Confronting Parents: Its Value and Risk

[Written around 2006.]

Confronting one’s parents with the truth has both advantage and disadvantage. Its two main advantages are: 1) that it allows you, the now-grown child, to finally see just how strong you really are and just what you’ve been hiding beneath your surface for so long, and 2) that it allows you to finally put your childhood history in the clear backdrop of reality and see where your parents stand: that the unhealed sides of them, which are usually a significant portion of their personalities, are selfish and not primarily out for your welfare, and never were. The disadvantage of confronting your parents is that their unhealed sides will reject you.

One could argue that confronting parents could cause them to take a closer look at themselves – and begin to grow. This is highly unlikely. Every parent I have ever seen has too much pain and denial to protect to be honest. Anyone who confronts them in hopes of being rescued and loved by them is deluded – and yet we are all deluded to some degree until we become fully enlightened, that is, until we fully resolve the traumas of our childhood. Confronted parents will almost certainly not come to the rescue. If this were in the realm of possibility they wouldn’t have had you in the first place and would instead have healed themselves. On the contrary, they had you to rescue them.

Being rejected by parents is dangerous if you are still unconsciously getting your love needs met from them. Most people do this their whole lives, and often long after their parents have died. Parental idealization is a drug, and a highly addictive one. If you confront them, be prepared to go cold turkey, because they are heartless pushers. They are out for profit first. They were psychically taking from you before you were even born.

But there is relief in being rejected by the family. Now the truth is finally out: you are out of the system. Your soul always was out anyway, and now the rest of your psyche can join it. Now you can integrate. The value in integration, if you can stand the tortured hell, is that you can now grow much more freely. You don’t have to capitulate your actions to their limiting perspectives and pressures, and you can see truth that much more clearly.

This is a necessity for traveling the path toward enlightenment.

30 thoughts on “Confronting Parents: Its Value and Risk

  1. Geez–I am an older parent. When I read this essay all I read was how terrible parents are. Oddly I want my kids to come forward and put everythjng on the table. I know it will be hard to hear how I let them down. I didn’t mean to let them down and I really tried to do right by them–but due to my own parents I had poor resources to fall back on. I many have done a little better but as I can see today it was far from good enough. This is the generational trauma coming back to bite–I want to leave them with less trauma than I got left with. I want them to know how sorry I am for hurting them at all. But right now –they are not ready–they are self medicating and have rejected this idea of healing outright.

  2. Thank you so much for starting this thread, 5 years after and it’s still the most thoughtful and truthful thread I’ve found on this topic. I’m sorry for everything that’s happened for all of us, but Together We Stand On Our Own!
    Love and Wisdom to all
    The problem I’m currently working through concerns my relationship with my abusive father.
    I’m a survivor of multiple long term abuses throughout my childhood. I’m an alcoholic/addict and drank almost everyday alcoholicly for seven years after I came forward about the sexual abuse suffered by me from ages 6-13 by my then 16-23 year older male cousin. I’m currently 11 months drug/alcohol free (medical marijuana patient), I’ve put myself through several rehab facilities and had spotty AA/NA attendance throughout. I’m currently 28 years old and I’m beginning to see the “other side” of life and I love being humble and learning to accept the things out of my control and learn to love them as they are, not what I want them to be. Everything’s becoming as I always known it to be: amazing. However; my father is utterly halting all progress due to his not recognizing his physical (multiple slaps off of chairs and objects such as hammers “accidentally” “unintentionally” thrown past my head, the put downs…the comparisons to older siblings successes…the threats of violence I knew was 100% possible…the threat of “killing me and not even realizing it”..which I knew was also 100% possible…so much more I’m not ready to share yet…nothing sexual just more physical/emotional things I can’t remember yet. I’m fully at the point of confronting him to either heal or dissolve our relationship but my hang up is this:
    I love this man with all my heart and I know he loves me to. The way he was physically and mentally abused (no sexual; to my knowledge) as a child makes my experience by his hand look like a dreamland…the dreamland he honestly believes he bestowed upon me by his constant working and “sacrifice”…(he’s a workaholic, works to ignor his problems to the extent it damages his loved ones). I feel like I’d be leaving a person who’s not yet a survivor of the abuses of his father. It feels so wrong, it tears at my soul, not my mind. I know I’m codependent at times but I’m a nurturer at heart and can’t leave him behind just because he continued the cycle on me, he had a numbed obliviousness to what life is truly meant to be. So it’s not my fault and true enlightenment is seeing everything for how it actually is;
    He’s a person who was abused as a child who never could see that life could be different.
    I refuse to leave him behind, even though he’ll hault my progression. I have to hold onto hope that my loved one will eventually see the light…at least that’s how I feel. I’m either not seeing the forest through the trees or I’m looking to hard for answers instead of acting. I’d love to hear your opinion on the matter for I appreciate your outlook

