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Stronger for the Breaks – How to Heal from a Toxic Parent

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Stronger for the Breaks - How to Heal from a Toxic Parent

It’s one thing to be dipped in venom by those you don’t really care about, but when it’s by the person who is meant to love you, hold you, and take the sharp edges off the world, while teaching you with love, wisdom and warmth how to do it for yourself, it changes you. There is a different kind of hurt that can only come from a toxic parent – someone who is meant to love you. Kind of like being broken from the inside out.

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The scarring and hurt that comes from a toxic parent probably isn’t something we talk about enough. None of us are perfect, including our parents, but there is a point at which imperfect becomes destructive, taking away from children the love, warmth and nurturing they deserve and replacing it with something awful.

When children are raised on a diet of criticism, judgement, abuse and loathing, it’s only a matter of time before they take over from those parents, delivering with full force to themselves the toxic lashings that have been delivered to them. 

Toxic parents come in many shapes. Some are so obvious that they can be spotted from space through the eye of a needle. Some are a bit more subtle. All are destructive.

A toxic parent has a long list of weapons, but all come under the banner of neglect or emotional, verbal or physical abuse. Toxic parents lie, manipulate, ignore, judge, abuse, shame, humiliate and criticise. Nothing is ever good enough. You get an A, they’ll want an A+. You get an A+, they’ll wonder why you aren’t school captain. You make school captain, your sister would have been a better one. And you’ll never be pretty like her. They’ll push you down just to criticise you for the way you fall. That, or they’ll shove you off a cliff to show the world how well they catch you. They oversee childhoods with no warmth, security or connection. 

Any negative behaviour that causes emotional damage or contaminates the way a person sees himself or herself, is toxic. A toxic parent treat his or her children in such a way as to make those children doubt their importance, their worth, and that they are deserving of love, approval and validation. If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘Well yeah, my parent/s did that, but only because it was true – I’m pretty useless at life,’ then chances are that parent was a toxic one. The truth is that you, like every other small person on the planet, deserved love, warmth, and to know how important you were. You’re not useless at life – you’ve bought in to the messages that were delivered by a parent too broken to realise what they were doing. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. 

It is possible to heal from by toxic parenting. It begins with the decision that the legacy of shame and hurt left behind by a toxic parent won’t be the way your story will end.

How to heal from a toxic parent.

Here are some ways to move forward.

  1. It’s okay to let go of a toxic parent.

    This is such a difficult decision, but it could be one of the most important. We humans are wired to connect, even with people who don’t deserve to be connected to us. Sometimes though, the only way to stop the disease spreading is to amputate. It doesn’t matter how much you love some people, they are broken to the point that they will only keep damaging you from the inside out. You’re not responsible for them or for the state of your relationships with them, and you are under no obligation to keep lining yourself up be abused, belittled, shamed or humiliated. Healing starts with expecting more for yourself, and you’re the only person who can make that decision. 

  2. And it’s okay not to.

    Don’t be harsh on yourself if you stay in the relationship. The act of returning to an abusive relationship can set trigger self-loathing. ‘Why aren’t I strong enough?’ Know that loyalty is such an admirable trait, even if it gets in the way of your capacity to protect yourself. Own where you are and give yourself full permission to be there. Accept that for now, this is where you’re at, and fully experience what that’s like for you. You’ll never love yourself enough to change your expectations if you’re flogging yourself for not being strong enough. It takes tremendous strength to keep walking into a relationship that you know is going to hurt you. When you’re ready, you’ll make the move to do something differently. For now though, wherever you are is okay.

  3. Be honest about the possibilities.

    If you’re going to stay, know that it’s okay to put a boundary between yourself and your parent. You can act from love and kindness if you want to – but don’t stay in the relationship unless you can accept that the love you deserve will never come back to you. Ever. If it was going to, it would have reached you by now. See their behaviour for what it is – evidence of their breaks, not evidence of yours. Put a forcefield around yourself and let their abuse bounce off. Love yourself and respect yourself enough to fill the well that they bleed dry. They might not be capable of giving you the love and respect you deserve, but you are.

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  4. Be careful of repeating the patterns with other people

    You might find yourself drawn to people who have similarities to your toxic parent. There’s a really good reason for this. All of us are driven to find an ending to things that remain unresolved. Because love, warmth and nurturing are such an important part of child development, yet so elusive for the child of a toxic parent, it’s very normal for those children to be driven to find a resolution to never feeling loved, secure or good enough. They will look to receive what they didn’t get from their parents in others and will often be drawn to people who have similarities to their toxic parent. With similar people, the patterns will be easier to replicate, and the hope of an ending closer to the desired one – parent love – will be easier to fulfil. That’s the theory. The pattern often does repeat, but because of the similarities to the parent, so does the unhappy ending.

