Nov. 7, 2022

Being the Black Sheep

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What does it mean to be The Black Sheep of the Family?

Many people who self-identify as the black sheep of their family feel misunderstood and ostracized. They report many negative comments and judgments from their family members. Many black sheep are self-healers, empathetic, and compassionate to others, given they know what it feels like not to be heard and understood.

Kathi Hennessey, LICSW, studies the characteristics of adults who self-identify as black sheep or marginalized members of their families. Kathi will use information from her study to write a book about how the black sheep or marginalized members of their families are created and maintained. The research will also examine how these adults have adapted and embraced their uniqueness.

In this episode of The Honestly Unfiltered Podcast, Jeni and Ellie sat with Kathi to discuss her research study. They also discussed family dynamics and whether or not we should feel obligated to be a part of our family members every day lives. Why are we forced to spend the holidays with our family when their treatment is terrible? And what happens when we push back, set boundaries, and do not allow toxic behavior? Find out this and much more in this episode.


Kathi Hennessey, LICSW Instagram

Kathi Hennessey, LICSW Facebook

email Kathi Hennessey, LICSW


Relevant Links:

Being The Black Sheep

The Power of Being The Black Sheep

Lone Wolf or Black Sheep?


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©2022 Honestly Unfiltered

I'm Jeni Thomas and I'm her friend Ellie David we decided to create a podcast that embodies what you would
talk about with your closest friends so sit back and relax and put your headphones in because you're listening
to the honestly unfiltered podcast
hello and welcome to the honestly unfiltered podcast today Elliot and I have with us Kathy
Hennessey who is a licensed social worker she has a website called
being the black sheep she is she's currently doing a study
well actually I'm just gonna let her tell you more about it Kathy how are you yeah I'm stuttering because I'm nervous
I'm the one that's supposed to be nervous
um yeah so I've been doing this study for people who self-identify as being
the black sheep of their family um so the first part of the study was like
a survey I just asked a bunch of questions and um and that part's over I'm still accepting
people to interview to kind of get more details about their experience
being the black sheep so it's been very interesting to obviously there are
patterns right like everybody knows who what the black sheep is um
but there's not that I was looking for a book
to help me with my process and couldn't find one and so that's what
made me say well I'll just write one and okay so I'll get that you know I'll work
on my own healing while hopefully helping other people in their process as
well so thought in order to do that I should talk to a bunch of people okay
so that's where that is now what's your what's your background
in the field like how long have you been you know a therapist like what what's
your so I've been practicing therapy for um about 14 years
um and many of my clients identify as a black sheep of their family which is
not necessarily surprising um and and me feeling like I was the black
sheep of my family I finally you know decided that I wanted to look more into
that and um so I couldn't help others and help myself in the
process how do you I didn't how what what things made you identify as the
black sheep of your family well I am the middle of three girls
and um always felt like
I was different from them and it was pointed out that I was different from them that I my mother used to say you
know I marched to My Own Drum um and that was when she was being complementary
but frequently that was annoying right
um so you know it I was frequently put down or made fun of
or um you know kind of spoken to in a way like
get back in line you know and that just didn't feel like me right um
so you know I bumbled along in my life making you know marching to My Own Drum and
made some decisions that you know
worked for me at the time but didn't wasn't well received by the family
um and but here I am now you know having a
thriving Psychotherapy practice so you know I and I think that I am a better therapist
because of all of those experiences that definitely I had you know yeah
so um now you have mentioned I mean you reached
out to me for a reason um so tell me a little bit about yours your
experience I or why Ellie and I have talked about this where
we we feel it differently I I have two my my siblings my family's
split my parents were divorced when I was young so I feel it on my mom's side because I
have I have a brother on that side and my mother there and I feel it from My Father's Side my father has passed away
20 years ago but I definitely feel it with um my half-siblings and my stepmother
from that side so I there's two families and I don't really belong to either one
of them I mean I do to a sense my brother from my my from my mother's and father for my
father's first marriage we we are really close
but only because he's witnessed he recognizes the abuse that has
happened to me from all sides our mother is also a narcissist and I
learned early on in therapy that my brother is a golden child and I'm a scapegoat so I kind of got it I kind of
get it from from all angles there and it's a and you know there was an incident that
happened and we did a podcast episode and really what happened was I was you know making a joke calling myself the
black sheep of the family and I was looking for like a clip art or something to put into like our podcast art and I
stumbled upon your website and the more I read it I was like well wow I am
really the black sheep of the family and it's not the rebel the you know the
purse the person causing all the problems it is someone like me who is really just minding their own business
and is but but I'm perceived in this light that I'm the irresponsible one and
I'm the outspoken one and I'm the Troublemaker maybe because I call
everybody out on their crap but um really all I want to do is love
everybody and and help them because I'm the one they also come to if they need something or if they're in trouble so
