Are you saying Dean imagined John's abuse? John "not meaning" to be abusive doesn't make it any less abuse. I'm pretty sure most abusive parents don't go into it thinking they are abusive. They aren't sitting down and logically thinking "well I will blame my child and I'll build myself up so that way I can feel more in control". In fact many of them are thinking they mean well, they are toughening the kid up, getting em ready for the real world, yada yada yada. Plenty of excuses and rationalizations and I'm quite John had plenty of those.
We were actually shown what happened and it was what Dean said. John expression was as angry(along with upset for Sam) as Dean said. If anything what we saw throughout the first couple season was that Dean was a LOT easier on John than John, by and large, deserved He mostly tried to focus on the rare moments when something good happened or make excuses for his father's behavior or you know, blame himself because he deserved it(see Shtriga episode. 9 year old Dean shouldn't have been left alone with a 5 year old, given a gun and told shoot first ask questions later--and we know now Dean had been well trained with a gun since he was at least 6 per No Exit in Season 2--for 3 days alone in a motel room in the first place, it was in no way HIS responsibility and he actually did a great job managing to make it for 3 whole days cooped up in a motel room with a 5 year old, being responsible for his well being and all he did was walk across the parking lot to play a video game for a little while, he was THERE, John is the one who wasn't. John was at fault for all of it. They were both John's responsibility. John failed and allowed Dean to take the blame for it.
Dean didn't make up what he went through. Dean protected Sam from worst of it(and Sam's life as a child wasn't exactly a bed of roses either after all) so if anything Dean's memories are going to include things that Sam's don't but did actually happen. Also I'm pretty sure that John "ran" almost right away after Mary's death, he saw his wife burn on the ceiling, pretty sure he didn't need anything else to spook him, he went to Missouri(who lived in Lawrence) not long afterwards, and from they were gone, looking for whatever killed Mary.
Being abused doesn't mean not having a personality. I mean after all it's those little moments of personality the abuser usually exploits as an excuse for more obvious abuse("you made me do it, it's for your own good" whatever). Dean still being a little bit of a 9 year old at 9 years old doesn't mean he wasn't still being abused and parentified(and that is abuse, esp to the extent he was). The point of the episode actually is the shrtiga incident was presented as one of the ways Dean was "convinced", one of the final slats on the ladder that took away any sort of "normal" he might have still had in his childhood, he had to listen to John, be a "good little soldier", because otherwise his brother, his family could die and it would be his fault.
John not systematically planning it that way doesn't mean he wasn't perfectly happy to use it to his advantage afterwards which he clearly did and THAT is abuse. The episode was not presented at Dean being unreliable but as Dean being right about why John sent them on the hunt and right about the way John reacted when he was a child.
Dean was the child and John USED him. John used him as a replacement parent, a replacement partner, put adult responsibilities on a child's shoulders from a very young age so HE could get revenge(and whatever other excuses he gave himself), regularly neglected both of them by leaving them alone for increasingly long periods of time with Dean having the responsibility to protect and take care of them.
There was nothing about Dean in the season 1 finale and saying John would have been angry for what he'd done that was presented as some sort of point of view thing. It was presented as fact and afterwards what we were presented about John FIT with what Dean said. John's behavior as DEAN is bleeding in in the backseat pretty much supports it. He doesn't give a damn about what Dean is doing, he's pissed off they didn't get the YED. He's not even really thinking about Dean. If Dean was any sort of priority to him, he'd have been in the backseat with him. Even just to be near in case Dean needed something or just to hold his hand, something, for his severely injured son. You normally would have to almost drag parents away from seriously injured children, even adult ones. Instead he's sitting in the front seat, arguing with Sam about not killing him and saying NOTHING is more important than killing the YED. I'm pretty sure we're supposed to be horrified by John's behavior and see how it matches up with what Dean said about John would have been angry with him for wasting a bullet.
It's not like the "time jump" was a week, it was long enough to get Dean into the car and start driving.
Oh he showed some real emotion towards Dean in In My Time of Dying. When Dean was actually DYING? Even abusive parents can love their kids or do something to protect them, doesn't make them less abusive.