    The decisions aren’t conscious ones, so to move towards healing, the automatic thoughts and feelings driving the choices need to be brought more into awareness. If this is something that’s familiar for you, it’s possible that you are being drawn to the wrong people because they remind you of your toxic parent, and somewhere inside you where your wanted things stay hidden, is the wish that you’ll get from them what you weren’t able to get from your parent. Look at the people in your life and explore the similarities they have with your own parents. What do they do that’s similar? What do you do that’s similar to the way you are in your relationship with your parents? Which needs are being met? What keeps you there? The more awareness you have, the more you can make deliberate decisions that aren’t driven by historical wants.

  5. Own your right to love and respect.

    One of the greatest acts of self-love is owning your right to love and respect from the people you allow close to you. You’re completely entitled to set the conditions for your relationships, as other people are to set the conditions for theirs. We all have to treat those we love with kindness, generosity and respect if we want the same back. If those conditions aren’t met, you’re allowed to close the door. You’re allowed to slam it closed behind them if you want to.

  6. Be careful of your own toxic behaviour.

    You’ve been there, so you know the behaviours and you know what they do. We’re all human. We’re all going to get it wrong sometimes. Toxic behaviour though, is habitual and it will damage the members of your own little tribe as surely as it damaged you. You don’t have to be a product of the inept, cruel parenting that was shown to you, and this starts with the brave decision that the cycle stops at you. People who do this, who refuse to continue a toxic legacy, are courageous, heroic and they change the world. We’re here to build amazing humans, not to tear them down. How many lives could have been different if your parent was the one who decided that enough was enough.

  7. You’re allowed to make mistakes and you’re allowed to do it on your own.

    You may have been lead to believe that you’re not enough – not smart enough, beautiful enough, funny enough, strong enough capable enough. The truth is that you are so enough. It’s crazy how enough you are. Open yourself up to the possibility of this and see what happens. You don’t need to depend on anyone and making mistakes doesn’t make you a loser. It never has. That’s something you’ve been lead to believe by a parent who never supported you or never gave you permission to make mistakes sometimes. Make them now. Make plenty. Heaps. Give yourself full permission to try and miss. There will be hits and there will be misses. You don’t even know what you’re capable of because you’ve never been encouraged to find out. You’re stronger than you think you are, braver, better and smarter than you think you are, and now is your time to prove it to yourself.

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  8. Write a list. (And get yourself a rubber band.)

    Write down the beliefs that hold you back. The ones that get in your way and stop you from doing what you want to do, saying what you want to say or being who you want to be. Were you brought up to believe your opinion doesn’t count? That parents are always right? That you’re unloveable? Unimportant? Stupid? Annoying? Incapable? Worthless?

    Now beside each belief, write what that belief is costing you. Has it cost you relationships? Happiness? Freedom to be? To experiment? To explore? Then, rewrite the script. Thoughts drive feelings, behaviour, what you expect for yourself and what you expect from relationships and world. How are you going to change those beliefs? Just choose one or two to start with and every time you catch yourself thinking the old thoughts, actively replace it with a new, more self-nurturing thought – then act as though that new thought is true. You don’t have to believe it – just pretend it is. Your head will catch up when it’s ready.

    If it’s difficult to break out of the old thought, try this: wear a rubber band (or a hair band) around your wrist. Every time you catch yourself thinking the old thought, give the band a little flick. This will start to train your mind to let go of the old thoughts that have no place in your life anymore. You just need a little flick – you don’t need to hurt yourself – your old thoughts have been doing that for long enough already. There is no right or wrong on this. All the answers, strength and courage you need to do what’s right for you is in you. You just need to give yourself the opportunity and the reason to hear it.

  9. Find your ‘shoulds’ that shouldn’t be.

    ‘Shoulds’ are the messages we take in whole (introject) from childhood, school, relationships, society. They guide behaviour automatically and this can be a good thing (‘I should be around people who respect me’) or a not so good thing (‘I should always be ‘nice”). Take a close look at your ‘shoulds’ and see if they’ve been swallowed with a spoonful of poison. Our ‘should’s’ come from many years of cultivating and careful pruning, so that when that should is fully formed, it direct you so automatically that you don’t even need to think.

