Emotional abuse and emotional incest*. Putting those two terms in relation to me and my past has both been extremely difficult for me and yet it feels like a relief to say it out loud.
On being brutally honest on the internet?
The process of publishing this is quite daring, so to speak. To be frank I feel cautious publishing this. My fathers voice is still half lingering in the back of my head. This is exactly why I publish this.
It feels like the right time, as I have been silent about this long enough and I wasn’t even able to make the connections in my head. Rather I was blaming myself and felt shame and guilt towards my father, he did his best, right? I am healed enough for me to speak freely about it.
*Emotional incest has nothing sexual about it, rather it describes how a parent uses a child to fulfill their emotional needs. That is exactly what he did. I am sure he loved me, but he had few other ways to show me. He was most often abusive, threatening, had conditions for his love, verbally attacked me when ever I did not fit into his idea of the world etc,.
Why do I need to talk about this abuse and not just leave it in the past?
It is important for me to tell you my story. If you ever had interaction with me, this may be the missing link for you to see why I acted like I did. It surely is the missing link I was too afraid to even think about. I was not true towards myself, for years.
Now it’s time to release that heaviness in my heart, and let it go. In the process of writing this I’ve gone through so many drafts, and lastly a lot of emotions have surfaced. I have enjoyed looking at myself, as this is a way for me to be what I am now. It means, I have a greater understanding of why I can come through such a big transformation.
Only about our relationship
This article is only regarding my fathers relationship towards me. I cannot speak for others as he was a very charming and intelligent person. This is the story I never shared.
About my father and our relationship
My father was 59 when he passed away, silently in our home. It was December 29, 2014, little after 11 pm. His bane was years of illness that manifested as two huge tumors in his brain. In addition, these tumors were not there on scans months before. The tumors resulted in him slowly becoming paralyzed in the left side of his body, and his right eye was impaired by a retina tear that he was operated on in the summer of 2014.
He was very different the last few months and he was to a certain extend a different person at the end. Somehow he was the father I always knew he could have been. Not blaming me, caring, understanding.
I left everything behind to heal and went to India
In September 2015 I went to India and stayed there until the start of 2017. One could say I found myself, in whatever I had suppressed in the years. I shredded the layers of conditioning and slowly allowed my self to be me.
From a young age I knew that the relationship with my father was beyond natural, and to be frank quite dysfunctional.
On not being heard and being belittled when I tried to be honest and tell my story
I have experienced both in India and many times before, and even recently I met people who questioned my story.
‘Are you sure it was that bad and you’re not being biased?’ This is, really, the worst thing you can say to a human that has gone through these experiences. The humiliation to be met by evaluation when you open up.
I could not express my feelings of sadness and anger towards this statement. At the end, this statement led me to doubt myself and my experiences many times. For years this statement haunted me.
Now I am healed enough for me to say: ‘YES, it was as bad, if not worse than what my words can express.’
On trying to explain myself, and always finding myself feeling guilty for sharing my experiences
I often tried to paint a picture for the people I talked too, but consistently left out vital parts of the story. Of course I was never able to tell exactly what happened. This is the consequence and a vital part of being emotionally abused. You’re ashamed and feel guilt towards the abusive person, hence you cover for them. I thought it would have too many ramifications, if I was honest. We can never know.
I made up small lies to pretend the relationship was normal. That the emotional abuse was not there. White lies were big part of my life for years as I covered up stuff with small white lies about how I felt and I tried to make excuses for him and his behavior.
Growing up feeling like a liar for no apparent reason
Feeling like a liar and bad person was quite normal for me. Why? Well my father had absolutely no apprehension about telling me that I was a selfish, egoistical person, that was never using my brains enough and hence would never find anyone who loved me, besides maybe my parents.
‘But of course you are the most beautiful person in the world’
Of course he often denied ever saying these things to me. He later couldn’t understand why I was feeling like a piece of garbage with no self confidence. I should just pick myself up, according to him. Because, of course, I was the best, most beautiful and intelligent daughter in the world?! Yes, these contradictions occurred on a very regular schedule.
My father did not understand me when I was different with other people
Even when I did something for my friends I felt it was never good enough, and I was being selfish for helping them. My father blamed me for being good with my friends, because he felt betrayed when I did not spend enough time with him/them nor cared enough for him according to his beliefs.
He was true about one thing though. There was a point where I only called when I needed something: LIKE EVERY NORMAL TEENAGER who is trying to live their own life and become an independent adult.
Yes, I moved away from my parents at the tender age of 17. He was partially responsible for this, as he wanted me to have the best education. No matter how far away from him that meant. He later blamed me for being too independent, that I never asked for his help?!
Trying to explain myself was a silent cry out for help
I felt like a liar when I couldn’t describe how my father was behind closed doors, when people asked about me, or when I started to open up about his illness. I often thought to myself, how I wish people can see how things from my point of view.
