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The Real Truth is that we were abused!

by Matt Pappas

The title of this post might seem a little odd, or “out there”, but if you’ll allow me to expand upon it a bit, I’d love to share this insight I discovered recently. As a survivor of, in this case narcissistic parenting, our mind can be confused about what is true and what isn’t. However, the same thought process that I’ll work through here can be related to other types of abuse as well.

There can be countless contradicting thoughts that work to minimize the real truth we should be embracing.  The Real Truth is, we were robbed of the childhood that we deserved. When a parent is not fully present, doesn’t validate and encourage us, and just generally give us what we need both physically and emotionally, we have missed out.

It’s through no fault of our own. The person that gave birth to us, the people who raised us, failed on some number of levels, and that has affected us to our very core. It has stayed with us for years, decades even, and transformed us into something we never intended to be. It’s only through acceptance, putting in the hard work, dealing with the reality of our trauma(s) that we can re-engineer ourselves into the person we deserve to be. The person we want to be.

I like to refer to my guilt complex as the “Guilty Gremlin”. This little dude is in my head constantly trying to tell me that, “your childhood wasn’t that bad”, and “you should be grateful that you had it as good as you did”. Those types of thoughts are a total mind screw for someone who is trying to recover from we see as a traumatic childhood but what others might not perceive it as such.

Growing up, my parents weren’t rich but they made a pretty decent living. I lived in a nice house (not a mansion) but it was more than adequate. I had my own room, a TV, my own phone, and I was able to decorate it mostly as I chose. Actually as it turns out, my decorating the room the way that I wanted was a way for me to keep my parents out. They didn’t like my posters of RATT and Motley Crue very much, so they didn’t venture upstairs all that often.

Anyways, being mostly an only child (my siblings were grown and out of the house by the time I was in elementary school), I was able to have some nice things. I grew up ATC’s, a dirt bike, a cool stereo, and my Dad helped me buy my first car.

So the Guilty Gremlin dances around in my head and sends out these messages like, “Hey you had all this cool stuff, just be grateful you weren’t like so and so”.  “Your life wasn’t all THAT bad, you got to go on vacations and eat out”.  Those types of thoughts, which are true, do not minimize the fact that I was invalidated and ridiculed constantly by my mother.

Having all kinds of stuff doesn’t diminish the hurt that I experienced.

Let’s look at this from a different example.  How about the truths that, yes my mom did come to my rescue once or twice, when I really needed it? She did come to band and choir concerts at school. Should those instances just completely negate the Truth that she constantly berated me for my attitude, my clothes, my hair, my music, my work ethic?

The Truth that she never validated me for the time that I took my life back, and started be the person that I always dreamed of? To live the life that I was born to live? When in fact the Truth is that she tried to tear me down constantly and make me not be who I was becoming and who I wanted to be?

She never approved of anyone that I dated or hung out with, they were turning me into a worldly person that she and God didn’t approve of. These people were my friends, who accepted and validated me. They treated me the way that I wanted to be treated. My mother never did that, and that is the Truth.

What about the Truth that she said I just needed to “deal with it” when it came to bullies?  The Truth that I was left in tears in 1st grade as I was made to sit in the corner and be laughed at by all the other kids, without even having my stuffed animal for comfort?

What I’m getting at here, is that guilt complex or Guilty Gremlin in our heads tries to minimize us and tear us down just like our abusers did. In fact, it’s an extension, a direct result, of those past abusers.

It doesn’t matter if you were dirt poor or lived in a mansion or anything in between, what you experienced was real! No matter what walk of life you grew up in, the real Truth is that you were robbed of something you deserved. You deserved love, validation, safety, encouragement, and positive reinforcement.

Unfortunately, all too often we got just the opposite: invalidation, no safe place physically or emotionally to run too, discouraging words and negative reinforcement.

Your Guilty Gremlin, like mine, will try and tell you that it wasn’t that bad. It could have been so much worse. That’s all just a bunch of crap! Nobody’s trauma should be minimized because of what we had vs what someone else didn’t have. Nobody’s trauma should be minimized because our parents or guardians did some good things for us.

The real Truth is that we were raised in a way that nobody should be subjected too. Your abuse, your trauma, is validated, as is mine.  That Guilty Gremlin has no business making us feel otherwise.



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Don July 8, 2016 - 10:07 am

Yep, as real as it gets, but its amazing how much our minds tend to try and tempt us into believing something different. Maybe its the pasture is greener on the other side when in fact its astro turf. Looks green, but..

