Congratulations. You have taken an important step in your healing process. If you are a survivor of childhood abuse and neglect, this collection of resources is here to help you.
What is abuse?
Often people think of abuse as physical. It can also be psychological. Parents don't have to be perfect, but they do have to be "good enough". In fact, trying to be perfect isn't good for anyone.
However. Some parents, like those with personality disorders, can really do a number on their kids. These parents are not "good enough". In fact, some parents set out to harm their children, and it doesn't have to be physical.
What are personality disorders?
There have been some recent changes to the DSM in regards to personality disorders. In my practice, I find it useful to use the old conceptualization of Cluster B disorders (narcissistic, borderline, antisocial and histrionic) when it comes to treating clients who grew with disordered parents. Despite the obvious difficulties with categorizing complex human beings into discrete boxes, many people find it helpful to put a name to a problem they have struggled with all their life.
Often, a big hurdle to healing from this type of abuse is the feeling that you are all alone, that your parent's abuse was your fault, that no one understands. There are many blogs and sites written by survivors, and reading them can be incredibly validating. Some good ones are:
Blog: Narcissists Suck
Healing from Narcissism Blog
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
Narcissistic Father Blog
Recovering from narcissistic abuse can be a long and complicated process. Part of this is due to gaslighting. It erodes confidence, makes you doubt yourself and can make you vulnerable to other narcissists. To heal from gaslighting, be kind to yourself. Listen to what your gut is telling you. With practice, you will learn to trust yourself more. It can be helpful to read how others describe a narcissistic mother or father.
It can be helpful to work with a counselor trained in narcissistic abuse and recovery. Dr Karyl McBride's website has a list of therapists who are trained in her recovery model. When looking for a therapist, be sure to ask about his or her experience with personality disordered parents. A therapist with little or no training and experience in this area can do damage, especially if they urge you to reconcile with a toxic or dangerous narcissist.
Borderline Personality Disorder in a parent can have a lasting impact on children. Support Groups can be tremendously helpful. Adult children often struggle with the illusion that they were loved, when they were not.
The classic book, Stop Walking on Eggshells, can help you with strategies and coping techniques in your relationship with your borderline parent(s) now. Setting healthy boundaries and sticking to them can be a challenge for you, but essential if you want to stay in contact with your parent(s).
When You Have Children
As a parent, you want your children to grow up in a happy, healthy home. How do you do this when you were never adequately parented? Doing the opposite of what was done to you seems tempting, but can lead to problems. If your parents were too strict, you may want to be overly permissive with your kids. If you were left alone and neglected, you may swing too far and end up being too harsh with them. You want to be mindful of your tendencies and strike a balance. Again, therapy can help.
What about your children's relationship with your parents? This can be tricky, but it depends on your parent's level of functioning. With some parents, no contact is best. Others may be able to spend time with their grandchildren with your supervision. Often times, your "normal meter" is broken and it can help to get some perspective from others. Most people cannot fathom the damage toxic grandparents can do, and will encourage you to allow them unlimited access to your vulnerable children. It helps to talk to other survivors and get their feedback. Babycenter has an online forum made up of people who get it. Meetup has groups that meet in person.
A Special Note on Christianity
Some abusive parents use Christianity to manipulate their children. After all, "Honor Thy Mother and Father" is one of the Ten Commandments. But, the Bible has a lot to say about rebuking an abuser and forgiveness. This site is full of articles dealing with this issue.
Healing: Coming out of the FOG
Susan Forward and Donna Frazier coined the acronym FOG for Fear, Obligation and Guilt in their book, Emotional Blackmail (see link below). Sometimes, when you grow up in this type of family, you attract toxic people. As you work on healing, it can be helpful to take a look at your relationships and evaluate what is working for you. You deserve to be happy and free from all forms of abuse.
No Contact; The Final Boundary
Will I Ever Be Good Enough?
Children of the Self-Absorbed
People of the Lie
The Gift of Fear
Protecting the Gift
The Assertiveness Workbook