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.


Leslie E.

Recently, and as crazy as it sounds I have researching constant information about toxic relationships. I am 19, and the relationship between my mother and I is unbearable. After ready millions of posts, and signs, and how to cope, it’s still very difficult. I am constantly judged, my feelings are worthless, and what’s worst is how she constantly assumes the worst of me. Throughout my highschool years, sophmore to be exact, I’ve work, done sports, and school all together. However, it’s like thats all she knows to say to those that ask about me. She knows NOTHING about me personally, emotionally, nothing of who i am, who i want to be. I am contantly finding myself in a downward spiral, because at this age, i feel completely hopeless, worthless, emotionally unstable because i do not have someone to depend on. I do not have someone to tell of how i actually feel, thus making me put my feelings last, and having major outbursts in my room alone to the point i get unbareable headaches. I have been, and am damaged on the inside. I cannot have relationships because i am looked down upon, because i myself believe they will fail because i can not commit, because i have trust issues, and i do not know what it is to have a healthy relationship, and i do not feel as if i am worthy of being loved. My stepfather as well provides no comfort, no love, just judgement. They both are constantly guilting me, whether it is with what they provide for me, and money, or comparing me to others. & honestly, im tired of it, and im sad a majority of the time. I believe, and i know im have depression because even if i have good moments, the negative outways it all. i want help, i need help, i need to leave. I can’t take this only longer. I don’t even know who i am, and i feel this will hurt me in the long run.


Leslie E, I’m sending you a big virtual hug, you are not alone. What you’ve been doing does not sound crazy, you’re not crazy. You are brave for following your inner voice & you deserve more in life. I had a longer answer & my browser crashed so I’ll send this & then re-write the rest.


Learn to be your own best friend and don’t become codependent because you are lonely. If you don’t do the inner work and heal yourself and build yourself up you will trauma bond in relationships even with friends and become a magnet for narcissists and sociopaths. I started a page called PositiveVibes to help myself because I had no one to encourage me or support me in my life emotionally. I became a seeker of truth and freedom and learned that we are all spiritual beings having an Earthly experience and some souls are much younger and not as advanced and we have to detach from unhealthy people sometimes to save ourselves.


Hallo my name is Shelley. I cant put in words what to say. I was always treated like crap hy my mom. So i didnt believe in love. I didnt know what it felt like, so how can it be real.
My husband and i discussed this at length, and he was very upset to learn what i thought about love.
at the end of march 2016, i had a big fright and realized that i cant live without this man and this is what loving somebody feels like. About a couple of weeks ago we had this huge fight and i made the biggest mistake of telling him this. (i believe in being honest)
Hut now instread of being happy that i realized what loving somebody really feels like he thinks that i didnt love him before. And he keeps on hammering in the fact that i had choices in what i feel and how i behaved.
He also knows about my childhood.

I am really really stuck and i dont know what to say to make him be happy in this…
He is only seeing the worst in this.

Please do you have any advise for me on how to talk to him regarding this matter, so that he will understand myside..


Hi Shelley, I look at love very simply. It has different meanings for different people. And everyone shows love in different ways. I have read “The Five Love Languages” and found it very helpful. It was written with Christian undertones. Even though I am not Christian I still found it very helpful and feel that it can be helpful for anyone regardless of religion.

I made a post about my relationship with my mother a while back and appreciate everyone who has written in to me. I feel alot of gray in this area right now but will write back in with an update when i receive more clarity. I just want everyone to know I appreciate the support on this site.

laura elizabeth

my mother for my whole life has abused myself and my younger sister, such as hit us, had us by the throat, pulled our hair until we had bald patches, we always believed we really were awful and that we were really trapped with her. my dad has never really been around. until now (aged 18) i only just notice how it really is not okay- we are not the wrong and evil ones. she tells us she hates us and says awful things to bring us down, only to apologise and do the same thing the next day. she blamed us for years for her depression, the way my dad is never around much, everything is our fault. i feel so lost and alone and trapped. thank you, i now feel i can start to try and heal myself.

Karen - Hey Sigmund

You and your little sister did NOT deserve this. You are not awful and nothing of what your mother has been through is your fault. She is so wrong to be hurting you and your sister the way she is. The things she is telling you are not true and nothing you could ever do would deserve being hurt or put down. What she is doing is abuse and it will never be okay. What I know for certain is that you are so wonderfully strong, brave, loving and wise. I can hear this from your comment. The way you care about your sister and the way you have survived 18 years of this. You’re amazing. It’s important that you don’t believe the messages your mother is telling you. They are a sign of her deficiencies, not yours. You will also be the one who will make the difference for your sister by giving her the positive, loving messages that your mother isn’t capable of giving her. I hope someone in your life can do this for you. If not, come back to this comment to remind yourself of how wonderful, strong, wise and brave you are.

Just me

This is a good read. I knew fairly early on my mother wasn’t like a good portion of others peoples moms but simply adapted to her. She moved away (always chasing that happiness butterfly and whoever had the most promising offer for her) when I was in my early 20’s and I grew leaps and bounds and healed and became my true self out from under her manipulative umbrella. I graduated from college, got married, bought a house and started a beautiful family of my own and now that she burnt all of her bridges out of state she decided to come back and seems to think she has full access to my life! I had nearly forgotten how she is and helped her out when she first moved back to the state but now she keeps hinting around to moving in with me to “help” (as in help herself to my drama-free life, successess, and the existence my husband’s income provides) with “her grandkids” because she has health issues you know. And can’t get around easily and doesn’t work and has health issues. So she wants to be there for me to help with the kids and all.
Meanwhile I am recalling all the things In had forgotten and I feel like she’s a dark cloud lurking in the distance just waiting to drop a tornado into the life I’ve managed to create without her “help”.
I don’t want to go full NC but if she won’t listen and respect my boundaries that will be the best option to continue to make sure I can break the chain, sadly. Even more sadly I sometimes suspect she wants to back me into a corner because if I get mean and cut her off she’ll have an estranged child sob story to use for pity.
Some things never change I guess 🙁


Please trust your instincts which are screaming to stay away from her. She not only wants to finish wrecking your life, but also your kids’ lives and your marriage. Nevermind what people think, what matters is that YOU know that she is horrible. I cut mine off late and only wish I’d known to do it sooner.


This article resonated with me, at 24 I’m finally coming to cutting ties with my mother after years of verbal abuse manipulation and guilt. She’s alway’s kept her abuse under the ubrella of “I’m just saying this because I care about you” But body shaming me in the middle of a street, waking me up in the middle of the night as a teenager to cry about how I am a lesbian since I don’t have a boyfriend, bribing me with money to lose 10 pounds is all abuse. Then when I fight back she guilt’s me into the “well I’m a horrible mother then, and all those years I spent driving you around signing you up for sports were wrong of me right?!” She blames me for her paranoid thoughts about me gaining weight or not taking care of myself because I don’t live at home anymore. It is maddening. If I lived at home she would guilt me about that, if I lost more and more weight she would be upset that I’m not married making enough money, it never ends! Now everything has come to a halt with her talking about wanting to die because she has lost me as a daughter. It’s tough because I want my mother to get the help she needs, but I can’t subject myself to this abuse and let her bring me down with her.


It’s good to know that there is a name to it. I am now a mother of two wonderful little boys and I can’t- for the life of me- have a healthy relationship with my parents. They both undermine my authority with my sons and completely disregard my boundaries where they are concerned. They make disrespectful jokes about my husband to our boys. This has to stop! My parents are ageing and I don’t want to seem like I’m abandoning them in their time of need. I took 10 years to begin the process of healing from their toxicity and I am fearful that my boys will have to heal from toxic grandparents. I don’t want to exclude my parents from from our lives, but do I really have a choice?


I ended my relationship with my mother approx 5 years ago and it was the best thing I could’ve ever done for my mental and physical health. She is sick – she has been been dying for the past 30 years manipulatively speaking but she’s really ill now. The thing I fight with the most is do I need to find a way to grant her the opportunity for closure in person or will I be ok with no regrets as I’ve been for the past 5 years if I don’t give her that chance if she were to die tomorrow. Heartbroken for her as a woman and a mother myself that she could not come to terms with her faults over the years and forgive herself as I’ve forgiven her all these years of mental torture.


I can so relate to this. My mum is extremely toxic and is constantly making negative remarks about my ability to take care of my family and home
She winds me up with her venemon, her nasty comments on everything. She travelled to visit me recently and after a few days, I felt incredibly overwhelmed by her presence. She complaints about my children, and I feel like shouting at them all the time to prove her that I have control over their behaviour. Then I feel guilty because they are children and I shouldn’t be so harsh.
She constantly plays the victim, cries over silly things and causes a bad atmosphere

I try so hard to please her but all I get is negativity.

Its a shame. I long for a positive relationship with her for as long as I remember. However, I feel like cutting her off completely, to avoid getting hurt

Karen - Hey Sigmund

Maria it sounds as though you have worked hard to try to have a good relationship with her, but you can’t do it by yourself. Protect yourself and your beautiful children. That’s what’s imporatant. I wish you all the very best.