it's it's a bit of you know a it's it's a bit of a tug of war and at
the moment I am not speaking to one side of the family and in the last year my my
brother he's moved to another state and my mom's moved to another state so it's really I really felt kind of abandoned
and not really knowing my place in the last year hmm there's there's a mountain that's a
that's a mouthful there it's a little bit to unpack right here yeah
so well I I mean for me personally yeah I'm I'm still trying to kind of like
figure it out but I agree with Jenny as far as the I'm very curious to hear your thoughts about split
families and how that equates because honestly I feel like my parents also
divorced and I always felt like the black sheep when it comes if you're grouping my father
and his new family and I don't I don't have well my sisters and he does have
step children um and I'm definitely the black sheep over there
but with my mom and when we're my mom my stepdad and my sisters I believe it
would be my sister my the middle sister I'm the oldest of three girls so
and I also feel like it changed as we grew up so I'd like to see what you
think about it because if I'm really being honest I think that when we were younger I wasn't the black
sheep as much as I am now on both sides I mean honestly and kind of for the same
reasons that Jenny's saying is you're the response you know I put up yeah and I put up boundaries which they
don't like and I don't accept bad behavior anymore and I don't accept abuse and I you know I also don't you
know we have Addiction in our family we have different things going on and believe me I have my own stuff but
you know I'm very like look um I'm not responsible for you you're you know a 36 year old woman you know
like like we have at some point we had because I feel like my siblings have a hard time one sister is not married with
any children the other has one young child I was the first to have kids and
be married and all those things and it's like I have this whole other life you know that I'm living as well with my
husband and his family and you know but they are it's almost like they want to keep you in this childhood
that we had all the you know it's like no we grow up and we we you know move
move fast so it's I don't know I have a hard time really when I asked my husband he was
immediate he's like I'm the black sheep of his family which totally makes sense
but I'm very confused and again he's the most responsible one so yeah I yeah yeah
yeah yeah it's interesting because I've you know I've called myself the black sheep like
for as long as I can remember and my first husband had a hard time with that and and was like well that's such a
Negative term I'm like yeah is that your point
um and even you know my current husband because so I divorced and remarried has
said the same but it's like well that's how I feel like I feel negative I feel yucky when getting
together with the family like what are they gonna say this time how am I going to be treated and like just the tension
and like you know so many things being pointed out that they would never point
out to like their friends [Music] yeah so
um yeah in my family there was um there's a lot of codependence
and you know what I have noticed is that
there is a lot of narcissism related to Black Sheep
and I think you know when you think about narcissism and
whoever it is that is the narcissist wants things their way well the black sheep was
born and has different thinking like no why does it have to be your way why can't it be
my way or her way or his way right like why does it always have to be your way you know and so I think that that
questioning that well that Curiosity that willingness to
explore other ways of doing things or other ways of being you know
clashes with you know the narcissist thinking
um so yeah and I think you know so when the
pandemic happened I was besides the initial anxiety that all of
us had right what is this right I was enjoying not having to get together with
my family I was like
wow this feels nice because there was all this like oh well we have to celebrate this holiday oh it's somebody
like we always have to get together and it's like I would dread these occasions right so having the pandemic kind of
really made me question what that feeling was as
opposed to all the years before of just going well this is just the way it is and I'm the problem and so
you know so now with this space I'm like am I the problem right you know and what
can I do to heal myself um so yeah and and the codependence has you
know I've seen it with with me wanting to make different choices like after high school or even quitting college and
getting married young and um but then even seeing it with the Next Generation with my sister's kids
growing up like they're supposed to yeah
moving in with a boyfriend and joining the military was like it was this
morning like somebody had died like
they turned 18 they grew up they're supposed to play The Nest why is this
shocking you know like so the codependents definitely runs
um in the family and I think that there is some narcissism um specifically with my sister
um you know I think I felt that I felt more pressure from my siblings
than I did even from my parents which is interesting because I think you know a
lot of the people that I've been talking to it's my mother treated me this way my father treated me this way or my mother was a narcissist my father was a
narcissist where I felt like certainly it comes from the top but then it was the siblings like
get back in line you know yeah I agree with that yeah yeah I definitely
I can relate and I think that's what I'm trying to say even and you're saying it better but you know it's we finally got
to a place where we're all adults and able to make our own because like you said it starts at the top so yeah
and both of our parents my parents were narcissistic but at some point you get to make
choices for yourself and the more I pull back because that's healthier for me I always call it
detached with love you know I don't want to amputate I'm trying not to amputate
but they're it's that that feeling of you gotta get in here and do what we're telling you to do or you're out of the
club you know or or you don't love me or you don't you know and I'm not capable of that in a healthy
