How to deal with Toxic Parents in the 21st century?
For someone who has not grown up in a dysfunctional household, the term ‘toxic parents‘ might be slightly controversial. However, we are pacing towards society to make a place where acceptance of diversity takes the prime position.
This blog covers detailed information about toxic parents and also explains the art of dealing with them. So whether you are dealing with a toxic mother, a toxic father, having nightmares about toxic parents, or even facing issues with toxic parents in adulthood, this write-up can act as a lifesaving gospel for you.
People of various social, economic, and psychological backgrounds come together on many social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, etc., to form an ergonomic community of woke individuals.
Being able to express their views with accelerated liberty, many individuals can relate with each other based on their experiences, struggles, and stories.
One such hard-to-understand situation is those young and older children. Sometimes adults who spend a large portion of their lives catering to their toxic parents’ choices and decisions.
Toxic Parents – Definition
Toxins are harmful. They might not look that way from the outsider’s perspective, but whoever ingests the same faces grave consequences. Narcissists may not cover the term ‘toxic.’
But toxic is just an umbrella term for all those authoritative, selfish, rigid behaviors.
Some more describers are pessimistic, abusive, and unsupportive. Harsh much? The life of their children is even more precipitous and rugged.
Toxic Parents Traits (Tell-tale Signs)
Toxic Parents Make You Defend Heinous Conduct
Do you ever feel that your parent was harming you by beating or abusing you because you deserved it? If that’s the case, you may be defending other people’s bad conduct at your own cost.
Toxic parents can manipulate any situation to meet their needs, leaving children with two options:
- agree that their parent is wrong or
- take full responsibility for their actions.
Kids, including those who are now adults, choose the latter option in most cases.
They Are Prone to Emotional Outbursts and Respond Recklessly
The person may have a short fuse or hold grudges that they have been using as a weapon of influence and domination for a long time. You may be reminded of your transgressions for years or decades after a normal person would have moved on.
Since a toxic person of some sort isn’t in a good emotional position, they’ll have abnormal emotional reactions. Toxic mothers and toxic fathers sometimes enforce harsh penalties, no matter how minor the mistake. Because of the dynamic nature of their emotional landscape, they can also be unreliable. Drama is prevalent, as are intense reactions.
Toxic Mothers and Toxic Fathers Highly Prioritize Their Emotions
Toxic mothers and toxic fathers may assume that their interests must come first when it comes to family issues. But this is an outdated mentality that will not promote healthy interactions.
Even though parents must decide everything from supper to holiday plans, every family member’s feelings must be respected, including the children’s. Toxic mothers and toxic fathers actively pressurize children to suppress their emotions to accommodate their parents.
They Use Guilt Trips and Monetary Favors to Keep You Under Their Influence
Every child has been exposed to a guilt trip by their parents, but toxic parents do it daily. Your parents may also try to manipulate you as an adult by giving you expensive presents and demanding something in exchange.
If you don’t do what they want, they’ll try to make you feel bad about it by reminding you of ‘all’ they’ve done for you.
Children do not owe their toxic parents a particular response in return for money or presents. Especially, when these things were not requested in the first place.
Often, Their Demeaning Remarks Are Disguised as Jokes
We’ve all been convicted of this passive-aggressive conduct at some stage in our lives. When an adult does it daily, children will internalize the words as criticism just as easily as if the parent said them explicitly.
Toxic parents want to express disappointment without appearing to be an overt ‘bad guy,’. They do this with serious matters like body shape or profession.
Ways to Deal with Toxic Parents
You cannot wholeheartedly love them, but you cannot completely hate them as well. You understand the concept of love-hate relationships earlier than usual. Though you can avoid such interpersonal relationships later on in life, you cannot do much about your toxic mother or father other than ‘dealing’ with it.
Now, ‘dealing’ does not imply remaining silent on all the injustice and cry yourself to sleep. There are many creative solutions one can opt to ease the suffering caused by their toxic parents’ actions. Here are some of the ways that might be useful:
Parents are Toxic and It Is Worth Knowing About That
They believe that awareness is a strength. Psychological studies and books about toxic families and discord, such as Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing The Child Within, and Difficult Mothers will help us better understand the family’s dynamics.
