’ to their parents. Do you feel sorry for the parents of this child? Do you believe that child doesn’t really ‘deserve’ healing, wholeness and freedom from the destruction and brainwashing that they have suffered? This is very often a very powerful exercise and results in a turning point for the client.  It was a turning point for me in my own healing process.

Please share your thoughts and feelings with Doren and I and the other readers here about suspecting wholeness and freedom is meant for others and that deep down feeling of “being bad”. Everyone is welcome to use any name you wish in the comment form. Only the name you use will be visible to the public.

There is freedom on the other side of broken;

Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

 

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198 response to "Brainwashing in Dysfunctional Family Systems and that deep down feeling of Unworthiness"

  1. By: Melinda Posted: 2nd April 2018

    @Amy…I’m sorry you went through that. *hugs*

    Verbal and emotional abuse IS abuse.
    Abuse isn’t just hitting or molestation…it’s anything that causes pain and is done repeatedly.
    Like you, my abuse was more verbal/emotional than physical or sexual, but it still left me with a lot of trauma.

    Please don’t ever think that your story is not worth sharing. It is, and you have the right to talk about it.

  2. By: Melinda Posted: 2nd April 2018

    Hmm…brainwashing and being labeled “bad”.
    This is the story of my life. I often feel like a “bad” person who doesn’t deserve anything good in life…doesn’t deserve help…doesn’t deserve to be heard or listened to.

    When you’ve been told this all your life, you come to believe it. You come to accept it as true.

  3. By: Sam Posted: 12th March 2017

    Hi Darlene
    First off, I just wanted to say that Im really grateful that I found your blog today, Ive been reading it a lot and so far its really resonating with me and providing a lot of comfort. It’s amazing to me that there are other people who feel this sense of ‘being bad’ because its something I really struggle with and always assumed that I was relatively alone in, it didn’t even occur to me that this was a phenomenon that could happen to others, a system we get trapped in rather than an actual state of self. Basically, I did something I kind of regret yesterday, nothing that was terrible or anything, but now one of my college dorm roommates, whom Im not even that close with, is annoyed with me and being very passive aggressive. And I acknowledge that what i did wasnt necessarily right, but I’ve been spilling in my head, largely due to my anxiety, and using this situation as justification that i really am just a terrible person. And I do this constantly.

    I just had a really good conversation with a long time friend who goes to a different, very far away college, than me and what she told me in conjunction with this post has helped a lot – everyone makes mistakes. But we are not our mistakes, they do not make us evil terrible people. hey happen to everyone and if we can forgive others for their mistakes, then maybe we can forgive ourselves. But thats so much easier said than done.

    Another thing you brought up, my family was definitely dysfunctional, but i was always loved. My mom has always been there for me especially as I get older and I have wonderful friends who, though they are far away, I love and whom I know love me – so why am I falling in so easily to the victim role? Why do I do this to myself, why is every slip up just justification of how truly bad I am? I don’t even have internalized residual guilt from any religion – I grew up aithiest and yet I have this guilt complex that rivals that of a Catholic school girl. Its so easy to hate myself and to keep people away because it means i don’t have to deal with anything, but the issue is, even if i didn’t do that, I wouldn’t know what i would be trying to deal with. Im currently in therapy trying to work some of this out, but its so hard. I feel like even more of a terrible person when i try to forgive myself because i don’t think i deserve it – and if i forgive myself that means i just let myself off the hook and it doesn’t change the fact that I’m ‘bad’. I just don’t know how to deal with this, but again, its really nice to know that I’m not alone in feeling this, that maybe if its happening to other people than its not just that I’m a terrible person, but that this is an illness of thinking that human minds are prone to.

  4. By: Amy Posted: 11th November 2016

    So much of this applies to me. To this day I cannot see myself as a “victim of abuse”. Because it was only verbal and emotional “abuse”, not proper abuse. The only marks were in my memory; there was no physical damage, no scars on my body. So I didn’t really get abused; therefore I can’t possibly be a victim. There’s the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. If I couldn’t apply that to myself then it was my own fault I felt (and feel) as I do.

