15 thoughts on “Raised By Struggling Parents: The Invisible Child

  • March 17, 2019 at 11:18 am

    This is so useful, thank you. I have long thought that if I wrote an autobiography, it would be called The Invisible Woman.
    I don’t seem to register in people’s lives, I feel like an observer- watching as everyone goes about their business, enjoying life, sharing connections and emotions with others.
    I don’t know how to break through that glass wall, because growing up, whenever I showed any strong emotions, my widowed mother would be angry and criticise me. Anything I did wrong was a disaster and ruined her life. So I learned not to show emotions, to just be cold and unemotional at all times, never to make mistakes or go against her wishes. Or at least on the surface. Inside was full of turmoil, grief, anger and hurt.
    Lately though I’ve been doing what you suggest in number 2. Thinking what *I* want. What *I* need. What *my* choice is. It feels so soothing and enjoyable.

    • March 17, 2019 at 1:00 pm

      Dear Catherine, the way to become visible to others is to start seeing yourself. They go together. So the fact that you are doing #2 means you are on the right track. Keep it up! There’s a reason it feels soothing and enjoyable. You are being seen by the most important person of all: you.

      • March 17, 2019 at 1:19 pm

        Thank you! It’s such a simple answer (obviously difficult for me) but doesn’t involve complicated techniques and vast amounts of money!

      • March 17, 2019 at 1:59 pm

        Yes, it seems simple and in many ways it is. It’s important to keep at it, as your old ways will always be calling you backward.

      • March 17, 2019 at 6:14 pm

        It’s just something that we didn’t get taught as children, somehow. I am glad I’m learning it now, even if it is late! 🙂

      • March 17, 2019 at 6:59 pm

        Dear Catherine, it is indeed never too late. It will make a difference in your life!

  • March 17, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    “ is this you” the examples you give , many can identify & lived badly until they ran away from home or got into trade schools, college and maybe University a huge expense in the 1960s requiring a sponsor to borrow money to finance one’s education. There were no credit cards. Banks demanded security especially when coming from a broken family or a family identified as poor without any savings or collateral. Bad news travel fast and banks and lending institutions have powerful connections who as money and who has not.

    However I was blessed in 1966 one family all passed away now, signed their names I would pay the money back And I did all of it by 1980.

    Basically the bully etc…re: your examples won. If I or others under the CEN umbrella fought back in any way in the small town as labelled we were the ones the authorities or bully’s parents took measures to cause us problems in school and activities and even in clubs, scouts etc.and could bad mouth us and did when we desperately needed valued references for summer employment. especially within that community during as their children were looking for summer work as more favoured and responsible.
    Somehow it all worked out we took the jobs we could find on farms ,factory, processing or drove every day to another town to work. No matter the hours.

    Small towns can breed get even. So we had to take the punches, the demeaning comments , the girls thinking we were losers, and realize at this age getting a record would be for life. We seldom got invited to teen high school parties, never went to proms as let’s face it who would go out with us and many upon arrival at a house party would ask “ what’s the loser here for” Food probably, ha,ha!

    Once labeled the CEN the child is toast because usually being put down he/she can only turn to self .

    Fighting back in small town communities was a no no as “ it just allowed the community to caste the expression “ We told you so he is a loser and bad too, jerk”.

    My friends now that we were on summer break from trade, college,university many of those played college heavy demand sports and when we sat together in the draft room the bullies scurried away like hot air. and the wimps they were while others did reach out their hands in apology and accepted . Who needs this trade war in one’s home town? The reality is the reality.

    And even others who had some minimal academic standing as CEN got respectable factory work and we would all get together just like that after work for a beer here and there and wonder how we made it . We did ! And we over the years became their back up going into uncharted pathways when adversity hits all of us at some point. On our journey the destination having too many land mines at once.
    But together by phone etc….we did it by caring and helping each other out of the dark hole .

    To summarize while away at school we learned the law was applied equally because I was now equal financially and had graduated into the professional technical category and as my parents both sick one sick of his own compulsive doing the other because of the horrible fallout from it and now finally separated started to live to their own lives and eventually passing away with competent caring.

    No one likes this way of being brought up but over the years I was able to help others in my vocation now entering the workforce meaningful and into satisfying jobs.

