Family Blindness

Grunty1967b

Registrant
I know I’m not alone as a survivor of abuse within the family. I also know it’s common that the abuse is either unknown of, non-disclosed, or denied for many years – sometimes forever.

My father just died a couple of months ago. Not the specific reason for this post but related I guess.

I’m not an emotional wreck because of that. I did not have a close relationship with him so you can’t really miss (that much) what you never really had. He was not my abuser of my sexual assault.

My father was far from a loving, caring or great dad but I hold no malice – just disappointment. I’m sure he did the best he could. It was just woefully inadequate and most certainly added to the environment where sexual abuse could and did take place.

My mother was talking to me recently after his passing and as is often the case in remembering a loss of someone, she has slipped into recalling the good points (nothing really wrong with that). What stumped me though was her comment of “I know he had his faults but at least he didn’t abuse you”. It took all of my willpower to not blurt out “no, but my brother did and for many years!”.

As just stated, my brother was one of my abusers. My parents had caught him doing things to me when we were younger and they dealt with that very poorly. In their mind I’m sure they felt it was all dealt with and stopped.

What happened though is that my brother simply made sure the abuse was even more hidden and it went on for years. They had absolutely no friggin idea what has happening under their own roof.

It was so hard to not say what had really happened after her comment about at least how my father hadn’t abused me.

I know if I was to say anything to my mother now there would be utter deniability or she would say it was my fault. Such is and was the level of family dysfunction.

This whole conversation just brought back to me (again) how broken and screwed up that family environment was for me. So glad I’ve been away from there for years and now have my own wife who loves and cares for me.
 

MO-Survivor

Staff member
I know I’m not alone as a survivor of abuse within the family. I also know it’s common that the abuse is either unknown of, non-disclosed, or denied for many years – sometimes forever.

My father just died a couple of months ago. Not the specific reason for this post but related I guess.

I’m not an emotional wreck because of that. I did not have a close relationship with him so you can’t really miss (that much) what you never really had. He was not my abuser of my sexual assault.

My father was far from a loving, caring or great dad but I hold no malice – just disappointment. I’m sure he did the best he could. It was just woefully inadequate and most certainly added to the environment where sexual abuse could and did take place.

My mother was talking to me recently after his passing and as is often the case in remembering a loss of someone, she has slipped into recalling the good points (nothing really wrong with that). What stumped me though was her comment of “I know he had his faults but at least he didn’t abuse you”. It took all of my willpower to not blurt out “no, but my brother did and for many years!”.

As just stated, my brother was one of my abusers. My parents had caught him doing things to me when we were younger and they dealt with that very poorly. In their mind I’m sure they felt it was all dealt with and stopped.

What happened though is that my brother simply made sure the abuse was even more hidden and it went on for years. They had absolutely no friggin idea what has happening under their own roof.

It was so hard to not say what had really happened after her comment about at least how my father hadn’t abused me.

I know if I was to say anything to my mother now there would be utter deniability or she would say it was my fault. Such is and was the level of family dysfunction.

This whole conversation just brought back to me (again) how broken and screwed up that family environment was for me. So glad I’ve been away from there for years and now have my own wife who loves and cares for me.
@Grunty1967b, I completely understand and can relate with this. I'm so sorry man. Family blindness and dysfunction sucks. My parents don't (obviously) want to talk about the past and my dad's abuse. My older sister (who did understand and was supportive) died in 2007. And my younger sister and I - just didn't know how to connect deeply and certainly not around the topic of abuse. And yet... we exchanged text messages this past (Father's Day) weekend and I shared a couple things, and she responded amazingly with real understanding of our parents' emotional limitations. But even so... I have been so scared to talk further with my sister. I don't know her emotional capacity to talk about things, and I definitely don't want her to respond poorly - which would make me feel alienated and horribly alone (like horribly, despairingly, desperately disconnected with my family - and alone) all over again like I felt as a teenager.

Anyway, just know you are not alone in this. And the risk of saying things to family about the abuse... is always risky (until someone proves they are trustworthy). And ever time... we desperately want that connection with family members... but are terrified they will gaslight us, minimize what happened, or worse - refuse to acknowledge what was done. That's why I'm glad there are guys here like you @Grunty1967b who understand :)
 

Guss

Registrant
Grunty1967b, what you just described is called gaslighting. It happens in more ways than one. Denial of abuse or blame the abused. It's how they refuse to deal with reality, and their own duplicity in what happened.
My mother was Cleopatra, Queen of Denial.
 

Grunty1967b

Registrant
@MO-Survivor, I like how you mentioned you and your sister’s shared understanding of your parent’s emotional limitations. That’s exactly what it is isn’t it? And isn’t it also a self-encouraging trait that one can recognise that? They, like my parents also are no doubt completely blind to those lack of relational capacities.

@Guss, I’ve not had someone apply that term of gaslighting before to the situation I described. I knew of the term but had never really thought how it applies to certain situations, never mind how it might have applied to me.

There it was though, clear as day – especially in your remark of “Denial of abuse or blame the abused”. Man, you got that in a nutshell!
 

