Monday, February 16, 2009

Blaming Parents for Our Past

"Our childhood experiences guide the way we create our own lives"
Gopnik Berkeley

A common theme that my parents have harped their entire life is that my brother & my childhoods shouldn't effect our adulthood-- that we are a product of our own choices and those choices are ours alone. My parents say that childhood should not be used as a crutch or an excuse for failings or shortcomings, that you as an adult make your life the way it is. I agree that one shouldn't use crutches or excuses; however, the life you make is a collection of choices that have been shaped by your past experiences. Funny how book after book is written to help the adult-child of abuse move past their childhood / teen years and to accept & heal. Hmmmm, but no, our childhood doesn't effect who we are as adults?!?!?

Neither parent will discuss the confusing, destructive, and tormenting past (OR any of the fun times either) that we endured from the late 1970's through the 1980's. My mother doesn't remember most of it accurately or becomes enraged when speaking about my Dad, and my Dad says he doesn't remember because he doesn't 'want to'. My parents also haven't taken accountability for the emotional abuse we were subjected to with Parental Alienation Syndrome as well. So, either way, my brother and my experiences are not validated, we are not to evaluate our childhood as possible causes for our reactions / actions / choices in our adulthood as the childhood had no impact, and we are supposed to deep six all of the aspects that concern both of us because it doesn't matter anyway.

Well, our childhood DID happen. Our childhood was very confusing, very destructive, and very tormenting. Our childhood left us treated carelessly, with conditions on love, and orphaned. And I think dealing with the emotions, feelings, and memories is crucial to being a healthy, happy, and productive adult. I thoroughly believe that our choices are guided by our internal subconscious shaped by our past experiences. And that internal subconscious can be a positive or negative force depending on the presence, amount, and condition of the scars.

Prudent choices may not be made if the child of an abusive parental relationship has not dealt with and come to terms with his / her past. Further, if one's self confidence has been eroded from the waves of parental mistreatment over the years, choices are further hindered. My mother just recently jumped all over my brother about 'owning up' to his bad choices that he's made since childhood, Rearing Their Ugly Heads, reiterating that HE made the choices. Yes, he made choices, but evaluate each choice to which she is referring independently, IN CONTEXT, and you will see that the surrounding is not black & white. And the fact that she is condemning him for things that happened when he was a CHILD is sad and bizarre in itself. Sad because he was a child-- a young boy that could have had parents guiding & supporting him in his decisions at the time, and bizarre because he's almost 40 years old being berated by his mother like he is 10 years old again.

My brother has needed his parents' support, reassurance, and guidance since a young boy, and having very selfish parents that were centered on their own wants & needs, my brother got very little that he needed. Sure, he had a Dad that coached his sports teams, and sure, he had a mother that laundered his clothes for him-- but what he needed was someone to help him deal with growing up. He needed someone to talk to, to help sort out all of the challenges that a kid feels when they're growing up. My mother treated him as the "No Good" child who could do nothing right, whereas my Dad wanted so much to please his new wife that he chose her over his son. My brother's room was given to her daughter, and he was to reside in the basement.

At one point, he was crying out for attention so much that he jumped out of a moving car. Sure that got him some attention, but not the attention he really needed. He really needed someone to REALLY talk to him, to REALLY listen to him, to REALLY help sort out his thoughts. Instead he was called stupid and yelled at. When he needed his parents even more, we lost our grandparents, and our mother retreated further from us, and our Dad was left to figure out how to keep the household going. Then our parents divorced and started using us as pawns in the game of divorce. Stress levels were intense for us kids, and I remember my head spinning from the amazing amount of mental abuse we endured. Then our parents almost immediately remarried to people that already had children, which added even more confusion to the simmering pot of parental neglect.

By the time that my teen brother started using alcohol and drugs to gain attention, my parents were so into their new lives that no one really took the time to sort out what in the heck was going on with my brother. Quick fixes were their answer, his problems were ignored, or he was told to try harder. How do you try harder when you've never been given the tools to work with in the first place!?

What happened to my brother BAFFLES my mind. I wouldn't treat my child with such disinterest and neglect. And it's so obvious that he was tossed aside so many times. And to now say that he is solely responsible for the choices that he made as a child, teen, young adult, and adult is simply negligent even further! And the fact that we were put through a huge amount of manipulations, guilt trips, mental & emotional abuse, and carelessly treated by ultra-selfish parents only compounds the neglect my brother experienced.