    The worst part for me now is the memory of what I was told. I was the problem. I was wrong. I was lying. I’d misunderstood or misinterpreted what had happened. I’d done something to deserve it. I was making a fuss over nothing. I was naughty. I was causing trouble. I DESERVED EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED BECAUSE I HAD BROUGHT IT ALL ON MYSELF. And there were always examples: “Just like when you…” or “You didn’t learn from last time; you remember when you…”

    I can’t remember ever doing something wrong for the first time. I always repeated the same bad things as I had done before. “Why don’t you ever learn?” was a constant refrain.

    Then there was the explanations of why these things were said to me. It was for my own good; to make me see the error of my ways; to make me a better person; to teach me right from wrong; so I knew why people were upset/angry with me. It was so I’d be a good girl if I listened to them and did what I was told; it was so people would like me; it was so that I could make friends. To this day I have never had “a friend”. I wouldn’t know friendship or love if they came and punched me on the nose. I have no idea what it feels like to be friends or be in love; no idea what they look like in other people.

    But I can’t blame the people who have verbally or emotionally “abused” me. They never hurt me. They never did anything that left a visible mark. I could never prove that they were wrong. It was my word against theirs. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends on one side; me on the other. Too many people to all be wrong about me.

    And what about strangers? The people who meet me once, knowing nothing about me. They all come to the same conclusion; there is only one problem. Me. This has happened hundreds of times. Probably thousands. Without exception. From people that have nothing to gain from saying these things if they weren’t true.

    I’ve seen other comments on E.F.B about being an exception, about how everybody else was a genuine victim. In my case though it’s true. I am an exception. Everything that’s been said to me, everything that’s gone wrong, every bad memory I have brought on myself. It’s nobody else’s fault I’m like I am. I’ve deserved everything that’s happened to me. In fact I probably deserve worse than what’s happened to me.

    So I wasn’t abused and I’m not a victim. I just don’t know what I should call myself. What label/category I fit in to.

  5. By: Shelley Porter Posted: 31st October 2016

    Wow Darlene and everyone else, I’m so glad I found you. There is so much comfort in reading words that I could have written myself.

    I am 62 and just 2 years ago (after one more screaming, hand in my face altercation with my older sister from which I ran with her chasing me, yelling), I started breaking down, both physically and mentally at a rate that alarmed even me. This year I was diagnosed with complex-PTSD.

    I could write for hours of the abuse my sister inflicted upon me from the day I was born – my nickname for my entire life has been “Poodie.” Legend in the family is that this sister could not say my name “Shelley” and she could only say Poodie – so this nickname caught on with the entire extended family including cousins, grandparents, etc. Never could figure it out: she didn’t have a speech issue (I did) so how did Shelley morph into Poodie? Well, when I was born my mom was in the process of toilet training her and yes, every therapist says the same thing: (basically what my mom would ask us) Do you have to poop or pee? Poopee/poodie. AND to this day I answer to that name just like I answer to Shelley.

    Unfortunately, this was only the beginning. My first real nightmare came the day after an old I Love Lucy rerun we watched when she asked me if I wanted to play cowboys and Indians in our dark dank, windowless basement in Bridgeport CT just like they did in that comedy show that day (everyone was safe and ha ha ha).

    I was 4 or 5 years old when led me downstairs tied me to the pole (I was going to be the cowboy first, then her) and she told me that Frankenstein lived in the furnace 5 feet from me. She ran up the stairs and turned off the lights (no windows) and left me there for how long I don’t know. I know I screamed and screamed and screamed.

    There were many more things like that – traumatic situations (middle of the night). I know now what my mom and dad didn’t do – protect me. They just thought it was kid stuff.