I started thinking of my past and googled searched my parents never wanted me to be smarter than them and came across this article. I now have a rubber band around my wrist. The abuse started at a young for me. My father mostly but my mother let him and encouraged him. I was forced to kneel on beans, hit with belts and objects. Growing up I was constantly put down and belittled. I couldn’t never have an opinion (i am very opinionated naturally) and was never shown love in my home. My mother was emotionally cold from being abused growing up. She decided to pass the abuse and neglect down. I have scars from both my mom and dad. I always grew up thinking i was a bad kid and then started to head down a bad path in life. I hated myself and eventually moved away. I got into college and started to find myself but I still didn’t know how to love anyone and at time myself. So i masked the pain with alcohol and drugs like i had in high school. I started going down a dark path once again. I then decided a year ago to cut my mother completely out of my life. (she decided to date a guy i was with for a year in HS and had 2 kids with him) Since i have felt better but the fact that i don’t and never had loving parents really eats away at me. I know I don’t want either of them in my life because till this day they are the same people. Rude, ignorant and disgusting human beings. The only thing that got me through is my optimize and want for a better life and to some day find someone to love who will love me back. My heart goes out to everyone who comes from abusive/neglecting parents. This is the worst way to come into the world.

Karen - Hey Sigmund

Amanda it sounds as though you grew up in a cruel environment. I completely understand your grief and feelings around not having the parents you deserved. This is a very real loss and I wish so much that you had parents who were able to love you the way you deserved to be. That is their deficiency, not yours. For whatever reason, some people just don’t have it in them. Now is the time for you to give yourself what they haven’t been able to – love and nurturance. Be kind to yourself – in you is the beautifully innocent, extraordinary young girl who has always needed that love. If you can’t imagine loving yourself, imagine loving her. I wish you love and strength.


I am 37 years old and I am still in a relationship with my toxic mother. My mother is a narcissist. She is very controlling and also the master of guilt trips and manipulation. It was also very confusing to me because she was always so sweet to anyone who was not her children and husband. I have never thought of my own mother as sweet. Growing up I was bullied very badly at school from 2nd thriugh 8th grade. I was also sexually abused by some of the children who bullied me. I would come home upset and instead of my mom asking me what was wrong she would take it personal and assume that I was upset to be home from school. My parents gave me no tools to deal with this. They actually gave me no tools to deal with anything is an independent and healthy manner. My father was a workaholic who would work to get away from my mother. He is very sweet but now I am letting myself see how he contributed to the problem. His withdrawing and going to work lead to an endless downward spiral. He also was an enabler and staying in this institution of marriage was more important than protecting his children. I feel like my father has been one of the main reasons for me to stay in touch with my mother. But I am ready for freedom now. I have moved to the west coast from the east where my parents still are. Even though I am all the way over here my mom emails me constantly and sends me care packages. “Care packages” add to the confusion. Any suggestions from anyone on how to break free from my parents and my childhood trauma is appreciated. I am going to somatic therapy which is helping. Most recently the childhood trauma of my hairstyle and clothing being controlled came up. I tried to speak with my parents about it and my dad refused since i wouldn’t take that thy did the best they could as an answer and my mom said I am 37 years old and I need to get over it and quickly got off the phone. If conversations do not go her way she is quick to get off the phone and she is also great at ignoring. When I was a child she would ignore me for up to days at a time. i have yet to have a deep conversation with either of my parents. I am ready for this shallow relationship to be over. But because i am from an upper middle class up bringing and my parents are still together i had a great childhood in their mind. That is a lame reason to me but a very real reason to them


Robin, Hugs and much love to you! Know that you are your own person, you must love yourself and give yourself permission to move on and be who you are, that it’s ok to be happy.
If you make the break little by little it will help with the finality. Stretch out your responses, don’t answer some of the emails or text messages. Make the responses short and to the point.
My husband’s advice to me had been to keep everything superficial, no feelings, no thoughts, just the basics. It made the break much easier for me.
Many of the things you say sound very familiar to me. I am a 54yo woman and have made the break, just 3.5 years ago. I very much understand, ‘the not talking to you’ if you don’t conform to her will.
In 6th grade, my mom made me wear hand me down clothes that were given by a friend of hers that were polyester print, elastic waist pants and she was easily angered if she caught me not wearing them. Bell bottom jeans were the ‘in thing’ at that time. In school, I had voiced my dislike of these pants with classmates and on many occassions some of those classmates thought it’d be funny to pants me after school “to help me out”. It was VERY humiliating! And who was I to tell? If I were to go to her, I’d be in the same place, if I went to the school, they would go to her. It was an endless cycle and I was stuck living in it, trying to survive.
She cut my hair in 8th grade to save the trip to the salon. She kept trying to make it right by cutting and cutting until I had just an inch left all over and I had a wave to my hair, it was awful and I ended up looking just like a boy. Eigth grade was such a crucial time to fitting in, this didn’t help and I didn’t fit in.
Interesting that my dad and step dad weren’t there for any of the hittings, hair pulling, brush breaking over the head, belittling or undermining that took place. Although, when our dad had a chance to get out when I was 8yo, he did without question (seriously). He had to listen to our complaints on our weekend visits, but he did nothing, just listened and said, “That’s how your mother is. You’re going to have to learn to deal with her.” At least he knew her for who she was. He was the lucky one to get out.
At any time, if I brought up anything from the past, or anything that made me unhappy, she didn’t recall or her best response was to respond by saying to me, “Poor (my name)”.
Last year, I broke and sent her an email wishing her a Happy Birthday and at almost 76yo now, she still continues her game. Her response to that email was a brief sentence on the fun she was having with family members with lots of surprises and there was no “love mom” at the end of her email. What loving mom does that? She continues to help me in my decision, that making that break was the best decision I have ever made.
Therapy allowed me to vocalize my voice, my thoughts and memories, which she did not allow. As far as she was concerned, my feelings didn’t count and still don’t.
The most important tool that I learned in therapy, was to write her a letter expressing my thoughts and feelings of what happened to me all those years growing up and beyond. I wrote down example after example. It’s not a letter that you send (trust me that it will do no good). I sent one once after having an ‘aha’ dream and she responded back that she didn’t like the way I do things. That put a halt to that, just like she intended and I never did it again.
But, having all those thoughts and memories constantly going through your head is like drowning and keeps you in it. Writing all those thoughts and memories down is cathartic and gives you the opportunity to let it out and let it go. You’ve said it and it’s down on paper. It’s very releasing. It has worked for me and now, I DON’T keep recalling all those things that she said and did to me. I look forward to others comments and the ways that they too have handled controlling and out of control mothers and how they have moved on. You deserve only the best and I wish you good health! I know I’d enjoy hearing how you are doing in the future. Stay in touch!


Hi GA! Thank you for the post and the suggestion. I am going to try your suggestions out and keep you posted.

The Green Giant

Dear Robin,

Your post/site is the only one that has really rung true for me.

I found out from my Dad years later, that my mom had announced, when I was 4, that she didn’t like me. It was because I had said to her in a whiney tone, after my parents came back from an outing, that I wanted a Chatty Kathy doll.

When I was 7, my mom arranged for my little brother and I to go to a production of “Wind in the Willows” so she could have sex with the Husband of the woman who took us to the show. The Wife was totally aware of what was going on and conDONED it.

I was on to her scheme and tried, from then on out, to protect my little brother from mom’s obvious philanderings or Picadillos or whatever, female pseudonym is appropriate.

When I was 10 she was with a neighbor and asked me to go home and get my Barbie Doll which I did and to my horror, she, in a drunken state, bent my Barbie’s bendable legs way back and forth to break them.

When I got my period at 13 she said, “Go change your underwear”, and asked me if I knew how to use tampons. I faked it and ended up wearing the cardboard tube as well as the tampon around.

When I was 19, she informed me that one of my old boyfriends she’d been having hang out at our family house would be joining her at our summer camp to be an art counselor, like her. She had turned her back to me when she said it. I was furious and insisted that she include me, making me a counselor there too. I ended up going to keep an eye on both of them and that was Really a miserable scenario. Me having to keep an eye on my own mother and my old boyfriend! Disgusting or what??!!!

I’ve had the hardest time, my whole life, because all I ever think about is her shitty treatment of me.

My sister was “Gifted” and because she didn’t give my mom any trouble was the favourite daughter. I have made many bad choices in life, consequently . . . seeking love.

She’s tried visiting me by bringing a mean relative with her. I shouldn’t have let her visit on my birthday, when she knew her sister and I are like oil and water.

When, recently, I told her a little of my ordeal she said, “Don’t Tell Anyone!!”.

I had to put some space and time between us, since, as in about 4 years. Now I learn that she is experiencing dementia of sorts. My brother has gone to help out recently, and I want to help too but I don’t hear the love in her voice.

