If you grew up in a dysfunctional, toxic family, then you understand all too well the struggle that comes from your inner child’s need for parental support while also hating the way your parents make you feel. There’s also the years of resentment that have built up causing severe emotional damage.
These conflicting emotions are confusing both as a child and as an adult. If you have an overwhelming sense that your parents have been taking advantage of you since childhood but aren’t entirely sure, then read the symptoms below to see if you can relate.
1. One or both your parents are underhanded or manipulative
Manipulative people are hard to pin down. It’s especially difficult to do so when you have the mind of a child, and the manipulators are your parents. They are the two people in this world who are supposed to have your best interest at heart and protect you. An underhanded or manipulative parent doesn’t treat you like a person, they treat you like a nuisance that needs to be controlled. Sometimes this goes as far as them turning you and a sibling against each other. They might say things like, “Why can’t you be as good your brother/sister?” They do this as a way to control both of you. The result being, each child senses this and both feel like they aren’t truly loved.
2. You feel emotionally deprived
Emotional deprivation can feel like having a hole in the middle of your chest. You know there is supposed to be something there, but it’s an emotional connection you’ve never experienced. This feeling becomes worse when you see your friends with their healthy parental relationships. An emotionally deprived childhood is characterized by a child who constantly feels like they need to jump through hoops to receive their parents’ love. However, this love may come in small doses, but it never truly sticks. The child is left feeling insecure and deprived.
3. Every move you make is wrong
Children under this kind of parenting often feel like they are walking barefoot on glass. Every move they make brings pain, so why try at all? These parents do this in order to have control over their child. Eventually, the child will begin to realize that pleasing them is impossible. They may shut down or possibly fly into rages. These are symptoms of terrible psychological damage because they feel a constant sense of guilt and that everything they do is wrong.
4. Your parents’ behavior is “all your fault”
An emotionally toxic parent will make the child feel like everything is their fault. They tell the child they are “bad” or “difficult.” One of the reasons they do this is because nobody wants to feel that their wrong behavior is wrong. They want to validate it by blaming someone else. If they ever do apologize, it always lacks authenticity. They may say something like “I’m sorry I hurt your overly sensitive feelings.”
5. You constantly feel a sense of grief and loss
It’s almost like mourning the death of a parent, except it’s worse. They are still alive and in your life and yet you’re mourning something that never existed in the first place. What’s worse is that people might not understand this and therefore aren’t sympathetic. You may feel alone, and that loneliness is increased every time you interact with your parents.
6. You are frustrated
You feel like no one understands and no one can help you. What can be especially hurtful is when you finally muster the courage to tell someone about your experience and they try to rationalize it. They might tell you that it could have been worse. Or they may try and point out the positives in your life to show you how “good you have it.” Keep in mind that you have every right to be hurt and frustrated. Emotional abuse is devastating whether you’re rich, poor, successful or not.
7. An overwhelming desire to cut all ties
After conversations or visits with your parents do you find yourself asking “Why do I even bother?” Perhaps if you are getting nothing out of this relationship except pain and grief, then it is time to cut the toxicity out of your life. Severing ties with family can be a tough and emotionally stressful—even traumatic—decision. However, you have to ask yourself: What are you gaining by keeping the relationship going?
Unless your parents have apologized and have tried to truly make amends for all their wrongdoing, they will continue their toxic behavior as long as you allow it. Although many feel a stigma attached to cutting off family ties, every individual must decide what’s best for them. Many people feel a life-changing sense of relief after. What helps is when they have a support system of siblings, extended family members, and of course friends. Your support system can be there with you through holidays, birthdays, good times and bad. They can become the family you would have chosen if you had a choice as a child.
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About The Author: Alexa Opal Hamilton is the author of three books and her genres range from dystopian Sci-fi to Romance. She is also a comedy writer who has written sitcom spec scripts, along with hilariously animated blogs and comic strips. Born and raised in west Texas, Alexa now travels all over North America (usually moving twice a year) with her hockey-player husband and two children. When she’s not writing, Alexa enjoys reading, running and spending time with her family.