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.

[bctt tweet=”There’s a kind of hurt that can only come from people who are meant to love you. ‘Healing from Toxic Parents'”]

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.

    [irp posts=”793″ name=”Toxic People: 12 Things They Do and How to Deal with Them”]

     

  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.

    [irp posts=”1042″ name=”Letting Go: How to Master the Art”]

     

  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.

893 Comments

Suzanne

Great article. My heart embraces all who hurt. I am sixty-eight, and still work to protect myself from a toxic, narcissistic eighty-eight year old mother. We can only heal ourselves when we expect nothing, and find compassion. I would rather bear the scars than ever be in the shoes of a cold, unhappy narcissist. My mother is a miserable, negative injustice collector….petty, selfish, small-minded and cruel with her words…dominated by secrets and shame. I feel sorry for her, and despise what she is, and the damage she has caused. The good news is that she was an example of what not to do as a mother. I am blessed with three loving adult children. They learned that it is okay to make mistakes…to forgive…and that there is no shame in truth telling. My mother is an angry and pathetic waste of human existence, so I will always feel more sorry for her.

Reply
Marie

*****Being the bigger person*****

It is taking a lot for me to write this. Through prayer and the strength of God miraculously me and my mom have patched our relationship. I learned in life I have 2 choices I can live with resentment and anger or I can let go and let God direct my paths and I chose the later. I am proceeding with caution and not rushing into things. But my mom has done a complete 360 and she apologized for the many wrongs she did against me. I was still doubtful even after she apologized but in trusting in God I realized he commands us to forgive. Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to accomplish in life. It seems easy but it is not.

Time does not stop for no one. People are dying everyday. I do not want to leave this world filled with un-forgiveness, anger and resentment. Yes we have to protect ourselves from those who harm us emotionally but you have to realize we are all human and we all make mistakes. We are all sinners. I have done some things in my life that I regret and I am sure we all have.

The turning point on getting me and my mom’s relationship back on the right track was confronting her head on. I put it all out there. All of her wrong doings and mistakes. She was angry at first and then she realized most of her faults and that was the beginning of our journey towards making peace.

Here I thought this would be impossible to achieve but I remember a verse in the bible ” “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me” (Philippians 4:13) They key words are “through Christ.” In my life I was trying to fight my own battles and when I started praying and letting go and letting God guide me all my hard battles became victories.

I am still in prayer and asking God to not only to continue to strengthen me and my mom’s relationship but all the family as a whole.

I will also continue to pray for those who are going through painful relationships and ask God to give you the strength to get through the process and hopefully your relationships will turn into something positive. Remember there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and never darkness.

Reply
Widowed Grandmama

My belief is that those are not your only 2 choices. And that WE being “the better person” is nothing more than enabling. It deserves to be kept in quotes. It’s what powers them and reduces us to waste material. Just what I think. I don’t know everything, don’t know better than you or anyone else.

I wish you strength and peace with whatever tack you take.

Reply
Mary

I am 30 years old and have been on the road to recovery from my father since 2016 and from my mother since 2007.

My mother suffers from mental illness and addiction so I feel like I give her more slack and enough years have passed I have learned to let some of my anger go.

My dad on the other hand, he and I were so close and he treats me terribly since he got remarried in 2004. His wife hates me. They treat my half sisters (my moms children and my dads step children) like Saints. I am my dads only biological child.

I am the only one that has been a single mom, done it on her own, held a full time job, received my associates degree after eight years, my bachelors and completing my masters now.

I would consider myself highly successful and no matter what I do or what I achieve it is never good enough.

My dad and I used to be so close, my mom was cheating on him for many years and abused my brother and I. Finally when it all fell apart, we went to live with my dad and he remarried and she despises my brother and I, but disguises it in manipulative love and my dad has turned into a total asshole.

My dad and I didn’t speak for almost a year, we talk now but strictly about him seeing and visiting my 9 year old.

He says the most awful things about me, to me, and attempts to embarrass me in front of others. I blame his wife.

I am very honest with my son about the situation because I never want him to be blind sided by the true nature of people. I encourage him to have the absolute best relationship possible with my dad and his wife, but I am definitely realistic with him.

I am so heartbroken and angry.

My mom couldnt have anymore children and had her tubes untied to have me only for it all to come to this. I was literally a miracle, but for what?

Reply
Kylie

My step daughter is being phsically and emotioally abused by her mother but no one believes us as she is very good and lying and manipulating people and crys and puts on a great lm avictom act
Only yesturday we took the little girl to the police with fresh bruises and the child even told the polie women that her mother had done it but after they interviewed the mother they decided not to proceed
We have a lwyer and at the moment the child is in our care but how can we keep her safe as she will probly have to go back to the abusive mother as no one will help us protect this child

Reply
Widowed Grandmama

It shows how true it must be that this life we live is a schoolroom. It seems as though whatever we hate the most, fear the most, and above all attempt to AVERT or avoid the most, will be the very things that refuses to let us be. Prayer is powerful. “They” do not have all the power. There is a Real Place that we all come from. THIS place is not that.

Wishing you everything good.

Reply
Widowed Grandmama

This is unspeakable. Go over the heads of the authorities you’ve been reporting to. It would be hard, I’m not sure I could do it even with all my spare time as an old retired lady, but start a CAMPAIGN, the way people sometimes have to do, on Facebook, or whatever’s available to helping children. It might only be a matter of finding that outlet that will jump on the chance to help that little girl.

Reply
Fred

Get as far away from toxic parents as you can and don’t look back!
My parents divorced forty years ago and my my father sadly passed away a few months ago. My fathers entire estate went to my mother after she lied to him about me so that he would change his will in favour of her. I had previously been estranged from my mother for 9 years but foolishly allowed her back into my life thinking she had changed.I was living overseas and agreed to let her visit, the trip was a disaster and she returned to the UK and filled my fathers head with a load of lies, telling him i was out of control on alcohol and drugs. My Thai partner and i recently had our first child, my mother told my father it was all lies and that the scans i sent him were all downloaded from the internet. News of my fathers death wasn’t forthcoming, my mother tried to conceal it from me and told everyone that she couldn’t locate me this was an utter lie but typical of her. I was given the sad news by my uncle over the phone, once my mother found it was my uncle that had told me, she exploded into rage and announced that she was ‘done’ with him. She hasn’t spoke to him since. I could write a book about the terrible things this manipulative, dishonest woman has inflicted to me over the years. I will never allow her back into my life again, the best way to deal with these monsters is cut them loose….for ever!

Reply
WishMyMumLovedMe

This is my story to a tee…

There was once a group of people that were imprisoned since they were born. In that prison there was no light at all. They had never seen light before. Outside the prison they did not know a world existed. They were in shackles since they were born so they thought the shackles were jewlery and often compared who has the best jewlery (shackles).

One day, one person from the group dared to take off the shackles. She was a rebel. She in her heart knew that this could not just be it. She knew, there must be more. The others thought she was crazy for taking off her jewlerry, and they argued that this was life and outside the prison was hell. She didnt care, she took off the shackles and walked outside the prison towards the light.

The light was burning. Non of them had ever experienced light. The others scolled her for walking towards the light and said “told you so” in regards to her eyes burning. The brave girl continued on outside despite the pain.

After much endurance, her eyes slowly became accustomed to the light slowly. To her amazement, outside the prison the world was nothing like she could ever imagine. She was right, the world outside was beautiful there was so much to see, birds, people, LIFE!

She couldn’t beleive her eyes, she wanted to run back in and help the other and show them the way also.

