Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves

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all4peace

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Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« on: May 17, 2018, 01:14:04 AM »
Two threads in 2 min--wow!

My T is sharing some of his story, in aid of me working through the details of mine. What struck me is that when he shared a few details to give context, my instinct was that his examples were "less than" what DH and I have faced in our families. Please let me rush to say I don't mean this in a minimizing way. All pain is painful. I mean it in the sense of "Oh my goodness, if my wonderful T felt this was enough to cause him to step up and protect his family, then I have been woefully under-protective!"

I'm thankful for this message yet again. Over and over, as I look into the past with DH's family and mine, I actually don't think I over-reacted. I think I dreadfully and belatedly under-reacted. And it makes me sad I still need "permission" to see their behavior as bad.

Just last T visit I told T that "M hasn't done anything in adult life that would justify me ending my relationship with her" and then left, started thinking, and came up with actually dozens of really rotten and ugly things she has done in my adult life. If they were done to ANYone else but me, I would be sickened by them. They count, and yet somehow I don't count them when they happen to me.

But here's the other thing--my body really does know. My gut, my intuition and my body have known all along. I fought all of them. I preferred to see myself as "intolerant, unkind, impatient" or other adjectives than simply face the fact that I was in the presence of a person with a really unhealthy character, and everything I was feeling I was SUPPOSED to be feeling.

I've touched on this in other threads, but it has come to me so often in the last year--abusive PD parents destroy our ability to protect ourselves. I see it in my siblings, I see it in DH, and I see it in myself. My kids have a solid sense of boundaries, their voices, their rights--and I didn't even know the concept of boundaries until approximately 2 years ago. They know it because they haven't had it shouted or beaten out of them, and they have been allowed a voice, taught their physical rights, and had their little (now big) selves treated with dignity their entire lives. They know how to protect themselves, and it simply wouldn't occur to them not to. In fact, when I started finally learning self-protection, I tried to teach it to them, and they looked at me blankly because they already knew these things and it was puzzling to them that I didn't.

I'm wandering around here, but hopefully you're able to follow along. When we've had our self-protective instincts destroyed, we need someone outside of us to say "Enough!" We need someone outside of us to validate how bad it is. And when we start believing that voice, over and over and over again, and we start to heal and get stronger and healthier, then we can internalize that voice. And we can start to say to ourselves instead "I count. I matter. I hurt, bleed, and cry. And I simply refuse to take any more."

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truthseeker4life

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2018, 01:35:49 AM »
"And I simply refuse to take any more."

Here, here!

I am listening to myself finally. Feel like I am just starting the journey and should have been here in my youth (like your kids all4peace) but here I am. Better late than never.

The "not having permission to stand up for myself" made for some horrendous relationships let me tell you.

When you are abused in whatever fashion as a child you allow yourself to be abused by others as you get older.

It feels familiar.

It's that "deer in the headlights" - what was that? oh it is bad - but I won't do or say anything because that's all I have ever done.

Take it.

And disassociate.

And shove the feelings down deep.

Become depressed.

Become anxious.

But not know why.

Thank you for this post.

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daughter

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2018, 10:58:59 AM »
A4P: you're so right about "needing permission", not only to protect ourselves, but to also stop placing ourselves in that vulnerable position of requiring us to be reliably receptive and always accepting of our parents' stance of "we can say and do whatever we want, we're the boss of you".  I've had to work long and hard to stop placing myself into vulnerable position of serving as receptive victim of someone else's bullying, or task-mastering, or trash-talking, to understand that vulnerability came from my life-experiences of undergoing same abuse from my parents.

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stasia

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2018, 12:52:04 PM »
Thanks so much for posting this. You're absolutely right and I see a lot of myself in this.

I have a hard time giving myself permission to protect myself because it feels selfish. It means I am thinking about my own needs instead of M's, and I was taught that is WRONG. Because she's old, she's widowed, she's alone, she's broke, she was married for 40 years to an abusive alcoholic who got dementia and needed her 24/7 care, no one cares about her, no one is there to help her, these 8 gazillion cats just *turned up* at her house and now she is bound to care for them forever with NO HELP, etc. The list goes on and on.