    It’s likely that the should that’s keeping you stuck has come from the person who wanted to keep you that way. Were you brought up feeling indebted to your parents? Like you owe them? Like you’ll never cope if you separate properly from them? Were the messages delivered to keep you small? Quiet? Hidden? Believing the messages may have worked when you were younger, steering you way from their foul mood or toxic consequences, but it doesn’t have to be that way now. Don’t pick up from where they left off. You’re older now, with different circumstances, and in a different environment. Bring your ‘shoulds’ out in the open so your actions can be more deliberate. If your ‘shoulds’ are working for you, love them up and keep them, otherwise let them go. 

  10. Nobody is all good or all bad. But don’t be guilted by that.

    One of the things that makes ending any relationship so difficult is that there will be traces of exactly what you want. Even toxic parents can sometimes be loving, warm or nurturing, though it’s mostly, if not always, done to further their own agenda. In the same way that being ‘a little bit bad’ probably isn’t enough to sever an important relationship, being ‘a little bit good’ isn’t enough reason to keep one. Zoom out and look at the big picture. If you feel miserable in the relationship more than you feel good, question your reasons for staying. If it’s because your toxic parent is old, frail, sad or lonely, that might be all the reason you need to stay, and that’s okay. If it is, own the decision in strength and put limits on contact or how much you will give to the relationship. You’re entitled to take or give as much to the relationship as you decide. Just whatever you do, do it deliberately, in strength and clarity, not because you’re being manipulated or disempowered. The shift in mindset seems small, but it’s so important. 

  11. Build yourself up.

    Toxic environments are toxic to the brain – we know that with absolute certainty. The human brain is incredibly adaptive, and in response to a toxic environment it will shut down so as to protect itself as much as it can from the toxicity. When this happens, as it does during prolonged periods of emotional stress, the rate at which the brain produces new neurons (neurogenesis) slows right down, ultimately making people vulnerable to anxiety, depression, cognitive impairment, memory loss, reduced immunity, loss of vitality, reduced resilience to stress, and illness (research has shown that migraine and other pain conditions are more prevalent in people who were brought up in abusive environments, though the exact reason for the relationship is unclear).

    We also know, with absolute certainty, that the damage can be turned around. Diet (omega 3, green tea extract, blueberry extract, reduced intake processed sugar and unhealthy carbohydrates), exercise (anything that increases heart rate), and meditation (such as a regular mindfulness practice) will all help to rebuild the brain and heal the damage done by a toxic environment. Increasing neurogenesis will help to build resilience, cognitive function, vitality and protect against stress, anxiety and depression.

Healing from a toxic parent starts with deciding that the lifetime of messages that have left you hollow or scarred are wrong. Because they are. It means opening a heart that’s probably been closed for way too long, and receiving the love, approval and validation that has always been yours to own. Sometimes, it means realising that parents break too, sometimes irreparably, sometimes to the point of never being able to show love to the people in their life who deserve it the most. Sometimes it means making the brave decision, in strength and with the greatest self-love and self-respect, to let go of the relationship that’s been hurting you. 

Breaking free of a toxic parent is hard, but hard has never meant impossible. With the deliberate decision to move forward, there are endless turns your story can take. Brave, extraordinary, unexpected turns that will lead you to a happier, fuller life. It’s what you’ve always deserved. Be open to the possibilities of you. There are plenty.

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437 Comments

AM

I would be interested in hearing from anyone whose parents are still living on how they have dealt with them. Whether you have found any healthy way to interact with them, or how you have cut off communication. To date I have remained in touch and visit my parents, but I am in the process of writing them a letter telling them why I cannot do that anymore. I will be asking my mother to enter therapy if she wants to remain in contact, so as to understand my need for empathy and validation. I don’t have any expectations. As my mother is in her 80s now, I know this will be very painful for her. Any suggestions are welcome.

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Mel Greer

My mother is still among the living and I have not spoken to her in almost a year- one day she just sent me a scathing fb message and I had had enough and I just sent her a reply telling her I was done. That she could remove herself from my life or I would do it for her. I waited 24 hours and she didn’t unfriend me so I unfriended her, sent emails to a few of the family members explaining that I was done and that I didn’t mind if they still spoke to her and things like that but I would not be any longer- I stopped going to her home and stopped inviting her and the other family members to mine for social gatherings so they wouldn’t feel obliged to pick a side. She has sent me emails like happy birthday or merry Christmas and I don’t respond. I don’t talk bad about her either: it’s just like she doesn’t excist and my daughters and husband still talk to her but I don’t ask about what or anything because I don’t care. It’s been the best 12 months I have had in over 30 years.