She went back in and told them all about it. (Note, the prison was NEVER locked.) They all laughed at her and told her she was mad and that she has gone crazy. They did not believe a word she was saying about the outside world. She tried to convince them, tried to even break their chains but they fought back instead.

No matter what she said they could never get what she was talking about because they never dared to experience what she did and she could never express with words what she knew of the other world.

I managed to escape to some degree with limited contact but still find each day a struggle. Definitely getting stronger by the day but it still hurts. Much love to all xxx

Reply
Widowed Grandmama

I’m happy to see one of “us” who understands the Only Choice, and has taken it. I hope you know, or wish you could know, that your father is aware NOW of everything she did. Blessings, Brother.

Reply
CJ

I’m 54 yrs old and i’m exhausted of the never ending search for a cure to feel better. I’ve read countless books, had therapy at different times in my life, cut my parents off, let them back in, cut them off… I feel like i’ve tried everything, yet I continue to feel exhausted, depressed, I have no energy to live outside of working.
Bob (father) mentally and emotionally abused me. Mom was also mentally and emotionally abused; we leaned on each other throughout my teen years which I believe made me more of a parent to her than her to me. I left home the second I graduated high school and stopped the cycle of abuse. I confronted Bob on 3 occasions as an adult, which I found envigorating and therapeutic. I had 1 conversation with my mom in which she told me she knew she failed me and my sister. That conversation left ME feeling guilty and my situation negagated like my sisters situation was worse than mine because she was sexually abused. I have vague memories of sexual abuse as well but I think I’m convincing myself I’m making it up.
Bob’s abuse is well known amongst mom, me, my brother and sister. It is not talked about. Bob died last September, a weak frail man lying in a nursing home. I was there when he died. I felt complete relief. I told his lifeless body what a piece of shit he was, what a horrible parent he was, and that it was now time for him to face something larger than himself and explain what he had done to innocent children he was supposed to love and protect. I stood by my mom and siblings through the funeral and grieving process. I maintain a relationship with my mom, although somewhat distant it is better than when he was alive.
I’ve had failures in life, mistakes, but I’ve also had great successes; two very successful careers, a beautiful, successful daughter, a wonderful supportive husband, a selection of close rewarding friendships, etc.
I practice the inner positive self talk with affirmation, I try very hard to love and forgive myself, I can physically see my successes, I continually tell those close to me how proud I am of them, how much I love them. I’m always working on my journey and stay mindful of being the best version of me, and continue to be a positive force to all those around me.
With all of that, I wonder if ‘I’m ‘ the crazy narcissist because I continually belittle and hate myself for questioning all of this and keeping all of the doubt, guilt, past, present, everything in the back of mind.
On the weekends when I could be out enjoying life and family (which I do) all I really want to do is lay around and do nothing. I sleep a lot on the weekends because I feel so exhausted all the time. Because of my never ending exhaustion I feel tremendous guilt with the I should be doing this or I should be doing that; why don’t you get up and do this or that.
I feel like a crazy exhausted person all the time. I know the things to do to make it better, I don’t have the energy to do it— eat better, get back to exercising, change up the routine after all if I continue to do what I’ve always done how can I expect different results. What is wrong with me.

Reply
Kat

Thanks for sharing CJ, reading your story and others story helps me. I need to figure some things out too.

Reply
Auswoman_33

Wise words Monika. For those beginning this journey, you can progress. It will get easier to put up those boundaries. You are not alone. We are right here.

Reply
Monika

To everyone attempting to leave a narcissistic mother/father/brother/sister I wish you good luck. Recognising that you WERE abused it’s a first step. You CAN’T fix narcissistic person, does not matter how “big” your heart is, how loving you are. You need to break away and heal yourself, save yourself, save your children. How can you treat your children self-love and self-respect when you allow them watching you being abused. Stand up for yourself. You are worth it. Narcissistic person will consume you, will take the best out of you, and they don’t care. They don’t love you, even when they said they did. Cross that bridge over, don’t look back. Leaving an abuser behind its an act of self love, self respect. You deserve to be loved and respected. Since I walked away from my narcissistic mother so much have changed in my life- for better of course. I have realised, I loved too much. I was naive that she will see my worth and will change. Now I’m protecting myself- it is essential to love yourself the hardest you can to heal that broken pieces inside you. Because it’s your parent or sibling does not matter they can treat you badly, repeating to hurt you, abuse you. Does not matter what kind of abuse is this, mental, emotional or physical, they have no rights to do this to you. Wishing you all strong will and self-respect. Stay strong.

Reply
Marie

I should kick myself in the rear. I have such a big heart I attempted to make contact again with my narcissistic mom and I got DEAD AIR! I am done with the madness and I wish her well!

Reply
Widowed Grandmama

You MIGHT have to address the possibility that it isn’t a “big heart” that makes you keep going back. You probably do have a big heart, but I think, personally, that isn’t what this is about. You want something from your mother. The more withholding she is, the more you want it and think you actually need it, though you do NOT need it: her non-existent love for you, and deep abiding love of herself. You keep going back, letting her in, because YOU want to do it. She can’t really be altogether fooling you that SHE wants you, even though the narcissist parent does want you badly, desperately, in order to feed herself on the harm she can only inflict on you if she can get close enough. How many times does her pretended need to be near you out of love and nature have to end in vileness for you to understand it will ALWAYS end that way, and what that means for you? You’ll reach the point eventually where you truly don’t want this anymore. Sooner would be so much better than later…

Reply
Widowed Grandmama

One other thing to Marie, if it is your mom who is avoiding YOU, not the other way around, she is probably not a narcissist. There may even be some hope, IMO. Your only task would be to make sure you haven’t done anything that she is hiding from or fearing. It can be a two-edged blade, this trouble of grown-up child vs. parent. If she responded to you with DEAD AIR, you can only await her contacting you when and if if she wants to, just to be sure there isn’t something in her life you haven’t thought of, at her current age, by this time, that she’s coping with the best she can. BUT IF SHE IS a narcissist in hot pursuit of you, OMG just do the stay-away as you suggest you intend to do, and let her alone.

Reply
Robin

I have felt so held back in life by my primary abusers, my mom and my cousin. But recently I realized that I am held back because I have made myself small and invisible because I do not want others to be jealous of me, threatened by me, don’t want to rock the boat. Has anyone on here healed from this type of thing? What perspectives, meditations, therapies, books helped?

Reply
Monika

Hi Robin, I have felt similar. I was treated badly and there was so much control form my mother and brothers and their beliefs were put on me. I have denied myself so much over the years. I have not even went on holidays for 10 years as my mother believed I can’t go because of the money situation I was in. It was always what my mum thinks about me what would she approve. Since cutting the ties with her and brothers, I went on holidays 3 times in a year. I treated myself to nice clothes, made better friendships( the friends who treated me badly/ignoring) fallen apart. I cleared my house of all clutter. I started to knowing myself better and I started allowing the joy entering my life. Now it’s what I WANT not what they want. Good luck Robin on your journey.

Reply
Anon a Mouse

The stories and feeling attached to this are so similar. I can’t believe I thought I was alone for so long.

Both of my parents were addicts, but they said it was just how it was in the 80’s. It seems that they both grew up in abusive homes, but no one was encouraged to speak out, so instead they acted out and turned to substances.

My mom and dad divorced when I was 9 leaving me and my brother to be raised by my father who had trouble coping with single parenthood and had problems with anger control and would get violent or really irrational while under the influence.

