Reaction seeing “normal” families interact

How do people who have been abused by family members and people with DID react when they either see or interact with normal families? I’m going to use the word normal to describe families where there is no abuse, either physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional. I’m not talking about perfect families since there is no such thing. I realize that families will argue even fight (not physically) people will say things that hurt someone else and no one gets along all the time. But, still these things are normal, so a family like this would still be normal because they also love each other, support each other, and take care of each other.

This last weekend I was around several groups of families but one stuck out to me because, as far as I could tell they were normal. I’ll tell you why I thought they were normal as I think it ties into the point-of-view and reaction of a person who has been abused. My initial instinct when I am around any family is to observe and I automatically look for signs that something is wrong in their family. I look for facial cues, physical cues, whether they sit close to each other, whether they speak to each other very much and when they do speak with each other, how does their speech indicate what they feel about members of their family. It’s automatic for me, so automatic that I didn’t notice that I do it until I started dealing with having DID. I think that it’s having a past of abuse that makes me observe families like this. My assumption at the time is that there is something bad going on in every single family. I never expect to see a normal family. This past weekend I was around a family that had a mother, a father and two daughters who still live at home even though they are both adults (one was 19 and the other was 22). What struck me was that I didn’t realize the girls were sisters at first as they didn’t look a lot like each other until you were looking for similarities. I thought they were really good friends. They knew each other really well, they teased each other but lovingly, they would sit together by choice, because there were plenty of seats, but they sat with everyone else instead of separating themselves and sitting far away. If someone teased one of the sisters the other would stand up for her firmly but kindly. They smiled at each other. And they were very comfortable with each other, relaxed posture and the kind of conversation that exists between people who have known each other for years and can tell what the other person is thinking and finish their sentences. It was so weird! I didn’t know how to take it and while I was talking to them, I was also studying them like an anthropologist studies human behavior. I was kind of cataloging their behavior privately and studying it critically like a scientist. I felt like I was in a primitive village studying a primitive culture’s social habits and taking notes and filming them. And then it got weirder because the mom was there. I didn’t know how to take her because she was blonde and friendly but I couldn’t discern any real intelligence in her conversation. I don’t judge that, I just adjust my conversation to chit-chat instead of real conversation. During the BBQ, one of the girls would randomly come up to the mom and put her arm around her for no apparent reason. AND she told her that she loved her, but in this real casual way like it was normal! At one point in the evening I was sitting next to the mother on the couch and one of the daughters came up to her and hugged her right there! And THEN she sat down on the floor next to her to watch a slide show we were all looking at. I was actually stunned and I had to stop my mouth from falling open and hope that my eyes weren’t wide open in shock. I was completely thrown! The other daughter sat next the dad and they joked and talked while still including everyone in their conversation and being social. That whole night threw me for a loop. I didn’t know how to process what I had seen. Now, keep in mind that my husband comes from a normal family: two parents, one sibling, family vacations, middle-class, no trauma (trust me on this one) and they say “I love you” to each other AND they hug like it’s normal. I had to get used to that when we got married. But I accepted it as an aberration. This thing over the weekend made me question if maybe there are more normal families out there than I thought. The media loves to hype up horrible things so the news is full of terrible things that happen in families. But I’ve learned from experience that you can’t base your view of the world on the media. So, that leaves me confused. Looking around the world, still suspicious, but also puzzled. What is normal? How many normal people are out there? What followed after I left the get-together and my brain was still processing what I had seen, was hurt. A feeling of loss. I was not jealous. I simply didn’t understand how that family could exist. I knew I had missed out on something but exactly what that something was, was elusive. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I didn’t think that I missed my real father. I didn’t wish that my mother had been different. I didn’t wish that I’d had a sibling who was also a friend. I just felt sad and kind of…weirded out to be honest. Now, the way I observe people has slightly changed. I’m still suspicious and I still listen for hidden innuendos but now I’m more aware of when people actually sound happy when they talk about their family. I was around a woman I know who is in her late 20’s and she was talking about her dad and she was happy. You could tell she loved him. What is up with that? I actually know someone who said that their family reminded them of the Cosby Show! They said that their dad was very fair and that they were always free to express themselves and their feelings. My family was the complete opposite. I had no father in my life until my mother married my step-father, and he was distant and cold. Expressing your true feelings was punished with hitting and screaming, so you learned never to show how you felt about anything, ever, even controlling how your face looked. I am thrown by all of this information and observation. What do you do in this situation? I’m lost…


About CimmarianInk

Abuse Survivor Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) also known as Multiple Personalities
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8 Responses to Reaction seeing “normal” families interact

  1. roseroars says:

    Usually I beat myself up inside when I see other families, or like you, I look for some tell-tale sign of dysfunction. These days I don’t know what to think. I guess it makes me upset and feel like my life has been wasted. Wait – your post doesn’t make me upset, but if I’m out and see other families I am. That’s a good question.

