99 thoughts on “The Most Toxic Parents

  • July 5, 2016 at 11:50 am

    You nailed it.

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    • July 6, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      Yep. I was the scapegoat er um the black sheep of the family. I never understood until recently and I’m 55y/o that my mother was projecting her stuff on me. And yes my 6 other siblings were brainwashed to feel the same way she did. I always knew she was jealous of me but I never knew she was smearing me to other family and cousins. Besides a good Christian woman wouldn’t do that. She ruined my life and I’m still grappling with the ruins. My father made sure that he told me on his death bed that he knew how she had treated me all my life. I love my Heavely Father and this isn’t his doings. I’d be crazier without him but everyday life is a struggle with depression and anxiety. And I’ve never quite learned how to make good decisions choose a good husband or put my peace of mind before others.

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      • July 6, 2016 at 5:56 pm

        My mother was a text book copy of this type of behavior.

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      • July 6, 2016 at 10:18 pm

        I FEEL YOU,I UNDERSTAND YOU.I REMEMBER MY MOTHER TELLING THE DOCTORS THAT SHE DIDNT KNOW WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME.I WAS THE YOUNGEST OF 6 KEDS AND ABUSED BY THEM ALSO.I MUST SAY IF IT WASNT FOR IMAGINING A BETTER,GREATER SELF AS A CHILD I WOULD HAVE NEVER MADE IT TO 52 YRS OLD.IM AN INTROVERT,AND I LOVE MYSELF,AND IM VERY PROUD OF MYSELF AND IM SO VERY PROUD OF YOU ALSO…GOD BLESS YOU AND I LOVE ALL OF US BECAUSE WE COME OUT OF THE HELL PIT AND SAID IM GOING TO LOVE ME AND TAKE CARE OF ME THE WAY I SHOULD HAVE BEEN. YOU R MY CHAMPIONS IN LIFE!!!!

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      • July 10, 2016 at 10:23 am

        this is pretty twisted……why would a mom intentionally do this. i think this mom knew she was doing this.

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  • July 5, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Do I know you? I swear you just wrote my life story! Literally wrote about me and what I went through. Right now my mother and younger brother and even my mothers sister my Aunt…to now my cousin whom is my god daughter don’t speak to me because I pointed out their disturbances. In turn this made me the bad guy bc I pointed out how they hurt me like it was my fault that I hurt them. They pretended that I was the bad person so they didn’t have to feel guilty the nasty things they did to me. God forbid if they will ever be accountable for their BS!

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    • July 6, 2016 at 11:56 am

      Funny…I was thinking the exact same thing. Oh, so good to know that I am not the only disturbed child by my mother’s standards. All of her other children are darlings because they never endured the verbal abuse until recently. Now they all ask me how I took it as long as I have. I just have to chuckle and respond with, I don’t. I just let her talk out loud and keep moving. Got more important things to do with my energies.

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    • March 7, 2017 at 3:28 am

      Holy it’s like you and I are telling the same story. My mother and her family are completely codependent and insane

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    • March 9, 2018 at 10:23 am

      I have felt like I’ve wanted to kill my Mother and Father for what they have and continue to do to me
      I feel like she my Mother is some kind of demonic being!!.she twists and gaslights everything to make it seem like I’am the twisted one.
      My only splice is she has to answer at the end of her days.

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  • July 5, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    It was such a good read, something I can relate to. I’m 26 years old and my mother is constantly harrassing me, never giving up of controlling my life. She disapproves of my way of life, she is constantly insulting me and demotivating me by saying that I would end up like a toerag, that I would never be mature and an abundance of other hurtful stuff. Since I was a child she tries to control my life and I have always been rebellious and done things my way. The thing is she doesn’t give up, now she is sending me sms while I’m out with friends or my boyfriend saying hurtful stuff and also cursing. I don’t talk to her on purpose because I see that as the smartest solution for now and I ignore her, not saying a word back to her. I really don’t know how to handle this problem, all of my friends are surprised by the way she treats me. If I’m out with friends she is calling me in the middle of the night, writing hurtful messages. In the past I was a bit closer with her, I was sharing stuff from my personal life and in the first fight she was turning everything I confided in her against me. So I’ve decided that the best way to protect myself from her venomous tongue is to keep things to myself and not share anything. But she doesn’t give up, she is saying that I’m ruining her life and the life of my father, but the truth is I don’t do anything wrong, my father does’t even meddles in my life. I think that I’m older enough to be left to live my life as I want to, because among my friends I’m the only one who has this problem. I currently don’t work, I’m preparing my final exams at college for which I pay for, and I’m constantly under stress at home. Thinking how is she going to react when I do this or that, constantly preparing my defense, consulting with my best friend how to play things with her. Bottom line I’ve concluded that she has a toxic behaviour and now that I came across this article It made sense that the stem of all this might be her upbringing, because my grandfather (her father) was even worse. She also suggested that I need professional help and that she would pay a therapist so I could get help. At first I was very hurt by what she said but now I realize that she is the one who needs professional help. This problem is even worse if it happens to minors so it would be really helpfull if it is discussed on a more broad level.

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    • July 6, 2016 at 11:07 am

      it sounds like you need to go no contact,change your phone number!,move as far away as possible as soon as you can.I’m so thankful my family lives across the country from me

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    • July 6, 2016 at 12:07 pm

      I’m so sorry that your mother is treating you this way. When I turned 31, I finally decided that I had had enough and I cut off all communication, except cards and letters, for two full years. It started when I began dating my wife. I just couldn’t stand the thought of hearing her comment on my then girlfriend. It would have messed with my head, even if it was something positive. My mom just had so much influence on me. It was ridiculous.

      Now, age 54, I’ve been married for 17 years to that woman and my mother had nothing to do with the courtship. I simply notified her when we got engaged. That’s when I got back in touch with my family. We had a lovely wedding and both sides of the family attended.

      It hasn’t all been a bed of roses. But my mom learned from those two years apart that she needed to back off and she has ever since then.

      Do I miss the old days when I felt closer to Mom? Yes I do sometimes. But Mom doesn’t understand normal boundaries, so it just has to be this way. I have other people in my life who I can confide in and who I can trust to keep a confidence(unlike my mother, who always eventually told someone). I thought I could trust Mom, but I learned that I couldn’t.

      I realize that your story may be quite different from mine. But thanks for letting me share.

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  • July 5, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    how does one do anything to intervene. The child I speak of has just turned 4. His mother has ripped him from our lives after 4 years of helping care for him. Why I don’t know except I could not let her use my father’s truck after I had already helped her to move. He cries to come see me but his mother does not care. My grandson his godfather does not go around him anymore because he does not want to make him cry. What do I do. I am praying for her

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    • July 6, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      Better to go and intervene, and let her cry NOW instead of for the rest of her life! BUCK UP AND DO SOMETHING! A-holes don’t change because no one MAKES THEM CHANGE! DO SOMETHING! DON’T JUST TALK ABOUT IT!

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  • July 5, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Megan’s story is my story. I was fortunate to find a good psychoanalyst who helped me out of the toxic fog created by my mother and family. But what to do about the widespread denial in society about this type of parenting? Many (most) mental health professionals don’t understand emotional/psychological abuse of this nature never mind the ‘ordinary’ person.

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  • July 5, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    Wow what a read its very interesting to see the impact a parent can have upon a young child or teenager.

    At times I ve seen children go through this emotional neglect the parent makes the child accountable fir their actions.

    people need to step up and take children seriously children matter and are our future generations let their hearts sing and be heard amongst the world despite
    Poverty war and terrorism let us stand for the faith we believe in no matter our cause we Are one people.

    We all have the same red stuff running through our veins let us celebrate that we are one people towards one cause and never let that go

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  • July 6, 2016 at 10:54 am

    I can relate a little to this story and I’m surprised I got through it without being triggered or having a flashback.

    My mother wasn’t like that. But I really feel like my father went out his way to “demonize” me and render me helpless and incompetent.

