5 Sad, Underlying Beliefs You May Have If You Were Raised By A Toxic Parent

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If you were raised by a Hijackal™ parent — a difficult or disturbing parent — deep down, you know you’re not fine. You say you are, but you’re not. Maybe you can’t even put your finger on how you know you’re not.

You may not have all five of these deep-down beliefs about yourself, but hopefully, this opens you up to understanding what an awful gift your toxic parents gave you. Why? So you can work it through and replace the mistaken beliefs and recover fully.

Not every mother or father follows parenting advice, and it can end up affecting you negatively later in life. Your brain grows until you are in your mid-20s, but by then, you are on a pat, and you may not even take time to examine it. It’s just what you do, where you’re going, and with whom.

You don’t recognize the impact of all that happened while your brain was developing. 

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Think about this: What was going on in your house before you even had language? Who was there? Were they happy you were? Were they annoyed by your presence?

You were busy experiencing life by putting everything in your mouth, exploring everything you could touch, and trying to make those "giants" — whom you needed to keep you alive — interested and happy.

You smiled, laughed, and made encouraging noises, trying to attract them. That didn’t work. You cried. How did they respond? Lovingly? Happily? Warmly? Or, were they giving you the feeling that you were a nuisance, annoying, and wasting their precious time?

That all makes a big difference in how you feel about yourself now. (Of course, if you’ve already recognized the need to get help and changed this, you’re recognizing all this with a sigh of relief.) Unrecognized, it can ruin your relationships, keep you feeling inadequate, and undermine your success.

Think about the deep, dark, underlying truths about your life today when you were raised by difficult parents. They are the awful gifts you unwillingly — and unwittingly — received from difficult or toxic parents.

Here are five sad, underlying beliefs you may have if you were raised by a toxic parent:

1. You don’t believe anyone can really love you

Even when they say they do and they cross rings of fire for you, you are still suspect. That’s because a difficult parent left you feeling unlovable, never good enough, and broken down.

Oh yes, you may have a tough exterior that makes other people think that you walk on water, but inside, you know that no one will ever really love you. It keeps you from ever having the emotional intimacy you so want.

2. You don’t trust anyone, even though you want to

You really do. And so you seem to. But there is always a nagging question in the back of your mind: "Am I making a mistake? Am I wrong?"

Even though they seem to be telling you the truth, and their behavior seems to follow, you question it. You also will enter into a relationship and want to trust with all your heart. And you do... until the first moment that there is a glimmer of a question:

  • "Where are they?"
  • "Did they lie to me?"
  • "Have they always lied to me?"
  • "Am I a fool?"
  • "I always knew they couldn’t really be trusted."

Those run through your head, right? You don’t want to be wrong. You want to be wise, so you’re always wary. That makes it very difficult to actually trust someone.

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3. You have trouble with intimacy

And I mean real intimacy, the kind that makes you feel close, relaxed, cherished, known, appreciated, loved, and accepted. It goes along with your inability and unwillingness to trust another person fully.

It’s your vigilant wariness. Children of toxic parents learn early on that they have to be vigilant, maybe even hyper-vigilant. They seemed unpredictable. Would you get the smiling one who thought you walked on water or the harsh one who thinks you’re a nuisance? It depended on the hour, so you became very good at people-pleasing.

Over the years, you turned yourself into both a pretzel and a doormat. In fact, you may still be doing that in your current relationships. When you have a difficult parent, you are trained to do that to survive! Intimacy requires the ability to trust. That’s hard for you.

4. You seldom feel safe

Obviously, this goes along with the lack of trust, but it extends to your whole world. If you’re like me, you were abused at home. That happened in the night, all in secret, and it produced opposing feelings simultaneously: you’re scared and you think the person is supposed to love you.

How can you be safe? You tend to live with one eye scanning the world for predators, while the other is trying to enjoy the person or the world in front of you. And, these feelings may have gone far underground.

You don’t realize that they are still way down deep, running the programs of your life. That’s why you need to love yourself enough to get some help. These feelings can keep you from ever experiencing real love, even honest, real love and affection from friends.

RELATED: 'I Just Can't Let Go': How Childhood Trauma Can Affect (Unhealthy) Adult Relationships

5. You are starved for approval that you can believe and accept

A difficult parent is in competition with you. Because that’s true, they will withhold approval from you. Yes, they sometimes give it. But they manage to take it away immediately: "You did a great job with that. I wish you could do that with everything, but that’s hoping for too much."

Withholding approval is a Hijackal tactic! If they approved of you, you’d have an edge. It would somehow make you an equal. No Hijackal parent wants that.

My mother used to say that she couldn’t say anything good about me or I would get a swelled head. What a perfect toxic parent remark! She justified her unwillingness to approve of me immediately. Oh, and her friends bought it, too.

6. You are constantly invalidated

Often, the other parent is silent or agrees to keep the peace. Double whammy! That makes it very difficult for you to ever believe a compliment deep down or to ever believe that a wonderful, healthy, loving, approving person, free of Hijackal games, actually loves you.

So many of my clients have confessed that they actually looked for somewhat nasty people. They are whom they believe they deserve. It's not true!

Does this help you make sense of those deep-down feelings, the ones undermining your self-esteem, self-concept, and self-confidence? Those will also be the ones that damage your relationships with yourself and others.

A toxic parent did that to you. It’s not your fault. And it’s not true. Learn how to replace these underlying beliefs. They are sabotaging you and your relationships. Be free to live an authentic, empowered life now.

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Rhoberta Shaler, Ph.D., is a relationship consultant and educator and the author of sixteen books. She specializes in helping the partners, exes, and adult children of chronically difficult people. 

This article was originally published at For Relationship Help Blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.