Comments on
4 Effects of a Controlling Upbringing People Struggle With


In the previous articles we talked about the signs of controlling parenting and why it doesn’t work in terms of raising a healthy, happy, self-sufficient individual. Today, we will look at the common problems people raised in a controlling environment have as adults.

If you have been raised in a controlling environment or know somebody who has, you may recognize some of the signs described below.

60 Comments to
4 Effects of a Controlling Upbringing People Struggle With

The comments below begin with the oldest comments first. (If there's more than one page, click on the last comments page to jump to the most recent comments.) Jump to reply form.

  1. Thanks for writing this. It’s eye-opening but also not surprising – i think I knew this all along. I find myself sitting at home paralyzed with anxiety and depression just like when I was younger because I don’t have anybody to “escort” me when I want to go somewhere new. I know that I don’t need someone, intellectually, but unless I am in a manic phase I dont have the courage to go out or even drive on a new road. This makes me so self-loathing and frustrated and then I punish myself for that. I have been practicing being aware of these behaviors and emotions and surrounding myself with positivity and it is an uphill battle but it’s working. I have been out of my family’s home for three years so far. Soon I hope I have more courage to travel on my own, and work meaningfully. My Phi Theta Kappa organization at school has helped me come out of that shell a lot.

    • Hi Lianna, you’re welcome! It’s unfortunate that you are struggling with this, but I’m also glad to hear that you are more aware of it and that things are slowly getting better. It’s a long journey so please don’t get too discouraged too often. It seems you are on the right path, so keep moving forward. It will get better!

      All the best,
      Darius

  2. I feel frustrated and often view myself as a pseudo-adult. I always think, “Is this right?” I catastrophize, take things personally, and get overwhelmed easily. I worry that I’ll make a wrong decision or that I’ll say the wrong thing and look stupid or offend people. I “sweat the small stuff” because in my family, NOTHING was treated as small stuff. Fold the towels incorrectly? You’re lazy. Did you accidentally break a toy? Well, you are ungrateful and never appreciate anything.

    I revert to people-pleasing, avoidance, and escapism (reading, movies, imaginary scenarios), and I feel like I need to be de-programmed. I feel disgusted when I catch myself enacting the cycle and just want off this merry-go-round of shame, self-castigation, and fear.

    • Hi Kara,

      I can relate to everything you said – from not feeling like an adult (which causes me more stress now that I have a child) to wanting to please people and avoiding. In my childhood too EVERYTHING was a big deal and being the younger one I learned that I had to be perfect to not get in trouble and get yelled at. I’ve become more aware but I’m still dealing with a lot of left over stuff. I got to a point where it hit me that I did not like the life I was living and that I needed help. When I was little I saw so much potential in life and I had so many different things that I wanted to do but as an adult I found myself pretty much just surviving day to day – Closed off and living life in like a little corner (if that makes sense). I finally realized that I needed help. Not a magic bullet at all, but I’m still here so that’s something : )

      • What she said!!! I feel like Kara perfectly expressed so much of my struggle! My controller was not my parents, but rather, by my brother, who was 6 older than I. The result of his controlling, manipulative, coercive, intimidating, surprise physical assaults and master puppeteer tactics, beginning from my earliest recollection around age 3, until age 13, left me with, to varying degrees, in very much the same trench of side effects as those I’ve spent much time researching, whose perpetrators were a parental figure/s. I was obsessed with never revealing this daily terror to my parents or any well meaning adult who might try to intervene, might not believe me, or friends who I was positive would find me a freak upon learning of my foreign lifestyle…not just because of my fear of repercussion from my brother, but because, I’d seen the pain & heartbreak my parents were experiencing already in parenting my brother, I couldn’t bear the the thought of revealing to them even more…I vowed to never be party to being the source of stress or disappointment, choosing (or so I thought, at 5 or 6, that I was capable of such a choice) instead to be perfect in everything with which I engaged, and to make them so happy & proud, that it could somehow makeup for any areas for which my brother had left them feeling…whatever it WAS that I sensed they were feeling…the time I’d overheard my mother quietly sobbing and asking my dad where she’d gone so wrong, and how she was failing him as a mother, if he could be so deceitful and devoid of feelings of empathy, and could lie without any guilt even in the face of incontrovertible evidence. And so I did…and continued to seek my brother’s love & approval for years after the abuse had ended, and apparently I did the same for most everyone, including strangers, with whom I crossed paths. I was a little girl in chronic stomach pain, consumed with worry that I wasn’t good enough, paralyzed by possible conflict, unable to do so anything beyond staring down silently in situations of even minor conflict if I thought I was “in trouble,” unable to get up and walk away to save myself from the nightmare in my head, literally paralyzed…this reaction has happened even up into my late 30’s in situations involving no threat or conflict, and have left me so shaken that I can’t quite feel normal for several days. I was a grade obsessed, overachieving, codependent, rule-following, self-flagllating, overthinking, uber-responsible, good girl…and genuinely meant it from the bottom of my heart for what I saw as the right reasons, and a sign that I’d not been affected by my victimization, but successfully moving on, not “wallowing” in past pain…instead focusing all my energy overcoming all of the flaws I must clearly have had to have caused so much pain to my brother that he hated me to that extent. And I didn’t realize the role my childhood had played in contributing to my depression & my quest to finally be amazing enough to feel that others would suddenly “hear/see” and acknowledge that was indeed successful at making up for, something – I don’t know what – until I’d gotten some time in sobriety (yes, the gift that keeps on giving, and my first drink wasn’t until I was 23) and had thoroughly managed to steadily unravel all that I thought I had managed to weave even as a child, until my late 20’s. The culmination of this was falling for an abuser for the first time in life, and reliving the nightmare for 2 years before extrication. As Kara mentioned, the residual fallout is my daily fear that I may accidentally exhibit some behavior that make them vulnerable to any of these issues, and my overwhelming stress and worry over how they’re treating each other. I apologize for the length of this…I guess I was just so stunned by the many experiential similarities in this piece, and excited to see that you were actually reading and responding, that I exploded an alphabet before I knew it. 😬 I would really like to know if it has been your experience to see people who’ve been the victim of sibling abuse? I have had so much difficulty finding much material at all in my attempt to research the issue, and even less that doesn’t involve the additional horror of sexual abuse within the sibling abuse…I, gratefully, didn’t suffer that pain. But when I finally disclosed my experiences with doubt that it was really as bad I’d thought, or that I was just overly dramatic as a kid, since I know of so many abusive childhoods that were TRULY aweful, the therapist’s face kind of had a slow continuous fall that concluded with a statement that still stuns me…that what he’d been listening to sounded like that of POWs. Where can I find more information on the prevalence of abusive siblings and how it affects the victimized siblings and family in which they live?