    My life was micromanaged in some ways by him and my mother allowed it. Nothing I did was ever good enough and it always seemed like I couldn’t do anything right even if we’re just sitting breathing.

    My mom had very sneaky ways of shaming and degrading but she wasn’t as nearly as bad as my father. She was more so cold and neglectful. I was ignored most of the time.

    This is impacted me more than words can described. I developed PTSD and have struggled with depression, anxiety, addictions and rage. I have also struggled to date as I don’t think I am worthy of love. I pick a lot of men who are emotional insensitive and unavailable.

    I have become the helpless, damsel in distress my parents wanted me to be even though I’m trying to break free. I don’t feel good enough in any way. I feel I am unattractive making it difficult to go out in public as I think everyone is pointing and laughing at my flaws.

    The sad part is that I now have a child and fear recreating the same pattern within him. There are some things I have done very differently from my parents but some things have stayed the same and I know my son is being affected.

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  • July 6, 2016 at 11:09 am

    You didn’t have to go further than the second or third paragraph for me to identify my brother’s ex ‘out-laws’. They were very bad, no – evil, people and their three children confirm it. Poor Gretchen, my brother’s ex. She was bright but really fouled up by her parents’ righteous upbringing and her pharmacist father’s prescriptions.
    My niece and nephew were not grieved when those grandparents died. I’ll never learn all that went on there. I know it has affected my brother’s relationships with his children. And I haven’t seen or spoken to either (both in their 30s) since 2003.

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  • July 6, 2016 at 11:11 am

    WOW! I have been on a journey which has involved the discovery and forgiveness of the fact that my mother is/was a textbook narcissist and had treated both my brother and I in very typically narcissistic ways during our childhood. What this article showed me was that I had excepted her description or characterization of me and allowed it to form my expectations of life at a subconscious level! Until I read this article, I honestly hadn’t been aware of it! What a TOTAL sense of empowerment this knowledge has brought my way! Thank you to the author!

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  • July 6, 2016 at 11:14 am

    As a step-father who attempted to (co)parent with a toxic mother, I thank you for this piece.

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  • July 6, 2016 at 11:14 am

    my parents let my brother emotionally,physically and sexually abuse me.My mom was always telling me I should be more like her golden boy,while she was stuffing her face with junk food.When I turned into a teenager my father wouldnt let me do anything,he said because he didnt want me to get pregnant.I ended up running away and getting into drugs while being very sexually active .I’ve been in two abusive relationships,working on getting out of current one.For a long time I thought I deserved to be treated this way,it was very difficult to find myself,I’m now 58 years old

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  • July 6, 2016 at 11:23 am

    This article sounds like both of my parents. I got epilepsy when I was a kid and then my parents put me out the door for 3 yrs. sending me to boarding school where they didn’t pay any money for my food or meds and I only came home on holidays and that’s when life was hell and it is to this day. My mom treated me as if I was the scapegoat (never doing right) while my older brother was the golden child who never did wrong. I paid rent he didn’t, I got a job on my own, he worked for our father. Today my brother’s kids (my mom’s grandchildren) get $11 grand from her but she tells me she’s broke so I send her $100’s for the past 2 yrs. so she can get by. When I’m successful in my marriage (30 yrs.) and work full time for 31 yrs. at the same job that makes my mom and dad angry. To all of you out there break away from a narcistic family it will only hurt you if you stay near them.

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  • July 6, 2016 at 11:27 am

    Sounds like my late husband’s ex wife.

    She fooled the court system and everyone else, except my husband and I and the children will never know it.

    Toxic parents have a license to steal.

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  • July 6, 2016 at 11:44 am

    As a practicing physician with 36 years of knowledge and experiences in human psychology and human relationships, family as well as social problems, I would like to bring to your attention that this kind of family problem is TRUE and very common. I personally was subjected to projection to problems that my mother had. I was extremely intelligent and active at school and university. But, I was constantly repressing the pain that I had by being the scapegoat of my mother. Unfortunately, I kept this matter in my UNCONSCIOUS and later I choose a husband who treated me the same way. Finally, I got divorced and started reading the books of great teachers. The first book that I read was 36 years ago by Sigmund Freud. He talked about REPETITION COMPULSION about 100 years ago. I gradually became AWARE and CONSCIOUS of my unhealthy ways of getting into the relationships. I started to MEDITATE and LOVE myself. Now I do not allow anyone in my life who does not respect me. I am in the process writing a book. Please feel free to contact me for any questions and help. Cell phone is 516-710-3010.

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    • September 14, 2016 at 10:32 pm

      Hello Marie,

      I can totally identify with your experience. My mother was adopted, and had intellectual challenges. I, on the other hand, did well in school, and earned a doctorate at Harvard, and am a psycholigist. She constantly put me down, and told my brother and sister that I was only going to graduate school because I was too lazy to work. When I was inducted into National Honor Society in my junior year high schooli, which was a hugh honor, she asked me, “Do I really need to go?” I said, “No, Mom, you do not need to go.” I was the only one who did not have any parent there.

      When my mother died, I kept repeating to myself as I drove to Pennsylvania, “She can’t hurt you any more!”

      Betsy

      781-861-9102

      Reply
  • July 6, 2016 at 11:51 am

    It’s as if you we’re writing my early life story. So many times my mother tried to have me commited ( the first time when I was fou…. who does that?) She also brought me to exorcists. But the demons that needed exorcised we’re her own.
    Thank you, good piece.

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  • July 6, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Wow. This is so true. My mother was so perfect, the ideal church lady, she reaped admiration from everyone for her wifely and motherly skills, and when I was little she was determined she would finally have her youngest child come out RIGHT. She poured all of her effort into me, but I was just so unacceptable, so uncooperative. She had me to doctor after doctor trying to figure out what was wrong with me, even to my teen years, “Why is she so depressed? Why doesn’t she ever smile? Why won’t she talk to me? Why does she hide in her room all the time? YOU’VE GOT TO HELP ME CHANGE HER!”
    Took me until long into adulthood to realize the unpleasant feeling I had about her was actually not because I was a rebellious, stubborn child and even when it began to occur to me, I felt guilty for it, like I’d always been trained.

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  • July 6, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    I am still the “one who is just like our mother”. ” She’s crazy, it is no wonder she wasn’t a good mother”, ” Oh I get it. There’s no way Patty could have been a good mother”. These are just some of the nasty comments my two sisters have said lately- of course not to me, to others who also have malicious agendas. My mother used to say, ” She’s so lazy she stinks”, ” Who do you think you are? You’re nothin!”, it was Hell growing up in that house with those people. I eventually married a “charming” man who beat me senseless- and has lied about it to my family, and his ever since. The end result is that I have no family support or contact with them. I have been in therapy for years, and now know that I am NOT crazy, but I WAS abused by my mother and two siblings. This article clarifies what I have known all along. I am right to separate myself from all of them and to live my life with the support of my friends. It might be lonelier than I would like during the holidays, but at least I don’t end up crying into my pillow for have to listen to more of their snide, manipulative abuse.

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  • July 6, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    Who wrote this case study about me?????

    This is EXACTLY what happened to me growing up. With a side of sexual abuse thrown in.

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    • July 6, 2016 at 7:20 pm

      It was like that with me also.

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  • July 6, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    My ex in laws did this to their son, my ex husband. Now they are doing to to my children. Especially my daughter. They are saints in the eyes of others but in truth, they are extremely abusive and I don’t know how to stop it.

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    • July 6, 2016 at 7:22 pm

      My mom tried it with my daughter. I would and did not allow it!

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  • July 6, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    Almost 30 years ago, i had a shoplifting problem and sought out therapy to stop it. My therapist at the time recommended a book “Toxic Parents”. That book completely changed me and my perception of my family. it was one of the hardest moments of my life. lots and lots of tears. but the denial was gone. however, by that time, a lot of damage had been done and i’ve spent the rest of my life trying to “fix” myself. Thank you for the article.

