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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to heal from a toxic parent.

Here are some ways to move forward.

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

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

  2. And it’s okay not to.

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

  3. Be honest about the possibilities.

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

    [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.

934 Comments

Vin

Hello,

I am a 23 years old girl. Now I am dating a guy who lives in another country far away from where I am living. We are in a long distance relationship and it has been great several months. Basically we both love each other so much and so far we are doing well. The only problem is my parents. Overthinking and anxiety destroy their inner peace. They are always like that in every aspect of their life, that’s why they’re always depressed and always fail in any kind of businesses they do. They complain about everything and always try to poison my mind about him. I know he’s a good and responsible man, but they don’t like him. They expect him to come or buy something for me, which I don’t expect any time soon because I understand his financial situation but I really believe he will succeed. The problem is my parents don’t believe so. They said I am wasting my time by building such good relationship with him and talk to him for hours. They said I have changed and don’t care about them anymore. I actually don’t mean so. Anyway I always hang out with my parents and never hang out with friends. I spend most time at home after working part time. Isn’t this good enough? I am a grown up. They can’t expect me to be beside them 24 hours. Now, everytime I talk to my boyfriend they always show angry faces and now we can’t even talk normally on phone. My mom even threatened to unplug the wifi cable, yell during our calls or scold my boyfriend if I talk to him again. I actually didn’t wanna tell my boyfriend about this. But my parents have pushed me out of limit, I don’t know whom I should talk to. So, I had no choice, I was frustrated at that time and told my boyfriend about this. I am worried that he may get hurt actually. But I can’t change the past. What I can do is not to tell him anymore arguments among me and parents anymore.

I don’t understand this. They claim to be not materialistic but in fact the way they act shows that they are. I want to wait till my boyfriend succeeds because I believe he can. I also wanna work hard together with him so we can achieve success together and build a good future. We both share the same mindset and passion. I tried many times explaining this to my parents but it always turned out to be a war. My parents always want me to like something they like, which I can’t. I can’t be forced. I ever liked a guy when I was in high school and my parents hated him too and didn’t allow me to talk to him. My mom said she wouldn’t let me go to college if I dared to talk to him. My parents also ever poisoned my mind and tried to change my view on 1 of my best friends, but luckily we’re still okay till now. They always have negative thinking. It’s like they don’t want me to like anything. I am not free to express my feeling and emotion. As a normal human, I can sometimes feel sad or upset, sometimes I’m just tired, but if I show that kinda expression at home, I will be in trouble. Parents don’t allow me to be in bad mood because they think I’m impolite to show them how sad or upset I am. They think I am still young, they have more burdens than I do so I am not supposed to be sad. I remember my mom forced me to conduct an English course within a month, but at that time I wasn’t prepared yet. I need some time to create the teaching materials but she thought I was lazy or going to rebel. She hit me at that time, when I was 21. I need help. Also, I always dream of working or studying abroad but my parents never let me go. 6 years ago, they said I was still too young and okay, I accepted it but now, they still won’t let me go because they are worried. With all the achievements I get, I have plenty of opportunities to achieve my goals but my parents are the big obstacles that destroy my life and confidence and passions. Now I am 23, graduated from university with cum laude predicate, but unable to achieve any of my goals. They even complain about my relationship. My life is totally a mess.

I have tried my best to stay positive but the problem is I find difficulty in doing it when everytime I see my parents, all they do is scold me. Everytime I gain peace within myself, they ruin it. I even tried to write all things I am grateful about them and tried to love them and forget what they’ve done but as soon as I talk to them, everything is destroyed. I really need help this time. I know there must be something I can do. I want to save my relationship, this is my life, and I need freedom, I was always shut in cage for years (I mean mentally). I also want to have good relationship with my parents. I can’t move out of home though I am 23 now because I give most my money to my family and leave just a little for myself. I don’t have enough to live independently. Besides, my parents always tells me that the amount of money I earn now isn’t enough to fund myself and I am nothing without them (which is quite weird because based on my calculation it should be enough though it’s not much). Sometimes it makes me wonder if they are toxic parents. I am sorry for the long post. I really wish you can respond and help me in this. Your comments mean so much to me and I’ll really appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Vin what incredible strength and clarity you have! There is a lot going on around you, but still you sound so clear about what is right for you. Stay true to that. I understand they are your parents, and you love them, but they have raised a wonderfully intelligent, clear minded, wise adult in you. You are old enough and capable enough to make your own decisions about where you want to live and how to do that. I wish they were able to support you in finding your independence, but some parents have trouble letting go. There are many reasons this might happen – they may be fearful that things might not work out for you, they may be worried about losing you if you become too independent – who knows. The point is, there is a time in all of our lives where we need to make the decision to become independent and move in to the world on our own, without our families. This doesn’t mean you need to let go of them and it doesn’t mean you have to disconnect from them, but this is what some parents fear. It is for you to decide what is acceptable and what isn’t. You don’t have to be with anyone who causes you to feel compromised or as though you are less than you are. You also don’t need your parents to agree with your view of the world. It would be wonderful if they did, and it can feel awful when they don’t, but you are an adult – a wise, strong, brave, super-capable adult – and you are able to decide what is right for you. If your parents don’t want to support you, that is up to them, but that doesn’t mean you have to agree with them and respond to their lack of support by stopping yourself from doing what is good for you. If you think about what they have said and it doesn’t feel right for you, then it probably isn’t. Trust your heart and trust your own mind – everything you need to make the right decisions is inside you.

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Barbara

I am 62 years old and still my brain and my emotions are controlling the hateful thoughts of my Mother. From the age of 4 she physically, mentally, verbally and sexually abused me. I have sought out help through councellors, but to know avail they have helped. Both my parents are deceased, but I can’t stop myself from dwelling on the past. I come from a family of 11 brothers and sisters and we all have been emotionally and mentally abused. My Mother for years has let two of my Brothers molest my sisters for years and she knew they were and never stopped it. Many occasions she would tell me she wished I was never born. I moved out of the house when I was 18 because I knew to myself on the last beating I got from her, either I would of killed her or she would of killed me. On one occasion she did almost choked me to death when I was 7, because I would not stop talking in bed with my sister while my mother was having her card party.Councelors always told me in order to move on, I needed to forgive my Mom. On her death bed I asked her if she ever loved me, she turned away and never answered me. A few days later she died and I carry this emptiness with me. I cry all the time and just can’t move past the fact that she was my Mom and could not tell me she loved me even on her death bed.?

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Barbara, it is so hurtful and unfair that your mother wasn’t able to give you the love and protection you deserved. Some people just aren’t capable of this. They are just too flawed. It is so awful that she wasn’t able to tell you on her death bed that she loved you. You deserved to hear it, but you deserved so much more than what you got from her. I completely understand how difficult it is to forgive someone who has inflicted so much deep and lasting pain on you. Forgiveness isn’t about saying that what happened was okay – it was awful and there was nothing okay about it – it’s about deciding not to let it control your life. Your mother was flawed – not you. You were a little girl with an open, loving heart, and a brave and beautiful spirit. None of what happened to you was your fault and the saddest part is that there was nothing you could have done to change it.

Now you are a woman with strength, courage and the ability to give that little girl in you (she’s still there – she always has been) the love, nurturance and protection you deserve. The emptiness in you is the work of your mother. Now is the time for you to step in and take away her power over you. Treat yourself with the love and kindness that she wasn’t able to give you. What would that look like? It would look like loving yourself and nurturing yourself and protecting yourself in ways that you needed from your mother, but that she wasn’t able to give you. You are a survivor, a fighter, a brilliant woman with insight, clarity and strength. And you are powerful. You have so much power to give yourself the love that your mother couldn’t. Don’t let your mother keep taking any of this away from you. If you could speak to that beautiful little girl that you were growing up, what would you say to her? How would you treat her? What would you want for her? This is what you need to do. Nurture yourself, love yourself, be kind to yourself and fiercely protect yourself from the leftover messages of a cruel, broken mother who wasn’t able to give you what you so deserved. Much love, strength and gentle healing to you.

Reply
Esme'

I am 47, a single mother with serious depression and anxiety issues. I still cope with a job and my beautiful child, but my very very toxic mother, a narcissistic bitch that ruined my life is still poisoning me. I had a violent, abusive father, who died years ago. Wealthy family, blackmailing me with the mirage of inheriting their money. I am so sick. I am still scared of her. Had a childhhod of beatings, berating, they would insult me in private and humiliate me in public. Once, I was seventeen they beat me up in front of my schoolmates and first date. I still feel ashamed of that, of not having escaped. I live in fear.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Esme, please hear this – you are a survivor and fighter. You are amazing. You really are. What remarkable strength and courage you have to have survived what you went through as a child. I wish you had parents who could have given you the love and protection you deserved. You have been strong for a long time, healing your own hurts and at the same time nurturing your child in the way that you never were. It’s not surprising that you are exhausted. I can hear how scared you still are of your mother, but the woman that you are – the strong, beautiful, open-hearted woman that you are – doesn’t have to be scared any more. Try to recognise when you are responding to your mother as the little girl with no voice and no power. You’re not that little person any more. Everything you need to deal with your mother and is therd inside you.

Reply
Juliana

I forgot to add that my father has been in and out of jail my whole life and not is not allowed in this country. She tells me that she is disappointed in me because I don’t send him money, that he has none

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Juliana

This article made me cry as I read it. I am a 27 year old female. I was raised by my birth mother who had me when she was 15. She was severely abused both physically and mentally for 6 years from 5 to 12 by a evil foster father. She has told me over the years all the horrible things he did to her.

She didn’t abuse me as badly as her foster father though. Hers was more subtle. Growing up from 1-4 I don’t remember to much of the physical or mental abuse. The first I can remember is that I used to be afraid that she would turn into the exorcist after she showed me the movie when I was 7 years old. When I screamed in terror she just laughed and though it was funny. She would scream at me when I was in kindergarten because I didn’t know what 1+1 was and tell me you really can’t be that stupid. Homework was always an issue to do with her because she would just yell and hit if I didn’t know the answer.

I do remember her brushing my hair as a child and hitting my head with the brush when I moved. She said that if I ever got into a fight and the girl pulled my hair that it wouldn’t hurt. She said that I had attitude and thought I was smarter than her growing up. I never listened and always disagreed with her and that I should just be happy that I have a mother that loved me and she didn’t have one.

If I ever complained about the way she treated me she said that my life was so easy compared to the life she had. Once child services were called and they came to the house. I told them where she and my brothers father kept their bong for smoking weed. She told me that what happens in this house stays in this house. She would threaten to drop me off at her foster fathers house and then I would see what it was like to really be abused.

Throughout my life she has beaten me really bad sometimes even leaving bruises or belt marks. After she was done I would cry and cry. Then she would come back into the room and hold me and cry with me and tell me that she loved me and didn’t want to hit me but I just didn’t listen to her.

As I have become an adult she has guilt tripped me so much. She tells me that I chose my husband over her and all I care about is him. She says that no one ever helps her and all she does is help people. When she gets angry she screams like bloody murder at me and tells me that I’m a bitch, whore and evil. She wants me to die and why do I hurt her so much. She says it over and over again multiple text like this. I show it to my friends to see if I’m crazy and they all say that no mother should treat their child like this.

She does this whenever I don’t agree with her. The most recent reason was because I told her I didn’t want her meth addicted boyfriend on my cell phone plan. She said how dare I get in her love life and that I fucked up. She is still on my phone plan because she can’t get an account because she has bad credit. I have told her I will not see her until she gets help for her PTSD and anger. I really have come to my breaking point.

She treats my brother Chris the same way. I feel bad for him because he would rather sleeps on the floor of his friends room than live with her. She calls him and ask him to babysit my 9 year old brother so she can go to the bar. Then when he calls her the next day so he can go to work she doesn’t answer the phone and sometimes he is late to work.

I really wish that I had done this sooner. I use to always tell her she needed help but would still visit her now I’m just tired. I’m getting older now and me and my husband are thinking of having children in the next few years and I can’t think of ever letting her be around my child.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Juliana thank you for sharing your story. Keep your boundaries strong and protect your brave, open heart. I wish you could have grown up with a loving, protective mother – it’s what you deserved. Love and strength to you.

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Juliana

Thank you! I will be leaving America in October to travel for 6 months to 1 year. I am so excited and have always wanted to travel. I felt so guilty before for wanting to leave. I have never left North America before so this will be a great adventure for me. It will give me the space I need to heal as well as my mother and father to figure out their lives without me.
This article really touched me and made it crystal clear I am not responsible for my parents happiness! Thank you Thank you!

