Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents

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gettingstronger1

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Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« on: November 03, 2019, 01:30:03 AM »
Have you ever wondered to yourself:

They fed me, clothed me, and gave me an education.   No one hit me or touched me sexually.  Why do I feel so bad in regard to my parents?  I know in my heart something is wrong with the way my parents treated me, but society tells me I wasn't abused.

Unfortunately, many people in society think that the only abuse that is damaging is physical and sexual abuse.  They believe you have to be hit in order for it to count as abuse.  I believe that emotional abuse is also damaging.   Emotional abuse and especially covert (hidden abuse) is still widely accepted in the in the world.  Think about shows such as Married With Children that trivialize and normalize emotional abuse within families. 

In past therapy, I wondered "Is what happened to me abuse?"  I bought into society's belief that emotional abuse was no big deal and didn't matter.  Through reading and therapy I began to realize emotional abuse matters too because it completely destroys the child's self-esteem which leads to terrible problems with chronic depression as an adult.  The problem is that a large percentage of emotional abuse is covert or hidden.   A large percentage of communication between human beings is non verbal through body language.  It is completely possible to communicate to another human being that they are worthless with out saying a word.  The silent treatment is a very serious form of emotional abuse.  It is emotional abuse without the use of words.  My PD mother was queen of the silent treatment.  Whenever she was mad she refused to speak to me.  This went on for most of my childhood and teen years.  I didn't realize until I was an adult and had my own children that my mom abused me.  After I had my own kids, it became very clear to me that I would NEVER treat my children they way my mom treated me.   I wouldn't dream of giving the silent treatment to, or slut shaming my daughter.  I would feel horrible if I did something like that to my daughter.  Then I realized, I also deserved better, and yes it was abuse.   It wasn't until I was in my 40's, that I found articles that explained that the silent treatment is indeed emotional abuse.  The intent of the silent treatment is to destroy a child's self esteem so they can be dominated and controlled.  Like I mentioned earlier, this wasn't my mom's only form of abuse of me.  She was also slut shamed me during my teens and twenties. The slut shaming went on for over a decade.  Sometimes she slut shammed me openly and verbally, and sometimes silently, but I knew exactly what she meant.  When I got married and had children, PD mom moved on to criticizing and shaming me because of my parenting. One day she shamed me for daring to go for my first 20 minute walk around the block when my baby was two months old.  My husband was holding our baby and this was the first time I had left for 20 minutes.  When I came back, the house was in an uproar because I took a 20 minute walk.  My mom was screaming at my sister about my leaving and my sister was screaming right back at her for being so crazy.  I walked back in an wondered what the hell had happened??   :stars:

I have mentioned her book before, and I can't say enough about Shannon Thomas, LCSW book called "Healing From Hidden Abuse."  It's a great book that explains covert emotional abuse which is pervasive in families where the abusive parent is very concerned about their public image. 

 https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0997829087/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

The link below, contains a good article that explains that the silent treatment is indeed a form of emotional abuse.  The silent treatment would fall under the category of covert (hidden) emotional abuse.  It is a form of abuse that is easily denied by the abuser. 

http://affinitymagazine.us/2017/11/27/the-silent-treatment-is-an-damaging-way-to-punish-children/

I hope that the above book and article can help you and bring much more needed attention to the topic of covert emotional abuse.  I don't think many people even know what covert emotional abuse is, but the irony is that it is everywhere in our society and it is rarely recognized, questioned, or called out.

Has any one else on this forum also experienced covert or hidden emotional abuse?  Do you feel there needs to be a greater awareness in society that emotional abuse matters too?   :pissed:

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Fortuna

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2019, 09:11:33 AM »
My mom was the ignoring type of Narcissist (undiagnosed but that's what symptoms she showed), so they would laugh about how as a toddler, when I was tired I would put myself to bed by laying under the crib. They thought it was cute. :sadno: As an adult with kids I read that as no one paid enough attention to be aware the only child in the house was tired and instead of trying to focus their attention on me I gave up and was willing to sleep on the cold wood floor because no one cared enough to put me in a crib and tuck me in with a blanket.
I don't remember much about my childhood. I remember thinking it was good, And I remember some weird comments from my mother that were off. But nothing big.
I am only now seeing the abuse as an adult. As I have put boundaries in place and she's hopped right over them citing some technicality, the mere fact I've told her the boundary was crossed has led to her calling me manipulative, immature, that my thoughts are not connected to reality, and telling me she thinks that I think horrible things about her. (wanting her dead, not loving her...)  :o
As she pushes the buttons she must have set there in childhood I see that there must have been something, some kind of repeated abuse to make me feel like I deserve to be made to feel small and never good enough to take a ton of abuse from her even as I offered to host her for the holidays and just had a small issue with the dates she decided to book without telling me. I wouldn't tolerate this from anyone else. I know she uses the silent treatment now, so she must have when I was a kid, but since I was quiet and a little obtuse  probably only registered it as my mom finally not talking.
Thanks for posting the article and book. Off to take a look now.