As I got older I wondered why my mom wasn’t around, she floated from one relationship to another. Needless to say I was a reasonably “rebellious” teenager. I just had no guidance and no self esteem so risky behavior and school counselors saying they needed to address any feelings or emotions I had usually just led to punishments for “acting out” but mostly for embarrassing them, or acting like they were bad parents.

I know they love me, but I feel like they wanted me to represent them as good parents more than they wanted to actively participate in parenting.

I got pregnant and immediately sought therapy which inevitably destroyed the unhealthy bonds I had formed with the father of my child because we had similar parents and promised we would “break the cycle”.

He was very emotionally manipulative and we weren’t really able to reconcile our past traumas while we were together. Leaving that relationship was scary because I knew I would have to ask my parents for help. Knowing my mom had three other children younger than me. One a few years younger than my child.

I didn’t want to need them, but had no other options, I was the only working parent, and had a mountain of debt with no money and no childcare help.

I find that my parents taught me to blame others as they blamed each other for my emotional or financial problems. I just decided if my child’s father wasn’t going to be there, and no one else was there. I had no choice but to figure out how to overcome this. Not just for myself, but for my teenage child.

Boundaries, emotional honesty and loving people for who they are, without allowing them to diminish your value has taken me a decade to realize.

I just want to make sure I don’t raise a child who feels alone. Having healthy relationships is difficult for me because I don’t want to tell people anything about my life. But I don’t want to hide my personal truth, or the journey I’ve been on.

My parents get bummed out when I share anything personal that could make them look bad. My siblings have learned how to manipulate them and get what they want by appealing to my parents. I’m the “bad one” and the “mean one” the one who hates her family.

But I think the worst part is that I still love them. But maybe I just love the idea of a warm and loving family. I know they aren’t evil, terrible people. But I felt like I spent most of my childhood parenting them.

I know the lifelong repercussions of parents who don’t put their child’s needs first. But self care isn’t self medicating. I feel a lot of pressure to be a good mom, but I think just being loving and supportive of my child’s emotional needs and being open minded and admitting when I’m wrong when I am are the most important and difficult lessons I’ve had to learn.

I love the heck out of my kid, and I didn’t realize how hard it is to love like that knowing you never and may never receive that same type of love from another human. I would do anything, to assure this person knows their worth, feels respected, and isn’t vulnerable.

We recently moved into our own place and finally got to see what life is like without all of the other family members in the mix. I’m so happy to have come across this article and read all of these comments. Thank you for sharing. Thanks for affirming, I’m not alone and the distance is healthy, so I can remind myself not to keep repeating those patterns. <3

Reply
Magen

I have been living in a dysfunctional family and now I am a young adult but the pain from being with them still lingering on myself. They never abuse me physically but their distant behavior, anger, and hurtful words when they explode their anger just never leave my mind and heart. Every time life brings me down, all this painful experiences are just coming to the surface bringing me even lower to the bottom of my life.

My parents are apparently not my biological parents. During my growing up, I live with my grandmother. My grandmother always says that because she needs a company that’s why she takes me in her care. I love her more than everyone in my family. But my parents’ absence during 2 decades of my life still hurt me the most. They never call me by phone. They never really care about me. Never even they try to act sweet or express their love like how parents have to be. I know they also behave that way to my brothers who are their biological children. But this distant behavior left an emotional scar that never heals. Even after I grow up and know the truth, they never try to have a talk with me. They don’t hate me, but they are really not like normal parents.

Their behavior has left me feeling alone, empty, and incomplete as an individual. I struggled during my years to be a young adult. now I live with my aunt. She is actually a sweet person but she’s very bad at managing her anger and emotion. Every time she gets angry for even the smallest things or mistakes, her words will be like knifes piercing into my skin. I am not an aggressive person, I am a very quiet person, so every time she explodes I just take it all to myself and never attacks back. Many times I want to do suicide and just leave the world because I’m not even sure anymore if I can bear anymore pain. Even now… I still wish that I have enough courage to just kill myself.

Reply
Ellie

Hi everyone.
I discovered I was the daughter of abusive parents about 2 years ago now. I remember the exact moment it happened.
I was reading something online and someone was saying something to someone about how their wife was behaving in such a manner. Someone responded to him and said he should look up the term “Gas Lighting.” Because I am always curious about things, I did the same. I was beyond devastated at what I discovered in articles when relating to parents who gas light their children.
Upon reading some of the replies to this article I think some of you should perhaps look it up yourselves, as you don’t seem to be aware you may be in a similar situation.
I have been at the hands of a gas lighting parent for all my years. When I first discovered it, I think the only term I can express is grief. I went through a grieving process. I was brought up to think family is everything, and my family is quite small.
I have a father who although was physically abusive, actually didn’t seem to have done anywhere near the damage to me as what my emotionally abusive mother has done.
I was sexually abused as a child and several years ago during a visit, I told my mother. Her response was : “What? It was X? I knew something was happening to you because you had the signs. (She was a teacher, she knew what to look for in children.) But I just thought it was your dad.”
She was always beating me and screaming and shouting at me, including insulting me because i’m blind in 1 eye, making me extremely self conscious about that eye by the way. Simply because she was always jealous of the time I spent with my dad. Until that day I never knew why. I also suffered a kidnapping attempt at 16. I’m a girl.

I have been in all different therapies, I see all types of therapists from psychologists psychotherapists, psychiatrists. I actually found out I have PTSD from the things I suffered.
My father was a physically abusive alcoholic. I witnessed him beating my mother quite severely once, apparently the only time it happened. But stumbling upon your beloved parents with one standing over the other a bloodied mess when you are a toddler leaves anyone scarred. My dad has repeatedly closed fisted punched me. My mother however.. She has played with my mind so much there were times I didn’t know what was real and what was fake. I didn’t know the difference between what I made up myself or what was real because I was so confused. It’s part of the gas lighting process to mess you up so much you don’t know your own reality.
Oh sure, she emotionally blackmailed.. The worst is that she knows she is doing it too. Her trademark “I’m going to make X pay for that, i’m going to say X and make them feel X” She would revel in someone’s misery and feel good about herself when my father would go to bed early feeling bad.
I understand now why my dad resorted to alcoholism if that’s what he had to put up with.
It has taken me literally 14 years to finally begin to mature, be aware from my parents and only now. Only now am I finally putting up strong boundries and severing the connection to them. I am so proud of myself.
I have limited connection to my mother to only a single and sole email address I check very infrequently. Otherwise she will hound me.
4 years ago I began having seizures. My doctor told me stress was causing them after I was in hospital for over a week having them every day non-stop for 6 days, every 20 minutes. Then they told me if I didn’t sort myself out, stress would kill me. My seizures are purely non-epileptic and just caused because my body and brain can no longer tolerate the stress my parents put me under.

I actually thought my mental health issues stemmed from everything but my mother, until i was in therapy and found out the way BOTH my parents treated me has caused more damage to me than anything else that has happened to me. It’s truely shocking how much damage, long lasting and sustaining the damage can be that parents can inflict without people knowing. On the outside, she was nice and an ok Parent.. But behind closed doors, she was worse than the devil.

It can be very, very hard to find out you’re the victim of abusive parents too.. But it is worth finding out just so you can get the help needed to be able to move on. I am glad i found out the things i did so that enabled me to ask my doctor and therapists the right questions and tell them the right things they needed to know.
Although it’s also horrifying, i’m kind of glad i’m not alone. For a long time i felt like i was alone in being someone the victim of abusive parents. You only ever see people say “Oh they’re your parents! You can’t just leave them!” Or “They’re your parents, they love you!”
Nobody ever talks about when those parents don’t love you the right way.

