Oct 21 2009

When Parents are Toxic

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When are Parents too Toxic To Forgive?

What can you do if the source of your misery is your own parent?  Dr. Richard Friedman thinks that whining about parental failure is practically an American pastime.  But, he points out,  just as there are good parents who mysteriously produce a difficult child, there are decent people who have the misfortune  of having a truly toxic parent.

In my work with a multitude of clients, I have observed that although many parents may be predisposed to love their children unconditionally and protect them from harm, this is not universal.  I have  worked  with many clients whose parents did not show love to their children or protect them from abuse.  I had one such client who had come to me for healing, particularly for help in building self- esteem.  She had been physically punished and beaten, emotionally abused, denied a voice and had been sexually violated by a close relative right under her parents’ noses.   My inclination at first was to encourage her to sever ties.  But because some abusive parents can sometimes learn to be loving, severing bonds should be a last resort.   I sensed this client’s desire to repair the relationship with her mother and also sensed her mother’s openness to this .  Though she was terribly wounded and angry, this young woman kept working to forge a better connection– this was  the only remaining parent she had.  It wasn’t until she could stand up to her mother and other family members complicit in the abuse that she could reclaim herself.  In this particular situation, the client was able, with help, to cobble together a better relationship with her mother and enter her own unique journey of healing.

What is your experience?  Share your thoughts.  I can be contacted at  audrey@draudreygoldman.com.

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