Q I’ve never got on with either of my parents and left home as soon as I started work, and I don’t have any contact with them now. Fortunately my best friend’s mum took me in and I’ve been living with them for over a year.
What’s bothering me is the snide comments on Facebook and by texts from my older sister, aunt and uncle. They don’t know the half of what went on and how nasty my mum was to me, and how much my dad touched me where he shouldn’t have done. I haven’t told anyone about that but it makes me sick that these people make out it’s me that has the problem, and that I’m the one causing bad feeling and telling lies in the family. I just wish they’d mind their own business and leave me alone! Sometimes I start to doubt myself and what I know to be true about what happened to me. I think maybe I should forgive and forget, but that would be more of a lie! Why don’t they just leave me alone to get on with my life?
A You are describing what’s called ‘Flying Monkeys’…people that swing around blaming, criticising and trying to shame others into compliance with their wishes to keep the family secrets in the dark.
Usually fear and shame sit behind their behaviour, as well as repeating the abuse in some form, and blaming the ‘victim’. They may fear that you’ll show others that the family isn’t perfect, and fear that they’d be shown up in a bad light too. Their shame would be about the real state of the family – which they don’t want to have to accept.
What I do know is that forgiveness has to be your choice, and certainly doesn’t have to include ‘forgetting’.
Your vulnerable inner child has had to endure abuse from the people she trusted to take care of her. That is the ultimate betrayal.
In ‘unhealthy’ families there is often a need to hide what is wrong. To pretend that things are fine. To blame one member for any ‘badness’ or ill feeling. That person may well be you…the scapegoat.
You have two choices…expose the truth or ignore the lies (and block any social media posts!).
Either way, what matters most is that you take good care of yourself; that you have a ‘home’ that you feel safe in; that you decide upon your own boundaries of what is OK with you and what isn’t.
You also have the choice, when the time feels right for you – and you have the right support in place – to take action against your father if, as you imply, he has violated your boundaries in a sexual way.
If he has done so then this is a crime. You have to decide what you want to do about that. If you have created a safe place for yourself, and good friends who support you, then you’ll be better able to consider any legal action against him (I’m also concerned about your sister who may have her own experiences of abuse from him).
The flying monkeys might go crazy if you expose the secrets… or they just might shut up!
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)
www.maxineharley.com – where you’ll find a page of FREE RESOURCES to help you on your road to self awareness, empowerment and growth. Including ‘How To Shield Yourself From A Toxic Mother & Father’.