Monday, February 1, 2016

When Your Voice is NOT Heard:  TOXIC PARENTS
There are, unfortunately, so many different types of dysfunctional family systems that I cannot fit them all into one blog.  Today I am going to focus on the adult who has parents that are dysfunctional and toxic.  We expect our parents to be the people that love us the most in the world.  To have our back and love us unconditionally.  Unfortunately, it does not always happen and many people stay in a state of denial for many years.  Some people spend their adult lives trying to earn the approval of parents that are just not capable of approval or unconditional love. Instead, they experience years of guilt, pain, frustration, emotional abuse and manipulation, financial burden, broken relationships, and chronic disappointment. At some point, many people realize that their parents are highly dysfunctional and toxic, but they don’t know what to do about it, how to heal some of the damage.

            A relationship with toxic parents is like an emotional and spiritual cancer.  This type of relationship is typically based on behaviors and manipulations that are emotionally damaging, leaving you feeling guilty, insecure, controlled and manipulated, threatened, and beaten down.  It just does not feel safe.  In a healthy relationship, the caring, love, and respect is mutual and nurtured throughout the years.  Compassion is freely given, without manipulation or strings attached, such that both sides feel loved and supported. Unlike other relationships, when the toxic person in the relationship is a parent or parents, it can leave you feeling burdened and trapped.  In most cultures, we are taught to respect our parents.  In most religions, we are also taught to respect and honor our parents.  If a friend or spouse is abusive we are encouraged to leave.  When contact is cut off with a parent, there is much less support and understanding, especially from people who are blessed with healthy parents. At this point, you may feel your guilt is on steroids and dominating your life.  
            This is the person who gave you life and raised you.  They supplied all your basic survival needs such as food, clothing, and shelter.  They were supposed to give you unconditional support.  Unfortunately, for some, this is the person who constantly criticized you, put you down, and manipulated you with guilt.  They lied to you and about you, embarrassed you, sabotaged all your relationships, controlled you and never seemed to let you go.  Rather, they trapped you and convinced you that you were at fault, inadequate, unappreciative, and undeserving of love and respect.  You may feel that if your own parents could not love you that you must be unlovable. 
            Reasoning with a toxic parent does not work!  Sacrificing your life for a toxic parent does not help as it is expected.  Being the perfect child does not help because the toxic parent is always disappointed and wants something more.  These parents make sure you never develop a close relationship with siblings or other family members or friends.  They keep you isolated so they can have more control over you.  Toxic parents are an EMOTIONAL CANCER!
            What do we do with cancer?  We eradicate it and get it out of our body.  This is what we have to do with toxic parents and any toxic person in our life.  These people suck the life force out of us and if we keep them in our life, we have no joy and no quality of life.  Remember, your parents chose to have you and it was their job to raise you and provide for you.  That does not mean you owe them every part of you and your life.  To disconnect from parents you will have to deal with guilt, grieve over the loss of the parents you wanted and deserved, accept the disapproval of some family members, maybe even siblings, and most importantly, setting strong boundaries.
            How do you start?  First comes the acceptance that you have a toxic parent who is a destructive force in your life.  Not only can you not change your parents, it is not your job to change your parent.  The only person we can ever change is ourselves.  Accept that your parents are damaged and dangerous to you.  Next, be very aware of guilt and how your parents use guilt to manipulate and control you.  They have most likely been doing this to control you your entire life and they know exactly what buttons to push. 

 When someone tries to manipulate you through guilt, it is in their best interest, not yours.  Acknowledge the guilt as manipulation which will help you not buy into it.  Very importantly, if you cannot completely disconnect from your parents, limit your contact with them as much as possible.  You are not responsible for their happiness or the consequences of their choices.  You do not owe them your life.  They are adults, as are you.  You have to live for you, not your toxic parents.  Stop giving up your relationships and your life goals to please parents that cannot be pleased.  Give yourself permission to live your life for you, with healthy and balanced relationships, mutual love and respect, and balance and stability.  If you can’t do this on your own, do not hesitate to seek professional help as this is a very difficult and challenging process.

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