Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

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


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.

There's a kind of hurt that can only come from people who are meant to love you. 'Healing from Toxic Parents' Click To Tweet

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.


  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.


  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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Janet T

My mom abused me in my childhood, she talked down to me, she even talked about me to others. I had a terrible time.
I dated and married men like her over and over. Finally, God blessed me with a wonderful, loving caring supportive husband. It took me a while to interduse him to her because I know how she do. Anyways, she is instantly jealous. Me and my brother had to fi and visit my dad and my mom want to go, for what reason I don’t know cause she don’t even like him, she lied on him saying he
didnt support us and he did all along. Anyways, she called my huaband and tried to convince him to leave me because I had left him behind and that he better keep his eyes and ears open because I was a slick person and if he needed her she would come over to help him. I never knew she would stup so low… My heart hurts, I can’t take this abuse any longer… All I ever done in my life was to help her, taking her abuse, it’s ALWAYS something with her.


Hello everyone,
I felt the need to leave a comment. I’m 20 years old now, and I just realized that my mother is toxic for me. I’ve been reading articles about this and it all makes sense. I find it hard to accept that this is a serious problem, I tend to believe that there are people with bigger and more “realistic” problems. So thank you all for sharing your experiences, I know see that this is a real problem, and a big one. My mother never cares about my feelings and often diminishes them or mocks me, even if I’m crying. She always finds a way to put me down, because there’s nothing I do that it’s just good, just ok. Everything is imperfect. I’m never enough. She usually says things like “I’m gonna leave this house”, “you guys only care about me for money” and things like that, just to manipulate us. I’ve tried to understand, but I can’t. I cannot understand why someone would actually want to live and to be like that. I was really happy to leave for college two years ago. I’ve been living my best life (asides the daily controlling video calls she makes every single night, and the neverending weekends at home). The coronavirus situation ended this state of peace that I had in college. I had to spend two months with her, all day long. Fortunately I found a way to be far away with my loving boyfriend, who has helped me a lot with all of this. I know I should tell my mother about this, but I find it useless, since she doesn’t care at all about what I feel. She only cares about what she thinks is right. I’m sick and tired of this. I am not financially independent so I can’t just stop talking to her – and also, my father doesn’t deserve that, neither does my little sister. But I (and also them) don’t deserve to be her boxing bag. No one does. Sometimes I feel like I’ve “raised myself”, even tho I find that idea a little unfair… Fortunately, I’m able to be happy whenever I’m not talking to her, nor thinking about this (during the day). I hope to find a solution for this soon, very soon. No one should have the power to control us, or to even wanting to do that. I don’t care what her intentions are – I’ve had 20 years of this, of suffering alone in silence, of hiding it all inside me. I’m done. This affects me way more that I wanted it to and than it should. I want to put an end to this. I just think maybe that’ll have to wait a few more years, until I’m independent. Coronavirus is not gonna help on that… But well, here I am, here we are. Thank you for making me see that I’m not alone


As a 23 year old I’m starting to realize I had mentally abusive parents but they were great in some ways they did so much for me that a lot of kids never had but they would talk down to me make me feel like I’m always doing something wrong and they would always talk negatively about everything never had something positive to say and they weren’t there for me when I had big changes in my life that I had no clue about and that parents are usually there for to answer questions a child would have. I would ask questions and was always made feel stupid about it. I’m just commenting because I know some people can relate and I’d love to hear how you coped and broke this pattern of mental abuse


I want to say something to all of the people who have found this article and the support in the comments recently. I’ve been following this thread for several years. I have come SO far in processing the trauma and becoming stronger. I am FANTASTIC at setting boundaries, interactions with my narcissistic abuser are not anxiety inducing anymore. I feel strong and like a grown woman for the first time in my life. If you are reading this and are at the beginning of this journey into self discovery, please know you CAN do it. You are not alone. We are here for you.


Hi Auswoman!

I bookmarked this post when I saw it a couple of weeks ago and just wanted to write and say how pleased I am that you’ve got there! I’ve read all your posts and we’ve replied a few times before. Your comments have always been so helpful.

I have just lost my second toxic parent and there are so many emotions swirling around. Not least because I’m going through the house and finding old photos and also other reminders of how I’ve been left out of family things so often. I’m also having to deal with all the people who have believed the ‘mad and bad’ messages about me.

It is so hard as I know after this I will be totally alone. I don’t want to keep contact with others who don’t see the real me and who treat me as my father did. I think there is a toxicity going down the whole family, I hope I haven’t perpetuated it myself and maybe the fact that I never had kids (probably because of what I experienced) is a blessing in that regard although sad.