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AM

Becca: thank you so much for sharing your experience and your wisdom. I am sorry to hear about your childhood wounds. I, too, know my life would have been very different, but I tell myself I can’t change my past, only my future. I don’t have the presence of mind that you do: I don’t have expectations, but despite decades of therapy and good intentions, I still am in so much pain when my mother makes mean remarks. If I reply with words about my feelings, I just get more abuse and defensiveness and yelling, and in every future instance I will be reminded of my words that she hears only as criticism, so I have no incentive to share my feelings with her and nothing has ever improved. I dread having to talk to her, because it fills me with shame and self-hate, and never see her, and then have guilt about that. But, I will take your words to heart and keep trying to be stronger on my end. Thank you again for sharing!

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AM

Mel: thanks so much for sharing. Your experience is inspiring and I am so glad you have found a way to have relief!

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vev

My mother tells ne things like my kuds are the worst kids if all. I grew up by my parents belitelung me. I had a horrible childhood only bad memories it affected my life badly and cintinues to.

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no narcs anymore

Dear Vev, I’m sure that your children are the best of all, you mom uses all she has to bring you down, lying and lying and lying.

My mom used the same with me, always telling how much better my sisters would have raised my son.

Their children were always all over the place, shouting and misbehaving. Even the guys from the store complimented me, saying they have never seen such a polite and wellbehaving child.

Mom used to call and ‘cry’ how I fed sleeping pills and beer to my son. She really used everything she could come up with.

By then her words were white noise to me, I used to giggle when listening to her ‘truths’.

Now she is claiming that she practically raised my son, lol.

Vev, all you need to do is immediately tell yourself that she is lying. Period.

You can’t beat her, she will drag you down to her level and beat you with her experience.

That’s why it is important to just determine if she is lying or not. No justifications. If she belittles you, then she is lying.

The time will come when you don’t cry anymore, when you giggle at her stupidity and evilness plus even feel sorry for her.

Someone gave birth to your mom, she gave birth to you. Now you have given birth to your children, which means that you don’t owe her anything anymore.

Question to all of you:

I am not going to attend any social gatherings anymore, meaning events where mom and her husband is.

Some already know why not, they also know to be quiet if mom asks why I am not there.

Soon she is going to find out that it’s not an exception, it’s a rule, and wonder what has happened.

Yesterday I talked with an ex-boyfriend, he knows her behaviour towards me and he has always wondered ‘how can a mother talk so evil about her own daughter?’ – he doesn’t understand how she can do it.

Anyway, he adviced me to stay silent and let my mom and stepdad explain to the other guests again and again where I am.

Should I do it? Let her do the explaining and later on hear how much crap comes out of her mouth?

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M

Hi

My father has passed over but mother still alive. My situation led me to stop contact. I just had enough when she done something that pushed me to my limit. It was a decision I didnt even have to think about, I just done it. That was over 6 years ago. After a about 4 years of no contact, including my children, I decided to try to speak to her. Was like banging my head against a brick wall and I am not able to forgive her for what she done because she denies what happened and comes up with different reasons each time I confront her about it. On top, she has no compassion on how much it hurt me…she is, like i side, a brick wall.
I have gotten on with my life, yes I would be happier if things were different between us, but I know now that I am better being away from her as when Im in her company I get so angry that I dont like who I become. I still think sometimes though…maybe if I done this, said this etc It could be better….but who am I kidding is also thought….
Other scenario…I pretend everything is alright and try make a go of the relationship ? Dont think I can to be honest….she has fallen out with my brother and a couple of her sisters…she hasnt changed..
I wish you well on what decision you make…go by your gut…its not easy what ever decision you make and I guess you will also think a lot of what ifs either way…..just go for your happiness

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AM

M: thanks so much for sharing. Don’t be hard on yourself. You are correct when you say that there is nothing you could have done to have made it better- you are only half the equation! Thanks again for sharing. Glad you found some peace.

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no narcs anymore

To AM:

Don’t send a letter, since they will use it against you.

Here’s how I have dealt with it – now that my inner voice finally is “working”:

Wait until you are strong enough and know that you won’t fall in their guilt traps.

Become aware of the guilting methods, because you have to close every single door that they use.

Love and respect yourself just the way you are.

Keep it as simple as possible, just think “It’s not my problem” – instead of starting mental processes where you defend to your decisions and actions.

When they come to mind, think “It’s not My problem”

Do not start to defend your actions, only become aware of them.

Don’t fall for their crocodile tears, they are not your problem!

Do they think about your feelings? Nope. So you don’t have to think about their feelings either.

“My parents have feelings too, but who cares?!” A good joke 😉

When all injustices pop up, tell yourself that you are aware of them. Period.

