Child Abuse: Do Parents Lack Empathy When They Deny What Happened?

Over six years ago, I wrote an article titled, ‘Abusive Parents: Why Do They Deny What Happened?’ In terms of the amount of comments that I have received for this article, it has to be one of the most popular articles that I have ever written.I wrote this article at a time when I was trying to get to grips with my own childhood abuse and neglect. A little while before this my father had passed on and, in many ways, I was holding on for dear life.GuidanceIt was around this time that I had started to read books that Alice Miller had written, and what she said really spoke to me. But although part of me was in a really bad way, another part of me wanted to find out what the hell was going on.Giving up or even ending my own life was not an option; I had to find a way to get through what I was experiencing. It became clear that I couldn’t get through to my mother; she was completely in denial.Two PartsAnd, in the article above, I said that abusive parents will either deny what happened or minimize it. If my mother could bring herself to acknowledge any part of what happened, she would minimise what took place.The fact is that I wasn’t just bringing this up because I had nothing else to do and wanted to create a bit of drama; I brought it up because I was not in a good way and wanted her validation and support. The trouble was that as the wounded part of me needed her to do this, it meant that I suffered even more.


Pulled DownIt was as if an anchor was tied to my leg and this anchor was just pulling me further down, which made me feel even worse. But, due to how much pain I was in, I couldn’t simply let go of this need and move on.Another way of looking at it would be to say that it was as though a part of my body was attached to a car, causing me to be dragged over all kinds of sharp objects. The years that passed pushed me to the edge and I had to dig deep.One FocusWhat I went through as a child had already pushed me to the edge, so it wasn’t as though this was a completely new experience. Back then it was a matter of survival and during this time it felt no different.As the time passed, and I had read more books, written more articles and worked with more healers, I had more evidence to back up what I was saying. Clearly, if my early years were fine, as my mother made out, I wouldn’t have needed to do any of this.Life or DeathUltimately, I was investing my time in this way to keep myself from sinking and to heal myself; I wasn’t simply ‘curious’. Understanding and then healing my wounds was the only option that interested me.Before this trauma came up, I was looking for answers and I was making progress, but my life wasn’t so bad that I felt extreme pressure to change my life – this was no longer the case. I was in a lot of pain and I had to find answers; it was as though I was being chased and if I stopping moving, my life would soon come to an end.A Waste of TimeHowever, even though I had more evidence to back up what I was saying as time went by (not that I needed any, seeing as I was clearly not in a good way), it didn’t have an impact on my mother. I started to see her denial had completely taken over and this stopped her from being able to face reality.Due to the amount of defences she had built up over the years, she must have genuinely believed what she was saying and believed that I was making it all up. After a number of years passed, I was able to see that there was another part to this.A Missing ElementIf my mother had the ability to empathise, she would have been able to see how much pain I was in. The fact that she couldn’t acknowledge what happened and was purely focused on making out that nothing happened, proved that something wasn’t right.What I had been through and what I was going through wasn’t being registered. This was nothing new though as this was something that had always been missing, and this caused me to believe that there was probably something wrong with her brain.Generational Abuse


In the article above, I said about how abuse is often passed from one generation to another, and this was the case with my mother. Due to the defences that my mother’s mind has developed to protect her from her own trauma, I haven’t been able to construct a completely clear idea of what she went though.Yet, for whatever reason, she was unable to put an end to the abuse that had passed down her family line and ended up behaving in a destructive manner towards her own children. I have heard that people choose their parents and that it is not random, and maybe this is true.Final ThoughtsI have learned a lot and healed a lot since that time in my life, and I can say that it was worth all the effort. I have come a long way and there is still work to be done, but I now know what it is like to feel at peace.So, if you are not in good way and you are working through your wounds, keep going and don’t give up. You deserve to experience inner peace and I believe that, if you keep going, you will be able to do so.I thought it would be fitting to end this article with a profound quote that I came across about a month after I wrote the article above. In the words of Alice Miller, ‘The career of a psychologist begins in childhood with the desperate attempt to understand the parents without judging them’.