Did you know, it’s often small things that are stopping you recover from emotional abuse?
Today I finally said, “No more.” Not to my emotionally abusive ex-husband. That stopped many years ago. But to my emotionally abusive sibling.
You see, like a lot of women, I had been well trained in emotional abuse long before I married an emotional abuser. Mine was a family deeply wedded to emotional abuse. It was a marriage built to last… not just one lifetime, but down the generations.
From the outside, it wasn’t the worst of families. From the inside…
Let me tell you what happened today, and then you can fill in the blanks, and be the judge – if you choose.
Today was my mother’s stone-setting. I was told the time and place, and duly turned up.
Prior to her death, I’d launched a formal complaint about the ill-treatment my mother suffered in the third-rate care home where my brother s had placed her. The brother, who I’d been there for when he had cancer, responded by accusing me of being a trouble-maker! He insisted I be excluded from all decision-making about my mother’s wellbeing, and dredged up – yet again – what a lousy daughter, sister, and all round human being I’d always been. (My main – historical – crime was to have walked away when my parents disowned me. More than half a lifetime ago.)
I’d believed – or chosen to believe – I had a relatively normal relationship with that brother. I was devastated by the shabbiness of his attack.
So, I stood at my parents’ grave, in splendid isolation, save for my lovely partner. And I remembered my father screeching how he never wanted me to know where he would be buried, lest I dance on his grave.
(It was a strange family.)
After the service, I was just heading for the car and home when Forget-No-Evil -Brother caught up with me. With a little smile, he came out with the right form of words for the occasion, and invited me to his house for a drink.
Standing in the cemetery car park, with people around, I hesitated. Old conditioning kicked in. I thanked him, somewhat icily for inviting me. With another little smile, he said something mildly friendly, asked if I still remembered where he lived, and left.
What he was doing was written all over his face: he was holding out a little olive leaf.
Not a branch.
That’s not his way.
It was a leaf. Hostilities were over – for now – and this was his way of resolving the issue.
I remember the other brother saying: “A… says hurtful things, and then he forgets about them, and expects you to, too.”
In typical abuser fashion, my brothers believe totally in accountability: but only for other people. Not for them, naturally. They live their lives by different rules.
Once in the car, two things went through my mind.
The first was the ‘drink’ at my brother’s house. It was for all the 50 people who had turned up. Therefore, it was pre- arranged . Nobody had thought I was important enough to mention it to me in advance. That was standard procedure in my family. Second, why would I keep my feelings to myself, stay away, and make myself look bad?
I texted my brother to say: “I am not coming on account of your unacceptable behaviour throughout the events leading up to our mother’s death.”
His reply, “I’m sorry you feel that way”, was one of those splendid phrases people use when they sidestep all responsibility.
I texted back: “So you should. Your behaviour towards me has been unacceptable and has caused me huge distress.”
“Whatever” he replied.
“Whatever” sums up perfectly the thinking of the emotional abuser: “I take no responsibility for the suffering I inflict on you. It’s my right to do exactly as I please. However, I will not tolerate any criticism whatsoever of my modus operandi. To me, you are expendable, and worthless. You do NOT matter.”
I could have salvaged the superficial, hollow semblance of a relationship with my brother – if I had accepted that one little olive leaf. I knew that perfectly well. But I cannot feed body and soul with a mangy little olive leaf. Nor do I want to. I was not prepared to do a trade: one lousy little olive leaf as the price of my readmission into the toxic world of emotional abuse. That is now how you ever recover from emotional abuse.
Since there was no option of having a healthy relationship, I chose to put that toxic thing out of my misery once and for all. I did so thus:
“You are a total emotional returd [sic]. That is why I am totally done with you.”
That’s how I ended my relationship with my brother. It’s my story. But it’s not just my story.
At some point. if we are to recover from emotional abuse, we all have to look at the pathetic little olive leaf that an emotional abuser occasionally holds out for their own purposes. And we have to remember that an olive leaf proffered by a Total Emotional Returd has no value whatsoever.
Anyone who feels they have the inalienable right to trash your feelings is a Total Emotional Returd. At best all they will ever offer you is a single – dead – olive leaf.
You’re free to fantasize about their potential to be a wonderful human being. But nobody is a wonderful human being unless they make a sincere, lasting commitment to behave like a wonderful human being. Without that, what you’re looking at is a Total Emotional Returd.
It’s kinda simple – and kinda true. You cannot except that sad little olive leaf and recover from emotional abuse.
Sooner or later, the time comes when you have to reject that pathetic little olive leaf.
I just hope the Total Emotional Returd diagnosis gives you half as much pleasure as it gives me. May it help speed you along your journey as you recover from emotional abuse.