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Healing Resentment Towards Enabling Parent: Seeking Support

LeiaFlower

Confident
I've been struggling with a significant increase in emotional dysregulation and depression, primarily due to the conflicting relationship I have with my mother. My father was more emotionally abusive. He had a strict parenting style and adhered to the controlling beliefs from a fundamentalist religion. This then led to spiritual, emotional, and sexual abuse. While I remember my mother being physically abusive to my older siblings and making degrading remarks towards me, she was not emotionally abusive. However, she enabled much of the physical and emotional abuse inflicted by my father and played a role in the sexual abuse my siblings and I endured by forcing us to spend time with abusive people. Despite our expressed fears and dislike for these people, our parents continued to bring them into our lives.

My mother isn’t always emotionally absent either; she does have her down days due to the chaotic, on-again, off-again dependency she has with my father. While she downplays his abuse and often casts herself as the victim when her enabling behavior is called out, she still advocates for my and my siblings' mental health. She genuinely cares about our interests, shows physical affection, and ensures we are financially supported even as we approach our 30s. Despite her redeeming qualities, I don't feel emotionally safe with her. I can't trust her, and I struggle with feelings of anger and hatred towards her, which in turn makes me hate myself. Everyday it is getting harder to reconcile her affectionate nature with the trauma she enabled and caused.

I know I need to process these feelings, but I’m unsure how to proceed. I've been advised to confront her directly, but given that I currently still live with my parents, I am not comfortable with this approach. It doesn't seem feasible or helpful at this time. I also do not have the financial stability or current resources to move out. My siblings live with their parents, my friends also are not in a place to move, and my fears from my parents religion usually cripple me from finding a random roommate online. I feel completely stuck and as if it’s my fault for being in this position for not trying hard enough, and allowing my mental health to get bad enough to where I am unfit to live alone.

Does anyone else have similar experience with resentment towards an enabling parent? How did you heal? What did you find to be the most and least helpful? Any help, support, or mere acknowledgment that I’m not alone will be genuinely appreciated.
 
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I've been advised to confront her directly, but given that I currently still live with my parents, I am not comfortable with this approach.
Yeah, wouldn’t be my advice.

Confrontation in reality is often very different to what how people think it should play out.

Our abusers (through malice, lack of insight, denial, or a complexity of different reasons) usually aren’t living in a reality where they accept they have been abusive, or played a part in abuse.

And even if there may come a time when they may be ready to be possibly receptive to the idea, that point in time rarely aligns nicely with our own healing trajectory (just because I’m ready to confront someone, doesn’t mean they’re ready to hear me). No matter how irrational their perspective may be, very few people are ever ready to hear “you realise you played a part in this abuse of a child”.

The reality? Confrontation gives our abusers and their enablers a grand old opportunity to perpetuate the same old toxic patterns they’ve always played. Why would now be any different?

So, it can work. But it’s pretty rare these days for trauma specialists who work with survivors of child abuse to recommend confronting an abuser. Less so for enablers, but if anger is in play? It’s not a conversation I would walk in to hoping for a productive outcome. If they had any belief their behaviour was wrong, or insight into and appreciation of its consequences…they most likely wouldn’t done it.

Everyday it is getting harder to reconcile her affectionate nature with the trauma she enabled and caused.
This is a tough one that a lot of survivors of child abuse have to grapple (yup, I’m still there myself!). Our abusers are, very often, people who were simultaneously our primary caregivers. People who did, often, keep us safe, sometimes provide incredible amounts of love and care.

Add in the very significant weight of biology and genetic programming. Our entire being is wired to be attached to our primary caregivers. survival of mammals is successful because children attach to their primary caregivers instinctively - we turn towards that warm face that cuddles us even before we can physically recognise it’s our mum giving us gooey eyes. We do that even when they’re doing a shit job of being primary caregivers - thousands of years of genetic priming made you thus!

Which makes it more than a little confusing! Give yourself time to work through those emotions. Journal about them, art about them, dance about them - express and explore those feelings however feels safe to you.