  3. I too have a family issue my own mothers accepts by herself that she hates me and don’t want to spend time with me don’t eant to make food for me
    But hse shows her another side to my father there she will show herself weak betrayed and she will act like I have ruined her life completely…in short there are many a times I got to know that my mother lied to my father about our incidences…
    I am 16 and my because of all this my father has decided to throw me out of the house next year for my further studies…I am Indian girl and I believe that an Indian girl has to fight with alot of things with the society…this is true that my mother loves my brother the most she can do anything to make his life even she can possibly ruin my life and this is what she is doing right now…
    All the time daily my mom complaints to my father and when my father comes back to home after 2 weekends he beats me…
    I have no hope for my life
    Please please please help me to get out from all this shit please I will be highly thankful to u.

    • All I can tell you, is that it is not your fault. I also went through the same as you. My mother would play the victim, and he almost broke my fingers beating them with some car fan belt. I am 50 now. My mother is dead, but my father is still alive, and all he thought was about what life would be after my mom died. He got a girl friend a year later, and now it’s been 3 years, and she just passed away. You would think he would want to be close to me, but he is so cold. I’m the oldest of 5, and I was beat in front of my class mates and neighbors just because my newborn brothers diaper was wet. I was only 8 at the time. Don’t waste your time, thinking they will change, cause they won’t. Make your life, and remember to always be good to your kids and always treat them equal. Don’t make the same mistake they did. I will be praying for you. Amy.

      • Thank you soo much…Amy
        Earlier when I was writing I was not sure that anyone will reply all I could understand is that the real situation which is happening would soon change Becoz time pays back everything….
        After ur reply I just started feeling that I would get some one understanding in my life who will be there for me
        I am thankful to you and I pray for u that u live ur rest life as u have dreamed for

        • Aadya, I am so sorry to hear you have gone through this. You are not alone. I pray that you will find strength and love for your self. Stand in your truth and you will be fine. Truth is the medicine and you can and will transform this. You are righty, time pays back everything. Don’t let your mother or anyone dump their issues or the blam onto you. Blessings and love to you.

          • I don’t why do problems don’t end in my life Amy… I know u r much mature than me even u would have experienced ur life better than me right now I have a different problem…and want to discuss with u…further …. I would just want to know if ur interested further consoling me

            • Don’t be afraid of the abusers. They are afraid deep inside and hide it with anger. Your isolation brought you inside a circle of thoughts that are ruled by fear and from this position you can’t fight them. first you should talk to people you know in real life, someone you know that seems sincere and won’t create additional drama. the only way to heal is to counterat their hatred with love you will get outside of their toxic grasp. get away as soon as you can. until then learn to fight back. this is a fight for your soul and it can get much easier over time. but you can start this moment.

  4. If facing my parents wont do any good because of too much pain or.denial what does that say about me are you saying im destined for the same?

    • You are not destined for the same. You have obviously identified at least some of the issues. Focus on those, learn from their mistakes and you be the change. I knew when I confronted my mother it would fix our relationship or end it. She chose the latter. I will not make the same mistakes she made with my own daughter. Altough, my experience with my mother was not a positive one I learned very clearly how I did not want to parent my child. It is difficult being the outcast of the family, but I stand firm in the fact that she will never make my daughter feel as worthless and unloved as she made me feel. Knowing I protect my daughter in this way when my mother can’t or won’t see the hurt she has caused me and thought it was ok to do to my daughter is all the justification I need. I have forgiven her, but I will not allow her hurt to continue since she refuses to acknowledge her actions and stated she won’t change a thing. I want a close and loving relationship with my daughter and tho I don’t have all the answers, I definitely know what not to do.

