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  1. #1
    Platinum Member Firiel's Avatar
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    Emotional abuse and adult children

    This may be a dumb question, but here goes.

    Is it possible for parents to emotionally abuse adult children? Does it make a difference if the actions happened all through childhood or just started when the child was an adult?

  2. #2
    Platinum Member tiredofvampires's Avatar
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    Yes -- any adult can emotionally abuse any other adult, so it's no different for a parent-child relationship.

    I think the cumulative effect of it and the fact that it happened during childhood, when a person was most vulnerable, needs strong/loving role models, and is most impressionable makes childhood emotional abuse that continues more far-reaching and psychologically damaging. The longer it's going on, the worse the impact will be. An adult has more perspective if original self-esteem was built and the foundation is there.

    But that does not mean that being abused by anyone -- including a parent -- as an adult isn't very damaging to trust in the relationship, and ultimately it's a situation that is unsustainable without some sort of remedial action.

    If someone grew up with loving parents that were not abusive and they became abusive later, however, I would have to question whether they were dealing with some kind of decline in mental faculties or psychiatric disorder of insidious onset. Because personalities don't just change like that after a lifetime of being predictable and reliable.
    Last edited by tiredofvampires; 05-10-2011 at 07:23 PM.
    BURN TO LEARN

    Pay no mind to the distant thunder
    Beauty fills her head with wonder

    It is not generally a characteristic of being brainwashed to know that you've been brainwashed.

    You can live a life, or you can have an existence.


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  3. #3
    Platinum Member catfeeder's Avatar
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    Depends on specifics. What one adult might call verbal abuse, another might call a fair fight. In general, given an adult's equal ability to defend oneself, ignore, manipulate or walk away, one adult's ability to verbally 'abuse' another adult is limited.

    Why not post a specific situation, and maybe we can help you consider some options for handling it?
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    Try backing off. It seems to be a well kept secret how many wonders occur and problems straighten out when we do nothing but leave someone alone.

  4. #4
    Platinum Member Firiel's Avatar
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    What happened was that I had a falling out with my parents a couple of years ago, and all of a sudden, I kind of realized that if the situation had been a romantic relationship instead of a parent/child one, I would have totally broken up with the (hypothetical) guy because if it were a man, the behavior would appear emotionally abusive to me.

    My husband tells me that yes, they were quite emotionally abusive during that time. And I kind of tend to say that it's not emotional abuse because I was an adult and should have known better than to let what people said/did scar me emotionally. I feel like if I had been more mature in taking their (albeit totally uncalled for and over-the-top) criticism better, then I would be fine now... ergo, it's my own responsibility. It seems similar to my going to the store, getting called an immature promiscuous jerk by the cashier and then getting my panties in a bundle over it when in reality, I should just move on and not let what was said hurt my feelings...

    ...but I also tend to be too hard on myself, and I know that. So I was wondering if it was really even possible or if even the idea is kind of "Duh, get over it."

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  6. #5
    Platinum Member tiredofvampires's Avatar
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    In my own view, we can still be abused by people as adults and it's not as cut-and-dried as walking away. Yes of course, ultimately it is a choice to interact with people as adults, whoever they may be.

    But it's different to walk away from family -- your parents, your blood -- than some stupid clerk in a store or even a partner. The more of our lives have been spent integrated with certain huge players (and parents are huge), and the more complex the history, the harder it is to play black and white, do a coin flip and decide to leave with NC or stay and try to work it out. Sometimes the abuse is borderline, with many grey areas, too.

    Sometimes the people who love us and who we love (if indeed you do have a loving connection with your parents) can hurt us. And does that mean just severing it, to end all familial ties? I see that as more grave than breaking up with, or even divorcing, someone you're in a romantic partnership with. These are people you've worked through personality issues with your entire life.

    But yet, one has to be able to put healthy distance there, and depending on how much practical or material independence you've achieved, it can be tricky. Like, if you're in college and they're still paying the tuition and they become emotionally abusive, what are going to do? It's not an easy answer.