Reply
JD

This comment resonated with me very deeply. I am very sorry for your trauma, and I share some of it. My dad was the “obvious” bad one since he cheated on my mom, but it wasn’t until I was old that I realized my mother caused far more damage, with her constant emotional abuse. She has tormented me for over 40 years.

Reply
Widowed Grandmama

I never found it one bit hard to know I was the daughter of an abusive parent. After around age 10, I think it was, I realized I wasn’t a dirty, ugly offgrowth of a weird insane terrifying woman with no resemblance to any other parent I knew, and that I was was being abused at all times, in all ways, whether or not she happened to be beating me with daddy’s leather extra belt at the moment, or pinching me, or slapping me loudly across the face in public, or what, it was ALL violence, ALL wrong.

Gas-lighting, LOL. She was still pulling that on me when I was 50+, or she THOUGHT she was. She succeeded only in keeping my crippling rage white-hot. If she could have known how horribly affected I really was she’d have fainted from ecstasy.

Reply
Claire S

Hi, I just wanted to thank you for this article. My dad has been emotionally and physically abusing me all my life. He forced me to go into the military; I am now out because I suffer from PTSD due to his treatment towards me. He’s cut me off now, I’m in college, and says that I need to come home because he is not paying for anything. He’s never told he loved me unless it was to manipulate me. For so long I felt as though I was being crucified to gain someone’s love and protection. Getting space and going to therapy helped me solidify that, that is not love but manipulation and control. I know that was a lot and there is so much more of this story that I am still trying to process. Anyway, again thank you for this.

Reply
JW

I get up everyday and my prayer to the Lord is so simple…’Lord, dont let me hurt anyone today. Set a guard upon my lips.’ We have to let the pain go and change ourselves. Changing a toxic parent or friend is impossible, no point in even trying their conscience has been seared. I have 49 yrs of experience with multiple family members that are very toxic

Reply
Emma

thank you for a great article, i have been living in denial of the toxic relationship that i have , as i look back i have been hurt so much i have cried thousand times , i have done all the things she wants she gets happy for that moment then its forgotten and i am thinking to myself till when, i have been blamed for all the things she did not achieve because of the sacrifices she did for me, the school fees that was paid for me its too much , if ever i say no to something the emotionally blackmail that follows it its unbearable., i am married now but she still treats me like a child, i have to report my plans, i am still being told i have to learn educate myself at first i thought this was out of love,i am actually thankful to have admitted that this is toxic and i think i am healing now i have been that person who opted to talking to my diary from the early age of 13years and this honestly has affected me i can not be open to people who care about me, my friends and my husband i prefer talking to my diary, i want to be a loving woman to myself ,my husband and to my friends i am scared i might grow old and adapt this toxic behavior.

Reply
Amy

My mom always gets mad at the littlest things. I developed anxiety because of this. Whenever she would come home from work, i would run around the house making sure everything is tidy and nothings going to make her tick off. But a lot of the time she was still able to find something to get mad at. Im a teenager and i desperately need to heal…

Reply
Kuro

But I dont want to be hurt I dont get it…what force field? how do I protect myself??/

Reply
Debra

I had a physically, verbally and emotionally abusive mother. However, she was just the opposite to my sister. Warm, loving and kind. Why? Because my skin is darker. My sister and I have the same mother and father. I am the eldest and they married before I was conceived. My father was the buffer between my mother and myself, but they divorced when I was 13. I’m sure my mother’s behavior was the reason for the divorce as she also verbally abused my father. By the time I was 15, her abuse was even worse so that I asked my father to live with him. He had not remarried, but had a girlfriend with children of her own, and believe it or not, she was so kind to me that I often wished she was my Mom.

My mother’s verbal abuse never stopped and over 20 more years, I would contact, end contact, then renew contact hoping her attitude would improve, which it did, briefly, then she would renew the abuse, except physically when I stood up to her at age 22 as she was about to hit me, and yelled at her that I was an adult, the same size as her, and she had better not ever put her hands on me again. She didn’t. I finally had enough when in my mid-30’s, she accused me of having a sexual relationship with my f ather, which was not true. She said that so she would have an excuse for her abusive behavior and the reason I went to live with him at age 15.

For me, that was the last and final straw. I cut off all contact and never spoke to her again. In my 40’s, my sister was in the hospital for minor surgery. When I called, my mother was with her and asked, through my sister, to speak to me. My response was a flat no. My sister then said ” I understand.”. My sister had been a witness to all of my mother’s abuse. Sometimes she stood up for me, sometimes not.

I never spoke to my mother again after her last verbal abuse. I never missed her, I didn’t go to her funeral, didn’t mourn her, and have no regrets. In fact, the freedom and peace I experienced after severing ties with her in my 30’s could almost be described as overwhelming.

I am now 62, have a good, happy and fulfilled life for which I am so grateful. Would I have my peaceful and happy life now had I remained in contact with my mother? I have no idea. But if the opportunity to find out presented itself, I would immediately reject it. What I have now is too precious to take chances with.

Reply
Jess

I love the “no is a complete sentence”. That is going to be my new mantra!

I need to remember it as, quite frankly, I’m a bit like a performing monkey. He does or says something and my mind whirs into constant thinking and I start defending and explaining and rationalising – like I’ve just been wound up and let go to perform. Like on of those old wind up children’s toys where you turn the key and the monkey starts clapping cymbals or turning round etc until it runs down. I can see the funny side but ther is definitely a more serious not so funny side.

Thanks so much for the replies, it means a lot.

Reply
Auswoman_33

You’re welcome Jess. And the wind up monkey, I can relate. The rationalising, justifying, that’s trauma speaking… I see a psych who has helped me work through all of this xxx

Reply
Monika

Hi Jess, I called myself a puppet on the strings, where my mother would pull the strings and I dance to her music and wishes… funny and sad, I also have been feeling like this. I also need to learn how to stop the guilt (I have been raised as a “good” daughter and I was not allowed to stand up to my mother) so when I stopped the contact year ago it still makes me doubt myself and my choice. But I also know how much my life had changed for better.

Reply
Tina

Hey, Monika.

I think I am as same as you. I love my mother. But she wants things to be done her way and I can’t standup for myself. Everytime I do it, she couldnt accept it even if im right.

She also being manipulative towards me like asking me to be transparent towards her and tell her everything. And when I did, she’ll use it to point it out when I did a mistake. Even the things/mistake that I have done before is already settled (like there is no need to talk about it anymore), she’ll bring it up agaib and shouting it at me.

Sometimes, when she calls me, like as if she hates me. She yells at me during calling like in anger.

Reply
Ann

Wow! Reading all these comments makes me realise I am not alone. I’m 46, an only child and today my mum and I had a huge fight…she tends to speak on behalf of my dad so whenever something is organised, it changes. I can’t do anything right. She whinges to me about things and then wonders why I don’t want to be around her as she is negative and I was becoming the same.
She’s never apologised for getting things wrong or ever really praised me. She just picks out the negatives…even criticising her only grandson who is the most loving, caring teenaher I could ever wish for. She thinks she knows everything and when tou tell her otherwise, she can be condescending. She seems to get jealous if my husband and I spend time with friends but when we offer to do a big family thing, she says it’s too hot, cold, etc.
Nothing we do is ever good enough. I finally realised, I’m better off not having any contact with her….she will never see she did wrong…even when they witnessed her screaming at me she never wants me to call her again or that I am her daughter. She will now take it put on them too….she is irrational and my parents seem to be worse ever winter…with each other and us.
I can’t live like this anymore…I refuse to feel worthless and like I’m a kid wanting her to just be a mum and not judge me. They are not going to ruin my marriage or me. I won’t allow it anymore.