  5. Dear Danielle,
    I feel like I need help but not exactly sure who to turn to; my sister is finally 16 and its wonderful but she is extremely suicidal with PTSD, severe anxiety problems and depression. We grew up living with our father in the army and our loving mother but as time has passed I’ve realized how wrong the life we have truly is. Growing up our father was extremely verbally abusive calling us as many names as he could, punishing us for small arguments we had between ourselves and just all around striking fear in us so we could never talk back. For the longest time it didn’t seem like that bad of a problem being young knowing our father as only the mean parent but then things started getting worse when my sister was 13 and the day that would change my opinions happened. Our father had gotten really drunk from a friends house it was normal to us but instead of going to bed and being happy he started picking a fight with our mom who I wont go into details but had already had a mental breakdown because of him. Well she started screaming which scared me and my siblings making us call the cops in fear that our dad finally snapped and was going to kill us all. When he realized what we were doing he tried to take the phone from me so I gave it to my sister but I realize I made a horrible mistake because he took her head and slammed it into the wall hitting her with the phone making her scream in pain, my mother stopped him before he could do worse but I knew she was badly injured she ran out the back door and jumped the fence. The police came and took him for the night while I found my sister and brought her home; the child protect services watched us for awhile. That day I realized how awful he truly was; from that day forward she went from a happy girl to where she is now. This morning my sister felt sick and gave my parents a hard time about going to school to the point my mother turned aggressive. She knows how my sister is yet she still screamed at her and throw a bookbag at her and told her she should be put up for adoption while I tried to tell my mother she was wrong and that she was making my sister worse. By then my sister had curled up in a ball sobbing on the floor rocking back and forth; I knew she was having a PTSD flashback and had to help bring her back but my mother already stormed off furious out the door before I could show her. She called my father to get my sister for school so when he got home i was ready, I got my sister to calm down and I stood between him and her. He tried to cuss her out and hurt her but I blocked his way and tried to calm him down by talking calmly and explaing that she was calmed down and willing to go to school because if I yelled he’d get more aggressive. After she got dropped off at school he tried to yell at me for protecting her and that I was being a problem by “helping her throw a tantrum” because in his eyes only soldiers can have PTSD but I know that hes wrong and so I stormed out of the house telling him that he was wrong and that I didn’t have to stay or listen to him. What im hoping you can help me with is how can I change all this? She is a wonderful sister but if my parents keep screaming and being abusive how is she suppose to get better?

    • dear ivy — my god, this sounds like a horrible situation!!! i really am not sure what to say (especially over the internet), but i would hope that somehow you and your sister can find a safe place to be. very hard to do healing in the midst of such a chaotic and abusive environment. wishing you great strength — and wishing it to your sister too! daniel

      • Call a professional. Make her understand that she has to ignore the outbursts, it is not about her. I grew up in a similar fashion, and over time I finally learned to ignore the drama. But, you want to make sure that she has some source of mother/fatherly supper/advice, which is why I recommend seeing a psychologist. This could most likely be covered under some type of government program, so call MHMR (Mental Health Mental Retardation) and ask them what you should do next.

  6. Dear Daniel,

    Hello. I am seventeen years old but will turn eighteen in five months and twelve days. It’s been so long since I’ve ever commented on things like these. Especially, articles like these and I’ve desperately wanted to do this but haven’t found the courage to open up. Yet, I trust you with this because of the sake of my recovery (which is something I have been doing since March 30th–my very last suicide attempt which gained a lot of attention in my family and school).

