I recently came across a book by Dr. Susan Forward titled “Toxic Parents Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life”. This one is a gem because it tackles something society might not be ready to accept yet: that not all parents love the same way or simply put, not all parents are good.
Some are so toxic they raise damaged children who are scarred for life and are barely able to function normally.
And no, Dr. Forward isn’t just talking about the obvious sexually or physically abusive parents, she is talking about a different kind of abuse, one that isn’t visible to the naked eye but bores a whole into the child, seeping into his or her psyche damaging him or her from the inside well into adulthood.
According to research there are more toxic mothers than fathers– those who manipulate their children by working on their guilt, those who force their children to prioritize and focus on them and their needs without regards to the welfare of the child, those who brainwash their children into thinking that they are their kids’ responsibility, those who raise their children with such unloving ways their kids grow up not knowing how it is to love and be loved.
Pop culture has supplied us with a steady flow of shows about dysfunctional families with toxic parents because honestly their drama and antics make for some really good primetime TV.
One perfect example of a toxic, manipulative, selfish parent is Gemma Teller Morrow of Sons of Anarchy.
While the show may have ended years ago, her family’s dysfunction and the wicked way she manipulated her son (as well as her husbands) to do as she pleases will surely give people something to talk about for many years to come.
Here are just some of the reasons this biker queen mother is one of the most toxic mothers in pop culture.
1. She is selfish
She herself might not be aware of how selfish she is. In her sick little head she does all these crazy psycho manipulation because she loves her son and wants to protect him. She tells her son Jax she loves him every chance she gets, but its more likely she loves the image of herself she sees in her son. She manipulates her husbands and her child into staying in this club where she has become queen bee.
No good mom will want her son to live a life like Jax’s. Maternal instinct dictates that you protect your young not expose him to a miserable life.
Gemma uses her son for retribution. You mess with her and she will threaten you with what her son can do, and then she manipulates her son to avenge her. Without thinking if this will expose her son to danger.
2. She makes her son feel like she’s his responsibility.
She’s a train wreck who can’t keep her own life in order. She keeps getting herself in all sorts of trouble and denies the fact that she’s a mess.
She expects her son Jax to fix her, to fix her life, to clean up the mess she makes. And then she moves on to make another mess. Her son is forced to accept this reality because he feels he can’t do anything about it. Her son is often forced to bail her out of each mess she makes.
She feels as if she is her son’s responsibility. She refuses to recognize her behavior which is why she won’t change.
3. She manipulates with guilt
She knows how to play the guilt card. She will make her son feel guilty for not caving in and catering to her every whim.
She will use the “I Am Your Mother” dialogue to make her child feel like he’s being a bad son for not giving in, for not doing as she wishes. She does not recognize the possibility that maybe its her who’s being a bad parent.
As hard as it is to admit, not all parents are created equal. Not all parents put the needs and wellbeing of their children first before anything else. Some will use their children and manipulate them into providing what they need.
They feel they are their children’s responsibility and does not have any concern for their child’s welfare, future, or happiness.
According to Dr. Foward most toxic parents are unwilling to admit that they are a bad parent. Instead they will manipulate the situation into deflecting the blame on their kids. So the best course of action is to cut ties unless the parent comes to realize that something needs to change in him or her.
“I also believe that forgiveness is appropriate only when parents do something to earn it.
Toxic parents, especially the more abusive ones, need to acknowledge what happened, take responsibility, and show a willingness to make amends.
If you unilaterally absolve parents who continue to treat you badly, who deny much of your reality and feelings, and who continue to project blame onto you, you may seriously impede the emotional work you need to do.”
It’s important to note that according to Dr. Forward you cannot continue to absolve the parent who continue to treat you badly, deny the reality, and continue to project the blame onto you.
While we would like to believe that parents love unconditionally and beautifully there are those who simple don’t and it’s time we recognize that.