Stonewalling. Are you a victim?

It is incredibly harmful.

Stonewalling can also be known as Demand/Withdraw or DM/W.

So what is it?

Stonewalling is abusive behaviour and happens when a person refuses to discuss a significant issue. Instead of discussing, they will completely shut you down and refuse to discuss the issue you are so desperately wanting to talk about. It is a power play and it will make the person—who is the victim—feel betrayed, abandoned, belittled, invalidated and frustrated.

The person who is trying to communicate may get more emotional and that will further the withdrawal. 

Please know: this is not to be confused with someone who responds and says, “I need some time to get my thoughts together, etc.”. A person who is asking for some space.

According to the marital expert Dr. John Gottman one of the destructive communication patterns that contradict love and really destroy relationships is the act of stonewalling or silent treatment. It is especially destructive to relationships because it can make one’s partner feel abandoned and rejected.- psychreg.org

Stonewalling for children

This horrible behaviour is so harmful and will cause much emotional turmoil for a child. And adults who have been stonewalled also feel the pain. My mother “stonewalled” me 4 years ago when I asked her to come forward and tell the truth about my childhood. She refused and shut me out of her life. The subject was “off-limits”. It was the catalyst for my book, My Courage to Tell.

Peg Streep, author of Daughter Detox says, “Children of emotionally unreliable mothers who may appear caring one moment and then unavailable the next—leaving the child in a quandary about whether the Good Mommy or the Bad one will show up— also pull back at the first sign of discord. These children use withdrawal as a way of self-protection and grow up to be adults with an avoidant style of attachment.”

Stonewalling is a refusal to communicate in a relationship. It may take the form of The Silent Treatment. The Silent Treatment is when someone looks at you while you are talking and does not respond, says Dr. Ramani, Clinical Psychologist. It is different from The Silent Treatment. It may take the form of someone who refuses to respond to a message, email or phone call; even if these are repeated. Why? The person does not want to respond to the topic of conversation. According to Dr. Ramani, this type of emotional abuse is used by people who have narcissistic tendencies. It is the ultimate form of manipulation. 

Stonewalling:

  • occurs when the person does not want to deal with the issue. It may mean that the “stonewaller” may have to take responsibility for someone. It will be a topic that is uncomfortable for them.  
  • takes the form of “I refuse to talk about this, and if you bring it up, I’m walking away.” So, Stonewalling silences the person trying to communicate. This is the Demand to meet their expectation in order to talk again.
  • gets nothing resolved. The person who is not permitted to bring up the subject, is left frustrated, has uncomfortable feelings and is hurt. The “Stonewaller” hopes that the victim will give up and change the subject.
  • is completely toxic. If anyone struggles with “abandonment” issues, they will struggle with this type of manipulation. The fear of silence and abandonment can be so triggering that people will give in.
  • in relationships means that the relationship gets stuck. There is no opportunity to be heard. That works very well for the “Stonewaller”. They will not have to deal with the issues.

The family dynamic

People who stonewall can use the whole family dynamic. Anyone who grew up with a parent who used “The Silent Treatment” knows how incredibly damaging psychologically that is. It is devastating to a child to have to deal with this and a child will go to great lengths to draw a parent out of giving them this silent abuse.

The fear of the stonewall means that you have to be careful about what you are saying. 

There are many reasons why a person may stonewall. But one thing we must understand—is that there is no compromise. This person refuses to take responsibility and talking about the issue would make them do that.

So what do you do with someone who refuses to talk?

My advice is you will need to make a decision. Are you willing to continue a relationship knowing that you cannot talk about the subject you may want to talk about?

Also keep in mind that the demand-withdraw behaviour has also been linked to mental health issues such as anxiety/depression and anxiety, as well as physical health concerns like problems with digestion and the urinary system.

For me, I refused. My mother to this day doesn’t talk to me. And the only way to have her in my life is to continue our relationship without talking about the subjects I needed to talk about.

It hurt. But it was a decision I was comfortable with.

(I will state that I am not a therapist or medical professional. I write what I research and learn. Everything I write should not be taken as medical advice.)

