22 thoughts on “Toxic Childhood? 10 Lessons You Must Unlearn in Adulthood

  • January 28, 2020 at 12:44 pm


  • January 28, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    Great article, Peg. My ex wife exhibited all the traits you describe. But I’m wondering why you single out mothers. Do your comments apply equally to father’s too? My ex’s hatred of her father was predominant. I feel her learned traits came from her father, not her mother. But they scarred her for life and of course our marriage

    • February 19, 2020 at 10:18 am

      I write about fathers but my position remains that the mother is more influential. More to the point, what did her mother do to protect her from her father or to mitigate the damage done? I have written about this in various places.

  • January 29, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    Literally everything here can apply to a mother-son relationship as well (such as myself). Wouldn’t you agree?

    • February 19, 2020 at 10:17 am

      Yes and, in some ways, sons are worse off.

  • January 30, 2020 at 7:59 am

    I think everything you said in this article about mothers was true of my father. Where’s the help for daughters who had a difficult father?

    • February 19, 2020 at 10:16 am

      I write about that from time to time but believe that the mother still remains central; if dad was toxic or difficult, what did mom do in response? Google my name and the word “father” for relevant articles.

  • January 30, 2020 at 11:32 am

    Alot of this rings true Peg Streep, although we all react differently. The most salient for me that remains with my mother dead 16 years is that “all love is conditional”. I am very invested in facades and really hardly believe that a person can love me day to day despite who I really am. So I lie an awful lot, fabricate, actually even work in fiction and movies. Funny thing is alot of these disorders are actually useful in our capitalist system – just view Trump a narcissistic sociopath. Its a constant process to shed these distorted thoughts. As it is such a relief to feel whole. Thanks and I will read your work.

    • February 19, 2020 at 10:20 am

      That doesn’t sound like a happy place to find yourself. While self-help does work, I honestly believe that counseling with a gifted therapist is the best route. Good luck to you. Best, Peg

  • January 30, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    All valid points. I am not in any way minimizing nor justifying all the behaviors and resulting damage done, however, I cringe a little when I read that a mother didn’t love the child. To place a wide blanket over all harmful mothers in that way in my humble opinion is not completely accurate. While that may be true often and in many cases, it’s not always true. What is more true is that the mother may have all along FELT love at various times in various degrees and ways, but didn’t know HOW to show love. Or more accurately, that the WAY she was taught and learned to show “motherly” love was dysfunctional. She is just repeating what she learned. It could very well be that the role of mother and teacher are conflicting just like disciplinarian and mother and when spanking a child leaves the mother conflicted as the role of mother as protector and disciplinarian/spanker cannot co-exist without causing internal turmoil. I’m 66 and it’s taken me my entire life to heal to the level I have from a narcissistic mother and father. The healing will never end until I leave this world. When something comes up, I work on it then in a short time something else pops up that must be dealt with and healed. Of course, the end result is worth all the pain, time and effort. I’m just trying to point out the difference between FEELING love and knowing how to SHOW love. They’re two different things. FEELING vs. BEHAVIOR. I can see a man on the street corner asking for money and FEEL compassion but I don’t have to SHOW compassion by writing a check. AND key here is forgiveness. I’ve forgiven both my parents so I don’t carry the anger and resentment towards them that all my (7) siblings still do. Forgiveness dramatically changes your perspective.

    • February 18, 2020 at 3:46 pm

      I absolutely but politely disagree with you. Children, especially small ones, are transparent; they quiver, they quake, they weep when they are in emotional pain. They don’t develop defense mechanisms until age seven or so. The mother sees all that and she chooses not to act and respond. I believe in free will and mothering is comprised of thousands and thousands and thousands of small choices. Come on: Everyone knows how to show love to a child. Some choose not to. I’m not even going into your comments on spanking. You are, I believe, making excuses. Best, Peg

      • February 18, 2020 at 5:29 pm

        Well, I must admit I agree with you when you talk about small children. I was coming from a place of the adult dealing with trying to work on having a relationship with an abusive/narcissistic parent. When you put small children into the mix I think my answer might have been different. Or I should have at least added the point of view I was coming from. No, I’m not making excuses. I have no need nor desire to make excuses. My intent was to discuss. It is what it is and I have no dog in this fight. And there are no excuses for abuse. Absolutely none. There are reasons, all unjustifiable, but absolutely no excuse. I was talking more of a reason in a philosophical sense. Since I spent over two years in the reconciliation process with my mother while she was alive and I forgave her, the sting is gone. These are words on a page to me with a puzzle to be solved. And I certainly don’t say that to minimize the hurt others still feel over their abuse from a abusive mother/father. Lord knows the many, many years I suffered from the results of my abusive parents before I finally figured it out. Mostly (smile) Always a work in progress but WAY better than it was.

