Toxic parents – Schema release

Susan Forward’s book (Toxic parents) also gives support to release maladaptive schemas after identifying them. It is a kind of abbreviated therapy which requires deep emotional work. Some people able to use it, as a kind of handbook, some of them ask for help to go through it. Sometimes I suggest my clients to read this part of the book as well, it helps to face with more emotions. However can happen that the reader starts to work on to release the schema but without help gets stucked in painful emotions. In this case seek for help because help is available.

Getting back our life after destructive childhood

1. Forgiveness

You can forgive to your parent(s) but you should do it after the whole procedure. How could you do it if you must acknowledge and feel your anger?! The relief can come after to proceed your emotions.

2. Avoid confrontation

Try to avoid confrontation until you get rid out of your emotional storm.

3. Examining your myths

Check this list below which are truth about you.

– My task is to make my parents feel happy.

– My task is to make my parents being proud of me.

– I am the life of my parents.

– My parents would be incapable of living without me.

– I would be incapable of living without my parents.

– If I confessed the truth to my parents (like got divorced, lost my job or house, or being homosexual) they would be disappointed and prostrated.

– If I confronted my parents I would lose them forever.

– I am not allowed to do or say anything what with I can hurt or offend them.

– My parents’ emotions are more important than mines.

– There is no reason to talk with my parents, it would not work anyway.

– I wish my parents could change! I would feel much better about myself.

– I must remedy to my parents that I am a bad person.

– It does not matter what they did, they are my parents and I must respect them.

– My parents cannot interfere with my life, I often argue with them.

Think how these myths appear in your relationship with your parents. They can appear differently but with similar meaning.

4. Examining your emotions

I have sense of guilt when….

– if I do not fill up my parents’ expectations.

– if I do not take my parents’ advices.

– if I am arguing with my parents.

– if I am getting upset with them.

– if I make my parents feel disappointed or hurt their feelings.

– if I do not do as much as I can for them.

– if I do not do everything whatever my parents ask.

– if I say no.

I am afraid….

– when they my parents are upset with me.

– if I am upset with them.

– if I must tell something to my parents what they do not want to hear.

– when/if my parents threatening me by depriving love.

– if I do not agree with them.

– when I try to confront them.

I am sad….

– if my parents are unhappy.

– if I know I let my parents down.

– if I cannot make their lives better.

– if my parents says I destroyed their lives.

– if I plan to do something which will hurt their feelings.

– if my parents don’t like the people around me (wife/husband, friends..etc.)

I am angry….

– if my parents criticizing me.

– if my parents try to control me.

– when my parents try to tell me how I should live my life.

– when my parents tell me how I should think, feel and behave.

– when my parents tell me what to do or not to do.

– when my parents live their lives through me.

– when they expect me to take care of them.

– if my parents refuse/reject me.

Complete this list with your own emotion which are not list above and after every each statement write „because” and co-ordinate a myth from your myths list. In this case you will understand what from your emotions feed and after you can learn to control them.

5. Examining forms of behaviour

Retreating behaviour forms:


– I defer to my parents, apart from my emotions.

– happens I do not speak about my thoughts or feeling to my parents.

– I pretend as everything well between me and my parents.

– I do things to my parents because the sense of guilt what I feel.

– I am playing a role of mediator if there is a conflict between my parents.

– I do things for them to be changed.

– I do effort to make my parents understand my point of view.

– I still keeping family secrets

Aggressive behaviour forms:


– I argue with my parents to show them I am right.

– I do things what I know make them upset just to show I control my own life.

– I yell, swear and bawl with my parents to show them they cannot control me.

– I must hold myself back not to hurt them physically.

6. Self-definition

When you feel that you have the right and freedom to feel, think and behave independently this is a definition of self. Even if your myths are similar or the same with your parents’, very important to decide alone. Solutions with compromises are not bad all the time as well but important to choose concession by free will.

7. Instead of „I am incapable” think „I have not done yet”

If you say „I have not done yet”, you open a door to a direction of new behaviour forms. You will be able to refrase the definite to changable and this gives hope.

8. Control of conflicts: instead of reflex-like use considered answers

If you stay calm you will be able to have control. If you do not defend you are not exposing yourself far too much to your parents.

