Monday, January 25, 2010

Love And Incest---My Mother

The Ultimate Betrayal, The Enabling Mother, Incest and Sexual Abuse, by Audrey Ricker, PhD, See Sharp Press, Tucson, Arizona, 2006, page 167:

"This book is about your mother's role in your sexual trauma. But it's also about all of the feelings relating to your abuse, impulses resulting from it, and reactions to it that you weren't expecting."

This area of healing is probably where I have done the least amount of work. Why, because of my fear of seeing my mother for what she was---the parent who did nothing to prevent the incest from happening. As a woman and mother myself, somehow my mother's role in the abuse is worse than the actual physical abuse from my dad.

My mother played the passive role of the parent who enabled the abuser mostly by sending me places with my dad. My mother didn't openly abuse me like my dad did. She just didn't object when he took me places instead of taking my brother with him. She ignored signs that said something was wrong. She ignored my occasional pleas to stay home. I didn't often have enough courage to object. I usually just did what I was told by both of my parents.

As a child, I needed to be able to tell myself that at least one of my parents loved me. Since my dad was the one hurting me with the sexual abuse, my only choice was to believe that my mom loved me no matter what.

As a child, I told myself over and over again, "I know she loves me. She just doesn't know how to show me." You see. My mother was always emotionally unavailable. At some point in my childhood, I quit calling her "Mother" and starting calling her "Mom." She wasn't my mother as much as I wanted her to be. I was hers. I was the one who nurtured her by being sure not to upset her because she had an unspoken rule that said, "Do Not Disturb."

That "Do Not Disturb" rule is one of the reasons that I didn't tell her about the incest when I was a child and young adult. The second reason was my fear of being judged and condemned by her. She would have said I was bad. If she knew about the incest, she couldn't love me. I needed her to love me too much to chance telling her about the abuse. So I kept silent. I didn't disturb the silence of her inner world. She didn't hear my inner screams or feel my inner hurt and rage. She didn't see my outer sadness. She didn't hear my outer sighs which were the only sign of my inner turmoil.

My mother was emotionally unavailable. She was silently angry. She was always lost in her cigarettes, coffee and romance novels. She was passive-aggressive with her anger. She knew how to use silence to let you know that she was angry. If you asked if she was angry, she would deny it. You could see the anger and judgment in her eyes and how she tightly held her body.

I learned to read body language early on to tell if I needed to stay out of the way of either of my parents. This was just one of the lessons that my parents taught me about Life.

The Ultimate Betrayal, The Enabling Mother, Incest and Sexual Abuse is the only book that I have read that goes into detail on the part of the enabling mother and the roles that she played. What I learned from reading this book is that my mother could have been much, much worse that she was. I caught small glimpes of my mother in some of the examples shared in the book but I didn't really find her there as I was afraid that I would. My mother just wasn't there in my life. She was an empty body with no emotional attachments.


Colleen said...

Thanks for sharing this.

Patricia Singleton said...

Colleen, you are welcome. I have been sitting with my thoughts on this post since before Christmas when I read the book. It took awhile to know what I wanted to say.

River of Karma said...

You know Patricia,
If your words are the truest reflection of you, there's something very firm about you now. Very solid, strong. By this I mean as compared to when I first started reading your blog (remember then?)

You're prob more adept at psychology, but isn't being in a state to make an observation of the situation as is something telling? Like a good one I think.

You know, you give people who read ur blog strength.


Patricia Singleton said...

RoK, thank you so much for your encouragement. Yes, hopefully I have grown here I first started my blog.

lostinamaze said...

Interesting post. I have just starting looking at my mother's role or lack of in my life. I have always been in strong denial about her. The truth is hard to accept. Thanks for writng this, it gives me a deeper understanding.

Patricia Singleton said...

