5 Signs That Your Parents Are Toxic

VD August 08 2021

Familial toxicity is often something that children don't realize until they reach adulthood. It's such a difficult, covert, self-blaming psychological situation that it actively refuses to be exposed - and you often have to grow up to untangle the reality of what happened to you. It is a lonely process, especially because toxic parents will deny that they are toxic parents.

The key to realizing toxic parents is that there are many different types of toxicity, from Judy Garland's pushy stage mother to those who are completely absent. There are several types of toxic parents, ranging from alcoholics to inadequate parents to verbal abusers. Although they come in all colors, some of their effects on children may be the same. Even if you had an alcoholic, messy parent while someone else had one who suffocated them, the two of you are likely to have some things in common. Let’s explore further.

1. Trusting relationships are difficult

If parents, who are supposed to be our primary caregivers, are in some way deficient or unable to provide us with real support, then we find it difficult to create supportive bonds as we grow up. We don't have a healthy view of real, caring relationships and always unconsciously believe that during our lives, we will be treated like our parents treat us.

2. You take rejection and failure very seriously

Do you freak out when you fail a test or your novel is gently rejected by an agent? Children of toxic parents often react very frighteningly to anything that is not an outstanding success.

It is due to the lack of what therapists sometimes refer to as 'substance' - the part of you that is nourished by self-care, that can endure shock or harsh treatment because you have a certain level of belief in your worth. Without it, the slightest knock brings us misery. We are never good enough, we are worthless, we have no real core, and so on.

3. You often have extreme reactions

For example, you may have chosen a nonprofit career to fulfill your dream, but you get inexplicably anxious or angry when someone raises your salary. You have transferred a toxic parent's violent disapproval of how little you might make. These feelings can include guilt, irritation, fear of abandonment, or irrational anger. These reactions are often completely at odds with your conscious choices, and you probably don't even realize that they came from toxic parents.

4. You put your own emotional needs last

Whether you are with a verbally or physically abusive toxic parent, your own emotional life will always come last in the hierarchy of your own family. And that's probably because your emotional decisions will still be determined by what your toxic parents are going to think, rather than what's best for you. You are used to taking a back seat to your own pain, anger, or worries because expressing them always led to problems in the past.

5. You don't feel connected to your true self

Many children of toxic parents find it extremely difficult to realize who they are when they grow up. You spent so much time repressing your real self, from your emotions to your reactions, to deal with your toxic parent's onslaught that you had no chance of paying attention to your own development. 

Children of toxic parents might have academic degrees or executive-level jobs to justify why their toxic parents treated them badly. Many of us still love our parents and have received constant narration about the problem we were facing. It is extremely difficult to move away from this point of view and to understand through guilt and shame that it was not our fault. But it is possible.