"Why don't you think about someone else for a change?" is something I heard often as a child. Recently in a therapy session I recalled another gem that I heard often as a kid: "Don't think about whether you like doing it or not, just do it." When I think about my choice to go NC and stop giving M emotional support and soothing and logistical help (basically being her own personal Google/Alexa and talking her through her hysterics every time a bill comes in the mail), I hear both of these statements blaring in my head. It is hard to feel like I have "permission" to step away when my brain is screaming at me that if I could just be stronger and stop thinking about myself so much, I'd be perfectly happy to serve M and could just ignore any bad feelings it gives me.

Boyfriend, my T, and you folks here have been immensely helpful in validating that yes, it really is that bad, and no, I don't have to put up with it. It's harder to get my brain to really believe it, though.

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Tried2bZen

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2018, 05:19:52 PM »
I would say whenever someone even thinks along the lines of "M hasn't done anything in adult life that would justify me ending my relationship with her" - it probably is pretty good implication that there are indeed pretty and plenty good reasons...

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all4peace

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2018, 05:26:58 PM »
I would say whenever someone even thinks along the lines of "M hasn't done anything in adult life that would justify me ending my relationship with her" - it probably is pretty good implication that there are indeed pretty and plenty good reasons...
Are you willing to explain your reasoning?

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Memyself

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2018, 05:33:22 PM »
Quote
When we've had our self-protective instincts destroyed, we need someone outside of us to say "Enough!" We need someone outside of us to validate how bad it is. And when we start believing that voice, over and over and over again, and we start to heal and get stronger and healthier, then we can internalize that voice. And we can start to say to ourselves instead "I count. I matter. I hurt, bleed, and cry. And I simply refuse to take any more."

 :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause:

YES!  Exactly!  I *needed* my T to tell me, "you've been brainwashed!" "you need to say, 'see ya' to your parents!"  I couldn't believe it at the time, and I couldn't say good bye for five more years, but his permission never left me and helped me when I finally said, "ENOUGH!" and went quietly into NC.

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Amadahy

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2018, 05:45:34 PM »
Thank you for this, all4peace!  We do matter!

I think I resisted thinking things were awful because to do so would make me feel motherless, in a way.  There's a lot of fear, sadness and shame in that, but I am working through that as I reparent myself and individuate. 

It is one of my hugest blessings and accomplishments that I stopped an abuse cycle several generations long and helped raise three capable, emotionally healthy, wonderful young men.  I am in awe of both the ease of their interactions and the deficits of my sad childhood.

:hug:
Ring the bells that still can ring;
Forget your perfect offering.
There's a crack in everything ~~
That's how the Light gets in!

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KD5FUL

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2018, 06:10:03 PM »
I really relate to your post.

I stayed with (now ex) PDh for many years and made many, many excuses for him.  If the abuse had happened to someone that I loved I would have insisted that they get away from their partner.  Yet it took me a LONG time to get myself out of that situation.

In working with my T, I realized that I was only willing to be in a relationship like that in the first place because of the abuse of my PD parents.
Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Now I am working on healing my core wounds from a terribly abusive and neglectful childhood.  It's definitely not easy.   

But I am also at the point of  "And I simply refuse to take any more." 

I refuse to take anymore from ANYONE.  I am VLC with PD parents, I am NC with FM sisters, I see PD traits in other people at work or in social groups and I just steer clear of them.  Enough is enough!

לפום צערא אגרא

A victim of abuse who suffers in silence will suffer the most.

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Tried2bZen

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2018, 06:28:55 PM »
Sure, let me try. My thinking is based on people that - unlike us - have "normal parents" without PDs.

So if you would have loving and caring parents, you would probably never have thoughts like if you would have a reason or sufficient reason to go NC. Just as you were saying: you did actually uncover quite a few good reasons. Sorry if I was confusing I meant to be supportive in every way!

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Starboard Song

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2018, 06:59:26 PM »
I would say whenever someone even thinks along the lines of "M hasn't done anything in adult life that would justify me ending my relationship with her" - it probably is pretty good implication that there are indeed pretty and plenty good reasons...

I know this one!

All4Peace, key to this line is that the person is thinking it: so, arguing with themselves.

I once explained it this way: if I went to a business conference, and found myself really attracted to the woman next to me on the plane, that's nothing, really. But if over the course of several days and several women a pattern emerged, that I found myself interested and intrigued by all of them, I'd have to accept the natural conclusion. Clearly, while I may not have realized it before, there must be a problem with my marriage, and I would need to address it.