Lost In A Maze, I am not sure that I have figured it out yet myself. My relationship with my mother when she was alive and even now that she is gone is still rather complicated. Who am I is still very much tied into who she was. In so many ways, I chose to be a direct opposite of my mother because I saw her as weak. You are welcome.

katie said...

thank you for writing this patricia, i could relate especially to having a hard time looking at the ways your mother had hurt you because she was the parent you felt most loved by.

for me too, i felt i was in the parent role with her. and this was another reason i had a hard time admitting the ways i felt she hadn't been good as my parent. because my need to protect her was so strong. i always saw her as a very fragile person who needed my support and protection.

allowing myself to feel my anger towards her was breaking one of my lifelong unwritten rules.

this sounds like a great book. thank you for telling us about it.

and i'm happy for you too that you are allowing yourself to examine your relationship with your mother more. it is such an important step in healing, i think.

best wishes to you~

Patricia Singleton said...

Katie, thank you and you are very welcome. My daughter and my sister both read my blog posts. My daughter has already been online through emails asking me questions about her grandmother. My mother was a better grandmother to my children than she was a mother to me. For that I am grateful.

Just Be Real said...

Pat appreciate you sharing this along with the credits of the author. Even though my incest was not through my mother but older brother, certainly I can relate. May pick up this book. Again, thank you for taking the time to share dear one. Blessings to you!

Patricia Singleton said...

JBR, you are very welcome. It was not an easy book to read. My incest experiences came from my dad and my mother's oldest brother. My uncle molested me many times over one very long weekend when he took me on a fishing trip that my parents gave permission for. My dad molested me for at least 6 years when I was 11-17 years old. There are clues that the incest started maybe when I was as young as 3 years old but I don't have the memories to verify that, just a bunch of little clues. My mother was the silent, enabling partner who never asked questions or wanted to know.

beautifuldreamer said...

What you wrote about your mother is so similar to the mother who raised me that I nearly double-checked to make sure I hadn't written it!

In some ways I almost wish my mother had been more outwardly abusive, instead of abusing me by being so passive. At least I would have known that she saw me, acknowledged my existence, etc. If I could have roused any emotions in her I may have felt that she loved me, however misdirected was her love.

My stepdad was my abuser, and I had this weird sense as a kid that he really loved me beneath the perverted things he did to me. I never felt my mother's love. Like your mother, she was shut off, unavailable, a non-participant in my world. I never really knew her.

Thanks for this post. I've read on so many blogs about horrible, monster type mothers and haven't been able to relate. I wonder, though, if the silent, passive mother isn't just as much of a monster, and perhaps her effect on her abused children all the more insidious because it's so muted.

Patricia Singleton said...

Beautiful Dreamer, yes, I agree that the effects are more insidious on a child. It has been much more difficult to figure out my relationship with my mother than it has the relationship with my dad who was the abuser. I believe in his own sad, sick way that my dad did love me. With my mother, I don't know that.

Clueless said...

It was only last year in October, that I wrote and sent a letter to my mother about her abuse and my sexual abuse. I'm glad that I wrote it because it was the truth. I posted it in five parts on my blog. We have not had any contact since. I'm 44 has taken me a very long time. Right now, I get stuck because I keep hoping that if only I did____she would____show me love in the way that I want and needed.

Patricia Singleton said...

Clueless, if you are ok with others reading your letter, please come back and leave the link to the first part of your post. Then we can find it and the other 4 on your blog.

Yes, letting go of what I have named the "Fairy Tale of How Our Parents Should Be" or "If Only" would also be a good name for those wishes that we have trouble letting go of. The thing is, for myself, I found that I didn't really heal until I was willing to let go of those ideas. Then the grieving could begin. The grieving isn't pleasant but it is necessary, or it was for me.

Clueless said...

Patricia, I believe that it is necessary to go through the process of grieving what we didn't have and what we will never have, but wish for. Without it we continue to live our lives through the hope and unreality.

My posts are in September and then the "fallout"/follow up posts are in November. If you want, me to email the addresses to you I can. Also, if you want to use them in anyway, you can but just credit me and link back to my blog. Oh, and let me know. :-)

Here is the link to the first post:

Patricia Singleton said...