    As the years went on my sister tortured me in so many ways as we were raising our families. It never occurred to me that she was a bully. I always knew I would never chose her as a friend – we were only attached because of blood. She would go to great lengths to embarrass me in front of my husband, insult my house (that was special – I was hosting 125 people for her son’s engagement party and she tells the caterer at the initial meeting “Oh Shelley has a nice house…too bad her windows are filthy.” ) Instead of realizing first, who would say that, who would say that about someone they loved, aren’t you grateful that I am willing to do all this for your kid, I spent 2 months cleaning my windows and every corner inside and out and hoping she’d say something nice about how the whole property looked. This might seem petty but just one of many incidents in 60 years that I am now realizing things aren’t what they seemed.

    I started my long path to heal. Unfortunately, I’ve alienated the entire family (other sister in denial and nobody will talk about it – one niece asked me if I could move on – I told her it was more complicated than that – I didn’t feel it was my place to tell either of my sister’s kids) and it’s my fault. Sad (my husband and 2 adult kids are right by my side) that all I want is to stop shaking and crying. I am currently going through neurofeedback therapy which is very hard (I thought it would be easier). Some bad memories are shaking out and I am scared. Even when I write this I know I’ve read here that the worst has already happened. I am so frightened. I’m glad to have read all of your thoughts and experiences and Darlene, thank you for giving me this forum. Shelley

  6. By: Christine Posted: 14th April 2016

    Thank you Doren, as I too have been made an ugly, through years of being institutionalised and labelled by past mental health workers who brainwashed and enforced on some overdosing of drugs, even in needle form, and then denied the horrific side effects that I suffered, to suggest the side effects were not suffered, and that I was born the way I was with the side effects they denied and failed to recognise. I suffered these side effects to change me for the worse, with past staff taking no responsibility in them changing overnight for the worse. And then in the community and past workplaces too, with others avoiding me because of the mental labels as though I had something worse than leprosy. And the stigma and discrimination was worse in them avoiding and I was never really able to be promoted in any workplace for their reasons of where I had been, stating the fact that I had this ‘mental disturbance to be a bit peculiar’ I like to now state, instead of the labels such as ‘schizophrenia or bi-polar’, and I believe it is all down to one condition being anxiety caused through mainly emotional traumas, that I probably hid this anxiety for the fear of causing a major disturbance by lashing out at everyone who had rejected or blamed and shamed within groups, I kept quiet not saying one word, but I felt then alone and isolated, at a time I could have really gone mad, but I didn’t when no one would come near me or offered me a promotion because of them, the past mental health system who would rather have just treated me in their locked up rooms, and then only discharge when I would agree with them to take their drugs.

    Fortunately, now I am under a new team in the small suburb I live, who know the horrific damage those past staff have done in their manipulation and threats with their emotional abuse which made me feel bad all those years, and as well put all their burdens through the drugs suffered on to my shoulders, it was like they punished all those years while I struggled and in shame such as in workplaces where most were immaculate and groomed, while I felt awful in my struggle to be appropriate groomed, but could never achieve, because of all their psychotropic drugs they enforced on me through too many years.

    Thank you Doren, and I hope you reply with something positive, as no one really has made me feel positive through my years especially as a mental health label, which they failed to heal the emotional trauma coming from a dysfunctional family in the first place, that those past staff would just rather treat us with their drugs while they neglected the social outcomes, as well neglected our personal needs and requirements to be like normal people to be groomed such as in past workplaces. Thank you.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 14th April 2016

      Hi Christine!
      Welcome to EFB ~ My name is Darlene, but I assume you are addressing this post to me. 🙂
      I encourage you to read this website. You are not alone and there are over 450 articles here, all with discussions (some have well over 1000 comments) There is a lot of support, validation and encouragement here. The current discussion is on the HOME page and there are category buttons for different subjects. I hear you about being neglected and ignored (by family and by professionals) and there is HOPE!!
      Hugs, Darlene

  7. By: Carlos Posted: 10th February 2016

    I have always labelled myself as bad and have the tendency to beat myself up when my abusers feel the need to throw out whatever it is they think about me. The one part of this article, which focused on the cupcake, brought back a memory in 2006 of which got me to gradually believe that I was horrible. When we were on the dining table, I was pouring my father some Mountain Dew and I “accidentally” drank off of his glass, instead of mine, which resulted in him to say: “You are so selfish, you know that? How dare you drink off mine when yours is just to your left?” athere was no shouting involved but the tone of his voice and the “death stare” was enough for me to consider that I was horrible. I am working my way out this frame of mind, but I must admit that I still find myself being cautious as to which glass I will drink out off. At times I even jokingly said: “Okay, I’ll separate your glass from me so you don’t feel like I am stealing your drink.” With his response being: “Son I am not like that” (Hahahaha) I know there’s a lot of work to be done in this journey of healing, but at least I now know that I am not what I was forced to accept.

