Are You Still Hiding In Your Parent's Shadow?

We may have left our parents' home years ago, but some of us might as well still be living under their roof - because of the influence and power they have over our self-esteem, moods, choices and relationships.

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Most of our behaviour is sub-consciously driven, and so isn't available for our objective scrutiny, evaluation or updating.

Few of us know why we react, speak and behave as we do.

Every day we are automatically replaying the programming, conditioning and 'script' that has been ingrained in our minds since childhood.

Our lives are running on auto-pilot and we aren't even aware of it!

For those of us who have endured a difficult, unhappy or abusive childhood, we just can't seem to cleanse that stained and grubby script we read from and play out each day.

Nor can we change those habitual relationship patterns which we compulsively re-enact – despite their familiar agonising conclusions.

We search in vain for the glimpse of a different ending to our painful dramas - and for a way to create a new script of our own making, with different characters and a happy outcome.

Other people may be able to see more clearly than us just how stuck we are in our repeating patterns of unhappy and conditional relationships and friendships. They may even mention it to us - but unfortunately we probably won't listen or trust their motives.

We are then left wondering why these people seem to back away from us and only tolerate us from a distance.

Our fear of emotional vulnerability and intimacy prevent us from allowing them closer into our lives. We reject the very thing we need the most.

The underlying problem is that as adults we are still constrained by the lies we believed in childhood - about ourselves and what we deserve in life.

We have learnt from our family what is OK to feel and what isn't, and what we should do to remain acceptable - and where that rigid boundary lies.

We felt the acute pain of emotional rejection or physical punishment if we dared to step outside those unyielding boundaries.

If we were emotional prisoners back then, we can still be living inside our own psychological 'padded cell' - even though there is no lock on the door. We don't know how to live 'outside', and we exist in survival mode fraught with fear and anxiety.

Happy families and loving relationships seem alien to us, we don't know how to 'do' them. We feel further shame at having to admit to ourselves that we are 'different' – the damaged goods that just don't fit in or belong anywhere.

As a compliant child prisoner we had to wear a mask of obedience – maybe one with a happy smile on it to trick our teachers and peers that everything was fine at home. The masks were essential for our survival in those painfully traumatic days.

That mask then feels like a 'natural' part of us, and either we forget that we are even wearing a mask, or we are too afraid to peek beneath it and see what and who hides there. We are raw and naked without the mask... and we dread exposing our defects.

For those of us who had not only a difficult childhood but also a toxic parent, our emotional turmoil is even greater. The life-script now has pages missing, and has been overwritten with contradictory scribbled notes and confusing plot twists.

Toxic parents use, confuse and abuse their innocent and vulnerable children

As their child we knew no different. We had to believe ourselves 'bad' so as to keep them 'good'. Our survival depended upon appeasing them.

That psychological split stays with us as adults, and brings us inappropriate guilt and shame.

Our toxic shame belief is that we are bad at the core. Our toxic guilt is that we are a nuisance and a burden to others.

As adults we are still dutifully obeying our early programming, and we can be oblivious to the real reasons for our deep sense of echoing emptiness, aching sadness or bitter anger.

We know from research studies carried out since 1997 - into the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (or A.C.E.) - that our early adverse experiences and traumas set us up to have problems later in life. Problems with our physical and mental health, our emotional intelligence, our social skills and the types of relationships we attract.

Our lifespan is also reduced in correlation to the higher the number of 'points' on the A.C.E score we have out of the 10 which were initially researched. 67% of us have at least one out of 10 and 25% have at least 4.

I have 6 which is regarded as high – and helps to explain my own past 'mistakes' in all areas of my life. I now ensure that I keep myself physically and emotionally stable and healthy. We can beat the odds when we know what we are up against!

Becoming a parent, and later a grandparent can give us a spotlight of contrast – between how it was for us and how we want it to be for our own children.

We now have a choice - albeit restrained by our sub-consciously driven beliefs and bad habits.

If you are one of the very fortunate minority who had a good childhood with loving parents then what I've written here may seem alien to you.

But please do still spare a thought for the wounded little girl inside that awkward friend or colleague of yours

She/he's the one who usually seems to have a negative comment for every occasion; the one who seems like the perennial victim who is almost asking to be kicked up the backside; the one whose heart bleeds every time they see a loving Mother's Day or Father's Day card or message on social media – which feel like vinegar poured onto their raw and deep open wounds.

