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The Demon Parent

There is a certain kind of parent which I term a “demon parent.” This parent can be either the father or mother. This parent is deranged and should be locked up. But, unfortunately, the parent’s craziness is focused mainly one of the children and is hence hidden from the law. Such a parent is full of unconscious rage and, at the same time, is entirely unconscious of that rage; hence she or he would probably be diagnosed as a schizophrenic with a delusion of infallibility.

Because they are unconscious of their rage, it is never verbalized. On the surface, they go through the motions of being a devoted parent. But below the surface the rage leaks out through the expression in the eyes, their tone of voice and their body language.

One such case involved a 47-year-old man named Tom who felt imprisoned by his mother. From the time he was born, he did not see love in her eyes. “She looked at me with angry, almost gleeful eyes, as though I was not a separate self but a part of her that she was in full possession of and would never let go of,” he reported in therapy. She was like a succubus, always on top of him sucking away his soul.

Although he had a father, the mother never let the father get near him during most of his childhood. If the father wanted to hold him, she let him know she was the mother, she had given birth to him, and he was to keep away. When he was six and seven years old and gravitated toward his dad, his mother would grab his arm and pull him away. She kept the boy under her surveillance night and day. He was also not allowed to play with neighborhood friends or to have any other attachments.

When he entered school at the age of seven, she got a job as a teacher’s assistant in his school. Tom felt as if she wanted to keep her eyes on him at all times. Every time he walked down the hall, she was there as if waiting for him and staring at him with a strange smile. One memory that stood out for him at that time was when his grandmother (his mother’s mother) got into a knife fight with his mother. The two women went at it in the kitchen and seemed about to kill one another before the boy’s father intervened. The boy was terrorized by that memory.

His relationship to his father remained distant until he was 31 years old. If he was hugging his father and his mother walked in, he immediately pulled away so as not to upset her. After the age of 31, he began to love his father intensely, and his father, as if to make up for lost time, developed a very close and loving relationship with the boy. When his father was alone with him, he would confide in his son, often expressing the idea, “Any other man would have killed your mother by now.” However, when both mom and dad were with him, Dad always yielded to Mom.
Once, when he was in his early twenties, he brought his first girlfriend home. He made out with the girlfriend in his room, and when they came out his mother screamed at the top of her lungs, ordering the girl to go home. The girl was so frightened she broke down and cried. Later, as they were sitting in the kitchen, the son appealed to his father. “Dad, could you please tell Mom it’s not all right for her to speak to my girlfriend that way?” His father answered softly, without looking at the mother: “I just want peace in the household.”

Many memories were about her emotional incest. One was of her kissing him full on the lips, which horrified him. He had given her a Mother’s Day card and was about to peck her on the check when she grabbed his chin with her angry hand and turned it toward her, planting a wet one on the mouth. Another memory was of her calling him by his father’s name. This frequently happened after the father passed away. She called her son, “Glen,” the father’s name, instead of Tom, which was his name. “Mom,” he protested angrily, “I’m not your husband!”

“Oh, stop being dramatic,” she would reply. “I know who you are.”

“Well, then stop calling me Glen.”

He had only two girlfriends, one of whom was married. The other woman was someone he “lusted after,” as he put it. He did not take either of them seriously as relationship or marriage material. That would represent a betrayal of his mother. He was only able to have intercourse with them after he had overcome his impotence. In his unconscious, he regarded all women as potential demons who would take over his soul and devour his very manhood.

One of his dreams conveys this fear of woman as demon. “I’m in a bedroom with my co-worker, Mandy. We’re both naked. I begin to perform oral sex on Mandy. She begins moaning in ecstasy. Her vaginal juices taste bitter to me and I find them disgusting. So much so that I don’t want to lick my lips for fear I may swallow her juices and secretions. Yet she wants me to kiss her, but I’m trying to wipe my lips before doing so. I then go down on her again to lick her vagina. As she convulses in orgasm, what looks like some sort of black, dual-pronged insect-like pincers about two inches long emerge from her pussy. These pincers emerge and contract back into her pussy in conjunction with her orgasmic contractions.”

His “demon mother” had established such unconscious control of him that he was never able to move out. He once rented an apartment, but never spent a single night there. His mother, sure of her control of him, would taunt him, “Why aren’t you sleeping at your apartment?”

Stan was still living at home at the age of 47 and still fantasizing about moving out and establishing his independence. By then he had had seven years of psychotherapy but the therapy had remained mostly on an intellectual level. In order for any real change to occur in therapy, there has to be an emotional component. Getting out of the grasp of the terror that lurked in his unconscious was a hard job, and he was making strides towards it. He was hard at work on a novel, and to him each sentence was an act of rebellion and independence.

Such cases are familiar in the literature of psychology. There are demonic mothers, such as the one described here, and demonic fathers. Children of such parents need many years of therapy to break out of the spell demonic spell.

The Demon Parent

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D.

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D. is a licensed psychoanalyst in New York and has been practicing for over 37 years. He works with adults, couples, families, adolescents, and children. He has graduated from three psychotherapy institutes and received a Certificate in Psychoanalysis from the Washington Square Institute in 1981. He has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of psychology at the Borough of Manhattan Community College since 2002 and has authored thirteen books on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as four novels and a book of poems and drawings. More recently he wrote 20 screenplays (winning four first-place awards at festivals) and produced and directed two feature films.

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APA Reference
Schoenewolf, G. (2017). The Demon Parent. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 13 Jul 2017
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