way without it making me really sick you know it's like it's just what it is you
know yeah I mean as you know like my mother obviously she
my mother kept me close growing up I didn't really get to fly on my own until I was 17 or so that's really when I
started going out with friends socially and it was
just the end of the world I didn't go away to college in Boston
um I was I got accepted to Boston College and I was real I really wanted to go my father wanted me to go he said
I needed to get away from everything everyone here and my mother cried and she begged me not to go and I didn't but
then once I you know I I became close with my girlfriends and it was never home it was your with that girl you know
you don't do this you don't do that and it just became I noticed every every
important friend in my life that I've ever had it's become is a very big issue with my mother that I love them more
than her or or they're more important or you're even when I married my husband it was the same way and
on my father's side he was an addict he was an alcoholic
which is why my parents divorced and he remarried when I was in high
school so and he passed away when I was 27 so he didn't he didn't tell his wife that he had kids
when he got married so and we were really kind of kept apart I was
kept apart my brother he was he was he was welcomed into their family but
anytime I wanted to partake it was next time no this isn't a good time you know
your brother can come this time but you'll come next time and I found out later from my sister that it was because
they were worried I'd be like my mother so they kept me isolated from the family now to this day I truly believe that
they all they all think and act like I am like my mother
but it's a you know it's been years of my me tiptoeing around the way they
treat me and the things that they say about me and the things that they bring up from childhood that I can't react
because of the label well she's just like Diane so I I think this past year I pretty
much reached a breaking point and I didn't handle it I didn't handle it in
the best way I could have um but I was also dealing with someone in the family that has an alcohol
problem and likes to blame it on everybody else
um it's been a very complicated Dynamic trying to figure out where to fit in and such so
um but really more of my problems have started to have occur with my mother and
with that side of the family in the past year or two because I have like Ellie
put up boundaries and said I'm not going to accept this this is not acceptable behavior I'm not going to tolerate that
I will go months on end without speaking to my mother because I've had enough of her verbal abuse and as I said right now
I'm not talking to my other side of the family because I've had enough of it so he's just him my brother
my bro I you know I call my brother you know my brother for my with my mother he just kind of stays out of it he moved
away he can't deal with any of it he just pretty much doesn't want to talk about it he shuts it all down so that
has his way of coping with it all so it's a really it's a real healthy
Dynamic it's a real healthy family over here well if that's what's working for him
yeah right like we're all just trying to get through and figure out what a what
do I need in this situation and so oh yeah you know your brother just said see
ya and you know if that works for him then okay oh yeah Kathy what are your
thoughts on because we Jenny and I have talked about this and I'd like your perspective the shoulds right like we we're just
covered with shoulds all the time and something that I am a big proponent of
at this point is you don't have to have your your family
of origin in your life all the time so and sometimes not at all
and I'm trying to like you said like trying to figure this out for myself
help other people too in a way with the podcast where you know just because
they're your brother or sister does not mean that you're obligated to have a relationship with them and that might be
hurtful to them but you have to protect yourself so like that's my question I guess is is that healthy
is it not is it dysfunctional is it just running away like I you know I feel like
it's healthier so I think there's different
levels of relationship right I think looking back at my situation there have
been times when I felt like I was friends with my older sister and my younger sister at
different points like are the alliances have stifted so many
times um over the years um
and where I'm kind of at with my sisters is that I'm not friends with either one
of them I don't enjoy them I don't think they enjoy me
but I do know that there's still love there we have
whatever dysfunctional love it is I do know that
if the [ __ ] hits the fan that we will be there for each other and
some capacity well we don't have to socialize with each other we don't have to talk to each other all the time like
I pretty much never talk to my siblings but it still feels
weird to not do like holidays together you know
um but as my family is growing I've got
um so I have one son and two stepsons and the two of the
guys are married now so now we've got two daughter-in-laws
um so my family is growing and so and and now that my mother has passed
like those holidays are gonna shift right because I'm now the matriarch of
my family my mother right um so
you know that is gonna dift so I won't have to necessarily
spend the holidays I may choose to but like so I think that you know I'm doing
what I feel comfortable with just like not being friends we don't have to chat
we don't have to catch up I don't have to tell you or you don't have to tell me that this happened or that happened you
know um but like other
other people that I have spoken to have felt like it is healthy for them to have
zero zero contact with anyone in their family
um and some of that might be well even though I
like this sibling that sibling is still too much in touch with that parent
and so if I'm friends with this sibling all that all my stuff's gonna get back to that parent and so
you know you know they have to cut them off um I'm not at a place where I feel like I
need to sever ties um but just you know some healthy
distance um and and even like
just being in their present for so long I just silenced myself
well I felt like I was frequently silenced like either by not being allowed to get
