How To Deal With The Root Cause Of Your 'Self' Problems – the legacy of the toxic parent

You know all those books, courses, webinars, seminars, workshops and retreats that offer to help you with your confidence, self-doubt, not feeling good enough, poor body image, lack of self-love and self-compassion, self-sabotaging behaviours, negative mindset, and problems with your behaviour in any of your relationships, and as a parent? Well, they're each looking at only the consequences of the same deeper and unresolved underlying cause.

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You know all those books, courses, webinars, seminars, workshops and retreats that offer to help you with your confidence, self-doubt, not feeling good enough, poor body image, lack of self-love and self-compassion, self-sabotaging behaviours, negative mindset, and problems with your behaviour in any of your relationships, and as a parent?

Well, they're each looking at only the consequences of the same deeper and unresolved underlying cause.

That of your inner child's self-concept.

You weren't born with this, it was gradually formed in response to the way you were treated by the people who raised you. Whether that was your birth parents or other parental figures.

When things aren't going well for us, in any area of our lives, we need to find the root cause so that we can understand our feelings and reactions and set about changing them – even if we can't change the original cause.

The root cause of the problems with your 'Self' stem from your early childhood experiences, your 'core childhood feelings', your self-concept. These in turn come from the type of parenting you had; and how emotionally safe, secure and attached you were to your parent(s).

This directly affected what you came to believe about yourself and what you still expect, and think you deserve, in life. These can then became the poisonous and toxic consequences of what your parents passed down to you.

You may have had core childhood feelings of sadness, despair and loneliness which still hover and engulf you at times as an adult – but these old habitual feelings CAN be changed.

What is a toxic parent?

These are the parents who put themselves first and don't show their child the loving care, kindness, empathy, support and encouragement they need to feel good about themselves.

If your parent(s) had a toxic upbringing themselves then they'll have passed that poison on to you. That would show itself in the ways they responded to your needs.

These parents Use - Confuse – and Abuse their child

USE - Their child is there to meet the needs of the parent. They have little identity or importance of their own other than to please the parents - which is impossible and leaves the child feeling inadequate, useless and unworthy of love ...and lacking their own identity. The parent sees the child as their 'property' to use as they wish. This is emotionally abusive.

CONFUSE – The parent manipulates and plays mind games with the child – which the child can never win. The child becomes confused about themselves and their relationship with the parent – especially when they see their friends parents behaving so differently to theirs. The child doubts their own mind and their perception of things...they hide away rather than face ridicule and humiliation. This is also emotionally abusive

ABUSE – this includes emotional neglect and abuse as well as the more obvious types of abuse. Being shouted at is also abusive – it feels to a child like a heavy emotional slap.

The child feels like an object and their feelings get stuffed down because they are too painful to deal with. This warps the child's relationship with themselves and others.

Why is this toxic?

Because the stress of being around a parent like this affects your mind and body and increases inflammatory chemicals which are bad for your physical and mental health – and even reduce your life expectancy!

They're also toxic because these behaviours poison a child's self-esteem, confidence and self-concept.

We know from the research in the late 1990s about Adverse Childhood Experiences that childhood trauma in its many forms really does negatively impact our future health, how well we do in life, and even how long we live for.

Bad parents are indeed 'toxic' to our system...we feel that as children and we know it as adults.

What can we do about it?

To be able to live a life on our own terms and not continue to be used, confused or abused, we need to:-

  • Strengthen our boundaries – and be crystal clear about what we will accept and what we are not willing to tolerate
  • Learn how to clearly assert ourselves – to speak up as a rational adult and also to advocate for our wounded inner child.
  • Soothe and heal our emotional wounds - so that they aren't activated and don't keep interfering with our relationships, or in the way we parent our children, or our success at work
  • Repair the relationship we have with ourselves..which includes our self-esteem, self-concept, confidence, balancing our moods, being able to express ourselves clearly and effectively, and to treat our minds and bodies with the respect they need and deserve too.
  • Carefully seek and create a small group of genuine friends to become our new 'family of choice'. Spend fun times together, as well as times of deeper sharing and reflecting upon ourselves. Have photos of these friends on your 'phone and computer screen, make a collage to put up on your fridge door. Keep in mind how you feel when you're with members of your FOC (family of choice); and commit to building more ongoing happy memories with them.

We need to recover from a toxic parent – whether they are alive or dead – so that we can get our life back, and to become calmer happier people who've made peace with the past and feel optimistic and excited about the future. We can choose to select our life from now on and not passively accept the one handed down to us by a toxic parent.

We need to be free of feeling like an emotional prisoner of the past or trapped like an angry puppet on their string.

When our self concept is weak and unstable we need to bolster it up. We can't firm up the foundations and structure of our lives all by's just too overwhelming a project for the inner child in us who is already struggling to be heard and to make a difference to the way things have been for so long.

We need objective and caring expert help for so important a renovation job.

As with any truly effective remedy there are necessary stages to go through.

I like to use the analogy of a pain in the neck – which is also very apt way of describing a toxic parent!

Step One - entails immediate pain relief

Step Two requires us to get rid of the accumulated toxins, or tension that caused the pain in the neck

Step Three is a series of treatments to re-align and reset the system – in this analogy the neck and back muscles - and to get things into balance.

Step three also involves ongoing precautions to ensure that we do all we can to prevent that pain from coming back again.