Similarly, most people go their whole lives without having to weigh pros and cons on a gram scale, trying to decide whether they ought to go NC with someone in their immediate family. If you have found yourself considering such a question more than once, and over time, something is very wrong.

This is not dispositive: it doesn't tell you what to do. To say otherwise would be to reject our responsibility for disciplined thinking. We can't be so self-indulgent as that. But, yeah, it is totally fair: if you have to actually say the words to yourself, if you have to make an argument to yourself that you shouldn't go NC with a parent, then you are certainly not wrong to be considering it, and something got you there.

I'm in a bad mood today, though. So maybe I've gone wobbly. I just think it would helpful to observe what a small percent of people ever even dream of such a thing, or have to.

Stay strong! Stay good!

Radical Acceptance, by Brach   |   Self-Compassion, by Neff    |   Mindfulness, by Williams   |   The Book of Joy, by the Dalai Lama and Tutu
Healing From Family Rifts, by Sichel   |  Stop Walking on Egshells, by Mason    |    Emotional Blackmail, by Susan Forward

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daughterofbpd

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2018, 08:42:10 PM »
Very well worded. As an adult who no longer lived at home, I would sometimes be subjected to an hours long rage session at my parents' house. For some reason, I never thought that going home was an option. I thought I had to sit there and hear her out until she calmed down. I endured hours of abuse. When it happened on my LO's first Easter, I stayed much longer than I should have, but I did leave. Even if I couldn't see it for myself at the time, I knew I had to protect my LO from that. Sis and I left before Easter dinner and it felt like I was doing the worst thing in the world. But it was the right thing. I found some resources and this site shortly after and I finally got my "permission."
“How starved you must have been that my heart became a meal for your ego”
~ Amanda Torroni

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illogical

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2018, 11:08:06 PM »
...When we've had our self-protective instincts destroyed, we need someone outside of us to say "Enough!" We need someone outside of us to validate how bad it is. And when we start believing that voice, over and over and over again, and we start to heal and get stronger and healthier, then we can internalize that voice. And we can start to say to ourselves instead "I count. I matter. I hurt, bleed, and cry. And I simply refuse to take any more."

For me, all4peace, I had a different experience.  I really didn't need anyone to give me permission to say "Enough!"  For me, it was reaching my limit on the abuse.  One day-- I remember it well-- I was walking down the stairs in my house and I said, about midway down, "I'm not going to put up with this abuse anymore.  VLC is not working for me.  I feel battle-weary trying to engineer any contact.  The least little bit of contact is like drinking more poison, even if only a few drops, and I'm not going to do it anymore.  I'm worth more than that."

So in my case, I had intellectually internalized the realization that to change my NM was futile, but not really gotten there emotionally until she kept on and on and on and I did say "Enough!"  I might add that I'm not a "people pleaser" (not saying you are), but just someone who felt the strong pull of obligation and then finally reached my limit.  Also, I would add that my mental and physical health had suffered greatly before I went NC.
"Applying logic to potentially illogical behaviour is to construct a house on shifting foundations.  The structure will inevitably collapse."

__Stewart Stafford

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all4peace

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #13 on: May 23, 2018, 11:43:13 AM »
truthseeker4life, dissociation came up in my last therapy session. I've done so much reading on trauma and our nervous systems, and it's incredible the way we learn to cope as children, and then hopefully recognize the need for help to unlearn and rewire all of that in adulthood.

daughter, you touch on the vulnerable spot we are in as children or adult children. You're right, not everything is about us being attacked, but sometimes about the expectations and burdens that are placed on our shoulders with no reciprocal help or love from our parents to balance it out. And the need to realize we're allowed to take that off our shoulders and step away.

stasia, what a message from your childhood! It's no wonder it often gets to a really bad place before the children of PDs finally step away.

memyself, I'm glad for your that your T was willing to clearly state that to you! Mine said "Your parents are not safe and not eligible for reconciliation at this time." I'm thankful for that also.

amadahy, it is hard. Sometimes I feel unlovable or contaminated because it seems hard to believe that we have nearly no parental relationships. It MUST be our fault! And I'm weary of going back through the years to remind myself, yet again, of how bad it actually was. I'm so glad you have 3 wonderful adult children! I have also found comfort in stopping the pattern. It helps ease the grief.