I hope one day I will be able to live my life as a whole person as I can hear you now are. Well done you🙂



I’m sorry to hear your feeling on an emotional rollercoaster due to the loss of your 2nd parent. I never knew my father and my mother is toxic so I understand how you feel alone. It creeps up and grips you sometimes I know.. but in reality we’re all alone and as they say you can choose your friends !
I’m lucky to have a son and I’m married to a lovely guy but that alone feeling is a hangover from childhood I know.. keep strong put yourself first and do things that make you happy .. our parents are never our fault.. we just got unlucky !

Susan J

Dad told Mum – stop it; you’ll break her spirit. After her death, my brother knew I’d had it bad with her. I was an imbecile – others ran rings round me – she disliked me intensely. Why can’t I be like …
I have lashed out at people, blaming them, have an inferiority complex/personality problem. For all that; I have pulled through; The Good Lord has blessed me with a supportive husband and a lovely life.


Wow this article is really what I needed to hear at this point in time. Also to hear of others commenting. Nice to relate.
I had a dysfunctional childhood, father alcoholic. Mother would shut me up and both ignore me leaving me in my bedroom. No encouraging of actives, zero. Nothing was ever done with me. No time at the park trips to zoo or beach for example. Not even some art at home. I spent my time very lonely growing up.
As a teenager I rebelled. They took me out of a school I was achieving high grades. Moved me at a point of my studies that set me back. I hated them for this and taking my friends away from me. This was for their selfish gain.
I moved out young took any job available be it cleaning or care work to keep my bills rent keep going. Had unhealthy toxic relationships with men who abused me. Struggled with drink drug addiction.
I realized that my mum criticizing me calling me fat, or my house unclean or my hippy appearance was not to her taste. Had an on going effect. Talking about inheritance and putting my half brother down. Cut ties for my sanity. Two years never spoke.
Unfortunately I regained contact to try work it out due to me expecting my first born. Tensions have risen again. After an argument with repeat behaviors happening I blanked her. She has called me a f@#k up. Her only motive is to have access to my daughter. She has dismissed my emotions by passed me to play the wholesome grandma role. After refusing access and demanding an apology for calling me a f&-k up. She is threatening to take me to court for access. I wish I never bothered holding an olive branch out. Purely out for her own gain. I’m really angry at myself for letting her back in. She’s a bully.

Claire B

The title of this article should be “How to Heal from a Toxic MOTHER!” Not Parent…Every person mainly women I speak to about this issue, the main culprit 99% of the time is abuse done by their MOTHERS. I am a Licensed professional counselor with a thriving private practice, and a Published author of two books with a third on the way. My heart breaks every time. I specialize in abused victims who have been in relationships or dysfunctional family upbringing with a narcissist/toxic partner or parent but again as stated above 99% of my clientele are females with MOM issues. I understand the mechanisms of that kind of codependent interaction due to my relationship when my own toxic mother. I applaud my clients seeking help and wanting to heal from their past traumas done at the hands of their mothers. These brave souls are focused on raising their kids in a loving supportive home vs the nightmare they’ve been raised in my psycho mothers


Hello, Claire B
I totally understand why you think this article should be : How to heal from a toxic mother. I have toxic parents so this apply to me 🙂 I am working on not being one. It takes a lot of work. I have very little to relate when it comes to positive parenting. Parenting classes and parenting books have been very helpful in raising two boys. The book, Healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers is a really good read. As well as children of BPD parents.


Thanks for the plug. Sounds like you need to remember that not all people experience the same thing. No one’s expereince with abuse is the same. My father was toxic, as was my mother. My father was worse in many ways.


I recently have stopped speaking with my mother. My entire life my stepfather has talked down to me and make sly comments ” I’m not Amanda, I wouldn’t do that” or degrading my maiden name, for example if I didn’t understand something they were talking about ” well that’s the “Last name” in you. And my mother would just sit and let him do it. I would get upset and complain about it and then it was made out like he was just kidding and i’m to emotional. Now that i’m an adult I feel like i have frown into a pretty amazing person but the comments just continue except its from both of them now!! My mother tells people that my kids don’t have clothes if she dosn’t buy them. If we are at her house and my one year old walks over to the dog food and she sees him before I do, ” Oh jeez amanda what would you do without me?” like i’m not capable of keeping my son safe. She would watch my son for me while i was in college and other family members were telling me that my son was in the pack and play screaming and she was just sleeping on the couch but when i brought it up she just started attacking me as a parent even more but she is so sly about it! If its brought up I am once again to emotional and shes just ” kidding”. I know shes not able to change, she never has been because she cant even admit her own wrongs, she just comes up with excuses, so why am I still feeling guilty for not talking to her? Why am I still being made out to be the bad guy here? Why am I so worried that my step father get involved and make me feel even worse?