Also in Dead Man's Blood, their dynamic is established, we were getting a little microcosm of how it was - so John criticizing Dean for the car in the way he did wasn't just "oh well every parent does that once in a while" it was presented in a specific context which is used by abusive parents. They aren't saying "well it's a one time thing", it's not usually like this, it's presented as the norm, we getting insight into their dynamic. When Dean stands up to John, THAT is presented as a unusual.
And again we see more of this in In My Time of Dying - when Dean is literally invisible, it's a call back to that previous episode and how Dean is "invisible" during John and Sam's fight, invisible in the sense that his concerns and feelings aren't even really part of the equation, he's just the peacemaker they depend on hold everything together without even really realizing that is what is happening. It's kind of used as a metaphor. He's still doing it, in his spirit form, when he breaks the glass to break up their argument. It also fits in with YED "Even when he fights with Sam it's more than he shows he cares about you". Dean feels that way because he was raised that way, by an emotionally abusive parent, not because it's all in his head and he's exaggerating some minor infractions.
Actually those 4 episodes, Dead Man's Blood, Salvation, Devil's Trap and In My Time of Dying, are repeating the themes, there are things in all of them which tie into other things, some of them are literal, some of them are metaphorical.
Overall given the whole of what we are shown over the course of the show, is that Dean was actually easier on his father than his father deserved, because it's not uncommon for a person raised in that situation to defend the parent they were forced into the parentified relationship with and we see him sort of start working through that throughout the show. Now I realize we were specifically talking about Season 1 in my original post and how what we found out about John's abuse later was set up in Season 1 and thus I didn't find it surprising, but it doesn't change the fact that what was presented throughout the course of the show is John as emotionally abusive parent and heavily implied to have been physically abusive at times to Dean.
IMO there isn't really an argument in this regard. John was abusive. The show was clear on that and probably only wasn't clearer with regards to the physical abuse part(because people still tend to think in terms of THAT being the unforgivable form from which there is no return even though emotional abuse causes scars every bit as deep)) because they wanted to leave at least a little room to maybe get a guest spot by JDM at some point and knew he'd never come back if that was in there.
John left his kids alone for increasingly long periods of time, at least a couple of weeks by the time Dean was 12(Christmas episode) with little to no contact, which is abuse in and of itself. In the season 4 Heaven episode where we found Sam ran away and Dean's reaction to his own memory of how John reacted was pretty much terror and very clearly suggestive of physical abuse. But yes I suppose Dean was exaggerating THAT too and John wasn't really all that angry or violent about it.
Yeah I'm not sympathetic to John and his child abuse. Absolutely did not need to do that or treat his children that way. He was more concerned about getting revenge then anything else. He could be horrified by what happened to his wife without also abusing the children they had together. There is no "mean well" in most of what he did it was pure selfishness, it was not caring about his kids as much as he cared about his revenge. It was not John doing his best, it was John doing pretty much the bare minimum to keep his kids alive, while also putting them in great danger on a regular basis. John could have found out about the supernatural, devoted himself to learning about it, while still giving his children a fairly stable life if he'd put THEIR safety ahead of his need for revenge.
John occasionally doing a "grand gesture" doesn't make him any less of an abusive parent. John being will to die to get rid of the YED doesn't change it. John selling his soul for Dean's life doesn't change it. (I mean hey I'm glad he did but in some ways it was just a continuation, he dropped all that responsibility, HIS responsibility, with almost NO information beyond "save Sam or kill him" on Dean and then promptly died, honestly I wouldn't put it past him to have been glad it wasn't his relieved it wasn't his responsibility anymore while not really considering what it put on Dean when his whole life he'd pounded into Dean's head that he MUST protect Sam at all costs, even if he felt in some way this would save Sam in the end, he's STILL using Dean as his instrument and not thinking about Dean as an individual, just what he can do for him and Sam).
Yes, this was when it first really outright presented and IMO I think that was meant to be, especially given what we saw when we got some real actual John content in the last 3 eps of the season.