    In your situation I'd say that it's perfectly reasonable to recognize abuse for what it is -- if someone is belittling you, that classifies as abuse. Period. That's apart from how you handle it.

    If it's constructive criticism, and you're just feeling hurt by the pain of the "truth" they're bringing you, that's another matter. But if they were putting you down, I call that abuse.

    From there, it's about what level of interaction you feel you can still maintain without having to subject yourself to that, whether that's a real proposition (since some people will end up belittling you no matter what), and how thick of a skin you feel would be worth cultivating for whatever benefits you get from the relationship. My father was emotionally abusive my whole life, and the older I got the more I could estrange myself...but given that I had to interact with my mom and both of them at times, it was not possible to completely cut things off. And, there were times when he tried to contribute, so again -- it wasn't an easy yea or nay. So that was an ongoing problem for me that would not have been the same with a partner, who I have no other obligations or ties with (unless we have kids together), who I could walk away clean from.

    It sounds like your question is more about comparing the abuse of family to the abuse of an SO, not as much childhood vs. adult parent/child abuse.

    Only you can know in your gut whether criticism crosses the line from blunt and "get over it" to abuse...it's hard when you're already hard on yourself to see any of this clearly, so this is where I call upon my intuition. Very tough. If your husband agrees it was abusive, there's a good chance it's more than just your own perception.
    Last edited by tiredofvampires; 05-10-2011 at 10:20 PM.
    BURN TO LEARN

    Pay no mind to the distant thunder
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    It is not generally a characteristic of being brainwashed to know that you've been brainwashed.

    You can live a life, or you can have an existence.


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  7. #6
    Platinum Member catfeeder's Avatar
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    I don't believe that divorcing parents comes without consequences, and that's not a punitive or moralistic statement. I think emotional and psychological fallout are natural, and while some people opt to cope with that rather than mend the relationship, I think the most difficult outcomes can rear up after a parent does something really horrible and human--they die.

    We know there's no way to go back and do-over anything we've said or done, and it's not realistic to expect that we can 'get' a parent to behave the way we wish or to accept about us what they won't. What we can do is understand that some families turn the need of an adult child to pull away and deviate from parental expectations into a crisis. During that crisis everyone will go lower and more crazy than they likely considered themselves capable. It's after the crisis when each get to decide whether this must mean we don't love one another any more or whether it was mishandled, misguided love that prompted the whole crisis in the first place.

    From there we each get to decide the degree we're willing to accept 'what was' and 'what is'. We'll be tempted to want to change what we can't, but this doesn't mean we can't change our own minds. Just as we can regret what we could have done differently in the past, we can opt to liberate ourselves from future regret if we deliberately examine all that we CAN change about our own perceptions, reactions and behaviors today.

    From here forward we can assume that we'll look back on ourselves from a future date. We'll either wish to redo this opportunity to correct in ourselves all that we wish we could have corrected earlier, or we'll just continue pushing forward a larger and larger pile of regret. Given the choice to Pay Attention or not, I don't think I'd try to numb myself to 'get over it'. You're entitled to your private considerations, and you're entitled to approach those from your current state of maturity as an individual. With parents you only represent your Self--it really isn't about anyone else.

    In your corner.
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    Try backing off. It seems to be a well kept secret how many wonders occur and problems straighten out when we do nothing but leave someone alone.

  8. #7

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    it can happen and it happens to me

    Quote Originally Posted by catfeeder View Post
    I don't believe that divorcing parents comes without consequences, and that's not a punitive or moralistic statement. I think emotional and psychological fallout are natural, and while some people opt to cope with that rather than mend the relationship, I think the most difficult outcomes can rear up after a parent does something really horrible and human--they die.

    We know there's no way to go back and do-over anything we've said or done, and it's not realistic to expect that we can 'get' a parent to behave the way we wish or to accept about us what they won't. What we can do is understand that some families turn the need of an adult child to pull away and deviate from parental expectations into a crisis. During that crisis everyone will go lower and more crazy than they likely considered themselves capable. It's after the crisis when each get to decide whether this must mean we don't love one another any more or whether it was mishandled, misguided love that prompted the whole crisis in the first place.

