Healing from toxic parents

8 Ways to Heal From Toxic Parents / Bright Side

Your life may turn into a prison if your parents constantly say you’re not good enough. This affects one’s adult life greatly, leaving you without self-confidence, opinions, and a critical voice inside you. Healing doesn’t come in a strike of willpower, but with the right advice, it may turn into a journey you need and can endure.

We at Bright Side found a few ways you can learn to understand your situation and restore your life for the better.

1. Stop trying to please them.

If you don’t like what your parents have envisioned for you, you don’t have to listen to them.

What to do: Please yourself and not them — it’s okay to put yourself first.

Remember: What you should do is remember that generosity and pleasing people are 2 different things. True generosity comes from genuine and healthy self-regard from sharing that enjoyment. However, people-pleasing comes from lowering that self-regard and looking for your parents’ approval.

2. Rebuild your opinions.

Living with toxic parents means that you don’t know how to express your feelings and thoughts in a healthy way. It’s easy to get lost when there’s another stronger voice next to you.

What to do: Practice your opinions with someone you can trust, like a friend or another family member. For example, when it’s time for you to go out with your friends, suggest a place you want and say something like, “What do you think about going to the movies instead?”

Remember: Preferences are not something you have to start a fight about. It’s about honesty, even when you listen to another person’s opinion, like, “I understand what you are saying, but I see the situation differently.”

3. Stop criticizing yourself.

If you were abused, ignored, or criticized as a child; in your mind, you’re probably used to harsh self-talk. We tend to get stuck on cruel messages from other people, but you can change your thoughts.

What to do: Become aware of the critical voice inside your head and write down the things it says. Next to these, write a positive thought to replace them. This could look like: “You’ll never be good as others,” to “No one can take my place.”

Remember: Go for a walk, take a nap, visit your favorite place, or do anything you like to do. If you see that your critical voice is about to surface when you do these activities, block it by saying, “I am valuable, and it’s important for me to have some fun or rest.”

4. Set boundaries and enforce them.

When you set clear boundaries, it will limit how other people treat you. It creates physical and emotional space between your parents and you, which is something you probably didn’t have when you were a kid.

What to do: Setting boundaries with your parents starts when you decide what’s off-limits and what you’re willing to do. Think in advance if there’s anything you don’t want to share with them. For example, say no to surprise visits since it’s up to you who you’ll spend the holidays with, and answer their messages and phone calls when you’re ready.

Remember: Relationships should be built on respect, which doesn’t come with those who treat you poorly. At first, it might be uncomfortable to set the boundaries and tell your parents how you want them to treat you.

5. Try not to be around other toxic people.

Growing up with toxic parents probably means that you’ve missed out on nurturing, warmth, and love. This draws you closer to people who share these same qualities with your parents. You might unintentionally look for someone with a similar personality to get the support you didn’t have with your parents.

What to do: Ask yourself questions that will help you become aware of the type of people you are surrounded by, like, “What do they have in common?” or “What do you do that’s almost the same as the relationship with your parents?” or “What keeps you with them?”

Remember: Other toxic people can have the same negative influence over your life, and you won’t find the warmth, love, and nurturing you missed in them either.

6. Understand that it’s okay to let go.

Loyalty can sometimes get in the way when it comes to protecting yourself. Letting go might seem like the most difficult decision to make, but it’s very important.

What to do: Even if toxic people don’t deserve all the attention they get, it’s in our nature to connect. That’s why letting them go might be the best step to take. The state of your relationship is not your fault.

Remember: You’ve already gone through so much, so don’t think that you’re not strong enough to stand up for yourself. You’re the one who can make a decision, and once you do that, you’ll start to heal.

7. Don’t share everything with them.

Trust is a key element for a strong and healthy relationship, and personal info should be shared with only those who are trustworthy. In the case of toxic parents, they don’t fall under this category, especially if they criticize you, gossip about you, and share things without your permission.

What to do: Be aware of what you share with your parents. Ask yourself questions before you open up, like, “What doesn’t feel safe?” or “What does feel safe to share with my parents?”

Remember: If you aren’t compelled to tell them everything, share only what you feel safe and comfortable about.

8. Control where you meet.

Toxic parents are most comfortable at home and in other family-friendly places. That’s because, in these places, they have the power to control you.

What to do: Next time you want to meet your parents, choose a public place surrounded by other people. There, you might have control because they won’t have the same chance to fall into their old behavior. Even if they do fall into their old patterns, you’ll be able to get up and leave.

