Tag Archives: family dysfunction

Living a Curse: Adult Children of Desi Abusers

15 Aug

Living a Curse: Adult Children of Desi Abusers

08/14/2015

DG ran in to him on the way back home he was rushing to the bank. He told her he was glad to see her as he was leaving for India in two days. She asked when he was coming back. He said, he was leaving for good. She had a puzzled look on her face, “it is mid semester you are already half way through your master’s program.” I have to, it is important, urgent and needed he retorted. Tell me, what could be so important that you’ll forsake your education. It is family problem that needs my presence, he said while looking at his shoes. What kind of family problem that can’t wait another six months? Tell me in detail, we can figure out something, I can help you find resources back in your home town said DG. No, it is my mom who wants me back she is sick. What happened to her? She is just sick she needs me. Is it life threatening? “No, I just fear something will happen to her.” DG lectured him on his enmeshed sense of self and failure to see things for what they were and how he’ll be a nuisance to his future partner. He retorted, “you don’t know, it is not like that.” Then you tell me what it is?

He kept insisting he can’t tell and DG won’t give up. He insisted he would visit her before he left the country but DG wouldn’t trust him. Together they went to the bank and then he accompanied her home. She made some tea and they started talking. This six feet tall lanky 28 year old man lowered his eyes, the cup in his hands shook as words failed him. After lots of assurance of privacy, confidentiality and nature of DG’s work he began talking. For the purposes of the length of the post DG will omit her probes. He said:

I fear my mother will have a heart attack, she is living under too much stress, she is all by herself. I am here and my newly married brother is working in Canada. Though I speak to her every day but I live in constant fear that she’ll die of this persistent stress (ma ko kuchh ho jayega. Something will happen to her). She has no support till we were in India we made sure one of us was around now she is all by herself I don’t know how long can this continue. After a long silence, he wiped tears from his eyes and spoke in a trembling voice. I have never spoken to anyone about this. We had a very hard life, she raised us all by herself. You cannot even imagine the days I have seen as a child often we slept hungry, had no fee for school. We would go to my aunt (mother’s sister) or grandmother’s (mother’s mother) home to eat. My mother has not seen a day of peace, she struggled to keep a roof over our heads, she didn’t even have a decent saree. To attend family functions her sister would gave her clothes, she would be the plainest woman there. I remember my mom was young and beautiful very caring and kind always trying hard to make it better for us. I decided as a child when I grow up I’ll pamper her, I’ll buy her the best clothes and jewelry. When I got my first job in Australia I bought her latest suits, sarees and gold jewelry, I wanted her to look the best dressed woman in any gathering. For the first time we saw her smiling and beaming in pride all her hard work and struggles had paid off.

In all this talk not once DG heard him mention his father. She asked him about his father. He evaded the question and then gradually started talking by addressing the man as, “woh” (he), not once he said, dad or father as if he was trying to maintain an emotional distance between them. He is the reason I am going back, he was always abusive to our mother, physically, verbally, emotionally, mentally and economically. He was a leading contractor in the city rolled in money ten years older to my mother, she was a school teacher but he made her quit the job. He is a habitual drinker as far as I can remember he was always away when he came home he was drunk, he would throw fits beat us up to save us mother would come in between and take the blows. He didn’t come home for days, didn’t care if we had food and school fee. Our house looked little better than a shanty, I had no friends, how could I? We never went to anyone’s home because we could never invite them over. Even today I hesitate to mix with people.

Yelling, screaming and hitting is all I have to tell about my childhood. He robbed us of our childhood. I just wanted him to go away and leave us alone. Go away anywhere just don’t return. I dreamt taking my mother away three of us living in happily ever after sort of way. He would not let mother go back to work as teacher I think she also lost confidence in all this, she would sew to raise us. One time he did not pay the bills our power was cut off she would sew in the candle light. One time he saw her sewing he destroyed the blouse in anger saying how dare you do this in “my house.” She had to feed us so she would sew in hiding. While I was in high school mother somehow managed to start a boutique with the help of her family. Our living standard improved a bit, he started coming home, his business he said was suffering. I think it was a lie. I won’t be surprised if he has another family. Mother fell sick for a month and trusted him with orders, he was indeed acting differently. When she recovered the tailors and workers had left as they were not paid everything was destroyed we were back to where we started. I know he did it on purpose, he just couldn’t fathom our peace. What kind of father would do that? We both were good students both of us got admission in engineering college mother’s family made sure we went to college we have paid them back after we got jobs.