Examples for answers:

– I understand. Of course you have the right to have your own opinion.

– Really? Interesting.

– I will think of it.

– What a pity! That your opinion is different.

– I am sorry for it makes you feel hurt/ distracted.

– Let’s talk about it when you calm down.

Practice these answers and reactions. Imaginary helps! Do not let your parents push you into a game where you do not have choice, just defending yourself. Imagine a space between you and your parents. It is called „emotional space”. We all have boundaries and everybody must respect them.

9. Get rid out of the bond of responsibility

Tell to the wounded child in yourself (can be done in front of a mirror) that „ You were not responsible for…” and make a list what you feel or felt responsible for, blaming yourself for something which were not your fault.


„You were not responsible for….

– they abandoned you, did not care of you”

– you did not get enough love and care”

– they behaved with you inconsiderately”

– they called you embarrassing names”

– they (she/he) were/are alcoholic and what they did to you”

– they did not do anything to solve their own problems”

– their unhappiness”

– their problems”

– they beat you”

– they molested you”

And after repeat „ My parents were responsible for…..” using your own list. This technique helps you to see and understand the difference between facts and your own emotions.

10. Get rid out of the anger

Already gowned up children of toxic parents release their anger on a destructive way, repressing; becoming ill; suffering from becoming addicted to alcohol, eating; repressing into sex or drugs; becoming workaholic or any other behaviour.

Healthy adaptive anger management:

  1. Acknowledge your anger. Acknowledge it increases your achievement. There is anything more exhausting than repressed anger.
  2. Do not judge your anger. Having anger is not good or bad, normal human emotion, and means something has to be changed.
  3. Release your anger, talk about it. Find someone who you trust, talk about it, or imagine discussion with those whom you feel angry.
  4. Do physical activity. Sport, hobby, cleaning…etc. Physical activity stimulates your body to produce endorphin.

Do not use your anger to make your negative selfie stronger. Say that, „I have the right to feel angry, no problem to feel guilty about my anger if I need it for managing it. I am not doing anything wrong and I am not bad because I feel it.”

11. Mourning – loss

In this stage you can summarize all what you lost in your destructive childhood what you did not get.

Reasons to feel like mourning:

– Lost good feelings about yourself.

– Lost feeling of being safe.

– Loss of trust.

– Loss of joy and spontaneity.

– Loss of careful, respectful and loving parents.

– Loss of innocence.

– Loss of love.

12. Personal responsibility

You are not responsible for what your parents did with or did not do for you when you were a child, but your are responsible for yourself, for your emotions and behaviour, for your own happiness and for your relationships NOW. Because you are an adult already!

What are you responsible for as an adult in the relationship with your parents?

– break away from my parents;

– see my relationship with them honestly;

– facing with the truth about my childhood;

– having courage to see the relation between happenings of my childhood and adulthood;

– having courage to express my own honest emotions about my parents;

– making my parents to face with themselves or what they did or not did, reduce their control or power, even if they are still alive or dead;

– changing my behaviour if I am cruel, manipulative or critical;

– looking for help and support to heal up the wounded child in me;

– get back the confidence and control what an adult has.

12. Confrontation – peak of the way for having autonomy

The aim of confrontation is not taking a revenge for your lost and destructive childhood or get compensation for it. The real aim is being enough brave to stand in front of your parents and tell them the truth and defining the type of your relationship what you want to have with them. You can start with writing a letter, what you are able to correct before you send if you will do instead of confronting them face to face.

The personal and writing confrontation should start like „ I am telling you things what I have never talked about before…”


  1. These/this what you have done with/to me.
  2. Emotions what I had/felt when these/this happened.
  3. These/this happenings influenced my life like….
  4. I am expecting you……

Does not matter what is going to happen while confronting them, the most important thing is you had courage to do it! They can deny, close you out from the family circle, but remember, that circle has not been or is not healthy and constructive for you.

Not easy to repair our lives after having a destructive childhood but possible. Also can be difficult to find the relation between our current life problems and our childhood because they are so hidden. Current problems can be like being so negative, critical, working too much, being narcissistic, having relationship issues, or just being unsuccessful. If you feel you have same kind of returning problems, do not hesitate to ask for help, because they return all the time until we solve them.

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