Reply
Erica

This article was meant for me to read! I am 40 years old and I am graduating with my first Masters degree in just two months. Also, I am getting married for the first time in three months!
I have been planning my wedding for the past three months and my father just dropped the ball on us and he is not paying for our wedding. He blocked my phone number and I feel like he threw me in a pit. I have an eight year old daughter of whom is his grand daughter. He is not wanting to see her either. The last time I spoke to him he was calling my daughter and I obese. Thank god she did not hear. I need to lose maybe 30 pounds. But the weight issue comes up every time I see him. He compares me to his Vietnamese future wife and how she is a size zero.
There is so much more. I realize after reading this article that my father is abusive. I have always known but I continued to stay as I tried the force field of positivity when I did see him. This was so exhausting and he always found a way in.
I am now finally cutting ties or amputating him according to the article. With him messing around and playing games with my graduation and wedding, I have finally had enough! I am so much better than what he perceives of me, what he gossips to others about me.
I am now believing he is doing me favor by blocking my phone number.
There is so much more. I am just now coming out of the dark and this article really helped. I am so thankful to have come across it.

Reply
Jess

I just want to put how I’m feeling out there to get it off my chest!

I thought I was doing so well and actually getting my life on track albeit decades after I should have. I thought , too, that I was managing the relationship with my narcissistic parent. I felt grown up and happy…

…then he contacted to say he wanted to visit to drop a gift off (he won’t contemplate alternative meeting arrangements)…

And now I’ve lost all the good feelings over this little thing. I can’t face him being in my house. This is my sanctuary and where I’ve worked on getting myself better. I know it’s maybe overreacting but I’m in a real state. Gone is all the self care I’ve been doing to be replaced by being unable to get anything done. I had plans for the next week and now all I can think of is how I am going to,be able to protect myself on the visit. I can’t even lose myself in a book or tv I am so scared and anxious.

Thanks for listening!

Reply
Auswoman_33

Hi Jess,
Wow, I can’t believe this but I am now so much further down the track, I can help others. Amazing.
YOU have the right to say no. Boundaries. You can say you’re not available. You can say no, let’s meet at a cafe. You can say I’m busy. Whatever message you can come up with and stick to.
You don’t deserve to feel this way. The only way to stop this behaviour is to put up a strict boundary. My mum was EXACTLY the same. And I just kept saying no, I’m not available etc. Now she doesn’t drop in, and I don’t get phone calls, only emails which I filter to another inbox. it’s still difficult when I see her occasionally but it’s all on my terms xxx sending you love

Reply
Jess

Thanks. Those are the techniques I’ve been employing with what I thought was great success which is why I was feeling so good! It really was great having the boundaries.

I guess he has just got wise to it and this time is so determined that it will be his way. He is away this week and I had a nice week planned but his last message was so forceful that he will see me next week, whatever, that I have totally lost the plot (while he is away having a great time!) . The stress of it means I can’t concentrate and wake up upset.

I am angry at myself for not being able to keep the boundaries up and for letting him upset my life once again. It would probably have been better to have just seen him last week and got it over with – by trying to protect myself I seem to have made it so much worse.

I need a strategy to cope with seeing him but every time I try to think of one the panic of all he will say just paralyses me. I’m losing yet more of my life which makes me feel such a failure.

Well done you on setting boundaries your mother will stick to. I know how hard it was for you too from your previous posts. I guess I’m feeling worse this time because I had a taste of the relief that came with a year of boundaries that worked!

Reply
Auswoman_33

Hey Jess
Honestly, I still get super anxious when I see my mum, well I was, but every time now it is not quite as bad. I agree sometimes by avoiding them we make it worse. I was moving towards no contact but now I’m sticking with having a civil connection.
A few things that help me are remembering that the way it makes me feel is what I let it (easier said than done) but I try to deal with whatever comes up and then move on and then catch myself if I start obsessively thinking about whatever it was. I.e. if my mum calls me or emails me, I will catch myself thinking about it a lot for a period of time. If I’ve said no or ignored the communication, then I am just trying to build the muscle to respond and then move on.
Your dad doesn’t have the right to invade your personal space. They do catch onto these things. My mum sends me a lot of emails. They will just try to weasel their way in however they can. Remember your feelings are the most important thing. And ‘no’ is a complete sentence.

Reply
EJ

Only when I started recently talking to my partner about some of this did I realise how bad my relationship with my father was. He died when I was 26 and we were in mid argument and I always felt this unresolved thing lingering in my mind, and the idea that I was incompetent and useless. As a kid I thought it was funny and would joke with my friends about it but looking back its not funny at all. Heres a few things. He would not let me make my own lunch or breakfast until I was 17 and even until I moved out at 18 he would get my breakfast bowl, milk etc out of the pantry ready. If i tricked him by eating toast or getting up late or early he would fly off the handle. Once on Christmas day when i was 25 I crashed my motorbike outside my house and I dragged it off the road alone. He then walked out of the house, told me I was an idiot who had bought a motorbike they couldnt handle and walked back inside. I had never crashed it before, and he didnt ask if I was ok, didnt help me clean up oil and piece it back together. Never apologised! He once flew into a rage because i couldnt eat dinner the night after having 4 teeth removed, he said i was trying to spite him by not eating the meal he cooked (he was an ex chef). He was never like this to my brother. Oh well, life moves on and I am healing 🙂

Reply
kumari

Your dad sounds like my dad. I also didn’t think i was “abused.” My older brother said, “no way!” Because we weren’t hit or burned or sexually molested. The put downs were constant, demeaning, mean-spirited. The comparisons to others were nasty and unrelenting. He never called to see how i was doing and essentially ghosted me when my son was born 31 years ago. He called 2 days ago. He wants money. My older brother confirms dad is now destitute. Ugh! I hate this

Reply
Shay

Hello,
Thank you for having this community. I came upon this as I was searching for toxic parent relationships. My entire life I thought it was only me, but I can see that this is not something that is openly talked about or addressed. I am inspired to see there are blogs and support groups for these types of life events as they also impact adulthood.
Oldest of two children, I had a brother that was like god to my mom. My brother and I always got along. My mom always treated me differently. Never came to any school events and often yelled at me for the smallest things, accidentally spilling something or breaking a dish ware. She complained to family members in case I said something she didn’t like or if she was wrong. Luckily, my father was my guardian angel. He protected me and loved me like no other. He treated both myself and my brother with respect and ultimately created a friendship among us. I lost my father a few months ago and everything changed. My world turned upside down. My birthday was a few months ago and other than a phone call from my mom, nothing. I didnt expect a gift at my age but a simple gesture of having dinner would have been nice. I asked my mom the other day, why did/does she treat me differently than my brother? Her response was because back in the day girls and boys were treated differently. But why continue to treat me like that after all these years? If I have a daughter in the future, will she treat her like that? The conversation ended after that and all I can think of is, because I am a girl. I am very blessed to have a supportive husband, but I wish I had a childhood where my mother was as loving and comforting as the other moms I see. I know she gave birth to me and is the only mom I have, but it is truly hard for me to let everything go based on what I have experienced as a child and growing up. I often feel I have no one and I am all alone in this big world.

Reply
Bea

Sometimes the healthiest thing to do is cut ties and move forward with your life. You do not owe your mother anything. AT ALL. You sound like a kind and caring woman, and I’m so sorry your mom didn’t give you the love you needed and absolutely deserved. I know exactly how you feel, and it’s extremely painful and damaging. I came to realize my mother is a deeply unhappy person, and although I am now able to feel compassion and pity for her, it took a long time. Boundaries are so important, don’t be afraid to implement them. Protecting yourself and your heart is crucial for your mental and physical well-being. So glad you found a loving partner in life, look to him when you feel alone or unlovable. And I’m terribly sorry you lost your Dad, sweetie. He sounds like he was a great man. Happy belated birthday sweet girl. You are loved.