Both of us brothers made sure one of us was in the city living at home while the other took a job or project abroad. We built our dream house, used best tiles and fixtures, bought everything new, the furniture, pots and pans, curtains, everything. A fully stocked pantry for the first time she could cook anything. We didn’t take a thing from “that house” and we moved. We left him there in “his” house. He went around bad mouthing us, telling people that we have abandoned him now that we have started earning. Community members and relatives from his side started admonishing us. Where were these same people when he abandoned us and we slept hungry or had no school fee. It became a big spectacle, people at the community events, temple everywhere started sneering at us and telling us he is now an old man and has changed. We should care for him after all he is our father. Unwillingly we had to let him into our home. Our dream to be free of him was quashed by his evil designs and this society. All our lives we thought we’ll be free of him once we were grown up but here we were. He is seventy two and going strong hasn’t changed a bit.

One night my brother was in his room with door bolted. “He” in his drunken fit was knocking it and wanted him to open the door. Brother asked him to leave him alone but “he” just kept getting louder and louder. “He,” picked up the wooden pestle and started hitting the door it broke he also damaged the walls and windows. At this my brother lost it, I had never seen him so mad. Brother just wanted to kill “him.” Mother and I somehow pacified him. There is no way we can get rid of this plague. It is a curse on our lives. You might be wondering who talks like that about their parent. Tears rolled from his eyes, we made another cup of tea and started preparing for dinner while he continued talking.

I worked five years saved some money to go abroad and do a masters thus I came here. Instead of congratulating me “he” kept saying how I was wasting money. Every day he calls and asks me to come back and take care of him, “mera kamaoo beta, wapas aa meri pension lagaa de” (my earning son, come back and give me regular monthly stipend as a pension). Brother got married and got transferred to Canada. Mother wanted him to leave because she did not want his new wife to see how messed up our lives are. I live in constant fear that he is going to kill my mother or her heart will fail some day, how much can one person take. These days I can’t focus on studies, it is so hard I get flash backs and night sweats hence I decided to go back, I know he’ll make my life miserable even though it was my money. I am 28 and still not able to stand up to him or protect my mother or myself. We are so trapped I don’t see a way out.

He had seen the school doctor who diagnosed him with anxiety and depression. But DG suspected it was a full blown case of PTSD that manifested once he was away from constant dysfunction, it needed proper diagnosis and treatment. After dinner they did some soul healing work through meditations and deep breathing. She gave him few tools and referrals in his home town to follow up with. It was past 2am DG suggested he sleep on the futon in the living room. Next morning he attended his chores while DG went to work he came back in the evening to continue with meditations and healing work, he also read few posts on GGTS to understand what was going on in his life. Once back home he contacted DG to inform her of his progress he saw a clinical psychologist and practices what he learned from DG. He did not even complete five sessions he said it was too expensive (Rs 5000 per session). He has taken up a job after six months of hiatus. The situation at home did not improve but he is now better equipped to handle it. DG had asked him to write this post but it was too anxiety provoking for him thus he gave her permission to write this.

A person may divorce an abusive spouse but children cannot. Ours is a system that will not let you leave an abuser more so if you are his/her child you are doomed for ever…

 

 

 

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Is My Family Dysfunctional

20 Jul

Is My Family Dysfunctional

07/20/2015

Is it common for desi kids to fake having a good relationship with parents?

Greetings!

In last few days a discussion in personal circles once again emerged about our families of birth and their impact on our adult lives. Going forth and back numerous times decided to re-post this from the tools on the right margin of GGTS under All About Relationships. Click the hyperlink to read comments from desi adult children to learn more about desi family dynamics in everyday lives.