Now that my mom’s becoming demented I feel helpless, again and because our relationship has always been so bad (except before I developed an ego at 4), I’m at a loss as to how to proceed.
Last time I visited her, about 4 years ago, after all the guests had gone home after dinner, she went in to a rage because her old boyfriend had died.

Before she started raging, I slipped into the guest room and rode out the storm with my ex-husband.My sister said she had a sad childhood. Gee, I wonder why?!!!


Robin, give yourself a pat on the back for where you are now, and the decision to start and stay with this journey. Your comment that your parents gave you no tools to deal with anything resonated with me. I am 48 and just making sense of my lost adulthood and empty childhood. I thought our family was normal, just not affectionate. Was I wrong.
I always thought my mother was the problem and my father had to tiptoe around her. Surprise!! He was actually a functioning alcoholic. Never had one deep conversation with him. A great guy in a crowd, but otherwise disinterested, uninvolved, intolerant, hateful, superior, racist, never accountable, a compulsive liar, emotionally abusive. And classic manipulator, making it seem my mother was the issue. Great guy though, everyone loves him!!
I’m on the fence over how much of my mother is truly toxic & how much is stunted from her toxic childhood. Alcoholism runs in her family though she’ll never admit it, strong pride. And I still have no credibility with her, despite being reasonably intelligent & responsible and almost 50. How old do I need to be??
Also, my whole family uses shame to get people to do what they want. As if I didn’t have enough problems with shame on my own!
The suggestions others have given are great. Also refer back to this article, which is one of the best I’ve read. And if you haven’t, look up codependency… abusive environments breed it for survival. Melody Beattie has a great daily meditations book as well as several others. I started with toxicity and really turned a corner when I began to understand the codependent part that I took on & have spent 40 years running with.
This is our time, to find our passions, to heal, to embrace life & other good, healthy people. It is truly a blessing to be at this point, even if it feels like halfway to unknown.


My parents are so cruel, both of them. I have gone no contact. I had my lawyer send a letter saying dont contact me or my precious son. This was a great article. I am secretly self destructive. I like the article about it stopping with me. My parents parents were the same. My parents had their lawyer send lies and part truths to my lawyer. It messes me up.


My own mother started grabbing my hair and hitting me on Wednesday night. I can’t do this anymore. I had to let her go. I told her to leave and never come back. I haven’t seen her since then.

Hey Sigmund

Sophia you’ve done the right thing. Whether it’s from a parent, a partner or a stranger in the street, nobody should ever be physically and emotionally violated like this. Brave decision. Stay strong.


I can absolutely relate to this article. My mother hits me (I am a guy). She told my ex she can do better than me. She keeps telling me how I have no talents and all the other people younger than me are way ahead of me. And I am already 26. I am so done.

Karen - Hey Sigmund

William don’t believe the messages she is telling you. They just aren’t true. You absolutely have talents and greatness in you. When people put people down like this, it’s a measure of their own insecurity. No excuse though. You deserve to be treated with respect, love and compassion. I’m pleased you’ve found clarity. Nobody deserves to be treated like this. Move forward with strength and courage.


I had an awful narcissitic mother. When I was growing up, she seemed merely “kooky” but that was because I was so completely saturated by her influence and I knew no better. All I knew growing up in the house that she NEVER cleaned and the dozens of “boyfriends” that came and went, was that something was terribly wrong, and indeed it was. Many years later after much therapy and healthy relationships, I awoke exactly like the scene in THE MATRIX where NEO comes to and finds himself in the matrix, I realized with great sorrow that my mother was a woman of extremely low character who never saw me, never cared for me and barely provided clothes to put on my back. I recognized the impossibility of trying to change her which was quite sobering and a reality check difficult to accept from a parent, who was supposed to be the person nurturing me and gently showing me the ways of the world. NOT. My favorite terrible memory (besides all the pornographic postcards she sent me growing up) is being 7 or so when the teacher notified her that I was having trouble understanding how to tell time on a clock and my mother sat me down and proceeded to berate me and scream at me. Letting her go was easy because this was a woman whose two children meant absolutely NOTHING to her, which is quite a cold shot. She lived a hedonistic, debased, sex addicted, utterly self absorbed life to the very end and when she died a year ago, I shed not a single tear. She was a monster. But WHY? There was indeed a reason. She herself was the survivor of a horribly brutal father that obviously annihilated any loving and tenderness she might have had and this has helped me do the one thing possible to finally let her go: Forgive her. What else? Forgive her, because she knew not what she did. These “people of the lie” have no barometer of right and wrong, mindfulness simply does not exist. They are truly buried alive within their own narcissistic patterns/ madness. I believe the most difficult part is to forgive, no matter what – and is necessary. Like Anne Frank forgave. Only in this way, can we keep the flame of love and compassion alive within us. These people are truly of another generation.

Hey Sigmund

Matt thank you for sharing your story. I’m sure it will help many people who read it. Your wisdom and your capacity to forgive are powerful and brave. You are so right about forgiveness. It is what makes way for healing and growth.


I so appreciate and relate to all of the comments left here. Matt’s post in particular, because I feel that he is right. The only way to truly let go of the pain and after-effects of these toxic relationships is to forgive. Not for them, but for us.

My mother has always presented herself as the good person, the wise one, everyone’s friend – but also as the victim of everyone else’s bad behavior. Her MO is emotional manipulation, blame, and guilt – and it has torn our family apart. Of course, she doesn’t know what’s wrong with us all and why we are so torn apart and mad at each other. Her story is that she’s trying to bring us all together – we’re the ones who have the attitude problems. We are the ones who are in the wrong.

This isn’t something new, she’s always been this way and at some point when I was in my mid 20’s (I’m 55 now), I realized what was really going on. But I haven’t faced it or confronted her about it. Throughout these years (and I don’t live close to her), I have just tried to placate her. But I’m angry, because I feel judged and emotionally distanced from a family I love; many of whom are angry at me for reasons I don’t know about or understand. Whatever it is she’s told them, I guess they believe.

So, I have been reading up on these topics. Much of the advice is the need to cut ties altogether. In my heart, I wish I could do this. Maybe I should have done it a long time ago – but she’s 86 years old now. I do feel like it would be an awful thing for me to do to just drop out of her life at this point – no matter how much she’s hurt me.

What’s left? I have to forgive her – because she knows not what she does. And as for the others? I can’t worry about what they think. If they want to abandon me based on gossip from an old lady – then so be it. But in a way, the ties are already cut with her – at least emotionally. I know who I am and the kind of person that I am – and it’s not who she says I am. She really doesn’t know anything about me at all.

It’s a painful situation – and my heart goes out to all of you who are on the receiving end of this kind of behavior. Be strong. Be brave. And do what you have to do.


This article really touched my heart, I was already crying at the second line. Mind you, I’m coaching on self love exactly because of the relationship with my mother and how much it affected me, so I was able to find a good outlet for it. However, I have my moments (like today) when I still feel resentful, and I can spot the areas in my life where it still affects me, not too pleasant to deal with. Thanks so much for it, I’m already doing the exercises you proposed.


What a great article – I came across it when I was looking on the internet for help…………..I am finding my father is incredibly toxic. As I drove away last night, I am sure he would continue his evening, albeit in a drunken slumber whereas he had totally derailed me.

I am 46 and went to boarding school as a child as they lived abroad. I wasn’t unhappy or bullied but now I have my own children at the age I was when I went to boarding school, I just don’t get it. I can see that children need love and nurture from their parents.

Looking back now as an adult, I can see how subservient my mum always was. She agreed with his every word. I saw how angry he got when we were in the car and she gave him the wrong driving directions. He has always had an opinion on everyone and never been someone to go with the flow. Sort of a controlling bully.

During my whole life, nothing I have ever done has been good enough, I should have done different A-Levels at school, I should have gone to a different University, should have had a different career, should have bought a house in blah blah, I am not strict enough with my boys, and it just goes on and on and on. In 46 years, he has never said that I have made him proud.

My Mum has had a whole load of health complications over the past few years and is now in a nursing home with dementia. I have my own business and a family and visit her twice a week but that’s not good enough.

I tend to see my Dad once a week but all I get now is that life isn’t worth living, he wants to die, he has nothing to look forward to …… I never confront or challenge him as I would with anyone else as I know he will get angry and shout and scream. I take it really personally that he doesn’t think seeing me, my husband and our boys is something worth living for.

Have no idea how to deal with all this apart from reminding myself daily that it’s not my fault. I am not sure if some type of counselling would help – I feel like I need coping strategies more than anything. Would hugely appreciate input from anyone. Thank so much for reading if you have got this far. x

Karen - Hey Sigmund

Jane you are so much more than enough! I wish your dad was able to acknowledge this. It’s a sensible decision not to confront him – it wouldn’t work anyway and it sounds as though there is a deep wisdom in you that knows this. I understand how easy it is to take what he does personally, but try to see his behaviour for what it is – a need to control his environment. This is no reflection on who you are. You are generous, open-hearted, wise and insightful – and even with everything that has happened with your parents, you’re still there for them. It takes a brave, loving heart to do that. Love and strength to you.