      • OMG,
        Even now, after having just reread that novella, I’m sitting here feeling embarrassed by all of the grammatical, as well as the spelling errors I now see I made in my haste to stop manopolizing people’s time and being demanding. **SMH**

    • Hi Kara,

      Unfortunately, so many people struggle with this, and in the same or similar ways like you do. If you read other people’s comments here, you can see some similarities.

      It is indeed very challenging to overcome this, but it is possible. Oftentimes what helps is to learn to treat yourself differently than your parents treated you. In other words, don’t let your inner parent rule how you treat yourself. If the person learns to approach themselves with more empathy, gentleness and curiosity, they can eventually let go of self-controlling and self-attacking tendencies. You don’t have to treat yourself as you were treated as a child. Nobody is in charge of you anymore. Nobody can hurt you anymore. You are not a child anymore. These reassuring thoughts sometimes can do wonders.

      All the best!
      Darius

  3. Wow, you hit the nail on the head. Thnx for writing this article! You hit a lot of points i see in myself, but i have not gone down the path of evil. I know the differences. Your article may explain why i have basically shut down my learning and using “power” on the net, where there is much less chance of some1 controlling me. I cant talk about how many jobs i’ve been terminated from, or how i sputtered like a piece of garbage for four decades after high school. Maybe we can meet someday for my reversal.

    • Hi hottung,

      I’m really sorry to hear it had such a big impact on your adult life. At least you were able to avoid the path of evil. It’s unfortunate that you still have difficulties with self-love, as many of us do ever so often. The good news is that you don’t have to continue this, that you can learn how to self-relate in different, more productive ways. It helps to remember that you are an adult now and nobody is in charge of you anymore, nor can anybody punish you for taking a better care of yourself. Don’t let your inner parents win; they have no control over you anymore.

      Sure, if you are interested in working with me some time in the future, feel free to send me an inquiry whenever you’re ready and if I’ll have free spots available we can arrange something that works for both of us.

      All the best,
      Darius

  4. Hello,

    thank you for the article. I have recently accepted my upbringing. I am in a place where I do not need to point blame. What happened happened. It wasn’t done with malicious intent. Like you said it was learned behavior repeated. I do believe I have covered many things, however, I have much more things to cover. I decided until I can learn new ways or adapt I will not have children. I will not pass this on. And if I do end up passing things on I want to be able to offer my child at least some insight and healthy methods of coping. I do have controlling tendencies. It does serve a purpose to some degree as I can be very efficient and on the ball. But in order to not carry that over to my interpersonal relationships, I keep it confined to my home management and health. To me, it’s about using what you have in a constructive way. Making it work for you not the other way around. I have a friend who has control issued but we understand each other so we are gentle and kind. Sometimes we get irritable with each other but we take time and space to gain a calm perspective and it’s water under the bridge. I am terrible at waffling so I will sush now, and I hope this has made sense. Thank you for your article and time.

    Kind regards

    • Hi Mxme

      I am not sure if you are a woman or a man but I really understood your comment…I thought for a second I wrote it and forgot!

      The control thing into your life thing is good and sometimes can serve great in self-care. I do that as I am active(moderately), eat well (cook for myself) and take care of myself in sleeping, maintaining healthy drinking etc. I call these things – having good discipline. I am responding to you about your comment of not having children. I want to tell you that I too do not have children and it was a decision just like yours and then I met the most supportive and beautiful man in the world and fell hard and then it was too late.

      I am learning that a traumatic body (holding breathes, in fright without even knowing, anxiety without even recognizing, extreme control of other things) really does take taxing on the reproduction system let alone all other systems of the body.

      You sound very aware and open to learning and being observant of yourself and others around you. I think we underestimate how our intelligence can guard us from harm as adult.

