A Matter of Personality

From borderline to narcissism

Hatefulness as a Gift of Love

When parents treat their children like dirt or constantly do things that drive them crazy, and then complain when the children stay away from them, what is going on? Can it be that such horrible behavior has a hidden altruistic intent? These parents know they are toxic, cannot seem to stop being that way, and covertly think their children are better off without them. Read More

Poison is poison is poison.

You quote Dr Benjamin: "People unwittingly act accordingly to the "rules" laid down by these early relationships and even when they believe they hate the original copy person. Every psychopathology is a gift of love."

But please note that she's saying these people love their PARENTS, not their children! Their psychopathologies are gifts of love to their parents, NOT their children!

"The idea that individuals are willing to sacrifice their own children as a gift of love to the family system is the perhaps the most difficult manifestation of this for anyone to accept."

They are not sacrificing their children to "the family system", because these children are PART of that family system. What they are doing is sacrificing their children to their own parents.

"In psychotherapy, that parents somehow still love their children even if they are acting out a hateful, nasty, and/or abusive family role is something my patients often have a great deal of trouble accepting, and understandably so. "

Your use of the word "still" in "parents still love their children" is telling of YOUR apparent inability to conceive of parents who simply NEVER loved their children. When parents are focusing exclusively on loving their own parents, there's no love available for the children. These people don't "still" love their children; they never did.

"parents who are acting in a hateful manner are often acting that way because they covertly think that they are protecting their child. From them. "

That could be... but so what? Their children, who never asked to be born to them, are still deprived of parental love forever. And poison is poison is poison; the wrapping and the intention are irrelevant: it's a crime to force someone to drink poison.

"In hearing such stories, what jumps out at me the most are the double message these parents give off to their kids about needing and loving them. The positive messages, however, could easily be interpreted as having a negative ulterior motive behind them—like Mom is only saying them to manipulate the adult child. This negative interpretation comes about for a number of reasons:"

What about: because it is the RIGHT interpretation?

"The positive comments and the underlying concern represent what is going on covertly, and are what I believe to be manifestations of the parents’ true selves—the way they really feel down deep."

As I said: you seem unable to conceive of parents who genuinely don't love or care for their children.

"However, the parents also secretly long to have a healthy connection with their children, "

or maybe they just want to keep sacrificing the children on the altar of their painful relationship with their own parents?

I understand your desire to see love even in the heart of hatefulness. But this desire is based on a fundamentally mistaken belief: that parents can't not love their children. You should try looking at the situation without that basic unfounded assumption clouding your judgement, someday...


Hi Del,

Thanks for your comment. I agree with a lot of what you say here. And I never said it isn't poison! When it comes to, say, honor killings in the Middle East, it literally results in someone's death.

Of course I would not expect you to believe what I say about the hidden altrusism (emphasis on both the altruism AND its pathological nature), just as I acknowledged in the post itself. If I had been the recipient of the poison, I wouldn't believe it either.

By what definition of love?

If I am to believe that my often hateful, abusive, neglecting, self righteous mother loved me, I need to know: by what definition of love?

She showed no evidence of caring about my well being, except if it happened to impact her.

After a lifetime of "knowing" me, she didn't know me at all. Because she didn't care to pay attention. She tended to assume I was just like her or sneer at me for being unrefined and stupid.

She had no problem saying the words "I love you." And you say in your article that she really loved me, but by what definition?

definition of love

Hi Dixie,

I understand that it's a bizarre and rather horrific way to show love, and I am in no way condoning it, but again, the "logic" is this: if she secretly agrees with you that she is as horrible as you are making her out to be, then by her being mean to you she thinks that she is making you hate her and thereby encouraging you to stay away from her. She thinks she is saving you - from HER. Therefore, in her estimation, you are better off!

... Would she agree that she is horrible?

I think the key is whether my mother would agree that she is as horrible as I say she is. She would not agree. Not in a million years. And before you suggest that she was pushing me away subconsciously to protect me... If she was, she was really bad at it. It look her almost 50 years to get it right.

Either my interpretation of her behavior is accurate, and she was horrible. Or I'm the horrible one. There's not much middle ground.

I believe that evil people exist. If there are evil people then there are evil parents. Evil parents who intentionally hurt their kids (and other people), don't feel guilt or remorse about it, even enjoy it. I realize that not everyone believes that evil people exist. I used to be one of them. It was a coping mechanism.

would she agree?

Of course I can't say anything about you and your family in particular.

In general, however, a mother who felt that way about herself and was pushing her children away would not tell anyone the truth. Her strategy wouldn't work if she did! And if her children kept coming back for more in spite of being abused, they wouldn't unusual.

That's what makes this type of situation such a devilishly difficult one to unravel.

I certainly wouldn't agree that one of you simply must be horrible in essence, which does not preclude anyone from having done horrible things.

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David M. Allen, M.D., is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Tennessee and author of the book How Dysfunctional Families Spur Mental Disorders.


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