When you sever ties with a loved one, the guilt does not go away. It is a lengthy process. Be very patient. I guarantee you that the guilty feelings will get much better the longer you stay away and concentrate on your mental health.
Guilt is the biggest trickster into having you regress. Remember that.


Honestly, I had a very clear vision for my future at age 19.
My extremely toxic mother dragged me into her bad drama with my biter father. I nearly had a nervous breakdown.
I am now 62 years old. These people have never changed and my siblings all fended for themselves. They were alienated from my messed up parents in their own way.
It’s your life. It’s okay to tell your parents to leave you alone.
Just go your own way. You will never get support from parents whose main objective is fulfilling their own personal agenda.
Very well put comment. It will never change and the siblings may unwittingly be involved in the whole scapegoating process. At least it wasn’t one of them.
Frankly I wish I had never tried to speak to my parents about my dreams and goals. They crushed them all.


I am 18 years old and the day you posted that comment (yesterday) I had an argument on the phone with my mom for not allowing me to travel to Indiana to visit my amazing friend. I am currently in college and was told (yelled at) over the phone “You won’t even be able to travel alone at 25!!” Just wanted to say its ironic and very relatable. Thank you.


Your childhood was one in which you felt unloved, unseen, and marginalized, and were subject to endless criticism and perhaps scapegoating. You did what you could to armor yourself, or perhaps you placated others instead; in any case, you did what you could to deal until you finally moved out into your young adult life. It’s at that moment that you began to make your own choices about where to live, friends, how to support yourself, partners, and lovers, but also how to deal with your family of origin. Most unloved daughters — relishing the fact that they’re out from under their mothers’ direct influence — do little to challenge the status quo and do what they can to manage the situation. It’s when their efforts to manage begin to fail — they are still hurt by encounters with their parent or parents or perhaps siblings, are unable to manage the resulting emotions, still feel adrift, and are unable to set healthy boundaries — that they realize they’re stuck and have to disengage and find a new way of relating to their family.


Thank you for the post, it is helpful to start healing.

I am 30 now and although abuse was very low key at my parents house, emotional and physical neglect were part of the routine.

My mother never really cared for having a child but it was good bragging material if neighbors were around. If not she just ignored me or tried to make me feel ashemed for what I was doing ( mostly reading). On top of that she is very manipulative and mean (luckily for me also not the brightest). My father couldn’t be bothered with me most my life, he loves my mother and that is it.

I remember trying to go my grandparents place as often I could when I was young because I got a hug from my grandma when I arrived. Although she is a controlling woman that was the best I had.

Now I grow up, moved to a different country to physically distance myself and have no idea how start learning to love myself or convince people I am actually worthy of it. Couldn’t manage either of it so far.


Is there EVER any point in trying to communicate with the toxic parent to share WHY you are frustrated?


i have tried with my mother for 52 years out of sheer guilt and now after she told my son she hoped i would die in a plane crash i have finally found the strength to cut her out of my life for good, as has my son.
She has constantly told me I was her biggest mistake and she wished she had had me aborted. shes venomous, nasty, fantasist, manipulative and toxic spreading lies and venom to anyone whom is close to her. i have no idea who my father is and no siblings so this has been a burden i have had to bear on my own but enough is enough so for me i will stop all contact and concentrate soly on myself and my family and she can do as she pleases, i do not see any good out of trying to communicate with her as she thinks she is always in the right and everyone else is wrong. she has never apologised to me once. i left home at 16 for a better life and i got it whereas she has just ailenated everyone around her and continues to blame me for ruining her life !


I am the only child of an abusive and manipulative mother. She sure did a number on me along with with my uncles and aunts. So mean, so verbally abusive. I thought I deserved it or thought it was my duty to accept them and the things the said until I had my own children. She likes one but not the other. She told me he was the devil when he was 3 days old!
It’s hard when you have no siblings, no other parent who witnessed the abuse. Sometimes it makes you feel crazy because no one, including yourself, can actually believe that a parent would treat their child like that.
I’ve ended contact 4 years ago and always wonder if I should try again. Her old age is making me question myself. After reading some of these comments I know I have to keep moving forward and drag myself back in the mud to be stepped on and spat on.
It never ends to be painful though no matter how much work I put in.
Thanks for the legacy, mom, but the buck stops here. I have ended this cycle of abuse and I am done with her and her siblings and all the “elders” who did not protect me.