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Sarah

Wow! Reading this was like reading my life story. I left home when I became engaged, because my Dad said I could only love one man in my life…it was either him or my fiance’. I chose my fiance’ to say the least. I was immediately disowned. Any shred of evidence that I ever existed as part of the family was destroyed. To this day, when people ask about me to my dad, he tells them they are mistaken, he doesn’t have a daughter by that name. I haven’t spoken to him in almost 20 years and don’t plan to. I refuse to expose my son to the abuse (or myself). Unfortunately, my mom, sister and brother, all chose to stay. They continue to live in his abuse. Both siblings are married, but endure hell daily, as do their spouses. After many years of trying to maintain a secret relationship with my mom and sister, I finally broke clean of them as well. The toxic behavior had seeped into them and every conversation was tearing at old wounds. It has taken many years to get through the pain of being cast out by my family. Some times, little things will creep into my mind and I feel like that little girl who is not worthy of love or friendship, and I have to remind myself that I am. It is not an easy process, and I am sure there will things I will deal with the rest of my life, but I am thankful that I do not have to live in that every day.
Thank you to all who shared their stories. There is power in knowing I am not alone in the pain and suffering. Knowing that others have similar experiences, is proof that I did nothing to cause my dad (and mom, sis, bro) to treat me this way.

Reply
Lonnie

Hi, my name is Lonnie. I recently moved back in with an emotionally toxic mother due to mental health issues that have prevented me from working. I am constantly berated by conservative mother to ‘get over it and get a job’. Some very traumatic things happened when I was younger related to my mother and they are just now coming out. My mom even asked me if I was making them up. It’s gotten to the point now where I just want to claw my eyes out because I can’t get through the brick wall that is my mother. She is at turns validating and will cry with me and stone cold the next second. She also wants to start going with me to counseling. I guess my question is how do I get her to here me and stop being so emotionally unavailable? Should I just cut her off for good? Thanks ,
Lonnie

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Hey Sigmund

Lonnie I think counselling would be a great idea for you and your mother. It is important that she wants to do this with you. It sounds as though there is also a lot going on for her emotionally and counselling will be a safe way to explore this, your history and your relationship with your mother.

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Kim B

Hello,
Thanks for an article that provides some insight and tools for reprogramming a damaged mind. I am also in the process of trying to set some boundaries and limit any further damage. I am open to any suggestions.
Here is a little background: I am 48 year old female that was raised by a non-biologic mother (I was the result of an affair), although the birth certificate says she is my birth mother, she is not. Growing up I heard a lot of things like “I don’t know why you even try”, “you’re not very pretty”, “I will be dead by 40” “you will spend the rest of your life wishing you treated me better”, “why did you do that, I wanted you to do something else” (any time I cleaned, did laundry etc.), “you’re lazy” (although chores were done daily), “you’re useless and won’t amount to anything” “you will struggle your whole life”, “there is nothing I hate more than a f..king liar” (insinuating everyone lies to her or I was”. The list goes on and on and on!! In addition to verbal/mental abuse, she was quite physical with hair pulling, grabbing both arms and digging her nails underneath, smacking etc. The only time I ever seemed to be good enough was if I was ill (I think she may suffer from some Munchhausen’s and/or Munchhausen’s by proxy}. Strangely though, I was the best dressed child, was in dance, rode horses and she reminded me that I was lucky to have a mother that loved me enough to provide those things and do without for herself.
Flash forward (I am now 25 years old). An aunt arrives for a visit, wants to spend time with me and looks just like me. We visit, we spend 1:1 time together and it is all very sweet. My husband notes that we look just alike and says “if I didn’t know better, I would think your aunt was your mom and your mom was your aunt!”. A seed was planted that would at least help me to understand some of the mean and unkind things I endured growing up. A couple month’s later the truth comes out that she is my biological mom. More abusive behaviors an manipulation occur (“she didn’t want you”, “if it wasn’t for me…”, “you are a child of a bar floozy”, “you wouldn’t have anything without me”), and again the list goes on. I was also told that I would ruin “her” life if I had a relationship with her or my sisters (which I did not listen to and I thank god that my sister is now my best friend!!). I did agree to keep my relationships with them private/secret to save her any embarrassment for her sacrifice.
As a side note, please understand that my father protected and looked out for me (but also worked a lot of hours and was not aware of everything that was transpiring in our home). Everything was a “secret” and I was usually instructed that I was lucky she wasn’t going to tell him things, otherwise it would be worse for me. Secrets and lies were everyday life for me.
Fast forward, present day. My mother is now ailing 75 year old that has had a few medical things go wrong recently. Please don’t misunderstand my message, she does have SOME health issues. The newest development is that lately she thrives on the attention and lies to family and friends for more attention and/or favors (examples: an elderly neighbor gets her mail and comes over nightly to put eye drops in for her; she thinks she is home bound and is unaware that she leaves daily for errands, dining, banking, etc. She lies to healthcare professionals saying that she cannot drive so that she can do rehab on an injured knee; she drives nearly every day. She has many neighbors going to stores, running errands and cleaning her house for her; fails to mention to all her friends that others are doing the same).
She states she is unable to do daily activities but declines any form of inpatient rehab/assistance. Routinely, I go to her house and change her bedding, grocery shop and cook multiple meals for her. Instead of thank you, I am told how bad she feels and I must think she is a lazy P.O.S. I bring her great grandson over for visits (she prefers to see the one and not the other) but now he is becoming a burden when he visits. Every free moment that I have that is not spent tending to her “needs” results in being made to feel guilty that she is alone or that somebody else’s kids do more for them. I am not and have not been a bad kid. I help her with chores, I visit and I paid half of her car payment for over 5 years (while I struggled financially after a career change and she ordered QVC and AS weekly).
Back to my suspicion of Munchhausen’s. She sees every specialty of doctor (gastro, podiatry, endocrinology, intern, ortho, cardiology, etc.) and is obsessed with who her friends are seeing (then she develops similar issues). Lately, she complains that she has GI issues and stools in her paints (I find benefiber and miralax containers on every visit to her home), she is light headed or to weak to shower (so I bath her), her legs hurts if she has to drive for doctors appointment (but never hurts to drive to the store or for dinner). She also picks and chooses who can know specifics about her medical issues (this is confusing but I think it is due to an inability to keep up with what lies she has told). Lastly, any type of disagreement results in 2 calls (first to say sorry or explain, second to tell me she fell or was sick and didn’t want to call me and upset me with her problems).
I will finish this up now, as I could go on for hours. Part of this response is therapy for myself. I just want to point out that I am thankful for all the information and tools I have found. My goal is to better understand, not repeat and hopefully heal. Thank you!!

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Kate

Hell Kim,
Thanks for sharing your experience. A lot of what you said about your mother resonates with me. I was adopted at birth, never allowed to know anything about my birth mother, even though my adoptive mother tells me she “knows how to find out” and has dropped hints about my true ethnicity. Also, I was given so much: new clothes, horseback riding lessons, summer camp, toys, you name it. From the outside, it seemed as though I had the most generous mother in the world! And I internalized that and believed it for decades. But she has also done some very destructive things to me throughout my life– including telling me I am lazy, crazy, ridiculous, unreasonable, cold, unfeeling, ungrateful, and so on; manipulating me though guilt; refusing to let me choose my college; etc. It seems like any time I tried to express my true self or my own desires, I was somehow nuts. And she would stop speaking to me. In fact, right now I am getting the Silent Treatment (going on 7 weeks) for expressing annoyance at her unreasonably frequent phone calls (2-6 times per day). This is not new, either. She has always “over-called” me. This time, however, it was right after I had had an operation and had been in the hospital for 3 days then home recuperating. She did not even come to the hospital until I begged her to help because I was in so much pain (she later brought that up and laughed at me for it, I guess it was evidence of how I do still need my mother– for some reason this was funny to her) and then she spent all her time going out with friends rather than helping me out, so she kept calling. Sorry, that was not enough for me. But of course she twisted it and made me the one who was wrong.

My feeling is that she always did “generous” things, but it was only to make herself look/feel better. She never really gave me the support, love, and openness I needed. I’m 48 now, and I have learned that the Silent Treatment is just proof that she knows– deep down– that her behavior is wrong and that she would rather cut me out of her life than have to face the truth about herself. That’s my theory.

And you’re right… just writing this is therapeutic.

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Kim B

Thanks Kate!!
You made a very valid point. Most everything they did made themselves look better to everyone around them. The reward for their narcissism came from friends and family telling them how wonderful they were or by reminding us how lucky we were.
I believe (in this process of moving forward) that “they” were lucky to have us. I wish you luck in your process of healing emotionally and physically!!

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Ciara

Hi Kate – your final paragraph really resonates with me – I’m getting the silent treatment for the opposite though – because I had not called her (for 2.5 weeks) and when I dare to say in return that actually my daughter (her granddaugher) had been doing her GCSE’s and she could have called her to see how they were going and wish her luck etc – she went into full on narcissistic rage – accusing me of labelling her a ‘bad grandmother’ and it took her all of 20 minutes to decide she never wanted to see me again… I feel devastated that her own need to protect her behaviour was worth more than her only daughter – and over something so trivial really. I’m now struggling with whether I am now free (!) or whether I should apologise as I’m not sure I can handle the the feeling of knowing she is just down the road ‘all by herself’ (Shes 77). And yes writing is so therapeutic! x

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Kate

Hi Ciara,
I understand exactly how you feel, as I go through it, too. Do I enjoy the freedom or do the “right” thing and call? That’s part of the trap, isn’t it? They destroy all of their relationships with their selfish, entitled, outrageous behavior and end up all alone. Then we are expected to endure their abuse without saying a word. It’s a no-win situation.
Then the silent treatment is thrown at us for even the smallest transgression– not calling, speaking up, setting a boundary, suggesting she’s wrong– and it leaves us completely bewildered: “What? Huh? What did I do?”
Just know that whatever you do or don’t do, it’s ok. You didn’t create this situation; she did. You are simply trying to navigate a crazy relationship that she is bent on destroying.
Also, I can totally relate to the bad grandma part. Same thing going on over here. She takes no interest in any of my or my daughters activities, yet makes it seem like it’s my fault for keeping her granddaughter from her. Sometimes she will even blame my daughter, saying “She doesn’t want to see me.” It’s ridiculous.

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Kim B

I think GUILT is the tool. They groomed us to feel guilty so they could keep control. I struggle with the guilt and probably will forever. I am making strides to let it go or not own it and I think it is helping. I think it is a process that will take some time.

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Kate

Keep going, Kim! It is a process I have been struggling with my entire life. My guilt at leaving behind my own narcissistic mother was once crippling to me. I was afraid to even leave the house to enjoy a day out with my friends because I felt as though I were a “bad” daughter. Imagine the anxiety when it came time to get married, buy a home, have a child. My mother treated each of these milestones as a crime.
But the good news is that if I can do it, so can you! Act against the anxiety and do what you know is right for YOU. After awhile, it will become more like second nature. I believe practice makes perfect.
Best of luck!

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Pam

Thank you for this article. I been depressed lately because I did so much for my family even when it came to financial situations. Since the age of 16 I been working for my Parents but they never acknowledged their little baby girl helped them out so much. I gave them so much money over the years and also stealing from me when they had the opportunity too. I also had helped paid for my older siblings wedding. But when it was my time to get married my dad did not want to pay for anything at all and started treating me really bad expecting me to pay when I didn’t have anything saved. I also paid for college myself and never asked for money. Before my wedding I tried talking to my older sister how bad will my father hurt me cause I have my own bills to pay and when I told her that he is also stealing from me she never believed me once. If I had to argue with my dad about him disrespecting me, my sister would call and scream at me. She even told me once to “go kill yourself”. He even cheated his ways of not paying for much at my wedding and I brushed it off. But what hurt was when I didn’t have a job and bought some jewelry that I can sell to make some extra cash he called me and made fun of me and I straight up told him “why are you caring about my finances now, when it was my wedding you didn’t even ask if I needed help”?. His response
” why should I care, it was your wedding anyway”. That blew me and hurt me so much and after all these years I made sure that I cared for this man even while I was young working till late night and drunk guys following me at night just so I can help pay his bills. Today I am nothing for him since my sister agrees with whatever he does is right no matter what which is not right. He can’t keeping doing what he has and I have to stand up for myself. It just hurts because I worked so hard and I even graduated college with a high GPA despite having a job but my hard work was never valued. If I knew he cared about himself I would’ve never been there for him when he needed me. The worst part his today him nor my sister do not care about those sleepless nights I had since he is always right.