Reply
K

Hello and thank you for the great article!
I am in desperate need of advice.
I have established that my mother is toxic. She manipulates me, is disrespectful, and completely self centered most of the time.
I am a very understanding and patient person, but I have been putting up with this for my whole life and I’m just tired of being anxious all of the time.
We had lived in the same town as each other for our whole lives, and I just recently moved out of the state with my husband, as I graduated college and got a job – so I have some distance between us, but she continuously demands that she is going to come stay with me, and my husband and I barely have our feet on the ground in this new place yet.
I love my mom and I don’t necessarily want to cut off contact with her, but I am at a loss. I finally decided to have an adult conversation with her. I told her that I feel that she doesn’t respect me, my boundaries, or my wishes, and that she tried to manipulate me – I then gave an example to her. I thought that this might help, but she just got incredibly mad at me ( like a child throwing a fit type of mad) and told me she didn’t want to talk to me or see me for a while.
Now she has started talking to me again and it’s all starting over.
I love her and I want her in my life, but I am so worn out.
I also want to say that I am incredibly respectful to her, and I always let her talk when she is having a bad day etc. I am a good daughter to her, and I think I deserve more respect then she is giving me.
Just typing that all out made me feel a little bit better.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated, and again – thanks for the great article!

Reply
Penny

K Please read Susan Forward’s book Toxic Parents Overcoming their……
You are very young and this is the start of your adult relationship with a toxic parent, please try to leave this relationship before she dominates your adult life as well. When you confronted her she punished you by removing herself and hurting you, this will get worse maybe to the point that all your decisions will taken with her reactions in mind instead of what is best for you. Start by NOT letting her stay in your home or hers on visits. Book or pay for accomodation nearby. Dont discuss decisions you and your husband are making. Make sure some holidays are parent free, but PLEASE read the book and see what has happened and try to change the future.

Reply
s

Hi, K. Just thought my comment could help you a little bit.

This resonated with me: “I told her that I feel that she doesn’t respect me, my boundaries, or my wishes, and that she tried to manipulate me – I then gave an example to her. I thought that this might help, but she just got incredibly mad at me ( like a child throwing a fit type of mad) and told me she didn’t want to talk to me or see me for a while.”

From what I’ve learnt in therapy, when parents are narcissistic, there’s no use on trying to talk to them reasonably – they won’t listen and try to turn it around and say you are the problem. I gave up trying to change my father, who is just like your mother. Also, like you just said, I also learnt parents like this act just like little kids – so we should treat them like children, too.

Reply
Sandra

I agree, in fact it took me 40 years to understand that my now 70 year old mother acted like a teenager all her life…and still does. It is difficult to grasp that this level of immaturity is even possible in a reasonably intelligent human.

Reply
Donna

Yes I have an immature mother who is always putting me down, she tells me when I visit her that I’m not a good mother, tells me she only moved 18hours away from me because she had to help me for 3 years with my first child because I was unlucky to have met the wrong man. My nan did everything for my mum, took me weekends, on holidays, my mum only had 1 child “me”.
We have a horrible relationship, she tells people in front of me, that when I call, she puts the phone on the bench and just says yes here and there and I doesn’t listen to me…
I left home at 19, couldn’t wait to leave, had emotional abuse as long as I could remember.
I had my first son at 20, I’m 40 now, met an amazing man when my son was 18 months old, loved him everyday for the past 18 years, have 3 more amazing children. I visit my mother once every year or 2 and she won’t cook for me without being negative, she won’t babysit so I can have a rest, she tells me I’m no mother, it’s ironic because I’m a wonderful mother, my children adore me, even my 19yr old son tells me often how lucky he is to have me as his mum. I see my mum projecting her crap on me like, she’s certainly not a loving or devoted grandmother… I’m reading this blog to gain insight on whether I should cut ties with her… And I relate well to the comments… It’s so sad but immaturity seems to be the common factor. ?

Reply
Ahuva

Hi! What you wrote really resonated with my situation…very similar.

I’m sending you positive vibes, much love, and prayers for a sweet life!!

My mother also acts like that. I read an amazing book on Amazon called “5 Types of People who can ruin your life” by Bill Eddy.

I recommend it to *EVERYONE*. It was so healing, validating and helpful to me.

I hope it helps you too. You are a wonderful Mother, and probably an even kinder and more sensitive mother than other people who didn’t have your type of mother… cause you know how it feels to be hurt.

That’s the way I try to look at it…taking the negative expirence of my mother and making it useful in a positive way.

Much love and prayers for a beautiful life to you all!!

Reply
TZyg

There is a book about toxic parents that helped me a great deal. Toxic Parents : Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward and Craig Buck (2002, Paperback)

It was very helpful. It had exercises to help you work through the hurt. It also helped to work through setting boundaries and sticking to it. Wishing you the best. Stand strong.

Reply
Sandra

I’d like to know how some of you are coping with not having been loved or wanted by their parents and especially mothers. I have moved 10,000km’s away from a toxic mother who basically only didn’t abort me because I was a cash cow (biological dad had money and they only had a brief extramarital affair so I hardly knew him). My dad didn’t want me either because he already had a family and only had affairs with other women, in fact he insisted on a paternity test for me and I saw him maybe 5 times in my life. I grew up in a dysfunctional household with an absentee mother and her alcoholic boyfriend. The worst for me was being left alone at home for days on end without food or any other humans around. I am coping fairly well but have huge regrets, such as not having a good education and career (I developed panic attacks in high school due to my upbringing and had no support or mentorship to achieve anything), and the fact that I had to move to a different country far away from my toxic mother and brother and don’t have a family of my own. Also, it depresses me that it seems I was just used as a pawn, for money or other gains by both my mother and my brother. One piece of advice to anyone struggling is that do not expect any apologies. They often do not come with narcissists and once you stop expecting it/them, you personally feel like a large weight has lifted. Now, I simply don’t care about my mother at all. But as I spelled out above, I do struggle with having been unloved and used and I often have flashbacks.

Reply
Ana

I just wanted to send you so much love and positive vibes. Please know your worth, don’t let people and circumstances in your life define you. You are just amazing?

Reply
Paul the otherone

I have a mother who neglected us. I was always the parent to her. As a child I was in care, firstly with her mum and brother who sexually abused us. When I told my mum about this she said that she was sorry for what I went through but continued to invite her brother to family functions. I just cut myself off as an adult and my children never had a meaningful relationship with their nan. In 2013 my brother died unexpectedly, I requested that our abused never came to the funeral. He did. The morning after I reported him to the police. Some 46 years later he was sentenced for the child abuse. My mother’s family genuinely believe that I acted maliciously in reporting my uncle. He got 14 years I have not seen my mum in 5 years, it is was a one-sided relationship anyway and occasionally I feel empty for the love that I do not have, but mostly I feel free.

