If you are a child or a teen and it is your parent that is toxic, there is no leaving, not really. A part of their toxic message, toxic parenting, toxic messages about who you are get into your head and lurk there always. In a normal and healthy relationship between parent and child we celebrate how it is that the words of a parent become a child's self talk, voice in their head. But when a child is reared by one or more parents who are toxic in their own various ways, still, the words of the parents continue to play inside of the heads of the children long into adulthood.
We get so much of our identity from our parents, like it or not. We get other things too. We learn how to communicate anger, sadness, frustration, celebration, jealousy, loneliness... We learn how to care for ourselves in times of need, how to self soothe, how to express confusion, how to identify nuances of emotion, how to manage boredom, how to be ill, how to manage our expenses, how to care for another human being, how to manage conflict, how to prioritize, how to manage money, how to move into the world, how to separate, how to attract a partner, how to be in love.
We learn how it feels to be connected to another person, how to figure out or create our own place in the world, what love looks like, how to explore boundaries between two people, how to express ourselves clearly and fully, how to explore new ideas, how to operate in a sexual relationship, how to be parents, how to experience love, how to manage personal power, how to behave in social situations.
And we learn how to manage illness and good health, how to become more independent, how to develop skills for coping with difficulty, how to get emotional needs met, how to explore identity, how to sense reality and non-reality, how to explore uniquely personal qualities, how to choose action rather than simply react, how to identify distorted thinking, and so much more.
As a child, when you begin to gain independence, as you begin to question things, your parent started bickering, rejecting, seeking more control, more abusive, etc. As you mature and explore new reactions to the toxic crap like gaslighting or guilt or brainwashing efforts, as you become less and less manipulatable (is that a word? I mean less willing to be manipulated), as you no longer let things slip by unquestioned, as you remove your parent from a pedestal, as you stop feeding the toxic parent's need for adulation or unquestioning adoration you can become more and more the object of anger by the parent.
In my own case, as my eyes opened more and more, every single step I attempted to take into independence was thwarted, criticized, and generally not supported by my toxic parent. He began acting victimized, betrayed, supremely wounded by my independent thought and by my denial of falsehoods. He moved from abuser to victim. Interestingly enough, my other parent did the same thing years later.
This crap, these unhealthy and abusive messages, sticks with you long into adulthood. But there is healing. There is reparenting. There is learning how to be your own internal parent and internal voice of health. It can happen. You can make it happen. You can be there for yourself. You can move towards a person who is no longer controlled or strongly affected by the internal web of voices.
- First, acknowledge that this toxic parent dynamic is limiting you, is controlling you, or is making you feel sick inside. It's old news, but admitting that you have a problem actually empowers you and helps you to figure out where you want to be.
- Secondly, this acknowledgment of problematic thought patterns helps you to identify those places where your thought patterns are actually bits of brainwashing or programming or gaslighting that are limiting your emotional growth.
- Third, recognize that there is much to learn. The longer you are on the pathway to better emotional health the more often you will recognize places where you need help or guidance or education.
- Fourth, you will have to grieve the life long loss of healthy, loving parents. Honestly, let's acknowledge that this grief will remain with us for much of our lives.
- Fifth, you will learn the glorious world of emotions that are available to you. You will learn how to experience the fullness of your humanness in a safe environment.
- And sixth, you will locate and accept help on the healing journey. Clear, fresh eyes to help you to find your way. Connection with other people who are on a journey towards emotional health. People who care and support your efforts.