This is so great article.

So much truth in it.

I am a 37-year old women, who has a 9-year old autistic daughter and a 8-month old baby boy.

My parents are both university profesors, which sounds amazing, except for my childhood that was full of physical violence, verbal and emotional abuse and neglect.

I don’t think my parents are bad people, they were just so unprepared to become parents, stuck and absorbed in their academic ambitions and achievements.

What worries me most know is how much of it i actually and unintentionally do to my children. I don’t want to be like them. I want to be a great mum. And i wish for my own happiness, too.

My partner is a caring person, always there for the kids, a great father. However, towards me distant and critical. I wish for him being so affectionate and joyful with me as he is with the kids. I don’t know how to communicate this to him. It seems he is uninterested, just like my parents.

I got stuck somewhere in an infinite loop of dysfunctional relationships and of people telling you they love you even if they do not act like that.

I should also mention that father of my autistic daughter left us and started a new family and my boyfriend is a really great and loving step-father to my little girl. He is so cold just with me. Possibly thinking it’s the right way to a relationship. He is from an unfunctional family, too.

What should i do? I feel so unloved, tired and failing.


Karen - Hey Sigmund

Julie this sounds so exhaustng for you. Hopefully this article will help with the way you respond to your children What makes you a great mum is that you are constantly trying to be better. As for your partner, have a really honest conversation with him and ask him what he needs from you to be more affectionate and loving towards you. Let him know that you miss this, and that you want to feel close to – help him know it’s safe to be vulnerable.


The exact reason you are repeating the cycle is because you are desperately trying not to. That which you resist, persists. Understand where you are now apparently, “a bad mom” apparently once you accept that – you can begin to alter your behaviors as you like. Good luck!

Suzette C

e. Went to school 5 days a week, then I worked Saturday & Sunday in the flea market. At 14 I was buying all my clothing. I was so embarrassed if I saw a student walking down the isles that I had to hide. I was always so ashamed of the fat sloths that were my parents .My precious 2 brothers got everything. The great aunt gave my brother a car and my younger brother was 8 years younger than I.
My parents signed for a car for my older brother. I never borrowed a cent from the bastards,

I only asked them to sign for a loan for me because I was only 18. OF COURSE THEY SAID no TO ME! I worked in West Palm beach for 5 weeks. Where do you think the safesplace was to send my money? Of course I sent it to my mom. When I returned from working in Florida my mother informed me that she had paid off all her charges!!! What a f*cker see was! I married at 20 to get out of their house and my mother from my money. The first year I worked, I worked 76 hours a week, Thanksgiving and also I went to work in Florida for 5 weeks. I has no idea at 18 what salaries were. I gave my lazy father to do my taxes .I did 2 years of work in 1year. My mother was indigent and complained that My first working full time I made more than my father. I had no self-esteem as a little child. I NEVER felt loved! My great aunt that had raised my mother (mother died of 1918 flu and childbirth of a son. My mother was raised by her cruel nasty aunt. I was their BABY…how could they possibly treat me that way? My great aunt would give my older brother gifts and of course I got nothing. When I was grown I asked my mother how could she let that happen? She said they werea glad that at least 1 of us was getting something. the scars are very deep. I sometimes have a little too much to drink. I absolutely ABHOR my parents… i still have a very hard time no that I’m adult. I guess I was too stupid I ABHOR my parents…then my mother asked to move in with me. I had the nicest home and good kids. I old her I didn’t think it was time. I am not a cruel person, but believe me SHE WOULD HAVE NEVER MOVED IN MY HOME.


Dear Julie,

Take heart and courage and fear not. I strongly urge you to explore spirituality and meditating and mindfulness for your fears. I was abused by my parents were uneducated and not fit to be parents and besides abusing us they fought constantly yelling,hollering and cursing.

You don’t have to be a victim of their insanity but by practicing mindfulness, meditation and give your self a huge break. Love yourself and your husband will start to respong lovingly hopefully. Don’t be stuck in your parents sins and don’t allow them to pass the generational curse on you. Do use the resources you have and meditating and time out for you is essential and loving your created soul.


Hi I’ve been physically abused by my parents since 2020 and they always visit me at my accommodation and my dad always says nasty things to me like he tells me to chill and relax and he always puts me down and accuses me of things i haven’t done everytime i see him he just winds me up and it’s making my depression and anxiety worse
He beat me up during covid pandemic in 2021 2020 he beat me up this year in April 2023 10th April and it made my depression and my suicidal thoughts worse could anyone help me to find a way back to normal happy life please

Brenda B

I was the middle target child. If something or someone is bad abusive or toxic for me i am drawn to it unconciously. All the physical mental psychological and spiritual abuse has brain washed me to self destruct. I sought and had many relationships looking for love and approval but what i got was used exploited and abused. Never loved. In order to have control over me they abused me to feel less than others, insecure and worthless. I could feel and see the absolute hate my mother had when she constantly criticized and beat me. And she always said the same thing while throwing me on the floor and stomping on my stomache . She said “i hate you i wish you were never born. I self medicated now im a deug addict and have my nose rubbed in the shame of that almost daily.


Hi a friend sent me this article and it was amazing and so completely hit home. Thank you, all for sharing your stories too. I am wondering whether there is a site somewhere where we can share, support and listen to other people talk about how they deal with toxic parents and the ever lasting unconscious and conscious damage is leaves for life. I don’t want to ‘moan’ but it is very helpful to share and listen to other people and feel that ‘one’ is not completely ‘mad, bad’ or otherwise It helps me straighten up my own thoughts/memories, some long buried.

Hey Sigmund

Yes Jo I know what you mean – it can be so powerful connecting with other people who have similar stories. There is a bit of a community building here in the toxic people articles with people responding to each other’s comments sometimes. I’d really love to encourage that. Connection is a wonderful thing.


I guess I am never marrying. Because my experiences with my family have been hurtful. And I don’t need any man to my life to prevent me from being me, at my best etc. Almost every time I visit my family, they manage to completely break me. I wanted to throw an easter egg at my father who didn’t back off :(. It was so embarrassing arguing in the outside of my home :(. I don’t even want this egg anymore although I helped decorating them… They are not understanding or forgiving. I feel mistreated by family.


Same here, I did everything for my parents . They want good grades. I got the first rank always. They want me to do all the home cleaning and cooking food and always abuse me for everything. if they give me a piece of cloth, they always telling me that I am useless . I have one elder and a younger sister . They love them so much. They never ask them for any work and they never abuse them . My mother still beats me as I am 23 . I got a good job as Software Engineer in the IT industry. Still they always emotionally abuse me . They always told to me that I am useless. No one will marry me. If I will, I will destroy his life. I am feeling like maybe they are true. I am feeling like I am not meant for being loved, care for. Sometimes I feel like I should die. I am not meant for this cruel world. In the influence of my mother sometimes my father beats me too. I am tired from all this. They want me to work for them and give them money. Maybe I am not a good child.


Hello, I can deeply relate to this. I go through all this and much more. I’m 28 now and I still get beaten up and abused. I did everything for them, got the best grades. Currently doing my PhD program. I also help my mother with everything she wants, but it’s never enough. I’m still called useless every time. She curses and abuses me in public. I’m just so tired.


However, in addition, I just realized, one good quality that I possess is my unwillingness to behave aggresively. Aggression, with the intent to harm, is one option for standing up to bullies. I have never been willing to behave that way. I found myself becoming aggressive with my family a few times, and I recoiled in horror, because it was never my intent to harm. I steadily worked toward almost never being aggressive with anyone. Assertiveness, on the other hand, which is not an intent to harm, but only to inform, works well for me, in most of my interactions, except when dealing with bullies. I have not been able to be assertive with bullies, like Dolly Parton, Lilly Tomlin, and Jane the movie, “Nine to Five” Most fictional movies are wish fullfilment I guess, so I shouldn’t base my personality goals on the way actors behave in movies. It’s just that bullies have a way of bringing me down, and I would really like to find a way to stop that.


Adding to my last entry, I am trying to feel like I’m even a person since I can’t seem to stand up to bullies. This quality is the most despised quality in the world. I have it. I don’t know how to feel good about the fact that I can’t stand up to bullies.

Hey Sigmund

Polly strength and courage doesn’t always look like an obvious pushback when dealing with bullies. I know this because I’ve been there. What I have learned from my own experience with bullies is that many bullies will change in time and see how harmful they were, but true strength in dealing with them comes in not letting them change you. There is a really good reason you aren’t outwardly standing up to them. I expect there is something in you that knows it probably wouldn’t work anyway, and probably their lack of feeling or compassion makes them pretty awful people to deal with. Maybe even scary peole to deal with. That does NOT make you weak. You are standing up to them by not letting them into your mind or your heart, and by not letting them change who you are. You are choosing to focus on something so much more important that the bullies – you are focussing on protecting yourself and finding the inner strength not to believe messages that they are trying to have you believe. That takes incredible strength. Protecting yourself, staying true to who you are, and letting their cruelty not change you is far more important and takes so much more courage than anything you could say to them. You are a fighter, a survivor – brilliant, beautiful, open-hearted, generous, wise and insightful. Don’t waste your time or your precious, wonderful energy on trying to change who they are.