Hi I am 60 years of age and really struggling with having no choice but to end my relationship with my very toxic mother.
I/we my amazing husband and I have been there for her during all her surgeries, her chemo and in her darkest times.
She has alway favoured my second youngest sister from childhood.
I have tried to ignore her nasty remarks, her put downs and guilt tripping if my hubby and I even go out for a day trip. We have not had a holiday for 6 years as we felt guilty for going away. I have the above sister here who could take care of her but my mother of late has been so nasty, spiteful and toxic to the point where hubby and I stayed away for 10 days thinking that she might have a think about her behaviour. It made no difference. We both tried to talk things out with her in a rational manner but she just sat there and bare faced lied in front of my sister in law about all the nasty things she has done to me, denied everything and never batted an eyelid. I have come to the decision that things are never going to change. I have been respectful we (Hubby and I) have done so so much to see that she is cared for and whatever she needed doing in the garden etc was done. Taken her on holidays when we could go away, took her meals. did the gardening and we never even get a thank you. She treats me with so much disrespect I have to cut the umbilical cord before she destroys me completely. I have a huge mix of emotions but I wont feel guilty as she has to “Own her behaviour” She is always going to take this one out of the will or that one out of her affairs and I have had enough of her sucking the emotional well being out not only myself but my hubby who sees me in tears constantly nad has no mother of his own. I don’t care for inheritance nor any of her belongings. My sister and her husband have been deceitful behind her back, lied about so many things and she thinks the sun shines out of their backsides. They are also Narcissists I am concerned about what she will tell my other brother as she has told so so many lies about me and she is so believable. Is anyone else had to come to this decision.


I personally found it liberating to stop expecting anything even after I cut contact and moved very far away. Until my late 30’s, I expected the day when my mother would finally see the light and apologize for all the abuse. Then I realized it will never happen. It was a big relief and I recommend to stop expecting and cut off contact.


Hello Clarice
I think we share the same Mother!
I know your pain and emotional turmoil so well. My Mother has always been a very controlling woman all her life and I have always been her scapegoat and my younger brother has always been her golden child!
It doesn’t get any better in my experience., I am now 65 and my Mother will soon be 90. Her mind is as strong as ever with no signs of Dementia. In order to protect myself I’ve tried to go ‘No contact’ for periods of time ( the last one lasted 5 months) but I always seem to go back for more!. Mainly because my conscience leads me back. My Mother will not make the first contact ever! It’s always my fault!!
I feel drained after more than 2 hours with her and as I get older it gets worse.
By the way I’m a strong, independent woman with a very loving family of my own . My Mother is the negative force in my life and old age has only made her more ‘nasty’ towards me.
Don’t feel guilty. If you need time out then take it. Your Mother has chosen her life pathway and you are in charge of your own well being.
Dont worry about what others think. Your Mother lies and exaggerates and always will. Just like mine!
Live your own life and do what’s best for your own health and well being.

Elizabeth D

Hello Clarice,
You’ve spent over half your life trying to please someone who will never be pleased. I nearly went bankrupt buying a house that I couldn’t afford in my narcissistic mother’s neighborhood just to try to get the love I never received from her while growing up. Her abuse towards me only increased. Through a blessing in disguise (although it seemed like a curse at the time), I lost that home but was able to buy another house (with cash) far away from her. Not too long afterwards, I decided to go No Contact with her and my siblings in order to stop the abuse and save my sanity. That was 6 years ago, and I’m loving my life each and every day. Someone said it best when they said that we should never continue to go back to a dry well. And Kris Godinez said it best when she said, “If these people were not related to you, would you have anything to do with them? If not, act accordingly.” Good luck with everything.

rachel f

When I was a little girl, my father used to abuse me, and this event caused me to feel unwanted. You’re right; it doesn’t matter if we love our parents if they’re damaging us from the inside out, it’s alright to let them go. I hope there is a way for me to ease this pain maybe therapy or anything that can get me out of this mess.


My mother started to show me her true side when my brother got married. I knew she was strict and expected only the best from me, but I only saw that her being strict was actually a mask. She started to compare me with her beautiful daughter in law and nothing that I did ever measured up and I finally made the decision to leave and have her enjoy her beautiful relationship because to be honest I didn’t want to get in the way. I have been happier ever since.


Hey I am from India. 23 years old, my parents have a unsuccessful marriage but still we live in the same house. Now they say that the only person responsible for their unsuccessful marriage is me. I don’t talk to them. It feels depressing living here. May God give me some solution.


I have yet to find scientific evidence of children being the primary cause of divorce. Especially on the personal level, I don’t think there is any.