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  • July 6, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Yes,this was it was like for me and my eldest brother…both my mother and eldest sister were disturbed and him & I were the scapegoats of the dysfunction…labelled mentally ill…which deeply affected both of us and in some ways still does,even though we are now in our sixties…
    My mother married very young and wasn’t ready to take on motherhood, so my eldest sister felt for some reason compelled to be in charge of us and also her jealous caused her to verbally abuse and pick on both of us,especially my older brother out of sheer hatred and jealousy. My brother definately was traumatized by her and I think my mother ended up becoming very close to him as he grew into teenager and adulthood. He never married and a few years ago they said he had asperger’s. Me well after a few severe depressions from lack of love also gave all my family another good reason to label me mentally ill and to this day even though i am sixty they use that as an excuse ,for example, not to give me any help for example I asked for a loan because i am finally divorcing my husband and from 2 of my brothers I was treated with disbelief and refusal to help and a few days ago I asked my sister and one thing she brought up was “well, you have been known to have anger”…in otherwords I must have caused any so called abuse within my marriage……the same old story…just 40 years later basically.. Thank GOD I left home at 21 moved far away and made my own life even though I fell in with repeating abusive cycle in marriage…but now finally seeing the light with help from many friends and some counseling and support groups…

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  • July 6, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Thank you so much for bringing this to light. Such a hard concept for most people to grasp, yet 100% spot on. I really identified w/ this story. I’ve been tortured by my mom about my weight my entire life. It’s so subtle and quiet – most people don’t even pick up on it. Except obviously me who has suffered w/eating & body image issues my entire life. All the while being neglected emotionally and ruled by her narcissism. Then as also pointed out in the article People constantly giving praise & accolades for the boss & parent she is. And add a narcissistic, absent (divorced) father to the equation and you’ve got the recipe for the epic disaster I call my family of origin. Been decades trying to identify and then get out from under this tightly woven web.

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  • July 6, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    This pattern is very difficult to detect. The parent(s) deny their own evil or pathology and then see it popping up in their children. We call that projection.

    Scott Peck nailed in “People of the Lie.” He noted that such parents never appear in therapy. Therapy brings things to light and the ‘people of the lie’ need to keep their own heart secret.

    These systems are difficult to intervene in as the parents will cut off help for their child and undermine anyone who tries to reveal what is going on.

    The sickest is when the parents present as ‘good Christians’ and develop a good reputation there. Meantime the child is living and breathing the hypocrisy.

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  • July 6, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    There were two of us in my family….as *the baby” I was treated as if I were totally unaware of anything that was going on, while my sister “the middle child” was vilified and even physically abused. She married at 18, to an abusive man. And then when I turned 16 the burden was passed to me and I became “the bad one.” It all goes back to my mother becoming pregnant at the age of 16. She always felt guilty. But the first child was “the good one” who could do no wrong. My father, who was not the father of my sisters, was totally cowed, unable to oppose my mother In any way, because of HER emotional upsets. We were “crazy” because no one could admit that she was….I ran away from home at 17 and married at 28 to the man who helped me run away….after years of confusion and craziness I became free of it. I don’t think the other two ever quite became free of it even though their lives were acceptable to the parents….they both suffered long and hard in their own way. And “the good one?” Still wets the bed….even though all our parents are dead and we all are over 60 now. But….our parents were “good” and “kind” and “loving”….I have one child and I treated him well, even though I was ill most of the time. He is my hope for the future of us all….they also had children and each of them lost one to drugs and or alcohol…the others have found their own accommodations to living…how many generations does it take to achieve freedom? Well, that depends of how crazy you are willing to become in order to get free, and whether or not you survive the craziness that sets you apart and frees you…

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    • July 6, 2016 at 3:07 pm

      Correction of typo: I was 18 when I married the one who helped me run away. I was 22 when I divorced him. Do you think I am pressuring my child by saying he is the hope of the future? Perhaps….but he is making intelligent choices. He doesn’t have to be “crazy” the way we did. Because I have been honest with him, and waited until I was grown and over it before having my child.

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      • July 6, 2016 at 5:41 pm

        Well whose hope for the future are you talking about? Are you talking about Hope for your future, his future, or the world’s future, because I’d have to say that the former and the latter late a lot of pressure on your child to be extraordinary. Although you haven’t said it directly, children seem to subconsciously read between the lines without you understanding. By saying he’s the hope of the future, you’re suggesting to him that you want him to be someone very important and revered either in your life or in the world’s life. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a child. Just tell him that he needs to be the best him that he can be and everybody else’s opinion doesn’t matter including yours! Can you do that?

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      • July 7, 2016 at 8:29 am

        Hope for HIS future, of course! I don’t think you understand what I mean by being free. He would not be free if I were expecting him to take care of my future or the future of the world. There is very little subtext left because I became free of it. I see many people here still suffering with great anger, great sadness. Being free means that one has overcome and risen above all that and is clear of it. Being free means that you can see the reality of what happened and accept it without having to prove anything or change anything further. Being free means that all that crap from the past is worked through. Only someone who has attained their own freedom can raise children without burdening them with the past. I also see many people here who are sad because they did not reach their potential. While I am sure I could have had a better life if I had become free sooner – we all could have – I didn’t do badly. I overcame the burden and achieved quite a lot, and I’m not done yet….my life is not over. My son only has to consider his own future, he doesn’t have to live for me, I do not live through him, and the family curse has been broken. I broke it. I overcame. That is what I mean by being free. I did not have children until I knew I could keep from contaminating my child with the pain of the past. That is what our parents did not do, because they could not – that is why they were toxic parents. It isn’t that they were bad people, evil people….it is that they were not free from the sadness and pain of generations past. They didn’t know how to get over it and they didn’t have time…my mother who got pregnant at 16 had no chance to become free of it before her children were born, and it is much more difficult to do that after you have children. What she had to overcome was much harder…her life was harder. Yes, we had a rough time of it but her path was much more difficult and that is largely why our early lives were so difficult. It is never easy to get rid of what I would call inter-generational trauma! And not everyone can….you have to have the opportunity and then you gave to commit to overcoming the pain, and that requires feeling it….feeling it and dealing with it so that you do not pass it on. I had the opportunity because I could see it happening in my family and I could feel the pain, in fact, could not avoid feeling it. That turned out to be a blessing because when you feel it and cannot avoid it you can overcome and become free. You have to feel it to heal it….but you really have to want to heal it or the feelings can be overwhelming. That is my message of hope here. Another key is to be honest with the children. I did not blame my son for my feelings, in fact, I made it very clear to him that my feelings are my responsibility and he is only responsible for his own feelings and his own choices.

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      • July 7, 2016 at 8:57 am

        Oh yes… one more thing…it isn’t what you SAY, it is what you feel and what you do. My parents always told me “you can be whatever you want to be”… but that is not what they FELT, that is not what they communicated subliminally. You can’t lie to a child. If you say, “all you have to do is do your best” but that is not how you act or how you feel, it won’t ring true and the child will still be troubled. If you want to give your child the gift of freedom, it has to be sincere. But the fact that they tried did help me. It was better that they said good things sometimes even though they could not follow through, because they had the INTENT and that was part of my having the opportunity to work it through. It was terribly difficult but I had an inkling of how it could have been because they wanted it to be better. They tried. My mother could not get past the trauma of being pregnant at 16 in a time when that meant having to quit school because pregnant girls were shamed and not allowed to stay in school! So she was afraid for us and angry, and that caused a lot of our hurt and anger towards her. And… it doesn’t require perfection. There were times when I had difficulty with it, of course….it will be easier for my son, because I didn’t expect him to solve my problems. I told him I had problems and that he was not responsible for my problems. Perhaps the fact that he is a son and not a daughter helped too…but because I didn’t have children until I had worked it through gives me the feeling that a daughter also could have been free of all that angst. So yes, hope for the future because he doesn’t have to go through what I went through or what my sisters went through, and he has the skill necessary to handle his own feelings and not burden his children either.