References: 

  1. Schrodt, P., Witt, P. L., & Shimkowski, J. R. (2013). A meta-analytical review of the demand/withdraw pattern of interaction and its associations with individual, relational, and communicative outcomes. Communication Monographs, 81(1), 28-58. Doi: 10.1080/03637751.2013.813632
  2. https://www.psychreg.org/what-is-stonewalling/
  3. YouTube: https://youtu.be/IhIvZBUfpHo
  4. https://blogs.psychcentral.com/knotted/2017/03/toxic-cocktails-stonewalling-and-gaslighting/
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Bullying is an epidemic. It’s considered normal. Interview with Dr. Dieter Wolke.

When Dr. Wolke agreed to talk to me about his studies from the University of Warwick, I was thrilled. He has a copy of My Courage to Tell which resonates with the studies he has done on peer bullying and sibling bullying.

When I came across the studies in my research, I had a complete feeling of validation. Finally, sibling bullying is getting some attention. The mental health outcomes of sibling bullying are worse than peer bullying, but sibling bullying gets completely ignored.

According to the stats, Canada has ⅔ more bullying than other OECD countries*. We are concerned about bullying as 78% of us feel not enough is being done. I have not had much support from my fellow Canadians. Perhaps it is either because we are in deep denial we have a problem, or we just don’t put any emphasis on bullying. 

But, studies are starting to be done in the UK. Sibling bullying is starting to get some attention. Thank God.

Why is it so important?

Sibling bullying doubles the risk of self-harm, attempted suicide as well as depression. And if you are a victim of sibling bullying and are bullied at school, it doubles again. You are 3-4x likely to have these poor mental health outcomes. Why? You have no escape and are trapped. 


Could she run away? No! If she ran away, she’d have to say why. She’d have to tell. She had moved so many times, she had no family around that she could confide in. She had no friends. She felt completely – and utterly – alone. She was trapped.” –My Courage to Tell


Some definitions I have learned were very interesting. The “Pure Bully” is the individual who hurts someone else verbally, relationally or physically, and never becomes a victim. A “Victim” is the person who does not fight back or victimize someone else. And the “Bully Victim” is someone who gets victimized but fights back. The findings show the Bully Victim is very unsuccessful. Unfortunately, they don’t fare so well. The mental health outcomes are worse for them. They have tried to fight back – but failed. 

Bullying is considered so normal that it is completely ignored and according to Dr. Wolke, the psychological effects are long-lasting.

In peer bullying, pure bully children are seen as the “cool kids”. They are the kids others want to be seen with. They get resources and people want to be around them. They are callous. They don’t see the pain they cause others and get rewarded. They may become the bankers of the future, the CEOs, or run countries. They exclude people and call them names. They put others down. And they get rewarded. We reward the “Pure Bully”! I am not sure why we continue to reward abusive behaviour in our society. But we do. And it begins early in childhood. 

In sibling bullying, a bully at home is 3x more likely to bully at school. The bully is learning how to bully at home. They learn certain behaviours that they can get away with, with their sibling. They try the same bullying techniques with their peers. For most of you reading this, I’m sure it rings true.

A victim at home is twice as likely to become a victim at school. And a victim of sibling and peer bullying is trapped. There is no escape. It is concerning for a child if they are dealing with both types of bullying. 

In our interview, Dr. Wolke talks about Cyberbullying; another recent study completed by the University. There were 2,800 children ages 11-16 who were selected for this study. What they found was Cyberbullying is important and has ill effects. They found 85%-95% of children who are cyber-bullied are also traditionally bullied. “Bullying is all about power,” Dr. Wolke said. “You don’t write to someone in China.” Almost all of Cyberbullying is directed at someone they know in school. There is a lot of hype about Cyberbullying, yet most of the time, it is an extension of what is going on at school. “It is just another tool,” Dr. Wolke says.

There is one difference in Cyberbullying. It is called “Revenge Bullying”. According to Dr. Wolke, you can try to get back at another person anonymously online. 

Why do siblings bully?

