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DEALING with hateful or neglectful parents, now
Many ACoAs are so symbiotically bonded to their unloving / harmful parents that it hard for us to let go – even if we’ve moved a million miles away. When they get old, sick or have some other difficulties, we feel a strong pull to step in & ‘help’. Often this is just another form of rescuing & people-pleasing.
We all accept that there’s an enduring bond between parent & child. BUT continued interactions with our earliest abusers (if they’re still mean, crazy, drunk….) can keep re-traumatizing us, whether we’ve been away from them for a while, OR still around them, making healing that much harder & longer.
WARNING: Unfortunately there are many people – having no understanding of how traumatic & pointless reconnecting with our family is – who will urge us to “make up with them before it’s too late / they’re the only parents you have / of course they love you even if they don’t know how to show it / just take the high road, they don’t mean anything by it….”
👎🏽 While these people may think they’re well-intentioned, their insistence that YOU do something which is unsafe for you, is actually:
√ a projection of who they are & what they will do or have done
√ their garden-variety narcissism, not even imagining that their way would harm you, much less that it’s not what you want! DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM.
NOTE: Many ACoAs say they stay in contact &/or help out their abusers because they are / want to be ‘a good person’. In our specific circumstances (not some TV-show ideal) this idea actually means being good to the perpetrator instead of oneself.
ALSO: There’s a confusing belief that if we’re ‘well enough’ their craziness won’t bother us AT ALL. This is 1/2 true & 1/2 false.
TRUE: As our wounds heal, many of the buttons they installed will shrink, but not all the way, & some not at all. So YES, we’ll be less reactive to & definitely less hurt by many of their ploys. We might even be able to just say “Ohhh, mooom!”, or “Sure dad.”
FALSE: The healthier we get the less we’ll be able or want to tolerate their addictions, abuse & unavailability. We’ll stay away more often, & not get caught up in their games.
“Dear Prudence” columnist Emily Yoffe writes:
There is no formula for defining one’s obligations to the parents who didn’t fulfill their own. The stories of famous people with abusive parents reveal some possible responses.
Abraham Lincoln couldn’t stand his brutish father, Thomas, who hated Abraham’s books & sent him out to be an indentured servant. As an adult, Lincoln did occasionally bail his father out financially. But during the man’s final illness, Lincoln ignored letters telling him the end was near.
Finally he wrote – not to his father, but his stepbrother – to explain his absence: “Say to him that if we could meet now, it is doubtful whether it would not be more painful than pleasant.” Lincoln didn’t attend his father’s funeral.
Warren Buffett remained distantly dutiful to his mother, who had subjected her children to endless, rabid verbal attacks. On the occasions he visited her at the end of her life, he was a “wreck” of anxiety, sitting silently while his female companions made conversation.
He was 66 when she died at 92. His tears at her death were not because he was sad or because he missed her, he said in his biography, The Snowball. “It was because of the waste.”
Bruce Springsteen’s frustrated, depressive father took out much of his rage on his son. In a New Yorker profile, David Remnick writes that long after Springsteen’s family had moved away, he’d obsessively drive by the old house.
A therapist said, “Something went wrong, & you keep going back to see if you can fix it or somehow make it right.”
Springsteen finally came to accept he couldn’t. When he became successful he did give his parents the money to buy their dream house. But he says of this seeming reconciliation, “Of course, all the deeper things go unsaid, that it all could have been a little different.” (MORE…. both pages 1 & 2)
◆ BBC News Article, October 17, 2011 “America’s child death shame” (scroll)
NEXT: Obituary of evil mother