      I hope you open your mind to having children and continue to be be self aware and learn but not wait too long if you are a woman. Our bodies were destroyed so young by our parents/caretakers that honestly not everything is working properly so it is better to have a child while young and recovering from trauma.

      I wish you the best. You sound really extremely introspective,creative and highly intelligent….as you probably realize, when you undone one behaviour, many other mini ones you did not know also become undone!

      Wishhing you all the best.

    • Hi MxMe,

      Acceptance is a necessary step to improve. It’s great that you were able to recognize the effects of your upbringing and are willing to work on yourself further to excel even more. It’s not the easiest of paths but well worth it.

      All the best!
      Darius

  5. I forgot to click the notify me button, if there is feedback on my other comment I would love to hear it. Thank you

  6. Although an abusive and/or contrilling upbringing can certainly impact a child’s development we need to be very careful not to pigeon-hole people by stating that abused children grow up into abusive adults. This is just not true and certainly not inevitable. There are a lot of other factors to consider. Not the least of which are resilience, the presence of a healthy adult that child can depend on (even if not a parent), intelligence, and someone that gives them hope which they can emulate.

    Even without the above, as we develop and become adults, we can review what harmed us and CHOOSE not to repeat those behaviors. Parents who are overly controlling hinder development of a child’s self & sometimes not out of cruelty but borne of their own anxiety and wishes to keep you safe. Today, we can review our own impulses & behaviors and choose to go a different route. Never loose hope, you cannot change your past or how others behave BUT you can change your own behaviors if you are aware of how they harm you and others.

    • Rebeca

      Thank you so much!!!!!!!! for saying abuse begets abuse is the worst myth ever!!!

      I think more abused children become more empathetic children and even more psychotherapist themselves!

      I hate that line it makes me lost respect anyone who is in authority and believes that!

    • Hi Rebeca,

      I completely agree, and I want to clarify it because there seems to be a misunderstanding. It’s not that EVERYONE who have been abused will severely abuse others, or that being abused is a justification of abusing others, or that there is nothing to be done. It simply means that people who abuse others were abused themselves, oftentimes in very similar ways. For example, there are many people who remember how painful it was to be hurt and never do that to anybody else. Self-empathy leads to empathy for others.

      I hope that helps!
      Darius

      • Thank you for taking the time to clarify your intentions; however, you seem to have quite a following and so you should be careful how you express expectations of those who were victimized as children & young adults. Self-fulfilling prophesies can be very damaging to someone that is having difficulties finding themselves & their voice.

        Self-reflection, self love and the ability to choose to behave differently than our parents is something we must consciously decide.

        My parents did the best they could but that was a very disturbing, controlling, and even abusive upbringing; amidst terrible mental health problems. However,; my sister and I chose to be great mother’s who put their children’s needs forefront while allowing them to individuate & find their own beautiful voices. We both have close relationships with our now adult daughters.

        We cannot change the past or others but we can recognize the wonder of surviving our childhood and creating a thriving environment for ourselves & our loved ones.

        My heart & hopes go out to all of those struggling with their past and just want you to know that we are all a wonderful work in progress 🙂

  7. I think this article is a flawed concept. I think children need parents to be strict and help them make good decisions. Parents don’t have to be abusive to be good parents. I was reared under strict rules and conditions and I feel like I turned out good. This world we live in is out of control because a lack of control in children’s lives. I am 55 years old and us baby boomers turned out ok.

  8. It makes perfect sense I am 33 years old but I don’t have a drivers licence and live on disability and my mother whom I only ever see for pdoc appointments to take me their because it’s an arm an a leg expensive I don’t think anyone gets that but she is always guilt tripping me or shaming until I give her money! Which is horrible I haven’t live with her since 2012 and my dad passed away in 2015! No one understands he was my rock my go to parent sure it may have been difficult growing up in that house with him and especially her. I raised myself from 12-now they were never around at 17 & 18 though my mom was very strict besides when I was younger I was raised by my grandmother there was a lot of shoulds in my environment or have tos! Like I look around and I see lots of shoulds and coulds I am sick of it!

    Last year I injured my ankle and well there is lots of people telling me I should do this or do that especially my employer first off I did the right thing and filed a claim! Secondly I have copious amounts of pain well I have been on crutches going on 7 months but also have a cane for shorter distances because I am not used to it as much as my crutches! I especially woke up in pain this morning I took ibuprofen before I went to bed! I have only had 6hours a sleep and I am exhausted well I have this feeling I am going to sleep in past my appointment instead of calling in exhausted because I will be exhausted in the back of my In back of my mind I have “well I should go because well it’s part of my recovery!” But in all sense if I am tired why push myself?? Also I have to do physio and it really hurts and they really make feel like one of it is your choice of course they degrade you and hurt your feelings about telling you things like “eyes up when your looking away in my case because the voices inside my head are telling me to get even with them” or “saying to sit up straight”(well I physically can’t I have scoliosis but an a curve to my spine that limits me from sitting up straight!) I think I really need to have a pow wow with my OT they just don’t get it and I don’t know why? I am so tired pleasing them that I feel like I need to set boundaries that are proper!

    Anyways this seems long and winded but I don’t control anyone besides myself which is antidote for failure!!

