Emotional Intelligence | Main page on emotionally abusive mothers


Letter from an adult male


My mother psychologically abused me, her son, in many different ways, between my ages of seven through fourteen. This would be from 1971 through 1978, after my parents had divorced, and I was left in my mother’s custody. I call this particular type of abuse, “The Bait & Lie”.

My mother would bait me with some treat she’d think-up, like going to Disneyland, for example. She’d procrastinate throughout the day, claim it was getting too late, and when I’d counter that we could always do it tomorrow, she’d then claim that it was too expensive. I, of course, would become very angry, to which she would then send me to my room.

A few minutes later, my mother would come back to my bedroom, open the door, order me to keep it open in a very angry, snotty tone, and then walk across the hall to her bedroom. She’d sit on her bed, where I could both see and hear her, pick-up the rarely-used back telephone on her night stand, and call one person after the next, to lie about the entire event.

She’d portray herself as this loving, soft-spoken, thoughtful, but distraught mom whose child had suddenly demanded this treat that she couldn’t afford. She said that she tried to explain, but that I got angry, and she felt she had no choice but to send me to my room. She’d say how terrible she felt about having to do that, while often smiling at me in the process.

She’d never say anything negative per se. Instead, she’d paint the false picture, and leave the listener to infer the obvious implication that I was a spoiled brat who threw a tantrum when he didn’t get what he wanted. The listener would reassure her that she couldn’t let me get away with that, and that she should’ve sent me to my room.

It then became one of her sympathy sessions. My mother spent entire days on the main telephone bemoaning her many problems, which were almost exclusively lies, imaginary, or self-created. On these occasions in which she used the “Bait & Lie”, the listener would infer that I was the cause of them having to listen to her whine for hours about my “misbehavior”.

This form of abuse happened about one to three times a month. I’m not sure why I kept being fooled, but I do have a history of Dissociative Fugues (amnesia) from the age of eight, back, one of which was for almost two years. It’s possible that when she’d abuse me, I’d Fugue, and wouldn’t remember when she did it again. Years later, I’d still only sense some nebulous warning in my head when she’d offer something, rather than actually understanding what she was doing to me.

But one day, when I was fourteen, I fought back. Apparently I’d finally put most of it together. As a result of my willingness to engage her, as well as the fact that she arrogantly tried to pull this off in-person rather than on the telephone, I managed to convince my aunt enough to facilitate my rescue. Within a couple weeks, I was living in a relatively normal family, with my father, step-mother, and two younger step-brothers. My mother made no attempt to dispute this change of custody.

Decades later, my mother performed a very similar kind of abuse on her own brother, and his wife, when she moved near them following her third divorce. One of the most satisfying moments in my life is when that aunt (not the same that rescued me) called me in a state of hysterics. She had learned that my mother was calling everybody up, and claiming that they were abusing her, when in fact it was my mother abusing them.

It took about thirty minutes to calm her down. I described this one aspect of the abuse my mother had inflicted on me as a child, partly as a means to reassure her that there was no way in hell that I’d believe my mother over my aunt. But mostly, I wanted her to understand that she had endured this as a full-grown adult, for only a few months, and could actually call people to tell her side. I then asked her to imagine this happening to a child for seven years instead; she was speechless.

Eventually people realized what my mother had done to my aunt and uncle, and in response she suddenly claimed that she couldn’t remember the previous two years. That seemed awfully convenient to me, but then again, the reality of being caught doing this to people, may have been too much, and she actually did have her own fugue. The last thing I heard was that they felt the amnesia had to do with her alcoholism, but I’m afraid the period of her amnesia is just too telling.

My mother has never acknowledged, expressed remorse for, or sought forgiveness over any of the abuse she inflicted on me, which is far more than I’ve described here. The closest she has come is when I cornered her once into admitting to abusive behavior, although she wouldn’t accept it as being abuse. Instead, she called it, “Character Building.” Writing this is extremely difficult. It’s taken me days to write one page, and it’s upset me very much.