7 Family Tactics to Invalidate Trauma

7 Family Tactics to Invalidate Trauma

The past few years have been very different from the life I used to live.  This may come as no surprise based on the amount of inner work I have done.  It has a tendency to change the external in subtle (yet substantial) ways until one day we wake up from an afternoon nap and realize everything is different.  And my life has been no exception to that rule.  Unlike the people on dating sites who say they don’t want drama and really do, I am really not interested in drama anymore.  It used to help distract me from my pain and fill the emptiness.  I needed excitement to get through my days and weeks of pain.  So there was always something to keep my mind spinning and my pulse quickened.

Nowadays, there is almost nothing like that.  My business has moments because working with clients in recovery is never without excitement as emotions and memories come and go.  But that’s a different type of “drama”.  It’s real and it’s meaningful and it’s actually accomplishing something (even though it doesn’t always feel like it).  My children definitely provide drama in the form of temper tantrums and behavior “stuff”, but I know they are really good kids in the scheme of things.  And when the adults in my life call me up with drama, it just doesn’t affect me like it used to.  I can be supportive, but it doesn’t take over like it did.  I never thought I would say this, but I don’t get worked up easily.  And if you knew me in my twenties, that is something you never expected me to say (without laughing anyway).

My inner parts are torn about this new way of living.  My freedom fighters would love to bring some of the drama back.  They are bored.  They want excitement in life, but I can tell they feel less inclined to use it for numbing out.  My defenders are doing pretty good with it.  They like calm.  It feels safe and predictable.  And my inner children seem happy with the state of things.  There are no more abusive people to make them feel unsafe.

One of the most important reasons my life shifted was my decision to go “no contact” with the majority of my immediate family.  This was an important decision for me and my children.  It has provided a safe and drama-free environment for me to heal.  And I desperately needed that because healing is hard.  It takes every ounce of inner strength and if we are using that strength to deal with abusive behavior, we can’t heal.  Over the years, I have become used to living without them.  My holidays are good now.  I am happy with the small family and community I spend time with.  I don’t need the old traditions.  I can make new ones.  Even my love seeker and karma kid are on board with the decision now (although it took a ton of work).

But on Monday, I scrolled through my Beating Trauma Facebook page to find a hostile commenter who sounded exactly like my family.  It was a fake account called “Sall Yonds” and she wanted to tell me how horrible I was.  I knew immediately it was family.  I even knew which person it was.  My hyper vigilance has never failed me when it comes to reading people (maybe my family forgot they taught me that).  It didn’t take long for the community to attack back (love you guys) and Facebook deleted the fake account by the end of the day, but not before I saved off some really great material for this blog post.  Just like the last time they left an anonymous comment on my blog, I like to use this stuff for building awareness.  So I will use the comments to provide you with a list of tactics abusive families love to use to silence their victims. (I am leaving all the spelling and grammatical errors so you can see the state of the commenter at the time.)

  1. Intimidation. Not surprisingly, they love to intimidate.  They try to use that old fear and paranoia they ingrained in you as a child to keep you quiet.  Sall used this phrase:  “causing havoc any way you can heh ? we’re onto it.”
  2. Blame Shifting. Abusive families are great at shifting the blame to the victims.  They do this in many ways, but when children become adults, the parents (or other abusers) can be quick to turn the story around.  The abusers become the victims and the adult children become the abusers.  It is important to note that teenagers and adult children learn their abusive behavior from their parents.  Here is what Sall had to say on that one:  Ive known teens who have abused their parents and then get sudden memory lapse. how convenient.”
  3. Calling You an Attention Seeker. Abusive families often make it clear that speaking up for yourself is never allowed.  And they love to claim attention seeking.  Here is what Sall had to say about my site:  its hard to keep up with lies so a poor poor pitiful person who thrives on gaining peoples sympathy from everyone has a hard time recalling things as they actually happened”
  4. Invalidating your Pain by Minimizing. This is probably the most pervasive strategy they use.  They want to make sure you believe you are exaggerating your experiences when it really wasn’t any big deal.  Sall made up an entire example for this one.  She’s creative.  I don’t know about you, but there were no cell phones when I was growing up.  let me guess , you all threw tantrums , told your councelors at school how abused you were when your mommy said no to getting you a cell phone at 12 yrs old, so to make you happy you got one at 13 under condition that you used it responsibly and when you chose not to answer the phone when mom called and just ignore her messages and racked up a 350 dollar usage fee etc you just didnt understand when mom threatened to take it away (gasp threat that is abuse in your eyes).”
  5. Distracting You from the Real Issue. This is a very popular strategy to create confusion.  Turning the discussion around and making it about something else is bound to leave victims wondering what happened.  Sall tried to use politics for this one.  I have no idea what trauma recovery has to do with politics, but there you go.  im thinking more along the lines of you are part of Obamas scheme to tear american ways apart bit by bit.”
  6. Offering Other Reasons for Your Trauma. Abusive families do not acknowledge that relationship patterns start in childhood.  If you enter in to an abusive marriage, they assume that was just a bad choice or bad luck.  But that is never the case.  Sall offered up her own personal story (which is actually my story) to explain my trauma for me.  i got that but after an abusive MARRIAGE. my mama was wonderful. and i shoud have listened to her when she said she didnt approve of him before i married him.”
  7. Explaining Memory Repression in Their Way. Memory repression is a fact of trauma.  Abusive families are still trying to deny it, but the trauma experts are stating the truth.  Drugs and alcohol can certainly contribute, but trauma is the source of it.  At this point in my recovery, I have recovered hundreds of memories and I can confirm they were traumatic.  Sall decided that my memory lapses must be from something else.  it couldnt possibly be that drug and or alcohol use contibuted to your memory lapses or maybe just the fact that ungrateful people just dont care to remember things that they should because they dont want to be held accountable”