Andre J

I’ve been dealing with my toxic mother for many years and it wasn’t until I had my 31st birthday that something hit me that it was time for a change. I couldn’t say quite what it was, but I can only describe it as ‘waking up’.

A short summary of my current situation. I’ve lived with my family my entire life, through grade school, local college, and the couple years afterwards when I got my first full time job. I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease when I was 17, so my family has been my support all those years. Not living in the best environment, I applied for a transfer to Southern California. Once I got it, my whole family moved. We soon realized that the cost of living from where we once were to Huntington Beach, Ca was drastic, and staying together financially made sense.

Initially I set boundaries and was promised they’d be respected. After about a year (3 years back now), we decided to pull all savings, funds etc together and purchase a house in upper Long Beach, Ca. Again, as I was 28yrs old, boundaries were assured…but it wasn’t until after the house was purchased that the toxic behavior I had dismissed or chose to live with all those years prior had gotten worse. Every decision was met with an interrogation, judgment, and ultimatums.

Things started to boil and come to a head after I started making decisions of my own around new years, including choosing to date. Low and behold, a couple weeks later I found someone that matches my soul so well that I couldn’t be happier. Fast forward to my 31st birthday (July 19), my toxic mother is stopping at nothing to make me break up with my gf just because she doesn’t like her, more forcefully shutting me off from the world and growth and becoming who I’m discovering myself to be. This came to the point that she stated either she goes or we go. This is where I had my moment of clarity I mentioned previously…and I made my stand and said no; and it’s been hell ever since. Arguments at home, nasty text messages while at work, to the point I’ve become physically ill whenever my phone vibrates or I hear her voice. I know ultimately the easy answer is, sell the house, and everyone go their separate ways…but part of me hopes it doesn’t come to that…though there’s no resolution in sight.

Without judgment or criticism, I’m seeking some advice, although at this point I just want to walk away.

Karen - Hey Sigmund

If your parents are making you choose between your girlfriend and them, and you are in love with your girlfriend, the choice seems easy. The one who isn’t making you choose or let go of the people who are important to you is the one who genuinely cares about you.



I can relate to the guilt and low self-esteem from having a toxic mother. My mother must have had a combination of a chemical imbalance, an abusive childhood, and a mental illness or two. She completely ignored me when I was a baby. I have deep mental memories of this, plus several of my aunts and my older sister told me that “the love just ran out when you were born”, or “the woman just couldn’t be bothered to go and pick up her own child.” My dad picked me up sometimes, because he couldn’t stand to “hear that child screaming.” As I grew older, my sister and I played indoor and outdoor games together, I played with our dog and on my outdoor swing. Oddly, neither my sister nor I have any memory of our mother spending any time with either of us from the time I was 4 to the time I was 8 years old. It became my sister’s job to cross the busy street in from of our house to bring me safely home from kindergarden. I do remember my mother calling me stupid and her talking about how much she hated my father. I have more memories of my father being around. My father worked full time. I remember him bringing me home a doll once, that I loved, another memory of him hosting a party at our house during which he became increasingly irritated with my mother for not bringing the food out, not talking with the guests, not watching the kids, etc. I remember finding red thread in our fire place (and presents under the tree) on Christmas morning that I later deduced my father had put there to make us think it was Santa Claus. My parents divorced when I was 11. My father got custody. I saw my mother about once a year after that.
I also have a memory of my father sexually abusing me when I was five. I completely blocked out that memory until I was 35.

I was doing EMDR therapy at age 35 because I developed complex PTSD, from having married and 8 years later escaped from, a husband who had a serious mental illness, was an alcoholic, and as the movie “Nine to Five” hilariously illustrates, he was a lying, cheating, sexist, bigoted hypocrite. He emotionally, sexually and physical abused me, he beat me. I managed to escape from him in 1992. He hired a lawyer, found me, after I was forced to leave the crisis center while getting my 6th protection order on him, because they were closing, served me with divorce papers. He was granted full custody of our kids, and control of our family bookstore and the house. I was living in the women’s shelter. After I was forced to leave the shelter at 6 weeks, I took my kids to a pediatricians appt. He showed up and said to the receptionist that it was his time with the children, which was a lie. I argued that it was not. He feigned calling the police, and the receptionist ordered me to leave the building. I waited outside to gather up the children, when I couldn’t start my car. I looked under the hood. He had removed the battery. He said lets just go to a cafe and talk. He said things would be different now, flowers, etc. I moved back into our house. The violence escalated during the summer of 1993 and in September of that year, I barely escaped from him with my life.

Then he put me through a 10 year custody battle in which he was trying to get supervised visitation for me. He hired lying, cheating bigoted lawyers. He called CPS and the police on me 6 times a year for 10 years, with lies and exagerations. I went to court 4 to 6 times a year for 6 years, then twice a year for the next 4 years. He finally got supervised visitation for a year and a half and then he died of a heart attack.

The EMDR didn’t relieve my PTSD symptoms, but it did uncover some of my repressed childhood memories. Particulary the memory during which my father sexually molested me. I remembered the smells, the colors, my feelings and sensations.
Now it seems, those memories keep re-occuring, along with the many traumatic memories that I gained from living with my psychopathic husband. Actually he was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

I hear people using the word “narcissism”, in a different way, lately. I don’t think they are referring to the full symptoms of an NPD person.

I have had chronic PTSD now for 20 years. I have quit or been laid off of 7 different jobs in the last decade. When a boss or manager behaves as a lying, cheating bigot, and in my experience, there are many managers who are, I cave in from floods of memories, feeling drowned and swimming hard to try to even breath, and barely able to hear instructions or focus on the details of my job. The last job I lost was when my decade long part-time employment was cut off because an intolerant, impatient, critical, angry manager was hired. He yelled at me and embarrased me in front of peers early on. I told myself I wasn’t going to quit this time, like all the other times. I was drowning in memories, but went to a complimentary medicine therapist who did “Song Flower Healing” on me, and calmed my fears, temporarily. I asked my manager for accomadations for PTSD. He yelled at me in front of other employees and didn’t grant my accomodations. I was able to stay in that job for 5 more months, until a co-worker yelled at me in an intolerant, impatient, sexist way. I started to drown again and I couldn’t focus in on the excel spread sheet calculations that were my job. I entered the wrong total in the wrong box that night. Later, the manager fired me. When I asked why, he said it took him hours to fix the spreadsheet in which I had put in the wrong calculations. He also said that I was inflexible. I assume he meant that it was because I needed a few small accomodations.

I have been with the Dept. of Vocational Rehabilitation for years now. I even went a third of the way through nursing school, a career I wanted to do, when a lying cheating bigoted hypocrit of a nursing teacher who decided to criticise me much more after I told her I had PTSD. She brought up hours worth of lies, some truth, and exagerations about me in her small office with me sitting there forced to listen. Hours enough for me to start drowning deeper to not get my homework done in time because I spilled coffe on the original and couldn’t concentrate during the group study time. I failed nursing school. That is I got below the 85% required to stay in. I got a A in pharmacology though. The pharmocolgy teacher was cheerful, kind patient, understanding, and helpful. I loved her. I did not drown in her class.

I feel kind of defeated now, regarding employment, and it’s been 5 months of me not looking for another job. I am so afraid that PTSD will drown me in another job, and that my manager and co-workers will never understand, and that accomodations for PTSD are good on paper, but non-existent in the real work world.

One good thing is that I re-married a kind man who supports me, and I dearly love my kids and they are all doing well in life and in their jobs.

However, I am 53 and I would still like to be employed.