    Laura

    • Your dad was passive in your childhood…that itself is also a problem.
      I am not saying contrary to your dad’s memories but it may help you release some sour memories if you acknowledge, he really did not help you out around your manipulative mother. It could be easily that he was happy your mother focused on you and not on him subconsciously.

    • Hi Laura,

      I’m sorry to hear about your situation—sounds tough! But it seems accepting that you are in charge of yourself is a good step for you. Hang in there!

      Darius

  9. Thanks for the article. It describes me and gives me a place to start with some self awareness and soul searching. I have struggled with every issue you wrote about. My parents were extreme with physical, mental and emotional abuse. I spent 2 decades away from them only to find them reinserting themselves into my life. I let them in and have discovered I can be hurt all over again, and the past can come back in many ways. So, that being said, the work I have done has only been recent since I have made so many mistakes and have been overlooked everytime I ask for help. Not knowing what to do about it hurt me for a long time. So, for any young person reading this article and relating to it, just know it’s not your fault and you can get out from under. Part of my delay was a slew of endless bad relationships and feeling I needed someone (to give me direction and tell me what to do); then a marriage. I am now on my own completely and enjoying it however, my parents are still the same people. I think they try but they are still the same. I have to distance myself from them when I need to and work to recognize manipulation but I worry that putting up boundaries may hurt their feelings and I worry about that! A huge struggle for me is knowing I did not grown into my full potential and lost that intrinsic motivation. Would love some good ideas on how to work that back into my life and be the creative person I was meant to be=)

    • I’ve been thinking about this article and reading the comments. And since the time I wrote my last comment two hours ago I found my self-doubting everything and thinking maybe I am just an absolutely terrible person. But I think that is me just abandoning myself again.

      I am putting boundaries in place but as it was mentioned above I worry about it hurting my mother’s feelings. Which I know if I do, it’s the perfect ammo for her to complain about the rest of the family about how terrible I am. I know she had an awful childhood and she has this look on her face like an abused child when I get disagree with her or become frustrated. Which in turn silences me as to not distress her. I understand why she is the way she is, and she lives through and for her children. So I worry if I put these boundaries in place they will hurt her and she’s been through enough. We all have. Do you have any ideas how to get out of this pickle with as few casualties as possible?

      • MxMe,

        I don’t think there is an easy and pleasant solution, because either way there will be some pain. Either you can continue to sacrifice yourself and take care of your mother’s emotional needs, or you can try setting healthier boundaries and deal with (unjust!) guilt that you may feel when your mother feels hurt.

        As I wrote in my response to Renee: “Everyone has the right to take care of their own well-being. The fact that your parents may feel hurt doesn’t mean that you are actually hurting them. Having healthy boundaries and not taking responsibility for other people’s feelings can be tremendously helpful in this.”

        You can’t change how she reacts to you, but you can work on reacting differently to her.

    • Apologised Reene, I didn’t realise I was responding to your comment. I’m new at this commenting thing. I have similar questions to you. I hope we can find the answers 🙂

    • Hi Renee,

      It’s inspiring that you were able to become more independent from your parents and take control of your own life. And yes, it’s always enormously difficult for anyone to accept that they were mistreated as a child or that their parents didn’t love them, or that they will never change. The good news is, however, that now you are an adult and you don’t need your parents to survive anymore. Everyone has the right to take care of their own well-being. The fact that your parents may feel hurt doesn’t mean that you are actually hurting them. Having healthy boundaries and not taking responsibility for other people’s feelings can be tremendously helpful in this.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences and for the encouragement for younger people who are struggling with this, Renee!

  10. Thank you for this article.

    I tend to feel a connection with the issues raised. The “people-pleasing” component definitely, but then this need to protect myself by isolating myself.

    I knew intuitively there was a link between a controlling parent, a bully, and a feeling of helplessness, lack of direction, and an impulsivity to jump from one thing to another because groundless, and looking for direction.

    I don’t feel like an adult for the most part although I do applaud myself for thinking critically about social issues, social justice when I DO feel in control. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster ride – flailing from manic to anxiety, to depression and then when I feel clarity it is so great. It’s the mood swings I loathe, and the self-loathing.

    • Hi Erin,

      I’m sorry to hear you are struggling. You are definitely not alone with this. It seems that there are moments where you feel more clarity and calmness. Those glimpses, however tiny, can mean a lot and provide hope that it can indeed be better. So intuitively a goal could be to expand those moments, eventually to the degree where there’s more of that than depression, mania, or self-loathing.

      All the best,
      Darius

  11. I’d love to see you write an article about when women, or men, leave controlling relationships, and how that affects their interactions with others. I bet it would be as informative and as well-written as this article.

    • Hi LorriAnne,

      Thanks for your comment. It’s not exactly a full article, but a part of another article I wrote:

      Not having a more balanced perspective of what a healthy relationship looks like, not having good role models, and being raised in an abusive, stressful, wanting, dysfunctional environment conditions a person to be involved—or even seek—toxic, dramatic, problematic, unfulfilling relationships.

      However, it doesn’t mean it has to be like this forever. It may take some time and a lot of practice and self-reflection, but over time you will become increasingly better at setting healthier boundaries and having more fulfilling relationships.