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Kimberly

Thank you SO much for this article! I went searching for some help/explanation, and I found you. I am 44 years old and I am currently trying to find a way to heal and move on from a situation that just happened with my birth father. My parents divorced when I was 9 months and my mother re-married when I was 4. I was raised by my mother and step-father with no contact from my real father until I was 19 when my real father’s brother arranged for my brother and me to go “meet” him (what felt like for the first time). After that visit, I was excited to have reconnected with my real father, but I never heard from him much after that until his daughter from another marriage decided to move to where I was living about six years ago. We tried reconnecting again on a few occasions, but I struggled with his lack of desire to get to know me or my family. He was more concerned about making sure I knew how great his life has been and how wonderful and talented his two younger daughters were. It was very hurtful and I made the decision to distance myself from him.

A month ago I received an 11-page letter in the mail from him. This is the first letter I have ever received from him. This letter was so full of anger and hate, and so completely out of left field, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. He said I was being self-righteous for never asking him why he left my brother and me when we were little. He said I would rather condemn him (and give him the cold shoulder) than go to him so he could tell his side of the story. I just really want to know, when was this MY responsibility to seek HIM out and ask why he left? As far as I knew (and he showed), he wasn’t interested in me or my life. And yes, I did give him the cold shoulder for the way he had treated me and my family when we had talked on those few occasions in the past six years. Outside of his anger and hate for us in this letter, the rest of the letter completely tore my mother apart, who just passed away a year and a half ago. Of course, he blames her for keeping us away from him, but unless I’m mistaken, I’ve been a legal adult since I was 18 and I don’t think visitation rights are enforced after that age, correct? Yet, here I am, 44 years old, and I have probably seen him maybe five or six times since the age of 18. I’m not sure where this is my mother’s fault.

I replied to his letter to tell him that I was completely shocked and hurt by his letter and that I couldn’t believe he made it my fault that I never sought him out to ask why he left my brother and I. I also explained my reasonings behind my cold shoulder to him and how I never judged him and his choices before I was 18. However, I told him it has been his actions, or lack thereof, after the age of 18 that have been the most telling. This past week, he sent another letter stating that I’m just like my mother and that I was carrying on her revenge, hatred, and vindictive behavior. That my family was dragging him down and trying to turn the world against him. He made me feel guilty for sharing photos and memories of my mother on Facebook with close friends and family. He said he lost his mother, father, and sister and that he didn’t shove it down others throats, and that we all have tragedies. He called me passive-aggressive and said I was like the husband that abused his wife (him). In the end, he told me I needed to get help.

Once again, I am stunned by his hatefulness. I hardly know this man, and we hardly know anything about each other or each other’s lives. My letter was only to answer his first letters accusations of not seeking him out, and giving him the “cold shoulder”. I have decided not reply this time and take your advice of point #1 and let go. I am truly hurt and heartbroken by his words and I am now trying to figure out how to move forward.

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Hey Sigmund

Oh Kimberly this is such an awful way to be treated by your father. I’m so pleased you have found clarity around this. You are absolutely right – it was not your responsibility to seek out your father. When people are so set on being the victim, as toxic people often are, it won’t matter what you say because they will always find a way to use your words against you. Keep your strong, open, warm heart safe, and use the anger and aggression that you have received to propel you forward.

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L

Omg I don’t really know what to say except that is awful. Your father has been very mean and vindictive, and it must hurt like hell. I am guessing it’s his guilt talking…they say that criticism is guilt turned outwards (or something) and frankly he has a lot to feel guilty about. Doesn’t help you though 🙁
It is not you, it’s him. Please block him on social media, block his number and email, and don’t open any more letters from him. Don’t let him hurt you any longer.

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GA

Kimberly,

I have some thoughts on your family story and I am not defending your father, but maybe some insight from an outsider with some experience and ideas may give you a different outlook. My parents were divorced when I was young and my mother never really said anything bad about my dad. She always said that she never wanted to speak bad of him to us.
My dad did say some things about my mom when we were growing up that weren’t so nice about her, but based on her actions with all of us, all 5 of their kids tended to believe our dad.

But, if I may, I’d like to share with you advice that I was given once by a friend in trying to understand people, and why they do and say the things that they do.
I have not forgotten this advice and I keep it in the back of my mind when I question why, ‘why did they do or say that?’

The advice that I was given: People live their lives in two ways:
They live their life with fear or live their life with love.

Not that this is the answer, but if we were to align your story with this theory, this is what could be a possiblity as to why your father is behaving this way.

Your father could be living his life ‘with fear’, regarding his first family.

Maybe he was told that he would never have contact with the two of you again, ever. Who knows?

Putting aside the possibility of narcissism, my thought is that there was something said or done that prevented him from approaching the both of you in the future. MY insight into reading what you wrote, is that “he has a fear” that you may have been told the truth (or untruth) of what actually happened in their marriage and the reason for his leaving.

The part of your story, where you mention that your father’s expectation of you going to him in the future to ask him why he left, is where I believe he is thinking …if you didn’t know ‘the truth’ (or untruth), then the most logical thing for a child to do, would be to search him out to learn the truth when you were ready.

My thought also in his thinking: You didn’t ever approach him, you must know the truth (or untruth) and this may have been, what was his understanding prior to his leaving.

Many times when there is a lack of communication, it instills assumptions in people’s minds and many times those assumptions creates fear in people.

Maybe his thought process has been:
Would a child or later the adult ever approach that particular parent, if they knew the truth about that parent to be bad? You didn’t approach him yourself, he may have assumed that you were told he was the bad person!?

Also, the part where he is SO worried about your sharing photos and information with his family on social media. It seems he’s ‘fearing’ something that could be said, or the possibility of making him look bad. Maybe he’s been beating himself up this whole time and ‘fears’ being beat up there too, and that CANNOT be taken back.
There is a big part of his story that is not being said. Maybe what was said before he left wasn’t told to you by your mom and hasn’t been said by your father, although it sounds like he wants to tell you. It’s hard to hear someone’s truth when the person WHO was there for you is gone and cannot defend herself.

Possibly he doesn’t trust what you heard and is holding on to ‘that fear’, of what you did hear, and that’s what is preventing him from living his life with you and your brother ‘with love’.

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toni

GA, stop making excuses for bad behavior. It’s not Kimberly’s responsibility to figure out why or even sympathize with someone that is being toxic and abusive. It’s her responsibility to protect herself and her family. Whatever happened in the past, the father had a chance to start anew and he used that time to blame and shame rather than explain, apologize for his absence and build new bonds.

Unfortunately, I know all too well how a parent can neglect a child(me) then turn around and blame the child for the way that they treated you. It’s truly their own mental sickness and the best thing to do is get far away from them as fast as you can before they take you down with them.

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Sandra

Do some research on “parental alienation”. I’m 43 and have just realized over the last 3 years that my mom took us from my father when I was 3 and brain washed us to believe he was the bad guy!! I never even thought about him as a person until just recently! We just don’t know what exactly goes on when we are children but I had to forgive my dad because I believe he didn’t want me and left me to live with those people who treated me like I didn’t want me either! I realized after rebuilding with my dad that he was devistated when my mom took us!! He didn’t know how to deal with it so he did the best he could! It does still hurt me to see how close he is with my sister he has with my step mom but I also see how much he wants to connect with me and how he misses me!! I’ve learned to take it one day at a time with my dad because there are some very deep wounds for both of us!! I’ve forgiven him and he has forgiven me. We are just keeping it simple and rebuilding!! But I had to be willin to open my eyes to see the truth!! I had to forgive my mom for doing what she did and I also realized my mom had many narcisist traits! All along I thought it was my dad but when my eyes were opened, wow!!! Ask God to open your eyes and heal the deep wounds as only he can!! It is worth it!! I am not out of a 20 year toxic marriage from a man who acted a lot like my mother but I never saw it!! And have now been married to a man for 1 1/2 years who treats me like a queen!! Do the healing work!! It’s so hard but so worth it!!

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Kimberly

The only thing wrong with your statement, Sandra, is that I actually wanted to meet my father and have a relationship with him. I was excited for the opportunity to get to know him. I didn’t believe he was a bad person. I never allowed my mother to influence my thoughts or feeling towards him without knowing him myself.

However, it was after I had turned 18, and after I had the opportunity to get to know him in the past 6 years–no matter how hard I tried to build a relationship with him–he chose to turn all of our conversations back to himself and his other two children and how great his life was. He never once asked about my interests, my children’s interests, etc., If I tried, he was uninterested and changed the topic back to his life, which is fine, but don’t expect me to continue to put myself in a situation in the future to hang out with you or want to spend time with you when all you want to do is talk about yourself.

Then to follow up these visits sending me hateful letters–and after my mom has died–telling me how much he hates her and how I am probably just like her and how I am such an awful person because I didn’t run to find him and ask him questions why he left so he could explain himself. I didn’t track him down to bombard him with “Why did you leave me?” questions because of his own actions towards me, not because of my mother’s “brain-washing”. I’m sorry, but those actions were all his own doing, they had nothing to do with my mother. They are all signs of a narcissistic and toxic person. He has yet to take accountability for anything. Everything is or has been someone else’s fault. He constantly tells me he is the victim in all of this and that I’m the one that needs to go get professional help. He has even given me actual recommendations on books I need to read and professionals I need to see to get that help I need. Which I find funny because he doesn’t even know me, tried to get to know me, and is basing this on the fact that I didn’t seek him out to question his past decisions so he could defend them. Really???

It’s extremely difficult to try to continue to work through “issues” and build a relationship when every response you get back beats you down further. Sorry, but no thank you. I don’t need that hate in my life. I was fine before he came back into my life, I’ll be fine, and safer, without him in my future.

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Steve

He is doing exactly what he did when he was with your mom. The only thing that has changed is that he has a different family that accepted his behavior.

A real Man/Woman…who seeks resolution is one that owns his/her decisions to make amends through being vulnerable and being Love.

He is still making the choice to manipulate your Life by playing the Victim and dumping his crap on you..

My advice: hand him a tissue,
as he is stompng his foot and jumping up and down while whining ….then thank him for the clarity he has given you on how to recognize, one who chooses to manipulate and suck energy from others from a place of fear.

He wants you to accept his way the way your mom did not..A clear sign of Passive-Aggressive behavior…The 11 page letter was a description about himself and nothing about you….He has seen you 6 times in 26 years….He projecting his fear not giving his Love…

The most Powerful “Yes” to emerge your self Love and Soul is when you can say “No” to those who want to take your energy and give nothing but fear in return.

There is no price or obligation on Love ..it just is…The only excuse you need to make for him is..No excuse

He chooses not to be, despite the opportunities that are presented to all of us everyday…

Love the person does not mean you have to Like or accept their actions., so don’t!

Truly Loving yourself and Living a peaceful Life…is allowing your Strength, Honoring your Self Worth by not allowing others in your life, who choose to live in fear or have no Self Worth…The only choice that matters is your choice who you want to be and who you choose to surround yourself with.Embrace the amazing soul this will keep those who won’t . AWAY

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Desdemona N V

Thank you. I was acting instinctively on that but now I know. I am also very sorry for my parents but there is NO way I could make them unerstand what was happening because ‘They know better!’ No matter what! This article has been illuminating!

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CS

Wow, this exactly describes my childhood. “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.”

In addition to being hit by belts when my dad was in a bad mood for nothing, and caning us with rattan canes for telling the truth when he wanted us to lie to other adults for certain things.

I have been in therapy for over 5 years and have only just realise the pattern of manipulation and sordid self indulgence. I have more anger than guilt or hurt these days, but being Asian and my confucius values I am unable to cut my toxic parents out.

My dad has been recently sending emotional videos about how children OWE their parents a living and the sacrifices, that never happened in my case, so I don’t know what he’s trying to hint it at all. I still pay all the bills and send money home, but there is only verbal abuse and not a word of thanks.

I might cut the cord soon. Parents wanted children as cash cows in their old age, but I think I need to learn to live my life and finally enjoy my life and be an adult.

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Hey Sigmund

Toxic parents will do whatever they need to for control. You are an adult now, and you don’t have to listen to the toxic messages, or respond to the toxic behaviour. This is your life. You don’t owe anybody anything. Be aware of which messages are yours and which ones aren’t. As we grow up, we introject – take on – a lot of messages from the significant people in our lives and the culture we grow up in. Some of these messages are important – respect yourself and others, be kind, be brave – but some of them are toxic. The problem is that they become so automatic and they drive behaviour without us realising. They feel so ‘right’ but that doesn’t mean that they are. One of our very important jobs as adults is to examine the messages that drive our behaviour and decide whether they are still relevant. For example, it might have been important to keep quiet and not express needs as a child because doing this might have lead to being punished, or being ignored. As an adult, things are different now – your environment is different, there are different people around you and you can be more self-reliant. Look for the messages that are driving your behaviour and decide whether or not you want to keep them. If they hold you back, let them go. This is a difficult process – it will take strength and a lot of self-examination, but it will be worth it. Live by the messages that keep you safe, happy, and strong.

