Jane's Mental Health Source Page

One of the Web's Oldest Personal Mental Health Sites [Est. 1998]

Toxic Families and Emotional Abuse Questions

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Sometimes I get reader emails about toxic families and emotional abuse related questions. Most of the time these are questions relating to ways of “breaking free” from those psychological chains. I think many of my site visitors can benefit from my answers, and to protect the askers’ identities I will only post my answers. I hope what I share can help you in some way.

How can I accept being born into a Toxic Family?
There is nothing else you need to do about this fact, to accept this reality, because it’s already done, and you’re here. You are only “resisting” the reality that you were born into a toxic family.

[Note: I think often it’s not about us accepting this, but trying not to blame ourselves as if we had something to do with the choices and behaviors that our family members make. We cannot – CANNOT – change other people including family members!]

How can I feel good about myself without my parents’ approval?

With daily practice, and the possibility that you will not always succeed, at least, at the beginning. At the beginning you will feel like 99% of the time you can’t feel good about yourself without their approval, and maybe 1% of the time that day, you experience a momentary respite where you feel valued and worthwhile as a human being.

The secret is not to give up or believe that it will always stay 99%/1%. In time, it may become 90%/10%, then 85%/15% then 75%/25% then 50%/50% then 25%/75%.

In fact I’d say that right now I’m at 1%/99% to 5%/95% depending on my mood or day. But this is a long way from long time ago, when it was 95%/5% to 99%/1% where you may feel that you are now.

How did you do it so successfully?
As I had said above, I am not always 100% successful, and in fact, I fail often. But I fail less than I succeed now, and I consider that “successful”.

[Note: our success is really a sum total of all our little successes and failures – if we succeed MORE OFTEN than we fail, then we are ultimately successful. Remember it’s not about NEVER FAILING! That’s not being human.]

On the feelings of emptiness – or feeling empty/hollow inside

I feel that way too, and for a long time, I keep trying to fill it in some way:

“Should I keep looking for God?” “Should I start another project?” “Should I write that book I keep wanting to write for my mental health source page visitors?”…etc. etc. etc.

The truth is, most people feel “empty” sometimes, in one way or another. If we always felt full, we’d have no need to search, to ask better questions, to seek the truth, and make dreams come true. We’d be in nirvana, and there is then really little need for the human experience.

I may be wrong in this department. Remember, you’re getting this from someone who considers herself FAR from enlightenment, and still quite full of ego 🙂 I can only say that I no longer let that feeling of emptiness ruin my day.

You will come to learn that the emotional traumas of daily life may be real, but you can choose not to give it as big of a “seat” at the table of your house.

Right now look at it this way: you have given your traumatic history the biggest seat at the head of the table – a throne, at that. Your goal is to first demote it to sit at the side of the table, take away that throne and give it a smaller chair, and eventually a stool in the corner of the table, so that it becomes barely noticeable and certainly no longer in the way of your own family’s happy family times.

One strategy I’ve even tried, is to pretend this trauma is a physical form. Then I will sometimes tell it to go to a Starbucks for a few hours and let me alone. If I decide that I get too lonely and want that trauma back, I will go find it.

I hope this gives you some comfort. It’s OK to be a human being. It’s also important to recognize that people closest to us may hurt us, but no one can ever touch that part of you that cannot be truly injured by human ignorance and even malice.

Written by Jane Chin

December 7th, 2010 at 3:28 pm