With the exception that it is somewhat old, books like Nancy Friday’s My Mother, Myself have been suggested as handy for a general disorder involving mothers and daughters.
If your parents are toxic then you must have understood that boundaries are sometimes uncomfortable, and they may spend a lot of time violating them.
If you’ve never done it before, learning how to set and implement firm boundaries around actions can be daunting, but it’s a vital step in maintaining emotional and mental health in a toxic family setting.
Begin small; ‘I can’t speak on the phone when I’m at work, Mother,’ for example, can pave the way for larger conversations, such as ‘This year, I’ll be spending the weekend with my husband/wife’s parents.’
Scheduling your parent’s calls to do not interrupt when you’re at work, or telling your parent early in the year about your weekend plans, will help build expectations about how you’ll implement your boundaries.
Expect Retaliation, But Don’t Yield to It
Rage, on the other hand, is often used as a tool to retain power. When you try to set limits and carve out space for yourself. Your toxic elderly parents will view it as a challenge and use rage to drag you back to the place you were trying so hard to get away from in the first place.
When you want to set healthy boundaries, don’t expect the frustration to go away right away, but don’t let it debilitate you either.
The reality is that you can indeed achieve your goals. It obviously will not evoke the responses from your toxic mother or toxic father that you had hoped for. Regardless, do it. It doesn’t mean you should let your toxic elderly parents’ displeasure with your decision to grow to hold you back.
Look for Help and Support Somewhere Else
If your toxic parents are the last ones you want to speak to when you’re having issues, turn to someone you can trust and depend on instead. You may ask your friendly peers, a trustworthy teacher, a psychologist, or a colleague for support.
When you are anxious or faced with a crisis, your body releases the chemical oxytocin, which prepares you to reach out to someone so that you are not alone. Construct a support system you can rely on, as well as a list of people you can call if you hit rock bottom.
Just because your toxic mother or toxic father aren’t the most approachable people in the world doesn’t mean you can’t talk to anyone else.
If Your Parents Are Toxic, Then Become Self-Reliant and Self-Sufficient
If you are still living with toxic parents in adulthood, find out how to become financially self-sufficient and work for it. These things take time, and they won’t happen immediately. But learning to manage your money and finding a career you enjoy will help you support yourself when you’re on your own.
If your toxic mother or toxic father don’t respect your limits, they’ll use money as a tool to keep you within their influence because they still have to feed you.
Realize and comprehend the ruse. Learn to look after yourself and be self-reliant. Work for your aim of getting out, and there isn’t anything they can do to keep you under their influence once you’re out.
Physical space has the ability to change lives. With change comes more accountability, but with freedom comes the promise of a new life.
Best Ways to Get Over the Nightmares About Toxic Parents
What doesn’t kill us becomes something that haunts us for life. Although, some nightmares don’t end when we wake up. Many types of trauma dwell in our body and mind and are not easy to let go of.
No matter how much we consciously try not to let it affect us adversely, somehow, the demons of trauma crawl on to us – from under our beds of built-up piles of instability to every nook and corner of our psyche.
Frequently napping or sleeping for long durations is a common defense mechanism against facing unresolved feelings and trauma. However, some individuals might not find peace in that as well. There is also a scientific perspective on how these fears follow you through sleep and often don’t let you have a sound sleep or a sound existence in all.
They say the feeling we are afraid to face while in a conscious state returns to us while we are defenseless and alone – in our sleep. The nightmares described here are both real and metaphorical.
More than just nightmares, there are also specific absurd reactions included in people who suffer from nightmares of their toxic parents in adulthood. There is an umbrella term for that. In science, they call it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition in which a person suffers from various health conditions after witnessing a traumatic incident. Nightmares, flashbacks, repetitive thoughts, panic, denial, and changes in behavior and perception may occur.