They come from your subconscious mind, so by just acknowledging them, without any analysing, they stay in your conscious mind. Which is good.

A Psychiatrist once taught me a lot of wisdom:

He said, “There are people who are incapable of seeing anything wrong in themself or their actions, so they reflect all their negative traits into you, because that’s the only way they can deal with their negative traits, placing them on someone else.”

He continued: “Become aware that they use you as their trash can, that you are always left with the task of dealing with Their crap, while they have taken in all of your energy. Problem is that the positive energy from you, turns into negative energy in them – so the next time you see them, the same cycle continues. It’s neverending, unless you stop it. And my advice would be to move as far as possible, unless you are’nt able to cut the strings completely and not see them anymore.”

“The reason why this is so important, is because you can NEVER let them see you children, you have to keep them away from them, otherwise they do the same to them as they did to you. Remember that when they define you, they are always defining themself. You serve as a mere mirror, the risk is that you start to think you are the mirror. Remember that they won’t ever see You for who You are, they only see a reflection of themself, not you.”

Just inform them that you are not going, if you need excuses then make them up. Like meeting a friend. Period. No names, no explanations.

Think that the ball is in their court. If they contact you, then you are allowed to throw the ball back.

When you don’t feel guilt anymore, that’s when you have gained your strenght to deal with your parents.

Guilt comes from the outside, never from within. Say “not my problem” to all guilty feelings and thoughts.

Hope this helps xx

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AM

Dear no narcs anymore: Thank you so much for sharing all of your insight, and the excellent advice from the psychiatrist. Yes, I have to get stronger and not feel guilt. I have a new therapist and am working on it. You have all convinced me not to send a letter, so that has been extremely helpful! I love this: “Do they think about your feelings? Nope. So you don’t have to think about their feelings either.” Thank you!

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Becca

I can empathize with you. My mother is also in her 80’s, and I’ve always had ambivalent feelings towards her. I’ve realized at this point in our lives that I will ALWAYS have ambivalent feelings about her. The trick is not to feel shame about it. This IS how I feel and it is not my fault for feeling that way. I have good, valid reasons for feeling as I do. However, feelings are feelings. I do not have to act towards her in negative ways because of my feelings. In fact, I can react in ways in which I simply insist on keeping healthy boundaries I’ve set for myself. These include giving myself “permission” to leave being with her if she insists on yelling (something I regularly experienced from her while growing up). I do not have to take her yelling and verbal abuse like I did as a child. I couldn’t leave as a child, but I certainly can now! I can tell her, “I won’t listen to your yelling. If you don’t stop, I am leaving”. You’d be surprised – I’ve got her “trained” now to stop yelling and converse at normal decibel levels. I do not have to wear my hair the way she insisted on (and for which I was made fun of by other kids numerous times while growing up). I wear my hair and dress the way I want to! I wasn’t allowed many choices in how to think, act, dress, feel etc. while growing up. In essence, I wasn’t allowed to be myself – and on those rare occasions when I rebelled, trying to be the person I wanted to be, I was severely criticized and/or punished for it through one or all of these methods: physically, emotionally, verbally (through shaming) or in other ways. As a grownup, I can express my OWN thoughts and opinions. I can do what I decide I should do in any given situation. And if she doesn’t like it and starts in again – I can tell her to leave, and I have done so! One time I expressed – NOT THROUGH A LETTER – but through a talk, the ways I believed I had been damaged by her. I didn’t expect her to think she’d done anything wrong, and she didn’t accept that she’d done anything wrong. But you know what, that was okay! I had gotten things off of my chest that had been troubling me for a long time. I expressed those things more for MY benefit than I did expecting anything back from her. Because I had this attitude before talking to her, I was not so disappointed as I might have been had I had unreasonable expectations of her before talking to her. It was cathartic. It put the choice on her to understand and take responsibility for actions she had done. Now, I will finish my response by stating that there WERE some good things my mother did during my upbringing. Since most people are not all good or all bad, we must acknowledge the good in them as well. I did learn some good things from my mother that helped me get along in life. I try to remember that. However, I also know that I have lived a life that has been “crippled” in ways that it need not have been. It is difficult to look back on my life and regret that, had I been raised in a healthier environment, who knows how far I might have gone in a career and how much better my marriage and other relationships could have been. However, I also think of the progress I have made in being able to overcome some of the negatives. They may look like small victories to outsiders, but each time I assert my right to be my own person, even in a small way, I become healthier step-by-step. My advice to you is to keep the connection with you mother, (unless she is truly a monster), but to set boundaries and to LEAVE when she won’t listen to or respect you, but continues to violate those boundaries! If she is reasonable and sane at all, she will understand that she has no control over you now that you are an ADULT, and the choice to RESPECT you as an adult with boundaries now lies with HER – not you! You just might be surprised at how you relationship actually improves.