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Marina

Hi

I read most responses, I was raised the worst I think, a mobster for a father, prostitute for a mother, who sold me before I could walk, and a father who still insists on me being his legacy, I have two sons from a failed marraige, one I never thought could fail.
Until my husband who never met my father told me he was in my life because of my father..lets just say things got ugly from there on.
I have lived my life as differently as I possibly could and was making a great success until I learnt that my father (whom I thought I left behind dead or alive) was very much the author of much of my life.
I am lost, depressed, suicidal and so much more, but yet I keep trying to fight for my constitutional rights to a choice in my life, to write my own story, and to raise my kids with proper ethics..and yet the dark alley shadow of my father prevails, overpowering my decisions, halting my career and demanding recognition for his Godlike power over any life and thing – demanding respect, demanding submission. Demanding me to return to the fold.
Especially as he sees further legacy in my children, who “need” to be part of that black organized world, Obviously already arranging a new partner for me to marry as a strategic move of power.
I know there is no help..but some people have it far worse..horror movies are a joke compared to what I’ve lived.

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Keri

Hi. Thank you for this article. My parents were never physically abusive. Im not sure they were emotionally or verbally abusive either. They came from a hard period where they had to work hard to survive, live through a civil war and didnt have parental support themselves. The things they did have hurt me. But im so caught up that i cannot distinguish whether i am at fault or whether it is an impact of the things they did and said. I know that i have alot of flaws too. I was not an ideal child in school. I did well in languages, english and social sciences but not well in maths and sciences which were my parents’ strong suit. And if my parents didnt chase after me, i wouldnt likely have completed my homework for subjects i didnt like. I remember though that maths didnt make sense for me. I remember learnig math from my dad and he got frustrated because i couldnt understand it at all. It was a really simple subject and i couldnt understand. He tapped me on the head and called me an idiot. Tht stayed with me for a long time. I remember when i started having problems in math, i stopped telling him i had problems and just started lying to him. So i wasnt perfect either. I think my parents realized i wasnt going to be the child that they wanted, they kind of left me alone. They didnt question me too hard about my marks and i started hiding my marks from them, they didnt question too hard. I know they were upset bc i didnt have medals or trophies on our wall like other children. When we went to parties my dad would mention how lazy i was and joke about how i never really did anything. And would later that i was being too sensitive. He would say that if my mother had let him, he would have disciplined me so i didnt turn out this way. When i started university, i told my parents that i wanted to do english and work my way into journalism. They told me that only the best make it into that field and that it was not stable. I finished university but was not able to make it into law school. My parents were devastated. My relationship with my parents evaporated from that point on. They had been telling me people that i was trying for law and now they had to tell them otherwise. They told me that i was shaming them. I was the reason they were laughed at by other people, that society considered them losers and they were going to die unhappy. Whatever freedom i had started eroding then. I began working at a regular job and decided i wanted to go back to school for another bachelors but my parents said two bachelors were a waste and i was too old… i was 23. I decided to do a two year program for HR studied. They said no to that. They asked me to try teaching and then when i said i wasnt interested, they pushed me to accounting. I had a curfew of nine pm. They used to wonder why i didnt have alot of friends but never let me out with friends past a certain time. I wasnt allowed to go on overnights. Boyfriends were a nono. Their reasoning was i didnt show my maturity by getting in law school or succeeding at life. My friends had accomplished these things and had a personal life. I was not mature enough to act on my own. Once, i stayed out past 2 am and i got the silent treatment for weeks. Every small freedom was a fight. My mother thought i wasnt interested in makeup and dressing up enough and my style didnt suit me. She berated me alot for my lack of interest and style. When i met my husband, my father was ecstatic bc my husband had a doctorate. He told me to accept my husband no matter what. I didnt have a real education, was not quite pretty, a little bit plump. I wasnt going to get anything better than this. Throughout my childhood, teenage years and early adulthood, i didnt have a voice and i didnt even realize i didnt have one. I didnt know what was wrong with me. I didnt have alot of motivation and desire to do much. I felt lazy. I had depression and i went to a counsellor after not getting into law school and i couldnt even articulate my feelings. I would swing between numbness and rage and i think that i never properly expressed my emotions to my parents. When i started doing to my husband the things that were done to me and he called me out on it, thats when i realized that something was really wrong with me. I dont even know my identity. I dont know what im good at. I only know what my flaws and negative points are. A few years ago, i asked my parents what were my good points… and they could only mention my positive traits in light of what they recognized as worthy such and analytical thinking and seeing the bigger picture. I realized that my parents dont know me either. And as a child or teenager who already had difficulty articulating and expressing, it really pulled on my confidence. I know i made mistakes. But i realize that my parents are well meaning and did love me, they just didnt know how to parent. I loved writing and expressing myself through that medium but i stopped writing when my mother started reading my journal and when my writing stopped, i stopped trying to do much of anything. I love my parents but it is so hard to limit my involvement. If i dont call every day, they think i am upset, they visit at least three times a week and get upset when i only come bt once a week. It is really hard to put limits on my interaction bc they will not change but neither do i want to cut them out. Im 45 and still trying to learn

Reply
Kitty

Sorry that was supposed to be fond thoughts
And apparently. Don’t you just love spell check.

Reply
Kitty

Hey sigmund
I was the oldest child of a toxic parents. I have a brother whom until today I thought dearly and fondly of. When I was 65 I’m now 72, I told my nursing home bound mother I would no longer go to visit her because of the abuse she gave me on each visit. How bad a child I was, how my career choices and my choice husband was a glaring disappointment. How literally everything about what I was wearing how I did my hair was a disappointment to her. So I told her I’d had it.
About the same time my brother started being distant and cold. After her death I was never invited to any more family gatherings at his home.
Because it was national siblings day and I’ve always had found thoughts of my brother I decided to call him and try to mend fences. Instead he told me I was as toxic as Chernobyl and he wanted nothing more to do with me and that his psychiatrist told him to tell me I was toxic

I’m not. I. A normal perplexed person who has no brother apparent
Y. Would a reputable therapist tell someone to tell their sibling this.

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Hey Sigmund

Kitty it’s difficult to believe that a therapist would tell somebody so say that to someone without knowing the other side of the story isn’t it. It’s also difficult to know what was driving your brother’s behaviour. If there is toxicity in your family, it’s very possible that your brother was also hurt and influenced by that. I understand why it is easy to take what he said personally – it’s a really hurtful thing to hear – but toxic parents can often have a very far reach. I think it was a strong, brave, open-hearted thing you did to try to make things right. You have done what you can, and that’s what is important. I hope he realises this one day and is able to work with you to heal the relationship.

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Linda

I’m 48 years old and have never felt loved enough… when my children were little and needed me was when I felt loved but once they grew up I felt they no longer lived me either…. I have always downed myself, I’m not pretty enough, good enough, etc. I know now it was the way my mother treated me… she loved and adored my brothers but everything I did wasn’t good enough and it got worse when my dad passed away when I was twelve.. I left home at 17 and I still went around my mother, she was my mother and I just wanted her to love me.. as years went by she would always try to take what was mine.. like my middle child, she had her convinced she was better and needed her more than me and I never fought back because I had to respect my mom. but my daughter returned home before my mom had her in her hand… but she then eventually get my granddaughter… my granddaughter thought no one could take care of her but her.. my mother become sick and I knew she wasn’t going to be here much longer… she went as far as telling my granddaughter that when she dies she hikes God takes her (granddaughter) too so they could be buried together and be together forever… I knew at this point I had to step in. I didn’t get mean I just started taking care of my mom so I could convince my granddaughter that I loved her and would always be there… and when my mom died I was there right beside her and her wonderful sons were no where to be seen. its been three years since she passed and thankful my granddaughter us doing fine, I watch her closely and just shower her with encourgment, something I didn’t have from my mom. the thing that bothered me the most of my moms death was that I was relieved it was over… no more hurting me with how I wasn’t good enough….. I went in a depression because I wasn’t supposed to feel like that… all my relationship with men has failed and I’m just starting to see why, the insecurities I’ve had has left me thinking I wasn’t good enough so I was jealous, I wanted assurance and I’m sure some tried to give me that I was just to broken to see…. but I know now why I’m like this it was because of her and now I have to find a way to start healing and mostly love myself… advice would be appreciated

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Hey Sigmund

Linda it’s really understandable that if you have grown up with someone important in your life telling you that you weren’t good enough, you would eventually believe it. You have so much strength and love in you. I can hear it in the way you talk about your granddaughter and the way you have fought to protect her. Inside you is a little girl who needs the same love and protection. Don’t pick up where your mother left off in criticising yourself. That’s her voice and her messages. You sound so ready to find your own. You are not broken! You’re a fighter. You’ve survived what has been put in your way and now it’s time to really heal. You can do this. Start by finding ways to nurture yourself. It will feel strange because you haven’t had it before, but go with it. Just because it feels strange, doesn’t mean it isn’t right. Find something for you that feels good – it might be a hobby, a group, maybe just going to the movies once a week – whatever works for you. You will probably be tempted to say that you aren’t worth it – but don’t! Don’t talk yourself out of doing something for yourself. When you start to be kind to yourself and show yourself love and protection from the awful messages of your past, the world will start to respond. You can do this. Love and strength to you.

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Agata

Hey H.S.

I came across your website when I realised I should reach out for help, I don’t think I can handle my situation on my own. I’ve tried enough times and it only gets worse..

My relationship with my father was always bumpy and difficult. He would praise me whenever I was following the path he ‘designed’ for me. Then he would reject me whenever I’d do something completely different.

My father comes from a fairly poor family, his parents got divorces as he had an abusive father who would be violent towards him and his mother. He was a genius who significantly contributed to the science but then unloaded pressure in his house. My father became a professional sportsman with big achievements, he was fighting on stage, which I’m guessing was his form of unloading aggression he received at his family home. Later on he left abroad to make some money to set up his own business back in his motherland. The business is still going and I am blamed for not wanting to take it over and continue what he created. Unfortunately, I am not interested at all in this discipline and I don’t feel I am obliged to do something my father has chosen for himself 30 years ago. I, myself, can make my own choices too and this is the thing he cannot deal with.

He tells me I do not appreciate what he’s been working hard for, and all the money it brought and ‘funded’ my childhood and later education. It’s putting me in a position of being obliged to ‘repay’ what he’s given me. Up until 3 years ago, my mother was there to kind of act as a bridge between him and me, although their relationship wasn’t easy as he also overtook her life to the point she wasn’t allowed to spend holiday by herself, and her small business she was longing for and set up- gave him an opportunity to humiliate her and highlight that this is nothing comparing to the company he owns. He was trying to get her to work in his company but she resisted, and kept running her little business which I guess was the only way to have something independent from him.

But 3 years ago, my mother passed away, during holiday abroad, from one day to another she just didn’t open her eyes in her sleep, and the cause is still unknown. She was healthy, in her early 50s, and I never had a chance to say goodbye..

I live abroad and am constantly bullied by my father for ‘leaving my family’ alone, for ‘betraying my origins’, by ‘not wanting to take over his business’. I live only 2 hours away by plane and visit my hometown every month or two. Unfortunately, every time I visit him, I’m being told that I will ‘regret the decision I’ve made’, and he refuses to talk to me under threat that I should come back where I was born.

My sister who’s been living abroad until 6 months ago and whom I had a good relationship with (she is 5 years younger) now started acting like my father, and since he doesn’t talk to me she talks on his behalf. She tries to harass me with small, everyday activities- and recently started humiliating me when I pay for my own things or refuse to take part in their daily routines (I guess financial dependence is the only way her and my father think could tie me back to them).

I constantly live with a feeling of guilt, I try to visit them as often as possible and then return completely destroyed emotionally. I don’t even see a point of going there anymore- my father doesn’t talk to me, my family runs a campaign for me to ‘come back’ as if I abandoned them, they cannot perceive that life is different now and one doesn’t have to work 9 to 6 in fixed place.

I would like to talk to my father to understand what he feels but there is no way I can go through- he only demands certain things, and doesn’t even know where exactly I live, not even mentioning my feelings and that I also miss my mother and suffer.

I’ve exhausted all my ideas on how to deal with this situation and got stuck in a point of not talking to him. I’m thinking the only way this could work is if we go for a therapy together but I’ve tried proposing this once and he got offended saying he is not ‘insane’ and I just have to grow up (I’m reaching my 30s btw).

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Hey Sigmund

Agata, you are very clear about what the relationship with your father does to you. If this is the way things have been for as long as you can remember, it is very unlikely to change. If you keep responding to the manipulation and attempts to control, your father will continue to do this as it has always worked. People do what works. We all do. If you want things to be different, it will be for you to make that happen. Decide what you will tolerate and what you won’t. You don’t have to explain your decision to anyone. It is true that you have to be kind and generous, but you have to be all of these things to yourself first. When you change what is acceptable, it will be up to your father to respond and preserve the relationship or not. You have to do what is best for you. Nobody wins if you feel resentment because you are being so controlled or manipulated. Make the decision about what is best for you, because nobody else will do that for you. You will likely be criticised and judged, but that is not something you can control. What you can control is whether or not you stay in the path of hurtful behaviour. You are under absolutely no obligation to keep lining up for the poor treatment.