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DreamingofQuiet

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2019, 04:33:38 PM »
GettingStronger1,

Thank you so much for this message, and in answer to your questions, yes all the way. I will for sure check out the book you mention. This is just the message I needed today!

Pretty much everything I experienced was covert. I've had an extremely hard time recognizing it as abusive, to this day. Even on boards like this. I post and, my inner critic tells me everyone who reads it thinks I'm full of cr#p nd that I'm a spoiled ungrateful brat.

A big part of the covert abuse I experienced had to do with my mother telling me all about her difficult childhood and then telling me how lucky I was in comparison. I couldn't just live my own life and have all my feelings, good and bad. Her story was always hanging over my head, like the Sword of Damocles, and the message was that my role was to witness that story and never complain. I had nothing to complain about, according to the hidden message, and the fact that I had negative feelings led me to believe I was a very bad girl indeed. And then, because I had no where to go with these feelings and felt like I had no right to them, I had to do a lot of suppression. I felt like a toxic waste dump when I first entered therapy. I was full of suppressed negative feelings and also my mother's negative feelings as I was a favorite ventee, I.e. emotional dumping ground.

Fortuna, your story breaks my heart. You are absolutely correct in your adult perception. What callous neglect. It's mind-boggling. The fact that you don't remember much of your childhood is a big red flag. Your subconscious may be protecting you from remembering. I hope you find/have found the love and support you deserved as a baby now as an adult. Hugs to you and your inner child.

DoQ

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gettingstronger1

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2019, 03:14:08 AM »
Fortuna and DreamingofQuiet,

Thanks for responding to my post.  :)  I am sorry it took me so long to respond.  It has been a busy couple of days.  I am sorry that both of you experienced covert (hidden) emotional abuse.  Because a large percentage of the emotional abuse I experienced was covert and easily deniable, it really took me a very long time to identify it, realize that it mattered too, and to come to terms with it.  Once I figured out the covert nature of the abuse and the manipulations that came along with it, I decided one of my goals in life was to educate and help others who were going through the same thing and felt as confused as I used to.  By educating and supporting others, I am hoping some good came come out of the bad.  I am also hoping, I can help their grieving and recovery time to be shorter so they can move on and enjoy a truly happy life.

Quote from: Dreamingof Quiet
Pretty much everything I experienced was covert. I've had an extremely hard time recognizing it as abusive, to this day. Even on boards like this. I post and, my inner critic tells me everyone who reads it thinks I'm full of cr#p nd that I'm a spoiled ungrateful brat.

You are definitely not full of crap nor are you spoiled.  Those may have been some of the covert or possibly overt messages your parents gave you as a child.  Abusive parents belittle and shame their kids so that they can maintain power and control over them.  Things like the silent treatment are meant to belittle and demean so they can control.  Abuse of all kinds is about power and control.  DreamingofQuiet and Fortuna, the abuse you suffered at the hands of your parents is just as significant.  If your parents repeatedly damaged your self-esteem and self worth, then that is abuse and your experience matters too.  Please keep coming back to the forum to read and learn.  We are here to support you and help you in your journey. Best wishes always.   :cheer:

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Ladymm

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2019, 06:44:04 AM »
Im in the same boat, too. I ask myself, how can one believe in oneself when the society doesn't have the idea what consequences emotional abuse causes. Also the people I try to confide in are often judgemental,but I found out they can't understand.

If one is sexually or phisycally abused, the society shows empathy, because it is taught so. But the outsiders cant imagine what exactly are the psychological consequences of these two types of abuse, and even less know that emotional  abuse causes some effects that are the same like in the two others kinds of abuse. This is a result of psychological research, not just me wanting to appear victim. They even call some forms of enmeshment "covert incest" because the consequences are similiar to a situation where physical incest occurs.