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  • July 6, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    This is quite triggering for me because I was also emotionally abused by my adoptive mother,but it took until I had my own child in my late 30s to realise it.I remember thinking when I was about 30 or 31 ” How come my parents are so perfect and yet I’m so f$%^ed up?”.That is the danger of this kind of abuse(and my A.M. was much more subtle than the mum in the case history),IT IS INSIDIOUS! THE CHILD DOESN’T KNOW THE PARENT IS DOING WRONG AND BELIEVES SHE IS THE ONE ALWAYS IN THE WRONG! I believed I was intrinsically bad and as we were a religious family,this caused me to believe I was bound for Hell.I had a dream once when I was about 8 or 9, that the Devil was chasing me; I woke up hysterical,screaming”I’m damned,I’m damned!”.It took me months to get over it and I didn’t get much support.All my A.M.would say when I ever expressed my fear and upset about anything,not just that nightmare, were things like” You should just forget about it” or ” Don’t be so silly!”. Her other favourites were ” She’s spoilt,selfish and always wants her own way!” and as my A.F. who was kind,used to always say I was clever,” Oh well,she MIGHT be clever but she has NO sense!”.I think I heard these comments every day of my childhood and teenage years, they were like her mottos! I now suffer from what the doctors diagnosed as Chronic Depressive Syndrome but I suspect is really Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with Clinical Anxiety ( I was a psychiatric nurse for 12 years). My chances of getting a correct diagnosis where I live are slim, so I am learning to use my nursing experience to mind myself and also natural remedies.Thank you for writing this article,it is so validating! I also send my best wishes and love to all on here who have also experienced this sneaky, sly type of abuse. It’s good to know someone gets it and understands!

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    • July 7, 2016 at 9:12 am

      Oh, my, yes! I can relate to much of what you are saying. One of my mother’s things was to tell me “you are so smart you can be whatever you want to be” but when she was angry that turned to “oh you think you are so smart well let me tell you, you are not smart at all!” Very upsetting….but one day I heard my grandmother say to her “you used to be smart…remember how smart you were?” And I realized it was something that had happened to my mother with her mother and she was just passing it on…that was the beginning of realizing that it wasn’t my fault at all….but it took years, YEARS! You are on the right track I think with the self-healing …there is only so much other people can do for us and then we have to find our own way. I was in therapy fron the age of 16 on, and faced opposition for that too.. “this shouldn’t go outside the family..” so going for therapy was a radical act! I still check in with a therapist now and then for reassurance, but what really made the difference was when I decided for myself to get well….and now even physical illnesses are starti ng to heal. Whew!

      Reply
  • July 6, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Sounds “exactly” like the relationship between me and my Mother.
    Mom was Schizophrenic and Paranoid and projected her thoughts and feelings into me.

    Reply
    • July 7, 2016 at 9:18 am

      Oh my, that must have been really hard…I think my mother suffered from bipolar disorder, but my family didn’t believe in therapy….and when I was diagnosed, it was first severe depression and then that changed to bipolar disorder…. but….it can get better! The therapist I see now days that she doesn’t think I am bipolar….and I think I was, but I think I just got better. I hope you are doing okay now, I can relate …

      Reply
  • July 6, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    Can this be from a spouse as well? Just emotionally beating you up but looks perfect to everyone else? I still feel broken years later. I don’t know how to trust. To make true friends. I just feel so lost to myself and his mind games still scare me.

    Reply
    • July 7, 2016 at 9:20 am

      Yes. Definitely. It can happen because of a spouse. I hope you are safe now and can heal. 😉

      Reply
  • July 6, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    “They are deacons of churches.” They are also social workers; they are also psychiatrists. But let’s grind our axe and take as our example people who won’t hit back

    Reply
  • July 6, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    Yes and no. I was brought up by a disturbed older sibling and recognize a lot of the above. Back in the seventies social workers were pretty dumb (not in the speech sense of the word) and were taken in very easily. If anyone is going through this right now, keep believing in yourself and in your future. Don’t end up institutionalized. I have no contact with my sister anymore and it was her decision, although I have to say I was relieved. Stop expecting people to believe you because chances are most of them never will. You just have to get on with your life and put your childhood behind you.

    Reply
    • July 6, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      Tina, thank you. I will print out what you wrote and keep it close. I’m always defensive and hurt when asked to explain my thoughts and I realize the life-long toll not being believed has taken…..I still feel like I’m not believed. It’s easier to withdraw from contact with people than it is to explain myself….the anxiety I have everyday about having to interact with others is such a challenge. There’s a hole in me that’s never healed….I struggle constantly with self esteem, self-worth. I’ve begun to meditate a few minutes a few times/day to get to know and value myself. I need to disconnect from looking to others for validation but it seems impossible for me to get traction within because it’s right where that hole is.

      Reply
  • July 6, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    This story was very sad but true. There are so many children today dealing and coping up toxic parent/parents/guardians. And the children become damaged due to toxic minds and spirits of their caregivers. We live in a mentally ill society where the adults that suppose to nurture and care for their youths destroy and demonized their children. I am employed with the juvenile justice system court in the east coast and the cases are heartbreaking and the things that the parents accuses and children of is worse. The child/children lives are damaged forever and its sad because the courts abide with the toxic parents. So the child/children becomes victimized again.

    Reply
    • July 7, 2016 at 9:22 am

      I am glad to see someone like you in the juvenile justice system where you can see what is really going on and can help people.

      Reply
  • July 6, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    I’m a teacher. I’d love a follow-up article that addresses the best way to intervene. Right now the best I can do is reassure the child that there is nothing wrong with them. These particular parents are the PTA presidents, classroom volunteers, and sport coaches. No one in authority will believe that they represent a problem. They can’t afford to alienate them. I think they use their good deeds as a shield.

    Reply
    • July 7, 2016 at 9:24 am

      Yes. Sometimes they are the “good” ones in public but in private it is very dysfunctional. You are perceptive.

      Reply
  • July 6, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    Why not pull the family into this situation and tell them what they need to be told! I didn’t really read much about the parents being told that they were the problem and not the girl! Even though they don’t see it, they need to be told! People who are jerks, continue to be jerks because people continue to let them be jerks. It’s your jobs as psychological professionals to tell these people to cut it out! To look at themselves and stop poisoning their children! These people need to be taught to own up to their own imperfections! If they don’t like it that’s just too damn bad now isn’t it!

    Reply
    • July 7, 2016 at 9:29 am

      Oh my, if only it could be that easy! But sometimes an angry confrontation can just make it worse for the children and if the accusing one is not believed it can be dangerous. The most difficult are the “successful” toxic parents because they don’t understand that they are doing anything wrong and they get a lot of reinforcement for the way they are. But it can help if one is kind to the children and let them know they are not at fault, that someone sees them as good. Gently.

      Reply
  • July 6, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    Yes, you nailed it. There is no escaping the mythology Mom has created and the consequent alienation from family, self hatred and deep depression it has caused me. At age 3, I realized I couldn’t escape so tried to be like the other five kids but somehow couldn’t; at 15, with a knife in my hands ready to plunge into my aorta I realized suicide would only work into her story and wouldn’t solve anything for me. It was another unbelievable blow when my sister suggested to her teenaged son, “you don’t want to be like Aunt Z do you?” I’m now in my mid-fifties, and am grateful you have written this. It’s helpful, somehow.

    Reply
    • July 7, 2016 at 9:32 am

      I just want to congratulate you on seeing at the age of 15 that suicide was not the answer. It took me a lot longer. Bravo!

      Reply
  • July 6, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    Wowwww… That happen to me and my mother.. I never understood why she was so mean to me , I could see it in her eyes wen somethings bad happen to me.. She will smile. I became an alcoholic and drogaddict. But after a couple of years I got help and I I’m still getting help… I live for away from her know.. And every day I try to not become like her.. But in a way I thank God that that happen because I got help and I learned that life is not like she make me think.. And I’m wiling to break that chains whit my baby’s.