My parents had me and soon after dropped me into my grandmothers house where I lived 24/7 for the next 13 years. Granny was alcoholic and full of anger which she daily insulted me called me lazy, at 3 years had me doing house chores (neighbors told me) shamed me in public and beat me sometimes, worst thin she even spit me in the face once. To all this my parents were shaming me for not wanting to stay with granny. Parents and granny had serious fights during all theire lifetime interrupts for long periods of silent treatment where I was sent as a messenger and hen get the blame of whatever. Now I’m 31 I have 2 kids and a loving husband we all live in my parents old house as they moved away because the fights with the granny were just out of this world. I somehow made peace with my grandmother, she is not drinking for the past 10 years and religiously takes her depression medication. She helps me with kids and shows no anger issues. I keep an eye onher when she spends time with my kids and so far am amazed of how better she is. The worst part is that since I have kids I see who my mother is and realized that in 31 years she never told me once that she loved me never gave a cuddle always called me too skinny or my hair is bad or I bought ugly shoes. Recently we had a massive fight she told me I’m crazy like my grandmother and I am here to terrorize her, but she desperately tries to take the kids for walks to show them off to her friends. My father also is on the same page with her being very nasty and a real bully. For the last 2 months we stopped seeing or talking and I am keeping the kids away from them because I don’t trust them. I need help to deal with this but at the moment my financial situation doesn’t allow me to o to therapy. My husband had enough of us fighting and doesn’t want to hear any more complains so we don’t talk about the issue. I am anxious and I work very hard everyday not to let my emotions interfere with my family but it’s hard and often I’m moody. I don’t want to loose my kids and husband over this but really I don’t know how to deal with them. I don’t have the courage to o to theire house and talk to them I’m just too scared of what they would say to me. Make me feel like a monster. My self esteem is lower than the ocean bottom. I need to talk to somebody

Hey Sigmund

Ana you have absolutely no obligation to keep people in your life who don’t respect you. I understand they are your parents, but that does not mean that you have to stay connected to them if they change who you are, or the person you want to be for the people who love you. It’s so easy to believe that if they are our parents, we have to stay in the relationship however painful it is, but this just isn’t true. Here is an article that might help you Read through it and take your time over it and discuss it with the people who are close to you. You deserve to be happy. The people we choose to have around us are vital and they can change a happy life into an unhappy one easily. You are the only one who can decide on the people who you have around you and the people you don’t – and whatever you decide is completely okay.


I am having a hard time dealing with my reactions towards my mother. Please give me some advice on how to internally i can deal with her toxic behaviour, because it is affecting my health. She is not going to change, so i have to educate my mind to not react, or get defensive and upset.

We live 8000 miles apart and if i don’t respond her texts or phone calls within a 2 hours range she calls all my friends to play the poor worried mother and also ask them about my private life ( that she knows i don’t share with her in purpose).
And many other comments she makes to me about me, implying that i am not capable to live a good healthy life, or that always everybody takes advantage of me….because i am a poor naive useless woman at 46 ( i don’t agree with her, i am capable of many good things).

But every time we talk on the phone i am upset, irritaded and at the same time, feel guilty because her life is hard in the part of the world where she lives (Venezuela), and she is always emotional about that. And everybody else ( friends, brother….) tell me that I have to understand my poor mother difficult situation in Venezuela and be more compassionate and to me is hard to separate compassion and anger, because she has ALWAYS behaved like that towards myself even when the situation in Venezuela wasn’t bad. I feel guilty because i feel selfish, but i truly would like to have the minimum communication posdible with her.

What can i do to have peace?

Thank you!

Hey Sigmund

You can’t change your mother, but perhaps you can minimise the impact by setting boundaries around the contact. If you look at what each of you needs – your mother needs contact with you, you need to minimise that contact. She will still say the things that upset you, so you will still need strong boundaries between what she says and what you know to be true. Let her know the times you will call, and what you need for that to happen. Perhaps it will be twice a week on a Wednesday and Sunday? This is something you’ll need to decide. Then, let her know the conditions around that. Perhaps one is that you need her not to make contact with your friends and if she does, you won’t call on the next designated time. If she needs you between that, she can text and you’ll text back but you’ll only speak on the phone at the times you’ve designated (obviously unless it’s an emergency). It will take some thought to figure out exactly what this will look like for you, but it is also a way to let your mother know that if she gives you what you need, you will also give her what she needs by calling when you say you will. Here is an article that might also help: When Someone You Love is Toxic – How to Let Go, Without Guilt


Hey…I’m Mitchell and I’m 18

It’d be cliché for me to say I understand how you feel because no matter how I try I could never.. And personally, my only consolation in the faith I have in God that he pits people in my life for certain reasons best known to him and that in the end, it’ll work out well.. I like to think I share similar experiences with you..
Just for background story, I don’t live with my mom because she is not financially stable to fund my education, and I have never known my day since birth (not that it’d make any difference to me).. I lived with my Nana and mother for 4 years and it was they were the best years of my life.. My Nana WAS the most loving soul I ever known and she shew me love I never felt worthy of…she had a heart disease and I made her promise me that she’d hang on a little longer until I can afford to get her a new heart (my baby mindset as at the time)..
Well little did 4 year old me know that, that life I had was going to end…

Moving in with my aunt felt like a dream come true.. Atleast I’d be leaving in a big ass house but then all that dream went down hill with the abuse… The physical abuse was enough to land anyone in the hospital.. I did land there a couple of times.. It felt like it was a competition between my aunt and her husband, who could inflict the most pain..and all mom could say was “it’s just a matter of time” and trust me nothing annoyed me than those words

I had a break when it was time to go off to boarding school which my aunt protested against but somehow I left..

Highschool experience felt blissful until my Nana passed away..

These days it’s no longer physical abuse, it’s more verbal and emotional.. I work for my aunt in her organization and nothing I do is ever enough.. I’m the youngest there and I work the hardest.. My life literally feels like it’s not mine.. My aunt has a very creative way of always playing the victim…she’s very manipulative and likes to criticize and humiliate me in public.. She thrives on the effect she gets… I hate that I always breakdown everytime this happen, I hate that I feel ashamed for who I am because of the things she has made me believe about my self… I’m scared I’d end up broken before I even get a chance to taste the good part of life.. I tell people I don’t have friends because I don’t like crowd and I enjoy being alone, which is true but it’s mainly because I’m scared of my insecurities and flaws.. I live with the constant fear of not being sent back to my mom and that life of soo much lack…
I’m grateful to God for where I am and for how far he’s helped me because irrespective of all these chaos, I still have very few people who genuinely care about me and that humbles me.

I hope someday, life gives us the lemonade we desire instead of lemons.


Thank you for a spot-on and very helpful piece. I’m almost 60 and am just learning this stuff after a lifetime of trying to please my abusive and cruel mother. I never established my own family (she always told me how horrible I was so I had no confidence to do so) so now I’m alone and broken from all she has done to me. I have no one now, after ending a 17 year relationship with the male version of her. At least I don’t have him around to put me down every minute, as she still does. Now, after a lifetime of catering to her, she’s leaving everything to my extremely well off older siblings – the ones she loved despite them being narcissistic sociopaths who ridicule and manipulate her. I have nothing. How do I not just off myself? (no need to contact anyone, i won’t do it yet.) Thanks.

Hey Sigmund

You’re a fighter and a survivor. The strength to move forward is in you. There are possibilities ahead of you that you haven’t even imagined yet. Don’t give up. There is a happier version of you and your life that is waiting for you.


Thank you. I’ll try to hold on, though at my age it seems hopeless. Sites like yours are literally lifesavers….


J – you take this opportunity, this window of enlightenment, and hold tight. This is your time to be you, free of your toxic family.
I know your head must be filled with exhausting thoughts about it all, but take the little breaks and savour them. Nourish them and they’ll grow longer and become more frequent.
By nourish, I mean that you will need to make a deliberate effort to allow love and light into your world, and to filter darkness.
Create a routine that includes good nutrition, exercise, healthy sleep patterns, regular contact with kind people, and time for interests or hobbies that you enjoy. This is important. Even if it feels like s huge effort, go it – your mind and body will adjust, and gradually you will move away from toxicity, you will stitch together a new framework for your thoughts and feelings, one that cannot be manipulated by your toxic family.
Don’t beat yourself up if it feels hard for a while. Habits of 60 years will take time to adjust, but it is so great that you are at this point and ready to make some changes.
I had to use sleeping pills to improve my sleep habits, a trainer to motivate me for exercise, and resist urges to contact toxic people, but it did all build into healthy habits. My rule with people is that if seeing them leaves you feeling bad, it’s probably time to stop seeing them.
The coolest thing about pulling away from toxic people is that suddenly there is space for healthy relationships.
All the best J, you can do it. And whenever you slip into doubt, ask yourself what you’d say to someone who you loved who wanted to give up. You’d want the best for them right? And so you too deserve the best J


Many thanks for your advice. It so nice of you to help – I need it! I’ll try. Again, having you Anna and Hey Sigmund (I just got the name reference!!) reply means so much to me.


Hi J

I know where you are coming from. I’m the same age as you and also never had a family of my own. I really thought (though now I have no idea why!) that I had no right to a life of my own. I feel so angry with myself over this. My fear now is that this is it for me – because I still carry the hurt around inside and every time I have to deal with my family it just gets worse. My mother always used to say that noone would want me and I die a lonely old woman – and now all I’ve done is prove her right!!
I only started to get awareness when I realised they had lied to me and still did – the lies became so extreme that they could not be ignored. I’ve since realised that I’m also lied about and this has clouded now how others see me. My whole family is now turned against me, yet I would never hurt a fly.

Sorry to tell my woes in response to your post I just wanted you to know you are not alone in struggling with this issue at your age.