I often say that in the midst of doing something that was fun (like camping or being out on a row boat in a lake or taking a vacation and even Christmas), there was so much turmoil and abuse that took place in among the stuff, that it is hard to separate one from the other. Like, to go camping and boating, I would be molested in the restroom/shower facility and have diarrhea so bad, that everyone would then notice it. The camping/boating were things I loved, but the other stuff was such a part of that experience. So, its very hard to separate the two out.

Christmas is actually one of my favorite times of the year. It has always been that way. Unfortunately even as excited as I got as a kid for this day, there was manipulation and “love” that you had to earn with whatever gift you gave. There was the fighting and screaming in the house. There was having to try on “new underwear” in front of everyone as a kid and be gawked at.

So, back to your point – I think it is hard for my mind to look at things effectively and balanced at times. Its hard to see all of it because some of the good memories and things hurt bad. At times my mind just says, ahhh… it wasn’t that bad… after all, you were just boating or camping. The silent part within me knows differently.

Sheryl Burpee Dluginski July 8, 2016 - 12:18 pm

Yes. Separating out the ‘good” from the “bad” has been a struggle for me too. My father was a workaholic, alcoholic, pedophile bully. He was also a “good provider”, making it possible for us to live a comfortable middle class life. Once I was able to discern the difference between work ethic and workaholism, I found that I have gleaned from him an excellent work ethic. He was a successful entrepreneur, as I am today. And I am much better at maintaining my business and a healthy personal life than he ever was. But I’m not sure I would have had the courage to start my own business if he hadn’t lead the way for me. He took us on wonderful vacations, taught me how to swim and waterski, modeled good fitness habits and made it possible for me to learn and teach gymnastics which was a life-saving activity for me. True, I eventually became an exercise addict, but when I was able to overcome that, I was left with a healthier and fitter body than most and a vast knowledge and passion for exercise and fitness. He also modeled horrible eating and drinking habits, which fostered my eating disorder and substance abuse issues which took years of work and therapy to overcome. I will be in recovery from these issue for the rest of my life. He took me on great vacations and showed me the joys of the woods, the mountains and the beach, but he also always made it clear that I was “lucky” to have these gifts from him, and I owed him big time in return. And the payback he wanted was for me to live my life as he saw fit, and to abandon my own truth for his sake. No dice, Dad. Teasing out the stuff I want to keep from him and the stuff that doesn’t serve me is a lifelong ongoing process. It can be confusing for sure, but in the end I have come to see that he was an emotionally crippled person who was ruled by fear instead of love. He was very sick and he knew it and he refused to get well. He chose the lazy, fearful way instead of the courage to heal. Too bad for him. I’m moving on to a healthy, happy life despite his attempts to hobble me. Most of all he taught me what choices I did NOT want to make in my own life.

Matt July 9, 2016 - 11:01 am

I love this part especially Sheryl, Teasing out the stuff I want to keep from him and the stuff that doesn’t serve me is a lifelong ongoing process. It is true that we likely did take some good things from our parent(s) or guardians, but in the case of the abuse that we suffered, it really is a struggle to separate the two. I owe my dad so much, I’m grateful for the kind, caring, compassionate, heart that I have. From my mom, as I look back, ya know…I’m not sure what good qualities I got from her. That is sad, and somewhat confusing. You’ve given me something to ponder Sheryl, thank you!

You are strong and amazing and inspiring! Thank you for sharing some of your heart!

Joy Richardson July 25, 2016 - 3:01 am

My parents weren’t rich, we relied on donations. We barely touched middle class because my dad’s position required supporters. People donated money to us through the non-profit organization that was started by my grandfather. I lived in a house but did not have my own room or phone until I was in high school, and it was very important to my mother that I could not decorate my own room. There was no way to keep my parents out. I did not have nice things, no ATC’s or dirt bikes, nor stereos. My dad helped me buy my first car, but when I got in a deadly car accident he profited $3,000 more than he paid. However, I am able to move on. Yes, I was abused, my mother slapped me and upturned my desk when I wouldn’t give her my phone, my father kicked and punched me again and again because I could not correctly solve my math problem or because I wept too loudly or for any other reason he felt was adequate…I moved on. That will never make what I went through ‘ok’…it will never be made ‘right’…but I have accepted, grown, learned…I have become a better person in spite of the narcissism and abuse. I sincerely hope one day you will rise above and not put so much value in what your mother didn’t do to validate you. Being made aware of the extreme abuse of others will never make your experiences ok but it will certainly help put things in perspective.

Coy Harkcom July 31, 2016 - 9:17 am

The best way to guide someone to do the right thing is to advise them of what is best and then explain to them the consequences of doing things thoughtlessly. Informing the person of some of the pitfalls prompts the person to think and learn about what is best so they can grow in wisdom and experience life with safety.

Cimmy December 5, 2016 - 9:24 am

Well said, Matt! Well said


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