KD5ful, sometimes I think we simply have a lifetime limit for abuse, and when we've had PD parents maybe we reach our limit sooner than others. Regardless, I'm glad you're on a healthy path!

tried2bzen, thank you! That's what I thought you meant but wanted to check first. And I agree with you. If I heard someone else say it, it would be a red flag to me for that relationship and why they would feel the need to say that at all.  You didn't seem unsupportive whatsoever :hug:

starboard_song, that's a really interesting point. Obvious and I totally missed it. I don't argue inside my head about my relationships with DH, our kids, our friends. Very interesting and something I will pay attention to in the future as a possible sign that something is very wrong, even if I'm in denial about that on other levels.

daughterofbpd, that sounds horrid! I'm so thankful you found this site and have appreciated your posts many times. It's heart warming how often people here report that having their own children finally opened their eyes to how bad it was with their PD parents.

illogical, there really is a last straw. I wonder how many of us have the relationship eroding for a very long time before we finally recognize how deteriorated it has become. I'm glad you were able to stop, and sorry your health had suffered by that point.

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BraveSheep

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #14 on: May 23, 2018, 09:29:28 PM »
Hi All4peace, thanks for putting that into words and sharing it. When I read it I got the feeling that this is what I'd been trying to tell myself, but couldn't find the words. What a relief. I think I'll read it a few more times. Cheers BraveSheep :)

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LSK1999

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #15 on: May 23, 2018, 11:58:03 PM »
Hi all4peace, I always love your posts and this one is no exception! It was weird because I just commented on another post and then read this one and I just read something interesting about exactly this topic. I can't remember where (my life is now self-help books) but it discussed the fact that our inability to protect ourselves was a defense mechanism in itself. Because abuse at the hands of a parent is met with greater abuse if we fight back. This rung so true to me and I think it has a lot of merit. Especially when I hold it up to my experiences. My mom's rages were terrifying and so was her abuse, but if I dared fight back....OH NO!! This incited her rage like nothing else. So it makes sense to me that turning off the part of us that fights back was a defense mechanism, it protected us from even greater abuse. I shutter to think what may have become of me if I had tried to fight back as a child. Anyway...thanks so much for the post!

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WomanInterrupted

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #16 on: May 24, 2018, 02:17:41 AM »
I agree with so much that's been written!   :)

As a child, I had to sit there and take unBPD Didi and unNPD Ray's abuse.  For years after I moved out, they were reasonably stable - whatever that can mean on Planet PD  :doh:, but their abuse mostly landed on others, whom they wound up alienating. 

But there came a time in '04 when Ray had a heart attack - he was on the healthy side of 77 and she was on the really unhealthy side of 70, so she expected me to wait on her hand and foot, run her to the hospital daily, and spend nearly every waking moment with her - leaving little to NO time for me and my FOC.  :stars:

It never occurred to me to say, "No."  It never occurred to me to protect myself.  It DID occur to me that Didi was abusing my time, good graces, my every last nerve and really taking advantage of me, but I was still afraid of her.  What if she raged?  What if she threatened suicide!?  What if she screamed at me and had a tantrum, or slapped me in a fit of anger?

12+ hours a day, for a month straight, not a single, "Thank you" - and only demands for MORE, BETTER, higher!  Faster!  Gimmeeeeeee gimme gimme, get get get!   :aaauuugh:

I had a stroke of luck - my car died and I got a few days off for a WELL deserved reality check and realized it wasn't just the car that was falling apart - I was, too.   :phoot:

That didn't go down well with Didi, who FORBADE me from having surgery because *she needed me to care for Ray.*  She didn't WANT to care for him and it was MY JOB, since he was MY FATHER.

Never mind he was HER husband.   :roll:

I had the surgery, she was incandescent, gave me the ST and I decided I liked it so much that I wasn't falling back into the old trap - and even lied to her and told her I couldn't drive when she expected me to now push TWO wheel chairs to ALL Ray's appointments.   :ninja:

The surgery was the first time I gave myself permission to protect myself.  The second was lying to her about not being able to drive.   :uhhuh:

But I realized something was *really* wrong with this dynamic and most people weren't afraid of their mother's wrath - and most mothers weren't as demanding and unyielding as Didi.

