People in toxic one-on-one relationships often tell me that this isn’t their first—it mirrors their family-of-origin. Statements like, “My partner is the male version of my mother,” or, “I am dating a version of my father,” often emerge, because of repetition compulsion, where the mind tries to heal from trauma by entering similar situations.
While some clients have long escaped their toxic families-of-origin, others find it harder. It doesn’t matter your age or how accomplished you are—some families are incredibly powerful in terms of their wealth and resources, and ability to mobilize the larger family to keep you under their thumb. I see these especially amplified in my adult clients from high net worth families. The common denominator is that you’re left exhausted, confused, and discombobulated.
Why, you ask? Because a toxic family needs different people to play different roles. One of which is, the scapegoat. This scapegoat is blamed for everything, and their triumphs and history are erased away. And if need be, a toxic family keeps the scapegoat the same, preventing them from leaving, rather than cultivating a new one.
Leaving such a toxic family isn’t just a matter of willpower (actually, nothing is merely due to willpower), but rather recognizing and healing from the longstanding damage inflicted and compounded, being clear with yourself, and having a wise strategy.
And while you can understand plenty of things logically, it is until they sink in emotionally that you get it—and part of that starts with being emotionally familiar with the cognitive traps that keep you mired.