While it is not fun to interact with hostile family members who are reacting in fear to my new empowered approach to life, it has given me the opportunity to bring new information to you.  And for that, I am grateful.  I hope this helps in your journey.  Maybe you can identify some tactic that is being used against you right now.  Honestly, if we have to put up with this crap, we might as well benefit from it.

Stepping Up:

3 Steps to Overcoming the Awareness Challenge

 Sign up to receive updates from the

blog and get my FREE eBOOK. 

Begin taking steps today!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

37 Comments

  1. Great blog finding peace love and purpose amongst the insanity. I’ve done some work to try to understand how family members can be in such sick denial. I’ve noticed when you look in their eyes they actually have a split look about them. Their souls have split off from their own traumas and they have become like zombies, the living dead.

    Reply
    • Thank you Kaitlin. It is so true. They look dead in their eyes.

      Reply
      • Exactly. My family exactly. Celebrating NO CONTACT for 10 years.Alleluia!

        Reply
        • I am so glad you were able to do what was right for you!

          Reply
  2. Hi Elisabeth, I felt anger and sadness reading this. I teared up and felt my pain. I felt angry and hurt for you and me. I said to myself “that sounds like my family they will never change” You are way ahead of me in terms of healing, but I know I’m right behind you. I would never want the state of mind they are in. My family would say and act the same way. I don’t need negative comments, ignorance or stupidity in my life. I don’t want to call your family names, but the place you are in and the place I’m striving for, makes my family sound like the like idiots! Sick of um!

    Reply
    • Thank you Katrina! You are right. It is highly unlikely that families like these will change. Usually one or two members wake up and are labeled as crazy, etc. But once we can come to recognize that things are better without them, it gets a bit easier. Love and light to you.

      Reply
  3. I would just like to say thank you, Elisabeth, for your courage and kindness to take words that were only meant to harm, and turn them into ones that bring healing to those who need it the most. This genuine act of love and concern is real today for so many of us, and no one can deny or attempt to take it away. Thank you for what you are doing!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much Carole. I am so glad to hear it helped. It means so much to me to be able to do this.

      Reply
  4. Did your family, at one time, have a relationship with your kids? I have gone “no contact” as well, but am wondering how to explain this to my kids?

    Reply
    • Yes they did. And it is a tough one. I didn’t want to say anything bad about them. But when I told my therapist I was going to take the blame, she said, “Don’t you dare.” The kids needed to know I was making a good decision and that the fault was with the abusers. So I told them the truth. They treated me very poorly. My kids even know I was trafficked by them, but they don’t know exactly what that means yet. I think getting really honest about what they did is best.

      Reply
  5. Thanks for your blog. I love it. What is your take on adult children who traumatized, terrorize, and then abandon loving, aging parents; withholding beloved grandchildren in the process that we never get to see again? From the statistics I’ve seen, this is now becoming pandemic in society with over 70 million grandparents involved.

    Reply
    • I am probably not the best person to affirm this concern of yours. I do believe that all children, teenagers and adults treat others as they have been taught to treat them. And they learned how to treat others from their parents. If we want adult children and teenagers to treat their aging parents with respect and dignity, this needs to start by treating our children with respect and dignity. This is a pandemic because child abuse is a pandemic. You get what you give. My mother stuck my grandmother (with dementia) in a nursing home and left her there for the most part. And honestly, I can understand why. She was horribly mistreated by her when she was a child.

      Reply
      • There are inborn personality disorders and other mental illnesses that cause people to behave in horrible ways. It is not always the parent’s fault insofar as bad parenting. I know many, many loving, aging parents who have been terribly abused by their adult children. As you said, you are not the best person to ask about this. Sorry.

