Adult children of abusive parents have a whole series of issues that they need to deal with.
Let's be clear about a few things first. 'Abusive parents' can cover a multitude, depending on who you are talking to. In this article I am referring to individual parents who are psychopaths, or narcissists. These people are recognized as being abusive towards others, psychologically, emotionally and physically. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the relationships of these types are categorized as specifically based on coercion and exploitation. They deliberately control and dominate others, with a view to taking advantage of them in all sorts or areas.
They may micromanage their children's lives or they can neglect their children, and everything in the middle. There is no stereotypical abusive parent and this can make it difficult to work out if your parent, or parents, are psychopaths. It requires time and effort, as well as outside opinions, to clarify such things.
I am going to assume here that you already know that your parents are in the abusive category. If you still have doubts, you can browse around this site and learn much more about these people.
So let's dive in to some of the issues that adult children of abusive parents have to deal with.
Abusive parents control the thinking, ideas, beliefs, perceptions, emotions and behaviors of their children. They basically mold the children to be a certain way. Some people say they were 'bent to the will' of their parents.
You know what it's like not to to be allowed to choose or have what you want in many situations. you were told what you were going to accept, how you were to behave, what emotions were allowed, what ideas you could express and what you were expected to believe in.
Basically, all this adds up to the fact that they were forcing a certain personality on you. You usually knew what to think and say and do because you had been given the guidelines for these things by your controlling parents. If they approved, you could do it. If they did not approve, you could not. This means that your own personality was not allowed to flourish and develop. You were not allowed to decide for yourself, you could not have your own wants, needs and desires.
Because of this, many adult children of abusive parents have a sense of not knowing who they really are. They depend on other people to know if they are ok or not.
This false personality that was imposed on you is called a pseudopersonality. It is programmed to be subservient, to believe the manipulator, to take care of the manipulator and to defend the manipulator. It is made to be dependent on the manipulator, too. You are forced to make the abusive parent the center of your universe. Your whole life revolves around making their lives more comfortable, at your own expense.
So with these ideas in mind, what are some of the things that you have to deal with?
The first thing you have to do is to undo the ideas, beliefs and programming that were imposed on you. All those limiting beliefs have to be replaced with something that benefits you rather than the abusive parents. This is done by learning about mind control, psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists.
What exactly was done to you? What techniques were used against you? What effects did these techniques have on your thinking, your self esteem, your emotions and your behaviors? Why were they used against you? What drove the abuser to do what they did?
All these are significant questions that you need detailed answers to in order to make sense of your life at the mercy of the manipulator.
Alongside this, you need to develop your real personality. You need to figure out who you are, what your likes and dislikes are, what interests you, what are your favorite foods, what is your favorite color, what do you like to do, and so on.
Many of the things done to you were abnormal and downright abusive. However, because you were living through them every day of your life you don't recognize how abusive they actually are. For you, these things are part of 'normal', everyday life. For many years you didn't think anything of them. You had learnt to deal with them in one way or another.
For example, you were deliberately put in many double binds. These are damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situations. You are criticized for making your own decisions but then when you learnt not to do that you were made to feel stupid for not being able to make decisions. If you speak up because you are upset by something the abuser says that you are too sensitive. If you don't speak up, you end up suffering in silence. Either way, you lose.
In abusive families, the child is actually terrorized by the people to whom the child would normally go to in order to be comforted. At one and the same time, the child is drawn to their supposed safe haven while being driven away from them out of fear. This sets up a disordered type of bonding in the child, who's needs are never satisfactorily met. It's not surprising that children in such families have difficulty trusting and relating to others later in life.
Abused children also often end up in abusive relationships as adults. The reason is not that they seek out abusers, or people like their parents. This is called 'blaming the victim'. The real reason is the pseudopersonality thing, again. People often think that abused people attract abusers but this is a myth. You can read about the real reason here.
Not only that, but the values and criteria that you use to make new friends have gotten you into trouble as well. Remember, you are programmed not to recognize bad behavior, you are programed to forgive all sorts of things that are actually unforgivable and you are most likely trained to put the wants and needs of others before your own wants and needs. These things often mean that you are not familiar with having relationships with people who are your equal. You probably put yourself down, you put your self second, or even last, and you put yourself out for others. It is imperative that you revise these values in order to be able to establish normal, healthy relationships in the future.
While some people are able to compartmentalize their lives very well, for example, keeping their work life separate from the abusive home life, many people struggle with cognitive functioning while the pseudopersonality is in place. It is very common for the abused person to have difficulty thinking logically. They have been programmed to blindly accept the leader's word, whether this is in a cult or an abusive family.
Outsiders are often surprised at the abused person's complete inability to see that they are being taken advantage of as well as their poor memory of very abusive events.
The good news is that once the individual begins to get rid of the pseudopersonality, memory begins to come back and their logical and critical thinking skills improve a lot.
You will find more details about some of these ideas in the following articles about narcissistic parents, toxic parents and controlling mothers and more information here about dealing with toxic families, setting boundaries with controlling parents, leaving an abusive relationship and recovering from narcissistic abuse.
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If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
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