**For an interesting exception to the pattern discussed in this post, see an update at http://davidmallenmd.blogspot.com/2016/03/adult-children-who-cut-off-their.html
In the advice column Annie’s Mailbox by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, there has recently been a series of letters from the parents of adult children who have cut them out of their lives. The parents complain that they have absolutely no idea and do not understand why this has happened, and they seem to indicate that they had been just model parents or, at worst, guilty of some very minor parental transgressions.
Lately, a couple of other letter writers opined that just perhaps the parental behavior was a lot more problematic than these folks would have the world believe. For the most part, whenever I delve into the family dynamics of those patients who either cut off parents or have been cut off like this, that is certainly always the case.
In reading the letters from the parents who just cannot seem to figure out why their children have cut them off, a question arises. Are they really that clueless? Are they “in denial?” - whatever that means? To me, “denial” of reality is just – how should I put this? – lying.
In fact, when such parents are in the process of portraying themselves as the innocent victims of mean-spirited, unreasonable adult children, they are in fact, pushing their adult children even further away. They are, in a sense, invalidating their adult children’s sense of reality about what transpires in their relationships. In doing so, they are literally being hateful. This of course further infuriates the adult children. This illustrates one subtle form of distancing behavior.
The last letter in the following series illustrates the adult child's anger about this issue better than I ever could.
(How such situations might be repaired is described by the letter writer of 4/5/14).
10/8/13. Dear Annie: When our daughter was a child, she had emotional issues and extensive anger management problems. With tremendous concern and love, we got her professional support and therapy, and ultimately, our daughter learned the skills to control herself. What we did not do was tell extended family members of these private problems. We had seen their extreme intolerance for any kind of mental health issues and did not want our daughter to suffer prejudice from her own family. In college, the troubling incidents started again. Because of our daughter's refusal to let us have access to her medical information, we had no real idea of what was happening. The next few years included troubling breakups with both friends and boyfriends, extreme weight loss and talk of suicide.
Our daughter is now 32 and recently married. She suddenly and inexplicably has cut us off. When we try to communicate with her, she becomes hysterical with rage. We have learned she has been saying horrible things about us to the same extended family members we tried to protect her from in childhood. We are devastated. One relative actually told my husband that we must have done something terrible to our daughter for her to treat us this way. These family members now have a special, almost frenzied new importance to our daughter. They judge us constantly. To be accused of such mistreatment is insulting and painful. Please print this so these family members will stop jumping to conclusions. — Reading This Can Help
5/10/14. Dear Annie: I feel sure that, were she to pick up pen and paper, my mother would be among those parents wailing over their "heartless" children's "abandoning" them. My mother would say that she was a loving, wonderful parent, and I'm sure she believes it. Annie, this is a woman who told me every day that she wished she'd aborted me. When I was very little, she helpfully explained the term so I would know exactly what she meant. Very rarely are abusive parents capable of comprehending that they are, in fact, abusive. There is no child on Earth who wants to not have parents. If your kids have cut you out of their lives, there is a reason, and that reason is YOU. — S.