Nearly 6.8% of adults in the U.S. are affected by PTSD. Symptoms include re-experiencing the experience, avoiding reminders, getting negative thoughts and opinions, and startling quickly.
Causes of PTSD are a variety of situations like rape, environmental catastrophes, injuries, terrorism, violence, sickness, or abrupt death of a loved one.
There are successful therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing that can benefit individuals with the disorder (EMDR).
Post-traumatic stress disorder signs include repetitive thinking, avoidance of reminders, impaired cognitive performance and attitude, and increased reactivity. These symptoms usually start up soon after the incident and can last for a long time.
Sleep and Trauma
People who undergo a traumatic incident and who have trouble sleeping after the event are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One of the earliest symptoms of PTSD is disrupted sleep. This involves disturbing sleep and nightmares.
Sleep disruptions that occur before the tragic experience can also play a role. A study shows that nightmares before going to war are related to post-traumatic stress after returning from war.
When individuals develop the condition, sleep difficulties can intensify PTSD symptoms. And after treating daytime PTSD symptoms, many individuals do experience chronic insomnia.
Sleep disorders encountered by people with PTSD are undermining a brain’s ability to process thoughts and feelings, hindering the healing process from a traumatic incident. Many people with PTSD often drink alcohol or other drugs to sleep through the night. Ineffective coping techniques can potentially exacerbate PTSD symptoms and not help.
How Does PTSD Affect Sleeping Patterns?
Individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are disturbed by falling asleep and being awakened during the night. Many people who have PTSD due to toxic elderly parents often have nightmares. The sleep disruptions trigger an unrefreshing sleep.
The most common sleep difficulties in PTSD are: anxiety, insomnia, and nightmares.
With PTSD, up to nine in ten people experience insomnia. This is in part due to the person being highly reactive and unable to relax. It could also be due to someone having lived in a place that continually requires them to be alert at night.
Insomnia in post-traumatic stress disorder can be self-perpetuating. The stress of not being able to fall asleep contributes to maladaptive sleeping habits.
Nightmares and night terrors torment individuals who have PTSD, causing them to awaken at night with trouble sleeping and remaining asleep regularly.
The content of the vivid dreams encompasses both past trauma and the present psychological problems of the patient. Nightmares may be handled using imagery rehearsal therapy in which patients rewrite their dreams less terrifyingly while awake.
Nightmares affect 71 percent to 96 percent of people with PTSD. People with PTSD and other mental health disorders, such as anxiety attacks, are more likely to have nightmares than those with PTSD.
Trauma survivors of toxic parenting are more likely to have nightmares than those who may have suffered the way. Any survivors may have nightmares on a random frequency, ranging from weekly, bi-weekly, or even alternatively in severe cases.
PTSD nightmares aren’t necessarily accurate dramatizations of the traumatic incident. They can playback your reactions from the case, such as fright, helplessness, and sorrow.
Giving closure to any open wound is as essential as receiving closure on broken relationships. Once you decide to heal yourself, there is no looking back.
People should sleep in a secure environment, which may or may not be their bedroom. A lamp can provide a sense of security if they are upset sleeping in a dark room.
People with PTSD due to toxic parents are sometimes afraid of getting dreams if they go to sleep. Regrettably, this can result in hours spent in bed with anxiety attacks.
If you haven’t fallen asleep after 20 minutes in bed, get out of bed, go to another room to do something relaxing. Return to bed only when you are exhausted. This will help you form a more vital mental link between your bed and sleep.
Practice Sleep Hygiene
The goal of sleep hygiene is to eliminate sleep-inducing environmental factors. For example, it ensures that you have a quiet room with a comfortable duvet, the appropriate temperature, and so on. Good sleep hygiene will not fix your sleeping issues, but it will ensure you are sleeping in the best possible conditions.
Nightmare Reprocessing Technique
For post-traumatic nightmares, image rehearsal therapy is the ideal treatment. The recurring nightmare is rehearsed and turned into a new scene with a happy ending during the day.