Remember: Having control over where you meet with your parents will also give you a chance to be aware of their behavior.

Can you share your own strategies that can help one deal with toxic parents? What kinds of side effects do you think toxic parents can have on our adult life?

Healing From a Toxic Childhood? The Two Words You Need Most

Source: Alliance/Shutterstock

I’ll bet you’re wondering what those two words might be, and your brain is offering up suggestions: Move on. Forgive them. Be kinder. Stay mindful. Practice understanding. Distance yourself. Be aware. Look forward. It’s past. Stay strong.

Nope. The two words are let go. These two little words—five letters in all—are hugely important, because contrary to popular opinion, which always tells us that it takes effort to keep trying and hang in, the default position for humans is persistence. What’s hard is quitting and letting go. The reasons are both complicated and simple.

We are much more inclined to stay put than we are to move on, because we prefer the status quo—even if it’s lousy and painful—to parts unknown. Humans are famously risk-averse—Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for showing precisely that — and have all sorts of habits of mind which are more apt to keep them stuck than not. We are more strongly motivated by intermittent reinforcement—having what we desire happen some of the time—than we are by getting what we want all of the time, or even never getting it. That’s particularly relevant if you grew up starved for love, approval, and support. The occasional scrap of any of those things—or even a momentary lull in nonstop criticism—will have the same effect as a five-course meal.

Additionally, we tend to reach for rose-colored glasses and see a loss as a “near win”; that’s what keeps people at slot machines when the symbols almost match and, more positively, keeps us plugging away at golf. Again, when that scrap is proffered—perhaps your mother sounds vaguely interested in what you’re doing, or your sibling actually pays you a compliment—you’re all full of hope, sure that a victory is close at hand: “They’ll realize they’re wrong about me”; “Mom will finally see me for who I am”; “Maybe the crazy nonsense is ending and my family will be normal.” In the same way, the habit of rumination—more pronounced in women than in men—keeps us focused on difficult and painful situations and interactions, past and present, and inclines us to replay history and second-guess ourselves, rather than act and move forward.

What letting go isn’t

But letting go doesn’t mean pretending that the past never happened, that you weren’t hurt or affected, or that your parent or parents should be somehow let off the hook and not held responsible. It means learning to discriminate between the ways of thinking you must let go of and the emotions that need to be tossed aside that keep you stuck, and the ways of thinking and feeling that will help you move you forward and help you heal.

The fancy name for the kind of letting go I’m talking about is goal disengagement. This isn’t a one-step thing, like the image that comes into your mind when you think of the words “let go”—you’re likely to visualize the string falling free from your grasp and the balloon rising in the air, or the moment your hand slips and what you’re holding falls with a thud—but a process, and a complex one at that.

Goal disengagement

It’s basically a four-step process that involves letting go of the thinking patterns that have maintained the status quo (cognitive disengagement), managing the emotions that accompany giving up or quitting (affective disengagement), giving up on that earlier goal (motivational disengagement), and putting plans into action for a new goal (behavioral disengagement).

Each of these steps requires a slightly different skill set: Cognitive disengagement requires that you stop thinking about why you didn’t achieve the goal you set and worrying and/or ruminating about it, stop running “what if” scenarios in your head that are likely to convince you that maybe you shouldn’t let go after all. Affective disengagement requires that you deal with all the emotions that are aroused when you fail to achieve what you set out to do; that includes feeling guilty, beaten down, or blaming yourself. Motivational disengagement requires you to stop thinking about that goal and start planning new objectives, including where you want to go now and what you want to try. Finally, behavioral disengagement requires you to act and start planning how you will change your future.

How this applies to a toxic childhood

In case this sounds too abstract, let me put the terms into the context of dealing with a toxic childhood. I’m extrapolating here from the many interviews I conducted for my book, Daughter Detox: Recovering from an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life, and casting the circumstances in a general way.

Your childhood was one in which you felt unloved, unseen, and marginalized, and were subject to endless criticism and perhaps scapegoating. You did what you could to armor yourself, or perhaps you placated others instead; in any case, you did what you could to deal until you finally moved out into your young adult life. It’s at that moment that you began to make your own choices about where to live, friends, how to support yourself, partners, and lovers, but also how to deal with your family of origin. Most unloved daughters—relishing the fact that they’re out from under their mothers’ direct influence—do little to challenge the status quo and do what they can to manage the situation. It’s when their efforts to manage begin to fail—they are still hurt by encounters with their parent or parents or perhaps siblings, are unable to manage the resulting emotions, still feel adrift, and are unable to set healthy boundaries—that they realize they’re stuck and have to disengage and find a new way of relating to their family.

