Understanding and coping with a toxic mother (Photo: iStock)

In the quiet corners of online forums and coffee shop conversations, the dialogue about toxic mothers has become a symphony of voices, each note carrying the weight of personal suffering. It's a mosaic of emotions where survivors find solace in shared stories, recognising the echoes of their own struggles in the stories of others.

These conversations are a refuge, a sanctuary where the wounded souls of daughters and sons find affirmation and understanding. Like a compass guiding lost wanderers through the dense fog of emotional turmoil, these conversations illuminate the path to healing, offering a glimmer of hope amidst the shadows of past hurts.

Yet within these conversations is an unspoken acknowledgement of the complex duality of maternal relationships - the paradox of love and toxicity intertwined. It's a delicate dance between vulnerability and strength, where individuals reveal their stories like fragile manuscripts, hoping to rewrite the narrative of their own lives. The pain endured in silence now finds its voice, echoing in the collective chorus of those who have weathered storms only to emerge on the other side, scarred but resilient.

Regardless of the specifics of these individuals' experiences, a universal truth emerges - toxic mothers exist and leave an unparalleled trail of damage. A toxic mother can be likened to sinking quicksand, where each struggle only deepens the entanglement.

It's a journey through a perpetual storm, where manipulation, control and emotional neglect erode the shores of self-esteem, leaving behind a shattered identity and stifled potential. According to the World Health Organisation, a staggering 29.8 per cent of all adult mental disorders are the result of childhood trauma.

Why do toxic mothers behave the way they do?

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The question arises: Why do some mothers inflict pain on their children? Dr Susan Forward, a renowned therapist, explores this question in her book 'Mothers Who Can't Love', attributing such behaviour to personal negative experiences that are forever etched into the psyche of these mothers.

As the narrative unfolds, the focus shifts from specific cases to a broader exploration of psychological mechanisms. Nassim Nkatha, a counselling psychologist, suggests that some 'survivors/victims' may be projecting - a defence mechanism whereby negative emotions and attributes are denied and attributed to others. Nkatha advocates a shift from a victim mentality to a growth mentality, urging individuals to rewire and rewrite the scripts of their lives.

The Journey to healing

The journey to healing, as Nkatha explains it, involves setting healthy boundaries and embracing forgiveness. Understanding the impact of abuse and recognising the need for personal growth becomes paramount. In her words, "boundaries and forgiveness" are key elements in moving forward.

For those who have experienced childhood abuse, she is a reminder that while the scars may remain, the strength gained from overcoming the adversity of toxic motherhood can pave the way for a future of self-discovery, empowerment and the pursuit of genuine, nurturing relationships.