What life really is like for children of toxic parents

So, this article was shared in a group online, and I read it, curious.

OMG, it is SO harmful.

It does a real disservice to what life is really like for children with toxic, abusive parents..

Let's begin at the beginning. The beginning was spot on--it is absolutely frightening to think about children's natural emotions making them the target for rage. That is real. I've seen it happen. The nervous giggle getting more, and more furious, spankings. The sensitive one getting yelled at for crying, at the age of SIX, because they were ironically afraid of dad's anger.

The author pared the types down to four categories:

RebelĀ "...rebel is the person who defiantly tries to do whatever it takes not to be like their abusive or narcissistic parent."
RunnerĀ "...Such children are those who leave home typically between the ages of 18-35..."
Conformist "...Self-centered by nature and happy to enjoy the spoils of war, as long as they get to remain in the position of playing golden child favorite..."
Abuser "destined to have a personality disorder"

It seems accurate enough, but falls into the trap of oversimplification. I want to be kind and say that it might be because of the nature of blogging--you have to keep it somewhat short and simple. Unfortunately in this case it does a real disservice to people like us.

To use my experiences as an example, here's where the little boxes go wrong.

Conformist. I guess I was a conformist, because I was a golden child. One of my sisters became a golden child. And a brother changed from being the black sheep to becoming a golden child. To be a golden child, you really do have to conform and contort yourself to fit your narcissistic parent's idea of who you are. They don't see who you really are, but what they want you to be. If you conform, it helps you avoid some of the abuses.

The author said that the conformist will do anything to keep the position of "golden child," and that the GCs are motivated by greed. That idea is inherently damaging. I, and two other siblings weren't motivated by greed. Fear, for sure. Fear of getting abused like the black sheep. Fear of becoming the black sheep. But that is a self-preservation mechanism that the N-parent creates in children. It can morph into disordered behaviors as children grow up, turning them into selfish assholes, but that's not a guaranteed thing.

You see, a conformist can also be a rebel.

My brother was probably the rebel. My god, he tried SO hard not to be like dad for so long. He wanted to be a runner, too. He would complain all the time about how unfair dad was, even though neither of us could really describe it as abuse. Not yet, anyway. He'd talk endlessly about moving out as soon as he turned 19. I was a conformer, and as a golden child, I'd try to reframe the discussion and put Dad's behavior in a better light, or minimize the abuses we all would suffer, because that is what good children do--good children obey their parents.

Even though he was a rebel, he did not point out the abuses as dad heaped them on other people. That would make him even more of a target, and it would put our other siblings at risk for worse rages. He wasn't stupid, and besides, that is what dad taught us. Any backtalk would hurt us all.

Runners do NOT, and I repeat, do NOT run because they don't care about the remaining siblings. In a war zone, you do what you can to get out and then you can work on helping someone else get out. We naively thought we could all band together and help each other.

As it turned out, I was the runner and rebel, and I became the black sheep. When I moved out, it wasn't because I had "a pattern of emotional vacuousness" that made me not care about my siblings. I cared so fucking much for them, for my pets, for my mom, and yeah, a little bit for my dad. I initially moved out because I wondered if it would help me better love my father to have some distance.

As I turned into the black sheep, my brother became the golden child, the conformer, the defender of our father. He wanted that kind of approval for so long, I really am not surprised by his ongoing brainwashed state, and I honestly don't blame him, even though I lost a friend.

When I became the rebel, I still didn't really point out the injustices my dad did because it would only make it worse. I was still afraid. I was afraid for them. Usually I would try to sneak into their rooms during their punishment and tell them that everything was okay, that they were actually good kids, and dad was just angry. I tried to be the replacement mom when our actual mom wasn't doing this.

A rare few times, I would try to defend a sibling. Once, my hard of hearing brother wouldn't talk at a Scouts meeting, and my dad was furious. Absolutely furious. I pointed out that he couldn't HEAR, and since he couldn't hear, he didn't know what to say. It was just too loud. My dad responded by yelling at me that he was a spoiled brat. (Again, because mom wasn't doing this, I snuck in to comfort my brother, and I also gave him some tricks for managing noisy situations--tricks that helped me.)

But this had to be done carefully--because any overt act of "rebellion" would result in a hard smackdown.

I know this is all just one family. One set of dynamics. Certainly, other dysfunctional families have their own dynamics, and perhaps this rings true for those people. But really, for the vast majority of survivors, this article is super damaging because it sets up the rebels and runners as enablers and uncaring people when the opposite is true. It sets up conformers as selfish people when that is honestly not always the case.

I wish I could like this person's article, but it really is harmful for survivor siblings.

 

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