If you have read about the idea of setting boundaries with controlling parents and you think that it will improve your relationship with them, or that it might at least make your life easier, then I have a few questions for you.
How long have your parents been controlling?
Have you tried various things over the years to get them to treat you differently?
Have these attempts worked?
And if your answer is ´"Well, yes, they worked for a time... but then the control kicked in again," that is a 'no'!
So, basically, you have been trying for years to stop them from dominating your life and nothing has worked, but you think if you can just figure out how to set proper boundaries, things will be better.
Your answer is going to be one of three things. It will be a "yes, I have realized that they are", a "I think they might be and I am in the process of figuring it out", or "No, no, no / Don't be ridiculous / Of course they're not, I have known them all my life and they couldn't possible be psychopaths or narcissists!"
Let's look at these things in reverse order.
If you don't believe they could be psychopaths, the next question is 'How do you define a psychopath?' If you answered along the lines of
then you have a problem.
The reason I say that you have a problem is that if you are dealing with a psychopath and don't recognize it, then life is going to be miserable.
Very briefly, these people have no emotions and a huge sense of entitlement. This means that they want things their way, they believe that they are superior beings and they never feel bad for anything they do. Let me say that another way. The lack of emotions means they can do the most horrible things to others and they don't feel bad about it. This is very significant. If you don't deal directly with this, you are going to lose big time.
The other thing is that these people don't play by the usual, polite rules of society. Hence the term, 'antisocial behavior'. To deal with them, you have to play by different guidelines, too. Some of these are:
This last one is very, very, important. They are always right, everyone else is incompetent, anything that goes wrong is always someone else's fault, so they don´t believe that there is any need for them to change at all. The only change they undergo is an improvement in their controlling and manipulative skills over time.
This is why you need to know if you are dealing with a psychopath or not. Hoping and wishing that some day they will suddenly realize what a good person you are and give you credit for it is a losing strategy.
Now that you know that you are dealing with parents with a personality disorder, how do you set boundaries?
We have already established that they are not going to change their behavior. You will already have had the experience of asking them to stop doing something and they either justify why they do it, blame you for having to do it or say that, sure, they will change, only to stop doing it for a brief period and then resuming the nasty behavior again.
The only way to stop the abuse is to not be with them, to limit contact with them. If you are not in contact with them, they cannot abuse you.
Of course, with people like this, it's often not that simple.
They will continue to try and contact you. They will guilt you into continuing the conversation with them. They will use money, the grandkids, the fact that they are your parents, any business or property connections and so on to harass you. They will even have other family members, neighbours and other acquaintances contact you to pressure you into getting back in touch.
The fact is that, up to now, they have been so much better at totally destroying your boundaries than you have been at putting them in place.
So, what then? Well, in order to get them out of your head and out of your life and take control of things for yourself, you need to get rid of the pseudopersonality that they imposed on you. They have been controlling your perceptions, your ideas, your beliefs, your thoughts, your decisions, your emotions and your behaviors since before you knew you could make decisions. In other words, they did not allow your real personality to develop, they imposed a false personality on you. They molded you to be the type of person they wanted you to be. In fact, they are still doing it now, that's what all their controlling behavior is about.
That may sound a bit technical. You can read more about pseudopersonalities here and about the dynamics of how they are created in these articles about narcissistic boyfriends and narcissistic husbands. Obviously in the case of children the initial set up is somewhat different to intimate relationships, for obvious reasons.
The trick to getting away from the control is to understand the subtleties of mind control and manipulation. When you learn about the tactics used against you, and why those tactics were used with you and what effect they had in the moment, the effects of these tactics disappears and you are no longer held captive by the manipulators.
At this point it becomes so much easier to decide how much contact you want with them. Sure, they are your parents, society says you should treat your parents in a certain way and so on, but these people have been abusing you all your life. That is what you need to deal with. Without all the conditioning, you get to choose for yourself how much time you are willing to spend with them.
Keep in mind, at this stage, you will be able to see whatever tactic they are using in real time, it will not affect you in the same way at all. You will not get sucked into the emotions but rather you will be able to maintain mental distance and not be influenced in your own decision making. At this point you will know that you are truly setting boundaries with controlling parents and they are no longer a major influence in your life.
This particular recovery path is not always pleasant and at times is difficult, but it's absolutely worth it!
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
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.
You have the theory but how do you actually apply it? This book spells it out...
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