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Violet

I liked this article but how do I break free of toxic parents if I’m a minor still living with them?

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Hey Sigmund

Violet if you have to live with them, then it becomes about protecting yourself from the messages that you’re getting. If the messages are shaming, humiliating or demeaning, see them for what they are – a reflection on the other person, not on you. Realise that you don’t have to take those messages on. Leave them where they belong – well away from you. At the same time, let the messages you give yourself be nurturing, loving and uplifting. Say to yourself the things you would say to your best friend. They are the messages you deserve to hear and hearing them will change the way you are in the world and the way you experience the world. Write them down. Read them when you wake up and before you go to bed. Let those messages be stronger than any others that would harm you. You deserve to be loved and protected. I wish there were people around you who could give you this. If there aren’t, it is so important that you give these messages to yourself. You’re a fighter, a survivor, capable, brave, smart, amazing. I promise you – there would be evidence of this all around you.

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Kevin

I’ve been in and out of therapy for years due to this. I’m 43 and still trying to get over it all.

I was raised by my Aunt and Uncle. My real mother was a mess. An alcoholic, druggie etc. I don’t know if it would have been better or worse for me to have been raised by her, or the hell that was my life with my Aunt and Uncle.

I used to go to bed every night, from the time I was about 5, and pray to God that he would be dead in the morning. Every day I lived in constant fear, never knowing what I was going to get hit with next.
We lived on a farm, and by the time I was 12, I was milking 100 cows by myself, and taking care to ensure that it was done properly…..it’s not just as simple as simply milking cows, you can contaminate your milk in multiple different ways, causing the entire batch to be scrapped. Anyway….I just recently looked back on those days, and it finally hit me. I was freaking 12!! I never got any praise or even acknowledgement, for doing the chores that I did at that age. I don’t know of any 12 year old kid that I’ve seen these days that could be entrusted with the kind of duties I was required to do…..not even close. But yet, I was convinced when I was there, that I was stupid, worthless, a bastard, never going to amount to anything, and no one loved me..after all, my own mother had abandoned me…..( I was constantly reminded of this my entire childhood)
I recently wrote him an email. I finally got a way to get through to him like I had always wanted. I had written paper letters in the past, but I knew my mother always intercepted them. But, I knew that he would be sitting there at his computer now, and he would get the email.
Oh, he got it! I broke loose. I told him every thing that I had always wanted to tell him. I really let him have it. I saw another reader say that she felt bad after sending her letter….not me! I felt amazing! Keep in mind, I have had much therapy at this point, and had pretty much severed myself from my “parents”, yet I still wanted to really let him have it while he was still on this earth. I didn’t expect anything….didn’t expect a reply. I was just happy knowing that I told this freak exactly how I felt, and all the damage he had done to me.

I think this is because I couldn’t understand how anyone could do such things to a little kid….I just don’t get it. I still don’t.

I did get a response however……it threw me, it really did. The response was a guilt trip…lol! He said something to the effect that if I got God in my heart I would feel better.

I wrote him back again, and said…”Let’s leave God out of this one. Trust me…I’m fine and right with God…he’s what got me through YOU!!”

I laid into him some more, and the next day he actually called me. He invited my wife and I up for lunch. I couldn’t believe it!

We had a “talk” out on the deck while my wife and aunt were out in the back yard. I actually got to confront him in person. I wish I had had the courage to say even more than I did. He kind of got the best of me that day, but when I got home, I mulled over all he had said, and laid into him again….finally telling him, to QUIT blaming me! I told him…I was the CHILD….YOU were the adult. Nothing you did to me is MY fault. I told him that I actually wanted to forgive him, but couldn’t do it if he didn’t apologize, or at the very least admit to the things he did to me, and tell HIS kids that I’m not a liar like they think I am, because I’ve told them what he did to me, and they think I’m a liar and pretty much hate me. He never did that to any of his own kids…..a fact he actually admitted to me that day we talked. He said, he didn’t know why he did it. That was really the best I got out of him….and later…in another email, I told him that he did it because it was obvious that HIS parents we abusive. All of his brothers and sisters have various issues….I have another aunt that has the exact issues I have.
I’m in a bit of a conundrum with what to do with the parents now actually…I had cut all ties with them, but…now…we’ve gone up there a couple times….it’s …ok…they’re “nice” Nothing bad happens etc…but…there’s no love from them of course…they still don’t call. I’ve told them many times, just give me a call….like you do with YOUR kids!
My final issue that I have yet to resolve, and I don’t know that I can….is the connectivity issue…..ie…love. I “love” my wife….but I love her like I love the rest of my friends. I’ve been in too many relationships to count…because I end them all…..eventually. I can’t love anyone more than on a friend level…and even at that, I can cut ties in an instant and not look back. I don’t feel bad about it until much much later. I’ve been down this road so many times it’s not funny.
I am in my longest relationship that I’ve ever been in….going on 6 years. She’s a wonderful, amazing woman. I know she loves me, I know she would never hurt me, yet, I can’t open my heart…..I’m completely incapable of it. I stay with her at this point because there’s really no good reason to leave her right now. Actually it’s because she’s in nursing school, and working full time, so, I don’t want to be the cause of her not finishing nursing school. I’m planning on waiting till she’s done and passes her final test and gets her license.
I know it’s probably wrong…but then again….is it? It’s not fair to her. We haven’t had …you know….in months….and it’s because of me. I get that way with any woman I’m with for any length of time. Once it’s intimate…as in when there’s love involved….I’m done. The very thought of intimate relations with her invokes a visceral reaction. And it’s not because of her. I just don’t do love.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to get past that….and at this point, don’t know that I even want to bother. I’m happy with myself, my life, my career, my friends….and I know that I’d even still be able to be friends with her…when she’s ready of course. I just do not see myself in a monogamous relationship with any one woman for the rest of my life.
I guess I’m wondering if you know of other people like me. People who can get over pretty much everything else….move on, become happy with themselves, are able to get over the self loathing etc….but just can’t do love?
I was in love once….with my first. And I ended that too. And I was a wreck for a long time after that. Years. I think I pretty much ended it because my aunt disapproved of our relationship, and convinced me that I should…I am pretty sure that’s what happened…. so they got their claws into that too.
And I think that was it. That was the last straw for my heart. I haven’t felt anything since.

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Hey Sigmund

Kevin I wish you could have received the love you deserved when you were growing up. It sounds as though you have made a happy and healthy life for yourself now. In relation to your intimate relationship, nobody can tell you what is best for you. What’s important is the you are clear about why you are making the decisions you are making. If it is because you are fully satisfied not being in a relationship and you are fully aware of this, then there is no harm in this (provided of course that you are not knowingly hurting someone else). If however you are wanting to avoid intimate relationships because they bring up old feelings and memories that are painful, it might be worth talking a closer look at that.

Reply
Kevin

Hi H.S.

Thanks for the reply. I know what you’re meaning. I know that you’re talking about being in sexual relations with women while letting them believe that I want more than that.

No, I don’t, and wouldn’t do that, but the question is more about the current relationship I’m in right now. My questions is kind of….should I stay with her, or not?
I don’t believe that I’ll ever be able to have normal intimate relations with her, probably ever again. I don’t want them, and the very thought of them is repulsive.

As I said, it’s not her….there’s absolutely nothing wrong with her, and it wouldn’t matter who was involved, or who I was with…..it never has mattered. Once there’s love involved, or when love should be involved, I’m out.
She doesn’t press, she doesn’t demand, she doesn’t complain, but, at the same time, I know it bothers her. Who wouldn’t be bothered by it? Your partner never wants to have sex with you?

She’s suggested the magic pill, you know which one, but….I don’t need that. My issue is not a physical one, it’s a mental one. I wish it was just an unfortunate physical issue, but I know that even if I took that pill, and somehow it worked in the physical sense, I still wouldn’t feel right while it was happening…..the magic pill can’t make one feel intimate, or, the chemistry.

The only time I feel any kind of “chemistry” is when I’m first with a woman, or if I get together with a woman I’ve been with before, but it’s been a long time. In other words, I only feel chemistry when it’s simply lust that’s involved. No feelings, no baggage, no intimate knowledge of each other, just simple lust.

I seriously doubt that there’s any hope of this ever changing, and, as I said, I don’t know that I even want that to change. I’m not bothered by the notion. I’m fine with it. Maybe when I’m old and getting closer to death, the fear of being alone will become more pressing.

But for now, it’s really hard to stay in a relationship where I want to have sexual relations with pretty much any woman other than my wife. I’m very certain I would be entirely happy in a permanent “friends with benefits” relationship. That’s the level of commitment, and intimacy that I am willing and able to give.
I think I’ve pretty much answered my own question, I just know that it’s going to break her heart…….I don’t enjoy that. I’ve broken many hearts along the way. But, I know it’s not going to break mine….that’s the issue. It’ll suck, I won’t enjoy it….I’ll feel bad because I don’t like hurting people, but….what’s going to hurt more in this situation? Staying together and never being intimate ever again, and dealing with that pain for the rest of our lives, or ending it, and dealing with a short term pain? I won’t feel any pain personally….I’m incapable of it. The only pain I’ll feel is basically guilt. I’ll feel bad for hurting her, and after a while I know I’ll miss her, and call myself stupid for ending an otherwise good relationship with an incredible woman, but I just don’t know that there’s any hope of fixing what’s wrong here!

Reply
L

Kevin I feel that way too, like I can’t do love. Even with my daughter who is only 13. She’ll curl up next to me and tell me things and I have to focus to ensure that I don’t push her away because that’s my instinct. All the awful things my mother said yo me arrive in my brain and I have to. Work hard to stop them coming out.

It’s different with my son, I can only think because I don’t have the mother-son script rushing to my brain.

But I can’t do partner love either. I married someone I thought was great who turned into a violent alcoholic. He says I pushed him to it and I think he is probably right. I think I drive people crazy just like my mother drove me crazy so I just steer clear now.

I watched a video of a boy dancing with his grandmother and it was just pure love, it was beautiful. And I thought, I can’t do that. It terrifies me. Opening up to love leads to terrible pain.

I know a lot of pople achieve healthy loving relationships but I’m guessing they haven’t had their souls trampled on from birth.

Anyway, I think you have a lot to be proud of because despite being abused for years on end, you have made a good life for yourself.

Maybe more therapy could help with intimacy issues but in the meantime please be assured that it isn’t just you.

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Kevin

Hey L,

Thanks so much for your comment. It helps.

Sometimes I feel so alien in this world when I see and hear other people. Especially when it comes to relationships. I feel terrible knowing what’s probably coming for my current relationship, but as I said before, I can’t see how it’s fair to her. And I’m not that happy with it either. I mean I am…..but, I’m not!
I just think for me, it’s just going to have to be that I love people at arm’s length.
But before I do give up on the concept of me staying with her, I do plan on going to see another therapist. I do care about her, and she’s a wonderful person, and I know that if I can’t make it work with her, I will never make it work with anyone.
And who knows? I know she has had her own issues in her childhood, and she says she understands me, and she never pressures me into anything. She never complains, never asks me for anything in the way of emotions etc. Maybe this is how it’s meant to be for me. I guess if she’s ok with me being pretty much numb, then why hurt her by leaving………except for the never having intimacy thing….I still do want to have those kinds of relations with a woman, I just can’t have them with a woman I’m in a long term relationship with. As I said, once there’s feelings involved, I shut down. Can’t do it. Once there’s “love” involved, sex becomes repulsive. It doesn’t matter who it’s with.

I could probably be in a “relationship” with someone forever if we didn’t live together. I think that’s another aspect of it. I’m starting to think that the whole arm’s length thing could apply if we didn’t live together. I think maybe as long as I don’t feel “trapped” or “family like” I could probably be happy.

It’s a very strange situation. I do care about her, and I know that there’s absolutely no reason that we shouldn’t be together. And even the thought of us NOT being together seems stupid. I know that on the surface. It’s sad really. It’s a lonely life. And it’s lonely even when you’re with someone.

But it really does help knowing that there are other out there who struggle in the same way. It’s not fun feeling like a pariah.

Kevin

Reply
Y

Thank you so much for writing this article. This was exactly what I needed to read.

I cut ties with the woman who gave birth to me just 2 days ago and i feel like my whole world is crumbling around me. Even after everything that i have been through i find it hard to believe how a mother could be such a toxic person to their own child.

