“What the narcissistic parent lacks is the ability to imagine or care about what her children feel. A parent without empathy is like a surgeon operating with dull tools in poor lighting. The results are likely to produce scarring.”
Jonice Webb, Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect
“I am forever indebted to John Bradshaw for exposing the epidemic of traumatizing parents. Such parents create children who grow up developmentally arrested in myriad ways. Bradshaw gave us many reparenting tools to meet the unmet needs of survivors of such abandonment.
Over time, I also discovered tools of my own which I used to reparent myself and my clients. I taught many clients through modeling to take over the job of ongoingly mothering and fathering themselves.
In my own recovery, my critic upped its scoffing to a new level when I first heard about inner child work. I had to bypass my inner child at first and just work with the concept of healing my developmental arrests.
Thankfully I eventually whittled down my critic and built a profoundly therapeutic relationship with my developmentally arrested, infant, toddler, preschooler, primary schooler and adolescent.
Through continually evolving my ability to nurture, love and protect myself and my various child selves, I customarily feel a sense of safety and of belonging in the world. [Guidelines for this process can be found in Chapters 8 & 9 and Appendix C of The Tao of Fully Feeling.]”
“In the majority of cases, the black sheep is the most sensitive member in the bunch. As children, their feelings and behaviors call attention to the dysfunction in the family and parents often resent them for this. Sensitive black sheep say to the world through their actions: ‘Help, there's a problem here in our home environment and it needs to be fixed!’
Daughters typically demand a deeper emotional connection from their mothers than sons. Unable or unwilling to meet their needs, emotionally absent moms often get frustrated by their daughters and turn their focus to their sons who are easier to please.
Some mothers see their daughters as rivals but don't have those same jealous and competitive feelings towards their sons. They may see theirs daughters as a threat as they develop into attractive young women who garner the attention of men. Some mothers want to be the dominate females in their homes and don't want their daughters to usurp that position in any way. Some mothers feel territorial about their husbands and don't want their daughters to develop a close bond with their dads. Sadly, these daughters wind up with no connection to either parent and feel incredibly alone.
Many daughters of emotionally absent mothers (myself included) can relate to how you feel around your mom—hating who you become. I, too, often became a different person when I was with my mom, taking on her traits of being negative, badmouthing others, and spreading gossip. That pattern began when I was a kid and was hard to break. In the moment, it felt like my mom and I were bonding so I enjoyed it. Afterwards, though, I knew we really hadn't connected at all and I felt guilty for having sunk to her level.”
“Beneath the surface of the protective parts of trauma survivors there exists an undamaged essence, a Self that is confident, curious, and calm, a Self that has been sheltered from destruction by the various protectors that have emerged in their efforts to ensure survival. Once those protectors trust that it is safe to separate, the Self will spontaneously emerge, and the parts can be enlisted in the healing process.”
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel A. van der Kolk
When you’ve been so programmed by your parents to be ashamed of your emotional pain.. you think it’s a sign you’re “not doing something well enough”.. but sometimes it means you’re doing things right.. sometimes old pain comes up to come out.. when you’re finally in a safe place.
Deconstructing the shame programming around your pain means the pain is finally able to come to the surface because you’re not using defense mechanisms to suppress it. You have to be in a safe place for this to happen. It’s a sign of your progress.
Of course there is a ton of pain inside when you’ve been abused. Every time they hurt you and you weren’t allowed to protest, to even show you were hurt... You had to push it down and try to forget about it. You had to become enmeshed with your abusers. Breaking that enmeshment means all the pain they caused you is finally allowed to be expressed in order to be released.
Different seasons require different things. Like physical wounds, sometimes it needs to be cleaned. Sometimes it needs to be covered up. Sometimes it needs to air out. Sometimes you need to stop “picking” at it. Like tending to a garden: you plant seeds, you water, you do things that facilitate growth but the growth itself takes time. The growth itself can’t be rushed. Especially with something as intense as childhood trauma, you can’t rush it. If you take in too much information too fast you’re not really even integrating it. If you’re used to treating yourself abusively, even healing can be another weapon you use to beat yourself up with. It’s not a race. It takes time to rewire your brain and befriend your nervous system.
There are more layers of depth to this than I ever could have imagined or been prepared for. My parents convinced me to be scared of the world, that I needed them to survive. Now I’m physically disabled and dependent on my wife to survive. It’s scary. Dependence has never been safe for me. But she has demonstrated herself to me to be a safe person. Right now it feels like I am navigating a minefield of triggers. But at least when they come up I know what to do. I’m holding onto hope that as I learn to soothe and protect my wounded inner child she won’t feel so scared/threatened all the time. We need patience with ourselves. This is years and years worth of trauma we’re trying to recover from. We make sense.