  8. By: Connie Posted: 9th March 2015

    So right you are DXS. Although I’ve been no contact over 3 years with my mother and most of my 10 siblings (except 1), I think there is a small part of me that still wishes the lightbulb would turn on for one of them and they would contact me with an apology and a shot at a real relationship.

    I’d also like to ask anyone who reads this for some advice. When I went nc with my family so did my grown daughter, who was included in their gaslighting and abuse. However, I now find myself going round and round with my daughter trying to make her see that I have value. I have made every effort to change dysfunctional behavior with healthy behavior. I’ve gotten therapy and read constantly on improving dysfunctional relationships. I try and share some of what I learn with her, as she is raising my only two Grandson’s. I have apologized profusely for the dysfunctional behavior I displayed as her mother when she was a child. No matter what I say or do, no matter how self-aware I am, and no matter what efforts I try and make to be a better, more functional and loving person….she acts like she hates me. I am beside myself today because I feel like she’s abusing me and we all know sometimes the only way out of abuse is to go n/c. Her and my grandsons are all I have left in the world and I don’t know how I can just cut them out of my life as well. She would not try and keep them from me, but I know it means so much to them that her and I get along. When we don’t they sense it and it hurts them. I just don’t know what to do.

  9. By: DXS Posted: 6th March 2015

    I just kind of looked for the right post to put this on.

    The one thing about going N/C with your family is……. you get to a point where you wonder who…. really……. initiated the N/C.

    You may have initiated the N/C, but then you wonder……. why won’t they FIGHT to have a relationship with me? I guess what I’m expecting is this “light bulb” moment where mom realizes what she did wrong and what she needs to do to make it right, and come to me herself.

    But, as we learn from here, NOT GONNA HAPPEN!