The study shows that sibling bullying is evolutionary. It comes down to resources. 

So why? Why has this subject been ignored? Why are we not helping families deal with sibling bullying? Why are we not looking deeper? With the concerning mental health outcomes, we can no longer ignore this important subject. 

Dr. Wolke has given tips for parents in my interview. He talks about the mental health outcomes of sibling bullying and gives advice on how healthcare professionals can also help.

There is a problem. And I believe there is a solution. But without talking about it – we can’t resolve it.

Please watch the video. And please subscribe to the YouTube channel. I’d be grateful. 

*PREVNet web site

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Children’s Roles in Dysfunctional Families

In troubled families, abuse and neglect are permitted; it’s the talking about them that is forbidden.—unknown

For some of you that are reading this who do not know me, I will start out by saying I am not a therapist or psychologist. What I am, is a researcher. I have written my book to help others see what can happen in toxic families. I appreciate those who have read my book, My Courage to Tell.

If you are a child from a dysfunctional family, you might recognize these different roles that are given to the children: Invisible Child; Golden Child; and, Scapegoat. I have also read The Caretaker, The Clown and The Manipulator. Different psychologists talk about these roles in different ways, so, I will try and put it all together. 

I think I’ve been given three roles in different parts of my life. First, I was given the role of The Invisible Child. Then after I got some help from a teacher at age nine, I graduated to The Golden Child. I am a singer; a successful entrepreneur; and a caregiver. (Perhaps I’m also The Caregiver as I took care of my father when he was ill).

My final role as an adult was a promotion to The Scapegoat (again if you read my story you will know what happened).


The Dysfunctional Family

“The typical adult from a narcissistic family is filled with unacknowledged anger, feels like a hollow person, feels inadequate and defective, suffers from periodic anxiety and depression, and has no clue about how he or she got that way.” —Pressman and Pressman, The Narcissistic Family

One of the first things my psychologist told me on our first visit, is that I had already figured out what I experienced was abuse. She had said that many don’t even know what they have experienced was abuse… and she helped to guide me further to see that it was, or is.

Many of us are gaslit as children. 

That said, children of dysfunctional parenting have a hard time figuring out what is wrong and why they are feeling bad. Empty. It is because toxic families will deny anything is wrong in the first place. 

Toxic parents block emotional access!

Children from dysfunctional families learn very early that they are not important to their parents, and feel invisible. This is highly toxic. Children also learn to live with those dysfunctional rules. With all those rules, children also will allow toxic parents to use and abuse them — as there are no boundaries.

Here are some roles we are given from toxic parents:

1. The Invisible Child (The Lost Child)

This child will have a lot of neglect. They are what I’d say… forgotten. They are left feeling that they do not matter. They feel like they are an inconvenience. 

This Invisible Child will do anything to get their parents’ attention and get noticed. They may take on The Clown role to get attention. They are the lost child seeking attention never feeling worthy. They will spend a lot of time on their own and maybe very reclusive.

2. The Golden Child

This child brings much glory into the family. They might be the star athlete. Or perhaps they are the smart student or the beauty queen. They usually will be treated by toxic parents as being more special than the other children. They are the ones that can usually talk to the parents.

Later on in life, if the Golden Child doesn’t like their role and chooses to challenge the toxic parents on any behaviour, they will not usually get the reaction they think. They will most likely get ostracized. The toxic parent will not like admitting any wrong-doing.

The Golden Child will likely be the one that will care for ageing parents; other siblings may have distanced themselves. This is a big burden for The Golden Child, but remember, they have been “chosen” by the toxic parent.

One last thing: The Golden Child may be at risk of developing narcissism themselves. “The Manipulator” role, is the child who will control and influence others in the family. They may be the bully in the family.

3. The Scapegoat

The Scapegoat is a threat. The Scapegoat has figured everyone out. They have figured out all the bullsh*t. They get it. They are more psychologically in tune. They are pretty smart and are the black sheep of the family.

The Scapegoat will get isolated and are usually blamed. “They are the cause” of everyone’s suffering. 