Cognitive disengagement is made difficult, because the cultural tropes about family underscore the importance of staying the course (“She’s your mother,” “Everyone’s family is difficult,” “You turned out fine, so it couldn’t have been so bad”), and because the unloved daughter is likely to mistrust her own judgment after years of being told she’s less than and likely to be prone to second-guessing (“Maybe she’s right, and I am too sensitive,” “She’s done the best she can, and maybe I’m wrong to ask for more”).

Affective disengagement is hard not just because of past pain, which arouses all manner of emotions, from anger to sorrow, as well as feelings of guilt, shame, and disloyalty at even contemplating managing your connection to your family differently. Then, too, is the fear that they’re right about you, and you’re just wrong on every level. Add in the fact that children who don’t get the attuned attention they need in infancy and childhood have trouble regulating emotion anyway, and you can see why this part of the process of letting go is so hard.

Motivational disengagement is thwarted by what I call the “core conflict”—the tension between your recognition that you need to manage your relationship with your mother and family of origin and your continuing need for your mother’s love and support and your hopefulness that it can be won. The conflict effectively keeps a daughter stuck in the status quo.

And as long as the core conflict continues, acting is impossible, so the stage of behavioral disengagement—of setting new goals for your life and relationship—never happens.

Small steps to letting go

If you find yourself stuck, these strategies may help you break the logjam. Working with a gifted therapist is the best route, of course, but there are things you can do to help yourself.

1. Recognize that it’s not your fault.

Self-blame, which is a default position, keeps you stymied, and thinking that there’s some flaw in you that you could fix and things would be fine does too. Realizing that you’re not to blame brings with it the recognition that you cannot fix this on your own; your parent or parents must cooperate.

2. Don’t normalize abusive behavior.

Children normalize the behavior experienced in their families of origin, and it’s not uncommon for them to continue to do so as adults. Don’t excuse or become inured to verbal abuse; register that it’s happening, and react calmly and in a straightforward way. You have the right to set rules about how you wish to be treated, even with a parent or relative.

3. Set boundaries.

You will need to carve out mental space to figure out how to manage the relationship. Do whatever you need to—cutting down contact or limiting it—to be able to do so.

4. Build your emotional skill set.

Try to identify your emotions as precisely as you can—an important part of emotional intelligence—and see if you can trace the source of your feelings, especially when you think about your relationship with your mother and other family members. Work on distinguishing guilt from shame, for example, as well as negative feelings about yourself as either deserving of poor treatment or undeserving of love.

5. Manage your thoughts.

Rumination and worry can keep you totally stuck. Research on intrusive thoughts by Daniel Wegner shows that trying to suppress thoughts only results in their being more persistent, so you need to try other techniques. One, suggested by him, is to assign yourself a worry time; another is to permit yourself to confront those intrusive thoughts and think about the worse-case scenario if those worries came true, and you had to deal with them.

Letting go is an art that is hard to learn, but can be mastered.​

Move away from toxic people, don't feed them with your energy

For some of us, healing of the mother's wound is possible only in contact with the mother. In this scenario, the healing creates a new, deeper connection between mother and daughter, which is infinitely beautiful. I've seen it happen and it's truly inspiring.

For some, it is impossible to be healed by staying close to the mother...

Separation from a family member is still considered taboo, especially when it comes to the mother. Sometimes a small distance and a short-term suspension is enough. In other cases, the suspension may be permanent. It takes incredible strength and courage to get through this.

What can lead to a suspension?

There are many reasons why people make this decision. But it is rooted in the realization that your mother's dysfunctional behavior is costing you your emotional and mental balance, and you are simply unable to pay the price. I believe that such a decision is not taken out of frivolity or bravado. Most often, this comes after years of trying in various ways to maintain this connection and take it to a higher level. At a certain point, the price becomes too high and you need to make a decision.

This can be the most difficult decision of your life, and at the same time the most liberating

Family is a complex system. When someone ceases to play their usual role in it, the system experiences a kind of depressurization or chaos. Conflict can lead to the transformation of the entire system and the transition to a higher level if family members are open and ready for growth and learning. But, unfortunately, sometimes the willingness to grow and the attempt to bring about changes run into resistance from the family. In this case, a person who wants to grow has a choice: to remain in a toxic and dysfunctional environment, or to leave an unhealthy system. The choice to cut contact is most often made when it is clear that healing is not possible in the family system.