One has to deal with it. Be alone and be sure of themselves. Its no easy task, we are all creatures who try to fit in, its a natural instinct and hence feeling emancipated with your views is no easy task. I really hope there is some kind of closure before the abusive parents die, because this would mean long years of emotional pain.

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capybara

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2019, 01:15:48 PM »
GettingStronger1,

A big part of the covert abuse I experienced had to do with my mother telling me all about her difficult childhood and then telling me how lucky I was in comparison. I couldn't just live my own life and have all my feelings, good and bad. Her story was always hanging over my head, like the Sword of Damocles, and the message was that my role was to witness that story and never complain. I had nothing to complain about, according to the hidden message, and the fact that I had negative feelings led me to believe I was a very bad girl indeed. And then, because I had no where to go with these feelings and felt like I had no right to them, I had to do a lot of suppression.

DoQ


 :yeahthat: I have heard so much about the difficult times my mom went through when she was very young, and also the suffering of other family members - even of someone who didn't marry into my family until may decades after the suffering was over. The message was always "I had REAL hardships, and worked hard to give you your opportunities, so..." I took away the message that I was weak and lazy, and also that I needed to succeed in my mother's place so she could show me off like a trophy. The part about needing to succeed, and what to aim for, was also spelled out for me at times.

My mother is a pillar of the community so it's very isolating to feel like yes, her behaviour was selfish and controlling and damaging to me.

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gettingstronger1

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2019, 12:07:05 AM »
Ladymm and capybara,

I am sorry to hear that you both are dealing with covert emotional abuse.  It is extremely painful and confusing.

Quote from: Ladymm
I ask myself, how can one believe in oneself when the society doesn't have the idea what consequences emotional abuse causes. Also the people I try to confide in are often judgemental,but I found out they can't understand.

You are right in your observation that society doesn't have any idea of the effect that emotional abuse has on survivors as adults. People still buy into the belief that so long as no one is hit or loudly cussed out then there is no abuse.  The problem with covert emotional abuse is that parents criticize and shame their children on a regular basis.  All of this is done under the guise of "good parenting."  The criticizing and shaming ends up destroying the child's self esteem.  Sometime during their childhood or teenage years the abused child can start to develop symptoms from the long term abuse.  Some people develop chronic depression that doesn't get treated while they are living with their abusive parents.  This depression continues long into adulthood and can be debilitating for some people.  Some people with deep depression are literally unable to get out of bed and take a shower.  Many emotionally abused people can become so depressed that they develop suicidal thoughts.  Some abused children develop chronic anxiety or anger problems.  This is why I feel it is very important to bring attention to the importance of emotional abuse.  Emotional abuse matters too, and sometimes it can be deadly.  Emotional abuse is also rampant and very accepted in society.  Because emotional abuse is so rampant and accepted, it is very important for survivors to work to get the message out to people in society that emotional abuse matters too, and it needs to be socially unacceptable to emotionally abuse people. 

Quote from: capybara
My mother is a pillar of the community so it's very isolating to feel like yes, her behaviour was selfish and controlling and damaging to me.

It is very frustrating when your abuser is the pillar of the community.  If you told anyone outside of the house what was going on inside the house they would think you are absolutely nuts. Many covertly abusive parents work very hard to develop and protect their public persona of being the good wife and mother.  Both my mother and mother in law worked very hard to maintain the public image of a good wife and catholic mother.  My mother had her reserved spot in the 2nd row at Sunday mass.  My mother in law was the pillar of the community with her volunteer work and position as head of the school board.  It's almost impossible to share your truth, because their public image is so strongly cultivated. It can be very frustrating.  :stars:




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Ladymm

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2019, 10:27:55 AM »
This is a good topic!