    Reply
    • July 7, 2016 at 9:36 am

      I am so glad that you did get help and yes! That will also help your babies….you are on the right track by taking care of your problems and not passing them on and I think your “attitude of gratitude” is wonderful!

      Reply
  • July 6, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    One of 6 kids somewhere in the middle. First girl. I wish I could remember the timeline of when certain feelings or symptoms started and when the OCD was bad. . Known then as ‘she’s crazy. I had brain surgery in 1959, when I was 8. It was an AVM that burst. I lost 2/3 of my vision from that.. Before the bleed I felt headaches and had sounds in my ear and spits in my vision. My mother v

    Reply
  • July 6, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    One of 6 kids somewhere in the middle. First girl. I wish I could remember the timeline of when certain feelings or symptoms started and when the OCD was bad, which was known then as ‘she’s crazy.’ I had brain surgery in 1959, when I was 8. It was an AVM that burst. I lost 2/3 of my vision from that.. Before the bleed I felt headaches and had sounds in my ear and spots in my vision. My mother said I was a faker and did not believe me. My grandmother lived with us, and she found someone to take us to the eye doctor.. My mother did not go. The doctor knew something, but before many tests could be done, I had a huge seizure, and in a coma for a few days. Then a month later, brain surgery. I am lucky to be alive. My mother hated anyone knowing anything about what happened to me. She told me never to talk about it, so I didn”t. Not through high school, where I got hit by balls and hurt in gym. I was even in driver’s ed. I felt like an alien most of my life until I started reading a lot on the ipad in the past 10 years. I am not a loser, i was born with that time bomb in my head. I wanted my mother to be a mother, but she never was. No kisses or hugs, name calling, – ‘you are a bull in a china shop’ – knowing my vision was gone. I don’t need to say more, as you can imagine. Just know that when she died I never felt much except relief. I still see girls and mothers and always wish I had one.

    Reply
  • July 6, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    We have to educate more people on this fact. My mother had to be treated but the society did not know about this so we did not know that my mother has a mental sickness.. I was the victim as I am the old sister. (Physically, verbally she had abused me and even she want me to be disappeared and I wanted that too.)
    Basically my mother became sick after her mother died when she was 8 years old. She would cry and told me so many times about it. She had never grown mentally since then. She wanted me to be her mother so she kept me around her even when I was in college. I could not go out with my friends since I know she would upset whenever I came home without any reasons. I would cook with her and wash dishes everyday then she was happy. I have tried to help her but I became depression. After I have healed from it from my physiology class lucky, I had to leave my mother after all to protect myself. I have to live my future and my mother is not really care about my future so I am the one I have to care myself.

    I feel very sorry for my mother and thankful to raise me under the metal problem at this moment. However, if I had known more about this issue I could have done better to her.
    I am still single after mid 40s because of my background I think. I am still trying to heal myself so that I can have a healthy relationship someday.

    Reply
  • July 6, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    Great article. My mother treated me the same way; Sis and Dad were happy to jump on board. I’m in a unique position, though. When I severed contact with my family, I was actually supported by extended family. They knew my mother was off, yet nothing ever rose to the level of having to contact social services regarding abuse. It’s fascinating to me that we live in a world where the right to become a parent goes unquestioned. We don’t psychologically screen people when they become pregnant. We literally give them full control of another human being, no questions asked. Imagine how many of the world’s ills would be solved if everyone had a nurturing childhood.

    Reply
  • July 6, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    Thank you for this article and all of your comments. I’ve been a seeker my entire life, trying to understand what happened and why I am the way I am. Trust me, some of this stuff began in the womb! Or before conception, even. (See pre- and perinatal psychology.) Am now 72 and still learning. The book Running on Empty, helped me a lot. Have come to believe that we are all conditioned animals, and looking back, I can see the conditioning threads for four generations…. (Because I was often sent away to live with my grandparents, being the “difficult” one, I had access to observe many relatives.) I was not a good mother to my own children, not in such a phony toxic way, but because I did not know how to be close to anyone, despite having great love. I see myself as attachment disordered with deprivation neurosis. For you young folks, if you have a parent with any redeemable value, I encourage and support you speaking your truths if you think there is any chance they could hear you. That was not a possibility with my own mother. Some folks are just too old or too invested in being “right.” The thing is, if we can resolve things in this lifetime, I have a sense that it can make a huge generational difference. I have a sense that you never know how your courageous and generous actions may affect your world. I remember tiny little things I observed as a child in other families that gave me such heart to go on… My heart goes out to each of you. Even though I don’t know you, I do believe that you make the world better, just being you. Hang in there….. It can get better! Joseph Zinker, a famous psychologist, said “We are the walking wounded,” and he was an amazing therapist. I think that is true….. Isn’t evolution all about evolving? Our journey continues….. What I now say is, “Have a great everything!” People seem to like that ~ Hope! Good wishes to each and all of you! Always, in all ways!

    Reply
    • July 10, 2016 at 7:52 pm

      That was a very inspirational comment. Nothing that could leave anyone else feeling like they “weren’t doing enough,” or weren’t enough in their own healing. That can be detrimental to abuse-wounded warriors, who battle the brain damage of PTSD

      I actually started the reply, however, because you said you read a book called “Running On Empty.” I thought to myself, “Does Chronic Fatigue Syndrome relate to this? Isn’t CFS viral-related?” Lol. There is another, probably less-read, book with the same title

      Have a great everything!

      Reply
  • July 7, 2016 at 12:16 am

    Wow, sounds just like my (soon to be) ex’s crazy-ass mother. She got pregnant with him when she was 18 and has hated men ever since, so she takes it out on him, while his younger brother can do no wrong. The dad was a big alcoholic, while she tries to pretend to be a prim, proper schoolteacher, but it appears my ex has some kind of learning/attention problems that she is embarrassed of–my guess now is because she drank while pregnant with him. Rather than be a teacher and help him work on any difficulties he might have, she has devoted her life to making him sorry she got pregnant with him, telling him he can only do physical labor (not really, because he is lacking in spatial reasoning) and discouraging him from going to any higher education or job training while the little brother was sent to private school. She is constantly commenting on how men do all these terrible things, and now that my ex has developed health problems and does not even have the self-esteem to take himself to the doctor, I approached her to try to help get him there and she said, “Oh, men don’t like to go to the doctor.” I have been his caretaker through all this sad mess for years trying to help him but have become victimized by his anger and feel like I need to get away to save myself. I wish him peace but since he has been encouraged to remain ignorant and not learn anything due to the fact that “men don’t do that” (except for his darling little brother of course), I feel like I have run out of options.

    Reply
  • July 7, 2016 at 1:47 am

    This was one of the most amazing articles I have read, as I could relate to this article in many ways. I am a Psychology Student, and enjoyed this alot! I would love it if you could add me to your linkedin.com account if you have one I have provided the link for mine above. I have been through this in a very terrible way years ago growing, and have been lucky enough to be successful in my classes, and have also heard of many scenarios, with adults that I have met and mentored in my life, The years of a child are precious and so important, even as a adult, healthy parenting is important. I had many coworkers and friends open up to me about these issues, and even cry as adults. I found this article to be the one in the industry, that finally brought up. I believe it is a very important area, and it does not come up in the child/adolescent books, though convincing a parent, and determining what is honest or not is tough enough in a case like this, I hope parents look into this alot, and they will know enough not to put their child,at risk. I am glad I know,so I can pass on my experience.

    Reply
  • July 7, 2016 at 5:01 am

    Funny, I got the title link for this article in my email box, and at age 55, I thought, hmm, maybe it will say something about my mother…..

    Thank you to the author. This article is a gift. To have the behavior given a name. To have it described in writing by an expert.

    This is my story. I did not turn out too bad. No hospital stays, no medications, no criminal record. But I have not reached anywhere near my potential, working at a low paying job, never married, no children. I have a family, but no family.

    The worst is the anger I feel. The seething bubbling rage. How dare she. I can’t seem to get over the anger, just so unjust.