a word in edgewise or several times was told Nobody needs Nobody wants to hear what
you're saying like be quiet like nobody wants to hear that like several times
that was said to me and I'm like okay so
I was silenced and then I silenced myself but then I always had that pit in
my stomach of why am I going why am I spending time with these people
when I'm silenced like this isn't how I want to spend my time but there was those shits well it's a holiday you're
supposed to you with your family right um
but then I started like working on myself and figuring out well how can I
be with them and not be silent and so started
pushing back and saying that was rude that was hurtful
not talking about that you know if they would ask like what's your problem I'm
not here to talk about that I'm not here to fight yeah you know I'm here to have a nice day
right you know like so I started having boundaries but also
pushing back and not allowing like you said the abuse or the poor treatment
um and I can do that by getting up and leaving which I haven't had to do yet
um but um yeah I mean I think these shoulds come
from the generations this is how things have always been done and therefore I should do this or I should behave this
way or I should you know have this type of relationship but
there are no shoulds right what feels healthy for you
is what you should do it definitely yeah
you know and if it's not feeling healthy for you if it's like you said if it's making you sick then why are you doing
it right I can understand that about being silenced I mean I can't
I've received you know a text message from a family member that told me to
basically stop speaking about my family because I was unqualified to
do so and that I had a different recollection of things that occurred and
I didn't even say anything about that bad at that point I mean so I you know when my husband and I first
got together and married it was funny because we both looked to each other and
our families like what's wrong with you I don't get it in a sense because his family
they all love each other they talk now and then here there if their father is sick or you know what
not and there's four of them my husband's the oldest we would see them on holidays if we were
able to but it wasn't an obligation it was more of a want on my husband's side
whereas our family we were all up in each other's business and I would always
look at him and be like I don't understand you don't talk to your brother every day you don't you know he
would talk to his parents every day because he's always called his mom or called his dad to see how they are because he you know he's like that but
I never understood that and he didn't understand the dynamic of why we were you know and vice versa so but I but I
almost think his the way his family behaves is better because there's never a fight there's never an argument
nobody's ever upset in that family they they see each other they on Christmas they they eat they hug they go home
that's it it's no animosity no jealousy no it's I mean it's a healthy family and
what do you do with that I was like I was like shocked when I first when we first got the color dependency isn't
there right I think that's the difference between that Dynamic and you
and I and our Dynamic with our families because I was the same way it was like you know we were just it's way too in
each other's [ __ ] I mean it was like We Knew Too Much you know we and everybody
felt like they had the right to an opinion and then you know
our youngest sister is really struggling and has for many many years with her addiction
and so then there's that it's it's who's gonna take care of her you should be
doing this you should be doing that even though it's been we've all been taking turns with that's
just one issue okay um but it it's yeah it's this you know
just judgment I guess a lot of judgment a lot of I think way too involved I
think I think that is very toxic to be way too involved you know I'm always preaching to my 18 year old
I have three daughters the oldest one just had a baby and she's out of the house and then my middle one who's 18 is
in college now and living on campus and but my youngest is 16 but I
preach to all of them about balance because this is where I saw my mother
did not and or my father help us learn that as children you know
boundaries and balance because they didn't know it either I mean it's not you know they they didn't have the tools
and I understand that and I have compassion for that but you know I know what happens when you're
unbalanced now and to me it's like the key you know
like too much or too little you know can be dangerous but definitely too much in my opinion of
most of the things in my life and that's what relationships as well you know it's like
you know I just I find that I'm with you Jenny I find it way more healthy
to you know to just be even what you're describing Kathy of you
know we don't have to be friends we're family and we can love each other we
don't have to be overly involved in everything right right
are there any I want to say Simeon what are some of the similarities that you find and you're the the people that
you're are involved in your study addiction codependence narcissism somewhere in the family
[Music] um there's well so
there seems to be this like range of people who just
felt a little different um maybe we're teased or just made
different choices to all out like abuse
um like horrific some horrific stories um
and so but the similarities are you know
feeling alone feeling um like less than
at least when with the family right like in relation to the family like less than
that there's something wrong that that the black sheep is the problem rather
than the black sheep is the mirror right to the dysfunction
um like I feel like the black sheep is the one that's the most awake
again everyone else is just following along which you know makes sense when
you think about white sheep and black sheep and how we characterize sheep they just follow
right but the black sheep stands out and is different and yeah I think that's being able to see
that dysfunction and calling it out and then getting that neck that backlash for
calling it out yeah and you know and then and then having to
like find their own tribe you know of supportive
