Is it normal to feel nothing for abusive family members? (good advice here)

Discussion in 'Family of Origin' started by SomewhereOutThere, Dec 1, 2015.

  1. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I did not write this, but it resonates with me. I often wonder if I'm odd that since I was betrayed for the last time, I feel nothing for my FOO. No love...I can't lie. I'm past the lies I once told myself. They are like strangers. I do feel a certain resentment if I think of my mother, but that's it. No love mixed in. And I did not mourn her death. We had been estranged for at least ten years by then and had no really tender moments to look back at.

    Anyhow, here is what made me think.

    My therapist once said that kids who are victims of abuse react in one of two ways; they either decide they don't belong and don't bond, or they bond and try to please the parents. The ones that don't bond end up better off in the long run. So I think what he's saying is that distancing yourself to the point of having no feelings is adaptive because the alternative is self-destructive. So it's a normal reaction in the sense that children will sometimes react this way. What might not be normal is continuing to have this reaction when you're an adult and have the ability to feel for them without getting involved. You might worry that you're not ready, and in a sense aren't grown up enough, and that's what happens to me. I start to have feelings for my mother, worrying about her health, and pretty soon I'm considering seeing her again. I get a severe stress reaction that I can't control right now, so I back down, shut down feelings again, and I can function.

    A long lasting bond only happens if you have an ongoing meaningful relationship with the person. I haven't seen my family members much over the years so how would I bond? We know nothing about each other and they show no interest. People may say things like "she's your mom" or "she's your sister" implying that you would naturally have some feelings towards the other person based on their role in your life. But I don't see people as merely a role. My sister isn't just my sister; she's also a human being. So not only do they not play their roles very well, frankly (no birthday cards for example, no signs of caring, etc.) but they are also not likeable as people that I might meet on the street. So now, as an adult, even if I were able to emotionally distance myself from the past and all of my childhood (as they like to say, "let it go already") I would still not want to be around them."

    I never saw anyone admit it before and was sort of afraid to admit it here. I have a deep capacity to love. I love my chosen family to death. My husband is the love of my life. My kids are my heartstrings. My closest friends are also in my heart. But not my FOO, except my deceased grandmother and my father, who has not been a part of the abuse. In fact, I know he hates t he shunning they have done, but it has been good for me that they shunned me.

    Anyhow, back so soon, huh? LOL!
  2. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    "Distancing yourself to the point of having no feelings is adaptive because the alternative is self-destructive."

    This fits beautifully with my thinking this morning, Serenity. I had just posted something about watching the positive feelings turn negative, and why that might be.

    I wonder whether what I describe as resentment is what you have described as a severe stress reaction. Yes, I see that it is.

    So maybe, those resentments come up to protect me from becoming re-involved with FOO because I miss them? (And I do. But I hate them, too, for what they've done.) Hatred and love are two sides of the same coin. So I am still braided into them, through and through.

    So, I would be the bonded, people-pleasing kind of child.

    I like that you said distancing ourselves is adaptive because the alternative is self-destructive.

    Now I have to think about this for a little while.

  3. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    Hi SWOT,
    You are here, and it is good.
    I have an odd feeling of numbness towards my sister. I have been through the same sort of swirly whirly with her, similar to what I feel with my d cs. I love her, still, I feel a sort of danger in re-connecting with her, for the time being.
    So right now, I do not contact her. I used to very often, I am not shunning her, just taking time to re-group.
    It is the same with my Tornado. She is my daughter, but obviously to me, she does not have the same affection and love for me, as I do her.
    So, again a disconnect has occurred. For the time being.

    Life is constantly shifting and changing, I do not look at things as "forever".

    I do not think this unhealthy, to feel "nothing" I think it is ourselves stepping in, to form a "bubble". I call this bubble inner peace.

    When our own family members by blood, are damaging to us, I think it is okay to withdraw from their company. It is not shunning, it is self protection. We can still hold love for them, but we are aware of the potential danger, and take measures and steps to protect ourselves, as we should.

    This is what I am thinking this morning, as the roosters are crowing and the dawn is full of birdsong.

    Well, that means I have to go to work.

    Thank you Serenity.
    Your thoughts are much appreciated and cherished.