I am 21 yrs old n my parents..they actually does nt atleast respect my age…always blaming me for evrything….they do not accept my personality and treats me odd…i dont even have an identity for myself..exept my name…my email is actually being used by my dad who is a scrooge….always disencouraging and disregarding me…comparing me with my cousins..and always imsulting my career…he wanted me to be an allopathic doctor…and unfortunatelty ended up being a homeopath…and yes i am happy wth it…but dad is like…insulting and disregarding me…treating me like a scapegoat for all his problems…he does nt lyk spending a penny for me ..all i have is couple of friends…but the sad part is ..my mum..she dont lyk me getting attached with anyone else …feeling lonlier than ever…


Fraa, I recently had to let go of relations with my father who has been toxic, neglectful, and verbally abusive to me ever since my mother had passed away when I was 10. I am 26 years old now and have finally gathered the strength to not only completely cut off contact with him this last year, but his entire side of the family as well. I too only have a couple friends and I believe this has been subconsciously on purpose due to developed trust issues I’ve acquired over the years. My only advise is to stay strong, seek advise from a professional, and continue to build healthy relationships. It’s not perfect but things will get easier with time. Remember, you’re a beacon of truth in a dark web of hurtful feelings and lies. stay strong.


Dear Fraa
I feel your words so so deeply.. I’m 54 now.. My father passed way 3 years ago and although I was sad I was also very relieved in thinking he wouldn’t be able to berate and control me.. Low and behold my 2 brothers and mother have been doing an exceptionally good job if not far far better than my father ever did.. And through this I have realised everything I ever thought or felt was true.. Ie being ashamed of me.. Not loving me.. Defiantly never liked me.. I have so wanted to leave my family for many years but always felt obliged to interact with them… But Now!!! They have decided to throw me out of the nest because I don’t play to they’re tune..
Fraa!!! I have never felt more happier in my life. I feel completely free to be me.. I can smile /skip dance laugh because that’s who I am!! And for to long that part of me has been hidden.. I have 3 beautiful daughters who unfortunately have suffered in my suffering.. They still have contact with they’re grandmother but it is very limited as they have seen first hand now the vile way in which they have treated me and them also at times… I never ever felt good enough for them and have wasted so much of my life trying to understand why they never loved me like my brothers… That doesn’t matter any more as I only focus on those that love me and want me in they’re life’s… I now love myself which is crazy to say but I do!!! And so Fraa should you ? you are still so young you have so much to live for. Be Strong Stay Strong.. Always keep your head up and try to realise that your not the problem they are.. Be the best you can be ? try to get independence as soon as possible try not to rely on your parents for anything as that will keep they’re hold over you.. Find your inner strength my darling and set yourself free into freedom as soon as your cage door is open.. Everything will be OK.. Go get your life.. A year from now will be so different from now you’ve just got to want it.. Good luck and much love to you
Hilary xxx,


I can so relate to your comment. When I was 22 and gave birth to my child and I wasn’t married my dad quit talking to me. (my mom was already dead) At first this estrangement hurt my feelings but after a couple of years I realized what a wonderful opportunity this was. I realized that up until then I had made all my decisions based on either towing the line or ticking him off and now? Now I was suddenly free! Free free free to be me, and my son was spared any weird toxic behavior on my dad’s part. When my son graduated from 8th grade my then husband invited my dad to the party, Dad behaved ok, but quit talking to my son about 10 years later. Luckily that didn’t hurt my son too much because he had already observed on his own that my Dad was uses withholding as a method of control.


Thank you for this article as I needed it the most this morning. My mother is always saying negative comments towards me. She always plays favourites with my older sister. It’s to the point were she criticize my daughter and husband. When I finally spoke up this morning she yelled at me stating I cause all the trouble in the family and is the reason for all bad things happening. Time for me to exit her out of my life.


I am so glad to have found this website…I am 55 years old, my mother whom I loved dearly, passed away 13 years ago, but the pain she caused me keeps coming back. It was in the form of seemingly innocent comments about me being overweight, not having the best figure, not using my free time properly and getting more education… When I had a miscarriage and told her about it, she acted angry!!! Like I failed her expectations to make her a happy grandmother… I have two beautiful daughters now but that’s a different story. I was growing up with a very wrong idea that it’s okay when your mother gets angry for some strange reason. S This one is really bizarre: she got mad at me when my infant sister diaper was dirty and she had to deal with it. Yes, she used me as a punching bag for her frustration. I I am in the process of getting over all of the pain and confusion. Only now I see clearly how unfair and damaging to me it was…Sorry about possible grammar and spelling errors, typing in my bed with very dim light. Thank you for listening…


