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Blaming Your Parents Hurts You Most

Worried woman in waiting room
 

Some people come to therapy full of negativity and anger toward parents whom they hold responsible for the way they feel and the lives they live. For example, they might explain their difficulties in relationships by referring to a parent’s emotional coldness, criticalness, or divorce. Or they will fault a parent’s lack of encouragement and involvement when they were growing up for their failure to do well academically or professionally. Blaming parents for their struggles keeps these people stuck in angry, anxious, and depressed feelings, and interferes with their ability to think about what they could do to make their lives different.

“Gloria” came to her first therapy session with me and immediately began to talk. Sounding irritated, she explained, “I’m here because I can’t take it anymore. I hate my life. I’m either angry or depressed. I’m 29 years old and I haven’t been in a relationship for more than three months. I can’t seem to keep my jobs for much more than a year. For nine months, I’ve been working as an assistant in a recruiting firm where I answer phones and type résumés. I know I’m smarter than that, but I don’t know what else I want to do. I seem to go from one dead-end job to another. I’m such a loser.” Then Gloria sobbed, “I am just so stuck.”

Gloria began therapy. She typically entered my office with heaviness and depression, and talked about how miserable her life was and how hopeless she felt. She believed that nothing could change. When I asked her why, she thought she was stuck in this awful place, her lethargic demeanor changed to anger, and her voice turned strong.

“How could I change?” she said. “It’s all about my childhood. My parents separated when I was 5. My father left the house and I rarely saw him. Sometimes he would take me for a weekend, but I never believed he really wanted to. He met this woman, Fran, and all he ever talked about was her. They got married when I was 7, and then he moved to another state. I would visit them three or four times a year. She had two daughters. I could see how much he loved Fran. He never looked at me like that. He would criticize how I dressed and compare me to my stepsisters. I hated them. I could never get anything right, and they were so pretty and perfect, and I could see they were the children he wanted. When I would go home to my mother and complain, she would hardly listen. She never seemed very interested in me, either. She had a big, important job, and as I grew up, I didn’t see so much of her. She never got very involved in anything I did. She would even get nasty and critical if I told her about something good that happened. I remember when I told her that I had been asked to run for class secretary in middle school. She laughed at me and said, ‘You’ll never get elected, so you shouldn’t run. You’re just not popular enough.’ I believed everything she said about me, so I didn’t run. By middle school she had a serious boyfriend and she was always with him and never had time for me. I never thought I was good enough for much. When I think about it now, I can see my mother was really into herself and I think she was competitive with me. I don’t think she wanted me to succeed or dress well or have boyfriends. I guess she is still getting her way.”

The more I learned about Gloria’s childhood, the more I could understand why it was so difficult for her to have positive feelings about herself and to believe that if she worked at something, she could succeed. She consistently assumed people’s responses toward her would be negative personally and professionally. While her expectations were understandable in light of her childhood experiences, she was able, when pushed, to come up with memories of positive relationships, work experiences, and even good feelings about herself. Nevertheless, these exceptions to what she anticipated did not go very far in allowing her to step back and consider that she was not (in her words) “doomed to fail.”

It became clear to me that Gloria was stuck in blaming her parents for how she saw herself and how her life turned out. What made it so hard for her to move on? Was there some risk in letting go of her anger? Was there a downside to not living up to what she saw as her parents’ view of her? Was there something positive in it for her to blame her parents? These were the questions that occurred to me as I listened to Gloria, who presented herself repeatedly as a victim who would always be at the mercy of the impact of her past treatment by her parents.

I began to raise these questions to Gloria, who became curious about them. She began to consider the risks of letting go of her anger and blame. She talked about worrying that she would be letting her parents “off the hook” if she stopped blaming them or being angry. “They know how I feel and I like to think I make them feel guilty,” she said. “When I was a kid, they never seemed to expect me to amount to much. They’ve gotten what they wanted, but I do think I’ve managed to finally make an impact. I think I’ve succeeded in making them feel guilty. If my life got better, maybe they wouldn’t feel so bad or guilty. I feel bad and I want them to feel bad.”

At first, when Gloria continued to talk about her desire to hurt her parents, she smiled and said, “Now that I understand that this is what I’m doing, I have to say that revenge is sweet.” She would also get angry in our sessions and acknowledge that this new awareness created a real conflict for her. “Rationally, I get that it’s me,” she said. “I can see that I think my parents are responsible for my being a failure. They made me this way, so I’ll be the loser they created. I want to hurt them. I guess I could work on getting the life I’m always moaning that I’ve never had, and I know that would be the best thing for me. But I just don’t want to give them any good stuff.”

As we continue to talk about this conflict, which creates great anguish for Gloria, she has not been able to choose to work on giving up her anger and blame. However, she is considerably less attached to viewing her life through the lens of doom and failure caused by her parents. She has begun to take some steps to get more for herself. She has gotten a promotion to recruiter, and has made a placement that will double her income this year. She has also enrolled in a management class at a local college. We’ve even begun to talk about online dating. As Gloria continues to work in therapy, I believe she will achieve more for herself and gradually be able to see her identity in a new way and identify less and less as a victim. As she allows herself to experience the satisfactions of success, I am hopeful that the pleasure of revenge will be less gratifying.

My work with Gloria is just one illustration of the ways in which blaming your parents can keep you stuck. There is a terrible paradox in these situations: You are angry and blame your parents’ treatment of you growing up for your unhappiness and failures in your adult life. But the wish for revenge and these angry, blaming feelings keep the connection and repeat the relationship between your “bad parents” and you, the unsuccessful, unhappy child. As a result, you are stuck in the position where you cannot become the person you say you wish to be or create the life you say you desire.

© Copyright 2013 by Beverly Amsel, PhD, therapist in New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments
  • deandra March 11th, 2013 at 9:29 AM #1

    i used to be just like that girl who is in this paper. me and her were a lot alike. then one day my grandma said. deandra why do you always blame your mama. for everything? i told her i didn’t know and me and her talked about it a real long time. she told me all about her struggles growing up and how she always blamed her daddy. for everything too. it really helped me see how i was messing up and how i was the only one who could control what was going on right then. she said jesus would want me to forgive my mama so i did. it made such a big difference for me i was able to have the life i always dreamed about once i could see my choices were mine to make and mine to mess up or not. i sure hope this girl will understand this and make a good life for herself.