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AM

Becca: thank you so much for sharing your experience and your wisdom. I am sorry to hear about your childhood wounds. I, too, know my life would have been very different, but I tell myself I can’t change my past, only my future. I don’t have the presence of mind that you do: I don’t have expectations, but despite decades of therapy and good intentions, I still am in so much pain when my mother makes mean remarks. If I reply with words about my feelings, I just get more abuse and defensiveness and yelling, and in every future instance I will be reminded of my words that she hears only as criticism, so I have no incentive to share my feelings with her and nothing has ever improved. I dread having to talk to her, because it fills me with shame and self-hate, and never see her, and then have guilt about that. But, I will take your words to heart and keep trying to be stronger on my end. Thank you again for sharing!

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Diane51

Thank you so much for this comment. I have recently come to the conclusion that my elderly mother has Asberger’s Syndrome, and it is of enormous benefit to read how others deal with their toxic parents. You have given some excellent tips, which I must now attempt to follow.

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THerm

I am an adoptee that had emotionally abusive adoptive parents. We fought constantly and I was devastatingly heartbroken all of the time. I’m a brave soul, so it took me a long time to finally break free from them and tolerate it for so long. They were manipulative enough to slip love in there enough to make me feel like i somewhat mattered and i am a very positive and resilient person by nature so i think that helped. After a huge fight 3 years ago they sent me a horrible letter and we didn’t talk for about a year. We gradually sent small messages back and forth, I was living in Korea during this time) and I was able to do a lot of healing living over there for 6 years (i visited them only once). I had always thought of breaking free from my parents before then, but i was always fearful and by nature very loyal, so it was hard.i think i also had narcissistic parents so it was that guilt thing going on. And i think my whole abandonment adoptive issue played a huge part in that. so i stayed in our abusive relationship. but after that fight, they actually did me a favor and set me free. i was able to develop the identity i desperately needed that was free from all their judgement and unkindness and criticisms. i also realized how much over the years (im in my 40s now) that i had healed on my own(consciously) and i knew that there were good qualities about them that perhaps because of my own abandonment issues i was not able to fully emerse myself in those positive qualities growing up. of course it was their job to make those insecurities go away but i gained perspective as an adult and knew that they had their own issues from their childhoods and they were acting out on those. They didn’t and aren’t able to or don’t want to gain a different perspective. that is their decision. i understood i am not like them and i can choose. i can choose to purposefully love them unconditionally or completely forget about them. i knew i couldn’t die knowing that i had given up on them. i looked at myself and saw that i was not giving them unconditional love. even though it was their job first, as an adult i can choose. i could easily say well they did this or that, but how does that help me? i want a good and happy life and if i focus on all the bad i wouldn’t be happy. this may not work for everyone but i realized i wanted to love them . i wanted to try to unconditionally love them. and forgive them. i know myself enough to know that i have that capacity. i also made a deal with myself that i would try and of course if it wasn’t working out then it was okay to not continue but i needed to try as an adult. as someone that has perspective on the ideal way i want to be loved and to love in my relationships. when my parents found out i was returning they started sending me loving messages and the issues with my father i have are healing. i think we both realized how llittle time we have left with those close to us. he is more loving and considerate than ever and i too have become more loving than ever.accepting and tolerating both the good and bad. luckily i live across the country so i don’t see them actually ever. but i talk to them on the phone more than ever and i see them trying to be more loving and caringand considerate of who i am, was and have become and where i want to go. that’s my experience. the one thing i would say that was the biggest problem but essentially was sort of the biggest reason we were able to possibly keep and maintain a better relationship is our lack of communicating our needs and wants. i know that if i did that it would bring up old heartaches and issues and at this point it’s best to focus on the positive and the future. it works for us. ideally i would be able to share the hurts and try to get my parents to understand me. i know i deserve more love and kindness than they’ve given me, but i also know they love me in their own way. its the most mature adult thing i’ve done, is to just accept the amount of love, the way they love, just to accept it for what it is. and trust that if they knew what to do they would. that if they weren’t so afraid themselves or so conditioned themselves that they would. i have found the love i crave from them in other people, relationships, hobbies. and there comes a point, at least for me, where u need to just give love to yourself. no matter what that takes or what sacrifices you make u deserve it. i know it’s given me the capacity to then go back and have a better relationship with people who just don’t know how to love the way i do.