My mom is exactly like yours. I am about to be 51, and she continues to put me down and treat me as if I am incapable of doing anything right. My brother divorced 2 years ago and she constantly rubs in my face how hard life is for him. He owns his own company and works 4 to 5 hours a day and one of his kids drives himself. I have been divorced 9 years, single momming it for far longer than that, work about 50-60 hours a week and manage everything by myself. In her eyes, it’s amazing that my brother “can take care of a woman’s duties as well as a man’s”, but she’s never really considered the same for me. She has LITERALLY said “well you’re a woman, we are stronger” what the actual hell???
My father (the gentle non-judgmental soul that he was) passed away a few months ago, leaving her with the taste of what it’s like to take care of EVERYTHING by herself. I often wonder if she hears herself saying to me “it’s so hard…I have to take care of everything now” while she puts me down for every “wrong” decision I supposedly make in my life. She actually became angry and stormed out of my house last night for returning a lost wallet to someone’s home (mailbox) a couple of minutes from me, saying it was a “dangerous act”. It would have been heroic had it been my brother though.
She is the text book definition of a toxic parent. My brother and sister recognize it too, and how she threats me, but we are of Persian decent and breaking ties with the family is not in the blood.
My biggest concern is that her behavior affects my relationship with own oldest daughter. Last night, my mother’s demonic behavior lead to a fight between me and my 16 year old, who took a tone with me while defeding her grandmother (I didn’t want to hig her goodbye after her display of toxicity). I am afraid of the pattern that my mothers behavior over that past 40 years has created in my own behavior with others. And yes I know I need to break it, but the damage is quite deep. At almost 51, I am beginning to actually hate the woman I love.

Widowed Grandmama

I absolutely detest the use of the verb “hurt” to describe the feelings we have for the monster who bore and “raised” us, or the monster we’re married to, or the criminal siblings we also got out of the deal. My mother and 2 sibs do not make me feel “hurt”. Oh, far from it. Mumsey dearest (dead since ’08, reduced to a flaming canker in my brain via programming), is a great big female genitalia with a head and feet. What sad little hurts does a normal human derive from what’s dished out by a misbegotten caricature like that? I hold my nose and stay away. Who wouldn’t? My sister and brother, who loathe each other, LOL, are also that caricature. If we just hadn’t so overused the B-word that it’s practically a comment we even like to call OURSELVES, I wouldn’t have had to graduate to the word that describes them even better.

OK, that is my purge. Delete away. Just remember when you do it, MY mother sympathized with child-killer Susan Smith, and without batting an eyelash, having to cognizance that it sounded repulsive and unbelievable. Her phrasing was, “You don’t know how those kids may have made her feel.”

She used to hold forth on how infanticide was a standard practice until Very Recently. She used to say to me that various exerts in magazine articles she reads say that superior parents can have inferior offspring, I don’t have 4 days and endless space here, so I’ll have to quit without even touching the ole tip of the iceberg. :o)


Hi everyone, I think I know what I need to do before I write this but its really nice (in a horrible way) having others who understand and have been there to discuss these things with.
I don’t have a good relationship with my mother and no relationship with my dad (he is an alcoholic who lives between hostels and the streets, I tried to help him but eventually after 20 years I gave up and he doesn’t bother trying to contact me). My mum I feel is very manipulative, she lies, uses emotional blackmail to try and maintain control of me and my sister, she can act loving at times but this is only for her own benefit, I feel, it is never unconditional. She will try to get me to agree to do things and tell me the plans before I have said yes, if I don’t see her for a few weeks she will always make a comment like ‘guess I’ll see you in another 3 weeks’. In the past she has told me that my dad has openly said he doesn’t care about me at all, I feel she says this just to try and prove that she is the better parent!! I cut all ties with her last June and had no intention of ever seeing/speaking to her again. She contacted me in February to say she had cancer, I felt so guilty that I decided to try and help her through it. She has no-one as everyone has cut ties with her, my brother, sister all our partners, her old friends etc. they are all gone and I feel that if I cut contact again she will be totally alone and it torments me a lot. I know I don’t want her in my life, she told me when I left she wanted to kill herself and she couldn’t do it again…. she has never asked me why I felt the need to sever all contact with my parent! I am now pregnant with my first child and I feel that for my sake and my babies sake I need to walk away again, but she will be alone and still has cancer! I know she is alone because of her own actions but I feel so tormented. I do know that when I wasn’t seeing her at all my life was less stressful, I was happier and my husband said that he could tell the difference in me. I guess I know what I want, especially now I am having a child (I will not let her treat my child the way she has me and my sister), but struggling to make that final push!!


Heya ,thanks for this great article. Writing this up cause emotionally drained and need to flush things out . Don’t know where to begin with but I love my parents , their habit of dominating my life is what has put me into this emotional setback . Being in 20’s yet my parents withhold my life , I have to grant permission for silly stuff. Coming back from college makes me feel like coming back to prison . My phone is checked regularly to see if I am seeing someone. They tell me that they want to be my friends, but friends are there to help you get over breakups and emotional setbacks , but they are the reason of my sadness . Its not like I’m not good in academics or so , actually I’m doing fine but as I’m growing up into this age where I want to see people , socialize or perhaps get into relationships, my parents restricting me to do so , affects my concentration on studies. I’m not allowed to stay awake after 11 pm , like imagine a 20 yr old being asked to go to bed at 11 and been checked in the middle of night if been on phone or even watching a series . They hovering on me ,checking on stuff really makes me feel depressed at times . Like having a boyfriend is a sin. They don’t trust me , I’m not allowed to have night outs even with my girlfriends. They criticize me on every step . People say I’m rude but the real reason is I don’t socialize because I would not be able to match with them cause my parents won’t let me. I recently had a breakup (secret relationship with a guy at college, or my parents would house arrest me if known) . My parents being so toxic has became an add on of me being emotionally drained . When I was in a relationship I would at least have some reason to be happy or excited , I was doing great with my academics but now everything seems useless as I’m not happy. Just working to make sure that I can be independent and stay away from my parents . Hoping for good days to come.