  • Jena March 11th, 2013 at 9:31 AM #2

    It is so hard to admit you are getting something out of being miserable. But, the only way you’ll stop being miserable is by stopping the process of allowing yourself to be the victim all the time. Giving up the victim role can be empowering in the end, but it really isn’t any fun at all at first. It really means that you have to take responsibility over the decisions you have made and are currently making. But, we all know that people don’t do things unless they are getting something out of it.

  • Iona March 11th, 2013 at 9:32 AM #3

    You sound like a really good therapist. Keep up the good work!

  • jeda March 11th, 2013 at 9:35 AM #4

    gloria sounds like a really smart person. she was even smart enough to now she needed therapy. everybody ain’t like that.
    i wish i could be that smart i have alot of problems but i am scared to go to therapy i know you have to be honest with your therapist in order to get better
    but there are alot of things i cant be honest about cuz i could get in alot of trouble so what am i supposed to do?
    how am i supposed to get better and start acting rite if i cant be honest with a therapist

  • Mama Bear March 11th, 2013 at 9:38 AM #5

    Blaming your parents for your problems will get you nowhere, it is so true. I used to do that. YOu know when I stopped? When I had two kids of my own. I realized that even though my mom and dad weren’t perfect, they probably did the absolute best they could. Sure they may not have spent the quality time with me I would have liked, but they gave me all of themselves that they could. Sometimes we forget that our parents are people, too. They have their own baggage created by their own childhoods and really are just doing the best they can with what they’ve been given. So, lighten up on the parents! I can only imagine what my kids will tell their therapists…until they have children of their own, that is.

  • Hannah March 11th, 2013 at 3:12 PM #6

    Yeah, I think that the time to stop blaming your parents for everything comes about the time when you are old enough to realize that you have to take some ownership of the things in your life too but are just unwilling to make that step.
    I would hate to think that I was a senior citizen still complaining about all of the things my mom and dad did or did not do and blaming them for all the things that were still happening to me. But you see this all the time.

  • U.L.H March 11th, 2013 at 11:28 PM #7

    Parents can have a big influence in our lives. And their actions can bring in new turns in our lives too. No doubt. But how much we let others’ actions affect us depends on nobody else but us!

    There is always ways to counter any negative affect that others’ actions have on us. Blaming is no solutions. A better way would be to see and assess how that has affected us in the past and in the present and doing something to rectify it.

  • ROD March 12th, 2013 at 4:03 AM #8

    if you are always going around blaming your parents then you are never owning up to your part
    there comes a time when you have to put your grown up pants on and determine that you have to make your own way in life
    regardless of what happened to you when you were young
    you have to move past all of that and create a life of your own that is free of that

  • Anonymous March 12th, 2013 at 12:27 PM #9

    How about those parents who are overslly controlling and don’t allow you to take your own decisions?
    How to deal with them?
    Yes, i dont want to blame my parents for my failures but they dont give a charge of my life to my hands.. What to do except to blame them?

  • Corps86 March 13th, 2013 at 10:50 AM #10

    There r parents who do deserve blame. The ones who torture, abuse, ect…A person has the right to blame them until or if a person can reach a point of forgiveness. Blaming parents who caused damage can’t do more damage the damage is already done

  • Brian May 13th, 2013 at 3:14 AM #11

    I agree with the last comment. If a parent is abusive in any way or it feels weird with them you don’t have to stay in relationship with them AND move on at the same time. It isn’t an “either or” here. You can do both. Say no to the parents and their bullshit and if it doesn’t stop block them out while moving on with your life and finding ways to live your dream and support yourself.

    It isn’t cookie cutter. For some forgiveness could come and for others forgiveness without real remorse from the parents would just be a bypass.

    I don’t like new age or things that bypass real feelings and you can’t just will forgiveness. It usually comes when someone apologizes for real with remorse that you can feel from the person who hurt you. It usually dissolves into forgiveness that moment when you can really feel it.

  • Enigma June 26th, 2013 at 6:36 PM #12

    Anonymous … If you are living your life, paying your bills, self-sufficient … the answer is easy.

    If you are “dependent” on your parents (monetarily, living arrangements, vehicles, etc.) that’s on you. If you put in place healthy boundaries and are taking care of your own business, it gets much easier.

  • Saba July 20th, 2013 at 8:44 AM #13

    I still blame my parents for alot of things, on a daily basis. I don’t do it so much verbally, but definitely mentally. I agree with Rod, that one day you have got to put your grown up pants on, as taking responsibility for your own decisions is one of the characteristics of an adult.
    I also agree with Mama Bear, in that remembering that your parents were probably trying to do their best, and probably trying to cope with their own baggage as well, whilst they were raising you, helps you get some relief from these powerful feelings of sadness, and inadequacy, that some of us torture ourselves with, throughout the day, on a daily basis. s: There’s a good quote I heard, out of all places, from this tv show that’s on here in Australia, where one character says when trying to help another character, ‘Look, you can either be right, or you can be happy.’ I think that sums up the problem all of us here have, with the treatment we’ve recieved from our parents. Yes, they may have abused us, in some shape or form, and yes, we want our parents, and the other people around us, to feel our pain, for other people to acknowledge our pain, and say to us that, ‘Yes, that’s not fair, what they did to you. It hurts. It shouldn’t have happened to you.’ And so we absolutely hold on to this victim mentality. So even though we may be right, we are definitely not making ourselves less unhappy, by doing this to ourselves. Gloria, I hear you. And to everyone else in the comments, I hear you, too. But- we have to do some good things in our lives, whether that’s painting, listening to, or learning to play music, drawing, having a positive relationship, cross-stiching, claywork, cooking, dancing, reading, laughing, writing, studying, going to the beach, or to the park, meeting up with friends, gardening, planting a tree to help a depleted forest regrow, or doing good deeds for others who are suffering more than ourselves, or for our family members, like helping with the dishes, learning a new language – the list of possibilities for good, healing, soothing, therapeutic, things that we can do in the world, and that can happen to us, in return, are actually limitless, folks. So although the pain of holding onto the victim mentality feels vindicating in a way, we should just try to do things that make us happy. :) As the excellent psychologist on this site has written, she, and I’m paraphrasing this, she ‘hoped that the satisfaction that Gloria had started to experience from her successes, once she left the pain alone, and started to open herself up, the pain reduced automatically anyway, and that the taste of these successes became far more enjoyable than any vindication she recieved from any from her victim feelings.’ I really hope that me, Gloria, and the commenters, can detach ourselves from holding onto our pain, and can create a good life for ourselves. :) I wish peace, love, contentment, light, satisfaction, laughter, feelings of adequacy, and fulfillment, in our lives. :) Good Luck, everybody. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. :) Love, Saba from Sydney. :)