people and some people don't find that tribe and and you know some of I talked to a
couple women and who um have just realized they are better off
alone you know that the abuse was so bad that
they can't really have any kind of relationship if it's friendship or romantic that they're just they could be
a parent like I think these two women I had children and were doing a way
different job than was done to them but have found that they just
do better alone um which makes you know feel sad to me
but for them right that it didn't make them feel sad like that's they just realized that about themselves they're
better off alone they're functioning they're providing for themselves and their child so like I'm I
would struggle being alone but they're not so
um I like that you pointed out you have to find your tribe because that's something Jenny and I
have talked quite a bit about and have similar feelings about is you know I'm a spiritual person I'm not
a religious person but I believe in a higher power and you know
that higher power has provided the the souls that I need in my life and
you know because I do feel like and like you said I mean to each is his own but you know I do feel like you need some
kind of community and when your parents and your siblings who yeah I think in
all intents purposes they sh if it's functioning well and it's healthy that
is what I think is intended throughout your life but that's just not the way
Humanity works and you know I just I think that you know I've been able to
find the people that I meet and that my children need and my husband you know
and us as a family you know that we need to fill those spots
which I'm grateful for you know but without it I would I am with you I would
have a really hard time you know and I have there's been times where I didn't have that support
you know fully so it is a hard spot to be in yeah
I can understand that I mean I went you know I've had always I've always had a lot of friends but I've also had a lot
of friends that weren't exactly great for me um that were friends with me because of
things I could do for them or you know just whatever reason but in for the last 20
years it's been you know my husband and son and I and everything but
I'd reached a point in my life where I was just not going to let any more friends in I was just done and I did
said to myself I don't need it I don't need any more friendships I'm tired of having my heart broken by people and
it's just I'm just going to focus on my my family here the three of us and
I went to work this place with Ellie's best friend Maria and
[Music] you know she would always invite me to places invite me to things and I you
know I'd say I was gonna go or and I'd not show up or I just blindly Decline and by golly those two they pushed their
way in and they made me fur in their tribe but in doing so
I mean it I mean I was 45 at the time or no I was like my early 40s time because
I'm 49 now but anyone doing so I like late in life I realized what it was like
to be unconditionally loved by someone by your friends and be accepted and to
have an argument or a squabble but that didn't mean you were never going to see that person
again or that they were going to hate you or not talk to you or disown you from their lives or you know verbally
abuse you it was you know conversations are had and there's give and take and
they just want to be in your presence because you make them laugh and you enjoy it they enjoy you and vice versa
so it took me years to get to that point too so I understand that oh and you know every time you say that
I want to like crying but you know and I learned I did learn that at a young age
um because of our friend Maria honestly in that friendship and I think honestly
with my husband as well um but I've never had a lot of friends as an adult you know I had a I've had
acquaintances and and kids that were friends with my kids parents and I knew you know but not close friendships you
know but um I knew enough to keep people out it was like like I I was you know
and my husband who's I'm super outgoing my husband's not so that's always kind of my job to like pull people in you
know and you know but I would try and I could see the red flags quick and I
think especially once I had you know my my oldest daughter I was very young by the time
um I had my second daughter you know it was like I had a whole that's really what did it it was like my husband and I
both really put up some serious like rules and boundaries for our family it was
like we recognized as parents really fully what had happened to us as
children not that it was you know horrific in any way but what we didn't
want to do with our children right and we were trying no matter what we were
pushing back like no we're not going to do what you want us to do
just because you want us to do it like we see issues here and we need to Shield our children from certain things
we didn't always do the best job you know but we've been trying and I think now they're even way better off I mean
they are so much they have way more tools than than we did you know so it's like I
see the cycle being broken I guess is what I'm trying to say and I love that and I've told my husband this so many
times we're we're brand new grandparents we have a seven month old granddaughter and I told him I'm like it's so
wonderful to think that we maybe didn't get what we needed and
and our kids all the time maybe but we get to be a totally new set of parents
and grandparents and how we parent our adult children which Jenny and I talk a
lot about because that's the new phase in our life and right it's really tricky and but we can do it way healthier so
it's like at least at least I'm grateful that we've at least recognized it so that
maybe we can do better moving forward right yeah I mean I definitely did things
differently raising my son um I do still think that I was
emotionally immature and so there are things that you know I cringe at I think
oh yeah um but I know I did other things
differently than how I was parenting um
and what's he saying you know better you do better right that's what I tell
myself all the time when I have those cringy intrusive thoughts I'm like oh okay you didn't know better now you do
so you do better right and my son was eight when his father and I