    Reply
  • July 7, 2016 at 7:49 am

    Your article is great and I agree with it all except para 2. To minimize what a child goes through who is sexually, physically abused and neglected is just wrong. Is one more toxic then the other? No. Is one more obvious to a child then another? No. A child only knows what they are exposed to and when daddy is an abusive alcoholic pedophile and mommy is a battered enabler the child has no understanding. Is exposed to prolonged and unpredictable trauma that turns into their normal life. They don’t know to get help. After realizing I need help 50 years after the fact from visual flashbacks of repressed memories and feeling the mental health stigma that feels like secondary abuse it is not what I planned for in retirement. Not less toxic.

    Reply
    • July 10, 2016 at 9:30 am

      I agree that their is no “worst” form of toxic parenting! There’s no way to measure “best” or “worst”, when it comes to child abuse or neglect. Most forms of child maltreatment are hidden from the outside world until long after that child has reached adulthood, not just the passive-aggressive, projective ones.

      Very few authority figures (including legally mandated ones) ever intervene to rescue or aid the child being physically, sexually, emotionally, medically, or in any other way harmed by their parents. Thus, we can’t even get accurate figures regarding just how pervasive such forms of abuse and neglect actually are. Since it takes such overwhelming evidence of maltreatment to separate the child from the parent(s) who are creating the harm, few professionals are willing to stand up on behalf of the child, report the abuse to legal authorities, and face the wrath, threats, and/or financial cut-offs from the parents. All of this multi-level abandonment, toward a relatively powerless and unfortunate child, just adds to the enormity of the burdens s/he is left to face alone.

      Reply
  • July 7, 2016 at 10:35 am

    The worst are the disguised toxics as described here.

    Years ago when our second daughter was in High School she read Scott Pecks book People of the Lie and then got us to read it. Deals with similar stories but it also allowed us to see what my wife’s mother really was a Class A toxic parent. They project or seek to destroy those they should be nuturing and caring for. Instead they set out to destroy with subtle moves all hidden from the wider world and from their extended family.

    Reply
  • July 7, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Yes to all of this. I hope articles like this get spread and more and more people begin to recognize what is going on. I am one of those children, and decades later I’m still paying the price–in fact always will–in my whole extended family believing these things of me. My mother and her flying monkeys are now doing their best to pass the sickness on to my children, and in some cases, it’s working. I will spend my whole life paying for my mother’s illness, as she steadily turns people against me, to the best of her ability.

    Reply
  • July 7, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    This is my story. I am so lost, in shock and angry. I don’t know where to start to make my life better and not be so angry and carry around this vengeance in my heart. They have ruined me and then tell me anytime I say a word about their behavior and hold them accountable for their actions that I need to not play a victim. Seriously, you screw me up for life then if I mention it to you, your response is basically shut up and get over it. I’ll tell you how I will not be a victim; Take Responsibility for YOUR Actions!!! Admit the truth! Then I’ll think about not playing the victim and keeping things quite. I stood up to them and now I am shunned from the entire family. My step mother told me that who we are today has absolutely nothing to do with our childhood…..? really? how far from the truth can this be????

    Reply
  • July 8, 2016 at 12:38 am

    I am wondering if there is any community website for us sharing this experiences and helping each other.
    Also there are many different cases on this. My case started when my mother’s mother had sided when my mother was 8 years old. The trauma dragged her life and our family. I did not want pass this tragic situation so I am still single and learning more.
    I have mostly healed and living happily with my great career with a good confidence in me, forgiving my parents and deeply sorry for my mother had to live that way.. If she had been treated then all of us could be much happier..
    That is why I want to help others to stop this tragic families.

    I was raised in an Asian country so this issue is not only in the US:) It is hard to find this kind of issue published in my language yet.. Anyhow let me know how if there is any organization or website for this kind of issues. Otherwise I could creat one.

    Reply
  • July 8, 2016 at 5:54 am

    Wow… hit the nail on the head.. i it is almost as if you wrote this about me… 35years and im still scrambling to try to understand it all while still being abused and disregarded the entire extended family

    Reply
  • July 8, 2016 at 7:18 am

    What’s the solution? Identification of the issue will only take you so far.

    (And don’t say no-contact. For some people, “Megan” for instance, no-contact is simply not possible.)

    There has to be a middle-of-the-road solution that lets people mitigate the damage until they can escape for good.

    I just wish I knew what it was.

    Reply
  • July 8, 2016 at 7:44 am

    I can relate so much to this.
    I had a disturbed mother and her and my dad always treated me like I was messed up and crazy and made my life hell and really had a negative effect on me and my whole life.

    Reply
  • July 8, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    I am both saddened and heartened by how many of us have been scarred by a narcissistic parent/caregiver/family member and how many of us have had the narratives of our lives rewritten by them. Thank you for shining a light on this pervasive and pernicious dysfunction. It is only through awareness and understanding that we can find our way to health, fulfillment and yes…joy!

    I have been so fortunate to have found my own support network and built my own loving and supporting family, but it has taken me 50 years to do so. That is too many years to have wasted, yet I know I am lucky to be here at all. On Monday, another family member (who too had been excised from the group) succumbed to the pain that the same perpetrator had inflicted (or exacerbated) on me. I am sure the gaslighting had a pronounced effect. Please send some love out into the Universe for my dear brother who chose to end his life rather than endure the pain.

    That could have been me, or you, or someone we have yet to reach. That is why this site, these articles and your comments are essential to healing us all. Thank you.

    Peace.

    Reply
  • July 8, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    Am so glad for you who have recovered or are recovering! I love your spunk! Although I try very hard to be positive, every night I pray to die. It is such a struggle to put on an unbroken (happy) face for others when ones heart is so crushed from critical, manipulative, rejecting parenting and denial of ones value. I was told often that I was not on “the right wavelength,” and struggle with my own inauthenticity of appearing “normal” because people don’t like to be around depressed people and I don’t want to drag anybody down. But inside, I am so emotionally trashed. Although I understand intellectually, the dynamics of what happened, since early childhood, my basic drive is to die….as soon as possible, preferably in a socially acceptable manner, i.e., not appearing deliberate. I can’t seem to put the past in the past, possibly because the earliest developmental stages went by without feeling loved. Intellectually, I have the messages in my head, but I can’t seem to get them into my heart. If anyone has solutions, I’m all eyeballs…. It’s so hard to lead a double life as a laughing depressive. Guess I’m just another one in the “Looking Good Society” of people trying to survive as best they can. But I’m getting so tired….

    Reply
    • July 9, 2016 at 3:53 pm

      Hi Dee…& any of you that can relate! Please know that our reason for being alive right now is Greater than this continual suffering…even if we have no idea why we are here- or what that reason is… Just keep asking “why”…& taking time to observe & hear the answers that come…Others Desperately need our honest Living…We are all connected…There is Hope in Healing -even if the healing is more painful than the suffering…No more hiding- Truth’s Light is healing when Compassion is there…We can choose compassion for ourselves- we can choose truth…we can get to the other side of all this pain & suffering….. Health & safety & love are waiting – for us.

      Reply
    • July 10, 2016 at 12:58 am

      Dee, I spent many years feeling like you describe. I’ve always found nature, pets and wildlife to be a great source of joy and motivation. Things like volunteering at a local park, helping clean up a river, fostering shelter animals, etc. helped take me out of my very busy, anxious head. They also made it easier for me to meet people that I actually like.

      Channeling emotions into things like crafts, painting, photography, writing, etc. also helped me. I hope you give some new outlets a whirl!

      Reply
  • July 10, 2016 at 12:39 am

    Wow, this really hit home. I grew up with my stay-at-home, religiously-obsessed Christian mother telling me I was a devil’s child. She was emotionally, verbally and physically abuse, but came across as a good, old-fashioned mother to outsiders. My father was either oblivious or chose to be in denial about how she was with me.