I’m a 60 year old women and can see my situation in may of these posts and in the initial article posted( a very good read). I have suffered mightily. Fortunately I did not repeat the pattern with my own daughter and we have an amazing relationship and always have. I won’t re-live the pain here but I will share recent revelations I have had and the actions I am taking. Meditation has made these revelations and changes happen. After reading the book, “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” by Joe Disperenza. I learned his meditation techniques. Its not for the faint of heart! It requires a big commitment. Meditation has changed my life. I have meditated in some form for years throughout my life for many reasons. So I have some experience. I have immersed myself in this practice full time for 7 months. I recently wrote my mother to end the abuse, she is now in her 80’s. The abuse is still coming at me as strong and damaging as it always has been and I have made the decision to end it now! Forever!
In Knowing my self worth, knowing that I have the right and the power, to live the happy life I have made for myself, I have finally done what I need to do to care for myself. I don’t beat myself up for not being able to do it sooner, but rather find peace in having done it now. We do it when we have reached a total saturation point I suppose, and it is different for us all. If you struggle, give your self a break and meditate. There are many ways to go about this and lots of help here on the internet. It is up to you to relieve your suffering and live a joyful, happy and purposeful Life, Give it a try! What have you got to loose?


I’m beginning to think my parents care more about my education than me. I’m watching LEGO tutorial videos on YouTube and my parents ask what I’m watching. I tell them LEGO videos. They say that either get off YouTube or watch something better. EX: math, social studies, 6th grade advanced math. After a while of watching “junk” they completely blocked YouTube. They are also about to delete every game I have and replace it with educational games. It’s even worse since I have Crohn’s disease and I learned my dad gave it to me because he smokes. I really need some tips right about now,


I don’t know if this is what’s happening to me, can someone help shed light. I don’t speak to my Dad he was verbally/emotionally and rarely but sometimes physically abusive. He struggled with his mental health but his excuses fell silent due to his lack of motivation to 1. Get treatment and 2. Acknowledge his hurtful behaviour. He and my Mum split up when I was 16 in which time she pretty much fell to bits and I constantly picked up the pieces… she was never really there for me but expected to be able to mother me when she wanted to something I found hard as I’d has to grow up quite quickly to look after her, the house and my other two siblings. I know she’s been through a lot but as the one who has been constantly there I was never good at anything, never useful until she was insecure, upset or had a problem with one of the other two. I’m currently starting out as a teacher (still in my early twenties) but was never really close to her but said I was as she liked to keep up appearances. I had a hard start to my career in a difficult school with quite harsh SLT she didn’t offer any support and instead told my sister I was boring and pathetic something that got back quite quickly as my sister was delighted to tell me. Now as someone who always picked up everybody else’s pieces I was surprised no one wanted to support me. But deep down I don’t think I was. I wasn’t feeling my best and she’d lash out and make it worse constantly. Unfortunately last summer my grandad (her Dad) past away … since then she can’t seem to say anything nice and punishes me for not being home to sort things that are going on with the others. This has taken an emotional toll as the argument is usually ended with I want nothing more to do with you get out of my life. She has essentially told me my family is her family so not to bother with any of them… but tells the family it’s my doing. I’m really thinking the best thing to do is to just walk away ? Can anyone help ? Thanks in advance.


Jenna, I had exactly the same experience with LEGO and programming.

Now that I’m 31 I can confidently say that LEGO WAS an important part of my education.
It did not distract from my education, it was (at times) BETTER education than my “education”.

Today as a software developer and entrepreneur, I am deeply grateful for every minute that I spent on LEGO when I was young. My brain desperately needed it to develop it’s creative, artistic, technical capabilities.
Naturally, the same goes for programming, which my parents also desperately tried to block me from developing in just about the same way as LEGO.

I’d say: do what you can to keep doing what you feel you NEED to do.
If your intuition screams to you that right now that is LEGO, then you’re going to have to protect the dream.
Even if you don’t fully understand it right now.

And IF you’re going to communicate with them: you know your parents better than I do.

