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How to Heal from Emotional Blackmail Between Parent & Adult Child

How to Heal from Emotional Blackmail Between Parent & Adult Child

The most significant relationships we shall have are supposed to be the ones maintained between parents and children – in this case, I am referring to adult children. 

The quality of this bond is fundamental for developing our personality and grounding our soul and psyche but it also constitutes the models to follow for the type of relationship we are to establish with other people. 

But what happens when as an adult child, you find yourself dealing with a parent who likes to use, abuse, or manipulate you? Or, on its other extreme, what happens when a parent is confronted with an adult child who likes to control, manipulate, or emotionally blackmail?  – neither of those scenarios is healthy, and neither is conducive to open communication, where the boundaries are respected.  Both scenarios display a lack of mental maturity; the maturity needed to learn to differentiate between when one life’s starts and ends without infringing on the rights of the other – for being a child or a parent does not mean one is meant to the sacrificial lamb of another; for that conduct is anything but love.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO REGAIN PEACE AFTER SUCH PAINFUL SCENARIOS?…

Despite having suffered toxic relationships with our parent (s) or adult child (children) (hypercontrol, emotional abandonment, mistreatment, abuse, etc.), we can always work to regain control of our lives.

These 5 steps can help to regain inner calm if bonding over the years was deficient, and the psychological blackmail continues, or if an adult child has taken for granted all the things his or her parent did for her and has chosen to punish in an attempt to get their way.  

  1. YOU ARE A PERSON TOO

Time has passed, and you are no longer a child; you are now an adult…you have grown up and are capable of standing your ground. If a parent, the time has come to honor all the sacrifices you made by taking back control of your life.  Whether a parent or adult child, the time has come for you to make your own decisions, you have every right to live your own life. Do not hesitate, you deserve to have horizontal relationships, free of subjugation and power games.

  1. YOU SET THE LIMITS.

Most of the time, the changes we wish to see happen in others never come. Perhaps others continue to repeat their schemes and expect you to act the same as before. However, now you can set respect boundaries in your relationships and decide how far you allow them to intrude in your life.

  1. UNDERSTANDING DOESN’T MEAN ALLOWING

You can come to understand why someone’s feelings or perspectives may be the way they are, but this is no excuse for others to continue expecting you to sacrifice or put your life and dreams on hold so they may feel better.  It’s not healthy to bury your pain nor to allow others to use it against you.

  1. THINK ABOUT YOURSELF

If you’ve spent your life hanging out on the desires or expectations of others, it’s time to think about yourself. It’s not selfishness, it’s emotional health. Remember that you won’t be able to love your loved ones unconditionally if you’re not well.  Lastly, remember that unconditional does not equate to giving in to every whim.

  1. DO THINGS YOU FEEL LIKE

Listen to your body and feel what it is asking for. You can start with simple things like walking on the beach, listening to your favorite music, or developing a forgotten hobby. Little by little, you will feel more healed, recharged, and able to think clearly – your inner voice will tell you what is good for you.

Some parents and adult children have built strong bonds of connection and respect for each other’s boundaries.  Children who grow up free from conditioning and are taught to see their parents as caregivers and loved ones but also as individuals worthy of their own respective lives, grow up happy and self-confident. In families where authoritarianism, blackmail, duty, and coercion have been imposed, we see a result in damage to the natural respectful bond that life meant between parents and children.

Abandonment of overbearing “care” within parent/adult child relationships often results in devastation for each individual’s peace of mind, causing unnecessary stress and unnecessary erosion on the core of their personalities.  The result is often a lack of congruency and growth, which leads to mental immaturity, in which one party expects the other to live their life based on the expectations they have created for the other – such mental immaturity will eat away at the chance of any healthy adult relationship, and often these individuals lack the ability to face any situation in which they feel they are being challenged – even when this may not be the case.

Every healthy parent/child expects to feel welcomed and loved unconditionally by his children/parents.  When this does not happen, the individual often ends up feeling depleted, sad, helpless, frustrated, and angry without being able to express it without risking “emotional punishment”- something that could have been avoided if, from the beginning, each role had been clearly taught and respected.

To heal from parent/adult child relationships where mental blackmail has become the norm, we have to bring to light the emotions that were silenced in the past, connect with our true essence, making sure to learn to never repress our needs based on emotional coercion. Only in this way, by being authentic and honest with ourselves, can we forge healthy relationships with others.

Of course, this personal change will influence your current relationship with your parent or adult child, for it demands that you abandon submission and learn to set your own limits, making clear to express what you will and will not tolerate…boundaries.

The evolution of the relationship with your parent or adult child will also depend on how that person accepts all these changes. If they choose to stick to the insane patterns of the past, but we no longer allow them to, it is inevitable that distancing will occur.

But if the person assumes, as a mature person, the mistakes made in the past and shows a true attitude of change, it is possible to maintain a healthy and adult relationship, no longer from indifference or repression, but from mutual understanding and dialogue.

Our most authentic self, that inner part of us that knows who we really are and what we need in order to be at peace and fulfilled never disappears, and with the right accompaniment, we can always free ourselves from all the pain accumulated after years of emotional blackmail…. reconnecting with our true self.

This 180-degree change in our lives also impacts our relationship with others and theirs with us. Sometimes, the differences are almost insurmountable and distance is imposed in order to heal properly.

Regardless of your parent or adult child’s reaction, it is important to understand and heal the pain and anger accumulated inside.  After investing in the healing process, we will regain control over our lives, make our own decisions without feeling pressured, and restore our self-esteem and inner calm.


Sofia Falcone

Sofia Falcone
I passionately believe one person can make a difference. I write from my own experiences and interests. It is my greatest hope that by writing about my own challenges and hopes, others may feel inspired to believe more in their inner power and to fully embrace themselves.

Reprinted on crystalwind.ca with written permission from Sofia Falcone.

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