My father told me so many times, that I under no circumstance could tell others about the content of our talks. He was very private. Well, in the big scheme of things, he had very good reason to tell me to shut up.
Using all my energy on seeming normal and in that process loosing myself
As you probably have an idea about now, I put quite a big effort into my facade towards others. As a consequence, I was not able to be myself comfortably. A lot of effort from my side throughout the years, has gone into me not understanding what was wrong with ME.
I couldn’t even dare to think that maybe my father had a problem, and not me. Of course, I internalized that I was not a good daughter. I (and my mother) was surely the root of his sorrows, because we did not support him, cared enough for him etc.
I tried to change my ways
The questions I had towards myself, lead me to try and change my own behavior. Although I was a negative person, I knew deep inside this was not my normal state.
He became frustrated when I didn’t agree with him. As a result of this trying to assert myself as my own person, and not an extension of him, proved to be a challenge.
I told white lies about my thought and actions since an early age
I felt like a robot for years. My reactions where always slightly off, compared to people I met. And I knew it, my father also knew it. To make things worse, he was like a living lie detector, so in that way, I quickly learned how to put on a partial mask near my father.
Examples of mental control over my thought patterns and actions
He said things like: ‘I don’t understand why people hate themselves so much. Only people with low self esteem get pierced or tattoos. If you get a piercing or a tattoo, you are not my daughter. I cannot have that’.
When I turned 18 I did not get a helix (ear cartilage piercing), rather I got a navel piercing. This piercing I hid for him until a few months before he died. I only told him, as I tried explaining him, how afraid I was around him. He sort of shook it off, stating that I could have told him. Hmm, taking the previous, repeated statement into consideration, I think not. He conveniently forgot that he ever said this.
You know what? The threat of denouncing me as his daughter, for various reasons such as piercings, tattoos, dating out of my race, whatever, was a favorite of his threats. To his defense, I didn’t get a tattoo. That is good, as I am sure I would have regretted that by now, many times.
My New Years of horror
I specifically remember a New Years, maybe 4 years ago (me – around 26 years old) where it was quite severe with his denouncing threats. Apparently I shamed him and his trust to such a degree that he almost threw me out of his house. What did I do you ask? I shall tell you.
This particular New Years I stayed in their house, to write an assignment for Uni. On the night of New Years, I stayed out longer, as a very good friend of mine had invited me over, feeling sorry for my New Years. She knew how I felt about it. So I came home around 2:30 am. Before I texted them that I decided to stay out.
I celebrated New Years with friends
Let me just say, that I haven’t celebrated New Years with my parents in years, as I see that as a grown up party thing, not a family event. That is what Christmas is for, in my opinion.
He knew this, as I had fought EVERY year since I moved out, to stay with my friends. Him being him, he always complained about that fact.
I was not his daughter, because I was disrespectful
In the morning of this New Years, he couldn’t even look at me. And of course he was silent for what felt like hours. Like I was the most horrible person in the world it seemed. My mother was the middle man. Poor woman. I approached him at a point and all hell broke loose. Like it usually did. If this is not emotional abuse, and manipulation I don’t know what is.
My holidays with an unstable parent
By the way, I hardly remember a Christmas where we somehow did not cry or at least had a fight. It was always a horror.
He was very quick to put a remark about Muslims, homosexual etc. into all sorts of irrelevant contexts about what was wrong with society as he saw it. This was also something we could end up discussing on holidays.
He threatened with suicide if I wasn’t going to be a better person towards him
The threat of suicide was quite a regular thing. He would casually hint how bad his life was, and he may not be here very soon, as he had nothing to live for in this world. Another variation of this was in the line of saying that we (us and the system) treated him so badly, that he might as well just commit suicide.
‘If I WAS you, then…’
Another thing to tell me, when he didn’t like my actions, was the good old classic: ‘If I was you, I would do this. Can’t you see that (whatever I wanted to do) is not the right way. Do like I tell you, and you will be MUCH happier, because you are like me. So do like me.’
He was quite fond of variations of telling me how much better his way was. This though, did make me very good in arguments. I am trained since young to defend my choices and opinions.
I dropped out of Uni out and waited to tell until it was way too late
When I dropped out of engineering school, I waited until I arrived in their home in Switzerland to tell them about my drop out. It was a few weeks after my drop out.
He was very disappointed with me dropping out, because he was so happy to see his little girl as an engineer, just like him. Needlessly to say he exploded and screamed at me for a few hours. In addition I remember the rest of that trip was colored with his rage and disappointment in me.
He of course told me if he had been me, he would have fought through it. Which I apparently didn’t?!
And what did he do in his education?
Should I add this for context? I will.
He did not finish his last project, so on paper he missed a semester due to an accident that gave him severe back pain, and did not get the degree on paper.