    When I was 12, I was desperate and went to my school guidance counselor for help with how to cope with my mother. I didn’t know that after our first session, the counselor actually called and spoke with my mother. When I got home from school, she was foaming at the mouth enraged that I had “dared talk about her” to someone else. I was called every name in the book, beaten with a strap, and endured her wrath for weeks. I never went back to the counselor. When he asked, I just told him everything was fine.

    When I was 14 and in the house alone with her one Saturday morning, I woke up to her raging that she was going to kill me with a knife. She went into the kitchen and started slamming things around. I really thought this was finally it, so I dragged a hallway phone into my room, barricaded the door and called the police. When the officer arrived, my mother was calm and friendly, and explained how much trouble I gave her. The cop took a look around our modest but immaculately clean home, and lectured me about how ungrateful I was. He told my mother that if I ever gave her any trouble again, to call him directly and he would put me away for a while. In reality, I was a straight-A student who never got into any trouble and was liked by my teachers.

    Fast-forward 25 years to my mother’s funeral. My father talked about her like she was a saint, and said she was “such a wonderful mother.” Yeah.

    I’m in my mid 50s now and while I’ve generally functioned okay in life, I made many poor life’s choices before I developed some confidence in myself. And I continue to be anxious and carry a lot heartache and anger about my childhood.

    I purposely did not have children because I didn’t want to risk doing the same to them. My much older sister, who was on a pedestal and could do no wrong, had children and went on to do the same. Her firstborn was put on a pedestal, and she showed disdain for her second child even when he was an infant. He went on to have extreme behavior problems. He’s nearly 30 now and a father himself. I’m hoping the cycle doesn’t repeat yet again.

    Reply
  • July 10, 2016 at 10:12 am

    you have told the story of my life, the isolation within the family was brutal. I was treated like there was something wrong with from a very early age. my brothers and sisters also treated me like I was disturbed. My oldest brother was allowed to verbally and physically abuse me. I was always over looked and left behind by both parents. they were both alcoholic but in denial. reading the blog is like a release from darkness.

    Reply
  • July 10, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    Thank you for your comments and encouragement. I’ve asked myself how does this all happen?…. I figure: Because children know no different. And parents are ignorant, often children themselves in many ways. They think that things are okay if they can boss their children around, no matter the tactics. (The subtler parents, not the crazy knife-wielding ones.) Children cope as best they can with what is. I grew up with horses on a ranch. At age 3 1/2, my mother bought me a Shetland (little) pony. And every day I would come crying to the house because the pony bit me, kicked me, knocked me down, scraped me off on the fence, ran away with me, I couldn’t undo the buckle on the bridle, etc. My mother said, “If you are not going to ride her, we will get rid of her.” No horse on a ranch? Not gonna happen. So I learned to ride her. And then they found out the pony was only “broken” to be led around by a big adult….. What did I learn? “You can survive on your own. Don’t ask for help. Figure it out yourself. You can do what you set your mind to. Your mother doesn’t take care of you, so just leave her alone.” BTW: I did train the pony. I survived with an “I can do it” attitude. The downside….I didn’t learn how to be a better parent because I only asked books, not people. Intimacy? What’s that? So about bad parenting: Getting away with such craziness? It’s hard to catch because so many times children have learned to be prematurely capable. And silent. And to hide the shameful family dynamics. Although children are vulnerable, they often rise to their challenges. And I wonder if they don’t really know better until later, after the twists are in – their psyche….. Sometimes not to be revealed until the fourth, fifth or even sixth decade of “emotional discomfort,” from helpful books and blogs and the kindness of strangers….. My mother once said,”Just wait until you get out in the cold cruel world…” When I did, that turned out to be much kinder than home, for sure! You smart young folks – Good for you, if you’re getting help early! Each of you, a STAR – in your own life! Thank you for being you – and hanging in there…..

    Reply
    • July 11, 2016 at 3:24 pm

      Dee, you’ve said it very well. I usually explain to people that I grew up like a weed. Because I both learned not to ask for help and how to figure anything out people think I’m fearless. I’m not. I just know no one is ever there for me. Mother is dead now, very freeing. She blew up her own family, helped blow up mine, but her poison has stopped. I’m healing I pray my children will heal too. I was quite the pawn. Took waaaay too long to see through her act. So much makes sense now.

      Reply
  • July 29, 2016 at 2:55 am

    My mum used to rub my back at night- which i loved- while offloading how she hated my dad (her husband) and that she never should have married him. I don’t think she realized what she was doing and i am not angry at her. however i grew up with bad anxiety and panic disorder- maybe would have anyway. I keep things bottled in and am a serial people pleaser. I am not sure i have learnt anything beneficial for the mental health of my daughter though.

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    • August 15, 2016 at 10:36 am

      To a certain extent we are products of our upbringing. But, good point—wonder how different we would be if we grew up in a different family. At some point, we all need to take responsibility for who we are and how we behave. Otherwise, each generation just continues to blame the last. Come on….it gets tiresome.

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      • August 15, 2016 at 1:26 pm

        Very interesting comment, specifically the use of the word blame. It was my experience, my (ex)spouse – whom I suspect was raised by a toxic parent – seemed obsessed with blame/fault. When an issue or situation presented itself, her first impulse or act was to be sure I knew it was not her “fault”. She would then find someone to “blame” for the situation (usually, yours truly). I suppose shaming and blaming are cornerstones of any toxic parenting playbook (again, my experience), and as such, is perhaps the first or most important learned behavior. As such, addressing this psycho-emotional conundrum is key in breaking the cycle of toxic parenting. Years after divorce, my ex still begins any conversation with “It was not my fault”.

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      • August 15, 2016 at 1:51 pm

        Emotional angst is tedious. Understanding dynamics can be freeing, and not about blame. Education and access to help seems like the healthiest approach. And sites and conversations like this sure help. Some of these toxic traditions have been going on for generations, so the more people can know, the healthier mentally our society will become. Seems like some of these UrgentCare sites could offer mental health support, preferably covered by insurance. As a society, it sure seems like we need so much more attention to these issues of the heart. We’d probably have a lot less addiction and violence…..and maybe even less cancer and other diseases. So much is ignored, explained away, etc., as mentioned in some of the comments, which does nobody any good. Especially the trapped ones….. Good work and luck to all……

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      • August 16, 2016 at 10:58 am

        And, as noted in previous comments, when toxic traditions recycle for generation after generation, a type of immunity or tolerance develops, which leads subsequent generations to view or re-cast toxicity as normal, or even healthy.

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      • August 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

        -Matt Foley’s Twin,

        Correct. I was indoctrinated to believe that my mothers branch of the family was superior in every way. alas, superior in mental/emotional illness. I grew up to carry on as a immensely damaged soul who damaged other souls without knowing ‘why’.

        When everything fell apart and my pain was maximum then I began to unravel the demented instructions both overt and covert that controlled my thinking and reactions. Why I chose the husbands that I did, why I flew into rages, why I felt worthless and stupid, why I was socially inept… Only when I realized what had been done to me and what was controlling my responses could I begin to change.

        Judy stated an ‘enough is enough stop it already’ approach. Doesn’t work. Everyone has a different make up and varying degrees of damage. I can say from experience that I simply could not explain my behavior. Only when I understood that a huge part of it was due to Childhood Emotional Neglect did I see. Then I understood and changed my mindset. A little at a time I healed, praise God.

        Self discovery and healing is never easy when your brain has been subjected to this kind of developmental manipulation. Responses can change only with concentrated effort. First one has to ‘see’ the problem to fix it.