In the case of recovery from a toxic parent this requires deeper psychological healing, and a re-parenting of the self – as if re-parenting and adopting your inner child and making a commitment to take much better care of them in future.

Step Four includes celebrating and enjoying your new found freedom from the acute and chronic discomfort and restrictions that the pain in the neck brought you!

Overall you will be making better decisions for your own well-being, making an effective plan, committing to the process of recovery, and becoming more determined and assertive.

You will know how to respond assertively, instead of emotionally react, and you will develop a new way of coping which helps you to feel empowered.

The results you'll see and feel

So...let's now focus on how you want to feel and the changes you'll see when you are able to recover from your toxic parent.

In brief.... they just won't 'get to you' like they used will see them differently – from an informed adult place instead of the vulnerable compliant child place they've held your mind held prisoner in for years.

You'll be free to make your own decisions that best suit you - and your new family if you have one. You'll be able to clearly assert yourself, your preferences, what you are willing to do and accept – and what you're not.

You will feel more courageous, confident and powerful when thinking about your toxic parent – and this will carry over into any future contact you have with them.

You'll become more resilient and self-reliant, able to self-soothe and make yourself feel good by re-parenting your inner child for a life of emotional freedom.

You'll experience better relationships at work and with friends because you are more clear and assertive and able to meet your own needs.


You'll feel able to handle your relationship with your toxic parent much better because you can now handle your own responses to them. You will see them in a different light as the wounded child they are who doesn't know any better or is too self-absorbed to care about how they behave and the affect they have on others. They lack self-awareness but you won't.

Self awareness is the first step towards change...and selecting the life you want to have can change yourself and this will inevitably create a new ripple effect of change around you.

You can learn how to re-parent your inner child...that part of you from years ago who was impacted by your childhood experiences and the way your parent(s) treated you.

This isn't some psycho-babble – we all have an inner child and in the best cases this part of us is happy, confident, lively, playful, wise, outgoing, and loves tacking challenges with enthusiasm.

Hmmm....starting to think your own inner child might be needing a bit of help to get to that point?

Yes..most of us do...very few of us had the type of parents and upbringing that created such a free and natural inner child...instead we got knocked out of shape a bit and stopped showing ourselves as all we can be.

After my own difficult childhood (to say the least) and toxic parents (both in my case) I took the slow route to becoming a psychotherapist. I now specialise in helping others to heal their emotional wounds from a troubled childhood and toxic parents, and to thereby become empowered to be better parents, partners and professionals..and all round happier calmer people!

After over 20 years of clinical experience I have come to realise that there is a step-by-step process we need to take to get to the place of healing and recovery from our troubled childhood with a toxic parent(s). Quick fixes don't work to really help a wounded inner child and bring them the life-long changes they crave. We need to reach down to the place of deep wounding to bring about deep and lasting healing and recovery.

We need to discover, lovingly connect with, support and empower our inner child to speak up for themselves and to reclaim their spirit and self-love. We need to become clear about who our parents were, and why they behaved as they did. We also need to do our grieving for what we did and didn't get – knowing that we can now provide for ourselves and meet our own needs as we re-parent ourselves.

In case you're thinking that this might just be some airy fairy psychotherapist lingo then I've created a video that explains in greater detail about the vital importance of your first 1,000 days of life, the types of parenting and the effects of adverse childhood experiences upon our health and even how long we live! You can find it here

You can get the right help to stabilise and bolster your emotional foundations - so that you feel on solid ground in all aspects of your life. You can then expect to have happier relationships, happier kids, and a much better relationship with yourself when you have the self-belief, confidence and courage to get the life you want without all that draining self-sabotage that keeps your inner child feeling so scared and hidden.

You won't be your toxic parent's emotional prisoner or puppet ever again!

My own 4 step process to becoming free of the chains of your childhood and toxic parents begins with

STEP 1 – The S.H.I.E.L.D – the immediate 'in-the-moment' pain relief

STEP 2 – The DETOX – to rid your body and mind of the accumulated poison from your toxic parent

STEP 3 The ONLINE PROGRAMME – 8 modules in sequential order with my guidance and support along the way

STEP 4 The RETREAT – an optional fourth step to share, witness, validate and celebrate our healing and recovery with like-minded people who have been on the same path to get to this special place of freedom and peace of mind.

You can find out more about the steps of my therapeutic coaching programmes called 'Recover From Your Mother' and 'Cast Off Your Father's Shadow'

You owe it to yourself and your long-suffering inner child to become free from the contamination of your toxic parent(s), to reclaim and rebuild your life...and to step out into the light of self awareness, self love, self responsibility, freedom and happiness.

We all deserve happiness, and for some of us that entails recovering from a troubled childhood and abusive toxic parents, and casting off their shadow from our lives.

Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR WHERE YOU'LL FIND A PAGE OF FREE RESOURCES - to help you with your therapeutic self-development. And for those with a toxic parent you'll find a FREE e-booklet 'The S.H.I.E.L.D' to get you started on the path of healing and recovery. You will also find 5 online self-help courses - to help you to help yourself, your relationship, your children and your business/career - helping women to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours... to FEEL better, so they can BE, DO and HAVE better in their lives - a series of 10 online self-help workshops to help you with different aspects of your life - changing the sub-conscious belief system or S.C.R.I.P.T. (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