I dealt with all of the confusion of our childhood differently than my brother. I retreated, a lot of times, on my own, and thanked God for the good head he put on my shoulders. I spent a lot of time thinking about what happened, realizing that the situation was not my doing but between my mother and Dad. I would also immerse myself into running, my education (knowing I wanted out as fast as possible at 18 to go to college on my own away from them), and in my friends. I tried to digest the abuse as much as possible my writing in my diary as well.

My brother, on the other hand, was 2 1/2 years younger than me and a different person than me-- so of course he dealt with the situations completely different than me. He is mentally ill- diagnosed bipolar; however, I am certain that deeper issues are effecting him and have been effecting him since he was a small child: Antisocial Personality Disorder: Letter to my Brother. I don't think he's spent quality or quantity time sorting out his feelings and memories. I don't think that he's been able to figure out what happened, why it happened, and who our parents are. I don't think that he realizes, truly realizes, the reality behind what happened to us from such a young, tender, and innocent age. And I think if that ends up hitting him, the reality of it all, that he may get thrown over the edge.

He is very, very depressed-- mentally ill. And recently when I called my Dad to enlist his support for my brother, the amount of empathy that expressed was in the form of a to-do list and buying some things for him. He visited with him for a few days after not seeing him for years and honestly didn't delve into the crux of the issues. My Dad, again, just like when my brother was little, had quick fixes for my brother-- "He just needs to get a job and stick with it" My Dad completely fails to realize that my brother can't hold down a job is only a SYMPTOM of a much bigger issue-- the job is not the problem. My Dad doesn't want to take the time or the effort to get to know his son, to find out what makes him tick, and to understand what REALLY is going on in his head after all these years.

My brother's choices are a result of a damaged core combined with mental illness. My brother's choices are a result of a damaged self esteem with crippled self confidence and shattered sense of self. My brother's choices are a result of being orphaned by parents whose ghosts are still around haunting him with abuse into adulthood. My brother's choices are a result of not having the emotional tools to handle what life throws at him. My brother's choices have ALL been directly effected by the way he was handled as a child. PERIOD.

For my brother to overcome these obstacles in order to make different decisions, he has to overcome mountains of scars, erosion, and roadblocks in his mind that were started at a young age and reinforced through almost FOUR decades. So, for my parents to say that where he is in life is due to what he's chosen is completely inaccurate. I think they don't want to face the fact that they have damaged their son to the core and left to him fend for himself. And I would like to tell my mother, "You are a ruthless woman who should be ashamed of herself" and my Dad, "A job is not the answer. You are such a lazy and shallow thinker"... and to both of them, "You are both the most selfish people I have ever met" Adult Child in Crisis with Personality Disorder Parents


  1. Hansel and Gretel led into the woods and abandoned by their parents.

  2. OMG this is raw..i feel like crying because this is EXACTLY the way, the almost verbatim words that my mom and family would say to me and my brothers..that were adults now and we're responsible for ourselves...and i know what this is..when your and my parents say that, theyre attempting to wash their hands off of their responsibility in making your brother how he is because if they stopped and thought about how they treated him, they wouldn't be able to deal with the guilt, they wouldn't be able to sleep at night. this stuff pisses me off!!
    my mother who i suspect is a narcissist, washes her hands of everything shes ever done to me, and makes my whole family look at me like a stupid, self-destructive piece of only here by the grace of God, not her..
    i know that the best remedy is to forgive and try to move on but..its SOOO hard!

  3. I agree that they are trying to wash their hands of the responsibility-- and they'd rather think about how they've been wronged and point fingers. The attention needs to be on them rather than on others, being so narcissistic. Keep on trying to understanding and find peace in your past-- believe in yourself and know you are not the 'stupid, self-destructive piece of trash' that she tries to paint you to be. For yourself, love yourself by leaving the past and blossoming into the present / future. Above all, surround yourself with people who you trust, value you, and are positive / happy people. Hang in there! HUGS!

  4. Your parents need to grow a heart and a brain. And stop clinging to the notion you had to be little adults.

    I feel sorry for you. And wish you didn't have to go through all that.

  5. Thank you for taking the time to comment and your support. What does not kill us, makes us stronger... and I am stronger for what I experienced :)

  6. Forgiveness is part of the grieving process and comes naturally when as a result of recovery work. I feel all this talk about forgiveness can hinder the full expression of emotions that needs to be out in order to recover. Please don't do your self a diservice by forgiving prematurely and slowing your recovery. you can be respectful, courteous without forgiving. Its actually not a paradox. forgiving as an act of will doesn't work. Alice Miller, a famous psychotherapist talks a lot about this if anyone is really looking to get knee deep into the reasoning.

  7. Excellent points-- well put. Thank you so very much for the insight and perspective.