It isn't really 'her' who reacts as she does – it's her wound. Her pain. Her profound disappointment at not having had reliable loving parents who wanted and valued her. Her chest and throat are tight from years of stifled tears and unspoken pleas.

She may be a pain in the proverbial sometimes, but she needs you to see beyond that – and to very sensitively let her know how she affects you, and that you accept her nonetheless.

If you can stick by her (and hold boundaries around any unacceptable behaviours) you will help to release her from that emotional prison of her past - where she has been trapped in her old painful and default 'core childhood emotions'.

She isn't easy to befriend. She may react to innocent comments 'as-if' there was a malevolent intention behind them. She may lash out verbally in a nano-second if she perceives a threat of agonising shame that she is somehow not good enough. She may manipulate situations to make herself look and feel better. She may be replaying the 'it's not fair' or 'it's all my fault' programmes.

Her inner child needs her to do these things as protection from the wound. It's not a personal attack on you, but an attempt at defending her own ego and soul. She doesn't know why she's doing it, let alone how to stop it!

She may sound like a broken record repeating itself – she awaits someone to sensitively lift up the stylus and stop the turntable.

If you or any of your female friends and colleagues are still stuck in their childhood dramas, there is something you can do about it.

I have created my own system of the steps needed to move on from dysfunctional childhood programming into becoming an authentic autonomous adult.

It allows you to S.E.L.E.C.T. Your Life ™ – and not passively accept the one handed down to you, or that other people would prefer you to have.

  • Self-awareness

  • Education

  • Learning new skills

  • Emotional intelligence & balance

  • Control, clarity & choice

  • Transformation

The first step towards change is Self-awareness – of our own patterns and the impact we have upon other people.

We can become Educated about why we are the way we are; and then Learn new skills to make actual changes to our inner and outer lives.

Then comes creating Emotional intelligence and balance – and being able to self-regulate our emotional responses.

With this comes Control, clarity and choice about how to write a new script that better serves us, and with a new cast of characters of our own choice.

Finally Transformation – and recovering from our childhood and/or toxic parents, healing our emotional wounds and making peace with the past so that we can create a calmer happier future.

A troubled childhood can be overcome whether the parents are still alive – and perhaps now elderly and frail – or if they have died.

What matters most is changing the internalised relationship with them... the one that still drives that wounded imprisoned inner child's thinking feeling and behaviour.

I have FREE e-booklets, videos, blogs and articles to help with 'childhood and toxic parent recovery' on my website –

There you will also find the first step of my two therapeutic coaching programmes called Recover From Your Mother, and Cast Off Your Father's Shadow – the first step is called The S.H.I.E.L.D. and you can get it FREE here -

Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR - Helping you to overcome a troubled childhood and difficult or toxic parents – to heal and re-parent your inner child and make peace with the past. You will find here a page of FREE RESOURCES to get you started, as well as an inexpensive online self-help guide/course called – '3 Steps To Sort Yourself Out – without therapy!' - Helping women to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours, and to stop the past from interfering with the present and future in their home and working lives - Ten online self-help workshops (only £27 each) – helping you to help yourself with Psycho-Emotional-Education. The ten online workshops are entitled:-

'Understanding Yourself'

'Understanding Relationships'

'How To Be Happier'

'How To Be More Confident'

'How To Calm Down & Think Straight'

'How To Balance Your Mind Body & Weight'

'How To De-Stress Your Life'

'Understanding Anxiety',

'Understanding Depression'

'Understanding Anger' - The 'new paradigm in therapy' which reveals, reviews and revises the sub-conscious beliefs which have been getting in the way of your happiness and well-being.

You can change your life in 24 hours when you change your S.C.R.I.PT. (c) (Sub-Conscious-Rules-Influencing-Present-Time)

Maxine Harley

MIND HEALER & MENTOR - Psychotherapist (MSc), Author, Columnist & Blogger. Please see and, S.E.L.E.C.T. Your Life Company Ltd.

I help women to FEEL better - so they can BE, DO and HAVE better! As a MIND HEALER I specialise in helping women to recover from a troubled childhood and toxic parents, to heal and transcend their emotional wounds, re-parent their inner child, and make peace with their past. This enables and empowers them to become better parents, partners, professionals - and all round happier calmer people :-) As a MENTOR I offer different levels of therapeutic self development - including MINDING YOUR BUSINESS, MINDING THE GAP, and MIND MASTERY...please discover more at