um split up and I both his father and I like remarried like a month apart oh wow
like within um a short time
but I swear my current husband
made me a better parent um by seeing not that his my son's or my ex
my ex was an excellent parent but because we weren't good
um I still felt like I was in a conditional relationship I still felt
less than with him um and so I think that feeling of less
than showed up you know in my marriage and my other friendships in what I was
willing to tolerate from other people um and but then when I you know moved to
this house and got friends in the neighborhood and I was like
oh I actually have friends that are like good you know they weren't takers or I
didn't feel less than that they saw my crazy and were like yeah well whatever you know you anyway right come on
right and then having my husband the like except
me just as I am flaws and all and would actually come out and say when I would
be feeling like depressed or down about something and
you know particularly in the beginning and crying and be like well this this is the real me like and he's like that's
what I love about you and I'm like what are you insane
as opposed to well yeah you know you need to get your [ __ ] together like yeah he accepted that this is part of
humanity and my humanity and so by having that
you know I I became a better person just being in his presence you know and then
you know obviously as a therapist doing my own work and helping other people you
know um has helped as well but
um you know I do feel bad in a way that I wasn't able to break a lot of the
things while my son was growing up but I think I broke enough and he is getting a
different parent now um that he's now like on a path to eventually become a parent
himself and which matters I mean it's never too late I think that's what her parents did wrong they gave up and just
I I see the guilt you know and I can have empathy for that now as a parent
you know and but no matter how guilty I would feel or ashamed of choices I made or
things I did or things I said I just refuse to give up you know so I think that's a great way
to look at it yeah my mother doesn't see her her mistakes she sometimes when in a
dark Quiet Place she'll say I should have done better or I did this
to you and that was horrible or it'll be you're so much I'll get a
you're so much of a better mother than I was I could never do all that you do I understand my mother was broken so I
try to have compassion for that I you know you know I've been obviously been through a lot of therapy and you
know I I've seen a trauma therapist I was seeing a trauma therapist last year and you know she helped me to
see things differently by you know has the hierarchy of needs and
looking at things that way I you know she she did assure me that I've broken the cycle which you know I
knew that already and my son and I have a completely different relationship than my mother and I did and I've tried to
Shield him from it he unfortunately he's witnessed it so he knows and and I don't
know how but at his age I mean he is 18 now but even when he was younger
he was he's able to compartmentalize it and say and say to her you shouldn't have done
that that was bad and then continue on loving her like it's it's nothing it's it's just and but I'm glad he can do
that but I do you know in his later teen years and
even early before that I I there were I used to limit the contact of how much alone time
they had together because I just she is he regards him like she does my
brother is another Golden Child and he can do no wrong in her eyes so I had
never had to worry about abuse but you know there was a lot of inappropriate things
Jenny do you feel like and maybe Kathy you can hit on this I don't know if
you're relating to our mom talk but um my mom will do the same thing she'll
admit wrongdoing she'll oh you're such a better parent I've heard that one many
times but I almost feel like she does it so that I will comfort her she does more
than own the behavior which again I have empathy for because
I'm I am I am codependent by Nature it's like I I revert back and and and and I
want to just Comfort when I know you're hurting you know as do I um and it's
part of that I'm sure you know the dysfunction you know period
you know I shouldn't feel like I need to comfort my mother it should be the other way around you know I mean about things
like that um but another one that I always heard and maybe this because I'm still trying
to figure out if I'm a Black Sheep but um I heard constantly you're so emotional
oh God you're so emotional so sensitive yeah you're too sensitive that one even
more you're you're too sensitive and I used to sew I would totally think
okay it's me I'm just freaking weird like I'm crazy or something and the older I got and especially in the last
like I'd say 10 years I'm like you know what no you gaslighter you're hurting me
you're doing [ __ ] to me right I'm appropriately to
responded I'm appropriately sensitive to your insensitivity but you're mean right
you know it was like it took me forever I think my kids have taught me some of that I mean these kids are oh sorry
that's my cat he just jumped on the table they they are picking up on this stuff
at a young age and you know but they'll Point things out to me like Mommy that's
gaslighting this is or like you know and I'm like oh God they're telling me
like awesome that they're so emotionally aware oh well I've been paying for
counseling for a while now this is not a one-man job I mean I'm working on things but I'm a
long way from finished so yeah my mother would never
admit she right I'm wondering if I should be making a blanket statement
I cannot remember let me qualify it I can't remember my mother
apologizing for how she parented
um and I didn't get compliments on how I parented
um so that part I I don't necessarily relate to guys
um but yeah she couldn't see some of the things
and she would bring up the same you know couple stories all the time and thought
that they were funny yeah um like she sat on my bed the night before
eighth grade trip going to Washington DC with my entire class for four days sat
on my bed crying thinking that I was going to get separated from
the group and get lost and she was terrified that I would be lost and
um Washington DC 8th grade whatever that is 13 14.