    Currently, I reside with my mother. I have been for the past two years along with my little sister. For seven years, my parents got separated but divorced two years ago (the same year we’ve moved in with my mom). For five years, I’ve lived with my father. And during that amount of time, it has been hell. I was neglected by most students in my school and I was trying to find a person to give me that validation and love though I was bullied. At that same time, my sister received a brutal beating from my father when she was about eleven years old. It was all because of a Facebook post my cousin and her did. It did contain vulgar language and insult to injury, the both of them were not allowed to have a Facebook account until they were at least thirteen years old. My mother was the one who caught them. Originally, she was the one who confronted her first over the phone and then, my father. She specifically told him to make her write, “I Will Not Say (vulgar words here) and use Facebook (or something like that.),” hundred times and to restrict her from using electronics (that’s always included in those kind of punishments–my mother’s punishments. There were seldom occasions that she beat us when punishing us). My father took it upon himself to give her the most painful beating he would give her. I know that the reason why he did it was because he had so much anger towards her from things she has done wrong or what he thought she did wrong. Because of all that anger, he caused her a lot of pain. At the school she was attending, she told us that when at the guidance counselor’s office, the saw the bruise on her leg. She told what happened to her that very night. She told them not to tell anyone but very quickly, they got DFCS involved. She didn’t mean for all of that to happen.

    My father strictly believed that the only solution was to beat us if we did something wrong. Often, he justified himself in doing it even if what we’ve done wasn’t that wrong. What I’ve told above was to tell exactly how our family fell apart completely even though it has been deteriorating for such awhile. My mother was emotionally supportive to us and was trying everything she could to help us. That situation truly woke me up to the type of person he was. My aunt, my grandmother, and my dad were so close knit when it came to antagonizing her. For a short while, they were antagonizing me because I was trying to alleviate the pain in the family. Even stick up for my sister because I couldn’t stand seeing her feel alone. They’ve called her so many bad names. They slapped her and made her seem like such an evil person. I spent most time with her so I knew what she was going through. Even before so many situations happened, he displayed so much of his character. He practiced passive-aggressiveness, he ignored us when we said that if he had hurt our feelings, he tried to turn me against her, and he condoned the behavior of what my aunt and my grandmother did. Remind you, she was eleven years old when that happened. He never listened to her when she tried to tell her feelings to him. I knew then at thirteen that it wasn’t going to solve the father-daughter relationship between her and him. It drove me and him apart as well because they involved me in the problems or issues that have happened. Mainly, it was my father. He would ask me if what I thought she was wrong and if he was right in what he did. I’ve learned at a younger age (from reading and listening to people who were spiritual advisors or ones who talked about healing from a bad past) that I needed to look at things from both points of views. I tried my best to be a peaceful person so I wouldn’t be experiencing what my sister was going through.

    He wouldn’t listen to anything I’ve said and if I said anything he didn’t like, he would force me to believe that all he did was perfect for her. My sister was clearly in stress. She didn’t want to come home, she tried to escape into friends at school, and she wanted someone to vent to. Later on, I tried to escape into being on the Internet and writing but I’ve stopped supporting my sister. He didn’t stop what he was doing and he was putting on an act to show how concerned he was about how she was mentally and emotionally. The reason why I was..I was scared of how he would treat me. When I confronted the situations (of him restricting us from having activities or to how he took away my items when I was being honest of how he was treating her–another DFCS incident), he ignored any kind of contact I made to him. I did yell at him in a voice message but I wasn’t intentionally trying to make him out to be a bad parent. I had no one to talk to because I was afraid of adding more to the case or to prolong the issue. My father was taking her from therapist to therapist but restricted her from telling her thoughts. My grandmother made it worse for her alone to the point that she hasn’t seen a therapist until last year into this year. I wanted a therapist too because I was starting to feel suicidal and was mostly miserable. I gave up on academics officially when I was in my freshman year of high school. My grades and my attendance was really bad. I didn’t care much about my appearance. I was socializing but I didn’t maintain friends because I couldn’t trust other people.

    My mom was antagonized as well when that has happened. I can reflect on how he used that opportunity for him to be victimized. He used tactics like crying, telling that she was not a responsible parent, telling us that she is a fake, conniving person, and that she is on his side. My mother was emotionally abused before they separated or divorced. I remember a lot of what happened. I remembered how he spoke of her and how he was trying to keep us from loving her as a parent that she tries so hard to be. She also suffers from depression. The divorce brought her so much pain but she tried hard to be strong without him. Before when I was young, I thought neither one of them wanted us as children because she couldn’t pick us up on weekends (sometimes) and he was upset when she couldn’t but took us to his mother’s house (grandmother’s). I figured out that my mother was in financial trouble to the point that she couldn’t hold a stable home or to have money to buy food so I had sympathy for her. However, I couldn’t realize why he was so mad. It could be an opportunity to get to know us as people. Even then, I knew that all it was about was control.

