Emotional Incest


2014 started out wonderfully with flashbacks of my early teen years. The times when Dad would disappear for daysĀ or months at a time without a word. I never felt safe. Things could appear normal for long stretches and then seemingly out of nowhere, Mom would come home with puffy eyes, screaming about Dad and his whore again. Last night I heard some of the same phrases I used to hear, “I’d never in a million, no billion, years want you to marry a man like your father” or “If it weren’t for you and your brother, I’d have left years ago.” Images of slamming doors, yelling, and sliding to the kitchen floor in tears after Dad stormed out of the house, raced through my mind last night…memories I thought were in the past. The things he did to her, not just cheating, are unconscionable and inexcusable. I thought I quelled the anger, but since hearing my mom last night, it’s bubbled up inside me again.

Faith_hurt the showerFaith_hurt the shower

On one hand, I told my mom years ago she had my blessing if she wanted a divorce, even if that meant years later when things seemed “okay” because I knew what he had done to her. On the other hand, over the past few years, I let the anger and fear slip out of my grasp. I let my guard down. I thought things were healing between them. So, I am sad.

Worse still, I fear the revolving door…Every time he was emotionally manipulative and/or abusive or she caught him cheating, she would swear it was the last time, this time they would get divorced. Yet, a few weeks or months later, before the final divorce papers were signed, he would come back, apologizing and promising to do better. And around and around we go… I fear the cycle restarting more than I fear their divorce.

Maybe this is why my brother never talks to us. šŸ˜¦

I also fear her pain. My mom and I are close. Doctors use the word “enmeshed”. Yet, just like instances of alleged physical or verbal abuse, things are never simple. In a house with 4 bathrooms, we’ve shared a bathroom since I was 11. The change happened when they realized I was purging. For a time, we sharedĀ a bed. That is not as disturbing as it sounds. She made me sleep in her bed for a few months because she was afraid I’d hurt myself at night. I only went back to my own bed when my dad came home. Coincidentally, my most recent suicide attempt was a few weeks after my dad returned from “business” and my brother returned from school for the holidays.

The definition of emotional incest:

“Other scholars have used the term ‘enmeshment,’ ‘co-dependency,’ and ’emotional abuse’ is another related concept as well. For the sake of this short series of posts, I will use the term ’emotional incest’ because I think that if you can get past the ‘ick’ factor of the word incest, this construction is actually very descriptive.

Emotional incest involves an unhealthy relationship between parent and child in which the child serves as a sort of emotional ‘spouse’ to the parent. This can be mother/daughter, father/daughter, mother/son, or father/son. Here are a couple definitions, some using the term ‘covert incest’ and others using the term ’emotional incest.’

Covert incest occurs when a child plays the role of a surrogate husband or wife to a lonely, needy parent. The parentā€™s need for companionship is met through the child.Ā  The child is bound to the parent by excessive feelings of responsibility for the welfare of the parent. The demand for loyalty to the lonely, needy parent overwhelms the child and becomes the major organizing experience in the childā€™s development.

 

Covert emotional incest begins when a person perceives and responds to a family member as a replacement or substitute for a partner.

 

This form of incest is described as a relationship where a parent turns a child into a partner or confidante that is inappropriate to the childā€™s age and life experience. Or to put it another way, when a child is manipulated into the role of a surrogate wife or husband by a needy parent.Ā While some refer to this as covert incest, others refer to it as emotional incest.

You get the idea. Emotional incest takes place when the (emotional, not sexual) relationship between a parent and a child becomes like that between two spouses, except that given the immaturity of the child the relationship is one-sided and the parent feeds off the child emotionally while the child ends up feeling responsible for the well-being of the parent.” via patheos.com

Yep. That was us. I still feel responsible for her well-being. In fact, thinking about it, I remember feeling jealous, even resentful,Ā that my brother did not feel responsible for her.

Is it still emotional incest now? Back then I was 15 – 17 years old, now I’m 23. I am an adult.