Ever since i started living with my mom (she had left me with my grandparents at age 3 after she split up with my dad for 3 years), she has physically and emotionally abused me. She has burned my hands, hit me with hangers and broken them on my back, hit me until ive been on the floor bleeding, belittled me, insulted me in every possible way, and even continued feeding and basically taking care of the man (my former step father and my baby brother’s father) who continuously raped me as a teenager after he was removed from the home. I could honestly write a book about everything thats happened to me while under her guardianship. I have more bad memories from my childhood than good. I tried to escape from it but to no avail because our social services system in this country sucks. To my fortune she kicked me out at age 18 and i havent lived with her ever since but despite not living under her home anymore now at age 23, I have still endured her emotional abuse when she creates unnecessary situations just like 2 days ago. Once again she belittled me, called me everything that came to her mind to humiliate me, but the thing that topped the cake was when she told me to Rot (PUDRETE which is the last message she ever wrote me) it shattered my soul so much i didnt know what to do with myself and if it wasnt for my husband and my dad i probably would’ve done something stupid like hurt myself.

I look at my own kids and it breaks my heart because my 3 year old autistic son adores his grandma and grandpa (different stepdad than the rapist) and his uncle (my 8 year old baby brother) who he loves playing with and now he cant see them because my mom is incapable of having a healthy relationship with me no matter how hard i try. At the same time everything shes told me motivates me to not be that type of parent to my kids and being a special needs parent has been teaching me thw importance of having a loving home. I dont ever want to put my kids through the emotional distresses ive been through especially not my daughter. I refuse to be my mother i refuse to play a negative role in my children’s lives.

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Hey Sigmund

Your strength, your courage, your commitment not to repeat what was done to you is extraordinary. Your children are in wonderful hands having you as their mother. You have so much awareness and insight. Your childhood sounds like a traumatic one and I wish you could have had the love from your mother that you deserved. I understand that cutting ties with your mother has comes with its own pain in terms of what you have lost. Hopefully it will be possible in time to have a relationship with your grandparents and your brother independently of your mother. Love and strength to you.

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Chris

Thank you so much for this article. It is oddly comforting to know that I am not alone in my journey to heal which only started back in 2011 with a breakdown. It’s my Mum’s birthday tomorrow but I have chosen for my mental sanity to cut ties. I remember in floods of tears in therapy stating my relationship with her is over and my wonderful, supportive therapist saying “no, your relationship with her hasn’t ended it’s just changed” I didn’t take her up on that point but knew for all her help and wise counsel that she was wrong. Our relationship never ‘started’. I think after 45 years of her as a rageaholic and a belligerent commitment to denial of her physical and mental abuse of me, my Dad (yes he was avoidant/enabler) and my siblings she left me with no other option. She was consistent if nothing else, in her own words “you are either for me or against me” that roughly translates to I am free to abuse you at will and you will take it or you are not my son. Other classics were being told “there are givers and takers in this world and you are a giver, I am the taker”. I ended up with a child psychiatrist at 7 years old and after weeks of therapy they told her that I was a lively, well adjusted young boy but they would like to offer her therapy, her reply was an outburst of rage, indignant that they should presume (as professionals) to know anything. All that remains is the grief of never having being mothered and the relationships she denied us with other family members on her side. One thing I can share about the journey is, it is slow and requires patience. I pray for courage and compassion each day as I wake, it helps me. Good luck all

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J

J again,

Thank you for your reply.

I had to wrtie again.

I had another “discussion” today. Where I told my mom that I had another way of looking at things. That I didn’t really need family feeling to feel complete, that I was looking for enlightenment and to find myself by doing good and serving humanity.

Then she altered all that I told her and said:

“So you don’t need family, then why were you even born if you don’t need family? And why do you want to serve humanity and do all those stuff when you are not serving your family first?”

I think that my family needs no serving at all, they have it all served by now… Why can’t I do what I believe I am meant to do?

Do I really have to put my family as a restriction for my dreams?

She has this belief that family must be together always. But I can’t be together with them, because I am the black sheep. And it’s not because I want to, it’s because they don’t think that what I believe in or think is correct.

My mother is the most toxic woman in the world, but she has this ability to make everyone look up to her as the perfect mom or the perfect woman.

I need some space from my family, I don’t want to meet with them on sundays, or special days. I just want to be alone doing what I believe is going to connect me to humanity.

Am I wrong? Am I selfish? Am I a bad person?

That’s what she wants me to believe.

But deep inside of me, I know that I am meant to be great and thrive around people who I help be better people. Shame my family think they are superior and don’t need someone else to be better people.

I think my mom is selfish, because she wants it all for her. And if she doesn’t get it, then everything is wrong.

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GA

Thank you for posting this article. I am a 53 yo married woman with two wonderful boys, er, young men. The light came on for me when I too had my first son. I was determined not to repeat her patterns. When I did have that anger come out when the boys were younger (that I learned from her), I always made sure to tell my boys that my anger was not at them, but at the situation. Yikes, they still had to hear my words and voice of anger!! I do regret that. I have always, always made it my mission though to apologize to my children for any mis-directed anger they were witness to. As a parent, I have made mistakes and continue to. I apologize to them when I am wrong. My mother has never apologized for anything. In family or personal conversations, if anything was brought up from the past, she would say that ‘she didn’t remember that.’ I continue to look, learn and grow from what I know from my youth. Still at 53, I continue searching for answers as to why, “WHY?”, why did she break brushes over my head, why did she always yell at me, “Why don’t you think?” Why did she push me down, and when I saw blood I screamed and then she yelled at me more and louder … why, because I stuffed too many of my clothes in my drawers (age 8). Why? I am still yearning and searching to know the answers. I am the third born of seven children. She was a stay at home mom, who wasn’t really home. While we were away at school, she read her thin grocery store romance books everyday, all day and into the afternoons, continuing when we would come home from school. The television was our babysitter and for physical entertainment we fought amongst ourselves as there was no real supervision or interaction with her . When it came time to make dinner, she would start her tirade of why wasn’t this done? and why wasn’t that done? … and the anger would start and after dinner couldn’t come soon enough, when the chores were done and it was more tv time, and less interaction with her. She was always very good at showing her nice side to the outside world, but on the inside of our home, we were scared of her. Her lighting up a cigarette was always a good sign and knew we could approach her. She had ‘go itis’ as she called it, and was always up for a party! ‘Her truth’ would come out “in her hangover.” When we saw the writing on the wall, we would all hide. In therapy, I had to learn and be given permission that it’s okay to make that break from your family, that I don’t have to continue living with her abusive patterns in MY adulthood.
I highly recommend therapy for those who eperience or have experienced childhood abuse. Learning now that your parent wasn’t right and that you are lovable and that you ARE a good person …there is a road to freedom. I am proof of that, although I continue to search for the answers. Her favorite saying to me in my adulthood prior to my break, ‘was’ that she doesn’t like the way I do things.’ She has always called me passive-aggressive. She “diagnosing me,” is hillarious, and if it is true, it’s due to trying to learn to deal and cope with her. I had to take what she dealt (and it didn’t matter if I made a face, rolled my eyes or she didn’t like the tone of my voice) there was a consequence. So, as a child I/we weren’t allowed to speak up for ourselves. I read an online article recently from Hoffpost.com, that really rang true for me that I’d like to share, titled, “Parents Who Drive You Crazy: Four Steps For Handling Emotionally Immature Parents”. Wow, I fit in as the sensitive child who learns to read others, due to my having to read and be ready for her mood swings. In reading this article, I think I also found my answer, My mother was and is emotionally immature and she really was never ready to have 7 children, because she was and is still, a child herself.

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J

Thank you for the article “Parents Who Drive You Crazy: Four Steps For Handling Emotionally Immature Parents”

! It also helped me a lot! I needed that advice! 😀

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J

Thank you very much for writing this! Specially point 2 helped me a lot.

I often feel like I can thrive and become the best person I can be, until I think about my parents.

How to explain them that my dreams and actions will make me a better person, and this will be great even for them.

But there come the questions:

Why do you lose time dreaming, when you haven’t yet done your room or finished school or earned X ammounts of money or have a house, or a car or bla bla bla? And I believe the list would go on even if I got all the mentioned before…

Why are you again dreaming about something that didn’t work for you the first time you tried it, stop taking risks, you have to mature and start doing what you are supposed to do, which is work, have a social life and love your family (meaning, nothing special, just routine.)

I feel like they have never really helped me in anyway to achieve my dreams, sincerely. You know why? Because even though they have given me a good education, money and things, and even love, I don’t think they would accept the real me, they just love the image of who I should be.

They keep telling me I can be whoever I want, but when I start, they just “bring me back to earth” in a way of helping me not to fall again.

BUT I WANT TO FALL. I WANT TO LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES.

And no, I can’t learn from their mistakes, because they have none! Because they do nothing! They live their life in routine and everything outside their comfort and secure zone is bad.

I feel like Eep in “The Croods”, with the difference I’m a guy.

I went to this “become a leader” workshop that took 3 or 4 weekends and I really felt very good, and started enjoying my time with people who really wanted to see me grow and helped me, with ideas, by encouraging me, and giving me advice, but positive and constructive advice. But my parents influenced so much in my I ended up ruining the process, because they said I was being “brainwashed”.

That’s when I learned I preferred to be brainwashed than stuck in this life…

The advice I receive from my parents is:

“Don’t do that, you will hurt yourself”
“Don’t go there, it’s dangerous”
“Don’t talk like that”
“Do this, don’t do that”

But NEVER have I heard this:

“Wow, that is a great idea, why don’t we work it even more, what do you need for it to work?”

NO!

You know why? Because they don’t want me to change their routine.

If they travel and do different things, it’s because it is in their secure zone, to 5 star hotels or stuff like that.

I have tried to escape from them once, and it worked almost perfectly for me. But because of poor choices and mistakes, plus a feeling of guilt, I went back to them, but I’m working my way, having learned from my mistakes, to escaping, and point 2, helps me to understand where I am right now, and not having guilt when I leave again.

I know my story is incomplete, there are many things more I should tell. But thank you for creating this space.

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Hey Sigmund

You’re very welcome and thank you very much for sharing your story. You sound as though you have so much clarity. I’m so pleased that you are able to see through the messages that dampen you – they are not your truth. Your truth is this – you will make mistakes because everyone does and from those mistakes you will grow and thrive and flourish and be so completely amazing. Not all of your decisions will work out the way you planned, but that’s so okay because if you don’t find out what doesn’t work, you also won’t find out what does. The only way to avoid mistakes is to avoid all chance of growth – and that is that greatest mistake of all.

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K.R.

I have a toxic mother. I was always in trouble as a kid, nothing I did was good enough. I was blamed for everything from the time I was about 9 years old, after my younger brother was born. I mostly remember my mother always being angry with me everyday after she would get home from work. My father moved out around then and left us alone with her. I saw him rarely and our visits were superficial “fun dad” visits – he never talked about how we were coping, of course.
My mother compared herself to me one time when I was an awkward 15 year old with baby fat. We had joined “family fitness” gym and were working out. She had breast-implants and was wearing tight-fitting leotard and tight t-shirt, I had a baggy shirt on – and she asked the guy standing there which one of us looked better. How humiliating that was for me! Especially when the guy said, “that look!” and pointed at her.
Who does that?!?!?!
My whole life she has been very self-absorbed. She completely forgot my birthday one year. I am now 45, married with three kids. She takes zero interest in her grandchildren – we only live about three blocks from her and she never sees them. In fact, when we informed her that the house we wanted to buy was in the same neighborhood she lives in, she became EXTREMELY upset. She didn’t want us “encroaching” on her, apparently. We (as in my husband and children) were intentional to never stop by or even walk by her house on the sidewalk – she lives one street over, so we just avoid it.
I could go on and on describing stories about her behavior, but I can surmise it as her being disengaged, dismissive, cold and narcissistic. Sometimes my hubby and I laugh out loud at the absurdity of things she says, she honestly has NO idea how she is perceived by me or my husband or my children.
Two days ago it was her birthday, so I invited her to lunch and I bought her a fit bit because I heard her mention a few months ago that she might like one. She has complained to me incessantly for the past two years that she has NO MONEY. She even implied I could help her financially (she has always made terrible money choices, choosing to travel or remodel when she should save); I quickly informed her that my money was all invested for retirement.
So anyway, I bought her this “fit bit” for her gift and when she unwrapped it she quickly covered her mouth and then showed me her wrist. “I already bought on for myself for my birthday!” (it was the more expensive model than what I had bought) and then she announced, “I decided THIS year is all about ME!”. I had to bite my tongue because I wanted to shout, “WHEN HAS IT NOT BEEN ALL ABOUT YOU, LADY?!?!?!”
She also was very manipulative during our lunch, saying that “Daughters stay close, but sons break your heart” referring to my brother who has completely separated from her and wont even answer her phone calls. She completely monopolized the entire lunch conversation, didn’t pick up on cues that I had to go back to work (here I am taking my keys out of my purse, putting on my jacket and she is still chattering away about n o t h i n g ….)
Sigh.
I confronted her once about her behavior about 5 years ago and she became very defensive and angry and then stopped talking to me at all for a while.
I don’t think I want to go there again – it seems like I am just attacking her character. I thought I had gotten away from her, but then she and her long time boyfriend broke up and now, suddenly, she wants to spend holidays at my house because she is all alone. I have so many years of feeling unloved and lonely from growing up. The only good thing that is coming from it, I am aware of all of this and try my damnedest to not repeat this behavior with my own kids.