    Before we moved, he was still giving my sister a difficult time. He would push her when she didn’t do everything he told her to do…and he would pay me to restrict her from so many things. She couldn’t go out just like I couldn’t go out to take a walk, she couldn’t watch television, use technology for academic or recreational reasons. Her notebooks were thrown away (the way she could identify with herself) and anything she enjoyed, he kept her away from them. And paid me to do it.

    When he got home from work, he expected everything to be a certain way when he got home. Of course, I need to do chores. So does my sister. I never had an issue with that ( I wanted to be responsible for different reasons than I do now). However when there was one flaw, he would be very angry, yelling at me as if I was a mother of my sister, or create a rage scene. Even if things were perfect for him, he rarely told us goodnight. It was always us that had to come to him. I already felt like I wasn’t wanted but it was hard for me to approach people because of the stuff that occurred in the past. I was still afraid of him. Even when we moved out, he didn’t help us with packing.

    When I moved..when living with my mom, my symptoms of depression was worse. I was feeling better that we were not living with him..yet, I carried on guilt for my mom and my sister. Throughout that time, he did not even notice anything wrong with me. Fast forwarding into now, I’ve stayed away from him. After I was checked into the hospital (after my third suicide attempt), I thought I could trust him. Shortly before then, I confronted him about what he’s done to me alone. He did not know about me being severely depressed. I told him that my mom signed both me and my sister up for therapy. I thought I could trust him because he visited me when I was staying there. Yet, to this day..I don’t know if I can trust him or his intentions. He tried to control how I was recovering by withholding insurance information from my mom until she agreed to buy me “fake pills” to cope with my chemical imbalance.

    My mom fortunately, got the real prescription from my psychiatrist. She told me about what he said to her. All of that..along with the things I’ve suffered when I was physically and emotionally abused by him when I was younger than the time my parents separated made me decide that my judgment was correct. He did fit the narcissistic person that I have been reading about and was educated about. During a very intense visit (from someone who will provide me therapy at home), I realized that I was truly abused. I didn’t deserve to be beaten or verbally abused because I couldn’t help but not understand the words he said to me when helping me with math homework I was assigned. I truly believed that I was a dumb person. It all happened when my sister nor my mom was present in the home at the time. She told him to stop when I brought it to her attention (when telling her specifically where he was hitting me–in my vaginal area and in my anal area). I revealed it to her recently and I just want your advice on how I can confront him. I don’t trust him because of not only the things he did to me but the things he did to my little sister, being a deadbeat father to my older sister and the way he was antagonizing my mother. I don’t think I can get over it because I still fear him and he knows that I do because I revealed it to him while in the hospital and when I thought I could trust him. Please!

    • greetings CVS — sorry for such a delay in responding!!! i am traveling without a phone or computer in south america, and have no time to reply properly. but i want to let you know that i read your message and thank you for sharing it. meanwhile, i have anonymized your name for the sake of privacy. greetings to you! daniel

  7. Dear Daniel
    I’ve been on psch drugs for 18 years now for insomnia and depression….And all this time, my psychiatrists and psychotherapists simply brush away my childhood traumas and say that I should forgive (in order to heal) and move on…..

    It’s not until I discovered Alice Miller (after years of searching) and then you (thru’ youtube ) and read what you and Miller have to say about forgiveness, that I felt understood for the first time in my life… I .understand now why my body says NO to forgiving and forgetting the traumas…..It’s only thru’ remembering the traumas and working thru’ them (which hurt like hell), that I gain some relief from the depression and sleep better.

    For this I have to say a big “ThanK YOU” to you, Daniel Mackler and to the late Alice Miller.