  • Logan August 23rd, 2013 at 3:20 PM #14

    When I was young my parent hurted me when I said please stop 5 times they hurt me so bad I lost power and dreams they broke my dreams I wanted to happen. Destroy my toy I love.they never even make birthday party’s for me every year I lived a sad painful and no great times in the old times. Don’t do it to your children you may go to jail for 25 years don’t let it happen I agree that children should blame parents for there anger

  • Marie August 25th, 2013 at 10:27 PM #15

    Wow. This is just Mind blowing. My daughter has blamed me her entire life for her unhappiness. I have always thought she must be Bi-Polar, as she has always mistreated me, from a small child with little respect, and hatred, that has continued for all of her childhood, and into her adulthood. She will be 32 in less than 30 days.

    I will say that she has not had the best advantages in her life, but has blamed me for everything. I think we have had a very Co-Dependent relationship, in which we have continually tried to rescue, and save each other from lives trauma’s, only to find that nothing ever really changes in the long run,and that we are both still just Miserable. She has ruined my potential relationships with Verbal, and Physical abuse, which has made it impossible for me to succeed in any way.

    This madness just has to end, as now I am approaching 55, single, and pretty much struggling to survive. She has used me, stolen from me, and has demoralized me, time and time again. She has physically knocked me down, abandoned me in Las Vegas, stealing my car, and left me at casinos when I had no way to return home safely, with little remorse.

    She always brings up my past, and my single life when I was divorced, and made me feel like a whore. Funny, I look like a Nun when I compare myself to her. She meets men, stays with them for weeks, and after they are done with her, she reaches out to me with complete desperation for help, and rescue.

  • GoodTherapy.org Support August 26th, 2013 at 10:53 AM #16

    Thanks for sharing your story, Marie! You can connect with other individuals who may be able to relate to your story on our forums here: http://www.goodtherapy.org/forum/index.php

  • baby bear September 12th, 2013 at 2:44 AM #17

    I had this realization about a year ago… I’m twenty-five. And yet I still won’t let it go. It’s exhausting, and ruining my mental state. But these feelings of intense anger just keep creeping in, daily, hourly sometimes. I’ve tried to escape them with drugs and alcohol, I’ve tried to deny them and tell myself that they did the best they could, but deep down I still feel that they had no right to bring me into the world. I still keep in touch with them even though I feel they have no right to a relationship with me. I’m no longer their dependant, but I still bend to their wishes because I fear losing the respect of and contact with my extended family if I sever the ties of contact. The idea of standing up to them is absolutely terrifying to me because I am fairly certain it would elicit an emotional response, and yes, it would hurt their feelings because they did sacrifice a great deal for me. But in the end, I never asked for any of it. In the end, because of genetics and patriarchy and heaven knows what else I’m a mentally unstable young woman who tends to have unwelcome and obsessive thoughts of suicide and self-harm, and equally unwelcome bouts of risky, impulsive behavior. I’d love to have a kid and say, “oh, now I understand,” but I truly believe I’m unfit to be a parent. Maybe that’s what hurts the most.

  • Beverly Amsel, PhD September 12th, 2013 at 5:10 PM #18

    Hi Baby bear

    You are clearly struggling with a lot of feelings and conflicts in relation to your family.You don’t have to be trapped by genetics and patriarchy. I think it is very important that you find someone to talk to so you can find a way to move on and have a good life for yourself.

  • LeetheGirl October 4th, 2013 at 2:25 PM #19

    This is an issue that I have. I often feel like I am an underachiever and inadequate and that other people must feel negatively towards me for any given reason. And, worst, that no one cares about me. I act nonchalant a lot of the time when I am honestly worried about what others think of me.

    I blame my mother for this a lot. And I also blame my father a bit for not standing up to her.

    My mother is very bossy and controlling. She victimized my father, my siblings, and myself by belittling us, yelling at us, hitting us, screaming, you name it. She acted harshly towards anything she viewed as different or strange.

    And so I, being awkward and having a hard time making friends since kindergarden, was a prime target for her. And her humiliating me over having no friends, calling me horrible names when I did
    something “wrong”, swearing at me and yelling at me to put me in my place has, I feel, made me an emotional wreck.

    I realize, of course, that only I can change my viewpoint in the long run. But I think what will help would be my mother’s admittance to her treatment of me. And, most of all, an apology. Which is something I doubt will ever happen.

    I don’t want to feel this hatred towards my mom so often. I know she actually does love all of us, she has done a lot of good for us. But I’ve brought this all up with her in the past and her denial of what she did, or claiming she has ‘forgotten’ makes me feel even more anger.