    From there we each get to decide the degree we're willing to accept 'what was' and 'what is'. We'll be tempted to want to change what we can't, but this doesn't mean we can't change our own minds. Just as we can regret what we could have done differently in the past, we can opt to liberate ourselves from future regret if we deliberately examine all that we CAN change about our own perceptions, reactions and behaviors today.

    From here forward we can assume that we'll look back on ourselves from a future date. We'll either wish to redo this opportunity to correct in ourselves all that we wish we could have corrected earlier, or we'll just continue pushing forward a larger and larger pile of regret. Given the choice to Pay Attention or not, I don't think I'd try to numb myself to 'get over it'. You're entitled to your private considerations, and you're entitled to approach those from your current state of maturity as an individual. With parents you only represent your Self--it really isn't about anyone else.

    In your corner.

    I grew up in a fairly loving and accepting home, moved away , but as I had difficulties not being
    financially stable in my twenties and now early thirties, like who is ?

    Have not only endured personal setbacks which are par for the course
    but a lot of people especially my parents being unhappy with
    me as a person.

    They have really taken their resentment for shelling out some extra cash
    a little too far and attack me personally on many levels

    They say I'm unable to complete anything if I drop out of
    a certain program , blah blah blah, trust me the list goes on

    It has never been enough that I suffered a traumatic brain
    injury as a child , woke up from a coma and went on to
    study on treating diseases or conditions naturally

    So if your parents aren't even satisfied with you
    researching to cure cancer , hiv, etc,
    they will never be satisfied and I realize that

    Their need to critisize me and autrasize me

    from my friends and family is not enough

    they won't stop until I kill myself or go crazy from frustration

    It is mental and emotional agony at times

    but if any of this sounds familiar to anybody

    do not look for their approval or acceptance

    it will never happen.

    It does mean that they will never understand you

    and potentially never try to,

    sometimes it is just best to move on and stay strong

    Do not give in to self loathing or unnecessary anxiety.

    It is them with the problem , not you

  9. #8
    I am 56 years old. I just in the last several months, after an accumulation of 56 years worth of emotional hurt, have begun to realize what has been happening. My father, throughout my life, has found a multitude of reasons why I have been the cause behind his strife. It has been so long in the works that I have been convinced that it was true. I nearly went crazy, literally, a few years ago. I was begging to be admitted into the puf and be heavily sedated. I was more afraid to live than to die. If not for my husband and children, I would not be writing this right now. After counseling and much self-help reading I am getting better. It is something a person cannot understand fully unless you experience it. It has made me understand why people stay in abusive relationships, because you think it is normal. You may look at other families a yearn for that, but I still thought my family was fine. You go on enjoying the peaceful times and enduring the bad. I was almost completely convinced that everything has been my fault, in spite of my friends, husband and children telling me otherwise. I could go into all the things, but that would take a very long time. I guess all I need to say is yes parents do emotionally abuse their adult children, it could be from aging, but I feel it is no different than any other abuse, it is what they learned. The community we live in thinks my father is the sweetest man alive. He is happy and kind to them. But me, he either won't look at all, or he accuses me of lying or cheating him out of something. Sometimes he will be really great for months and even say he loves me, just when I get comfortable he slams back and yells awful things at me. I am sorry for going on, but I just want to make it very clear that it does happen and it ruins lives.

  10. #9
    Platinum Member Victoria66's Avatar
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    It certainly is. My husband was and still is emotionally abused by his parents and he is 43. He gave in and refused to fight back long before he got out of childhood. He is emotionally terrified of his father.
    ADHD= Attention Dialed into a Higher Dimension. For my son .

    If you judge people you have no time to love them. Mother Teresa

    Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come follow me and I will give you rest

    As for Me and My House We Will Serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

    Life only goes around once but never again~~Fred Stobaugh

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