Flash forward ten years.  I'd been reading here for a while, but I don't think I was posting yet - however, just reading gave me the courage to protect myself when a potential rerun of the whole '04 scenario with Ray came up - after insisting Didi call an ambulance for what she insisted were Ray' s made-up problems (they weren't!) and *insisting it was a medical emergency* - she called to tell me they were keeping Ray to put in a pacemaker - when was I coming to pick her up?   :roll:

My mind flashed back to '04 and how well THAT turned out for me, and I fought the scared little girl who wanted to say, "Yes, mommy - I'll be there in an hour so I can wait for you to eventually mosey yourself out the door" - took a DEEP cleansing breath and told her no.

She RAGED.

I held my ground.  I can't do it.

She threatened suicide.  I told her I'd call the paramedics if she ever did it again.

She demanded.  I held my ground.  She ORDERED me.  I held my ground.  She then BEGGED and PLEADED.

By now I was getting a little disgusted and said, "I've already told you no and I'm not changing my mind.  I have to go.  This is no longer a discussion."

I hung up and could NOT believe I just did that, and kind of disassociated and had a day-long anxiety attack, but I kept repeating to the cats, "I did it.  I did it.  I stood up to her and said no, and the world didn't end."

I gave myself permission to protect myself.   :woohoo:

But yes, I DID have to give myself permission.  I had to *allow* myself to say, "I matter just as much as she does, even though she tells me through her words and actions that I don't."

It was the start of a long, strange trip - but I always gave myself permission to protect myself, which is why I'm still here and still what you might consider moderately sane.   :bigwink:

 :hug:

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all4peace

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #17 on: May 24, 2018, 11:01:27 AM »
LSK1999, thank you! It is really helpful for me to understand this as a useful protective mechanism, rather than a disorder or dysfunction.  It has been dawning on me for years now that I and my siblings are woefully unable to protect ourselves. Of course in childhood any self protection was met with even more rage. If we held our hands up to block a blow to our face, uNBPDm would scream that we were hitting her. You simply did.not.protect.yourself. As a mother myself, and an observer of nature and humans, I see this as a most horrific instinct to drive out of another human, their natural, necessary instinct for self protection.

It really helps me to be able to think "It would have been more dangerous for me as a child to self protect, so I was actually protecting myself by not fighting back. And now I'm no longer a child, I'm in my adult mind and body and I am allowed and obligated to protect myself and my family." Thank you!

WomanInterrupted, I am so glad to read your back story. You are so full of strength, humor and sass that it just makes me feel teary to understand how long and painful this journey has been for you. You really can say "If I can do it, so can you!" Your "parents" really did a ton of damage, really used and abused you. I'm thankful that you found your way out and continue to help the rest of us find our way also. :hug:

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lightworld

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #18 on: May 24, 2018, 11:28:53 AM »
Oh this is so spot on all4peace thank you. It's hard to see how abnormal a situation is when you are living it. A good friend , with a PD father herself said to me once, if you heard someone talk about behaviour like that, would you think it was acceptable? Would you advise them to ignore it because their parent is old and just get on with it?

It helped me see that what I feel and what I experience is valid and real. That the feeling  of having done something terrible (by not having contact) comes from childhood and is no longer necessary. It's OK to be angry, upset and take some time away from any contact to heal or to break away completely. It's our choice and we are 'allowed' to make it, we have that right as a human along with the right to be respected to be treated decently.

It's so good to know your kids have grown up expecting to get respect and to have boundaries. I think it's heroic that some of us, having suffered abuse can bring up such  well adjusted children. It's just wonderful.
An empathic, highly sensitive, caring, loving, naïve, emotional and vulnerable child is a prime target for a narcissistic parent
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Sun

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Re: Needing Permission to Protect Ourselves
« Reply #19 on: May 24, 2018, 12:29:22 PM »
Great thread and some wonderful insights here.

It took a friend to point out that my relationship with my mother was not normal. Unfortunately that friend was likely BPD so managed to make me feel like there was something weak about me when she said it.

Many years and 2 children later, my T said a similar thing, but much more kindly.  Sadly i had already not protected my then young children from some of her bullying :(