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Are you in Burnout? 10 Important Questions and Answers

Ending a toxic relationship with a parent

Are you estranged from a parent? Have you chosen to cut-off contact because of on-going abuse? It is neither unthinkable nor unacceptable for someone to choose to end a relationship because their parent is abusive.

Adult children in these cases have determined that a cut-off is necessary to protect their own mental health. These adult children do not celebrate their decisions, but recognize them as necessary.

Cut-offs do not normally occur when a parent who has historically been abusive has stopped their abusive behaviour. It is in circumstances of continuing abuse that adult children may sever ties with their parents. Letting go of a relationship with a toxic parent is a serious act made by a person whose need for self-preservation outweighs their need for on-going contact with their parent.

Research on attachment in early life shows that we are biologically hard-wired to bond to our parents, even when that parent chooses to harm us. Read more about Betrayal Blindness.

Humans are biologically hard-wired to maintain the child-parent bond throughout the lifespan. It is only in situations where what is gained by ending on-going abuse outweighs the loss that an individual may choose to end the relationship.

There can be great potential benefits for someone who has experienced a lifetime of abuse when that adult child acts to finally end on-going abuse from a parent by severing ties. Such benefits may perhaps for the first time include creating one’s own physical safety, and the freedom to focus on achieving optimal mental health.

Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta

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Are you in Burnout? 10 Important Questions and Answers
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