      When you start seriously examining your past and your relationships, when you learn more about boundaries, when you gain more life experience, when you become more self-actualized and independent, you begin noticing how sad, toxic, and unnecessary all these social mechanisms around you are. You also notice or come up with better ways to engage in relationships and social situations.

      You realize that it is possible to resolve a conflict in a win-win way or in a more productive manner. Or that it is possible to have a disagreement without shouting or power play. Or that you can base your relationships on healthy mutual values and true human connection. Or that you are strong enough to leave a toxic or empty relationship and build a new one. Or that you feel more and more content when you are alone because you like your own company and you don’t desperately seek for others to validate your existence anymore. Or that you set a standard where abusive and disrespectful behavior is unacceptable.

      You start noticing a few other people who know how to interact in such a manner and you feel more drawn toward them. You notice that the familiar patterns of dysfunction, which were consciously or unconsciously more appealing in the past, now appear damaging and uninviting. You accept that you are not responsible for others because you are an adult now, and so are they.

      You don’t feel “bad” or “selfish” for wanting a healthier and more fulfilling social environment. You stop using and accepting manipulation and practice mutual respect and reciprocation. You feel more empathy and compassion for your fellow human beings, especially for children. You are kind and helpful to others, without sacrificing your own well-being. You have healthier personal boundaries.

      You live a happier and more fulfilling life.

      I hope that helps!
      Darius

  12. Well written…..Much truth the magic is knowing how to change. For me its too late but I sure have been given much insight over last 16 yrs of my life. I keep trying and keep failing. What’s that saying insanity is doing the same thing over & over again and expecting different results. Abuse, corporal punishment and a very controlling environment for 18 yrs is something very hard to change. Then you get free and really aren’t prepared. Funny thing the same people who created you and taught you, reject you when you don’t succeed in life.

    • Hi Jenna,

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience. It is indeed very difficult to overcome decades of continuous abuse and mistreatment. It seems you have found a lot of insightful things over the years but it’s quite tough when we try to implement it. Perhaps there are things that you found a little more useful than others? If so, maybe you could use more of that and go from there.

      I hope you’ll be able to find something that works for you on your path to personal growth.

      All the best!
      Darius

  13. Great description of the effects of an overly controlled upbringing … what are some strategies for overcoming these effects?

    • Hi Qualia,

      There are no quick, simple solutions. Usually it requires years of (self-)therapeutic, inner work that results in intellectual, emotional, and behavioral changes.

      There’s an article I have where I list some of the tools you can implement to make your journey easier and faster: Tools for Self-Archeology.
      You can also find a link to a more practical guide at the end of the article: Self-Work Starter Kit

      I am writing a book on it, too, but it will take a while for me to publish it.

      Hopefully that helps!
      Darius

  14. Its nice to know its not just me. To realize why I’m terrified of authority figures. I saw myself mirrored in this article so much.(true-I wasn’t sure what a narcissist was.Read the link. Thanks for clarifying)

    • Hi Cheryl,

      Thank you for your feedback. It’s really unfortunate that as a result of your past experiences you are afraid of authority figures. But I’m glad that the article (and further links) was helpful to you!

      Cheers,
      Darius

  15. Hello,
    This was a great article, thank you for it. Unfortunately a toxic environment can bring a lot of challenges in adult life and claims a lot of work to lead a healthy and happy life.
    Can you please write an article on how to deal with it and improve our life then?
    Thanks for reading

    • Hi Lolina,

      As I wrote in response to Qualia:

      Unfortunately, there are no quick, simple solutions. Usually it requires years of (self-)therapeutic, inner work that results in intellectual, emotional, and behavioral changes.

      There’s an article I have where I list some of the tools you can implement to make your journey easier and faster: Tools for Self-Archeology.
      You can also find a link to a more practical guide at the end of the article: Self-Work Starter Kit

      I am writing a book on it, too, but it will take a while for me to publish it.

      Hopefully that helps!
      Darius

  16. Thank you for this insightful article. Much of it fits me quite well as do some of the comments made by other followers of PsychCentral. Like another writer before me, I’d say it’s too late for me to re-route my life (in my 70’s), but I will never tire of self-analysis, trying to understand who I am and how I got this way. That may, if fact, be part of the personality of someone who came from a controlling home environment—the struggle to figure out who I am and what I want and what I should do with my life. Emphasis on the SHOULD DO, because as you wrote, my life has always been defined by that phrase. This has led to me feeling that I am a failure for not achieving all the shoulds my parents set forth. I’ve always known that both of my parents were very controlling, each in a different way, so that their parenting was complementary (not complimentary) and made for an environment that molded both me and my sister as frustrated perfectionists who wish we had done things differently. In my younger years I unconsciously avoided any course of action that might lead to failure, as this was not allowed in our family. Thus, I am what has been called a “classic underachiever”, having skated through life not daring to attempt any challenge, not reaching for difficult goals, not having every found what career or life I was supposed to have when everyone told me “you are so intelligent and everything comes so easily to you that you could do anything you set your mind to” (academically or professionally). What was that “anything” I do not know to this day, as I hated every low level job I had that I was far overqualified for, and could hardly wait to “give up trying” and be retired. I am BTW, happier as a retired person than I ever was when younger, because now that both parents are long gone, I’m just coming into my own—and I am free to do as I please without family pressure. I like myself better now that I did all those years of being a disappointment to my mother, who expected her daughters to be stars, to excel, to make her look good, possibly to live the life she didn’t. She, by the way, had one parent (father) whose parenting style was as a “benevolent and gentle tyrant”, who expected perfection and superior achievement from his children. I have no children, though I could have had them. I believe that I unconsciously never felt “adult” enough to be a parent, and I feared that I would just re-create myself. Thus there was never a good reason to have children.

