Q I made the mistake of speaking honestly about my horrible and ‘toxic’ mother to a new friend at work, but she totally didn’t get it. Instead of understanding what I was telling her she gave me a lecture. She says that I should see things from my mother’s point of view, that she’s been doing the best she can, that I’ll regret it if I cut all ties with my mother…and the worst bit…that I probably love my mother deep down! She couldn’t be more wrong!
I walked away from that conversation, but it shows me again that some people just can’t seem to understand what it’s like to have bad parents.
I shouldn’t have to explain and give examples for them to judge. I’ll have to keep it to myself in future as it’s too awkward to share with someone who has no idea what it’s like to feel unloved and be treated like rubbish by your own mother.
A You’re right. People can only respond from their own ‘frame of reference’ and what they know.
If they’ve had no experience of toxic parents – either personally or from hearing about the experiences of others – then you might as well be speaking a different language.
They can’t comprehend how toxic parents can twist you in knots, mess with your mind, and cause you to feel that whatever you do, it will never be right or good enough to gain their acceptance or approval.
They have no idea of the struggle to walk a straight line between the chaos and rigidity that toxic parents create. That tightrope of sanity in a crazy-making environment.
I think perhaps the best you/we can do is to be clear about our own perceptions, experiences, needs and decisions. We know the truth of what happened to us.
There is no need to justify or rationalise the irrational behaviour of a toxic parent.
If the topic comes up and someone disagrees with you – and tries to tell you how you ‘should’ think, feel and behave instead – then you could say something like…
“I assume that you don’t have similar experiences to draw upon, and I’m pleased about that for your sake. I don’t expect you to understand my perspective.
All I ask is that you respect my truth and any decision I make about it – which feels not only valid and right, but also vital and necessary for me”.
You’ll probably know for yourself how different it feels to be free to speak with people who have had similar experiences to your own…it’s liberating as well as saddening. We feel an advanced form of empathy from those who have ‘been there’ themselves.
We all need to choose wisely about who to confide in and who to befriend.
If we keep our inner child in mind – and be guided by what they need from us and others – we won’t go far wrong for where we are at the present time in our own journey of healing and transcendence from the wounds inflicted by a toxic parent.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)
www.maxineharley.com Where you will find FREE e-booklets and other free resources designed to help and inform you on your journey of self-knowledge and development.