Daughter of often plays the role of mediator, scapegoat, keeper of secrets or guardian of emotions ), its solution inevitably leads to change. The degree of chaos that results from this indicates how dysfunctional this family system is overall.

If family members are relatively healthy, stable and open, the family can come to balance without much chaos. However, if the family members themselves are deeply traumatized and wounded, the daughter's development can be perceived as a serious threat to the family system. In such a case, chaos can deeply destabilize the situation, and it is very difficult to deal with it. Support is very important here. An unconscious attempt to maintain balance and resist change can lead to attacks on the daughter.

A common and dangerous reaction is to "pathologize" daughter . Then the cause of the conflict is seen in some pathology of the daughter. The following message is formed: Your inability to continue playing in the family system in your assigned role indicates that something is wrong with you.

This humiliating message is essentially the refusal of a mother or other family member to honestly reflect on their own behavior and take responsibility. The daughter's level of mental stability, her sexual activity, her past mistakes, everything about her can be openly called into question, except for the mother's role in the conflict.

It's amazing how vehemently people resist looking inward and at what lengths they are willing to go to stay in denial, including even rejecting their own child. This is actually an unconscious attempt to resist change by projecting all the conflict or "badness" onto the one who initiates the transformation of the family system.

Ultimately, there is nothing personal here. It just happens when people who close their eyes to their inner state face their repressed pain through a catalytic event. For example, a woman who outgrows the dominant family dynamics that has kept the family system in balance for generations can become such a catalyst.

We can't save our mothers - we can only save ourselves

You don't need your mother's (or other family member's) understanding to be completely healed. The realization that the mother (or family) is simply unable or unwilling to understand you can be heartbreaking. No matter how you explain or how many times you try to get your message across, it all goes nowhere. You seem to speak different languages. They may unconsciously block understanding you because it puts their deep-rooted beliefs and values ​​at great risk.

Understanding can cause a seismic shift in the very foundation on which their worldview and identity are built. It hurts to realize, but it helps to create a special strength of mind. It becomes clear that you need to be satisfied with your own understanding of yourself. Your own opinion about yourself becomes the main one. You realize that you can be okay even if others don't understand you.

After you leave contact, your life can begin improve in all directions

I have watched chronic diseases, neurotic fears and lifelong patterns go away. In fact, sometimes it can even be hard to accept how much more enjoyable your life has become. Each new level of success, intimacy, joy and freedom reminds you that your family cannot share this with you. It is during such periods that we can experience agitation and grief. There is nothing to do but feel the grief that comes over and allow yourself to move on.

Feeling sad doesn't mean you made the wrong choice (it's a sign of health and healing)

Embrace the worldview that gave you the strength to move out of the toxic interaction. Otherwise, you may be pulled back through guilt or shame. It's important to get support and give yourself time and space to work through all the emotions that come with this choice. Get rooted in why you made this choice and seize the opportunity to start a whole new phase of your life.

Withdrawal is a launching pad for gaining strength

You may discover something profoundly important: you realize that you can survive even when your mother rejects you. Few come to this realization. It can take you to a new level of inner freedom and determination, initiating a quantum leap in your life. It can spur a commitment to the truth and bring integrity that will affect every area of ​​your life. It will ignite the fire of truth in you, which has always been there, but only now can burn in full force. You will feel your inner source.

Sadness, sadness and more sadness will lead you to… FREEDOM. Sadness can arise at each transition to a new, higher level, which your mother (family) never entered. It can be a bone-eating sadness, an almost tribal and ancestral sadness of going ahead without them. But over time it gets easier. I believe that the more lovingly we allow ourselves to grieve, the more miracles, beauty and joy will be in our lives.

There is something deeply sacred about grief that comes with this choice. It can open the way for us to deeply connect with our truth and embody it at the deepest level. You need to find a new meaning for this loss and use it to improve your life. This is the key to long term healing.

Absolutely okay walk away from toxic people who cripple us

Healing birth trauma can be a lonely journey. But in the new space you have created, there will also be spiritual connections. The need for affection is the strongest need of our human nature. To face rejection means to face your deep pain, humanity, and declare the value of your life. Our biggest fear is being alone. But the loneliness we fear is already present in the wounds of our kind. I am here to tell you that you are not alone, that over time there will be people who are spiritually close to you, able to see and appreciate the real you.