For me, it would go like this: I go 1on1, not 2v1. I choose whichever parent is usually most reasonable and open-minded.
And I try to pick a moment in time that they are NOT stressed or emotional. Then I ask them if they have a minute to talk to me.

If yes, then I would -in my most mature, reasonable, genuine, calm but serious and also very “matter of fact”-way that I could muster- tell them that LEGO is incredibly important to my (mental) development and wellbeing, and that I feel that it will help me down the line. LEGO is an essential part of my education, and very much not just a toy.

If your parents are somewhat reasonable people then that *should* at least grab their attention. The subject will stand out.

And if you have said everything that you wanted to say, AND you feel like the parent(s) has actually truly and fully HEARD you, thèn you can safely drop the subject.
Your message has been loud and clear. There’s no use to try to push/force the issue right now. If you do, you risk putting them on the defensive and shutting down your LEGO’s. You have to give them some space to process your communication.

So, hopefully at some point, they’ll give you somewhat more of a breather next time you’re LEGO’ing. Count your blessings.

But again, only you know how to best deal with your parents.
The way I described here may not work as great on Your parents.

It is therefore important that you prepare for the conversation by bringing awareness into the subject for yourself first. So that you’ll know exactly what to convey, when the moment (which you’ve carefully chosen and created) arrives.

“Meditate” on it, if you know what that means…
(not weird if you don’t. but I knew it at 13yo and it helped)

Gooood luck!!!


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Hey Warrior - A book about anxiety in children.

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The need to feel safe is primal. We’re wired to The need to feel safe is primal. We’re wired to fight or flee anything that presents itself as a threat - and shame, punishment, judgement, exclusion, humiliation all count as threat, even if they come with loads of love.
When our kids or teens mess up - which they will, because they’re humans not robots - the way we respond can open them up to our influence or shut them down to it. It can expand the fight and the disconnection, or it can shrink it. In time they will learn to be more in control of their urge for or flight, but for now, we will need to lead the way. (Of course, we are also human, and sometimes despite our biggest efforts to stay calm, we will step into the ring rather than wait for them to step out. We’re human. It’s going to happen. And that’s okay.)
If we want them to be open to our influence, we first need to calm their active amygdala (the seat of anxiety and big emotion) by sending the message that we aren’t a threat. We can do this by validating their feelings or the need behind their behaviour (if we know what that is).
Validation doesn’t mean agreeing with them, and it doesn’t mean approving of their behaviour. What it means is letting them know that we want to understand the world through their lens. ‘I can see you’re really upset about this.’ ‘It sounds as though you’re worried I’m going to get in your way. I can see this is important to you. I really want to understand. Can you talk to me about this?’
When we do this, it sends a message to the protective, powerful, emotional amygdala that it’s safe and that it can back down. This will start to switch off the need to fight us or flee (ignore) us and open them up to our influence, support, warmth and guidance.
It also doesn’t mean giving them a free pass on ‘unadorable’ behaviour. What it means is letting them know that we see them, and that we understand there is something important they need. When things are calm, they will be much more open to exploring their decisions, their behaviour, the consequences of that (including any consequences for them), and what they can do differently in the future.

The need to feel safe is primal. We’re wired to fight or flee anything that presents itself as a threat - and shame, punishment, judgement, exclusion, humiliation all count as threat, even if they come with loads of love.
When our kids or teens mess up - which they will, because they’re humans not robots - the way we respond can open them up to our influence or shut them down to it. It can expand the fight and the disconnection, or it can shrink it. In time they will learn to be more in control of their urge for or flight, but for now, we will need to lead the way. (Of course, we are also human, and sometimes despite our biggest efforts to stay calm, we will step into the ring rather than wait for them to step out. We’re human. It’s going to happen. And that’s okay.)
If we want them to be open to our influence, we first need to calm their active amygdala (the seat of anxiety and big emotion) by sending the message that we aren’t a threat. We can do this by validating their feelings or the need behind their behaviour (if we know what that is).
Validation doesn’t mean agreeing with them, and it doesn’t mean approving of their behaviour. What it means is letting them know that we want to understand the world through their lens. ‘I can see you’re really upset about this.’ ‘It sounds as though you’re worried I’m going to get in your way. I can see this is important to you. I really want to understand. Can you talk to me about this?’
When we do this, it sends a message to the protective, powerful, emotional amygdala that it’s safe and that it can back down. This will start to switch off the need to fight us or flee (ignore) us and open them up to our influence, support, warmth and guidance.
It also doesn’t mean giving them a free pass on ‘unadorable’ behaviour. What it means is letting them know that we see them, and that we understand there is something important they need. When things are calm, they will be much more open to exploring their decisions, their behaviour, the consequences of that (including any consequences for them), and what they can do differently in the future.