Mel G

All of these comments hit the nail on the head for me! Yesterday I made the decision that I was all done: again. When I was 14 I was dating a guy a few years older then me. We dated for about 6 months and one day I came home from school and found this guy and my mother kissing on the couch in our living room. Of course when I see this I’m sure in my mind that it was not actually happening because that would be crazy!!! A few days later I am out with this guy and he asks me to open the glove box and hit the button for the gas tank lock in his car- I do and I see many letters- with handwriting that looks like my mothers. I grab them all and stuff them in my purse- I go home and look and they are love letters from my mother to my boyfriend. Now mind you, my mom and dad are married, living together in the same house with me. I make copies of the letters and give them to my dad. All hell breaks loose- my dad catches my boyfriend and beats him almost to death- my mother comes at me and I have to defend myself so I beat her untill my dad pulls me off of her- she kicks us both outta the house so we stay at a friends house untill my dad gets a place for us two. This would have been Apprx 1987-1988- in 1992 I graduated from high school and my mom and my ex boyfriend got married at my moms mothers house- in the same place she married my father in 1972. I didn’t speak to my mother from 1988 to 1995 at all- I would pass her in the grocery store and I would say nothing; wouldn’t even acknowledge her. In 1995 I had my first child and for years me and my mother attempted to be civil. In 2000 she came to my home and attacked my parenting skills- ( I’m a single parent with one daughter, college grad with my own home and career) I almost beat her to death that night- she had disrespected me, my home, and my daughter by coming to my home acting like a lunatic. We have been civil since then yet again. This past week she saw on my FB that I was taking a break from FB because my mind was tired and I was going to the doctor to discuss new depression meds- she sees this and sends me a message saying she is coming to take my youngest daughter (she is 12) for a week and that I have one week to get my shit together- I told my husband that I was done. Done with her craziness and done with her in general. That at this point she is dead to me and that I would acknowledge her no more. I sent her a message on FB telling her the same that this message is not a conversation nor a discussion that I was done and she needs to forget my excistance and after I hit send and block it was like someone turned on the lights in a dark room. I’m free. I refuse to let the term “my mother” dictate anything. Blood doesn’t give you a free pass to be a asshole.


This is an excellent article. I’m 60 now, and I still struggle with some of the toxic parent issues I had in childhood. Here are some examples. I was 8 or 9 when two teen boys a few houses down from me, coaxed me into their garage. They washed my hair in turpentine. I went home, my mother washed it out of my hair, and I don’t think anything ever happened to them. Today they would be jailed. Many times as I got older, my father would say–for the good of the family you will do….whatever. He was very good at using emotional blackmail. In later life two con artists used the same thing on me, and took me for thousands of dollars. If I didn’t give in to them, they would plead, whine, beg, etc. like my father, and of course I gave them what they wanted. Earlier in life as a child a tomboy next door to us–Denise Downey–beat me up severely when I did not tell her where her brother was. I went home battered and crying. I recall so well sitting in a tub as my mother cleaned me up. I think that episode is the reason I never married, had sex with anyone, don’t trust anyone, and lived an isolated and loveless life. Denise was never punished that I know of. I’ve never ever had a girlfriend or close relationship with a female. I got rejected every time I tried, and I quit trying years ago. The hardest part of childhood was watching two of our cats die gruesome deaths because my parents would NOT take them to a vet. The first one died of a heatstroke, he was 16, very ill, and my mother said–I can’t part with him. I watched him die over several hours on a Sunday in July. The second one, my best friend in childhood, a Persian cat, died of a blockage in his urinary system. He could not urinate so his body shut down. We put him outside, and later on he had maggots on him. His flesh turned black as he slowly passed. He never once cried. I was with him when his bladder ruptured and killed him. He died then, and I had to bury him myself. No one in my family helped. This was Sept. 1977. I still miss him. I told God I’d give him anything if he would give me my cat back. My father used to inflict pain and injury on both these animals. I watched him do this many times. I had no way to protect these poor creatures. My parents were good people, and they are deceased. For some reason they could not or would no do the right thing at the right time. Helping animals or protecting me was not on their list of duties. All my life I let bullies hurt or injure me. I fight back when I can, but age takes its toll. I have colon cancer now, and I wonder if all the emotional pain of my childhood contributed to it. Who knows?

Hey Sigmund

Michael you lived through trauma that no child should ever have to endure. I can hear how painful and clear the memories of this trauma still are, all these years later. I wish you could have been nurtured and loved the way you need to be. You deserved it so much. There are so many parents who love their children but don’t know how to show it. It’s so difficult to understand, but whatever their reason for not being able to show it, it is still painful. I have no doubt at all that you have so much capacity to love and to be loved. There are people who would love to know someone as open-hearted, wise, insightful and generous of heart as you. I also understand how difficult it would be to open yourself up to being vulnerable with another person, particularly as the people who were meant to protect you and keep you safe from the cruelty of the world weren’t able to do that when you needed it most. My greatest wish for you is that you can see this failing as their deficiency, not yours. That doesn’t mean they are bad people. We all have our flaws but theirs were the type that meant they weren’t able to keep you safe from the brutality of the world. You are important. You always have been.


Hello, I’m Marianne and I’m 16. When I was younger and went to my friends house my mom would always call and say I was being a bother and that she would pick me up soon. Growing up she would always belittle my I interests and never compliment even if I was clearly proud of what I did. She often says I’m lazy, annoying, that I never do anything for her and plays the victim saying she has it all too hard. Aside from this she (for years) constantly badmouths my father and when I decided to make a trip with him she acted as if I was a traitor and didn’t deserve all she gave me because I didn’t choose to stay with her. Whenever she wants to offend me she compares me to my father which now makes me thinknow that her hatred for him can never make her love me. I was an accident and they were never married so I don’t know howhat that affected her. But now I have an extremely low self esteem and very little friend because whenever I try to get close to someone I always feel unwanted an like my presence would only bother and worsen everyone’s life. As I’m still underage I have no idea how to escape her, I’m forced to talk to her on weekends and it’s unbearable but I have nowhere to go.

Hey Sigmund

Marianne, you have to hear this – the things your mother says have nothing at all to do with who you are. She is so wrong to be saying these things. I wish she was able to give you the love and support you deserve. There are so many reasons that people aren’t able to be loving and nurturing, but what you need to know is that those reasons are because something in them is lacking, not something in you. I can tell from your words that you are a strong, courageous, amazing woman with a beautifully open heart. You being here is no accident. You are meant to be here, and it is important that you claim that. You are powerful and important. You really are. The world needs people like you – don’t let your mother tell you otherwise. How would you be different if you knew you were meant to be here. If you knew how important you were. You don’t have to believe this yet (even though it’s true!). Try acting as though you believe it to be true, even if you can do this for short amounts at a time. Keep doing this – keep speaking as though you deserve to be heard, acting as though you deserve to be seen, and walking as though you deserve to be here. It might feel awkward at first, because of the messages that you have been given, but when you do it enough your mind will believe you – I promise. The messages to give to yourself, through the way you act and the thoughts you think will always be more powerful than your mother’s, but you have to give yourself the opportunity to ‘wear’ them. I understand that you have nowhere to go, but she can’t change who you are. You are brave, brilliant and wonderful. Walk like it’s true, speak like it’s true, and act like it’s true. Eventually you will believe it. I wish you love and strength. You’re amazing.


What an fantastic artical. Thank you for sharing your stories eveyone.

I am 45 and have a really wonderful life now but I have been suffering from depression since I was 17. I have seen numerous doctors and I am on mood stabilizers. Most people would never guess it because I hide my hurt so well. They dont know my constant struggle.

I am the eldest of 4 sibs. My sister and I who is only one year appart, suffered emotional and physical abuse from our parents. I lived in fear, never knowing when hurtful words or the physical punishment would come. My mom was the one deliving most of it, but now I realized my dad was abusive by allowing it to happen when he could of protected me. She had the cleverist way of abuse. She knew of ways to make me scared and suffered for days. She would never hit me with her hands open but use a stick or the back of her hands. I was harrassed so badly that I often hyperventilated or vomitted from the stress. I was blamed for all her unhappiness and illnesses. Sometimes I was told I am her favorite child but because I disappointed her there for I had to be beaten for my own good. Part of me believed it! Luckily I was always liked in school and had many friends which acted as a temporary excape.

When my husband told my dad I am suffering from depression due to the beatings from young age, my dad said I deserved them because I was bad. My mom thought my depression was a need for attension,

I have let my mother choose my first husband, choose my job and like everything my mother advised on turned into big disasters which I got the blame for. Or punished for disagreeing. Even now, there is a part of me that seaks her approval and love though I know it will not really be satisfying. My mom basically left me and my sister with my grand parents when we were 15 while they lived with my younger siblings in another country. But she still has full control. The fear was that strong.

The most painful for me is that she treats my much younger siblings so differently. My mom even said that she was so lucky to have two gifts from God, totally thinking we are from hell to ruin her life. They have the best of everything with out even having to blink. I love my siblings so dont say much because they are so defensive of my mom, My parents are very wealthy so we grew up with many things but My mom made it clear I was not deserving and took things away as often as it was given. My mom was adopted and was abused too. So I understand about the cycle. Her mother was also adopted. I chose not to have children.

