Themes of Estranged Parents' Forums
"Our Children Want to Hurt Us"
Over time, many estranged parents come to believe that estrangement is a punishment deliberately inflicted on them by adult children who want to see them suffer. Some parents, like Sharon A. Wildey, author of Abandoned Parents: The Devil's Dilemma, suffer so intensely that they conclude their children want to kill them:
Finally, all abandonment [...] seems to have one underlying motivation and that is a homicidal intent. [....]
We do know that the ultimate purpose and aim of abuse is to terminate the life of the one abused whether that termination is spiritual, emotional or physical. The more intentional the abuse becomes, in the sense that the behavior is planned and designed to inflict pain, the more the behavior is motivated by the desire to terminate the life of the parent. There are no exceptions to this motivation.
The belief that children estrange in order to hurt their parents stems from a chain of causes:
- Parents can't accept their children's motives. It's too painful to face the possibility that their children find them too unpleasant to be around. Parents cast around for a motive that throws less blame on themselves.
- Parents believe the estrangement is for their benefit, not their child's. In divorces and breakups, parents understand that one party walks away for their own good, and the effect on the other party is incidental. In estrangement, their pain blinds them. They believe the effect of the estrangement on them is intentional, carefully crafted, even secondary to any benefit their child gets from the estrangement.
- The way something feels is the way it is. If you feel someone betrayed you, then they betrayed you. If you feel someone doesn't care for you, then they don't care for you. If you feel they want to hurt you, then they want to hurt you.
Projection also plays a part. "I want to hurt you, therefore you must want to hurt me." However, a curious thing happens in the transfer from parent to child. The parent wants to hurt the child out of pain, anger, retaliation for abandonment and rejection, all emotions that are understandable in the parents' position. Some parents transform this into the belief that their child wants to punish them or needs them to suffer as much as the child is suffering. However, many parents believe their children want to hurt them out of pleasure, a dark satisfaction in knowing their parents are in pain. Some parents even say their children laugh when they know their parents are hurting. Why do the parents carve all the remnants of rage and suffering out of their children's motives?
One explanation is that the parents themselves secretly enjoy seeing people suffer, so they project it onto their children. It's possible, even plausible, that some estranged parents do enjoy seeing people suffer. Sadism is a common component of many Cluster B personality disorders (borderline, narcissism, psychopathy/sociopathy), and Cluster B is the flavor of choice for abusers.
But I think many parents believe their children like seeing them suffer because they can't bear to project pain or anger onto their children. If their child is angry or in pain because of something the parent has done, then the child's reaction is justified, and the parent can't bear the thought that they themself are in the wrong.
A second explanation is that the parents truly don't believe their children are angry with them. This stems from classic dysfunctional logic:
To be angry at someone, they must give you cause.
I have given my children no cause to be angry at me.
Therefore, my children are not angry at me.
If your children aren't angry at you, but they're hurting you as though they're angry, why are they hurting you? Estrangement forums are full of parents casting about for the real reason their children cut them off, grabbing for any reason other than "because I gave them a reason to avoid me." In the end, many of them conclude that their children are hurting them because they want to.
Parents find this thought consoling, in a way. They talk about how it's a hard pill to swallow, but it helps them detach from their children without guilt. Some of them find it empowering, letting them take back power they believe they've given to their children. They no longer have to live their lives on hold, waiting to reestablish a relationship with a child who no longer wants them.
So you could say the belief is beneficial. Parents feel better; parents stop trying to contact their estranged children; the estranged children feel better. The lack of perspective necessary to believe your children want to hurt you is something that pervades a parent's entire relationship with their children, so most believers aren't doing their relationship with their children any damage; the damage was done long, long ago.
But "your children enjoy hurting you" is a standard piece of advice that forum veterans give new members. The new members, relieved to find people who understand them, are more credulous than they would usually be. And in their eagerness, they absorb beliefs that destroy their chances of reconciliation.
Quotes from Estranged Parents
- I believe I really think that most EC [estranged children] want to hurt us a much as they possibly can.
- They just want to hurt us. I believe it is intentional.
- My kids seem to delight in hurting me.
- Its so hard for me to get it through my thick skull that they want to hurt us, but I guess they do.
- and they want to hurt us, cause us pain, they are so internally unhappy that they want us to be just as unhappy- b/c they somehow blame us for their unhappiness
- I suspect that may even be why they're being difficult - on purpose, because they're hurting themselves, they want to hurt us and avoid further hurt from us.
- My Ed [estranged daughter] knows she is hurting me she has been told point blank she just chooses her needs or wants over mine she simply hurts me because she chooses to.
- Sometimes they want to hurt us by making us think they don't need us when they really do.
- I think they want to hurt us badly and don't realise that they're forcing us away with every stab.... the direct opposite of what I suspect they really want deep down.
- I don't understand why these EK's [estranged kids] want to hurt us so much and use our vulnerabilities. The vile, vindictive nature of them is beyond my comprehension.
- I agree [...] that it does feel like they want us to suffer for this "unmentionable" crime we have done.
- I used to make excuses for my ED. I did not want to believe that she would want to hurt anybody on pupose. Not me, not her Mom who loved her so much. But after many years in this hell of estrangement I now believe hurting you isn't something these estranged adult children do by accident.
- My daughter said... says... hateful things about me in order to hurt me. Her estrangement might be about gaining her own independence, but deliberately excluding me is about hurting ME.
- Now I know it was just a method used to try to hurt me especially - and to this day I do not know why she enjoys hurting me so much.
- Yes estrangement is abuse. I believe my daughters know they are hurting me, but sadly they do not care.
- They seem to get off, they seem to LOVE, making parents suffer. The more parents suffer .. the more the EK's [estranged kids] get satisfaction. I see from all these posts that this is the real agenda for the EK's even when they finally do agree to meet. They arrange a meal, a visit with the GK's [grandkids] .. and don't show, don't call (on purpose), or if they do show, they are nasty. And it seems to be deliberate. It makes the parents angry, sad, depressed, want to pull your hair out of your head. This is what they are hoping you will do and from what I read, they totally believe you are falling over from the misery which means, their goal is accomplished.
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The analyses on this page are my own opinions and should not be construed as medical advice or statements of absolute fact.