    • Hi Heljo,

      You’re welcome, and it’s good to know you found the article valuable.

      It seems your age is a slight discouragement to you, which is understandable. But at the same time I think it’s never too late to improve one’s life, as there is always something to improve. It seems you are much more of your true self than you ever was—and that great! It looks like you have found the right path for yourself and that you are quite interested in self-analysis and self-growth.

      I have had clients whose parents are long dead but they are still afraid of them and it still has a huge effect on their life. So it can definitely be enormously difficult to overcome this, but it seems that whatever you are doing at the moment is leading you to a happier and more authentic life.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences and perhaps giving some hope for others!
      Darius

  17. Wonderful article. Im a 45 year old man still recovering from a HIGHLY dysfunctional childhood and family dynamic.

    The good part is I decided long ago to become a mindful and somewhat decent human being. To avoid recreating the negative aspects of that upbringing.

    The sad part is Ive struggled with self esteem and social anxiety issues for what seems like forever.

    Ive tried: meditation, exercise, healthy eating, hobbies, positive affirmations, psychology etc. etc. etc. and STILL struggle with self esteem and social anxiety issues.

    Its not an inability to find love or companionship. Thats relatively easy. Its this deep seeded inability to feel controlled or abused. Which in turn has affected my jobs and relationships.

    You see I was the youngest child and the scapegoat in a very large, highly dysfunctional Italian family. The words controlling or abuse would be a vast understatement.

    To this day the moment my freedom seems threatened ,or a sense of any form of abuse develops, Im gone! You can literally see the dust being kicked up behind my heels lol.

    This is wonderful in preventing my becoming a victim however it can be hyper vigilant and in turn presents its own set of unique problems.

    • Wow!! Joe been there!!!
      I used to call myself the runaway g/f because every relationship I would ran away the minute it hits vulnerable state door which in my mind meant THREAT AND LOSING CONTROL AND not being able to feel safe or recover if safe is not there!

      However, I changed all that by sheer force of wanting to get rid of the survival mode.

      I am not a doctor but I can try to write down how I changed.

      I affirm over and over in my head that I developed this defense when I was under attack over and over BUT now I am not under attack. I am a big girl and can defend myself! I also truly looked around and realized a lot of people were afraid and I was not alone. So if my childhood thing did not kill me and actually made me smarter (a good day I could see how smart I was) then a guy coming here and breaking my heart is not gonna make die. I will recover no matter what….look I am here and I recovered somewhat from my childhood but how much can really a relationship (fairly new) can hurt me….and if I get hurt 10yrs down the road…well as adult I can see that was at least maybe 8 good years and two bad years when I was trying to get out if it comes to that…blaahaha my brain was over working.

      Every time I felt threatened, I breathed and stopped and realized, I am a big girl who can protect myself today!…I saw people who were more screwed than me in long term relationships, not necessarily happier but I thought, excuse me…I am actually a nice person, why cannot I have that? or even better?

      Eventually I realized how to recognize my inner child still in protection against my adult child in full safety of the world…I mean seriously no one is hurting me and at least I can kick him out if that happens…LOLOL

      So I decided to side with the adult child…and always ask is this reaction my adult child or my inner child?

      However a big one for me was (and I am in therapy now doing this) is how to be nice and nurturing to my innner child that I buried. I think that is where a lot of our issues lies. So I am trying hard to find my inner child who when I meditate I noticed is not willing to talk to me or look at me…I abandoned my innner child for so long and focus on my adult child that I am finding my inner child is very angry to be not only beaten but now ignored and avoided. I am trying to give love to my inner child and release the tension in my body (that is the inner child in pain).

      I did find a good man who loves me deeply and whom I feel safe with and even told please let me know when my inner child automatically assumes the drive….cause sometimes I do not know. The minute he tells me…I recognize and it is painful to be so childish.

      Also, I cut off any relationship with my mother and some of my siblings in order not to be manipulated, guilt and or put as the black sheep cause I do not believe just because mom is old she is an angel. I even told my sister would you like to beat your child today and be forgiven tomorrow without changing? Of course, I am crazy by asking that question and no answer ever comes forthwith.

      I also got closer to some siblings who accepted my journey as it is and I accepted their ignorance as it is but we do not argue or try to change each other.

    • Hi Joe Been There,

      It’s really unfortunate that this had such an impactful effect on your adult life. As you may have seen in other comments, sadly, this is quite common. When, as a child, our bond with our caregiver is threatened, we feel in danger. For a child, any kind of disapprovement (active or passive) is a threat to the caregiver-child bond. If it happens routinely and continuously, which for most of us is exactly the case, we learn to be anxious around people and not to trust them.