The newly modified script should be practiced daily to eliminate the fear factor from the nightmares and replace it with something more hopeful. This type of therapy usually lasts 12 weeks and can be done individually or in a group setting. In one study, 60% of participants reported fewer nightmares and PTSD symptoms.
Although PTSD nightmares can happen on a frequent and recurring basis, people can take some easy steps to help avoid them. Here are some of them:
Creating A Calming and Safe Sleeping Environment:
Setting aside enough time for sleep and minimizing electronic devices or blue light, which may lead to insomnia, are both examples of good sleep hygiene.
Having Naps During the Day Is Perfect If You Sleep When You Need to and Stop Forcing Sleep:
It’s also fine to get up in the middle of the night if sleep isn’t coming easily. It is much preferable to indulge in a quiet task before sleepy rather than pushing oneself to sleep and adding stress to an already tense environment.
Quit Consuming Alcohol and Drugs:
Using alcohol or drugs to forget about the pain of a traumatic incident can worsen the problem. When you’re coping with the stress of negative emotions, try a stress-relieving workout like walking, cycling, or meditation.
Controlling dreams is generally understudied, even though there are a few different schools of thought about how to cope with them. The most common problem with nightmares is waking up scared. You’ll remember them and all the traumatic panic memories that come with them.
As a response, these suggestions will help you stay asleep for a more rejuvenating and fuller sleep, lowering the risk of getting nightmares and then remembering them.
Forgiving Toxic Parents
Although forgiveness is a virtue, children ought to learn from their parents as an observation, some tables might turn in a detrimental direction. It may become the child’s job to overlook, forgive, and let go of their parents’ toxic personalities.
The reason to forgive the ones that hurt you and scarred you for life? All to free oneself from the weight of sadness and liberating oneself to move forward in life.
A toxic parent’s repertoire is long, but it all comes down to neglect or mental, verbal, or physical violence. Parents who are toxic deceive, exploit, neglect, judge, harass, shame, humiliate, and ridicule their children. Nothing really seems to be good enough. They’ll like an A+ if you get an A.
They’ll wonder why you’re not the school captain if you get an A. Your brother would have been a better school captain than you. And you’ll never be as charming as she is. They’ll shove you down to chastise you for your fall.
That or they’ll throw you off a cliff to show the rest of the world how good they are at capturing people. They are in charge of children who have never known comfort, security, or attachment.
Toxic behavior is any harmful behavior that causes emotional harm or contaminates a person’s self-perception. A toxic parent treats his or her children in a way that makes them doubt their own value, significance, and deservingness of affection, acceptance, and affirmation. They even become stubborn sometimes.
If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, ‘Well, sure, my parents did that, but mostly because it was real – I’m pretty worthless at life,’ that parent was probably toxic.
The reality is that you, like any other small person on the planet, deserve to be cherished, cared for, and respected. You aren’t a failure in life because of the messages given by a parent who was too broken to know what they were doing. This must not be the scenario, fortunately.
Why Forgive Toxic Parents After all?
Forgiving your toxic parents (or anyone else) may sound meaningless on the surface. But forgiving your toxic mother or toxic father is the best thing you can do for the happiness of your life. Even mild parental anger and blame reinforce a cycle of emotional pain and misery. That can harm your long-term relationships, financial situation, and general well-being, eventually keeping you from enjoying the love, prosperity, and fulfillment you deserve.
You may not realize the amount of energy it takes to cling to emotional trauma or even a minor grudge if you don’t have any parallels. However, holding onto rage, bitterness, or any sort of aggression requires a significant amount of life force energy, which is non-refundable.
Decades of bitterness and rage will scrap years off your life without you even realizing it. I think it like flushing a stack of $100 bills every day, except that life force energy is exponentially more precious than all the wealth in the world.
Forgiving toxic parents might not be easy, but forgiving your toxic mother or toxic father is the kindest decision you can make for your life quality.
Preparing Yourself to Forgive Toxic Parents
Usually, we revisit stressful experiences to warn us to be cautious; this serves as a reinforcement mechanism to remind us to defend ourselves.