  2. castorgirl says:

    I don’t get loving, healthy families… I just don’t. I look for the signs of abuse and dysfunction. And wow, do the protectors come forward if there are young children involved… I wrote an entry about this sort of thing last year (Airports and families), but as a warning, it might be triggering as I talk about our expectations of what we would have expected in that situation i.e. the child being hurt.

    Saying that… I’m friends with Paul from Mind Parts, and I know that he would never do anything at all to hurt his children. I know Lisa wouldn’t hurt her children. So it all gets jumbled up in my head. I know that not all families hurt each other, but I seem to make an assumption that they will until proven otherwise. The happier they look, the more confused I get… the more I wonder what they’re hiding…

    I hate the legacy of abuse.

    Take care,

    • CimmerianInk says:

      Your comment is like a checklist and I’m reading it going “Yep, I do that” or “I totally agree with that”. I will read your post from last year, thanks for the warning but I like insight too. And I really agree with you about the others in the community with DID who are great parents and you can tell that they love their kids and put their welfare first. I agree with you about the legacy of abuse but I guess one thing we can get out of it is that we don’t have to repeat that cycle. We don’t have to be like the abusers, we have a choice to be better than them and that just because they’re evil doen’t mean we are. In fact from what I’ve seen, abuse survivors are very empathetic to others who have suffered and protective of the defenseless. Those are good qualities right? 🙂

  3. Rapid Cycling says:

    I’ve got to admit your post made my jaw drop open too! In particular where you said the ages of the two daughters. I thought hugging mum at that age didn’t exist! well not in my family anyway. Hugging at all didn’t exist! I’ve seen it done in younger children but not adults however I have seen it done by an older adult child to her grandparents BUT I do know that that older child (being my cousin) has dysfunction in her life.
    Sometimes people can express qualities we can’t fathom BUT it doesn’t mean they are “normal”. There are a lot of people “keeping up with the Joneses” too. Perhaps I am being cynical because I hate seeing families who portray “perfection”. Often we don’t see what goes on behind those “perfect” family’s closed doors. I can attest to that! I get peeved when I know pple are dysfunctional and pretend all is rosy but I don’t necessarily get peeved at something I see that I don’t have. I tell myself I’m working on myself, I’m a work in progress, things have been hard for me yes but I’m getting to where I want to be. This self talk stops me from wanting what others have.
    Good post 🙂

    • CimmerianInk says:

      Thanks for commenting! Your thoughts actually kind of backed up my own, in the sense that people affected by abusive families or dysfunctional families like all of us here, can’t seem to fathom that our situations are not or were not the norm. We look at other families and think “There must be secrets”! I see double meanings everywhere I look. It’s hard for us to believe that most families aren’t like ours. But my therapist keeps telling me that abusive situations like mine, like other peoples, aren’t normal. I would like to believe that, and I think part of me does, but that doesn’t stop me from looking the lies underneath the “normal” families. Thanks again for your thoughts. I appreciate your user name by the way as I’m very familiar with that 🙂

      • Rapid Cycling says:

        That’s scary your therapist tells you that….now I’m worried!
        In Alanon one of the first things I was told about was how people “keep up with the Joneses” and boy do some of my family do that (well try to anyway). There are probably various degrees of abuse but I can’t say which degree is at the so called “normal” end of the scale ha ha!! There are all kinds of abuse too. As I keep getting told, nobody is perfect!!

      • CimmerianInk says:

        Hey there! Don’t be worried, she’s always telling me things that freak me out because my view of the world is apprently skewed. Who knew lol!
        I think “normal” means (at least for me) that there was no abuse and when I think of abuse I’m not talking about slipping up now and again by yelling at someone. A person can’t use the excuse that “Nobody’s perfect” to justify abusing someone. That’s just a cop-out and a reason for them to continue their behavior. Striking someone is never okay in any situation (at least to me, except in self-defense of course). Sexual abuse is never okay and it doesn’t matter if it happens once or more than once, the person has still been abused. Then there’s the emotional abuse and the verbal abuse. And there’s also physical neglect. There’s a lot of aspects to abuse and the problem sometimes is that people define abuse differently. Is a swat on the bottom abuse? Some people think it is. Some people think it’s not. When I think of physical abuse it’s more than that and I think that abuse, all kinds of abuse, causes damage both physical (even if the marks fade) and emotional and mental as well. Of course I’ve heard of parents going off on their kids with spanking too, to the point where I would call it abuse, so there you go. Saying that nobody’s perfect just means that we’re all going to make mistakes and say and do things that we regret or wish we could take back and all of us do that. That’s a totally different situation than abuse. Abuse is not normal and it’s on a totally different level. I have to keep reminding myself of that though 🙂

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