    But, now my mother is old and and ill and possibly dying….and I again feel pressured by family/friends/society to not only forgive but also to love my mother and be by her side as much as possible

    I wish my mother well but I can’t honestly say I love her and want to spend time with her…I feel so LONELY in my inner struggles against family/society’s demands. So I’m writing in this blog…this space where I can honestly express what I feel ….Thank YOU for this blog too…it’s about the only place I know where I won’t be condemned for not being a filial daughter.

    I’d welcome your or anyone else’s replies to my sharing above…THANK YOU AGAIN.

    • greetings Soufiea — thanks for sharing this. i will say this — i hear your dilemma, and i know how lonely it can be! glad you felt safe enough to write this comment. all the best to you! daniel

    • Soufiea
      You are not alone. I have same struggle as yours. Daniel have a vedio talking about breaking away from parents. You may feel relief after watching that.

  8. My mother due to health issues live with my husband. As a result while she sits watching TV and playing on her tablet. I am stuck cleaning the house, paying bills, doing everyone’s laundry. While she won’t even clean her room. ( in the two years she’s been living here its been vaccumed 5 times, when she has a bird, ferret, and cat. The once normally new beige carpet is a mess!) She will go months without giving me her sheets to wash etc. The only thing she’ll do is cook, and I am the one to clean up. She says “I don’t know how to cook” to everyone in our church. When she knows I am an excellent cook. I choose not to cause by the time I am done cleaning for the day and errands etc. it’s the last thing I want to do. Either way I am clesning up the mess. I have kept my mouth shut for so long. While she critisizes me to our family, friends, and my husband. So bad so she’s has caused a rift in my 11 year marriage! I want to confront her, but I don’t want my house to be a battle zone. In all honesty I want her to move out. Help please!

  9. I’ve been wanting to confront my stepdad for a while, but I’m scared to do so and I’m not sure what to do. I’m only 14. Should I go through with it? What should I do?

    • Hello Sarah — greetings. wow — that is a tough question. i really am not sure what to say. being 14 years old…..that’s tough enough as it is!! i think the main thing that’s tough about confronting a parental figure at 14 is that they have a lot of control. being a child — legally, financially — makes confrontations that much more difficult, because there is less of an escape plan if things go wrong. and sometimes, realistically, they do. i didn’t start confronting my parents until i was in my late-20s. maybe a little bit before that, but not so much. i needed time to become independent — emotionally, financially. i have also confronted step-parents myself, but also when i was older (in my 30s). so i’m not really sure what to say to you. i just think that most important make sure you are safe and protected, and that you don’t get hurt worse by a confrontation. i think having GOOD allies can help, but generally they are hard to find, especially when one is younger. non-parental adults can only do so much, in most cases — because of their legal limitations. so…overall……i wish you the best…….and lots of safety!!! and in my experience, just so you know, i found adulthood much better than life before age 18!!!! daniel

  10. A friend of mine is 17 and her dads been having an affair for nearly 3 years. He’s also emotionally abusive to her and sometimes threatens her. She’s sick of this and wants to speak to him about this but we’re not sure if that’s a good idea. Should she speak to him or should she keep quiet?

    • I had the same kind of dad he had an affair and he won’t admit but I know he did and I try to have a good relationship with him but when him and my mom got divorced it put in my head suacidal thoughts and I hate how he won’t admit to what he did and I want don’t know how to confront him and I’m asking for help how to

  11. an adult friend wants to confront her still drug abusing mother about all the abuse and neglect in her past which is directly because of her mother’s drug addiction. She wants to know why it had to happen that way and I told her to go for it, but to keep your expectations low. Thoughts?

  12. I was quite fortunate in that my mother confessed her not-so-ideal upbringing of me in the first few years of life. She had to work long hours to pay off the mortgage and this led me to be taken cared of by my grandparents who didn’t speak much English. So take this as an exception to the rule…

  13. “If you confront them, be prepared to go cold turkey, because they are heartless pushers. They are out for profit first. They were psychically taking from you before you were even born.”
    this is so damn true, it’s shocking. it’s a f***ing punch in the stomach when it happens, and when you first bring it on a conscious level it looks like a scene from a horror movie, but, man, doesn’t it feel awesome to overcome it and leave it behind? the resulting contact with one’s true self is amazingly empowering!

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