MO-Survivor

Staff member
@MO-Survivor, I like how you mentioned you and your sister’s shared understanding of your parent’s emotional limitations. That’s exactly what it is isn’t it? And isn’t it also a self-encouraging trait that one can recognise that? They, like my parents also are no doubt completely blind to those lack of relational capacities.

@Guss, I’ve not had someone apply that term of gaslighting before to the situation I described. I knew of the term but had never really thought how it applies to certain situations, never mind how it might have applied to me.

There it was though, clear as day – especially in your remark of “Denial of abuse or blame the abused”. Man, you got that in a nutshell!
Yes - that is what it is for sure. Do we all have limits to our emotional capacity and our ability to tolerate emotional pain? I'm sure we do. But those of us who had to endure it for years due to abuse likely have more tolerance - because we had to develop it. It does suck though. Because it's possible for me not to say, "If I had done that to my son / brother, I hope I would have acted proactively to try and make things right. And even if not proactively, that I would have had the ability to respond in the way we all wish our families would respond to us."
 

KMCINVA

Staff member
I know I’m not alone as a survivor of abuse within the family. I also know it’s common that the abuse is either unknown of, non-disclosed, or denied for many years – sometimes forever.

My father just died a couple of months ago. Not the specific reason for this post but related I guess.

I’m not an emotional wreck because of that. I did not have a close relationship with him so you can’t really miss (that much) what you never really had. He was not my abuser of my sexual assault.

My father was far from a loving, caring or great dad but I hold no malice – just disappointment. I’m sure he did the best he could. It was just woefully inadequate and most certainly added to the environment where sexual abuse could and did take place.

My mother was talking to me recently after his passing and as is often the case in remembering a loss of someone, she has slipped into recalling the good points (nothing really wrong with that). What stumped me though was her comment of “I know he had his faults but at least he didn’t abuse you”. It took all of my willpower to not blurt out “no, but my brother did and for many years!”.

As just stated, my brother was one of my abusers. My parents had caught him doing things to me when we were younger and they dealt with that very poorly. In their mind I’m sure they felt it was all dealt with and stopped.

What happened though is that my brother simply made sure the abuse was even more hidden and it went on for years. They had absolutely no friggin idea what has happening under their own roof.

It was so hard to not say what had really happened after her comment about at least how my father hadn’t abused me.

I know if I was to say anything to my mother now there would be utter deniability or she would say it was my fault. Such is and was the level of family dysfunction.

This whole conversation just brought back to me (again) how broken and screwed up that family environment was for me. So glad I’ve been away from there for years and now have my own wife who loves and cares for me.

Grunty

I personally believe all families have some level of being dysfunctional, my family (mother/father and siblings) and my own (ex and children included). I have learned when people are honest about the dysfunction they seem to weather (depening on level of dysfunction) the family dynamics appear to be better. I have cousins whose family lives were loud, challenging and sometime distant but they talked and laughed about it, they did not hide it and in time they have one of the best relationships.

I know of an extended family that lived together and one part of the family had physical abuse and the siblings (married to siblings) had a very codependent relationship whereas the wife of one always took her brother's side (and he was one who physically abused). It was difficult for the wife's spouse as he was always pushed away by the words of the brother (some say a codependent relationship existed), his own wife and children. They do not see this as bullying. I thought the world of the husband (father-in-law) and when he was pushed away I would go to him whereas his children made fun of him for walking away from what a bullying environment to him. Sadly, this learned behavior passed from mother to daughters. I too was never first in spouse's life and when struggling with coming to terms and medical issues the ex chose to placate her siblings and leave to tend to their mother 3,000 miles away (two of the siblings lived in the same complex). I was unable to drive due to neurocardiogenic syncope which has now been traced to the abuse I was burying but only after episodes of dissociation. People asked how could a mother leave 4 children with a father who was having episodes of syncope and dissociation that was not really detected? Well I am only one who sees this as dysfunctional except the professionals I have spoken with. This led to anger by the children and some began to spit on me, lock me in a room and the mother did nothing to stop it. As the doctors have said, her upbringing not to stand with spouse and her guilt for leaving for 2 years created abandonment issues in the children and their mother just wanted their love and would do it at any cost. As I was unraveling I was with a psychiatrist and the ex attended. The psychiatrist was overwhelmed that the ex could not see she was encouraging abuse by allowing the children to abuse me and how her absences created a hostile environment. She stormed out and to this day I am much happier not having to deal with the anger and the codependent relationship that developed and from what I hear still exists. Was I part of the dysfunction, you bet I was a part. I buried the abuse and I was not who I was meant to be. I caused pain and hurt. I accept it as I have moved beyond the pain of the denials, being spat on, locke in a room, etc. because if I let their actions control me, they will control me.