  • Sandra January 19th, 2014 at 6:42 PM #20

    I was not a great mother. My daughter suffered from my overworking, my dating, and a father who was verbally and physically abusive. For the past 2 decades I have done all I can to make up for it. We got along great for awhile and she forgave me. I was so grateful. Then she made some decisions in her life which did not pan out well for her. She also chose some men to date who hurt her a great deal. That’s when the blame game came into full swing. I fell for it out of guilt and began paying her way for a lot of things. When I saw that our relationship was only getting worse, I gradually cut the flow of money and then the verbal abuse started from her. It hurt a great deal but I told myself she’s just having a tantrum because things are changing. Five years of disrespectful behavior from her and she didn’t get the results she wanted (me to grovel and give her money). She then did the cruelest thing a mother can experience. She cut off all ties with me and said I had ruined her whole life. My parents consoled me (she is not in touch with them either) and told me to hang tough, that she just needs to grow up. I’m working to stay strong but it’s been over a year now with no contact. I see a lot of parents hurting online due to estranged adult children. It seems epidemic and I think that they are being misled to believe this is a good answer. My daughter and I have both been cheated out of a lot of good times because of her stubborn demand that everything go her way or no way at all. I hope she can work through this and come back to me but she is 41 years old and I have come to accept that she would rather be selfish and “right” in her mind than to have a better life with her loved ones.

  • Monkeysmom February 12th, 2014 at 12:45 PM #21

    I don’t blame my mom so much. But I do know my childhood experiences shaped how I think and how I make decisions. There are things she did that I will never forgive her for because of a deep belief I had in her that she destroyed in a matter of months when I was 12. My mom wasn’t abusive or really neglectful. She is selfish and made bad decisions. I hate to say it, but my mom is not a very smart person. But I also know her childhood and she always felt unwanted and unloved. She literally did the best she could and I can’t fault her for that. I fault her for lying to me because that was something she could have helped. I fault her for relying on me for emotional support when I was growing up. I fault her for saying and doing things (mostly to or about others) and not caring how they affected me. I grew up believing (and still do) that I am judged by others because of her, I am a reflection of her. The way people see her, is the way they see me. I have worked very hard to overcome this (mostly my separating myself from her), but recently I have been reminded of it and I have I realized it’s the reason my ex-husband treated me like he did. He became very controlling in how the house appeared, how I appeared to others. It was all very subtle and most people never realized what was going on. I didn’t really realize what was going on until I finally had enough and left. The point is I don’t so much blame my mother because I know she did the best she could. I just wish she would have learned to keep some very hurtful things about others to herself, because I am tired of taking the fall for it. I do struggle with the perception of people judging me, especially after they meet my mother (who I rarely introduce to people I know). I struggle with people treating me as if I have nothing to really contribute to work, relationships, etc. Most of it is a perception and I know this, but at the same time the same situation keeps coming up. I try different approaches and yet I still am left behind or feeling I am not important enough to even be considered a person of any value. I have a few very close friends who understand this & do what they can to help, but it seems to me that eventually it gets turned back to them & I am supporting them. That is what I struggle with, I am always other people’s rock, yet I can’t find a rock when I need one. Tired of being “strong”, tired of working hard and no one really caring about how much effort I put into it, or when I ask for help, I don’t get it. Most of the time I feel like people just push me aside and think ‘she is fine, she is strong’. There is a little girl crying in this strong woman. I guess that is what I blame my mom for..

  • Chris Laforest March 8th, 2014 at 7:35 PM #22

    First of all, lets get it out of the way – yes I think there is value in a concentration on the future as opposed to the past, and of releasing those who have harmed you.

    But what is so key in that understanding – what is, in fact, the whole point of forgiveness – is the fact that you let them go for good. To say that you’ve forgiven your parents, when they haven’t made any personal effect to apologize for the wrong they might have done you, but then that you continue to have a relationship with them is to entirely miss the point of forgiveness – I think.

    The fact of the matter is, emotions are the human way of experiencing and understanding the world and, most importantly, our relationships. When you are feeling angry, your intuition is telling you something valuable. So I am pretty tired of seeing this mantra repeated that feeling angry and betrayed by your parents after realizing the true nature of your childhood is somehow unhealthy. It is incredibly important to get this. Emotions can never be incorrect. Emotions are simply fundamental reactions to base stimuli. The only thing that can be wrong, in terms of our emotions, is our interpretations of them; why are we really feeling angry? Who is at fault?

    Writing off emotions because they, as a symptom, bring about undesirable feelings is an incredibly self-destructive mistake. Emotions are only a symptom of the actions of other people towards ourselves. We have absolutely no control over what emotions we feel if someone does something that causes us pain.

    Because emotions are symptoms – and signals – it would be a huge mistake to treat them as the cause of our issues themselves. No, the cause of our issues are the people who hurt us, and the long repressed feelings and incredibly crippled ability to sympathize with our own emotional experience which resulted from being hurt is our signal from our true self to deal with the original pain. Treating these symptoms directly can only paper over what we believe – falsely – to be the problem. Inevitably, the emotional pains will surface elsewhere because our soul is constantly trying to get us to go back and feel the pain that we have been forced to repress and hide and pretend doesn’t exist.

    I think that clears that up pretty well. Negative emotions are not the CAUSE of our disturbances – they are merely the baseline communicators of the real causes which lie, usually repressed or otherwise ignored, in our historical psyche. To continue relating with people who claimed to love you but who hurt you – when they haven’t gone to great lengths to apologize for what they did in making you as dysfunctional as you are – is nothing but self-destructive and basically to, de facto, blame yourself for all of the negative emotions you are feeling. The key is that someone has to take the blame for the pain. If it isn’t the person who hurt you – and we know it isn’t any fun to tell your parents (who may not have been nearly as bad as the average) that you now understand that they hurt you and that you have that much less respect for them for it now that you are an adult and you realize how they treated you even in the situation of complete dependence to them that you were in – then you must, necessarily, blame yourself for that pain. This popular notion of “forgiveness” is basically the idea that nobody has to take responsibility for doing harm. But the fact of the matter is that, while we may be able to empathize, in an abstract sense, with the situation our parents were in – be it through their own parenting or their peers at the time, our personal experience cannot be understood through the abstract.

    Now, I have to reply to Marie, and my comments will also apply to many other sentiments in here with which I strongly disagree. It is truly disturbing to see the way in which Marie interprets her relationship with her child. She describes herself as being on equal footing with her daughter emotionally – bouncing off of each other in terms of their similar dysfunctions (dating crappy guys, etc.)