Gettingstronger,

you are spot on with your observations!
I find it very helpful that I found this forum and I also feel like a spoiled brat sometimes and no one belives me (Like Dreamingofquiet wrote). But nonetheless I like this forum because the main subject is emotional abuse and it makes me feel I am not some weirdo. Almost everything I read I xan somehow relate to. But in real life I have many people who are or not very emphatic or dont have the same experience. But my belief is that one doesnt need a certain experience to be empathic. I lost some friendships in the last time but dont feel lonely becaus of that. I would in my heart of hearts like to ne around different kind of people as I am now and were in the past.
Also my mother has a role in the community and she did this she did that. Funny enough for 20 years she thought all her neighbours were mean people (and in my opinon many of them were) and now magically when she gets ego boost from assuming a role in the village community they are best friends.
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Hazy111

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2019, 12:42:53 PM »
Late to this thread, but can totally relate. Most abuse is emotional but so hard to pin down. When my T asked how my mom showed me affection? warmth? security? Actual Love??!!. Well i sort of muttered she fed me and clothed me!  This is the bare minimum for a parent, like you would a pet. 

The book  "The Narcissitic Family"? deals with it. I think its for therapists but i have a copy. Others have mentioned it on this forum , as therapists were constantly dealing with people who didnt have "conventionally " abusive families, but were similar to children brought up by alcoholic parents, it was abuse by neglect compounded by verbal/emotional abuse by self obsessed PD parents who presented as "normal"??


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Emberleaf

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2019, 12:41:44 AM »
I just wanted to chime in about the book Healing from Hidden Abuse...

It is one of the only books I have found to truly address covert abuse and aggression.

My experience with my inlaws set me on a journey of learning more since it can be so bewildering and painful.

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gettingstronger1

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2019, 01:14:12 AM »
Ladymm, I am glad this post on emotional abuse was helpful to you.  Thank you also for your kind words.  That means a lot to me.

Hazy111, when you talk about the bare minimum that your parents did for you and their lack of affection, this sounds like emotional neglect.  My parents were also emotionally neglectful.  My mother literally never hugged me or told me she loved me.  If you haven't already, you may want to check out Pete Walkers book Complex PTSD From Surviving to Thriving.  On page 93 he has a chapter on emotional neglect.  He says emotional neglect is very serious and is the core wound of CPTSD.  I haven't finished the book yet but it seems to be a good one. He also talks about emotional abuse.

Emberleaf, I am glad you liked Shannon Thomas' book.  It was comforting to find a book that was so spot on about hidden emotional abuse.  I wish I had had a copy of that book 15 years ago.  I am grateful that she is out there speaking out about hidden/covert emotional abuse.  Like I said, emotional abuse is rampant in our society.  There are a lot of confused and hurting people out there who can't quite put their finger on what is wrong because the abuse was covert or was done in the name of "good parenting."


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Hazy111

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #11 on: November 22, 2019, 11:23:59 AM »
Ladymm, I am glad this post on emotional abuse was helpful to you.  Thank you also for your kind words.  That means a lot to me.

Hazy111, when you talk about the bare minimum that your parents did for you and their lack of affection, this sounds like emotional neglect.  My parents were also emotionally neglectful.  My mother literally never hugged me or told me she loved me.  If you haven't already, you may want to check out Pete Walkers book Complex PTSD From Surviving to Thriving.  On page 93 he has a chapter on emotional neglect.  He says emotional neglect is very serious and is the core wound of CPTSD.  I haven't finished the book yet but it seems to be a good one. He also talks about emotional abuse.

Emberleaf, I am glad you liked Shannon Thomas' book.  It was comforting to find a book that was so spot on about hidden emotional abuse.  I wish I had had a copy of that book 15 years ago.  I am grateful that she is out there speaking out about hidden/covert emotional abuse.  Like I said, emotional abuse is rampant in our society.  There are a lot of confused and hurting people out there who can't quite put their finger on what is wrong because the abuse was covert or was done in the name of "good parenting."

Yes i have a copy. Excellent. (Think it could have been edited a lot better to make an easier read) Would recommend it to anyone raised by PD parents. One of the essential books on trauma. Want  i liked he explained that trauma manifests itself in so many ways, not the obvious anxiety depression etc. It was that people who i admired were also showing clear signs of C-PTSD, the "human doings"  who always seemed busy and upbeat , never seemed depressed , but were doing so to keep depression at bay. If they ever stopped and got off the "wheel" they were of actually at risk of "feeling". I know so many of these people!