  10. By: Steph Posted: 2nd February 2015

    I can completely relate. For many years I’ve experienced this and I’ve been trying to move past it and develop myself as a better person. I’ve been trying to undo the pain and the messages and thought processes that I keep finding myself having. Whenever I think back to it I feel, “oh, it’s all in my head”, “it’s not really that bad”, “I’m making a big deal out of nothing”. I think that really that’s because for all these years, that’s what I’ve been told to think, and now I’m having a hard time not believing it. When I was small – and even today now that I think about it (I’m 19 and I still live at home) – whenever I’ve disagreed with something my parents have said, whenever I’ve thought that they’ve been unfair on me and tried to discuss things (in the reasonable manner they taught me, because if, say, my brother or sister said something mean, or hit me, if I responded back, if I was upset or cried out in pain, I was the one in the wrong, and I “lost my case” – meaning that they wouldn’t say anything to the person who’d mistreated me, and would instead spend the next 10 minutes telling me off.) If I try to bring something up, or say that I don’t like the way I’m treated, my parents get angry, I’m told that I’m being “abusive”. I’ve been labelled manipulative, abusive, power-hungry, selfish, inconsiderate, frequently told how much I inconvenience them, among countless other things. For many years I thought I was this person. I honestly thought that I was terribly selfish and just a pretty terrible person. It was only when I casually mentioned it to a few other people, or mentioned myself to be selfish, or that they’d said that I was, that they looked at me in shock. Frequently I’d get the response “you’re the least selfish person I know!” and a few times, I was told that they sounded like the narcissistic ones. Because that’s another thing they’d call me. Narcissistic. I am always considering other people’s feelings, and am a very empathetic and helpful person. I guess they didn’t like that for some reason, whenever they’d call me these things, I’d fight back. But they’d always win. I was always wrong, and was always the one who needed to apologise. Nevermind that they’d acted much worse. It’s always me who is ultimately to blame. They were never wrong, because they “were the parents”. I found that I relate to myself in some of the same ways, I think to myself that I must be making things up, or imagining things. I found this with my last boyfriend (the one I have right now is an amazing kind, considerate person, and I am completely bewildered by how kind and considerate his parents are too – we grew up in completely different worlds) my last boyfriend was growing ever distant near the end, I sensed it, but it was really after breaking up that I began to realise just how much I questioned my own reality and my own truth, because they have always told me that it was “wrong” or I was “living in a fantasy world” my dad would laugh and say, “it’s funny, because she actually *believes* this stuff!” Sometimes I feel like all the ways they have treated me – all the times they’ve shouted, the way my brother and sister join in to all criticise me (family scapegoat represent) might actually be true, I feel as though it is and was that bad, and then I feel like I’m exaggerating, like it’s not really that bad, like I’m making it all up. I feel like I’m being selfish and conceited for talking about myself to friends. Whenever I’ve told people even the tiniest bit of things, they are shocked and I feel like maybe I’m making it sound worse, I guess in a way I’m surprised by their response. Sometimes and in some ways I feel like I’m dwelling on things. But I just want to heal. And it keeps happening. I still live at home (as I mentioned earlier), and there is something nearly every day, or at least a few times a week. I’ve been staying at my boyfriend’s house quite a bit lately, and it’s nice. I get to spend time with him and he treats me nicely. He cares about what I have to say and doesn’t get angry or tell me how wrong I am if I try to express how I feel. My sister came home from spending time overseas for the past few months, and over that time, I’ve felt guilty for disliking her, and not really missing her. My mum told me she missed me. When she came back, I remembered why I had felt that way, just I found it affecting me worse then maybe I remember it affecting me in the past. She just kept critisising me for no reason every time I spoke to her, she kept flashing me looks of disgust, and speaking to me in a nasty tone of voice. I hadn’t done anything, I was just being nice, I made a cup of tea, I didn’t do anything to her at all. When we had dinner, all attention was on her, which I guess makes sense as no one had seen her for 2 months, but I remembered that’s how it had been in the past too. It’s just her talking about how terrible everyone else is, and critisising all her “friends” and just everyone she knows. That’s how it had always been. I went back to being ignored and neglected. When I tried to say something, I was ignored and cut off, and someone else would speak, particularly if it were her. No one even looked at me. I felt invisible. And I remembered that’s how I had been feeling for many years while she was away. Ignored, invisible and forgotten, like the one who didn’t belong. I’d always get told off for things though. My parents used to shout at me every time we’d be in the car, and a lot of times when we weren’t – although when we were in the car I couldn’t escape. Sometimes they’d tell me off and I’d be crying so much, I’d block my ears to drown out all the horrible things they were telling me that I was, I’d put in my headphones and play the music so loud that I thought it might make me go deaf – but as long as I couldn’t hear them. For a long time, they’d paint it as though it was because I didn’t “pull my weight enough” or do enough housework, and because I was “lazy” but near the end of last year – maybe september – I was talking to my boyfriend about things, and he was suggesting I do a lot of housework, as much as I could, for a month and see how things go, that I wouldn’t be the scapegoat if they could find nothing to blame me for. That was when I realised why I didn’t do housework. Whenever someone needs help with something, I’m usually the first to offer to help, but I realised why I was so reluctant with them. I felt as though doing so would be helping them, and I was feeling very resentful towards them and didn’t want to do anything to help them. That and, if I’d ever tried to help, cleaned the sides, cleaned the house, done the washing, offered to help with dinner, it’d be, “oh, she must want something” “she’s only doing it because she wants something” or, if I’d come a little late to help, “she’s coming now because she knows we’re finished” and then something about how I was avoiding helping, possibly something about how inconsiderate and selfish thrown in there for good measure. And if I didn’t agree with them, they’d also say things like, “she can’t see it”, “she just doesn’t understand”. My brother and sister have always joined in too. Even though I now feel okay with doing housework – they seem to have mostly adjusted to it – they’ll find the most ridiculous and little things to tell me off for. For some reason, I’ve always fought back against the things they tell me, I’ve said that they aren’t true, I’ve