    Now, I could go on with the specific things that Marie talks about and relate it to the point I’m going to make – that which I think is the clincher in this whole “debate”. But it’s pretty simple, and I don’t want to come off as deliberately trying to hurt people; because I just want to help them understand what is actually going on. I will make my point, and you can apply it yourself and see if you think it makes any sense.

    The parent-child relationship is not equal; like the partner-partner relationship, or the employee-employer relationship, or indeed any other relationship. The child makes no positive choice to be born, or to be born to the parents they get. They have no choice regarding what kind of people their parents are going to be, and they can’t leave – especially not in the most formative years (90% of emotional brain development in the first 4-5 years). In fact, in those most formative years, the concept of leaving would not only be an impossibility in the mind of the child – who considers the loss of their mother’s love (and by mother I mean the main caretaker parent) as real death, they really don’t know the difference. It wouldn’t ever occur to them because, of course, they don’t yet have the capacity for such complex concept understanding. What I am describing is the incredible power disparity in the parent-child relationship; in terms of physical power, emotional power, experience, and most importantly, the fact that parents have about 99% of the choice involved in the process of “having a baby”, while the child has absolutely 0. The other 1 percent is a courtesy for the parents who didn’t want to have kids. But let’s be honest, the capacity for young adults to understand that having sex can result in pregnancy FAR SURPASSES the capacity for an unborn child to choose not to be born.

    So why am I going on about the real nature of the parent-child relationship? Well, when we read posts like Marie’s here, we get a completely different set of claims about that relationship. Marie goes on in detail about the various character flaws that her daughter has, but skips completely over any responsibility she might have for creating those character flaws in her, and skips right over to feeling hurt by the fact that her daughter is blaming her. Absolutely no curiosity. And what’s worse is that she is claiming to be making this post and these comments in the interest of her daughter – in whose best interest it would allegedly be to stop blaming her mother for her disturbances.

    Well, isn’t it pretty clear that her habits and addictions are identical to her mothers?

    So again, if we try really hard to consider the definition of the parent-child relationship that I gave before and compare it to Marie’s relationship with her daughter and her interpretation of it, do we not find that there is a huge disconnect? I can’t say I really care what the end goal is, it is all to clear that Marie is using this blog post as a shield – though I’ve already explained that it isn’t actually a functioning shield – against her daughter’s completely legitimate claims against her.

    I have to say that I do not believe you, Marie, when you say that you have tried appeasing your daughters desire for closure in accepting the blame, and so that you’ve realized that the answer isn’t for parents to be blamed. The reason I don’t believe you is that you consistently refer to your relationship – from since she was just a toddler – as one sided against you. You make it sound like you did everything you could but that she was just impossible to deal with. You explain it as though she wanted to hurt you for no reason.

    I know that you can’t have ever really apologized to her for the harm you did her, that for which she now blames you, because – in every way you describe your relationship – you see yourself as the victim and her as the aggressor.

    When you have described a grown woman as a victim, and a helpless young child – whom that grown woman was responsible for bringing to life – as an aggressor; I’m sorry but I just don’t see how anybody could or should take you seriously.

    That’s why I can’t just move on with this forgiveness crap. In order to deal with the consequences of trauma, you first have to admit that there has been trauma. When you do admit that, it becomes obvious that someone actively did it to you, and that that someone now wishes to be a part of your life in a big way.

    So if they get hostile, or scornful, or claim that you are being insensitive when you bring up the fact that you have concerns over the way you were raised; these aren’t people you want to hang around with anymore and to continue to do so is only to reinforce your emotional disturbance – which is that you were forced, as a child, to suppress or completely ignore your own feelings for the sake of filling an emotional void in your parents that you didn’t create. If you continue in such a relationship without their full changed devotion, you recreate your crippled self-esteem by concentrating on showing sympathy for their situation – for which the other side of the coin is ignoring your own feelings.

  • Concerned March 16th, 2014 at 12:47 PM #23

    Hello all, I’m a concerned parent that has 2 children who are now 25 and 21. My spouse and I are very concerned about our youngest, I’m sure we weren’t perfect parents and we could have done some things differently. Both were raised in the same way but were so different from each other from the very beginning. The oldest was a happier child that seem to make friends easily, the other seem unhappy from a very young age, although he was very intelligent he never did well in school. He had trouble concentrating and staying focused on any task, and because of it he would disrupt his class mates and the teacher would single him out and usually send him out of class. I think the other kids would tease him and bully him because of it. At first we thought his problems in school were behavioral but he was a good sweet kid at home. At a loss of what else to do we put him in a different school for his last couple years of preschool, although we found his new teachers better equipped he still seemed to have trouble focussing on tasks which continued through high school. We always new he was a special child, so intelligent! We aren’t stupid but never considered ourselves to have that level of intelligence. We have always been very proud of both our children but now our youngest child blame us for his feelings of depression. He is very analitica about every thing he takes interest in, I think to the extent of being obsessive and compulsive. He says that we weren’t terrible parents but something we did or didn’t do as parents has caused him to feel this way. He thinks he’s repressing something terrible that we did to him as a child. We tell him that we weren’t perfect but we did do the best we knew how at the time.
    He was loved, and was never abused in any way. I and some of my siblings have dealt with depression through our live’s and some of my parents siblings have dealt with depression and other mental illness’s. Is it possible that my son’s depression is due to hereditary reasons? Or did we do something wrong however small raising him that would cause him to feel depressed.

  • hard to be a parent March 28th, 2014 at 1:18 PM #24

    Interesting article. My daughter is 25 and blames me alot for her life not being where she wants it to be. I didn’t do this enough, I didn’t do that enough. I listen and try to support her, but also understand she needs to get help to work through this properly or she will be like one of my sisters who is now in her early 50′s and still is living out her childhood unhappiness. We were talking on the phone in the past 30 minutes about it and she had to go and has just texted me asking if we can talk about it later. I told her definitely yes, and we will. But blame doesn’t help – she needs to work through this so she can be happy in her own skin.