Is My Relationship Reflection of My Family

Stepping into the adulthood many of us thought we could not only leave our family but also our childhood problems behind. However, many of us have found ourselves experiencing similar problems, feelings and relationship patterns, long after we left our family environment. In family environment, growing up children learn their worth and to value their needs and feelings. In many families the communication patterns are such that they limit a child’s expression of feelings and needs thus breeding low self-esteem and a deep feeling that their needs are not worth to be taken seriously by others. As a result, they may face difficult establishing satisfactory adult relationships and often find we are finding people who are almost like our family members.

Patterns of Dysfunctional Families

 Following are the examples of patterns frequently observed in dysfunctional families:

  • Either or both parents subscribe to authoritarian control over the children. Often such families rigidly adhere to a particular belief. Here are few examples:
    • Personal: No child of mine talks back to me; no one in this family marries out of caste; women in this family do not wear skirts/trousers etc. You follow the recipe as I taught you to.
    • Religious: In this family we follow our religious rituals in a particular way; our religion is the best etc.
    • Political: In this family we only vote for X political party because we have been doing so for generations etc.
    • Financial: Money is hard to earn, it is not for spending on fashion etc.

Food & Shelter What Else?

  • Either or both parents are unable to provide adequate emotional support or threaten to withdraw emotional of financial support. Failure to provide basic physical care or provide it conditionally to the children. It is commonly heard in desi families- “We provided you with every comfort, even those that were beyond our financial reach.” “If you disobey me, I’ll disown you.” “If you marry him/her I’ll commit suicide.” Atiya, grew up with best amenities but resents how her mother was never emotionally available. Her mother was always preoccupied with her self and the needs of everybody else in the extended family. Even when Atiya initiated a talk about her day or life it always became all about mommy. Atiya feels she goes emotionally unavailable to her partner for days and weeks because that way she does not have to deal with his problems.

  Needy Parent: You Are Me, You Are For Me

  • Either or both parents treat children as possession and use children to meet their physical or emotional needs. Anuja, grew up in a family where she and her siblings had to protect her mother from her father’s openly sexual demands and his family’s vicious violence. Anuja feels she is observing similar trend in parenting her child. She often asks her son to take sides for minor things. DG’s mother grew up taking care of her sick mother because her father did not pay attention towards his wife, as a result she has hard time accepting even she can fall sick and someone can care for her. Some parents use children to get even with their partner. They ask children to take sides. In some desi families mothers raise sons with a constant reminder to them how they brought them up irrespective of the hardships piled by their father and grandparents; how they are counting on their sons to pay back their sacrifices by caring for them in old age or taking sides in any future family dispute. Some parents treat children as their extension. They expect children not only obey them but think and act like them.

     Angry Parent: Child’s Problem

    • Either or both parents us use threats or physical violence as primary means of control and disciplining. Children may witness physical aggression between parents or experience aggressive disciplining. Some parents force children to participate in punishing siblings, or they may live in fear of parent(s)’ explosive outburst. One time while growing up DG saw a neighbor was punishing his very naughty teens by asking them to slap each other hard. She heard him say, “slap the other hard or I’ll beat you both”; both boys were crying and slapping each other. Recently when she was back at her childhood neighborhood came to know both boys are no longer at talking terms with their father and the older on has pretty bad anger issues famous in the neighborhood.

    All in the Family

    • Either or both parents have addictions or compulsions like, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, gambling, overeating, overwork, over indulgence in children’s lives etc. these have strong influences on all family members. My high school friend Veenu’s mother followed too many religious rituals- fasting, extended poojas etc. Thus Veenu could never invite us to her home so she refrained from coming to our homes. Our friend Vinita’s mother was like a helicopter, she not only hovered on Vinita and her siblings for home work but was too involved in their lives. Vinita feels her mother was trying to escape her over bearing and adulterous spouse through her children. Vinita finds so many similarities between her spouse and her father. She said “Now I can join the dots, I am actually married to my father. During the courtship he acted just like my father, controlling, emotionally unavailable, making evasive replies,  and pouting if I refused to do as he wanted. I felt it odd but then I thought I could handle it as I had seen my mother managing with my father. This familiarity seemed comforting but now I see how big a problem it is. I see a pattern here, I am just a copy of my mother, something I hate.”  Atiya says she married her needy mother, as her spouse demands too much attention and time.