        Reply
        • Most personality disorders develop from childhood trauma. Let me clarify that I am not the best person to affirm your opinion. I disagree with it because I know better than that. Your theories encourage society-level denial. We have to begin facing the truth here.

          Reply
          • I agree about facing truth. We should not invalidate ANYONE’S abuse and suffering…child or parent. There are terrible parents. I know this first hand. But there are terrible adult children, too, who were raised in loving homes with good and decent parents who did the very best they could to love and raise their child, only to have them turn out to be abusive people. There is a HUGE disagreement in the psychological community over nature or nurture. So, all abusive people do not get that way by nurture. Thanks for your time. I didn’t come here for an argument. Like I said, I love your blog but I do feel invalidated and even feel some anxiety over your staunch stance. That is my cue to exit. Best wishes to you and your family. Have a good day.

          • I am sorry you feel invalidated by our disagreement, but I can’t agree with you. There is no way for me to validate your opinion about this. I thought my writings would have indicated that already. I am not about grandparent’s rights. I encourage “no contact” when necessary. And I have watched the truth unfold about the link between environment and personality disorders over and over in my clients and reputable studies. This is where I stand. If it’s staunch, it is necessary to fight the overwhelming denial around the world on this issue.

  6. Wow. So very sorry this happened on your blog. Courageouly, you made a refreshing lemonade of enlightenment from bitter public sour lemons and we have again been validated, empowered and inspired by walking this journey with all of our heads held high (especially yours).
    Regarding the ‘politics’, someone has possibly read that the new administration is creating anxiety for trauma surivors and this is their way of calling you a snowflake without actually saying it. (*eye roll*)
    Thanks also for the validation concerning enhanced healing for those of us who (now or past) go no contact. For me, it was easier to process events, hurts, outcomes with less drama & distraction, just like you described.
    Big hug & smile for a job well done Elisabeth! Wishing you every continued professional & personal success — drama free!

    Reply
  7. Yes all these things are so common. I find it curious how typically only one sibling wants to heal and grow, maybe some genetic component, idk – but very different from the other siblings. And how do you control the urge to want to comment back. I feel the need to cite research or have my husband comment. Did you ever feel that way, and how do you get to the point of not wanting to respond? I know when I don’t respond, the abuser tells all kinds of other people false things making me not be portrayed correctly.

    Reply
  8. Thanks for being a beam of sunshine for us survivors Elisabeth. Looking forward to your future blogs and live streams!

    Reply
  9. I always get something out of your blog and this week there was a lot of meaningful content. Whether to remain in contact with the abusing people when they are family is a difficult one. One of my abusers was gone from my life when it ended, and I never saw him again so that wasn’t a choice I needed to make. He wasn’t a relative so good riddance. It is harder to know what to do about an elderly parent. I decided to stay close to my mother during the end of her life which unfortunately ended with cancer. However, some who had a situation like mine, might have kept more distance. Because of her minimizing/ denial and offering other reasons for the events, it might have been healthy on my part to have had some more distance. But then on the other hand, I was there when she actually did ask for forgiveness a few weeks before she died. It was healing to hear her say that and to say that I forgave her. Later I did realize how negatively some of her extremely poor choices had impacted my life and I went to a therapist. I have been doing EMDR and talk therapy and through this and through God’s help have been able to realize why I have made some unfortunate choices myself. At first I felt very angry, but that was okay because I never really felt like I had the right to my feelings. Of course I have the right to them, and it only makes sense to feel angry about abusive situations. That is actually validating, but it is crazy making to believe the lie that I shouldn’t feel bad about being abused. All the minimizing doesn’t change what happened; if anything it magnifies the issues. I was not only affected by the abuse itself but by her minimizing /denial and offering other reasons for things that happened. Children don’t respond the way they do in a vacuum. They are reacting to the actions and words of the adults in their environment. Therapy has been helpful and I did eventually come to a point where I could forgive her on a deeper level. It is harder to forgive myself at times though.

    Reply
    • Thank you Diane. I am so glad you have found a way to express who you are. And I am glad I could help with my message today. Love and light to you.

      Reply
  10. Hi Elisabeth, thank you for your blog. I am ‘no contact’ with most of my family and just wanted to say that even though I have not ever been or felt abused, even in non-abusive families such as mine versions of these tactics can be used to keep a person quiet, their story of trauma untold and their feelings invalidated. Please keep up your important work. Namaste.

    Reply
    • Thank you Charlotte. I would argue that it was abusive, but the mental and emotional kind of abuse. And you are right. These kinds of tactics exist on a continuum in all sorts of families.

      Reply
  11. Thank you Elisabeth, for “daring greatly” and shining a light where it is much needed. Thank you, also, for your assertive and empowered responses to assist others in standing tall when family members and “other people” 🙂 could not break free of their own ancestral baggage or refuse to look.