It is very hard to be a Scapegoat. It is not easy to be isolated. Please read my blog post on The Scapegoat

What are we to do?

What I have learned from many of these roles, is that love from the dysfunctional parent is conditional. I will love you if… And that hurts.

So, it is time for you to start working on self-love and know:

  1. If you feel negative feelings and have an inner critic, you can choose to love that little child within. Hopefully, you can do this with a therapist. 
  2. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. 
  3. You are not alone. 
  4. You can choose to give yourself a chance and heal yourself. You are worth it!

There are so many great resources out today. You can begin to look at ways to heal yourself. Healing within is the most important thing in life we can do. In my book, My Courage to Tell, I have talked about how I met and healed my inner child.

Please Remember: if you do ask for truth and respect from parents who deny your truth, you may not get a positive reaction. But learning to say NO, is important in honouring our true authentic selves.

Blessings.

Sources:

1. https://www.learning-mind.com/dysfunctional-family-roles/

2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201105/the-narcissistic-family-tree

3. YouTube: Dr. Ramani, Dysfunctional Families

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Childhood emotional neglect hurts!

“Would you like to go out for a bite?” I asked my husband. It had been a long week. I was tired.

“If you like,” he responded with a smile. (My husband does like a beer now and again.) Continue reading “Childhood emotional neglect hurts!”

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Painting Jesus. True story.

I’ve been wanting to write a special message for Christmas, and today I had an uplifting message: “Let your Light Shine”.

It is a few days before Christmas and I looked at the clock: 222. It has been happening a lot lately. I googled what it might mean. I read that 222 is a spiritual number with deep meaning. The Universe is giving you a message.

I thought of my angels and went onto YouTube and this video popped up. Continue reading “Painting Jesus. True story.”

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Christmas. What it’s really about.

As this time of year approaches, I have a myriad of feelings. I don’t think I’m alone. Especially for those who are really struggling with the holiday for a range of reasons.

Today, I reflect on Saint Nicholas, the bishop from Turkey in the fourth century. He got the name “Saint Nick” for his kindness to sailors, merchants, archers, prostitutes and children; he is more known for his secret gift-giving to help the people struggling. There is not a lot of information on him other than he rescued a few women from prostitution, calming a sea for sailors, saving innocent soldiers from prosecution, and he rescued some children as well.  Continue reading “Christmas. What it’s really about.”

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Sibling Bullying – ignored but harmful!

It’s a study that is has been a long-time coming!

He took the new Christmas bottle from my dresser and shook it violently. He then carefully placed it at the bottom of my bed next to my feet. “Don’t you dare move or it will blow up,” he threatened, making sure my parents hadn’t heard him. “It’s a bomb and if you move it will go off and blow you to pieces,” he added, with such meaning and hate in his voice.— My Courage to Tell

This is pretty important. I am hopeful that with the new study, there will finally be a focus on sibling bullying.

This study was a longitudinal study of 14,000 children at 18 weeks pregnancy — who would be followed until they were 24. The study would look at mental health, depression, anxiety, self-harm and psychotic disorders. Continue reading “Sibling Bullying – ignored but harmful!”

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Do you feel disconnected?

Do you feel isolated? Disconnected?

I BELIEVE we are all connected. I believe we are connected with nature. I think we’re connected to a higher Source. 

But, I also believe that we have been duped. Seriously. It is time to wake up and see what has happened in our broken world. Continue reading “Do you feel disconnected?”

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Complex PTSD is different than PTSD

More and more people want to know about Complex PTSD. I am not a medical professional, therapist or doctor. I am writing what I’ve learned and researched.

…the symptoms of PTSD do not really seem to completely describe the psychological harm, emotional problems, and changes in how people view themselves and the world following chronic traumatic exposure. Therefore, some mental health professionals believe that we should distinguish between the type of PTSD that develops from chronic, long-lasting traumatic events, and the type of PTSD that results from short-lived events. —verywellmind.com

To start, there is a lot of overlap with PTSD vs C-PTSD. I will try and explain the differences in what I’ve researched. 

Continue reading “Complex PTSD is different than PTSD”

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