The very complicated reality for us as adults? They were most likely people we loved and feared, and that’s very typical of human relationships (not in Hollywood - in Hollywood it always works out one way or the other. Be nice if it were that simple!).

I struggle with feelings of anger and hatred towards her, which in turn makes me hate myself.
The use of the word ‘struggle’ here is telling.

How do you feel about the idea that this anger and resentment might be feelings worth celebrating?

You’ve spent a lot of your life suffering because of this person. You didn’t deserve the abuse - and they could have stopped it. They should have protected you, and kept you safe. They failed miserably at that. You deserve to be angry about that. You deserve to be angry on your own behalf.

We couldn’t get angry as children. It wasn’t safe. Our survival depending on not getting angry. We are experts at not being angry.

But you deserve this anger. It’s hard won. You have arrived at anger, finally, directed at exactly the right person. And it hasn’t been easy to get here.

You won’t be angry forever. Like all the other emotional states you have been through, and are yet to go through, this too shall pass.

In the meantime? High fives for getting angry at the right person because of what was done to you! It’s totally appropriate to be angry at them. You are allowed to embrace that anger, and find outlets for it. Find ways to express it, let it run through you and invigorate you and motivate you to never ever put up with that treatment or neglect ever again, and to continue healing.

For me? Anger on my own behalf is very definitely an achievement. When I notice it? I try and make a point of celebrating it. Sure, channel it in the right direction - but struggle with it? Nah. This is good anger. This is “I deserve better” anger. Embrace it!
 
He had a strict parenting style and adhered to the controlling beliefs from a fundamentalist religion.
this statement makes me fearful of speaking the f-word by which i found my greatest healing strength. forgiveness. i apologize in advance if my sharing is inappropriate. religious abuse can cause some gnasty triggers for the healing mysteries. the context in which i use the forgiveness process does not judge, execute nor absolve the offending parties. it is not about the perpetrators. it is about letting go of the bitter toxins eating holes in my soul. non-forgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. for me, the forgiveness process works the same, whether i need to forgive the jerk-off who cut me off in traffic, an abusive parent, an abusive adult child or myself for my own mental illness.

i will join @sideway' s choir about confronting the perpetrator. my own experience with confrontation is that it causes more collateral damage than healing. repeat: forgiveness is not about the perpetrator. it is about letting go of the bitterness and mistrust.

again, i apologize if my use of the f-word is inappropriate.

steadying support while you find what works for you.
healing hopes for all. no exception s.
 
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I've been advised to confront her directly

Sideways said better what I wanted to say. I will tell you, from my experience, confrontation did no good with my mother. It just left me in emotional tangles. I really don't think she had the capacity to respond in ways I would have found healing.


I know I need to process these feelings, but I’m unsure how to proceed.

Hmm... what do you mean by process your feelings? I think there's this idea that we can find the magic formula- confrontation, forgiveness, etc and then the feelings resolve. The feelings are there for a reason though. They protect us and/or help us maintain relationships and provide all sorts of information. For me, accepting that I have all these feelings was something I needed to do for healing. And now I'm going to say something really awful. That got much easier to do after she died. I know longer had to deal with her in the present and had time to just process the past. While she was alive it was a constant process of reminding myself that her reality was distorted and I was allowed to have my feelings.

I feel completely stuck and as if it’s my fault for being in this position for not trying hard enough, and allowing my mental health to get bad enough to where I am unfit to live alone.

That's a lot of self blame. I understand, it's so easy to do. How does that self blame help you?
 
Hello
I am experiencing the same situation with my mother. It is incredibly difficult and confusing. I am only just uncovering the mask of switching, the excessive charm and what that really is. My trauma therapist has maintained not to threaten the facade. That in my mother's case she is extremely damaged and confrontation will only lead to re-traumatising for me. Also to note that in her 70's her brain is not able to recognise or admit to the abuse. My brain, my children's brains are able to be reset with our treatment. I am crawling my way towards making peace by letting the feelings and memories come up, journaling and using EMDR. My heart goes out to you as I know how I feel on a daily basis. It is polarising, deeply sad and brings overwhelming rage. I hope to learn the truth by developing strong boundaries and find a way to slowly and gently make peace with a family I was taught were so fabulous and wonderful. Their show will go on. Hugs, K
 
Sideways said better what I wanted to say. I will tell you, from my experience, confrontation did no good with my mother. It just left me in emotional tangles. I really don't think she had the capacity to respond in ways I would have found healing.