My father was an alcoholic. He was rough at times, said hurtful words. He sobered up when I was in my early teens. I was hurt for years. Once he sobered up I go to know him, a funny and kind guy. His father was an alcoholic and was horrible to my grandmother. My aunt openly speaks of what he did to my grandmother. No secrets, no lies. Over the years I became close to my father. One day I was taking him home from dialysis and he was talking about coffee he had with the guys. One of the men told of how two of his sons suffered from abuse by a priest. My father asked if I had been as I was altar boy around the same time. I was taken back thinking I have not hid it well. He said if it did and when I was ready he was here me. My mother was more distant. But in the end I realized hiding the dysfunction only makes the dysfunction worse.

I understand dysfunction, I have lived dysfunction and through therapy and support I have come to accept it was part of my life and also understand the dysfunction my parents and in-laws lived. I hope more people talk about it, discuss it and accept everyone has been messed up in some way. I believe no one gets the perfect life--it is those who embrace their dysfunction so they do not let it control their lives. Sadly, I wish I understood this years ago instead of learning from therapy and healing from CSA so as not to pass it on to the next generation.

I hope you can find some peace and remember what you lived is your life. You can strive to control how it moves forward. One last thought, most of the people have good qualities but denial of the dysfunctional and/or abusive qualities can negate the good.

Kevin
 
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Grunty1967b

Registrant
Kevin,

You shared a lot and helped paint the picture of the many ways and depths in which dysfunction can live in families. As you admonished, if we can help stop the cycle we have done a great thing.

I’m especially pleased (for you) to hear how your dad expressed concern that perhaps you may have been abused as a child. Moreso, even better that he has offered to support and help if needed. Man, I hope you cherish that heartfelt offer even if it’s never actioned.

Warm regards,
Bruce
 

MO-Survivor

Staff member
Kevin,

You shared a lot and helped paint the picture of the many ways and depths in which dysfunction can live in families. As you admonished, if we can help stop the cycle we have done a great thing.
Bruce, yes!! And I have seen time and time again here where men took the role of father and dad seriously for their children, and have broken the cycle. Of course, I have also seen men assess their relationship with their kids (their sons, in particular) and realize they were not as able to give emotionally as they would have wanted. But even there, some have tried to correct this 1:1 by sharing their past with their son(s) to bring understanding and to open the door to future emotional expansion in their relationship.

I'm also with you: when someone else here shares how supportive, empathetic, and nurturing their parents were in response to their revelation of the sexual abuse they suffered (usually it's a situation where the abuse was perpetrated by someone well outside the family), I am both very happy for them and also jealous of them - because the longing still exists inside me for my parents to do the same. It's a reminder of that unfulfilled childhood longing. To expand on that a little, I have to ask: "What does the little boy and teen in me wish for? What would it have looked like for my parents to proactively respond with what I needed instead of dysfunction?"

To answer that I would have to go back to two significant moments in my life and think about what I really wanted as an outcome:
  1. The day when I was 12 that I told my dad he'd better stop the abuse or I would tell my mom
  2. The day I came home from school at 17 and told my dad I wanted to talk to a psychologist about the abuse. He promptly told my mom that same day what he had done (very high-level, of course)
High-level I would have wanted my parents to by the parents (instead of me), and to do the right thing to protect and help me. But they did not. Instead, my dad shifted into "covert" abuse mode (while I was sleeping; I woke up once and yelled at him: "Get out of here!") at age 12, and both shifted into scared shitless mode at age 17 - although mom did take me to the psychologist for a short time.
 

KMCINVA

Staff member
Kevin,

You shared a lot and helped paint the picture of the many ways and depths in which dysfunction can live in families. As you admonished, if we can help stop the cycle we have done a great thing.

I’m especially pleased (for you) to hear how your dad expressed concern that perhaps you may have been abused as a child. Moreso, even better that he has offered to support and help if needed. Man, I hope you cherish that heartfelt offer even if it’s never actioned.

Warm regards,
Bruce
I think families believe the dysfunction is normal and does not impact children or influences a child's behavior and how they treat others. Several doctors said my father-in-law became the verbal punching bag and I the total punching bag. I made mistakes and created dysfunctional situations. Sadly, once a child has control over a parent because the other parent supports the child instead of spouse the gloves are off. My ex and siblings and his wife and brother-in-law would say he did not have a sense of humor as he walked away. Some would wave him goodbye. The mother should have put a stop to it and have gone to her husband instead of congregating with the children. My ex learned. My mother-in-law had a good heart and did not realize putting children first impacted the family and future generations. My ex would say she felt sorry for her sister's husband because of how she treated him. It was like pot calling the kettle black. They both had wonderful attributes and did not realize the damage their actions caused.

I remember two of the children as young adults crying and begging please love me when their mother would say I am not talking with youand leave her alone. The doctors have said the children's need for forgiveness by crying and begging showed the control she had because of fear she would leave them again. Only they can work through it but denial is their mode of operations.

Truly, I wish I knew what I learned in therapy and support groups years ago because life could have been different--but it cannot be changed. It has allowed me to accept what I lived. I have prayed the ex and children would get help so they can have meaningful and honest relationships and happiness. Only they can seek the help they need.

Sadly, in your situation and others the dysfunction evolved into CSA--a despicable act. I am glad you are working through it.

Kevin

Kevin
 
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