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needfixing

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2019, 08:50:35 AM »
I put this here because I did not see an cover emotional abuse thread in the other sections

nicely, at eye level, asking someone to communicate with you and they turn around, bend over, mumble something, then shut the door

silently walk up right behind someone when their back is turned, twice, in a row

break things around the house

when someone refuses to communicate, respond, or inquire about things that involve me, but want a cheery have a nice day/how was your day
« Last Edit: November 23, 2019, 08:59:31 AM by needfixing »

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chowder

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2019, 08:15:38 PM »
This feels like there was a camera into my house growing up!   My parents never showed warmth, affection or support.  Emotional abuse or emotional neglect, it certainly took its toll.  I have blocked out much of my childhood, but I do remember asking them why they even had me, since no one ever bothered with me.  I was alone a lot as a young child, while my mother sat with her cigarettes talking on the phone every day.  I can remember playing so many games of solitaire or putting puzzles together.  I never received hugs, praise, or had meaningful conversation with them.  In fact, my mother would actively drive a wedge between me and any relationships I tried to have.  I couldn't wait to leave the house at 18.  My mom continued to be envious of the fact that I was driving and she never did, among other things.  She would deny this, and was very self-righteous about everything.

Of course the public persona was quite different.  They were quite active with the church, putting on a big front, and I had to internalize all my feelings, knowing it was so different behind closed doors.   It was awful.  Thank you so much for bringing this to light - I can't wait to dive into some of the books on this topic.

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Ladymm

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #14 on: November 24, 2019, 07:55:43 AM »
I always feel like I can't be happy and I can be happy when my mother is happy. Or grandmother happy. Im such a disgusting person for not visiting my grandma.

My mother told me she was thinking of aborting me because back in the 80s all did abortions. But why the hell would she abort me?and who does abortions like that?she was in her mid twenties,employed, with a husband who work and parents who worked. When I was 4 they built a house. I dont have money for a house or even rent and my husband doesnt work and im 33. Why I still feel bad for her and her life when I was born like she did the biggest sacrifice ever? Why I understand why she said she wanted to abort me? I feel these two things like  normal. Yet my mind screams "this is sick". Neurosis at its best.

I don't want to play victim or something. I have been in a fog all my life. have to be loving towards myself, after years of therapy I am taking my life in my hands only now. Still much to be done, but circumstances were what they were. I hope the rest of my life will be better.
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gettingstronger1

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #15 on: November 24, 2019, 09:09:52 PM »
Ladymm,

That is so deeply distressing that you mother told you that she considered having an abortion with you. If it distressing to me, I can only imagine how you must feel.  I am in no way trying to make any political commentary one way or another about the subject of abortion.  But I am deeply concerned for your feelings of self worth that your mother told you that.  I can't remember if you said you were in therapy, but I hope that you have a strong support system and that you feel you can protect yourself from your mother how ever you feel is the right way.

Quote from: chowder
Thank you so much for bringing this to light - I can't wait to dive into some of the books on this topic.

Chowder, I am so glad this post is helping. I remember ten years ago, how I felt so confused sad and depressed.  I had no idea what gaslighting was. But they told me the abusive experiences never happened.  I had no idea that Darvo was reversing the roles and playing victim. I didn't know it was ok to set boundaries with my mom.  Because I set an emotionally healthy boundary with SPD mother, I was accused of abusing the family even though I was nothing but kind. They punished me and several siblings went NC with me.  Mom continued her usual silent treatment that I had been used to since childhood.  If I had understood all of this better, I could have stood up for myself more effectively and I wouldn't have let them shame me.  The point I am making is that I want to turn what happened into something positive by helping others cope with emotional abuse.  I want to be better not bitter.

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Ladymm

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Re: Covert Emotional Abuse by PD Parents
« Reply #16 on: November 25, 2019, 04:28:53 AM »
Gettingstronger,

Thank you for your support and concern. I have been having therapy for years now. Its working but still I have this mix of obligation and guilt towards the mother like I am the bad one who invents things about her being abusive. Like I cant believe myself I have zero obligation towards her for the pd person she is. And she said hiw some other families are different why cant we be like that - these are judgemental arrows in my direction  to me of course. I feel I dont want to interact with her and want to watch her dogs etc. I keep a minimal contactbecause I work for my father and live in their flat. I don't even know what I m afraid of cos maybe if they threw me out it would be a blessing. I cant seem to go away myself though cos husband doesnt work. But I feel like there must be some other cause in me being passive. It takes work and time to uncover and unblock the whys of being stuck im afraid!
Cambia le tue stelle, se ci provi riuscirai,
e ricorda che l'amore non colpisce in faccia mai