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  • September 14, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Good article, very accurate. The critical part is being able to recognize the truth. Denial can serve it’s purpose but facing reality is the first step to healing; which, in my opinion, is lifelong because the damage is so insidious. My parents were extremely pathological and seeing it seep into the grandchildren is heartbreaking. My siblings (8) are certifiable. I broke away from the family of origin but they don’t like it at all and try overtly and covertly to keep me in the mix. It is fascinating, yet very painful by I keep pushing forward….slowly. The brainwashing is real and so is the complex post trauma. I am eternally grateful to have found a supportive and dedicated therapist who is helping me to see I have value. Learning self care was a total foreign concept to me because no one ever cared about me and I learned to treat myself accordingly.Deserving is another concept I am trying to grasp. Then being raised in a Catholic family, school and Church, shamed from birth on a daily basis, has been a struggle to find my way back to who I really am. I am reminded of the time I broke my arm and they told me to shut up and go to bed….so I did. Nothing like feeling like trash. Thanks Mom. Thanks Dad. I have done some serious hard work but have a ways to go. I have hope and have found some degree of healing in understanding where they must have come from, because I know it must have been pretty bad. But, I have made a decision to learn how to take my power back. None of this is easy and I’ve had many setbacks from the trauma but it feels good to be able to know it can be done. I communicate differently now, especially with my kids and it is working wonders and that feels like a huge gift because I am modeling what healthy looks likes. I never knew what healthy was because my normal was really effed up until I stopped protecting and defending my parents and learned through therapy how horrendous my upbringing was. Signed…..The One That Got Away!

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  • September 17, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    This is exactly what I have been going thru all my life. I am turning 42 on Tuesday and randomly came across this amazing article. I recently stopped talking to my mom because it made sense after all these years. She never loved me because she never loved herself. I also believe that a toxic mother is the root cause of eating disorders, depression and anorexia/schizophrenia. God bless you all. Heidi

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  • October 11, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    Hello thank you for the validation and information. This discovery helped me put a name to a face. Now my concern is I’m 23 I grew up being the only child. I still talk to my mother. I just am wanting to know. If there is anyway to help my mother. I live on my own but I still talk to her and it is damaging.she still pays my car insurance bills.so I still am under her control in that way. How do I start healing these damaged parts? And solidify the change for my self and the generations after myself?

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    • October 12, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      You can’t help your mother. You need to find a way to pay your own car insurance and not have to expose yourself to her toxic interchanges. By learning to protect yourself from her, you will learn to break the generation continuation of this behavior.

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  • June 21, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    I’ve grown up with the same type of mother and I’m so sick of it. I’ve managed to grow up alright because I’ve had the help of outside influences of friends. Still though, every moment under the same roof as her is absolute hell. I used to be so depressed and I’m still an anxious person in general. Now I’m just angry all the time. I just know that at least in a few years, I’m going to leave this house and with my own two hands work and move out of this wretched place. I’m going to leave that bitch behind and never look back, and I don’t give a fuck what she thinks anymore. She really can die for all I care, in fact it would probably make both of us feel better.

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    • June 29, 2017 at 11:52 am

      Wow its so nice to be able to communicate. Im 51 years old. I just started visiting child abuse affecting adult and trying to learn more about how I can overcome. A few months ago I started to research my abuse. my mother is neglectful toxic mother. Ive struggled all my life. I knew I was abused and I have such discussed for my mother. Older sister Debbie was like a princes in our house I didnt understand. I was four years younger and what Debbie wanted for Christmas we all got. I didnt like barbies, but I remember being very young and Debbie was presented with her barbie camper And my other older sister and I would get the same present. Debbie was so happy and my parents so pleased they got her what she wanted I acted happy too. Debbie wanted a ten speed bike remember Im four years younger little and we all got one. It was to big for me I remember struggling trying to ride it and falling on the middle bar many times. Dont they see this is to big. I have both abusive parents but until recently I always thought it was manly my mom. I learned latter we all got some of it. My mom would hang things over my sisters head and say your father is going to be furious, they didnt want to ever disappoint him for fear of losing his love so my sisters did what she said especially her favorites the oldest and youngest and my middle sister too. I didnt know that until I became an adult. All the children play a roll and suffer from the sick mother. I could go on. I remember being little we would all be telling our dad no thats not true she is lying. It finally became a rule in the house that we could not call her a liar. He also could no longer take our side. I was never taught to read or do math or even see if homework was done they just passed me. I have read that it is thought the child the sick mother picks is the one that she sees something in them that she doesnt like in herself. That kind of bummed me out, then I just read that it could be a jealous thing. Which again I was very small and knew my mother was jealous of her daughters. I was close with my dad until about 1st grade my sister was born. I remember my mom pushing my sister on my dad all the time. I never got anything good noticed or brought to my dads attention about me. But Melissa was special from infancy. Neglect started at a young age for me. But I wasnt like my sisters if she was lying Im calling her a liar. The women never even bought me a bra or underwear, I stold a bra from her drawer and wore it every day it was to small for me. I had nothing no clothes unless my grandma made me something. I was less than all of them. My dad worked 12 hours a day seven days a week so supper time was when we saw him. Thats when she would tell her stories even if they werent about me but my sister and I witnessed the conversation I would tell my dad thats not true and I would get beat. From middle school till I was 16 I was beaten just about every day. My dad was a fighter in 60’s. He liked bully people and no more going to bars I became a punching bag. I was never a bad kid then. I remember I kept having to go to the office for combing my hair in typing class (lady had a thing) Finally the princable said I got give a detention and call your mom. I was like ok he laughed about. I sat in the room while he talked very light conversation no big deal. At dinner my mother started telling my father about it and she wasn’t getting the rise from him she wanted so she started telling him how he said I was constantly disrespectful to this teacher in the way I spoke to her. It wasnt true I was in the room he beat me to the floor that time. I learned to take it I wasnt the liar, my sisters would cringe and say did you see how red face got and how he shook my dad was 6’4 It infuriated him that i would not cringe I would stare him in the face and he would say you want more say a word and I would say word stick my face out. I knew I was not wrong she was evil not me and he was wrong for hitting. It got so bad the routine was after a good beating he would kneel on the floor and say come on hit me back I didnt want to I loved him He was the only real parent that showed love to me and I was not about to make him feel better about hitting me. Anyways I wasnt good in school learned later neglect and learning problems were the cause not because I was lazy I wanted to do good every time a new semester started my father would say dont even buy her a note book, I wanted to show him but after the bell ran another bell and the class was over i had day dreamed the hole time after awhile I was far behind I gave up, try again next semester. When the abuse got bad I could feel my head slant and stare off to space i could here yelling Tommy she isnt listening I didnt do it on purpose all I knew is that all of a sudden I felt calm. I Learned latter that is called disassociate. One time my mom lied again my Dad was beating me and I was on the ground and my mom started trying to pull him off and say Tommy your going to kill her. I always hated her for the beatings,she induce many of them. My dad said to me the next day Michelle I am not going to talk to you until you apologize to me for making so mad that I beat you so badly. It wasnt like him and I had nice conversations if it wasnt me he was belittling it was mother. A week later he came into my room and said get dressed for church, on the ride there he informed me that not talking to me was hurting him more than me. By sixteen I went to a therapist a couple times my mother playing the victem just like the story said. I had gained a large amount of weight in like a month I was told all my problems were about my weight. My father was vein. Beauty meant everything to him, thats all they ever talked about. Became anorexic bulemic alcoholic by age 23. Its been a struggle. I want to learn more about the abuse its like all the questions I have struggled with have answers and are not unique. To keep the abuse going the abuser will never admit the abuse and sometimes the siblings go along with it. When I get the courage to read more I am not mad I know they were sick. but I dont hat myself as much slowly.

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  • August 28, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    A lot of this sounds like my mother. For whatever reason she picked me to suffer. Mary Tyler Moore portrayed my mother to a tee in the movie Ordinary People so well I never saw the movie again.

    After a particularly bad situation where she lied about me I cut her off completely. After a few years I had a truce only because my father pleaded with me. Then I cut her off again for doing more crap and didn’t see or talk to her until my dad was dying. I was the only one around to take her to the hospital and did it only for my dad. The last trip before his death my mother said it was good to get rides to the hospital. Then she went on to say it’s a good thing motherly instincts prevent mothers from killing their infants at birth because she wouldn’t have been able to get to the hospital. She is just stone cold and doesn’t even realize it.

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