and and she would bring I don't know how many times she brought that up over the years and she doesn't see the
dysfunction in the fact that now you're passing your anxiety on to me
um and but also like you know she would
take us shopping as little kids and we're bored out of our minds or I
was born out of my mind and so I go find something to do I always like play in the you know like
the circle clothing racks I'd play inside of it and then she would walk away I didn't walk away she would walk
away and we would get separated so she's remembering when I'm like five six seven four jumping and thinking that I'm not
being attentive yeah right and she's the one that walked away and not wondering where her kid is
but it was me who got lost well
no you lost me for the kids shopping for hours that is
not entertaining to them yeah yeah that's I like that perspective
and you know so she would bring that up a lot and there was other stories that she would bring up and she could never
see her part in it you know like I quit college
I went went to college out of high school and was studying anthropology psychology
sociology and she'd be like I understand why you love that
um but could you do something that makes money because you're not going to make
any money with a bachelor's degree in Psychology which is not wrong
yeah right so now I've you know I'm this kid that didn't feel ready to go to
college in the first place but my choice was to stay at home and work at McDonald's the rest of my life right
join the Navy which she was not I am not joining in the Navy as uh and enlisted I
can join as an officer which of course you have to go to college for right and
so now I'm at College loving it and smashing those dreams and so I quit like
I didn't trust my I was immature enough that I didn't trust myself like
and so I quit and it took me 20 years to eventually get my bachelor's degree
um but you know she didn't see her part in that
she just saw I gave up yeah and rather than well you had a part
to play in that of like telling me I couldn't Trust
what was good for me right you know and now I'm doing what I wanted to do
way back in the first place yeah right uh but I wasn't confident enough because
of all you know there was so many examples of telling me that what I was thinking and
feeling was wrong yeah so you know I learned not to trust my feelings and
that you know again was part of you know how can I trust my instincts
when meeting and befriending people because they've always been wrong and
you know um so it really was finding those people
that liked all of me that really helps me mature right like
and get self-esteem gain self-esteem I mean right yeah
yeah yeah it's it's so
um you know like so much like
we're not these we're we're programmed every day with the interactions that we
have and that builds our filter that we see the world from and we see
ourselves um for us um and
I think it does take you know some maturity to then look at that
filter and go what can I do about this you know and and through therapy and and
finding people that love are crazy exactly right there yeah
right and going oh well maybe I am worthy maybe I'm not so bad maybe I've just
been around the wrong people all this time yeah yeah you know and that I think brings us back to what we're talking
about before what's healthy for us and is spending time with family or spending a lot of
time with family you know is that is that healthy for us right
you know can you do it on small doses you know or for some people they have to
just completely sever the ties and you know or what I'm trying to do is
just kind of learn to stand up for myself and have the boundaries and
point out the ways they're being mean or rude or you know not letting something
go um so that I can still have a connection
but on my terms yeah I like that connection yeah
relationship you know I think that's what yeah I want to maintain a connection but
yeah no interest in a relationship very well I'm very weary I'm very Leary
of relationships you know when I had this conversation with my one sister which I thought I was
making some Headway and it didn't end well but we're we're okay but
um I was trying to explain my anxiety because I I do suffer with anxiety
and um and it's I'm in that perimenopause stage of life and I know that's making
everything worse so I've gotten very protective of my peace and and being
careful about triggers you know and different things but I was trying to explain to her the boundary thing which
my one sister and my father especially who's a retired Navy SEAL are not fond
of right but I was explaining to her it's not
just about me not the way I think about it it's also about them because the one thing that
feels even worse to me which maybe this is the codependency again then them
hurting me is if I hurt them me too and I don't want to hurt anyone I I
don't want to be the cause of their suffering of their pain of their anxiety and I know if I allow certain
conversations to happen or too much involvement or whatever there's different things that I could be capable
of that so the boundaries there to protect me and them you know right it's like listen
this is for your own good as well you don't you don't want to light this fire like it's like let's let's keep
everything mass and calm right I mean boundaries are
boundaries are not meant to end the relationship
boundaries are meant to maintain the relationship at a healthy place
right and it's letting them know what is and isn't okay
giving them instructions kind of you know that if we're gonna maintain this
relationship or this connection this is what I will and won't be okay
with you know so it isn't like you know it's not an impenetrable wall
it's got doors and windows but there are some things that are just off
limits you know um and
and they're healthy but I think people that are still codependent or
narcissists or narcissistic
you're denying them access they have a hard time with that that's what I was hearing yeah
um but even like you know our thought that well I don't want to be causing them
pain because we know what that pain feels like yeah right so you know
it is interesting that despite the fact that we've been hurt so many times we're
still looking out for the people that hurt us but it's because we know what that hair feels like yeah which that's