Ā 

Advertisements

Use Your Words


You know how you tell a 2 year old to “use your words” when they startĀ a tantrum? Apparently, this lesson didn’t go much past age 2 in my family. The other night I had a random thought. BDSM involvesĀ lots of overt, clear verbal communication. In contrast, my family is the opposite. My mom wanted to spend time just as our nuclear family (Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister-in-law, and I) before they left town, but my uncle and grandparents wanted to spend part of their last day with them to. I tried and failed to encourage my mom to express her wants about spending some time as our nuclear family; I even pointed out she spent $100,000+ on hospitalizations to teach me to use my words to express emotions. She refused, saying it wasn’t important.Ā This is a stretch, but maybe my brother and I’s mutual interest in BDSM is partially due to the clear verbal communication, since we grew up in a family that encouraged not expressing your wants, needs, or feelings. Obviously, a lot more would go into anyone’s predilections; it is just an interesting observation.

Unconditional Love, Coming Out, and Communication


I have no doubt my parents love me unconditionally. I know no matter what I do, they will always love me. God knows Iā€™ve tested that theory enough! Although I knew this for years, for some reason I remembered the realization last night.

I also know my mom loves her brother very much. They are pretty close; they talk a lot. I know she never disowned my uncle. Unlike my grandpa, she accepted him right away. She is more than capable of looking past a moral or political disagreement and loving someone.

My grandpa reconciling with my uncle shows he is also capable of looking past moral or political disagreements and loving someone. In fact, even though it took him a few years to make peace, he showed the most love! He came from the strictest background of any of us. He was a farm boy in the rural Midwest in the 1920s. Do you remember my view of religion? I tend to see all the paths to damnation. He grew up in the hellfire and brimstone era of protestant religion in this region. He probably views the world with more fear than I do!!! He came from a very tightknit, extremely religious family. Furthermore, he grew up in an intolerant time period. Yet, he overcame all this, he wrestled with beliefs he honestly held as part of his personal hope of eternal salvation for at least half a century, and he accepted my uncle. His actions were not out of spite! I believe even while he shunned my uncle, he loved him dearly. I believe my grandpa tried to help my uncle! He believed (believes?) homosexuality is a sin and if a person is not remorseful for their sins, they will be tortured for all time in the afterlife. Therefore, I think he shunned my uncle to try to coerce my uncle into stopping all homosexual behavior. I do not think it was out of anger. I think it was out of love and extreme fear. He believes sexuality is a choice. We may be attracted to one gender or both, but we can choose to focus our attraction toward the opposite gender. Since he believes my uncle has a choice and he believes choosing homosexuality would damn my uncle for eternity, my grandpa refused to talk to him for years, in an effort to encourage him to make the choice my grandpa thought meant everlasting bliss in the afterlife. In time, Grandpa realized my uncle would not change his behavior, even if Grandpa refused to acknowledge him for the rest of his life. Realizing this, I think he decided to salvage his relationship with his son on Earth, despite believing his actions would damn him in the afterlife. In a way, he overcame the most and displayed the deepest love because he had to look past or alter beliefs he held for over 50 years!

All these thoughts came after seeing this picture on Humans of New York:

“At this time in my life, thereā€™s nothing I really value more than interaction with my children, and theyā€™ve just grown so busy that thereā€™s not much of it. All I can really do is trust that they care, even if they donā€™t communicate it, and reflect on all the times that I didnā€™t reply to my mother when she sent me things.”

The picture caption made me sad because I know my mom and grandparents all feel this way. As my grandparents approach their 90s, the feeling becomes stronger because they know the time they have left to spend with their children and grandchildren is dwindling. I feel guilty for not spending more of my free time with them either going out for a bite to eat or just calling for a quick chat. Sometimes Iā€™m even mad at my brother for not calling them more because I know it hurts them and they feel unimportant or unloved, like out of sight, out of mind. I also worry in a few years, my brother will regret not picking up the phone once a month. They call him, but they often do not get a response and interpret that as either their calls are unwanted or bothersome. Therefore, they no longer leave messages; instead they wait for a call that never comes.

However, then I realized part of the problem may be he too is hiding a large part of himself from them. While it might be easy to chat about work or the weather, maybe it is painful or awkward to censor himself all the time. Perhaps that is part of why he does not return calls or call on his own. Vulnerability leads to stronger, deeper bonds. He is too afraid to let any of them see the real him, preventing a better relationship.