    Peace be to you
  4. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    I believe that I survived my childhood because I never really bonded with anyone in my family nuclear or extended. I have heard stories that I was standoffish from infancy. Things happened that I felt were unjust and ticked me off, but they did not make me feel unloved. My friend,C, survived her horrific childhood because she distanced herself from her family emotionally. It made it difficult to form lasting bonds as an adult. I was married and divorced before I understood this. I did not have a problem bonding with my babies.
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Pasajes4, consider yourself lucky. I did bond with my family as a child. The emotional pulling away happened slowly and bit by bit in middle age and after. Every time Sis called the police on me or got upset at me for trite reasons and didn't contact me for months I loved her less and less. Bro moved to the East right after college...I d idn't see him much after he moved and then when he strangely got close to my Sis, who had mistreated him something awful, I felt even more aloof from him. My kids have not seen bro more than three times, if that and Sis has not been in their lives either. And my mother didn't see any of my kids after my daughter Princess was six...I don't think I saw her once after my grandmother died when I was 37.

    At this point in my life, I just feel nothing for Sis, Bro and Mom (other than the mild resentment). I am better off now, regarding FOO, than ever. And I'm sure they feel the same about me. After my very serious car accident, neither bro nor sis contacted me. My father sent flowers in their name and Sis made a lame attempt to contact my daughter Princess by text when Princess was sitting in Surgical ICU with me, but daughter didn't answer. I mean, she tried, b ut, according to her (Sis), only to please my elderly father who wants us to be bosom buddies. Brother never even tried.

    I feel very distant from all of them, even father sometimes because he talks to them so I have to be careful what I tell him because I don't want certain news being spread. But I love my father very much. He does not buy the abuse they are trying to sell him.

    I always thought not loving your FOO makes you "baaaaaaaaaaaaad." But I think it is helpful in certain situations. Like yours. Like mine.
    Since they are the ones who initiated the shunning, not me, I don't even feel a twinge of sometimes guilt. It was their call...and, in the end, a good one for me.

    I'm glad you can bond with your babies. I can bond with people who care about me...I care about them right back easily. But I can un-bond easily too, which I believe is, in my case, a good thing or I'd never get over my abusive years with FOO. I was also a baby who did not want my mother to hold me and she blamed ME, an Maybe I sensed something even at that young age. I wouldn't let her hug me as a toddler. I'd push her away.

    I wonder why. My mother had told me many times, "When I first held you in the hospital, everyone told me I'd love you, but I felt nothing...absolutely nothing." I personally t hink those are words you should take to your grave, but she told me this many times. Maybe it was mutual.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2015
  6. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    My mother's favorite hurtful thing to say ( she thought) was, "If the birth control pill had been around back then, none of you would here." I remember thinking that I wish it had been around then too.
  7. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    OMG you guys, I feel so icky when I read this. I have said something similar to my
    d c's, in the throes of their extreme disrespect.
    Mind you, the context was different. I said " from the moment I knew you were in my belly, I loved you deeply, I am your mother, and I gave birth to you....yet there were alternatives.......but I chose you.
    Ugh, I will never go there again.....
    Thank you sisters, I have learned...... (Wince, shudder)

    I can't believe I went there.......

    I am on my phone, trying to upload an image. I am phone image upload challenged. Got to get back to work.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Sad, Pasajes. Why do they feel the need to share such hurtful things? My mother also told my sister, "If abortion had been legal, you wouldn't be here. I didn't want another child."

    It's easy to detach emotionally when you think about these things. Who says those things to a child?
  9. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    That's different to me, Leafie. You WERE under REAL stress and angst and your kids were much older. My mother told me that story when I was still a child and repeated it through the years. That, along with calling me horrible names such as brat, stupid, selfish, and others...long as a roll of toilet paper. I'm sure you didn't do that to your kids when they were children.

    My mother also tried and succeeded in getting the siblings to fight. I don't think tbe three of us ever all talked to one another at the same time. But the scapegoat was definitely me because I called her out on our crazed family and also because I had challenges that she called "being baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad." I am still the scapegoat of my siblings. Mommie Dearest.

    Leafie, we all say things, but hopefully we apologize (I always do) to our older kids when they cause us grief and they say things to us (and if they are not difficult children they also apologize). Way different.