We can relax until we’re assured that we’ll be safe from more negativity, bullying, and violence and that we won’t be pulled in too deep again. We won’t need the stimulation anymore, so we can avoid obsessing about what they did. In our lives, we will progress physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Those individuals and their attacks will fade into the background because the painful motivating technique is no longer necessary. We will defend ourselves in a normal, automatic, and effortless manner.
We should then forgive them in the perspective that we wish them happiness, wish them a good life, and that we won’t remember the terrible things they did because we’re safe now.
Even if we don’t like their attitudes or refuse to volunteer for spankings, we should love their spirit selflessly. We put an end to our anxiety and overthinking.
It is possible to come back from the consequences of toxic parenting. It all starts with the declaration that the guilt and hurt left behind by a toxic parent will not be the end of your story.
If You Are Not Able to Forgive Them, Don’t Push Yourself to Do So
If you stay in the relationship, don’t be too rough on yourself. Going back to an abusive relationship can lead to feelings of self-loathing. ‘How come I’m not strong enough?’
Know that loyalty is a great quality to have, even though it interferes with your ability to defend yourself. Own your current location and grant yourself complete permission to live there.
Accept that this is where you are for the time being, and truly experience what that means to you. If you beat yourself up for not being good enough, you’ll never love yourself enough just to change your standards. For the time being, though, cutting off toxic parents would be better for you.
It takes a lot of bravery to continue walking into a relationship that you know will hurt you. When you’re ready, you’ll decide to try something new.
Old memories get trapped not only in our heads and hearts but also in our bodies. Even though you might have long since forgiven your parents and no longer harbor bitterness or accusation against them, anxiety remains a tough habit to break, as it tends to ‘dwell’ in our body’s cells.
Solo activities like hiking, cross-country skiing, or jumping on a trampoline are recommended to help remove these feelings from your body. You can avoid jeopardizing your health, but whatever appeals to you will suffice.
This is a smart way to avoid old feelings from festering. It’s time to sweat it out. This one, however, will only work if you want to forgive.
Establishing Safe Boundaries with Your Toxic Parents in Adulthood
Set boundaries in your parent-child relationship. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to have a connection with your toxic parents. If you really want to keep your toxic mother or toxic father in your life, you can do so on your own terms. Decide how much you’ll see them and how you’d like to be handled. If your parent opposes you, be able to protect your boundaries or distance yourself.
When you tell your verbally abusive mother that you won’t speak to her until she avoids saying mean stuff, you might have to hang up on her a few times before she starts honoring your expectations.
If your toxic mother declines to make an effort to change the relationship, cutting them off could be your best choice. You don’t have to make anyone a part of your life if you forgive them.
You are not bound to care for your abusive parent, even though they are elderly. Make other plans for them with the aid of other family members. And if your parent wants to make you feel bad, you must defend yourself. Abuse absolves a person of guilt. You have no duty to look after your abuser.
Interestingly, as one of the world’s oldest living religions, Jainism has a festival of ten virtues, Paryushan Parva, also known as Dashlakshan Parva. It begins with kshama, or redemption ends with Kshamavani, or the Day of Forgiveness when people forgive one another.
Individuals can forgive toxic parents, but they should do so at the end of their emotional cleanup, not at the start. People must become furious at what has occurred to them. They must mourn the fact that they never got the parental affection they wanted.
They must avoid downplaying or ignoring the harm they have experienced. ‘Forgive and forget’ is often translated as ‘pretend it never happened.’
Summing up, having grown up with a manipulative parent can have long-term psychological repercussions. Still, the good news is that it’s never too late to form a fresh, healthier relationship with your parent. This is where counseling will help an individual get on the road to recovery!
Even if your parent is reluctant to take such a step, bear in mind that toxic parenting is a gift from the past generation. So the best thing you can do is break the cycle and take action – whether by professional counseling or not. This would ensure that you don’t repeat your parents’ actions if you have children.