A couple weeks back I had dinner with one of my cousins. She recently became aware of my blog and really wanted to talk about it. She and I have a lot in common, the largest being that we both had one emotionally abusive parent. Her father‘s behavior was so outrageous at times, that even as a little girl, I was able to understand that there was something really off about the man. During our dinner my cousin asked me, “You could see it, why could no one else see it?”
It’s amazing how good families are at pretending that things are okay. Many get stuck rationalizing and minimizing bad behavior and some just live in a perpetual fog. For a mother to admit that she allowed her son or daughter to be mistreated, might mean that she would have to admit that she failed to protect her child. For the golden-child sibling to admit that their brother or sister was the recipient of unwarranted abuse, might mean that all the praise they received was not deserved. People dealing in these family dynamics have a very difficult time admitting that there is something wrong, or that they made a mistake. It’s always a lot easier to blame the child than to admit that there was a problem. I can’t tell you how often I heard the phrase, “You were such a difficult child.” Blaming the child is easy, being emotionally honest is not.
A typical codependent family fears rocking the boat. They don’t want the truth – when an illusion is so much easier to swallow. What ends up happening in this dynamic is that the abused child, now on a mission to heal and live his or her truth, comes upon a lot of resistance.
As a victim, you not only want to talk about it, but you need to talk about it. You want the truth known and you want the validation that comes with it, but when the truth is ugly and paints others in an unflattering light, it’s not quite so palatable for everyone else. Unhealthy people will fight to keep the status quo, especially when their reputation, past and present, is at stake. When you attempt to shine light on issues that hurt you and need to be healed, you can expect to have your motives questioned, expect name calling and character assassination. Expect to have other people remember things completely differently and expect to not get what you were hoping to get out of the dialogue.
When my mother died all I had were my siblings and all they had was me. We did get a lot closer and we do spend every holiday and birthday together. We also make it a habit to get together at least once a month for dinner, but, and this is a big but, (pun intended) it wasn’t an easy progression and for a while, during my healing, I didn’t have anything to do with them. Like my cousin’s family, mine remembered our childhood a lot differently than I did. I was to blame for my mistreatment. I was too sensitive. I was delusional. You name it, it was my fault. My older brother is 12 years older than I am and he was the golden child, so trying to convince him that there were problems did not come easily.
I remember people asking me about my mother at social gatherings and I would speak my truth, only to have one of my brother’s voice that I was the one with the problem and that our mother was perfect. Then I would be mocked and told that I was just, ‘so hard done by.’ It is natural for someone who had an emotionally abusive childhood to want to shy away from conflict and when that happens, the codependent will usually clam up and just let it go.
I got to a place in my healing where I was done being quiet and done with letting things go. I started to speak up and quite forcefully too. When my siblings would interrupt me, to tell people that I was delusional, I interrupted back and said, “Your experience wasn’t my experience and just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it untrue.” The more they pushed the harder I pushed back.
We got together this weekend and as always the conversation touched on our childhood. It amazed me how different we all relate now. The respect I demanded from them years ago is always present now. Little by little, over the years, I taught then how to treat me. I explained my point of view a little at a time and slowly they started to understand. They have stopped blaming me and even as I stated my opinion about my mother’s problems that night, they quietly nodded.
They may not completely agree with me, but they don’t jump down my throat anymore. For a long time I thought I would never have their support and I had to teach myself to be okay with that.
Telling your truth sometimes means that you will stand alone. I can’t tell you that your friends and family will eventually come around like mine did, but I do know that the more I spoke my truth, the more people listened to what I had to say and the better I felt.
Some people never own up to the truth and will perpetually, prefer a fight over familial bliss. In these cases, it’s best to walk away, or limit your involvement with that person. Speaking our truth is not for other people. It’s for ourselves. It’s part of self-care and it’s about learning how to be honest with ourselves and overcoming the urge to bottle up our feelings and not cause any ripples. It’s about getting comfortable with calling out bad behavior and not sweeping it under the rug, like we have in the past.
You can’t force others to accept the truth. Some people flat our refuse to admit it, or accept responsibility for any wrong doing and some may even lack the ability. Sometimes you don’t get resolution, sometimes you don’t get the validation, or the apology that you deserve. Continuing to fight for it becomes a futile endeavor, not to mention, bad for your wellbeing.
In some cases speaking out means that you will be ostracized and abandoned by those closest to you. It could mean being left out, and bad mouthed to other family members. Walking in the light of your truth is not an easy road, but it’s the one that leads to healing and inner peace. It can be a lonely place, but it’s on this path that you will learn how to validate yourself and you will become content in the knowledge that you know the truth and aren’t willing to ignore it any longer.
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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net