Although I feel much closer to all three because I live in town, I am guilty of the same thing. I realized we are not giving them the chance to love us for us. They have already proven they can do it with my uncle! It may be painful at first, but in the end, I believe it is best if all of us come out. We have to trust the people who love us and raised us to love us, even when we donā€™t fit the dreams they had for us. If we donā€™t trust them, but we underestimated them, we are robbing them and ourselves of truer, more open, real, trusting, close relationships.

Therefore, I am going to come out about BDSM and bisexuality. I hope my brother and sister-in-law come out as well.

That said I am not going to do it until I am financially independent because I do not want the rug pulled out from under me. Acceptance may take time and I am prepared for that, but tuition must be paid. I hope my grandparents are alive to reap the benefits. If they do not, I may regret not risking a few thousand dollars extra in student loans, but in the meantime, I am going to do my best to call or see them more often and talk about school and the weather.

I Am Not a Victim


“And every time someone calls me a victim, I feel like I’m the biggest liar in the world.”Ā  Echo in Dollhouse, “Briar Rose”, 1×11

“Do you think they sexually abused you?”

No, Trisha, stfu.

That is not actually what I said to the group therapist from inpatient (“IP”) after I shared my “Life Story”, but that is what I thought. Everyone interprets things in the worst light!

Another example from my personal therapist from IP, “Have you ever been abused?”

“No.”

“Are you sure? You said that too quickly and emphatically.”

Or my IOP therapist:

“You act like someone who was sexually abused as a child.”

*sigh* Looking back on instances from my youth I’ve concluded there areĀ events that could be considered abusive, but my family was/is not abusive. I feel there is an important difference. Parents are fallible human beings, just like the rest of us.

I am not saying it is ever ok to hit a child, or call him/her a bitch, whore, slut, or a monster. However, parents are people and they have limits. I don’t think either of my parents have anger issues. On the contrary, I believe they were faced with an extraordinarily difficult child. As far as I know, they never hit or called my brother names. I remember a conversation with my IP therapist,

“…He called me an unfeeling monster and then he threatened to break my dog’s legs if I didn’t do what he wanted because he said I loved the dog more than I loved them.”

*therapist gives me a disapproving look*

“No, you don’t understand! I deserved it! I was a bad kid.”

My therapist answered, “What could an 11 year old possibly do to deserve that?”

“I was rude and refused to talk to them.”

I did not explain things adequately to her, that sounds like normal annoying kid behavior. Yet, she nor any one outside the 3 of us (except perhaps my brother), could understand what hell I put them through.

For example, the time my mom threw a pot at my head? I refused to eat and she was extremely stressed for other reasons. The time my dad called me a bitch, slapped my face hard enough to stun me, told me to leave and never come back for being surly when he asked me to empty the dishwasher? 13 year old me recently IM’ed a half dozen men explicit sexual content.

These memories make me feel sad, but I hate it when people suggest anyone in my life abused me! IT IS NOT TRUE! There is a vast difference between beating a child black and blue with a belt and slapping a stupid teenager in the face a few times.

I reiterate, I do not plan on physically disciplining my children or calling them names because I know even words said in understandable anger can leave a lasting mark on a child’s mind. However, I fricking brought it upon myself. Yes, even at 11 years old, my actions were beyond the pale.

How would you react to your 11 year old child cutting her arms so deeply she caused scars, throwing up her food, crying for no reason, refusing to eat, and refusing to talk about what is going on? I’m sure you would be afraid, even terrified. You probably wouldn’t have that reaction the first time, but what about the 10th incident?

They love me; they would do anything for me. I’ve put them through hell for 23 years and they still put up with my actions. I think they’re heroes. The fact that my brother never encountered the same treatment shows it was my actions that created their responses, not a lack of empathy or self-control on their part.

If I ever have a child like myself I have no doubt I will react better, but I’ve been there! I know what that child is feeling and thinking. They were lost in a new world of mental illness and confusing actions.

Hahaha, I can hear my IOP therapistĀ  saying, “You can’t apply rules only
to yourself. If it is never okay to hit a child or call him/her names,
why is it okay to hit or call child-you names?” Maybe this entire post is a cop-out, but it is my story and I’m sticking to it!