      Self-esteem and trust issues, social anxiety and similar problems are indeed difficult to overcome, but at the same time it is definitely possible to learn to deal with them better or outgrow them completely.

      All the best,
      Darius

  18. Hi everyone,

    Thank you for reading, sharing, and commenting on the article! Honestly, I didn’t expect that many comments and stories from so many different people. I tried to respond to everyone, and hopefully I did (apologies if I missed anyone). It was interesting to read your thoughts and it’s nice to hear that so many of you could relate to it, even though the topic is far from being pleasant. I think it also helps others who struggle with it feel not so alone and get a sense of hope that it is possible to work on it and even overcome it.

    Cheers!
    Darius

  19. Hi Darius, your article was most helpful. One point in particular resonated with me and my experience of life. You write-” Once free of the controlling environment the psyche still has the same fears and survival strategies. Even though the environment has changed, you are still afraid of making mistakes, you still try to be perfect, you still have difficulties making decisions because you are terrified of negative consequences.” Coming out of a decades long abusive marriage these words describe me perfectly and help me to understand why, years later, I’m still operating from a position of fear. One more piece of the jigsaw puzzle fell into place. Many thanks.

    • Hi Leaves,

      You’re welcome! I’m really glad to hear that it helped you understand your life a little better. I hope your fear will eventually evaporate.

      All the best,
      Darius

  20. I am one of the ones who have gotten “fed up with all the [SHOULDs] that they don’t want do to anything and all they do is procrastinate and dissociate.” It’s lead to even more problems as I’m still living with my parents, and because of being fed up with everything I should be doing I’m still doing highschool and I’m in my mid-twenties. I’ve lost my sense of self a long time ago though, my sense of self was lost when I was about 6 years old and was furthered even moreso in my teenage years as my friends had to go through a screening process before being able to actually be my friend. I wasn’t allowed to make mistakes, I basically wasn’t allowed to make any life choices on my own.

    • Hi ThatGhost,

      It seems you’re in a tough situation at the moment. I think you will feel better about yourself and your life when you’ll find a way how to provide for yourself better so that you wouldn’t need to live with your parents anymore. Financial independence oftentimes is the first step to mental independence. I also give you a stronger sense of competency, so you feel better about who you are and your self-esteem improves.

      All the best,
      Darius

  21. Wow, until I read this I didn’t even know that there was such thing as a controlling upbringing. I always thought that parents were supposed to be controlling and that was just their way of caring. This was a really interesting article. Thanks for writing it

    • Hi Muna,

      Yes, unfortunately this mentality is quite popular. I’m glad that reading this article helped you look at it from a different perspective.

      Kind regards,
      Darius

  22. Hi, I have been to hell and back with the affects of childhood abuse, emotional and physical. I’m now 47 years old and I have just sent off a change of birth name from to my country’s government, as a result of confrontation of my abuser and all I got was a sociopath response so I have decided to the name change and wash my hands of my whole family, as they all conform to the abusers ideological view of how to treat people. As I feel that I’m the only one who has been severely affected and I’m not getting any form of love and respect plus the fact that I have never had any concise validity of the extreme abuse that was committed. Just to add, I am a very good person and a proud father of 2 wonderful daughters, which because of the childhood memories of abuse that I suffered, I struggled to be the perfect parent, (if perfect exists) I was never abusive in any way at all, but I couldn’t show my full level of love that my children deserved. But they turned out OK, with both working in the caring industry and of course I’m extremely proud of them. Finally, just to say that I have never felt happiness or been able to relax, with no exaggeration, I have also contracted trauma related fibromyalgia and I have traits of 3 personality disorders, with a confirmed diagnosis of anxious avoidant personality disorder. My wife decided to leave me for another man, after 20 years of marriage because of the lack of emotions and failing to have the ability to be able to love and relate to her emotions. A bit of a tangent I know!! But thanks for the chance to get some of the pain of my chest. Spey.

  23. I thought your article was very insightful. I have lived through that nightmarish hell as a youngster and am now working on coming to terms with the past to make my today and tomorrow more acceptable.

    However, I might suggest that the spelling of SHOUD found in the 3rd paragraph of the 1st negative effect ( “… or they are so fed up with all the SHOUDs that they don’t want do to anything and all they do is procrastinate and dissociate.” ) be corrected. Sorry, it’s the OCPD in me.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Chuck,

      Thank you for catching the typo! I edited it as soon as I saw your comment.

      All the best to you on your personal journey!
      Darius

  24. Great article. I can see now that I suffer from all the consequences of being in a controlling family. I have all these barriers except I did not pick the role of controlling others. Others still control me. I always end up in jobs with unrealistic expectations and wondered why? I am mistreated at every job even though I am a hard worker and go beyond the expectations required and someone still finds something against me. Having read this are there any pointers of how I can break out of this? I am 57 years old. I am very lonely. Even though I feel I am a sensitive person I cannot keep friends because I think others sense my pain and it is too great for them to deal with so I push them away without realizing it. I usually keep the pain on the inside but I am very quiet and do not know how to reach out to others.

    • Hi Nisey,

      Thank you for sharing this. I’m sorry to hear that you still struggle with it so much. I think it could improve after verbalizing it and possibly sharing it with someone you trust, like a good friend or a caring helper (therapist, coach, counselor). It can indeed be very difficult, but I hope you’ll be able to overcome it eventually!