    When people are not daring enough to look within themselves then they always point their finger at others, it’s always from a place of victimhood. Thus the saying – “When you point your finger at me there are always three fingers pointing back at you” There is a reason for this saying.

    Haaaa! Haaaa! Love it!

    As for all the “Salls” in the world – that’s why I don’t have facebook.
    I have been “no contact” for one year and it is THE best decision I have ever made.

    Oh, just wanted to add – emotional and mental abuse are the most insidious kinds of abuse to endure. There are no bruises or other physical indicators of abuse which in turn leads to more invalidation.

    Know that you are supported by many, Elisabeth – and those that do support you love you with all their heart and soul. You are assisting in making this world a kinder, gentler place.

    Big hugs and gratitude for helping the rest of us learn to fly!

    Reply
    • Thank you Wendy for this beautiful affirmation! You are so right on all counts!

      Reply
      • No problem 🙂 my response was from a place of love. There is another part of me that wanted to do some “stomping” and some “butt kicking” as I recognized triggers in certain responses. That is coming from one of my angry parts that I am still working with. She has a right to be angry but not to project it out onto others.

        However, I will own that sh*t and not blame others for my anger. We reap what we sow and I am not participating in contributing to more darkness in the world even by trying to label it as “righteousness” to defend another.

        Besides – warriors don’t need defending!! LOL (it was veeerrrry tempting though 🙂 )

        Reply
        • Thank you Wendy! I love the way we are driven to protect each other.

          Reply
  12. How can you tell I feel strongly on this topic! 🙂

    One more IMPORTANT thing I have learned and this is important for all who visit this site –

    In the ancestral line – NOTHING can be passed UP, it is ONLY passed down!! Children cannot pass anything up EVEN if they are adults. It is not the place of a child to be allowed to pass anything on to parents – not possible. If there is anything passed it is because it was already passed down. It is the order of things – creation.

    That is why it has to stop with US. So that the line is broken, nothing gets passed down once we start looking within and work on ourselves. Are children then become free!

    Sorry, couldn’t help myself 😛

    Reply
    • That is such an important point Wendy!

      Reply
    • Such a validating statement Wendy. For all the deflection of “my problems” I can recognize they were not mine, they were my mother’s.
      I am now left to heal what she could not. To break the cycle of generational abuse.

      Reply
  13. Wonderful summary of tactics! Very validating to see it all spelled out. I’ve been no contact for a year with immediate family and the peace and healing since have been profound. I’m the scapegoat now of course. Total denial of the severe narcissistic/sociopathic childhood abuse by my mother and denier-enabler father. Holidays are still hard. More growing and adjusting to do. It’s a journey for me and the kids, 2 still in the home.

    Reply
    • Thank you Alaine. I honor your bravery in the decisions you made. We will always become the scapegoat when we choose the truth over the family lie. Love to you.

      Reply
  14. Plenty of our “Framily” community at Trauma Recovery University experience the difficulty of explaining to one’s children, as you describe, that members of their extended family are abusive, especially when they are young and do not witness such behavior for themselves. But my children absolutely saw the horrors my parents were capable of, especially my mother. It was particularly clear in an particular incident that involved them screaming and violently grabbing my wife Cimmy, and needless to say, Cimmy & I no longer left our kids alone in their care again.

    Officially, we tell most acquaintances who are not survivors that we’re mindful of their health issues. And we say that my 10-yr old son presents some tough challenges with his autism. But my 15-yr old kid, MM, does not sugarcoat when they tell fellow survivors (their abuse didn’t come from family – long story) that they have many problems with their Grandma- my mother.

    There is some disconnect- they treat my sister’s children, both with autism, differently, and they look after them frequently with no abusive episodes, that I am aware of. But there are patterns of denial, retaliation, and other dysfunction that twists through my extended family. I would dare say my wife’s family seems to do better, although there is still a lot for them to process in my father-in-law’s recent death and his pedophile secret that was unearthed not too long before. But they seem to act in a much less invalidating way.

    Reply
    • Thank you Jaklumen. There are so many complications when it comes to abusive families and how to navigate their behavior which can change on a dime. It can be so confusing for us and our children. I am glad you have worked out a solution that works well for you despite all of that.

      Reply
  15. No doubt you live better away from abusive people. However, the damage is done. Brothers and sisters who treat you like they learned to treat you by looking at abusive parents and it is necessary to get away from them too.

    Reply
    • You are right. It often is necessary.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stepping Up:

3 Steps to Overcoming the Awareness Challenge

 Sign up to receive updates from the

blog and get my FREE eBOOK. 

Begin taking steps today!

You have Successfully Subscribed!