I shall start this article with Surah al-Hujurat (49:6): O you who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with news, verify it and ascertain the truth, lest you harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful to what you have done.
There was a teacher who was not happy with the inappropriate behavior of one of her students.
She was obstinate and introvert. The teacher could not understand her unpredictable behavior but really what drove her mad was this: as soon as teacher suggested making a drawing the girl refused and only scribbled.
‘She makes me lose my patience –the teacher thought to her-I do not understand why she behaves like this.’ The teacher discussed it with her colleagues but no one gave a good tip on how to solve the problem.
One day teacher was assigning half term grades and on that occasion she looked at the girl’s cumulative record card reflecting her previous achievements in curricular and co-curricular domains. While deeply going through her file she found that “she is a very friendly girl who loves drawing.
Earlier she had been awarded positions in many drawing competitions and her academic trajectory was remarkable. The girl has experienced a sudden stop: her family circumstances have changed, her parents separated and both parents remarried.
This ugly incident inflicted deep psychological injury to this girl. Post-divorce of her parents she displayed emotional swings and skewed behavioral displacement.
The girl no longer interacts, her academic progression shows a steady decline, she does not like to socialize. After school is off, she is the last girl to leave.
The school gatekeeper reported that she sits on the school bench for hours lost in some thoughts. On a slight prick by some friend she gets emotional and weeps.
While reading those reports the teachers eyes became moist. She took her delinquency as a symptom of a curable disease. She decided to target the problem behavior of the girl and not the girl in person. She realized her initial mistake where she had judged the girl on face value without knowing about her circumstances.
From that day teacher did her best to break the shell and free her from the cocoon of self-guilt.
The teacher used the socio-metric method of action research where she ensured that this girl shares her bench and feelings with the best lot in the class.
She assigned her the job of class monitor. The girl rediscovered her passion for drawing and class atmosphere provided her a space for self –expression and psychological security. The teacher learnt a very important lesson of not passing judgment without investigation.
In life, we all have to come to terms with the things we are going through and sometimes that’s harder than it sounds. I shall discuss another case study which I recorded during my PhD field study on visit to one of the police stations.
A habitual offender was lodged there, I recorded his interview. One day he had come to Kashmir University to appear in some competitive examination, with his limited pocket money he purchased some sweets from Hazratbal for his parents. He did not eat anything. Back home instead of serving him tea and warm welcome he was served criticism and verbal abuses by his parents.
When he handed over the packet of sweets to them, they threw it into the dustbin. They were cold and normative in their behavior. In a fit of madness the boy hit the copper tumbler which accidentally hit his father. The step mother went outside and screamed that the son attempted to murder his father.
That day changed the life ecosystem of this boy; he never attended the Higher Secondary again. He ran away from home and crossed the other side of the fence. He became a habitual offender and was labeled a person-in-conflict-with law. Throughout the years he was neglected emotionally.
He was constantly being talked down to and pulled apart by his step mother. She was never willing to apologize to him when she did something wrong. She humiliated him in public on more than one occasion.
She was always criticizing him and nothing he ever did was good enough. That boy loved his father very much. Before the police officials father maintained criminal silence and endorsed the version of his wife which hurt this boy deeply.
Toxic people are very judgmental. They go out of their way to make others feel bad and don’t feel like anyone is ever as giving as they should be towards them.
You could be waiting on the hand and foot, yet you would still not get any kind of real, thanks. Toxic family members or people, in general, won’t care about your boundaries.
They will never be willing to give you the privacy you deserve, and your limits will always be pushed. This is because you don’t matter to them, even if they say that you do.
Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic used by abusers to control their victims. Gaslighting is when someone works to make you doubt your version of reality because if they can convince you that you are crazy, they can get you to do or think whatever they want you to.
A gaslighting parent wants you to feel dependent on them. When they see you taking control over your life and making choices of their own, they are likely to try to step in. One way in which they can do this is to make you feel like you don’t know what you want or how you feel.
You need them to do that for you. No matter what the circumstance is a toxic parent is always playing the card of victim. Even when they are the ones that have done you wrong, they act as though they are the ones who have been wronged.
I have observed the toxic parents whose children are drug addicts playing the victim card before their neighbors and police officials. I have recorded a case study of a drug addict who was figured odd man out in the family by his father and step sisters.
They invalidated his emotions. Their behavior turned him aggressive and to drive him away they played the card of victim. They starved him for money and other necessities. One fine morning he did not wake up due to overdose from drugs.
Children of injustice may feel as though they were never able to do anything right. In turn, they always apologize, even when they didn’t do any wrong. Victims of emotional misconduct are often introverted and are defensive in nature.
They display escapism and withdrawal tendencies. When you had something you were struggling with you could-not just go to your parents for advice.
You were unable to talk to them properly and it had taken a serious toll on you. Because of this, you tend to bottle your emotions even now. When you were growing up you were always on edge when you were at home with your parents.
To conclude, in regards to toxic parents Psychology Today wrote as follows which really puts things into perspective:
The toxic parent may or may not have been diagnosed with a mental illness or a personality disorder. They may or may not have ever sought treatment for such a disorder.
But the poison they spread to others is an infection that can be cured. There are no statistics to reference on this, but anecdotally it might be said that therapists treat more of those impacted by toxic parents than they treat toxic parents.
Dr Showkat Rashid Wani, Coordinator, Institute of Correspondence Education, University of Kashmir
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.