  • buddy April 3rd, 2014 at 7:35 PM #25

    From the beginning I was without a dad I always got beat 3-6 I did sports and everything was left out a lot by family always got in trouble met nathan my step dad bought us everything always took care of us through the hard times but I feel like he changed my personality because of the way he treated me I feel like gaming unconditionally didn’t help and having friends kinda but I never had anyone or felt like it that I could talk to now im 20 and I cant think of anything I lost interest in sports shortly after meeting him lost touch with friends by moving back and forth I don’t feel like I ever cared about anything I don’t really have feelings but I cry because I cant get my life together I make myself thinking about bad experience I remember experience but I can’t think of anything I really can’t remember alot im just negative I don’t really think of anyone else how do I change when I dont know what to think and its hard to cate

  • Beverly Amsel, PhD April 5th, 2014 at 11:41 AM #26

    I’d like to reply to Buddy. First, thank you for responding to my post. I hope this is a step in seeking help to get your life together. The best way I know to move forward in your life and get to know who you are ans what you think is to find a therapist to talk to. Even if you don’t believe this will help, I urge you to do it anyway. You can check the listings at goodtherapy.org for a therapist in your area or contact your local mental health association. I believe very strongly in the power of talking and I sincerely wish that you follow up on my suggestion.

  • Tammy April 6th, 2014 at 6:53 AM #27

    My 38 year old son has been unemployed for 6 months, is bi-polar, gay, and in a relationship. He does not live near me and has issues with substance abuse in his past-not sure about the present. Recently he let loose with a diatribe of blame for all that is lacking in his life. I know he needs to change his focus and wear the man pants, get a job, take care of his health needs, and deal with his present situation so his future will be a positive one. How do I have this conversation with him while not alienating him? He does not take criticism well. He has cut us off before. His father is dead and they were not speaking so he got no closure there. I am remarried with an 11 year old. He does not like my husband. I would very much appreciate some advice and direction. How do you move an adult child into the future when they are so wrapped up in the problems of the past?

  • Leonor Pereira April 12th, 2014 at 3:26 AM #28

    To Chris Laforest – thank you for a very insightful, well written response. I am learning to take “expert’s views” with a pinch of salt these days, as so often their work clearly is not helping their clients, and totally off the mark. Of course, in order to overcome trauma, and function in the world, we have to find a way to move on. And some how, we do so – with or without years of “expert counselling”. But suggesting that we somehow forget and move on without any acknowledgement of wrong doing, and expect that to have no impact on our psyche, or to remain with those with those who cause us pain is indeed dysfunctional. And as parents, whether we like it or not, we elected to bring human beings into this world and we are entirely responsible for providing them with a foundation on which to build the rest of their lives. A foundation that will shape their relationships, their inter-action with both their internal and external world, and we must acknowledge this too – a foundation with how the next generation – grandchildren, will flourish, or not. There is enough evidence out there to show how fundamental our influence as parents is to future generations. It does not end with our children folks, I wish people would consider that. Stop making excuses for bad and self-centred parenting. This is the information age and you are not living under a tree. Take responsiblity.

  • Leana Lyden April 12th, 2014 at 9:27 AM #29

    Im 15 years old… I constantly find myself crying and angry because of my mom. I always say i hate her because i feel like age never supports me or loves me. I dont try to talk to her so she yells at me for example: her: You need to clean the dishes do them RIGHT NOW i dont want to hear it!!!! Me: What are you talking about? i didnt even say anything. You always call my name to do everything you never call anyone else ive done the dishes 4years in a row and havent missed a day im the only one that cleans and you dont even clean cause im the only one that does! her: SHUT YOUR MOUTH!! If i hear it again im gonna punch your face! So i just walk off into my room then she comes breaking my door and screaming at me. I barely want to talk to her because everything she has to say just turns into an argument. Ive gained alot of weight and i dont know why but she has to keep yelling at me saying “You sleep too much, you dont care about anyone but yourself thats why youre gaining weight your fat and stupid do you even go to class? Then why arent you smart?” She always brings me down. Ever since the divorce shes been taking all her anger out on me and hating me but spoils my little brothers and is a whole new person around my older siblings. I feel so lonely cause no one even wants to listen or care about me. I try taking sports and i made the cheerleading team yesterday but my mom said shes not paying for it not a penny. i would ask my dad but, He doesnt pick us up anymore and he changed his number. I dont know what to do so if she doesnt even want to pay for school, why not just drop out why not just leave everything just how everything left me. I dont treat anyone fair cause noone treats me fair.

  • Beverly Amsel, PhD April 12th, 2014 at 12:09 PM #30

    This is a post for Leana. Sounds like life is pretty tough for you now and it’s hard to imagine you would feel anything but angry, lonely and depressed. What worries me is that you are taking the anger out on yourself. Please don’t give up on yourself. You have a future in front of you and the decisions you make now are important. It’s great that you tried out for cheer leading and even greater that you made the team. Please see if there is any way you can get help at school so someone can speak with your mother so you can participate. Even if this won’t work, most important is to try to get help so you are not so alone with your situation and such difficult feelings. Is there a teacher or guidance counselor or a friend’s parent that you can turn to? If you could find someone to speak with, it could really help. The more you can find support and not have to endure your situation alone, the better. Don’t treat others the way you are being treated. You’ll end up not liking yourself and then continue to take it out on yourself. Please take this seriously. As difficult as life is now, you matter (a lot) and your future matters.