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AM

THerm: thank you for sharing your story. Your insight and advise are very helpful. My therapist has advised me to join a support group and I think that will help. Also I am trying to be more social, which helps my self-esteem.

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John

I was a child. A child who wanted love. The humiliation, the “your a dumb bell”, the “we’re not laughing with you, we’re laughing AT you. I was a child. I looked and searched for the ‘hole’ to hide in, to seek refuge somewhere in my mind and or soul. WORDS at a young age mold and shape the person you turn out to be. 52 years old and The effects of your hurtful and humiliation haunts me every day. BUT, there is love in my heart. I know from a higher power that love can help. My dad passed almost 4 years ago. My wife and I made the decision to move 2000miles to watch over and make sure that the person that caused so much hurt would be safe and not alone. Feelings can be supreesed, to a certain point. Scares heal but leave a defining mark on ones heart. The guilt I have and I’m sure others known the guilt I speak of is something we live with and cope with every day. She caused the pain in my heart, she caused me to be the perfect one, never making mistakes. She caused me not to fully love or be loved. But every day I/we do the best we can to prove I will not be the victim, I will rise above and take that extra step to prove to MYSELF that I am better, that the guilt I have was not my doing and I will refuse to repeat that process with my loved ones. Continue to seek the love and return the love to people. Never stop dreaming of what could be just be cause your told your to stupid, follow your passion. Love, care and most of all, believe in your self no matter what a toxic person/parent tells you

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Robin

Hi! I have toxic parents. I used to say toxic parent but now I realize my enabling father is as bad as my narcissistic borderline mother. I have done alot to heal including read and post to this amazing article. I am now starting to realize that my restrictive diet including my food allergies is due to stressful mealtimes with my mother. I am going to try intuitive eating. Does anyone else have food allergies that they have connected to stressful childhood mealtimes?

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AM

Robin: there is an excellent book called “The Body Keeps the Score” about trauma and its treatment, and the author mentions the link between trauma and auto-immune and immunity, which might be related to food allergies or other symptoms.

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no narcs anymore

AM, know that you are loved by every single victim of toxic parents. We all know what you have been going through and empathize strongly with you. Nobody who hasn’t had toxic parents can be of much help, because they don’t understand your feelings.

You probably ‘know’ my story – but I got out of it (only to be dragged back into it by my stepdad, but dealing with it):

Until 30-yrs old I was an excellent listener, because of not being able to express myself. I had been told that I’m stupid, this was repeated through my upbringing and even after that. If someone asked me to even repeat what they said, I went into pieces and could only think “I’m stupid”. Never mind that I did extremely well in school, my sisters always repeated like parrots ‘you are so stupid’ and laughed.

By then I had decided to cut mom out of my life.

– in my mind I started calling her by her first name, since ‘mom’ was emotionally loaded like a cannon.

– when she called, I never told about my stuff, only commented ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ to her stuff. (she used to end the phone call when I talked about my stuff, so I was NOT going to give her that chance anymore).

– I was aware that she will never give me what I need, so I didn’t even expect anything positive from her. It did wonders, deciding that you will never hear the words you need from her and being completely okay with it. No expectations, absolutely none.

1. Calling her by her first name.
2. Never telling her about own stuff.
3. Knowing that she will never change, but I can change.
4. Forgiving her, without her knowing about it.

A week later she is on my doorstep, crying “what have I done to you” and crocodile tears.

I was calm and said ‘nothing’. She cried and cried but stopped eventually, absolutely certain that I had nothing against her. She had felt that all strings were cut off, without me saying one word to her.

She tried to get personalized information from me for months and months. Every time she called it was my chance to become stronger, until she didn’t affect me at all.

She had her temporary insanity -moments, spilling out the most worst things she could say about me. By then the only affect her words had, was me silently praying “I hope she never remembers what she just said”.

My sisters never had the same problem, because they were the Golden Children. She made all their shortcomings to my shortcomings, and all my successes to their successes.

The inner change was radical. For the first time I actually took part in conversations and expressed myself. Friends told each other that they never knew how wise I was.

But before that all old thought patterns had to be broken down, voices in the head like “you are stupid, you are ugly, you are evil, you don’t do enough etc. etc.”. This was done by becoming aware of them.

Lol, I never even knew how beautiful I was, always pondering why guys want to date me, can’t they find better-looking girls. I had to be their ‘last chance’ before they meet The Girl. In pubs guys told my friends how “your friend is the most beautiful girl here, but she must know it”?? Once a Canadian guy said to me: “You are beautiful, don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re ugly, because that is not true!” My interpretation was: “you are ugly, but don’t let anyone trash you for that”.