tried to defend myself. I realised why I don’t just stay completely passive. Because if I do, then it’s almost like I’d believe whatever they say. It’s like somewhere within me, their beliefs are the “truth” and so I want to fight against and correct anything that’s wrong, because if they believe it, I think somewhere within me I believe and take that to be my reality. To continue with what I was saying about my sister, she kept making comments to me when she came back, saying that I was “acting weird” or “talking about myself in the 3rd person” (which I think is something I picked up at some point, and it’s something my boyfriend and I do when we’re around each other a little), giving me her look of disgust, and telling me how weird I’d been since she got back, and how I’d been “prancing around” Well, I’m sorry for being happy and cheerful my dear. I’m sorry that my happiness offends you. Later that night, my mum came into my room and asked me what was wrong, and why I was acting weird – I told her that I wasn’t, and I wasn’t acting any differently than usual, she’d been living with me for the past few months while my sister was away – she told me that my sister and her boyfriend had said that I was, and that I was talking to myself, which was weird and I was making her boyfriend feel uncomfortable. I told my mum that I wasn’t acting out of the ordinary, she kept insisting that I was acting weird and wouldn’t listen to anything I said, or when I tried to say that I felt upset about things with my sister, she kept telling me that I should just stop whatever I’d been doing to make her boyfriend uncomfortable, while not saying anything about what I’d said. While I was saying this, she kept repeating that I should “just stop” (as in, whatever I’d been doing to act weird or whatever my sister had said – which was obviously the truth, rather than whatever I said, or how she’d seen me act) and left, shutting my door behind her. I was left alone to process things. I had never heard anything before about me ever making anyone else uncomfortable. I felt really upset. And all the events of that evening and the way I’d been pushed down, criticised and ignored came back to me. I felt so sad, and tried to work through my pain in my own mind. The next day, I went to have a shower and my sister was cleaning the bath – I’d meant to and was supposed to the night before but hadn’t, because I’d felt so upset and I didn’t want to face her boyfriend (even though I know that what she’d said he’d said was a repeat of what she’d been saying, or just him adding to what she’d said and talking badly about me too) her and my brother both started verbally attacking me, mostly about how I hadn’t cleaned the bath and how “weird” my sister thought I’d been acting, and while I’d normally try to say something back, I felt a bit lost for words and left. I had a shower, I remember my mum being annoyed at me afterwards about not cleaning the bath, I got dressed and started making breakfast. My dad appears from nowhere and asks me how I am and if I slept well. I didn’t mean to, and I tried to hold it back, but I got really teary and gave him a hug. He looked concerned and asked me what was wrong, I told him that he was the first person who seemed to care about me and told him a bit about why I was sad. He hugged me and told me he’d speak to my sister. I was so touched and grateful that he’d care. My mum had been glancing over while he’d hugged me, but not said anything, after her boyfriend left (my sister’s, my dad is my mum’s husband), she came over and asked me what happened. I told her a little reluctantly and cautiously, not sure how she’d react. She told me how I was living in a fantasy, how it was sad if I really believed this to be true. She said how my sister had only just got back from being away for months, and while she was away, she’d missed me, how she’d come back and I’d been acting “offish” with her (I hadn’t, I’d been completely nice). Then my mum went away for a while. I finished making my breakfast and started eating it on the veranda outside. She came back out and my dad was there too. She told me how she’d worked it all out and I was actually jealous of my sister, and that I’d been being anti-social and not spending time with them all the night before (I prefer to be by myself in my room rather than socialise with my family), she told me that I’d been playing my guitar outside the night before to get attention from the people who drove by (actually, I’d been playing it outside because I’d been told to stop the night before when I played it inside) because I was attention-seeking, she said. I looked her straight in the eye, firmly told her that she was lying and left to go sit outside on the other side of the house. Then my sister was being all sweet to me, and my mum was being sweet to me and I don’t even know. They treat me so badly, and then it’s like once they’ve done treating me badly they just act like nothing happened, they don’t let me say how I feel because “it’s in the past” or “I’m dwelling on things” or it didn’t happen. There’s actually so much more that I could say, this is something that happened a few nights ago. I really didn’t mean to write so much, this is were I’d normally feel selfish. And I feel like I should say that I’m sorry for writing so much, and that I’ll be told that I should keep a journal and write in there (by people on here). I have, but things keep happening and it feels like there’s always new things that I have to deal with. And I just want to be better. I only meant to write a little bit, not quite so much. It’s my first post so maybe that’s why? Maybe I have a lot to say? I meant to ask as well, what is the meaning of the back and forward in behaviour? I find it very confusing. My parents and family can be so nice and caring sometimes, and they’ll cuddle me and shower me with affection, and then other times they’ll call me names and shout at me and not be so nice, and I don’t know how to take it and how to respond. I guess that’s part of what makes me feel unjustified at resenting them, and as though I should just get over it. But it’s hard. So my question is about the back and forth, what does it mean and what can I do about it? I don’t like feeling as though I’m crazy and selfish all the time. I feel so grateful when someone does something nice to me – I guess that’s cos that was what I was always taught, how grateful I should be towards them, when they’ve driven me somewhere, or done something for me. And guilt too, a lot of guilting me about how terrible, selfish and inconsiderate I am. And they’ll find things that have happened with other people too, things that I don’t think are a big deal *at all* but they’ll paint them as though they’re really, REALLY, bad, making me feel as though I’ve always done something wrong and second guess myself. I guess there are a lot of components to it all and I’m just trying to figure it, and myself out, and I’m not sure quite what to do, if what I believe is true. I’m having trouble accepting my reality. Again, sorry for writing so much xx I’ve read quite a few articles before but never posted, and I like reading through it all, some of the people on here really have gone through so much, and I really wish all the love and kindness to you all xx it’s okay, you’re really not alone. There are people who love you. There are people who care xx either way, we’re strong enough on our own xxxxx much love to everyone xx

