The toxic relationship is at the heart of our loving or friendly concern. But toxicity can also exist between parents and children. Neglect, violence, devaluing, possessiveness, interference… Some mother-child relationships are a source of suffering and leave emotional trauma in adulthood. Anne-Laure Buffet, therapist, helps us identify signs of a toxic mother.
What is a toxic mother?
A toxic mother is a parent who does not allow her child to exist. “This is a mother who, through her attitude, her behavior, her personality and the way she interacts with her child, harms his development, inhibits his individuation, his autonomy, his empowerment “, explains Anne-Laure Buffet , therapist and author of mothers who hurt (Eyrolles, 2018).
The child must respond to the narcissistic needs of the mother. “The child is not considered a person in his own right but for what he brings / should bring to the mother”, underlines the specialist. The toxic maternal violence is essentially psychological and verbal, but “it can have physical and/or sexual consequences”, according to the therapist.
According to Anne-Laure Buffet, what characterizes toxicity is the repetition and repetition of inappropriate behavior. “A behavior, however inappropriate, is not enough to speak of toxicity. The abuse is characterized by repetition, as well as a lack of consideration for the child and the consequences for his emotional, psychic, physical and social growth.
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What are the signs of a toxic mother?
- Too much control over the child’s life
The toxic mother is too controlling: the child is not free in his thoughts or his behavior. “Omnipresent, she seeks to know everything, to rule everything, nothing can or should escape her”, explains Anne-Laure Buffet. “He presents himself as the holder of knowledge, knowledge that should not be discussed. Thus it prevents any intimacy, any secret garden, but also any error.
- An apathy that creates insecurity
“Indifference hinders the bond of attachment, but also detachment, which is important for the child to be aware of his importance and his unity”, indicates the therapist. This indifference creates insecurity, lack of protection and certainty for the child. “This one lacks frame and balance, no firm landmarks, thinking it doesn’t deserve attention, no protection,” he said.
- Repeated and disparaging judgments
The child is humiliated, sometimes insulted and systematically devalued. “These judgments destroy the child, preventing him from having a fair opinion, a balanced judgment on himself”, remarks Anne-Laure Buffet.
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- An instrumentalization of the child
“Toxic mothers make their child their confidant, their confessor or their ally in case of marital discord”, says Anne-Laure Buffet. The child becomes a confidant in spite of himself and hears and sees inappropriate things. “They make comments or make him participate in activities, meetings, inappropriate encounters. They turn it into a useful ‘thing’, from the trophy that is presented to the punching bag where they release their anger, their frustrations, their anxieties”, defined the therapist.
- Parenting: the child plays the role of the parent
In toxic family relationships, we witness parenthood, the reversal of roles, the child taking over from the parent. “These mothers “penetrate” their child’s intimacy and ask him to take care of what is in principle under parental responsibility. They remain in a “child” role, do not assume any responsibility, do not manage any part of what is the natural property of the parent”, says Anne-Laure Buffet. “Parenthood involves absence of protection that a parent owes their child and reverses the roles. It is up to the child to take care of his mother, take care of him, comfort him, make sure he is fed, etc.
- Depersonalization/nihilation of the child
These are the consequences of all the listed behaviors. “Because the child cannot be a child, he is not aware of his existence, his importance, his possible autonomy. He remains attached to a dysfunctional, unhealthy bond,” explained the therapist. And to add: “He believes he owes while feeling an obstacle, an annoyance.”
The list is unfortunately not complete. Breaking free from the grip of a toxic mother is hard to do alone. Talking about the situation with people you trust, at first, can help you recognize yourself as a victim. The help of a therapist is essential to help you in your recovery.
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