In a world where women are expected to remain silent, considerate of the needs of others, and where the dark side of motherhood is not recognized, the experience of alienation can be the initiation of a transition to a new level of awareness that few people can access. The space is cleared so that you can shine in your fullness. What will you do with the light that shines in you?

Rejected daughters find each other, creating a new line of mothers; the combination of authenticity, authenticity, and truth in each supports a rising awareness in all. I have seen such camaraderie between women who have walked this path. More than many can imagine. You are not alone (note in our group Toxic parents there are already 30 thousand people on Facebook)

Suspension does not necessarily mean that you do not love your family. This does not mean that you are not grateful for all the beautiful things they have given you. It simply means that you need the space to live your own life the way you want to. Women who see no other option but to refuse contact with their dysfunctional mothers create a gap because that is the only way to send a strong message:

Mom, your life is your responsibility and my life is mine. I refuse to be a victim on the altar of your pain. I refuse to die in your war. Even if you are unable to understand me, I must go my own way. I have to choose life .

Healing the trauma of the mother is a process of initiation into your full femininity.

A patriarchal culture promotes dysfunctional relationships between mothers and daughters. There is no ritual in our culture for the natural adult separation from the mother and initiation into one's own life.

Healing a mother's trauma is a process of necessary initiation, whether you are in contact with your mother or not. I dream that someday maternal trauma will become rare, most women will be cleansed of patriarchal messages like "inferiority", and both mothers and daughters will feel the opportunity to open up and find the fullness of their strength and potential, connecting in the heart, but remaining free and separate individuals. The daughter's individuality will no longer seem like a threat to the mother, because she will have enough love and respect for herself and her daughter.

Translation : Anna Petrosyan
Source : psy-practice.com

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Toxic relationships with parents: how to protect yourself from negativity?


Psychologists call toxic relationships any interaction between people (spouses, friends, acquaintances, work colleagues) that brings emotional pain and complete depletion of the resources of one of the parties. Where does the toxic person, the emotionally abusive manipulator, come from? Of course, he comes from childhood. Psychoanalyst Anastasia Mostovskaya tells ELLE what to do with these relationships and how to protect yourself from the negative impact of these communications.

Anastasia Mostovskaya, psychoanalyst


As Susan Forward writes in her book Toxic Parents, all parents make mistakes, and most children can safely endure a bout of parental aggression, provided that they usually also receive from parents love and understanding that can serve as a counterweight to mistakes. But there are also many parents who often inflict emotional pain on the child, poisoning his life. And they continue to do this, even when the child has already grown.

The most common way to interact in a toxic relationship is to constantly violate boundaries. Since childhood, it has been constant control, entering a room without knocking, choosing clothes, reading diaries, devaluing feelings. At a more mature age - influence on the choice of husband or wife, institute, profession.

"Eternal Parents"

Why do parents act like this? Psychologists claim that there are so-called "eternal parents" who unconsciously tell their child - "do not grow up", "stay with me." They are ready to do any work for their child, as long as he stays by his side. As a result, having matured, such a child remains infantile, continues to live with his parents, experiences difficulties in building a career, relationships and the manifestation of internal emotions, expects his partner to solve all his problems, save him. In addition, often such an adult child is in a co-dependent relationship, he has problems with separation from the parent figure, and the partner replaces the father or mother.

“Room”, 2015

Indifferent parents

Another type of toxic parent, transmitting indifference and even providing too much freedom, which is not always safe. Growing up in such a family, a person in adulthood experiences difficulties in building close relationships, as he is used to independence, complete independence, he will rather avoid close contact, and long-term relationships will become an impossible task for him. Realizing your true needs, asking for help, and gradually approaching and trusting will be the main aspects on the way to a healthy relationship.

August 2013


Is it worth severing relationships with toxic parents completely? Everything is individual in each case. Definitely, no one does it abruptly or thoughtlessly. This is always preceded by attempts to negotiate, discuss, establish contact, be heard, understood. And the feeling of liberation is accompanied by anxiety and guilt. As V. Meggle writes in the book “The rupture of the umbilical cord, the cure for our emotional addictions”: even if the decision to end the relationship is made, deep down there is still a feeling of guilt that our parents did not love us the way we would like it. The psyche tries to protect the parental figure from destruction to the last.

How to deal with “eternal parents”:

In this case, you will have to separate yourself and even, quite likely, meet resistance.

Learn more