      All the best,
      Darius

  25. Thank you for sharing your expertise through a well written article. It is important to share this information as many people

  26. The epitome of a controlling parent is one who controls which members of a child’s family the child will be allowed to know and love. However, not all controlling parents were made that way by the way their parents parented them. Some were simply born with controlling temperaments/personalities. Two personality types which require excessive attention and control, respectively are sanguine and choleric Have you ever considered writing an article about what it is like to parent a child with a controlling temperament/personality? Or what the life-long effects are on the parents/grandparents?

  27. The 4 effects you mentioned are all things I struggle with especially the “lack of motivation/interest” and the “controlling absuive behaviour”, recently also the “lack of decision making”.
    I think the biggest struggle I have, now that I’m an adult and still controlled by my parents as if I were a child, is social anxiety and very low self-esteem. All these years my parents kept on telling me to be like this and act like that, everyone was always better than me, no matter what I did and even if I did better than others, the other people still had skills that I didn’t have, they kept and keep on comparing me, even now. The thing I’m most lacking is confidence and that’s what my parents always put me down for, they throw me into all these social situations with people that I don’t want to be with just because they don’t want to look bad, they don’t care about my feelings at all.
    I still have to live with them because I’m not allowed to move out. When I even slightly disobey them they guilt trip me saying how ungrateful I am because they did so much for me, like feeding me as a baby and stuff like this. Wow, now that I’m writing this down, I realize how very wrong they are. Honestly I’m fed up with them, if I had the chance to get away from them and never see them again I would take that chance. I don’t hate them, they are good parents, I never lacked care, I was always pampered, but at the same time for once I’d love to actually go my own way and do the things I want and look the way I want and act the way I want without them telling me it’s wrong.

    • Hi Kiara,

      I am sorry about what you are going through. You articulated so much of what my mom did to me where my dad was just passive guy bringing home the bacon.

      I am unemployed now and for the first time (I am in 40s) realized OMG I have not never ever reached my potential because of what you described. I was beaten down more than just physical, emotional and spiritual and intellectual that I literally did not know how to live normal…I just got lucky along the way did not to die but survive.

      I had so many muscles tension, digestive problems that I knew all along psychically my body was stuck in flash back permanently…even my eyes were red for a long time.

      I cannot tell you how or what to do because I do not know your full life just your comment sounded like honestly I wrote it.

      What worked for me so far, I am in therapy now. She is great (I hated therapists all my life) but then I realized I like to help others heal…how am I gonna do it? I am going back to school and just this propel me to really look deep into my psyche to see if I am in a good place to help others; hence, how I end up at therapy to meet my inner child, love my inner child, forgive myself for ignoring my inner child cause I got busy living adult life (struggle and survival mode) and make peace and love with my inner child.

      My inner child was angry, mean, abusive (just like my mother) even sounded like my mother, hated people, made a huge gossip about every single person I met in my – ALL IN MY HEAD. I had so many bad thoughts but was a decent person outside, it was like how can two opposites could live in the same body? No wonder my body stopped working properly!

      Every single automatic thing I did was my inner child. The times I took to reflect, think, take my time were glimpses of light and what life could have been. one of those glimpses of light was when I met my husband and took my time to see I was not imagining him…and it worked…I am trying to do that again on regular basis.

      Every single automatic thought that was ugly in my head was my angry inner child whom I abandoned again so I could survive or maybe i even neglected or believed as an adult that I did not need to make peace to my inner child – the child that was abused so bad. I am cruel knowing how bad my inner child was abused and then ignored it..that is like adding salt to the wound.

      I become one of those adults you see who have “do not F with me” on their forehead! well that did not work well cause that was my inner child still fighting a world of peace as an adult.

      I am safe now. I can look around and see my dog and I am safe now. I can see my husband and I am safe now…then I asked why am I so angry in my head? Why do I tell myself you are not good enough? you will not get that job? you will never be happy? you are not strong enough? your friends have better lives? your friends are all crazy just like you or more than me? your friends are not smart? you are not smart?

      Why do I have these dialogues and then it downed on me: unless I make peace, call my sad, abandoned inner child, I will not be at peace…and that sound of my inner child will drive me to my grave.

      as I write this to you, I am listening to inner child meditation music on Youtube to relax myself.

      My sympathetic system (flight and fight response) has slowed down exponentially since I started to search and be humble to meet my inner child. I sing to my inner child. My physical ailments lessened considerably.

      I cut any relationship with my mother and any siblings that were as mean to me as back when I was a child! Empathy is mutual. No one who loves you can hurt you!

      When you said you were abused as you said and then followed how good your parents are, I have one question: Will you ever let your parents treat your child the same way? The answer is the same to your inner child!

      This may not make sense to you but I hope you find your footing. You have enough spirit in you to even find this article.

      I wish you deep in my heart you find strength to see the light for your life.

      Sending you love.

 

Join the Conversation!

We invite you to share your thoughts and tell us what you think in this public forum. Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines. A first name or pseudonym is required and will be displayed with your comment. Your email address is also required, but will be kept private. (Please note that we use gravatars here, which are tied to your email address.) A website/blog/twitter address is optional.

Post a Comment: