Even long after you cut ties from toxic family members, the damage tends to linger.
In fact, the hardest struggles are the ones you face every day.
First of all, if you have made the choice to separate yourself from your toxic family members or parents, congratulations. That’s never an easy decision to make. Unfortunately, the hard work has only just begun. It can take many years to fully recover from the emotional and mental damage that was done.
Now, not every single person who was raised by a toxic parent ends up facing the same debilitating struggles, but research does point to evidence that many people do experience similar issues.
A 2014 Brazilian study confirmed that there are more instances of mental health issues in children who come from dysfunctional families. Typically, these issues are caused by either holding things in and never releasing them, or by lashing out in destructive ways. If you were brought up in a toxic family setting then there is no doubt you have had to overcome some pretty serious obstacles. That being said, there are still a few you will have to deal with for the rest of your life…if you don’t find a healthy outlet for your recovery.
There’s never an easy answer when it comes to dealing with these kinds of things, but talking to someone and finding a way to let go of the past is a good place to start. Remember that you are not alone in all of this, and that millions of people are trying to pick up the pieces of their life as well.
Here are 3 struggles every person who was raised in a toxic family environment will face every single day:
1. Difficulty Communicating And Interacting With Others
According to a study from PearsonEducation, adults who grew up in toxic households “frequently reported difficulties in forming and sustaining friendly relationships, keeping a positive self-esteem, struggling in trusting others, distress in control loss, and denying their own feelings and/or reality.” This also shows up in intimate relationships as well.
When you grow up in an environment where your authority figures manipulate feelings, it can be hard to know who to trust and if your feelings are worthy of validation in the first place. Keeping things inside seems like the only option, and those who do decide to try and talk about things usually end up feeling guilty- as if they are burdening others with something trivial.
2. Not Knowing What Love Is
Toxic parents ruin all perceptions of love. As a child, you think that their displays of mental abuse and gaslighting are perfectly normal, and this leads you to seek out equally damaging relationships as an adult. After all, we tend to find comfort in what we know, even if what we know is harmful to our well-being.
Perhaps instead of pushing people away and not allowing anyone to get close, you are one of those who jumps into relationships too quickly. Thanks to your parents’ unpredictable approval, you never knew where your next bit of affection was coming from, so it’s possible you look for it everywhere you can- in relationships this tends to lead to inevitable crashing and burning.
As Dr. Susan Forward writes in her book Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life, “Most adult children of toxic parents grow up feeling tremendous confusion about what love means and how it’s supposed to feel. Their parents did extremely unloving things to them in the name of love. They came to understand love as something chaotic, dramatic, confusing, and often painful — something they had to give up their own dreams and desires for. Obviously, that’s not what love is all about. Loving behavior doesn’t grind you down, keep you off balance, or create feelings of self-hatred.
“Genuine love creates feelings of warmth, pleasure, safety, stability, and inner peace.”
3. Being Overly Critical Of Yourself
Personally, I think this is one of the hardest struggles to overcome. How we talk to ourselves has a real impact on our life, and if there’s one thing that is a constant, it’s our inner voice. It is always with us.
Whether it was the underhanded remarks, backhanded compliments, or little reminders that you weren’t good enough, toxic parents have a way of making you feel like the smallest, most insignificant person on the planet. Never meeting their expectations throughout your childhood makes it impossible for you as an adult to find happiness with yourself. Self-esteem is vital for anyone, and we all need confidence with ourselves is we are ever going to reach our goals.
If you had an emotionally distant family, that might be the reason for the highly critical voice in your head.
As the Journal Of Family Medicine states, “It is families which don’t know how to show love and affection that have self-worth issues. Children learn from their parents that feelings should be repressed (seem uncomfortable opening up to each other). It brings insecure or non-existent attachment, difficulties in child’s identity and self-esteem issues. Emotionally Distant Families may be one of the least obvious dysfunctional family settings.”
What Can You Do?
The most important step for you to take right now is to recognize that you are not the problem. Your past does not have to define who you are today or who you will be tomorrow.
Talk to someone. Author Thaddeus L. Edwards writes in his book Scarred for Life, “In most dysfunctional families, children tend to learn to doubt their own intuition and emotional reactions. Often, outside support provides an objective perspective and much-needed affirmation, which will help you learn to trust your own reactions.”
Edwards makes another good point by mentioning that these things take time to work on and heal. “Negative effects from growing up in dysfunctional families often stem from survival behaviours that were very helpful when you were growing up, but may have become problematic in your adult life. Remember that you spent years learning and practicing your old survival skills, so it may tale a while to learn and practice new behaviours.”
Be patient with yourself. You are doing the best you can, and that’s more than some people are willing to do.