Reply
hello

It sounds like your brother realized there needed to be a separation from her. Narcissists are not able to be reasoned with ever. I grew up with one of the biggest and the only peace came in getting away. Some of the advice on here doesn’t seem to weigh the dangers involved with telling people to try “other ways” of relating to toxic people who cannot be related to.

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Jessica

I’m English and I moved to America almost 6 years ago now and my life is incomparable to the past. I am married to a wonderful person and it’s like being released from a long prison sentence!

I’m now 27 and as much as I know my relationship with my mother is terrible, she has tried to commit suicide twice now. I’m not sure I could handle it if I cut ties and found out that she has succeeded on a third attempt.

I love her so much but she reverts back to her old ways so easily. I don’t live in the same country as any of my family anymore so I feel as though I have much more control over the situation. But still
I was forced to cut ties with my sisters because even from this distance they were able to effect me so easily. They are just like her. Months go by and they seem to be the most supportive wonderful people and then they talk about me together and find a new problem with me! I just couldn’t take it anymore. They constantly made me feel guilty for being where I am now, like I didn’t deserve it.

Mum would always say “don’t tell anyone my business!” and like an idiot I believed her. I never told anyone what was happening. I’d forget something or there would be a crumb on the counter top and I would have to endure an afternoon of a very intoxicated her yelling at me. Calling me various swearwords which I shall not list, telling me how fat and disgusting I was and that I was lucky she didn’t kick me out. That I was such a drama queen for being depressed.

She must of hit me with almost all the unbreakable objects in the house in the duration of my 20 years living with her. It’s when she had something sharp in her hands that really scared me, when she had those scissors to my throat I truly thought I was going to die. I still remember the pure rage on her face. It still brings me to tears now.

I keep pretending everything is fine but I’m depressed and started having panic attacks again this year. I don’t want my brother to have to deal with her if something does happen. Apart from my husband, he is the only family that I have now.

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Hey Sigmund

Jessica, I can hear through your comment the pain you are carrying. It sounds as though you grew up in an environment that was frightening and cruel too often. I understand the loyalty you feel towards your family – it’s a difficult weight to carry when they are so difficult to be around, but from what you are saying, your mother has put you in a position where the only way you can be healthy is to be away from her. What the rest of your family does in relation to your mother is for them to decide, not for you to be responsible for. You can support your brother, without making yourself vulnerable again to your mother. It doesn’t have to be a package deal. Decide on the terms that feel safe for you. It is always okay to distance yourself from relationships that cause damage, and you can let go with love. Tell her you love her and decide on the level of contact and the terms of that contact – perhaps it will be a monthly phone call, where you talk about nothing personal – it’s up to you.

It’s okay to admit that things aren’t fine. When you distance yourself from a toxic environment, the protective walls you put around yourself to keep yourself safe while you were there can start to fall. This is when you start to see things more clearly and the pain can set in. You’re in a safe place now, and because of your strength and courage and the decisions you’ve made, you can be more clear about the terms of your relationships with your family. You deserve to be treated with love and respect, and if there are people in your family who don’t agree with that, then they don’t deserve to be close to you, or connected to you at all. If you are feeling fragile, please talk to someone – you don’t have to do this alone. You have been so strong for such a long time – there is no other way you could have got through the way you have. Sometimes we all need a hand to carry the load – you deserve that.

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Lis

Okay. I’m not sure about anything anymore but I’m telling my story in hope for some advice because I seriously need it. I’ve been living with my grandparents for three years, just recently started the fourth. Before that I lived with my mother. My mother was a very loving person and we got a long even if we had some rough times, because I have clinical anxiety and depression. I don’t know for how long I’ve been living like this but let’s say a 9-10 year old shouldn’t imagine throwing themselves from a second story building as peaceful thing to do. I lived at my grandparent’s at the time too, but I actually felt like that because I was being bullied by my peers at school, but I survived that and I finally found myself surrounded by very loving and wonderful people (both in real life and online). The thing is, my mom is really ill now, (she has paranoia and schizophrenia) and she became very violent towards me, she insults my family and one of my friends, she’s once gone as far as punching me in the nose but I’ve managed to become more assertive with her and our relationship is better than it was after I started going to therapy.
The fact that I was bullied made me really strong to endure people criticizing me outside my house, but it made me really vulnerable to the people I love. I said I started going to therapy, and it’s because my grandparents’ economical support. The fact is my grandmother thinks my mom is okay, and if she’s fine (and she’s not, she just got into another bad period where she thinks someone is after her and my family is bad for us, and only I have to deal with her because I try to validate her but it’s a hard thing to do while I have to validate myself to her too), my problems do not exist. When my grandmother learned my uncle wanted to pay therapy for me she got kind of angry and said she was going to do it for me, but I noticed she was only doing it reluctantly. My uncle got concerned because he saw me crying and I try not to do that in front of anyone in the house because they think it’s weak (they pretend not to but in today’s incident, which I’ll aboard eventually, my crying and words were mocked). My grandparents’, specially my grandma, have always had really big expectations from us (my mom and I) and they are always comparing me to themselves or to my most successful friends or to my cousins (the last one is very ironical because she used to think so lowly of them) and making me feel bad about my mom not getting better; like I could just magically cure her, and they also use her illness as an excuse to make me feel worse at times, which created a small eating disorder and sleeping disorder that’s only been getting worse, and of course she blames my meds, which have been of amazing help, and I already feel much better about my self worth.
I don’t know, but today I was feeling so weak, and depressed and anxious that I didn’t leave my room until my grandma knocked on my door, she said she wouldn’t be supportive of my therapy because she didn’t see any improvement (like if seeing your granddaughter feeling confident with her own appearance and capabilities and wanting to live, not being badly affected by one of her mother’s episodes isn’t a major improvement) and she’s not paying for it anymore. I got into an argument and I saw in her and the rest of my family (which joined her and supported her), it started being a chat about why I didn’t want to eat and it escalated quickly into how much my mom and I are a disappointment for the family and my mental illnesses are just excuses. I started crying, she started mimicking me. I got angry and pointed out that if she wanted to throw me out of the house she could gladly do it (which now that I think about was a toxic behavior) but it’s true, I’ve already heard her say it once. Then my grandpa said that all I had said before (on Thursday, of how I wanted to do things and I felt very capable of doing it on how I wanted to live rather than be dead) was all a lie, I decided to stop talking back and just hearing them say things at me. Then they casually wanted me to eat something but I didn’t feel hungry and I had to drink a glass of milk instead, just to keep them happy (not that not eating anything is good, I feel awful because I like eating but I just don’t feel like doing it, and I’ve gotten thinner and I’m worried about my physical health now). I went outside, thinking maybe I could think and cry by myself for a while but my grandma came out and I told her I wanted some time alone, and she mimicked that too… I don’t even remember well what happened next, but I know I was left alone in the garden and cried for a longer while and went back inside.
I’ve always believed that I’m the one that’s manipulative and it actually worries me so much I try to keep people away from me (but I also don’t want to get hurt so it’s a two way thing), I’ve even considered having BPD (which I haven’t discussed with any of my therapists, but probably will tomorrow, because it’s my last chance to know if I have that or not); but I’ve started to notice it might not be only be me, or at least my behavior might have been learned rather than just an hereditary trait. I thought I was inherently bad, but there might be more to it than what it seems.
I need advice in this situation because there are a lot of matters that stress me out about the life I lead by living with them, because besides all of that my gender, sexuality, romantic orientation and religious views aren’t really well seen by anyone on my household (I’m closeted and I’m agnostic theist). I can’t go out of the house because that would mean I’d have to find a way to economically support my mother and myself (I’m not leaving her with them) and I wouldn’t be able to get a well paid job just yet.
I also have a question am I becoming a toxic person myself? And if I am, how can I not turn into that kind of person?
Thank you in advance.
Sorry for my poor grammar, English is not my first language.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Lis I need you to hear this: You are NOT a bad person! I can hear how much you want to be good for the people you care about. This is not something that toxic people do – it is something that warm, loving people do. It sounds as though you have grown up in an environment that has been difficult at times, but your past is not your destiny. Hang on to your truth. I understand there are some important things about you that your family will not accept, but that is about who they are, not about who you are. You are a loving, strong, brave person and your sexual and religious orientation has absolutely do not change any of that. Always be looking for ways you can be better – that’s important for all of us, but also be true to who you are, because it sounds as though you’re somebody pretty amazing.

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M

Thank you for writing this. I graduated college last year but moved back home because my parents were going through financial difficulties and I gave them the money I had saved up for an apartment to help pay their mortgage. I haven’t been this depressed in years. My mom is fully toxic – constantly blames my lack of a job for their financial troubles – though she herself hasn’t worked in over 20 years and pushed my dad to buy a house that they can’t afford. She injured herself recently, and has lorded this over the rest of the house, making us attend to her every need and throwing psychotic tantrums about how we don’t care about her if we miss her phone calls. I’m afraid to do anything in the house because she’s going to throw a fit about how I’m an worthless for doing everything wrong. My friends don’t understand when I tell them that she’s a narcissist with no empathy – she presents herself well to the outside world – and just tell me to talk to her, as if my father and I haven’t been trying for the last 20 years. She throws & breaks things all the time, especially when we try to talk sense into her – she never admits that she’s wrong and constantly threatens to abandon the family so “we can see how difficult life is without her”. I feel like I’m at a very exciting age where I should be meeting people, seeing new places, and getting started in a career, but I just feel depressed and severely anxious when I live here – unmotivated to go out, lacking energy to do well in job interviews, too depressed to hang out with my friends. I know I need to move out in the next year or so or I’ll go insane, but besides lacking money I also feel bad abandoning my dad and brother in a time of financial need.

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Hey Sigmund

You’re absolutely right – this should be an exciting time of your life but it is hard to thrive under these conditions. I understand your feelings of responsibility for your dad and your brother, but you aren’t helping either of them by keeping yourself in a situation that diminishes you and causes you to be less than the person you are capable of being. You don’t have to be living with them to be able to love and support them. The better you are for yourself, the better you can be for the people you love.

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hello

Your mother is not a child and you are not responsible for her upkeep. Please get out and save yourself so that these people do not pull you down to their level. Narcissists are incapable of change and only drain their narcissistic supply (which is you).

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Dj

I’m not truly old enough to say I’m able to stay away from my mom. She is a single parent and has no issues reminding me of the fact that she is all alone. I’m obviously still a minor but even now I struggle to remember why I continue to live. I’m an inconvenience to her. She lies to and about me. She has no problem pointing out all my mistakes and then calling me a bitch for them. Simple stuff like not doing the dishes fast enough gets rewarded with a punch and a bitch thrown my way. I’m in a way glad I don’t bruise easy. If I’m happy she believes it’s her job to make me depressed or mad. After she goes on her daily rampage she apologizes for hitting me several times and then goes on to say why something I said or did caused it. Because of her I have decided not to have kids. When I’m an adult that is going to be one of the first things I take care of. I couldn’t subject a kid to her or me who I fear will turn out as toxic and abusive as she is. She has everyone around her fooled. Her violent tendencies are hidden beneath a facade. She tears me down daily. She had someone who I trusted tell me no one would ever love me. I was unloveable. When I took a razor to my skin that was what I thought about. I’m not trying to make anyone feel sorry. I just want to say thank you for creating this article. It won’t change anything but it gives me some hope for the future.

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Hey Sigmund

Dj please listen to me. There is absolutely nothing in the world that you could do that would deserve what you mom is doing to you. I also want you to know how incredibly strong you are to be able to live in the environment you do and to keep going. You are not unloveable. Gosh it’s crazy how LOVEABLE you are! Even just in your short letter there are so many things I can see that would be so wonderful about you. Your honesty, your courage, your strength, your resilience, your open heart. Don’t let her make you believe otherwise. They are her messages, they are not the truth.