Reply
Freida

I am glad you reported your uncle. He had the chance to not attend the funeral and he did anyway.
Really, sounds like they were more ashamed that this was brought to light at a funeral. I say more power to you. You told the truth and now everyone knows.
I have a family who did not protect me against emotional and verbal abuses by my older sibling and my father. I simply stopped attending those events. My mother is now very old and sickly. She has rewritten history as if she was the greatest parent ever. She was not. I keep my distance and am speaking with her less and less as the conversations are so demoralizing.
Yes – you missed out on something good that should have been there.
But believe me if you go back it will be worse and more of the same punishment from your mother. When she is old she will expect you to care for her. Care for a woman who turned a blind eye to childhood abuse? You will be more unhappy than ever, believe me. Don’t go back. I have a father also (parents divorced) who was never very nice to me. Mean is more like it. He has plenty of money and I will not be caring for him in his old age. The type of parent that never gets behind their child never really changes. Don’t go back for more punishment.
I too regret that I did not have a better situation, but I also recognize that by even exposing myself to these people who continually treat me as a sub human I am hurt more each time I am exposed to them.
It may be weakness or a character flaw in your mother’s part.
But look at yourself in the mirror. Can you honestly say you have the psychological stamina to subject yourself to this again?
You are brave for keeping your children away from her too. It is not an ideal situation, but try to make your own life and that of your children as happy as possible.
There are other older adults – teachers, community members, neighbors, who are very compassionate. Chose caring and supportive people to be around you and your kids. Sounds like your mom does not have it in her. Just because she gave birth to you does not mean she is able to show love and care for you.
You are free. Just go!

Reply
Karen

you are worthy of love and care! You were put here to thrive and bloom. Know that – and let it be your strength! The past does not have to dictate the future. Believe that you are able and capable. I have similar struggles, but I have made my first steps toward self-fulfillment, and it feels great!

Reply
Sara S

I hear you! My mother got pregnant by a college professor, 44 years her senior! She forced him to divorce his first wife and marry her. After he died, she got S.S. checks because of having me in tow. Before my natural father’s body was even cold, she got another stupid, egotistical man, a fellow teacher, to divorce his wife and marry her. Back then in the ’60’s one could draw S.S. checks and be married. I still carry the physical scars of being burned. Evidently, there was no C.P.S. back then even though I had been hospitalized for the burns. We never bonded, and she did her best to brain-wash me with all sorts of preposterous lies, while the rest of my relatives stayed silent. I don’t know if I will ever be whole, my current opinion is no. It is a horror indescribable what some people are capable of. I wish you peace, joy, and blessings.

Reply
sunny p

i have tears as i was reading your post. big hugs to you…i also had to do NC with my toxic mom who verbally, emotionally, and fiscally abused me my entire life. she was very careful with her words with her sons and DIL and everyone else, except me. i gave her pretty much all my $ when i was working before marriage. i stopped working when i had my first child, but she kept demanding more and more $ claiming my husband’s $ are all mine. it was never going to satisfy her. i did what i had to do to protect myself and family since i am married with 2 young kids. at first i was angry at God, but i came to understand God allowed this happen to me so i can break the cycle and can help others in similar situations. I wish i had a mom who unconditionally loved me for who i was, i can now only ask God.. Sandra, seek God so you can experience the kind of love you deserve. you are in my prayers.

Reply
Vikram

I completely understand how you feel. I have been neglected and emotionally abused by my mother for so long and even to this day when I am 36 years old and have a family of my own, my mother has the power to put me down. Took me a while to understand that no matter what I do, I will always be hated by her. I am slowly trying to pull myself away from her and trying to concentrate on my kids. I have no doubt I won’t be a bad parent like my mother. I do have regrets and sometimes doubt the way I think….but for the sake of my mental health and for the well being of my kids, I think I have to take this decision. Thank you for sharing your story. I am sending positive vibes and a whole lot of love your way.

Reply
kat

Hi
Im same boat same age i have kids second marriage and all she does is remind me how unsuccessful i am. I am jobless and she reminds me.
I hate living with her but i got no choice

Reply
Am

Hey love. Better things will come to you. You’ll be in my prayers. You need to know how strong you are. Sending loving and healing vibes.

Reply
Monah

Thanks for this message it has helped me . My mother was so toxic to me and still is .

Reply
Meghan

Hello to you and sending love your way!

I found your story from researching to try and find something that might help my husband. The similarities from your upbringing and his are uncanny. He has become increasingly more aggressive and angry and through many failed attempts of trying to show him how much he has changed and how hurt he truly is, he refuses to see his actions aren’t normal. He hasn’t always been an angry person. We grew up together and he was sweet and kind, we have been together for years now and on and off again in high school but during school his toxic mother put him through things that even now, he struggles to talk about. It was like a light switch turned on one day and he was different. Angry and projected his rage on me and anyone else that was near. We parted ways for 4 years and ultimately our paths crossed again. My sweet and kind hearted version was standing at my door, apologizing for the past and proving to me that he was just going through a bad time in life. I caved and fell right back into his arms. Now, we’re married and have a baby boy that I ultimately owns my heart, of course. My husband is worse than I have ever imagined possible. He pushes everyone away from him that he can, Works constantly and compares our life with what others have. I don’t know how to help him anymore. It’s to the point where I am afraid to talk to him because his temper is unpredictable. I’m not afraid of him in a physical way, but I am always scared of setting him off. I would love some advice if you think there is something else I can do to help him ease the hurt and anger. He hasn’t forgiven her, and holds grudges like a champion. He doesn’t have empathy for anyone else other than me and our son… how can I help him see the world the way I do. How can I help heal his hurt?

Reply
Joy

I am sorry you had to go through that. You deserved to be loved and cherished. You still deserve that love and value. Try to do that for yourself. If you regret not furthering your education, see if there is some way to take a course. It can be small and incremental. My aunt did not start working on her education until she was in her 50s. It took her 10 years, but she did it for herself. You have value.

Reply
jo

Same. My problem is, like the article warns, you may seek a partner with some or all of the same qualities to try to get closure. That’s exactly what I’ve done. For survival I have changed my mindset from a victin stuck in a miserable marriage to choosing to be here and living with as much love and kindness as I can muster. I’m not the broken one…..

Reply
Esther

OMG
How horrible! I am so sorry for you.
Although I had parents.. .since they were narcistic and self-absorbed, selfish people, I had no one to “care” for me either.
I did have food and water, so like an animal – I was “taken care of” but the idea of love, was always so far fetched. Even though they used the word, I was very confused (still) on it’s meaning)
Take care of yourself.. and treat yourself well, and find a friend, then more friends… and create your own “family”
Do the best you can for yourself.. Because no one else will.
Be strong, you can do it. and live your BEST life, that is the Best revenge,

Reply
Arvin

I really understand what that means, my parents also keep talking about how every parents in the world are loving their children and they love me care about me,etc those bullshts but i never understand what they mean by that yes i also have food and water like animal but since i was in middle school they never hear my problems or anything and they always do what they want and they never respect my boundaries like what this article said they always thinks im stupid they never supported my idea they even try many ways to prove that im fail with my ideas, when im down or my job isnt going well they gonna said more bad things like im a failure im stupid my ideas never gonna work. When i got no friend or left friends who doesnt respect and loves me they said im a trouble kid, i cant blend with society and im always in the wrong they didnt even try to hear me out or asking what the problem is they just judged me straight away they even think i got mental issues, i never feel like i have a parent that loves me i just feel like i have an “caretaker” who feed me everyday. Now im 22 and im saving money to buy a small apartment or rent a house to stay away from my toxic parents.