  • Astri B April 28th, 2014 at 6:36 PM #31

    Many, esp young grown up people tend to blame their parents for their sadness, for feelig lost, lonely, their anxiety, disappointment in their own achievements in life or whatever, despite the fact that they have grown up in homes where love , respect and mutual understanding were important values all the way. They feel that the parents do not accept them, even though this may not be true at all, quite the oppsite, even. I modern society it seems like blaming caring and well functioning parents, especially mothers, is the most intelligent and psychologically correct reaction. In many cases these young people are dissatisfied with themselves, and believe the parents also share this negative attitude, no matter how much effort they put into trying to explain the opposite. When they talk about their parents’ attitudes they actually describe their own. Why do so many people do that? Is it our freudian inheritence? Is it because they don’t understand that all the feelings I mentioned in the beginning are part of life, and part of growing up is dealing with that? How realistic is it to believe that we can go through life without depression, feeling lost and anxious at times, especialliy in years of great changes? If the parents have not been directly abusive, I am optimistic enough to believe their offspring would be strong enough to handle these difficult periods of life. In one sense we could say that we are all victims, victims of life itself… but isn’ t it more important to focus on how lucky we are to have got the chance of living life with all its pleasant and not so pleasant challenges? With the devastations and the happiness? Humans can communicate, help out, exchange experiences. I’d rather do that than blame my old mother or have a therapist blame her for things I as a grown up human being need to cope with myself. Life is about growing, and that may hurt. So we all need patience, love, empathy and understanding to help one another to move on in life, not accusations, self-pity, rejection and self-righteousness

  • Carol B May 12th, 2014 at 6:36 AM #32

    I have a 22 year old daughter that harbors ill feelings towards me. I am divorced from her dad and the divorce was my fault. She has a grandmother that fills her head full of things that I supposedly did and some are true but other things are not. We go in spurts of getting along and then something will set her off and she is hateful and angry. I’m at my wits end as to what to do about it or even if there is anything I can do. Everyone tells me it will get better with age. I certainly hope so.

  • Mary May 15th, 2014 at 8:58 PM #33

    Very well said, thank you.

  • Sheila June 14th, 2014 at 3:47 PM #34

    I agree

  • Sheila June 14th, 2014 at 3:55 PM #35

    look into your heart and reveal what keeps you from forgiveness. This will be your freedom. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Place that either spiritually, through therapy or that thought in your own personal bucket of the mind and deal with it when you’re ready so you can be free and live a life free from guilt and shame.

  • Sasha's June 22nd, 2014 at 12:46 PM #36

    My two daughters are heroin addicts. holly 27 and jennifer 25. Jennifer blames me for everything wrong in her life, she is having an affair with a bum, he’s a heroin addict and she is being drug tested for almost dying from an overdose. He took her heroin to her job, my husband (her stepdad ) has made a promise to our granddaughter to always be there, never let her down, and my daughters knows this and thinks she can call me names while I am baby sitting her child for free…
    What happened to this generation of kids?
    I don’t know what to do.
    I am not speaking to her over her lies to me over everything. And I mean everything…she is jelous bc I’m talking to her husband and not her. He has been using and spending money. I told her he has helped you throughout this for 6 years and you need to help him get clean.
    Then she leaves her daughter here and drives (on a restricted license) to pick him up at a bar…
    Sends a pic of her in bed with him to her friend who was dating him!!!!
    Who does that???
    Please give me advice on how you would handle her and say to her…
    God bless and thanks for listening.

  • Beverly Amsel, PhD June 24th, 2014 at 11:37 AM #37

    This is a reply to Sasha. I can see that your situation is very painful. I wish I had some advice to give, but your situation is very difficult and complicated so that I wouldn’t feel qualified to make any specific suggestions. I would recommend that you try to find someone to talk to either by yourself or if you could get your family involved that would be even better. You can look for someone at Goodtherapy.org or you can contact your local Mental Health Association.

  • Ash June 26th, 2014 at 8:52 AM #38

    Oh Carol, when I read your comment I honestly though, “Did I write this?”! My mother is toxic to me, and has been supporting (enabling) my addict (adult) daughter for two years now. I have tried everything to put a stop to this, but my mother is also a LIFE-LONG addict, that desperately needs another addict in her life at all times. She even went so far as to fly my daughter down to Texas (behind my back, and on Mother’s Day of all days), only to eventually leave her stranded there w/o a dime to her name. All because my daughter told her she didn’t want to stay with her, against my mothers wishes. (My daughter was frightened at the level of insanity my mother functions on, and I had done my best to worn her of her grandmothers “potential”, but I didn’t get “real” enough in those warnings apparently), I was still always protecting my mother, when believe me, I have NO reason to do so other than life long “conditioning, or training” by my mother I suppose. Of course I spent the 600+ to get her home, when I finaly got the “rescue me mommy” call and found out that she was in Texas. The entire past two years that my mother was keeping my daughters “head above water”, and drugs in her veins, she was telling my daughter “how bad I am to her”, and making things up that are OUTLANDISH and blatant lies! Now with my daughters drug use and all the terrible brainwashing (which wasn’t hard to do, mind you), I feel so powerless to help her…
    My daughter sends me barrages of text messages, blaming ME and the ENTIRE family for the state her life is in. I know it is not my fault, or the fault of anyone but herself, that she is an addict/thief/liar and danger to herself and others. It is just none the less hurtful and a terrible feeling to have these fantastic lies being thrown at you. I try my hardest to not let them “stick”, and I, and everyone outside of my mother and daughter know better than to buy into it. It just doesn’t feel good, and I empathize with you so wholeheartedly!!!
    I remain as strong as I can, and have to tell you, that it took cutting my mother completely out of my life to get even the slightest bit of normalcy. She hast stopped harassing me though, and my next step may have to be getting the authorities involved :(
    Best of luck to you my friend. You know who you are, so try your damnedest to stay above the fith that they throw at you, and take whatever steps necessary to make sure it doesn’t ruin your days, after all life is too short to miss out on the happiness WE DESERVE!!!

  • Leigh July 21st, 2014 at 8:57 PM #39

    I blame my mother and step father for abuse. I demand that they see how it effected my life. “Blame” it’s called taking responsibility for your actions.

    And it’s not about hurting anyone… It’s about healing.

