“This notion, that parents must never be blamed no matter what they have done, has caused untold damage.” Alice Miller ~ Banished Knowledge
The other night I was watching the show “Hoarders” on television. The eldest daughter came home from University and brought her boyfriend along for a visit. Even before they entered the house, she started reminding him not to “say anything.” Inside the house was a shocking mess. Her mother was a hoarder. The “hoard” in some places was up to the ceiling. There were slim pathways everywhere so they could make their way through the house. Before the daughter and her boyfriend arrived, the mother told the camera crew that her daughter was “happy” as long as she could sleep in her bed; that the stuff piled all over her bedroom didn’t bother her. Again, the “stuff” was piled up to the ceiling in her room too.
There were bugs everywhere. There were mice and rodent droppings everywhere. The boyfriend was pretty disturbed about it but she kept warning him not to say anything. She reminded him, pleaded with him and she told him outright not to say anything.
The biggest concern that she had was to protect her mother. Her mother had a problem that was affecting the whole family, but the mothers feelings had to be protected.
The family cooked in the kitchen and the boyfriend said on film that he felt the house was unsanitary and disgusting. But he sat down at the table and he ATE there anyway. I was wondering WHY he would sit down and EAT in that house. He would make an honest comment to her about his revulsion to the whole thing, and she would ask him to please not say anything.
I could not believe it when they went to BED in that house!
I was watching a typical abusive family system highlighted on television. The youngest daughter, who was a teenager and still lived in the home, was not allowed to decide what she could throw away from her own bedroom. Her room was a huge mess as well; she wanted to get rid of things and was not allowed. She had no choice.
For anyone who is not familiar with the show “hoarders” the hoarder always agrees to get some help and the helping crew comes in and organizes a cleanup process. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
On this show the hoarder mother was in serious denial. She didn’t think there was a problem. They showed a scene where the mother was angry because the kids threw away an empty box and she wanted to keep the box. She made it clear that she didn’t trust her husband or kids in the clean up process and that since she couldn’t trust them they could not make decisions anymore about what was garbage and what wasn’t. She made it clear that the teenage daughter did not have a choice about what stayed or what went and insisted that the daughter was the one who was unreasonable.
It seemed that the mother who was the hoarder and the cause of the destruction and emotional devastation in the family, was excused because she has this “problem”. Did the daughters know they had a right to be upset? Did they ever realize mother was wrong, or did they only consider that mother was sick? When all the focus is on the person who had the disorder, “sick” is communicated as a justification for what is in this case, psychological abuse. This communicates that the feelings of the person who is perpetrating the damage are more important than anything or anyone else and the dysfunction is preserved. The boyfriend has a right to say that he didn’t want to be there. The daughter has a right to live in a clean and safe environment.
Please understand my point; I KNOW that the mother is sick. I know that hoarding is an illness but my point is that her illness doesn’t lessen the fact that damage is being done to other people. There is major emotional damage and psychological abuse happening in that home because of the hoarding. Everyone deserves to have help, not just the mother. All the damage to each person should also be validated. Just because the hoarder mother is sick and because hoarding is a disorder, does not cancel or excuse the damage that the mother is doing to the others in her family. Protecting her feelings enables her to malfunction, and it also devalues everyone else.
The people who live with a hoarder communicate that the hoarders’ relationship to the “things” is deeper than her relationship to the people in the family. Can you imagine how painful that would be to a child of any age; the hoarder cared more about broken dolls, than she did about her own daughter. That is mother daughter dysfunction and overall dysfunctional family stuff. That is emotional abuse and psychological abuse. That does damage to the self esteem of the daughter and other children. It sends a message to the child that embeds itself in the belief system and that damage must be dealt with too.
There is no difference between this dysfunctional family system and any other type of dysfunctional abusive family system where the “abuser” and the feelings of the abuser, are protected and the welfare of the others is not considered.
The hoard is just the symptom and the manifestation of what happened to the mother and the damage that has occurred in her life. Who knows what the manifestations of what happened to the daughter will be. Without help, the cycle continues.
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