Reply
Galadriel

Thank you for everyone who posted and commented on this thread. I am 41 and just recently cut off every contact with my parents. I am very lucky to have a family on my own, a loving extended family and a large network of friends. All these people made me realize I had the strength to make the cut. Both my parents had very dysfunctional families and I feel sorry for them, but it’s not up to me to heal them or tolerate their abuse anymore. In the last message my mother sent me (before I blocked her phone number) she told me I hate them because I was born with psychological problems. The last time I saw them, my 7 year old daughter was feeling something was wrong, when my mum was abusing me in my native language (which I deliberately didn’t teach my children), and that’s when I realized it’s not just me anymore, my children need to be safeguarded and the cycle must be broken. I have never felt better. Thank you for sharing everyone, it’s good to know we are not alone in this ❤️

Reply
Kim C

thats me too except I have a family and as hard as I tried I was damaged. trying to be better without tools. tears. I still throw myself at my mother and brother looking for love hoping for change but both narcissistic care less for me. I wish I could hug you.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

When things feel hard or the world feels big, children will be looking to their important adults for signs of safety. They will be asking, ‘Do you think I'm safe?' 'Do you think I can do this?' With everything in us, we have to send the message, ‘Yes! Yes love, this is hard and you are safe. You can do hard things.'

Even if we believe they are up to the challenge, it can be difficult to communicate this with absolute confidence. We love them, and when they're distressed, we're going to feel it. Inadvertently, we can align with their fear and send signals of danger, especially through nonverbals. 

What they need is for us to align with their 'brave' - that part of them that wants to do hard things and has the courage to do them. It might be small but it will be there. Like a muscle, courage strengthens with use - little by little, but the potential is always there.

First, let them feel you inside their world, not outside of it. This lets their anxious brain know that support is here - that you see what they see and you get it. This happens through validation. It doesn't mean you agree. It means that you see what they see, and feel what they feel. Meet the intensity of their emotion, so they can feel you with them. It can come off as insincere if your nonverbals are overly calm in the face of their distress. (Think a zen-like low, monotone voice and neutral face - both can be read as threat by an anxious brain). Try:

'This is big for you isn't it!' 
'It's awful having to do things you haven't done before. What you are feeling makes so much sense. I'd feel the same!

Once they really feel you there with them, then they can trust what comes next, which is your felt belief that they will be safe, and that they can do hard things. 

Even if things don't go to plan, you know they will cope. This can be hard, especially because it is so easy to 'catch' their anxiety. When it feels like anxiety is drawing you both in, take a moment, breathe, and ask, 'Do I believe in them, or their anxiety?' Let your answer guide you, because you know your young one was built for big, beautiful things. It's in them. Anxiety is part of their move towards brave, not the end of it.
Sometimes we all just need space to talk to someone who will listen without giving advice, or problem solving, or lecturing. Someone who will let us talk, and who can handle our experiences and words and feelings without having to smooth out the wrinkles or tidy the frayed edges. 

Our kids need this too, but as their important adults, it can be hard to hush without needing to fix things, or gather up their experience and bundle it into a learning that will grow them. We do this because we love them, but it can also mean that they choose not to let us in for the wrong reasons. 

We can’t help them if we don’t know what’s happening in their world, and entry will be on their terms - even more as they get older. As they grow, they won’t trust us with the big things if we don’t give them the opportunity to learn that we can handle the little things (which might feel seismic to them). They won’t let us in to their world unless we make it safe for them to.

When my own kids were small, we had a rule that when I picked them up from school they could tell me anything, and when we drove into the driveway, the conversation would be finished if they wanted it to be. They only put this rule into play a few times, but it was enough for them to learn that it was safe to talk about anything, and for me to hear what was happening in that part of their world that happened without me. My gosh though, there were times that the end of the conversation would be jarring and breathtaking and so unfinished for me, but every time they would come back when they were ready and we would finish the chat. As it turned out, I had to trust them as much as I wanted them to trust me. But that’s how parenting is really isn’t it.

Of course there will always be lessons in their experiences we will want to hear straight up, but we also need them to learn that we are safe to come to.  We need them to know that there isn’t anything about them or their life we can’t handle, and when the world feels hard or uncertain, it’s safe here. By building safety, we build our connection and influence. It’s just how it seems to work.♥️
.
#parenting #parenthood #mindfulparenting
Words can be hard sometimes. The right words can be orbital and unconquerable and hard to grab hold of. Feelings though - they’ll always make themselves known, with or without the ‘why’. 

Kids and teens are no different to the rest of us. Their feelings can feel bigger than words - unfathomable and messy and too much to be lassoed into language. If we tap into our own experience, we can sometimes (not all the time) get an idea of what they might need. 

It’s completely understandable that new things or hard things (such as going back to school) might drive thoughts of falls and fails and missteps. When this happens, it’s not so much the hard thing or the new thing that drives avoidance, but thoughts of failing or not being good enough. The more meaningful the ‘thing’ is, the more this is likely to happen. If you can look behind the words, and through to the intention - to avoid failure more than the new or difficult experience, it can be easier to give them what they need. 

Often, ‘I can’t’ means, ‘What if I can’t?’ or, ‘Do you think I can?’, or, ‘Will you still think I’m brave, strong, and capable of I fail?’ They need to know that the outcome won’t make any difference at all to how much you adore them, and how capable and exceptional you think they are. By focusing on process, (the courage to give it a go), we clear the runway so they can feel safer to crawl, then walk, then run, then fly. 

It takes time to reach full flight in anything, but in the meantime the stumbling can make even the strongest of hearts feel vulnerable. The more we focus on process over outcome (their courage to try over the result), and who they are over what they do (their courage, tenacity, curiosity over the outcome), the safer they will feel to try new things or hard things. We know they can do hard things, and the beauty and expansion comes first in the willingness to try. 
.
#parenting #mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparent
Never in the history of forever has there been such a  lavish opportunity for a year to be better than the last. Not to be grabby, but you know what I’d love this year? Less opportunities that come in the name of ‘resilience’. I’m ready for joy, or adventure, or connection, or gratitude, or courage - anything else but resilience really. Opportunities for resilience have a place, but 2020 has been relentless with its servings, and it’s time for an out breath. Here’s hoping 2021 will be a year that wraps its loving arms around us. I’m ready for that. x
The holidays are a wonderland of everything that can lead to hyped up, exhausted, cranky, excited, happy kids (and adults). Sometimes they’ll cycle through all of these within ten minutes. Sugar will constantly pry their little mouths wide open and jump inside, routines will laugh at you from a distance, there will be gatherings and parties, and everything will feel a little bit different to usual. And a bit like magic. 

Know that whatever happens, it’s all part of what the holidays are meant to look like. They aren’t meant to be pristine and orderly and exactly as planned. They were never meant to be that. Christmas is about people, your favourite ones, not tasks. If focusing on the people means some of the tasks fall down, let that be okay, because that’s what Christmas is. It’s about you and your people. It’s not about proving your parenting stamina, or that you’ve raised perfectly well-behaved humans, or that your family can polish up like the catalog ones any day of the week, or that you can create restaurant quality meals and decorate the table like you were born doing it. Christmas is messy and ridiculous and exhausting and there will be plenty of frayed edges. And plenty of magic. The magic will happen the way it always happens. Not with the decorations or the trimmings or the food or the polish, but by being with the ones you love, and the ones who love you right back.

When it all starts to feel too important, too necessary and too ‘un-let-go-able’, be guided by the bigger truth, which is that more than anything, you will all remember how you all felt – as in how happy they felt, how loved they felt were, how noticed they felt. They won’t care about the instagram-worthy meals on the table, the cleanliness of the floors, how many relatives they visited, or how impressed other grown-ups were with their clean faces and darling smiles. It’s easy to forget sometimes, that what matters most at Christmas isn’t the tasks, but the people – the ones who would give up pretty much anything just to have the day with you.

Pin It on Pinterest