  • craig July 28th, 2014 at 8:37 AM #40

    I’m 41 years old and my life hasn’t amounted to much. I grew up with my mother and a step father. I have always had a learning disability growning up my childhood was not to good my adulthood is not good at all. Growing up I could do no rite in my step dad’s eyes he was always puting me down, always yelling at me. Today when I’m around some one that’s starts to yell I clam up and freak out inside. I couldn’t do anything rite. He would scream at me and just send me to my room. there were times he had pined me down on the bed and was just slapping myface screeming at me I would have nightmares every night of my child hood. I have a older sister that in his eyes could do no wrong. He did everything nice for her she was smart and pretty. I was dumb and I thought I was ugly. No one told me any differant. I struggled in school so much I just could understand things. I remember trying so hard and I will get so mad at my self I would cry punch my self in my head, I was Avery angry and confused child. School just kept pushing me through and by the time I got to 10th grade I just gave up and stopped trying. I got kicked out of high school my first year for not going to class not having enough credits I don’t know, I didn’t understand really. My mother and step bad never thought me a thing about life, nothing. I blame them so much for were I am now, I could never hold a job always lying about having a diploma or GED just to get a job. Now I live with my mother and she can barely support her self in a house that’s falling to peaces I just don’t know what’s going to happen to me I have no job I have panic attacks, I am depressed, I feel so hopeless, I have a strong fear of dieing, my life is so empty and I blame it all on them. There is so much more to this but its just really hard to talk about. The hole time typing this I am crying.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team July 28th, 2014 at 8:43 AM #41

    Thank you for your comment, Craig. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about what to do in a crisis at http://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html

    Warm regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Beverly Amsel, PhD July 28th, 2014 at 1:08 PM #42

    This is a message for Craig. I urge you to follow up with the links that the good therapy team has provided you with. You can also contact your local mental health association or go to your nearest hospital emergency room. You have had so many awful experiences that it easy to understand why you are having such painful feelings. But, help is possible. You have what it takes to seek it, so please find help for yourself.

  • Esther July 29th, 2014 at 11:41 PM #43

    Its always easy to say don’t blame others and forgive when you are not the one who experienced the pain and trauma. I’m a survivor of domestic abuse & childhood emotional abuse (my father is the pepetrator) since elementary school and it wrecked my pre-uni schooling years. I was ostracised at school because everyone could tell I was anxious, wierd and unhappy (because of what happens at home). I also have nightmares of running away from home and have sleepless nights after an episode of domestic violence because I feared my father will kill me and my mom. He had done multiple threats and attempts of family suicide and pointed knife at my mom in front of me every time there was a quarrel.

    When I was in junior high school I was already abusive towards animals – it makes me feel good seeing them suffering for some reason. I had no idea why I was like that and certainly had no clue I was going through abuse trauma. My parents were even more clueless and didnt know a thing that what they were doing was causing me real harm. Slowly over those years I begin to realize the truth of what I’ve been through and things got better for a while. Just as I thought everything is over, the years of emotional torment (fear, anxiety, depression) has put a toll on my emotional health. I’m only in my 20s and have PTSD and depression, and taking multiple leaves of absence for my university degree. My friends have all graduated but I’m still struggling to get through each stressful semester because I’m so fucking emotionally worn out I cant handle the stress of university life.

    Are you seriously telling me to not blame my parents after all the lost years I spent in misery? When everyone is enjoying their youth making friends, partying and whatnots, I’m struggling with fear, anxiety and having a hard time connecting with my own friends. (never had a single close friend these years) That’s almost 10 years of my life, for goodness sake. Now, I still need to go through university with this PTSD and depression, and I’m already feeling embarrassed that I am not achieving as much (socially and academically) as my friends who are now either working or doing a second degree and have tons of connections. I’m totally isolated from them now and can’t even find the courage to bond with people without feeling shameful about my past. Who am I supposed to blame for my failure and stupid life? I have always been working hard, that is why I could get into uni but still, my life is a piece of shit compared to that of friends brought up in healthy families.

    I will be blunt to say I hate my parents, my father for being the controlling, abusive man he was, and my mother for being the weak, ignorant fool for not stepping up and taking steps to protect me from the harm my father is bringing to me. I blame them for all my low self esteem among my friends and classmates because I cant even raise my head and talk about how wonderful my life is because I have a shitty family. I lower my head and keep quiet when people share about their wonderful social life because I have none of those as a person struggling with intimate relationships and anxiety problems. Thus, I have every right to blame and be angry at my parents because I didn’t choose my parents and couldn’t do anything to stop my life from spiralling downwards when I was but a mere kid. They don’t even deserve sympathy because none of their parents were abusive and I have no clue how my father became that insecure, abusive moron he was.

    I also applaud those who choose not to be parents because of their childhood because SERIOUSLY, if you are one unhealthy, immature person, you have no right to parent because you will only raise unhealthy, unstable children. My parents are foolish for parenting me when they couldn’t handle themselves like mature adults and then leaving me with a huge pile of trash to clean up now that I am in my adulthood. Don’t you come and tell me I shouldn’t blame my parents because they deserve it for what they have done to me.

  • john d. July 30th, 2014 at 10:59 AM #44

    I understand the motive of stop blaming them. in my head. But my heart hears. “As always they won, and you lost ha.. you loser… Everyone believes they (parent) are the victim and all this is your fault so don’t blame anyone” for a long time I just longed for someone to say,I understand, I just wanted someone to be on my side for once. My father has a Narcissist trait and as a child it’s not nice living under that. He was very good at fooling others and even bring them to his side while abusing me. Sometimes I went to bed wondering or hoping I would die. Now that I am older they also are older and people make you believe you must support your parent. In my mind it sounds like this. “You lose again. Its always about them” or your parents are old you must support them. And when you don’t you look bad. I don’t hate my parents I just wish people would see beyond the narcissist cover and hold them accountable to their actions. I have a hard time believing in authority for that reason. I find it hard to believe authority can see the real truth. And abusers are such good actors. You (abused) lose – thus the reason many just suffer abuse than talk. I think abused people just want the abuser to be sorry and stop pretending. And people to stop passing false judgmenets. I think they just want someone to say. I am here, because they believe them not because they are being paid or forced. My experience/opinion. I understand the not blaming part. But like a house, without a good foundation it will crumble. Good article though.

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