    There are numerous variations in how often dysfunctional interactions and behaviors occur in families so is the severity of their dysfunction. No family will have an absolute match to the mentioned patterns and some families will have over lapping conditions. If the patterns mentioned above are a norm rather than exception, they systematically foster abuse or neglect. Children may:

    • Be forced to take sides in conflicts between parents.
    • Feel ignored, discounted, or criticized for their feelings and thoughts.
    • Have parents that are inappropriately intrusive, overly involved and protective.
    • Have parents that are inappropriately distant and uninvolved with their children.
    • Have excessive structure and demands placed on their time, choice of friends, or behavior; or may receive no guidelines or structure at all.
    • Struggle with rejection or receive preferential treatment.
    • Experience restrictions on direct and full communication with other family members.
    • Face temptations to use drugs or alcohol and subtle encouragement from parent(s) who abuse the same.
    • Experience physical violence- slapping, hitting, kicking etc.
    • Experience verbal and emotional abuse- name calling, undue criticism etc.
    • Experience “reality shifting,” means there is a contradiction in what is being said and what is happening in actuality. A child may see one a parent hit the other but one or both parents may deny if physical scuffle ever took place.

     

    End Result

    For children to develop trust in the world, in others, and in themselves they need life free of abuse and neglect. Those experiencing abuse and neglect as children later as adults find it difficult to trust not only others but their own judgments and actions; they have doubts about self worth. They also experience problems in their relationships and their identities.

    Abused and neglected people often struggle to interpret their families as “normal.”  They make accommodations to make their situation seem normal, such as, “I wasn’t beaten, I was just slapped little too often.” “My father didn’t have anger issues; he just had low threshold for frustration.” The more accommodations they make the more likelihood is they will misinterpret themselves and develop negative self concepts (example, “I deserved it,” “I had it coming,” “I am a bad person”).

    Making Changes

    All behaviors are learned behaviors. At times we continue in our roles in a hope that our parents will give us “permission” to change. This permission has to

    come from within. People can ask you or encourage you to change but it is only your prerogative to change. Often people and parents in dysfunctional families fear change; they feel threatened by changes in their family members and children. They may even try to thwart your efforts to change by manipulating you to give up attempts to change or revert to your previous self. For this reasons it is important for you to trust your own perceptions and feelings. Change is difficult but not impossible. Only you can change your self. You can do the following:

    • Identify difficult or painful experiences of your childhood.
    • List your those behaviors and beliefs you would like to change.
    • Against each behavior or belief in the list write what you would like to do instead.
    • Choose the easiest item from the list and begin practicing the alternative behavior or belief.
    • After you have performed the first alternative behavior number of times and you feel comfortable performing it without much difficulty follow the other items on the list.

     

    You may seek support from people who believe in what you are doing. You can also seek help from professional counselors.

    Best Practices

    • Perfection is not the aim just be comfortable in practicing the change you want.
    • Don’t try to make your family perfect. You can only change your self and inspire others to change.
    • Don’t try to win the old struggles- you can’t win.
    • Set clear limits- e.g., if you do not plan to spend your vacations with your parents say “no” not “will see.”
    • When you try to change your self people around you may not like it. Even if you make small changes be prepared for adverse reactions from you near and dear ones. The anticipated reactions are tears, yelling, temper tantrums, threats etc. Prepare your self how you will respond to these adverse reactions.

     End Note

    Change is difficult but not impossible. It is normal to slip back to your original behaviors patterns because you are accustomed. Change is slow and gradual. If you miss some day do not treat it as an excuse to give up. Instead continue to practice healthier and new behaviors soon they’ll become part of your daily life.

 

From the wet market

Mostly vegetarian meals from Asia

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LOKSANGHARSHA

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Posting about this and that :)

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वैश्वीकरण विरोध हेतु

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

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Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.