Confronting an Abusive Parent

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The Author
Dr. Margaret Paul
Posted on Nov 3

A woman wrote, asking:

“I am trying to connect with my family of origin. I’ve been working on my recovery for a bit over a year (ACA & Coda steps). I’d like to have a healthy relationship, with boundaries, of course, with my untreated family. But I can’t seem to have a relationship with my mother yet as I’m still processing my feelings from her abuse. I also feel that I need to confront her (when ready) to let her know my truth instead of ‘pretending’ that things are fine between us. This has been a difficult journey for me that affected my life. Though I know my mother can’t give me what I would like, I wonder if confronting her eventually would help me with my relationship with her. I know some people don’t agree with confronting. I’m torn about this. I want to eventually have forgiveness for my mother, but I’m not there yet.”

 

The question you need to ask yourself is, “What do I hope to gain by confronting my abusive mother or father?”

Here are some possible answers:

  • I hope that by speaking my truth, I will be able to forgive.
  • I hope that by confronting my parent, we can clear the air and move on to a better relationship with each other.
  • I hope my parent will hear me and understand.
  • I hope to learn some things I didn’t know before.

I want to caution you regarding any of these hopes. I will go through each one to show you why this hope might not be realistic.

  • I hope that by speaking my truth, I will be able to forgive.

Forgiveness will happen when you learn to give yourself the love and compassion you didn’t receive from your parent when you were a child. When we are able to show up as a consistent loving adult for ourselves, we find ourselves naturally forgiving others, recognizing that they came from their programmed wounded self.

  • I hope that by confronting my parent, we can clear the air and move on to a better relationship with each other.

If your parent is in denial about their abuse of you, then rather than clearing the air, he or she might feel attacked and deeply offended. Your parent might have dissociated from their abusive treatment of you, and confronting them might actually make it harder to have a better relationship. Before confronting, you would need to spend some time with your parent and assess whether or not there is any openness. If they are coming from narcissism, there will only be denial.

  • I hope my parent will hear me and understand.

Unless your parent has done much inner work, this is likely an unrealistic expectation. If they have been consistently abandoning themself, then they will not be able to hear you or understand. They might feel blamed and get angry.

  • I hope to learn some things I didn’t know before.

Again, unless your parent has been dealing with their own issues and healing themself, they are likely in denial and will have nothing of substance to tell you. They might have completely repressed their own childhood as well as how they treated you.

 

a woman who is stressed

 

This does not mean that you should not confront.

The only reason to confront her is if it is truly what is in your highest good. You would need to go to your spiritual guidance and ask, “What is in my highest good? What is most loving to my inner child?”

It is my experience that confrontation is rarely satisfying. Instead, it might be loving to you to focus on letting go of taking your parent’s behavior toward you personally, and on learning to stay connected with yourself in the face of their current unloving behavior. Learning to currently take care of yourself in the face of others’ unloving behavior is what eventually heals the past.

That being said, if confronting feels like it is truly taking loving care of yourself, then it is the right thing for you to do. There are no rules about this — only you can know what is in your highest good.

 

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