Reading your comments made me realized that I am not weak or should feel ashamed even though I am still struggling with it at 45. My mom has stopped her abuse since I married my current husband 6 years ago. Most of the time I am ok, even very good but sometimes, things would trigger it all again and I am flooded with sadness.

I am getting stronger. I understand that it might take some time and its ok. I now know that I was not bad, I was just a child trying to survive toxic parents.

Hey Sigmund

Angel thank you! You are definitely NOT weak! Your strength and courage is wonderful. You’re a survivor. I will never understand how parents can be so awful to their children. What I know for certain is that no child is a bad child. Children have bad parents and bad experiences, but they are born with kind, open hearts. It was your mother’s job to protect you, love you and keep you safe – you deserved that, you absolutely deserved that. I hope you are able to let go of your feelings of shame. I can hear your strength, your incredible, beautiful, courageous spirit. Be proud of who you are – you’re amazing. Your words here will make a difference – your experience, your wisdom, your insight. Thank you!

Frustrated daughter

Hi there. I am 27 and have had a really rough past year with my father. I really didn’t get a chance to know him as a child, he and my mom traveled for work every week so we had a live in nanny whom I was very close with. When my parents decided to get divorced (I was 14) it didn’t really bother me because when my dad was home he usually was angry and honestly I was a little scared of him. After my mom he remarried an Incredible women who helped him become a better father and showed me what it could be like to be a part of a healthy family. During that time he put me on a pedistal and showered me with money and gifts and loving language. She passed 2 years ago after a long fight with ovarian cancer, and ever since that, my Dads narcissistic personality disorder has been completely out of control. I spent a year trying to care for him while he stalked strange women that he met on the Internet and threatened suicide to me when these women left him, and now he has found a new mate with abandonment issues from her previous relationship. My anxiety and sadness was completely out of control by then, my career and friendships were being affected, not to mention my mental and physical health. The first time that I met his new girlfriend (9 months after my step moms passing) she threw a fit because she wasn’t getting enough attention and ever since then my dad has been telling me that I have mental problems and am embarrassing him. I tried to tell him how much he hurt my feelings by siding with her and abandoning me, and how hard I have been working to be there for him, but something in his mind has snapped and he only has insults and defensive language to throw at me. I have been working with a therapist to reduce my levels of guilt and try to take back my sense of self worth. The thing that i struggle the most with is that this doesn’t seem as intensely abusive as many of these other situations, but the toxic effect on my life has shown me that something needs to change before I lose my job because of crippling anxiety. He keeps trying to corner me and force me back under his control, while refusing to acknowledge the healthy relationship boundaries that my therapist and I outlined for him the one and only time he was willing to go to family therapy. Anyways, I’m not really sure what answer I’m looking for, it’s just so hard to push him away because I know that deep down he probably still misses my stepmom and hasn’t dealt with her death in a healthy way. I feel like my absense in his life is making his life even harder, but at the same, time taking space from him has made my own life much more bearable. I hope that some day he will come around, but I don’t think he’s coming back.


I would really love a reply from anyone who might have some advice for me, thanks!


This was so helpful to read, thank you. I’m 52, my mother is 72. I live in New Zealand and she lives in England. She is damaged emotionally by her childhood and sadly has replicated some of her mother’s behaviours on me. She never has a good word for me. My husband said when he met her she didn’t say a single nice thing about me. I’m always in the wrong. She lies to my sister and says I don’t keep in contact with her,mother my sister has a go at me.
I had counselling many years ago when the psychologist said what happened to my mother when she was a child broke her and she was incapable of loving me. I am going back to the UK for a trip next month and I don’t want to see her. She’s already moaning that I am not spending enough time with her. I just don’t want to spend any time with someone who appears to hate me and makes me feel bad.


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When you can’t cut out (their worries), add in (what they need for felt safety). 

Rather than focusing on what we need them to do, shift the focus to what we can do. Make the environment as safe as we can (add in another safe adult), and have so much certainty that they can do this, they can borrow what they need and wrap it around themselves again and again and again.

You already do this when they have to do things that don’t want to do, but which you know are important - brushing their teeth, going to the dentist, not eating ice cream for dinner (too often). The key for living bravely is to also recognise that so many of the things that drive anxiety are equally important. 

We also need to ask, as their important adults - ‘Is this scary safe or scary dangerous?’ ‘Do I move them forward into this or protect them from it?’♥️
The need to feel connected to, and seen by our people is instinctive. 

THE FIX: Add in micro-connections to let them feel you seeing them, loving them, connecting with them, enjoying them:

‘I love being your mum.’
‘I love being your dad.’
‘I missed you today.’
‘I can’t wait to hang out with you at bedtime 
and read a story together.’

Or smiling at them, playing with them, 
sharing something funny, noticing something about them, ‘remembering when...’ with them.

And our adult loves need the same, as we need the same from them.♥️
Our kids need the same thing we do: to feel safe and loved through all feelings not just the convenient ones.

Gosh it’s hard though. I’ve never lost my (thinking) mind as much at anyone as I have with the people I love most in this world.

We’re human, not bricks, and even though we’re parents we still feel it big sometimes. Sometimes these feelings make it hard for us to be the people we want to be for our loves.

That’s the truth of it, and that’s the duality of being a parent. We love and we fury. We want to connect and we want to pull away. We hold it all together and sometimes we can’t.

None of this is about perfection. It’s about being human, and the best humans feel, argue, fight, reconnect, own our ‘stuff’. We keep working on growing and being more of our everythingness, just in kinder ways.

If we get it wrong, which we will, that’s okay. What’s important is the repair - as soon as we can and not selling it as their fault. Our reaction is our responsibility, not theirs. This might sound like, ‘I’m really sorry I yelled. You didn’t deserve that. I really want to hear what you have to say. Can we try again?’

Of course, none of this means ‘no boundaries’. What it means is adding warmth to the boundary. One without the other will feel unsafe - for them, us, and others.

This means making sure that we’ve claimed responsibility- the ability to respond to what’s happening. It doesn’t mean blame. It means recognising that when a young person is feeling big, they don’t have the resources to lead out of the turmoil, so we have to lead them out - not push them out.

Rather than focusing on what we want them to do, shift the focus to what we can do to bring felt safety and calm back into the space.

THEN when they’re calm talk about what’s happened, the repair, and what to do next time.

Discipline means ‘to teach’, not to punish. They will learn best when they are connected to you. Maybe there is a need for consequences, but these must be about repair and restoration. Punishment is pointless, harmful, and outdated.

Hold the boundary, add warmth. Don’t ask them to do WHEN they can’t do. Wait until they can hear you and work on what’s needed. There’s no hurry.♥️
Recently I chatted with @rebeccasparrow72 , host of ABC Listen’s brilliant podcast, ‘Parental as Anything: Teens’. I loved this chat. Bec asked all the questions that let us crack the topic right open. Our conversation was in response to a listener’s question, that I expect will be familiar to many parents in many homes. Have a listen here:
School refusal is escalating. Something that’s troubling me is the use of the word ‘school can’t’ when talking about kids.

Stay with me.

First, let’s be clear: school refusal isn’t about won’t. It’s about can’t. Not truly can’t but felt can’t. It’s about anxiety making school feel so unsafe for a child, avoidance feels like the only option.

Here’s the problem. Language is powerful, and when we put ‘can’t’ onto a child, it tells a deficiency story about the child.

But school refusal isn’t about the child.
It’s about the environment not feeling safe enough right now, or separation from a parent not feeling safe enough right now. The ‘can’t’ isn’t about the child. It’s about an environment that can’t support the need for felt safety - yet.

This can happen in even the most loving, supportive schools. All schools are full of anxiety triggers. They need to be because anything new, hard, brave, growthful will always come with potential threats - maybe failure, judgement, shame. Even if these are so unlikely, the brain won’t care. All it will read is ‘danger’.

Of course sometimes school actually isn’t safe. Maybe peer relationships are tricky. Maybe teachers are shouty and still using outdated ways to manage behaviour. Maybe sensory needs aren’t met.

Most of the time though it’s not actual threat but ’felt threat’.

The deficiency isn’t with the child. It’s with the environment. The question isn’t how do we get rid of their anxiety. It’s how do we make the environment feel safe enough so they can feel supported enough to handle the discomfort of their anxiety.

We can throw all the resources we want at the child, but:

- if the parent doesn’t believe the child is safe enough, cared for enough, capable enough; or

- if school can’t provide enough felt safety for the child (sensory accommodations, safe peer relationships, at least one predictable adult the child feels safe with and cared for by),

that child will not feel safe enough.

To help kids feel safe and happy at school, we have to recognise that it’s the environment that needs changing, not the child. This doesn’t mean the environment is wrong. It’s about making it feel more right for this child.♥️

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