    So they too had problems in their upbringing and one can sense it takes one to sense another CEN is hurting and needs a break out and a pathway to a bridge to get across the river to a new life. Sometimes we just do not know why we are being called into service?

    So in conclusion the reality is the reality and facing that reality instead of masking it with pills and booze and whatever allowed many of us to go away make something of ourselves to be able to return home for the many funerals not in shame but just being there for the purposes served to finality and leave each other in peace eventhough others in attendance probably were our adversaries but peace is peace and go to peace even if it hurts like hell and back peacefully.

    And just move forward ……there is nothing worth looking at in the rear view mirror at this point in aging.

    • March 17, 2019 at 12:59 pm

      Dear Gwor, it sounds like you left your CEN home and went out and made things happen for yourself. You are right, the world was very different back then. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  • March 17, 2019 at 8:12 pm

    Thank you for shedding more light onto the feeling of being invisible. For my own parents, I don’t think they were struggling. I think that they just thought that providing a roof, food and schooling was their entire role in parenting children. Even now, my elderly parents praise themselves for turning out such great kids. They have no idea. I think their beliefs are so deeply entrenched that even if I were to try and explain it to them now that they would not understand how their behavior set me up for this battle. They would not take any ownership.

    I have felt invisible for a very large part of my life and even now I continue to feel that way when I spend time with my parents. They will never learn, acknowledge or take responsibility for their actions.

    “Knowing, without a doubt, that you were not born to be invisible, not at all. You were, in fact, born to be seen”.

    Thank you, Dr. Webb.

    • March 17, 2019 at 9:03 pm

      Dear Ava, the fact that your parents were likely parenting the way they themselves were parented does not take away from the effect on you. I’m so glad you’re seeing this.

    • March 18, 2019 at 7:34 am

      I agree with Ava. My mum thought that her parenting duties stopped when I was 18. Click! Just like that, and I was a fully formed adult then. So when I had a nervous breakdown aged 22 she was disgusted and wouldn’t help me.
      I expect she parented me the same way as she was parented, as Ava said.

      • March 18, 2019 at 9:17 am

        Dear Catherine, I’m sorry that you and Ava were so alone at such a young age. I hope you will both keep taking steps to heal.

  • March 21, 2019 at 4:46 pm

    I have emotional scars from being neglected, but also physical. Once I had a deep scratch from our cat that I know must have needed stitches. Blood was streaming down my leg and I ran to my mom and told her I needed help, but she wouldn’t get out of bed to help me (she was too depressed). To this day I have an ugly scar on my leg to remind me of the consequences of CEN, but sometimes I wonder if the scars you can’t see are even uglier b/c they robbed me of my self esteem and created my binge eating disorder – a healthy way to cope when you are a child in the midst of it all, but not at all helpful when you are an adult.

    I’m really thankful for finding your blogs, Dr. Jonice Webb. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I will save this article and keep reviewing the 3 steps you outlined. I want to be visible and validated. I want to be whole.

    • March 21, 2019 at 7:36 pm

      Dear Laura, I agree the inside scars are the ones that stay with us the most and have the power to continue to harm us. I hope you will put yourself first and give yourself the effort to heal.

  • April 13, 2019 at 12:11 am

    Dear Doctor Webb, I am new to the concept of CEN and have just read Running on Empty. So much of what I have read resonates with me and I’m so grateful to you for highlighting the invisible curse that has sadly taken its toll on my mental health. Now, after years of depression and anxiety, Postnatal Depression, episodes of time off work, feelings of inadequacy, I now have a starting point to allow myself to live my life unshackled from guilt and most importantly to enjoy my life. There’s way too much to explain about my experiences here but I feel some sense of relief to know that my numbness and detachment from the world over the years has a potential root cause. There is , however, a deep sense of disloyalty to my parents, who did what they thought was right. Raised in a Methodist home, I am the only daughter with four older brothers and one younger. I always felt safe growing up and was well educated, provided for practically but as a family, we never spoke emotionally about anything. It just didn’t happen. It was a very quiet house despite the number of us. Thank you, I could talk forever about my experiences but this is not the place to do it. I’m seeing a psychiatrist here in the UK and have explained how your book has given me a starting point for recovery. With grateful thanks for finally lifting the lid on CEN.


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