Becoming aware of all the filters (thought patterns) helps a lot. It doesn’t matter if the world screams to you how loving, beautiful, wise and good you are, if you have been told the opposite by toxic parents and if you still believe in them. The toxic parents effectively try to destroy your life, so that you are not able to live a normal life.

Whatever mean things your mom says to you, always think the opposite of yourself and refuse to believe her definitiohs. He definitions are all lies and have nothing to do with You!!!!!

AM, how is it with you, can you easily express yourself to other people?

Only now do I understand why getting so tearful every time when there is a loving and healthy family on TV. There is also an ad on TV, giving a lot of ‘good’ tears, it is about orphans and how every child is entitled to grow up in an encouraging and loving atmosphere. …. except for us victms of toxic parents 🙁

An Astrologer once told me, without having any information of my life, that:

“It wasn’t your fault that you were born in your family, but it is only thanks to your own efforts, that you survived. Only thanks to yourself.”

People, keep this in mind. Toxic parents try to drag you down to their level, but if you rise above them, then you are free and only thanks to your own efforts. No thanks to toxic parents, who try to do the opposite.

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Robin

Hi AM! Yes, at one time a doctor thought I had rheumatoid arthritis at my young age of 37! Once I did somatic therapy and started having an emotional released in regards to my mother all the pain left my body. I know it is the same with my allergies. I can not wait to check out this book! Thank you for the suggestion! I love this online community and are grateful for it! Now more than ever because I have received guidance in meditation that my family is what is blocking me from thriving in my life and to completely cut them off. Whenever I am tempted to be in contact I am going to read this article and post instead. My mother pretends to love me because mothers are supposed to love their children but she does not really love me. I am simply a pawn in her game of life. For all of you out there who want to cut their toxic family off but feel guilt or something like that, do not feel guilt. It is ok to cut them off. It is ok to be visible. It is ok to have a happy healthy peaceful harmonious abundant and prosperous life!! You are strong and you are deserving and you can do it!

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Marz

I suffered as the ‘close’ child in the relationship with my toxic mother- always going behind her and cleaning up her social messes and smoothing ‘misunderstandings’ out. No one knew how much of a toll it took on me, and I accepted it all because I knew her past and I knew she was, un-diagnosed, but mentally unwell.
We had a wave of death in the family starting with my twins suicide. She lost her second husband and the man I considered to be the closest thing I had to a dad 7 months later (there was a lot more, but these two followed 2 years after she lost her mother and these losses changed her). The plethora of insanity that followed each loss and the vultures in the family took center stage, and her drama and feelings were the only thing that mattered.
On a stormy night, when my kids and I were visiting from out of town, everything came to a head when she had a psychotic break with her loaded gun in her hand.
It was the longest night of my life.
I left when I knew she was with people she could trust, (she made calls to have ‘her’ family throw me out), only to have to be the one to turn around (we were already out of state) and sign her into a hospital a few hours later when everyone realized she wasn’t actually okay and convinced her to go.
They told her later that I signed her in to get rid of her because my mother does not remember what happened.
The drama continues- but that event was what started my grieving process. That night I knew that I could no longer afford to put myself or my family in harms way. I learned who wasn’t my support system and family isn’t always blood. That night was what I needed to know that I could never fix her- I will die if I continued to try. It has hurt me every day. There have also been times that I have been haunted or had to overcome ‘tapes’ running in my head about my value as a person- and I get angry at her for planting those seeds.
My older brother keeps in contact with her and he is going through a tough time now as the last child she has a relationship with. It breaks my heart to hear him hurting- and it breaks my heart over our loss of a relationship all over again. She even continues to make choices she knows will hurt me- this is her lashing out.
This isn’t something that will ever feel easy. I want you to know these things- but I also want you to know that it is 100% worth it to walk away. People will give you a stigma about what kind of a person they think you are because of it- but YOU know what walking into that lions den is like- they don’t. People will always get away with what they are allowed to, and if you have an established cycle of abuse going- it will always be considered okay if you continue going back for more.
You want different? DO different. If you walk away and learn how to set healthy and safe boundaries, try again if you want. If you decided that this is really enough and you just need to heal, go for it- I’m almost 4 years out and I promise you, life is better without that emotional terrorism.
Stand in your own strength and decide what’s best for you. Tell yourself you deserve better than what they are offering. They will either value a relationship with you enough to make the changes you need to be healthy, or they wont- but don’t kill yourself emotionally trying or holding your breath- it’s already proven, they can’t set the pace in a way that benefits you.
You’re strong enough and valuable enough to get through this and your not alone. – All the Best

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