Clueless, here is how I wanted to use it in the comment section so that anyone interested can find your blog from the link. If I do anything further like write my own article, then I will let you know first. Thanks.

miruspeg said...

Patricia I have mentioned before what an inspirational writer you are.
Your journey has been a very difficult one and by sharing your inner most thoughts you give strength to others who have had endure such atrocities.

Keep shining your brilliant light dear one. Scream your words from the top of the mountain. No child, no individual should have to suffer such appalling acts.
Big hugs
Peggy xxxxx

Patricia Singleton said...

Peggy, as always, thank you for your kind words. I agree that no one child or adult should have to suffer through the acts of sexual abuse. One day it will end.

Lara said...

Patricia –

I think the hardest part for me has been the insistence in most of the incest literature directing me not to blame the enabling parent. When I finally came across Dr. Ricker's “The Enabling Mother” book, it was with such an enormous feeling of relief. I realized I had been blocking my recovery process through tremendous guilt about my anger towards my mother for ignoring all the evidence (An STD at 3 that she “healed” with herbs at home, rather than take me to a doctor!) It enrages me to this moment to think I could have been examined early on, possibly been taken out of my father’s care, and not had to endure the rest of my childhood trapped in his games and lies. And it was my “loving mother” who ensured that would never happen.

I feel like the greatest victimization of the victim is the insistence in incest treatment literature that the enabling parent was helpless or passive in the abuse, and I am finding in my case that my mother went out of her way to isolate me and my siblings from any outside contact that could have questioned our upbringing and perhaps have brought our familial pathology to a healing light. She was quite aggressive about trapping us into his care.

As hard as it is for me to face, I now feel that my mother, rather than deal with her feelings of powerlessness in a healthy, honest way, sacrificed me to my father in order for me to be rendered totally dysfunctional and under her control for life. She effectively created a false sense of power she otherwise never had in her own life, by passively allowing my father to steal my ability to take care of myself or develop any skills that would have given me identity and a strong sense of independence outside of my pathologically sick family. This was enacted quite dramatically through the suicide of my older brother, and the recurrent bi-polar manic behavior of my sister. My mother believes my sister is fine - she just needs to take some herbs. She also feels she had absolutely nothing to do with my brother’s death and that he is just a brilliant soul finally freed from the confines of this evil world.

I think the saddest truth about incest is that the enabling parent often takes a very active role in the abuse, but isn't as direct about it in most cases as the abuser. In walking the slow road to recovery, I think all incest survivors need to look at the level of betrayal we have to wade through due to the latent realization, as we recover our strength and our memories, that our mothers were not our protectors. They quite often had plenty of evidence and CHOSE, sometimes actively, sometimes passively, to ignore it. I think until we as a society acknowledge the role of the enabling parent, and start actively working to disable their power also, we will never really be able to get a handle on this, and it will continue to be the dark, dirty secret our mothers keep from the world.

Anyway, I really appreciate you being another voice of reason as to the damage done by the seemingly passive parent, which I feel is what is really blocking my recovery right now. It helps me to stay strong with my mother’s denial when I don’t feel quite so alone. Blessings to all of us – we are good people with bad histories who are doing the best we can. Lara

Patricia Singleton said...

Lara, thank you for adding to my article with your comment. My mother was not as aggressively abusive as most of the mothers in Dr. Ricker's book. It might would have been easier for me to identify the betrayal and abuse if she had been.

My mother was a master of using passive-aggressive behavior to get what she wanted. My mother was not as helpless as she wanted others to believe. She was just so shut down emotionally that she didn't see what was right in front of her. She didn't want to see. She didn't want to know because then she would have had to make some decisions that she didn't want to make.

I agree that we are good people who have bad histories and we can recover from that bad history but it takes a lot of work on our part. Again, thanks for your comment and blessings to you.

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Patricia Singleton said...

Anonymous, you are very welcome.