you know it's like the kid that's bullied at school it creates empathy hopefully later you know the good side
of it anyway it can also go the other way but you know it can create that empathetic personality right well well
compassionate I guess I should say because they know what it feels like you had asked me earlier what is
um a similarity well something I have noticed is that the
people that I've spoken to are granted self-selected
um and most so I have I've only spoken to women but I've had a lot of men fill out
the survey um but the women that have agreed to have interviews so many if not all
where more like impacts and so we kind of
talked about well were they an empath before being treated negatively
is that what made them different or did they become an empath because of the
treatment and I think for a lot of us it was both it was that I was going to say
it's different but then also because of that hurt they want to help other people
they want to prevent other people from feeling pain you know and so many of
these women that I spoke to they're in helping jobs and I know you're a nurse
right you're helping I'm a CNA yeah I don't know
um I'm a nurse's assistant yeah
so you know it's it's just kind of an interesting Dynamic I mean it's one of
the positives that comes out of this yeah right that they become the helpers
they become the cycle Breakers and it's funny because all three of my daughters you know who are now in that
phase of life to choose careers too want to be social workers one wants to be a teacher and I'm like
um can anybody say I've been raised by an empath because and they are they all three of them just
are naturally I I think are it's innately in them but you know yeah I
think I've had enough awareness to try to especially with my younger two my oldest
you know bless her heart it's I was I was this teenage mom you know it it took me a while to get my rhythm you know and
become a really good mom to her because I don't feel like I was in the beginning but I did the best I could with what I
had but you know I was able to gather enough tools and understanding about all
of these things and I do credit my mom because even though she's broken and she you
know it's dysfunctional she did make sure we got counseling
um she was part of a 12-step program because she was an alcoholic in recovering and she exposed us to those
things which I do think taught me a whole lot when I was young um so yeah it was helpful but they are
very very empathic yeah and very altruistic and those are the the things that are
important to them and that's the most what I'm the most proud of about them yeah
and yes I've told them they're not gonna make any money
I'm the opposite I'm like listen don't do anything because you want to make money
do it because you love it and you'll never work a day in your life you know period look I'm a CNA okay I don't make
money okay like but I love this job and you know as my kids got older and I'm
getting older you know everybody will say well do you want to go back to school you want to go back to school don't you not really I love my job I am
so good at it it fills my heart it is hard work but I love it and you know no I'm 42 years
old I don't want to go back to school right now be like that's just not my shtick you know so certainly I and
granted my husband is self-employed and does flooring so you know he's very busy
he makes good money so I've got you know a little bit of leeway but I've told all
three of them the only thing that I cared about was that they had some way to make some kind of money as women
that's it you don't even have to go to college but you have to have a plan something
but that's it for me
so yeah well I am sure if we wanted to we could
probably keep you another two hours picking your room but since we're over
an hour we should probably wrap this up and maybe you can come back on again
um after your your study is concluded and and your book is written and we'll tell
everybody about it is there a timeline with any of that well
um I'm still open to having more interviews but I am at a point where I
think I'm going to start writing the book and like getting it organized and figuring out what that process is you
know is it self-publishing is it you know whatever the other yeah the options are
how does this one yeah and and even when thinking about this like you know I've I've had a couple workshops about you
know therapists being writers and um you know you don't make any money and
that's not my reason anyway right my reason is partly for me right and partly to help
other people on their journey and if I can help even just one other person and I think so many people have just by
participating and the study has helped them um but like having
a book that goes yes this is me now what what do I do what are what are my
options how how do I heal how do I feel good about who I am because we all have
gifts you know and so if I can help people
see that and find their tribe and figure out how much contact they have with the
people that hurt them then yeah I don't need to make money off
of it I just get the word out and get a resource for people is
you know it's kind of like our podcast Jenny pretty much you know I mean it's
definitely a labor of love I'll tell you that much but it's good it feels good if you reach
even one person and give somebody that needed it so desperately some clarity you know I
think what's better than that you know well everybody Kathy's website is and you can visit it and find out more information there is also a link with all of her
information social media on our website with the episode on this episode page thank you everybody for listening and
thank you Kathy so much for being a part of our episode today thank you so much for having me this has been fun yes it
is all right all right hopefully we'll talk again in the future hopefully yes
definitely all right all right bye
Kathi Hennessey LICSWProfile Photo

Kathi Hennessey LICSW


Kathi has a background in research and has been a psychotherapist for 14 years. She is licensed in MA, RI, ME, NC, and FL and has a private practice in Massachusetts. Kathi works with adolescents and adults who struggle with anxiety, depression, ADHD, school/career stress, and life transitions. She really enjoys working with individuals and couples who have relationship issues.