To his defense. He was quite smart, so he did not need that paper anyway.
Why did I quit?
To be frank I was just not cut out for engineering, and I’m too lazy to do something I suck that much at. Never before and after have I studied something I sucked that much at. As a personal preference I like doing things I have some kind of skill in. Which I proceeded to study.
To my fathers defense he became very happy, when he saw that I was bringing good grades home after I changed Uni.
‘When I was young…’
His morals standards were high, which is something I appreciate. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that he only had those, because of severe skeletons hiding in his own closet. That made him uncomfortable to think and discuss about his past. I have nothing to back up this statement with, but there was lots of things he was not sharing about his past, due to this.
On not sharing personal items and gifts: Control through possessions
I never shared my personal items with others. The guilt was so intense: What if those people accidentally broke it? We always had each our own things growing up. Of course none of it was never really mine. If my father or mother had given (gifted) me a thing and I didn’t want it anymore I had to return it to them. This meant that I couldn’t give it to someone who may need it.
I ask you: Is it really a gift if you have to return it to the person who gave it to you? And in good conditions?
The countless fights over material items
I can’t count how many fights we fought over things, he was sure I had thrown away or things that he was sure was his, and I surely stole those priced possessions from him. In hindsight he couldn’t recall giving them to me, and I think it was easier to say I stole it.
If I destroyed or made a scratch on something, my father blamed me for being clumsy (but I was?!), stupid, did not use my brain, did it to annoy him etc. (Why would I even do that? It is not like I liked being called an idiot and being scolded).
The gifts he gave me were secretly for him
He always gave me stuff he either had used before, because now he had a better version, or things that he could use. I don’t recall receiving many gift in my adulthood that I actually wanted. It was more gifts that he thought I needed. Hence I liked the yearly trip on my birthday to somewhere I wanted to go.
The story of the gifted perfume: J’adore
I was at a point, like most girls, into perfumes.
My father once asked me, what I wanted for my birthday. As I told him about the perfume I wanted his answer was: ‘Perfumes is not something you get as a gift, you buy it yourself’. All right I thought to my 15-16 year old self, I will buy the perfume myself then. Of course after my birthday I spend the money on the perfume. You can probably guess the rest. He exploded at me, screaming and yelling: ‘Perfumes are gifts, NOT buy yourself’.
On being apologetic for being alive – the embodiment of shame and guilt
As a child I would, looking in hindsight, have social anxiety. I often got beating of my heart, sweaty hands, dry mouth at the thought of speaking to others. In other words: I felt guilty and apologetic for being me.
I had, and to a point still have, a hard time asking for things. Most recent is is my stay in Rishikesh, where I wouldn’t ask for a new bed sheet even after a few months. Why? I felt guilty for making it dirty. Honestly, I kid you not.
When your parent change 180 degree, for no apparent reason, and how that can manifest into adulthood
We always knew the rage, exploding or throwback to a situation was coming. The air became tense, as he withdrew from the conversation. We kept talking. Then the 180 degree turn came as he interrupted: ‘WHY had we said that, didn’t we love him? Why did we have to shame and embarrassing, or we were not supportive?’ Or later ‘Why had this happened to his body, maybe it was because of this?’
He was consumed with rationalizing over events and things. Especially in regards to his body and past events. He would bring up events from way before, or keep thinking of why his body did like it did.
On how I wanted my birthday to be about me but failed
One birthday in particular, I just wanted a few hours of peace NOT talking about how sick we all were, but rather just enjoy my day. We almost had a fight when I asked him not to talk about himself, but rather talk about normal things. After some bickering he agreed. Needlessly to say it only lasted a few hours. And I was not satisfied when he interrupted with disease-talk, but he made the point that he was sick, so of course it was always in his mind. Why couldn’t I just understand that?
Overthinking and rationalization of everything
These things add up to why I always over thought things. People told me this 1 billion times: ‘You think too much’. In hindsight it was a defense mechanism. It makes completely sense: I was always thinking of what to say when. It is how you get conditioned through emotional abuse. Imagining of events that had not yet happened in my head was normal, so I was sure to say the correct version to my father, to protect myself from a verbal attack.
On becoming an independent woman
One of the things I pride myself on, is being an independent woman.
My parents did a good job there. I love how my mother would make me stop and just think for a moment, and then I had the answer myself. It really gave me a sense of accomplishment: I was capable of problem solving.
The other reason for my independence
There is also another and darker reason to my independence: My father would shame me verbally and make me feel guilty for not being able to solve a problem. He would later blame me for this ability.
Why? Because I, according to him, had become a selfish, egoistic person that would never find the right man, because nobody would love me if I was like that, I should be able to let others help me. Nobody wants an independent person who can’t ask for help? Does this sound familiar? Yes, he said that way too many times.
The illness that took over
Let’s get a little into his illness. His illness was complicated and long.