I know you don’t want sympathy and I can see that you’re too strong for that. Sympathy is an unhelpful thing anyway. I can see that you’re a survivor and a fighter and I have the most incredible respect for you. What I want is for you to be safe and for the things your mother says and does, not to stop you from being the person you are capable of being. Keep this comment somewhere handy and whenever you feel yourself believing what she is saying, I want you to read it and I want you to remember how important you are and the amazing things about you and the way you have impacted me, a stranger. Find your own truth and keep coming back to it. I wish you could have a mother who is able to love you in the way you deserve. Be careful with the messages you say to yourself. Be gentle and loving with yourself and know that what your mother is telling you and doing to you is all about her dysfunction, not yours.

What’s happening to you is abuse. It’s not normal and it’s not okay. Is there somebody at your school or another adult that you can talk to. Perhaps a friend’s parent? And is there somewhere else you can stay, again, maybe with a relative or a family friend. Just because she is your mother, there is no obligation for you to stay with her. Here is a link to a place in the US that has counsellors online 24/7 if you would like to talk to someone https://www.childhelp.org/hotline/. I’m not sure how old you are but they would deal with minors of all ages. If you are not in the US, please let me know and I will let you know other places you can find support. If you can, look at the site on a school computer. If you look at it from a home computer, it might be wise to delete the browser history afterwards. If you want to talk to somebody in person, perhaps somebody at your school but you aren’t sure how to start, I would be really happy to help you with this. My email address is .

Finally, I’m not sure how far off adulthood you are and how close you are to being able to make a decision about making sure you can’t have kids, but I do have some advice I would like you to think about. If you choose not to have kids that’s completely your decision but it is a big decision, and you might feel differently in, say 10 years or when you meet someone who loves you and who you love just as much back. Before you make the decision, it might be worth waiting until you have been away from your mother for at least 12 months and you are more free of her influence. You are not her. You will never be her. She has done enough damage and you don’t want to add to that by being influenced by her into making a permanent decision, one way or the other. I’m not saying that having children is important, but the decision about whether or not to have them is an important one and needs to be done with as much clarity as possible.

You are amazing – strong, brave and amazing. Please think about talking to someone about what’s happening in your home. When you have so many toxic messages and abusive actions coming at you, it’s important to get love, kindness and support coming back the other way to push against that. We all need that. There are people who can give that to you. Don’t feel as though you have to do this alone. Much love and strength to you.

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Robyn

Hi Dj. I had a toxic mother. I think she had an undiagnosed Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and if we were to sit down and chat I think we could swap pretty much identical stories.

It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that it really became clear what I’d lived through, that it was abuse, the effect it had on me and how my response to it had influenced the decisions I’d made in my life. I didn’t have children because I didn’t think I’d be a very good parent. When I hit the pause button now and think about that notion, I can see it came from a mixture of taking on her often-repeated view that I wasn’t good enough for anything, and not knowing how to do it differently because she was my parenting model.

Now that I’m away from her and have come to understand myself better, I’m sad about how her toxic behaviour was such a factor in influencing my choice in such a personal matter.

I think Karen’s advice is sound – give yourself some time to recover. Treat yourself with kindness, cherish the good that certainly does lie within you. Think about the future and all the great things you can achieve. As a friend of mine once said “If you’d had supportive parents you could have been Prime Minister by now!”

The weaknesses she berates you for are the weaknesses she doesn’t want to acknowledge in herself. It must be truly miserable being her.

There will be tears, DJ, but here’s something for you to hold close : You are loveable, and you are loved.

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Dj

Thank you for the support. I know she has stuff wrong with her but I can’t separate myself from her. I have tried for years to distance my feelings and tell myself they weren’t true but I couldn’t. I set myself up every time when she apologizes because I forgive her and allow her to continue telling me this stuff. My tears are what she wants. My sadness. Wish I could talk to someone but then if they actually believed me, I would be taken from her. Only because I have been taken before do I know that me and my brothers would be separated. She loves my two brothers. Treats them like a normal parent would. I couldn’t live with the guilt of splitting them apart. From her and each other. My goal was to try for Stanford university, when I told her she was simply like I definitely won’t be paying for that. I said she wouldn’t have to since they are need blind. I told her I would get accepted for just my brains. She said sure you will, I’ll be surprised if you ever go to college. No college will accept your dumb ass. I’ll see you at Mc Donald’s in a few years. The one thing she can’t do is take my dream. If I make it to 18 and past I’m going to become a trauma surgeon. Helping people and healing people. Thank you both for the support you’ve given.

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Hey Sigmund

Dj you are so extraordinary. You are articulate, intelligent, strong and resilient. You’re incredible. I understand your reluctance to talk to someone and your need to stay with your brothers. I can hear how important that is to you. I want you to know that I believe you completely, and that I am not going to do anything that will disempower you. You have my email and you have the website link I sent through. If you ever want my help to talk to someone, or if you just want to drop me an email, I’m here. I want you to know that. I believe in you completely and I have absolutely no doubt that you will make it to Stanford and give something to the world that would not have been there without you. It’s difficult to understand why your mother treats your brothers differently to you. Perhaps she sees in you the great potential that she never realised in herself. Don’t ever believe the things she tells you about yourself. Keep your dream, keep working towards, and don’t ever stop! I know that you will get there. Stanford and the world will be so lucky to have you. Work hard in school – it will make all the difference, and don’t ever believe that you won’t achieve everything you want. You will – you really will. I hope you feel the arms of the world wrapping around you and willing you on, believing in you and knowing that you will get to where you want to be and that you will make a difference. Email me whenever you like – you don’t need a reason. If you want to let me know how your doing at home or at school or to celebrate when you get a good mark or a disappointing one – whatever you like. I’m here. You are truly wonderful.

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Stephanie

DJ, your story is my story also. Everything you are describing is exactly what I went through with my mother. I also had 2 younger brothers who I was concerned about, and I felt like if I left then who would be there to show them what normal should look like? I did finally move out early when I was 17 and stayed with friends until I was old enough to get an apartment. Just keep remembering, this too shall pass..

It took me until I was 40 to realize that I am not responsible for my mother or my brothers, and that I can’t make them healthy or happy. What I can do, is decide to be healthy and happy for myself and my own family. I haven’t had any contact with my mother or my brothers in a long time (they believe the things she says about me, and are very dysfunctional themselves) but they know where I am and how to contact me should they want to. I am here, and willing to have a HEALTHY relationship if and when they are capable. I will not chase them or beg for their love and affection any longer though.

Concerning the issue of having children, I felt the same way that you do — how could I know how to be a mother when I essentially had never had one? I knew what I didn’t want to do with my children, but how do you know what you should do instead if you’ve never seen it? I went to college (with no parental support — and you can do that too — look into being legally emancipated so they won’t require you to list your parent’s income on your financial aid forms) and I got a degree in Early Childhood Education which is the best thing I ever did for my children. I learned what children need from the caregivers in their lives, and I learned how to be nurturing and supportive. When I had my children, I vowed that they would always be the most important thing in my life, and I would do whatever it took to change the pattern of abuse that I was taught. I am not a perfect mother, and I have made plenty of mistakes, but I am not my mother. I refuse to be.

Good luck to you, DJ, and God bless.

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Barbara

Thank you for giving me hope that maybe (one day) I will be strong enough, and that maybe, just maybe it was not all my fault like I was always told. I stopped having contact with my parents about 2 years ago… I’m ashamed to say that it wasn’t a conscious decision, I just … couldn’t do it anymore. I had tried to limit my contact with them, but the phone calls (which also mostly made me curl up in fetal position) of course were not enough and resulted in even more accusations of how other daughters were so much better and on better terms with their mothers. The last Christmas I spent with them … I had a cold, so after spending 3 hours in an ice cold church all I wanted to do was to curl up in bed… where my mother cornered me and explained to me how I was the reason that she wanted to kill herself, all she ever wished for was a daughter and then she got one, but it turned out to be me. How even as a baby I did not return their love and turned away. How she always thought to herself “Well, she is just a stupid kid, when she grows up she will come to her senses”. How I was a grown-up now, supposedly, but still had not… Followed by 2 days where I was supposed to take care of their technical needs, fixing computers, teaching them how to use various devices, like nothing ever happened. And still I came back. Because they were my parents after all.
My older brother had cut ties with them a few years prior already which of course was added to the list of things that were my fault. After all it was my duty to tell my brother that this was no way to treat his parents and drag him back to them. Only … I couldn’t blame him: He had become a father and told me that while he was “fine” with being treated like crap himself, he had realised that he never ever would subject his own kids to our parents and their crazy world views. We had grown up with them telling us how bad everyone and everything else outside our family was, how we would come to realise that friends don’t really care about us and would always betray us, how only our parents would stand by us. How everyone else had it better or easier. And, of course, our parents were always right. My dad was a judge, so he was being paid for being right after all. (One of his bon mots)
Recently I’ve been forced out of my “ignorance is bliss” hiding state as my mother became terminally ill and suddenly me and (mostly) my brother were contacted again, more persistently. Once again, the cancer is my brother’s fault and mine… So, for my own sanity, I’ve decided that I would not go there. And this time it is a conscious decision.

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Hey Sigmund

Barbara you have done the right thing in deciding not to go there with your parents. You deserve so much better than what they have given you. The way your parents have treated you is a glaring sign of their dysfunction, not yours and I wish so much for you that you are able to see their behaviour for the truly toxic behaviour that it is. It sounds as though you are well on your way to this. I’m so pleased you have been able to make a conscious decision in relation to your parents. Your decision to not go there is strong, brave and important. It would be almost impossible to thrive and be the person you are capable of being when there are such belittling and cruel comments being directed at you. Here is an article that might also be helpful for you, in case you haven’t read it https://www.heysigmund.com/toxic-people-when-someone-you-love-toxic/. Keep moving forward with strength and courage and don’t look back.

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Big feelings can be so beautiful. And so tricky. 

We want our kids to know that all feelings are okay, and we also want to support them to handle those feelings in positive ways. This is going to take time. We were all born with feelings, but none of us were born able to regulate those feelings. That will come with time and lots (lots!) of experience. 

In the meantime, the way we respond to their big feelings and the not-so-adorable behaviour it can drive, can be key in nurturing their social and emotional growth. So let’s talk about how.

Proactive Parents is a community event hosted by @mindfullaus . I’ll be providing parents, caregivers and educators with the skills and tools to better understand big feelings and the behaviour it fuels.

Understanding how to respond when young people are overwhelmed can drive calm and connection over conflict. Ultimately, our responses have enormous potential to build important neural pathways that will strengthen them for life.

This presentation will explore the powerful ways parents and carers can, quite literally, influence the strengthening of the brain in ways that will build self-control, emotional regulation, and resilience in their children for life.♥️

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We have to change the way we think about school. When we prioritise academics, it's like building the walls - because that's what we see - before fortifying the foundations.

So many teachers know this, but with the increased focus on reporting and academics, they aren't being given the time and opportunity to build the relationships that will ensure those foundations are strong and steady.

This is why too many kids are falling down at school - not because they aren't capable, but because the necessary foundations for them to do well haven't been laid.

Schools are spending the resources anyway, but reactively on behaviour management, disengagement, reduced capacity to learn.

If we can steer those resources towards building relational safety, so kids feel more seen, valued, cared for, rather than less capable or clever, we'll see a decrease increased academic success, greater engagement, less social struggles, and less behaviour issues. It's just how it is.

First though, we need to value relationships and the way kids feel at school, even more than how they do at school. All kids are capable of their own versions of greatness, but unless they feel safe and cared for at school, we just won't see what they are capable of, and neither will they.❤️
We also need to make sure our teachers feel seen, safe, cared for, valued. Our kids can’t be the best they can be without them.♥️
Separation can be tough! Not just for our kiddos but also for the adults who love them. 

As brutal as separation anxiety can feel, it also comes with transformative opportunities to strengthen your child and build their brave in ways that will serve them now and for the rest of their lives. 

Of course we’d rather our young ones (or ourselves) never feel the tailwhip of separation anxiety, but so many young people are going to experience anxiety at separation from a loved one. It’s part of being human, but it doesn’t have to hurt. 

As their important adult, you have a profound capacity to support them through separation anxiety and help them feel braver, stronger, and closer to you, even when you’re not beside them. Let’s talk about how.

This is information I wish every parent could have.

We want our children to feel loved and supported, but we also want to build their brave so anxiety doesn’t stand in the way of the important, growthful things they need to do.

In this 1.5 hour webinar, I’ll be presenting practical, powerful ways to build bravery when separation feels tough - at school, at bedtime, at drop-off - any time being away from you feels tough.

A recording of the webinar will be available to all registered participants for 30 days following the ‘live’ online event.

To register or find out more, google ‘hey sigmund webinar separation anxiety’ or see here https://www.heysigmund.com/upcoming-live-webinars/ ♥️

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