But acknowledging their accountability for hurting us is essential to the healing process.
We’ve all met a few people who don’t like to accept responsibility for things.
These are habitual blamers who would rather make someone else look like the root cause of a problem than admit they were the ones at fault and work to make things right.They play the blame game so they can sit back and make everyone else – their coworkers, their children, their spouse – appear to be the actual problem.
This is convenient, because it deflects all the attention off their bad behavior and onto everyone else, so they can escape responsibility and genuine effort at improvement. (Narcissists and sociopaths are the most highly skilled at this manipulation tactic, and will hide behind their wall of psychological smoke and mirrors while everybody else suffers the effects of the damage they do.) They never accept responsibility or accountability, and much of their behavior is designed to make that possible.
Blamers are escape artists who teach their children that they as the parent are not responsible for the problems they cause. Recognizing that mom or dad is mean or uncaring or unfair is not ever allowed. Their children must obey the unwritten law — everything THIS parent does is okay, and none of the hurtful things they do are to be acknowledged as wrong or ever questioned. Don’t look, don’t notice, don’t complain, and don’t get in the way.
Get those rules wrong, and you bet there will be some ugly consequences until you get them right.
One of the first steps in beginning the mountain of necessary work facing adult children of any kind of toxic parent is recognizing that it is now safe, and healthy, and necessary, to take proper stock of all the damage that has occurred and its full impact, and reach clarity about who is (or who should have been) held responsible for and accountable for the emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, control and neglect. Until that is done, true healing cannot even begin.
Some people attempt to shortcut the process by skipping the step of taking inventory of who was responsible for which misdeeds and trying push themselves into fast-forwarding forgiveness. Adult children of toxic parents who are new to the healing process may be given advice such as, “stop blaming your parents for everything” when in fact, the reality is, the adult child is likely just beginning to allow themselves to truly take stock of what was wrong and accept how it has negatively impacted them for the very first time in their life.
This is because it was never safe to do so in the past, and there is a lot of catching up to do about allowing those important recognitions to come to light so they can be processed and finally moved beyond.
Adult children have to eventually accept that as a child, their mistreatment was not at all their fault, as mistreated and abused children are so often told. And in order to legitimately reach that position of accepting their innocence, they must first fully acknowledge whose responsibility it actually WAS. This means looking at each experience and placing accountability squarely on the shoulders of the adult who actually did do the damage — despite an entire childhood of being taught that holding the adult accountable was never allowed. In fact, it’s necessary primarily because of an entire childhood of being told it was never allowed.
Resisting the process with shortcuts and denials of steps that must be completed can be an excellent indicator of how much distance down the healing path has yet to be covered. Denial that there must first be full acknowledgment of wrongdoing and a grieving process is generally an indicator that there is farther to go, because that denial was imparted to the child by the toxic parent to benefit the toxic parent.
Until the denial that the parent is the one responsible for the hurt they caused is broken through, the healing work cannot begin, and the adult child is still dancing to their toxic parent’s tune.
Join us next time — we’ll be discussing toxic grandparents.
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