They moved back to Denmark because of his illness. He was rendered unable to work as he felt his body was not at all working, which is wasn’t, and especially his mind was starting to not work.
I will say it again, the man was a programming genius, of course his brain was his main source of income. This has to work.
8+ years ago, that means 6+ years before he passed away, I entered a group for young people with ill parents. My father did not understand – he was not that ill? ‘Oh excuse me sir, all you talk about is how sick you are’ – ME.
My own illness
As a part of this dysfunction I hid my own mental and physical deterioration from everyone. Around 11-13 years ago he started to ask me about symptoms, as he was worried about me. Or maybe that was indeed the emotional incest, I don’t know. He documented it all by diaries and pictures. Much to my annoyance as I did not want to pose for some pictures all the time.
I truly was sick, so he was right. I just didn’t want to be labelled sick in such a young age. Despite all the symptoms were present. Who wants to be early 20ies, not able to walk the stairs because the lungs are functioning 61 percent, hands are shaking so much I drop things all the time, have cold soars every 2-3 weeks and much more? My sense of denial was high.
Not sharing everything with me
It wasn’t until I was so mentally damaged, that I could barely get myself out of bed of worry for him and myself, that my mother made my father understand that there are certain things he shouldn’t share with me. They stopped telling me about every single hospitalization at the emergency room.
To their defense, I early on, was not involved in how bad it was, and I wanted to be more involved. After a time where nothing was really showing in his tests, I backed out. It was too much for me.
On high expectations
I was expected to help him at the doctors, to help him validate his stories.
On a regular basis I was expected to listen to his stories, although they were the same and same and same with variations. If I didn’t want to talk about the SAME topic or the same story, or the same event again, he became pissed and blamed me for not being a good daughter.
A good daughter should listen and support her father. This meant I tried to listen and come with suggestions. Because if I just listened, and not gave him feed back, it meant I did not listen. That was also not accepted.
When the abusive parents dies, you are left in a vacuum
I buried myself in work for 10 months after his passing. Literally. I was very hard on myself, like I was taught to be. Dealing with his material things was a way to escape. He came in the category of a well-sorted hoarder. So, I then escaped to India.
Coming back and looking the emotional abuse in the eyes
I came back to Denmark. For a while now, I’ve uncovered and observed some patterns of behavior in me.
If someone wanted to speak to me, my heart would pound. Deep inside I was always afraid that they would turn 180 degree and explode at me.
Most of the time people don’t do that. They just want to share their own problems.
The journey towards this article
This is when I realized that I need to get it out. Whatever is so deeply conditioned and just be honest with myself and the people who love me.
I want to share these stories, about what happened behind the closed doors. Through self observation I continuously understand myself better, as I allow myself to look back and heal and change my patterns.
Speaking out about it makes it seems surreal that a parent would do this to their child.
I am me, and I wouldn’t trade a single of these experiences for the world. These events are part of me, and they have made me a better person in this present moment. I am happy for my life, and for my father, and I am also happy that we found each other at the end. It means that I saw the real him.
We live in duality, therefore I am now able to enjoy that I can share. I think to enjoy and accept the reality, is part of life.
Being me, without shame and guilt
There are a few boundaries left for me to cross. I am actually going to visit Egypt and surely Iran. I went to India alone. Places he forbade me to EVER go, or at least whilst he was alive. Well he isn’t now. There was lots of things I was forbidden to do, traveling, piercings, being open towards other cultures (read: date men of colour or be interested in women) etc. I have gotten more piercings with the joy of healing.
I love my nose rings and I have dated men of colour and feel absolutely no shame or guilt.
Being in India was truly an amazing time.
Nobody should bear the burden of having parents that condition their love towards you. Love for another person should be without conditions.
Patterns can be changed, once you allow them
I still am not sure what love is, but I have exhibited the same kind of conditioned love, and I was not able to see where it came from. For that, I cannot do anything else than say: I was a different person under some mental chains, that I did not want to see. At the end, human thinking is no other than a pattern that can be changed.
This article has been a journey in itself. I feel empowered by saying the things that I was so deeply shamed not to share with anyone. For me it took me more than two years after his death to actually realize how bad it was. His mental chains around me are finally broken.
Love is great
It feels so freeing knowing that I am taking choices for myself that I am truly happy about. That I can choose to love whomever I wish to love, no matter of race, gender and religion. Because my mother is awesome. She just wants me to be happy. That’s her wish for me. It is such a beautiful feeling.
Being open towards yourself and others is the true state of being
I can share what I want to share. It is a blessing.
With this I hope to inspire someone to be honest and true to themselves. This is just my attempt to rectify some of my past actions, though words and introspection, as I see what lead to my past actions.
If you liked my story, or know anyone who could benefit from reading it, please share it.
Thank you so much for reading my story.