  11. By: elle Posted: 17th December 2014

    and I wrote – poison I spouted -well – I did say some dreadful things ..but i meant o write she

  12. By: elle Posted: 17th December 2014

    Hi Darlene

    Thanks for this post – the brainwashing is such a hard one to overcome. When a parent is smart (as mine is)- it’s hard to – and presents themselves to the outside world like this – and is the victim ( always)
    include the fact they have done things that are thoughtful (like buy you a christmas present/ birthday gift/ cook you a meal if you go to visit them. These are really kind nice things to do…but it’s so so hard and I feel like a total arse because it’s the communication – and it’s the lack of accountability/ or recognition for other actions or things that have been said.

    It’s like any of the bad stuff never happened in my parent’s mind.It’s like -she’ll never say anything about the poison I have spouted, nor acknowledge that her behaviour has an impact – It’s like I am a complete crazy person. It’s like I am totally insane, and living that brainwashing dialogue – that i am completely that selfish, manipulative little shit, the person that ruins her marriage, that is too difficult, who is so intrinsically bad..it was not sexual abuse, it was not physical – and I feel like a fraud for being so f*cked up – (because they are in reality a lot worse – and in no way am I saying that what I experienced was like that. Very different – please don’t every think that I would mean that – no disrespect meant at all).

    For me it was all in the mind – and that makes me feel like the madman – how can you talk of this – even to yourself – there is no proof. My empirical evidence – is the hurt I felt – and the dysfunction that operated…and the words…all the words..

    and how can that be trusted..when I learnt not to trust myself – or my experiences…She will never be accountable, and i accept that, and I am not trying to change that perspective/ or force her to. It hurts when you have lived and know your mother’s perspective so well – and you know that to set boundaries will hurt them – and their fragile constructions – but knowing that they don’t feel that for you – and the brainwashing that went with what they said and did makes no impact on them. She can’t see it.

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