      • February 19, 2020 at 10:13 am

        Thanks, Eileen. Forgiveness is a tricky word. If you mean letting go, I agree; if you mean forgiveness in the other sense, I don’t. It’s a personal choice, one I explore at length in my book DAUGHTER DETOX.

      • February 19, 2020 at 1:20 pm

        I’d be interested to hear what you mean as a difference between letting go and forgiveness. However, I’m not sure this is the right platform for that discussion. Thank you for your responses and input. Eileen

  • February 4, 2020 at 12:19 am

    There is nothing in here that explains how I ended up, but maybe that is because other types of abuse existed in my very early childhood as well… I tend to get really attached to people and love too much and too quickly. I wear my heart on my sleeve and try to make everyone else happy. Most of the time to my own detriment. I am just now trying to come to terms with the fact that there was much more abuse in my life than just the sexual abuse by my cousin and stepfather. Realizing how much of a narcissist my mother is and turned my brother into. I have heard of something called I believe reactive attachment disorder and heard that some of the things I described could be symptoms of that, but I don’t know much about it, could you point me to some good articles to read to help me find out more about childhood abuse and the effects in adulthood specifically C-PTSD, narcissistic parent, absent parent, sexual abuse, or anything else that might be helpful? I am reading through the articles you have posted here on this blog now, but if you know of any specific ones I should look at, I would really appreciate it if you could post a link. Thank you so much

    • February 18, 2020 at 3:40 pm

      Thanks for writing. I’m neither a therapist nor a psychologist so I don’t write about disorders or sexual abuse and, as a result, I’m not conversant with the literature. My apologies for being so unhelpful. Best, Peg

  • February 4, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    ” if everyone is working hard either to garner Mom’s favor…If she always has to pay attention to the quicksand in her family of origin, she will do the same thing in adulthood when it comes to friends, acquaintances, as well as others. Trust is often an ongoing issue.”

    I can so identify! My mother according to my therapist is a narcissist with sociopathic tendencies…a malignant narcissist.

    If your own mother is willing to walk away from a relationship with you when you call her out on her bad behavior (she hasn’t called me in 3 years except for my birthday or when someone dies) then who can be trusted?

    The insanity is yes – my 3 sibs still vie for her attention. She can do and say as she pleases. No one except me calls her out on her behavior. After all – she has told me that it is MY job to have a relationship with her. If that’s not the definition of anxious attachment I don’t know what is!

    It took me 4 decades but after some final last straw verbal abuse from her where she not only didn’t apologize but turned it around and blamed me for it all – I said enough and refuse to grovel to have a “relationship” with her. I am done accepting abuse from any one and family doesn’t receive a get out of jail free card either. It is mental health self preservation.

    Of course with a narcissistic mom the smear campains and triangulation are endless. My sibs would – yes – rather believe I am the problem (I am the “bad” one – the “trouble maker” according to all) rather than my mom. It is all the way around disturbing.

    Thank you for your blog. I feel you get me like no other out there right now. Having an ignoring malignant narcisstic mom I often feel like the loneliest unloved daughter in the world. I look forward to each and every article you write. Thank you!

    • February 18, 2020 at 3:38 pm

      Thank you for reading and I am happy to be of help on your journey. Best, Peg

  • February 19, 2020 at 10:48 am

    A great article. There is one thing that I find isn’t addressed much… that some of these mothers actually believe that they love you, not just pretending to or for purposes of playing cat and mouse. This was the ultimate head trip for me. It would have been so much easier if I could label her 100% as a villain. We’re dealing with crazy people. It was helpful for me during her long visits of non stop talking to remind myself that she was crazy. Their lack of self reflection is unfathomable.

    • February 19, 2020 at 6:40 pm

      Actually, not all unloving mothers are “crazy,” whatever that might be. The lack of self-reflection doesn’t render “crazy” and the shame involved in not liking or loving your child seals the deal. Best, Peg

      • February 20, 2020 at 9:42 am

        Thanks but you didn’t know my mother lol.

  • February 25, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    This article discribes my mother 1000% She alway’s compaired me to other people, she used to tell me that I needed mental help, she got a charge out of being in public telling me “I should have aborted you when I had the chance”. and other things like she wanted me dead, she wished I was never born, I was in my bedroom one day and she sent a man I didn’t know to my room for sex, I was 13yrs old when that happened, and she like a guy who was a pedophile to come over so she can take pictures of me on the mans lap and she thought that was funny. I’ve been in therapy and on medication since 1990. Personally, I refuse to forgive her for anything she has done to me, I’m harsh, I know but, after she passed away I felt much relief, I can raise my kids the right way without her negative, psycho bs. While she was abusing me like that she would turn the siblings on eachother, then I had to constantly play coach to set things right. I can pick up on people like that and when they come at me with their bs, I ignore them and walk away. I feel I’ve been thru enough drama.


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