Hmm... what do you mean by process your feelings? I think there's this idea that we can find the magic formula- confrontation, forgiveness, etc and then the feelings resolve. The feelings are there for a reason though. They protect us and/or help us maintain relationships and provide all sorts of information. For me, accepting that I have all these feelings was something I needed to do for healing. And now I'm going to say something really awful. That got much easier to do after she died. I know longer had to deal with her in the present and had time to just process the past. While she was alive it was a constant process of reminding myself that her reality was distorted and I was allowed to have my feelings.



That's a lot of self blame. I understand, it's so easy to do. How does that self blame help you?
It doesn't sound awful. I think that a lot and feel at peace with it. The final physical closure. Then the cycle breaks for good. I will have hopefully cleaned up alot of the past and be able to focus on the past instead of the continuous re-traumatising they do in the present. I've found creating space incredibly difficult and physically overwhelming saying no to their manipulative time requests. It was jarring at first but I am getting the knack of saying no. To think at 48 I was shown by my therapist that I am an adult and I make my own decisions. And even then when I shared this statement with my mother she had quite the contemptuous response. She began on her narrow world view monologue. That goes to show that this stuff is real. I believe death will bring more peace in the long run. Because we deserved better. We deserved humans that developed us as people not to be kept hostage in their very small cages.
 
Despite her redeeming qualities, I don't feel emotionally safe with her. I can't trust her, and I struggle with feelings of anger and hatred towards her, which in turn makes me hate myself. Everyday it is getting harder to reconcile her affectionate nature with the trauma she enabled and caused.
And she sounds like she is the one guaranteed safe person to GET mad at. As she
1 - can clearly “take it” (being abused for decades, herself, she’s proven herself capable of soaking up other people’s rage like a sponge).
2 - ISN’T the abusive one you have to fear their response/reprisals/anger/abuse
3 - Keeps demonstrating her love, so it isn’t the wishful thinking of “If I could ABC then they would love me” that abusers evoke. Instead? Real, tangible, love for you. Against a backdrop of pain.

^^^ That? ^^^ Leads to seeeeeriously complex feelings. Just because she’s safe to BE mad at? You can’t trust her to protect herself, or to protect you; you can’t trust her to stand up to you if you’re in the wrong, nor to treat you any differently than an abuser -IE able to see you for you, instead of as a threat to survive & placate- which also means you can’t trust her to be honest with you, so you may as well be screaming into the wind, or kicking a puppy. You MAY be able to trust her to keep your secrets if you DO lash out at her, if she has a history of covering for you, but the risk is there that lashing out at her will equal your abuser being looped in, so you might as well have directed all that rage where it belongs. <<< THAT? Is just the TIP of the iceberg, but it’s more than enough to explain why the sense of safety is nada. No matter how much the 2 of you love each other? The trauma bonds alone create a cyclone of complex emotions, with no safe harbor of “trust” to lean into. Because, on these & other issues, you cannot trust her.

Even if you can trust her to the moon in other ways? It’s complex, and complicated, and conflicting, and contradictory. That’s not wrong. Even if every single molecule feels wrong.

If you break down EVERYTHING you’re legitimately angry with her about? (And there’s likely a lot). Those things will be different than they are with anyone else you share trauma history with, because you know her, and love her, and can SEE the potential of who she could have been, who you both could have been, away from the cycle of abuse. The strength to survive decades of abuse, and still be loving? Still be affectionate, and understanding, and trying to find solutions, and still be advocating for your children? The grief/pain/rage of what “could have… if only”. Is born out of love.

That’s not something to hate yourself for.
 
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