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How You Can Break Free of a Toxic Childhood

This article aims to help you improve your emotional well-being, eliminate spiritual disharmony, and heal your mind, body, and spirit.

Leaving Your Past Behind You

Leaving Your Past Behind You

How Your Past Affects Your Future

Thoughts and memories of our past affect how we live today and how happy or sad we are. One would think if we were not satisfied with our past, we would be motivated to change our lives for a better future. However, if we are unaware of how our past affects us, we may be stuck in a never-ending “life theme” that is not what we want.

I think that anyone who is unhappy with their past would have no desire to repeat it. So why allow the unfavorable events to keep reoccurring?

Here are some examples of this attitude:

  • They choose a similar partner if a prior marriage fails.
  • They promote the same failed business venture instead of trying something new.
  • They make the same investments despite losing money with the last one.

You see? Many people repeat their mistakes, hoping to make it work the next time. They redo whatever failed, hoping it will have a different outcome the next time.

This persistence and single-minded attitude could be due to unresolved issues concerning prior toxic experiences.

Three Tips to Stop the Past From Controlling You

I became aware of how the decisions I make today are based on my past. So I thought of the following three points to help avoid letting my past experiences affect my present choices.

When you read these three points, try to relate them to your life. It could help you too.

  1. Don’t dismiss the past. Accept it and learn from it, then do something about it.
  2. Detect when you are wasting energy worrying that something you remember from a bad experience will happen again. Apply that energy to focus on more constructive behaviors.
  3. Catch yourself when you have negative thoughts. Try to dismiss those concerns as quickly as possible by recognizing where they are coming from.

How to Overcome Adverse Effects of Your Past

Some of us follow harmful patterns that keep repeating, stalling any ability to develop a future we dream of having. Much of this is due to toxic lessons of the past that still control our behavior.

You might be concerned with issues such as these:

  • You repeat negative experiences despite not liking to have them happen, but they do.
  • Disappointing episodes seem to be the theme of your "life story," and you feel you have no control.

If you find this happening in your life, don’t be too hard on yourself. There is an unintentional reason for it. It might be related to a painful event you don’t even remember—an event hidden from your conscious mind.

Try to review your past to determine the cause of the behavior you’re not happy with. Once you are conscious of what happened, you can gain control over its adverse effects.

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Some of the memories may be confusing. It’s only human nature; we tend to dismiss thoughts that puzzle us. We may think they are not relevant because we deny the effects of our past life stories. Painful memories may block our ability to proceed with the desired goals.

How to Avoid Repeating Negative Patterns

We need to understand the driving force that causes us to repeat mistakes. Knowing how our past affects our choices today will make it easier to avoid repeating negative patterns.

It begins with recognizing and acknowledging your early-life toxic experiences to overcome their effects.

We will not make crucial changes unless we stop wasting time repeating the old nonsense. I like how the following proverb explains that in a few words:

"Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today."
~ Old Cherokee Indian Proverb 1

Be Mindful of Unrelated Events

You may not always be able to see the links between early-life events and how you are functioning now. You might even refuse to acknowledge it, which is understandable. But eventually, that can cause you to overlook what is affecting you.

Our past experiences may haunt us, but what complicates things even more, is that there may very well be multiple events throughout our lives that don’t seem connected. Therefore, we can’t quite identify with it.

When we try to be mindful of this, we can look back and trace various events that happened before that caused other events to occur. And the pattern still could have a strong influence on us today.

These things are not easy to track, especially if past experiences in our early life left us psychologically impaired with denial. Therefore, it will take enormous work. But take it one day at a time.

As long as you have an attitude of wanting to learn from your past, it will eventually become clear.

The Result of Growing Up With Parents Lacking Love

Parents who have had unresolved childhood trauma might find it challenging to share love and intimacy with their children. Then those children end up carrying the lack of affection into their adult interactions.2

A troubled childhood could damage one's ability to function in society. That can have a drastic effect when one grows up and becomes involved with other people in adult social interactions.

When their parents fail to show a healthy attitude of love and affection, one can be left with scars that they are not even aware of having.

The result is an inability to establish strong ties in a meaningful relationship.

Understanding Early-Life Toxic Stress

Toxic stress put upon children can cause many health risks in adulthood, such as cardiovascular disease, cancers, asthma, and depression.3

Early-life toxic stress can also cause one to develop mental health problems that emerge later and lifelong learning and behavior problems, making adulthood more challenging than it already is.4

If you recall extreme stress episodes when you were a child and are not in good health as an adult, it might be in your best interest to seek a professional’s advice with these concerns, as they could be related.


Now you know that any toxic early-life experience you have not overcome might harm your future endeavors. Having this awareness will help awaken memories of your past to help discover what set the stage for where you are now.

When you acknowledge everything that is happening today results from your past experiences, you'll be much closer to conquering the past and its adverse effects.


  1. Toni Bernhard J.D. (Oct 10, 2012), "30 Quotes on Mindfulness." Psychology Today
  2. Robert W Firestone Ph.D. (Oct 7, 2015). "8 Reasons Parents Fail to Love Their Kids." Psychology Today
  3. Sara B. Johnson, Anne W. Riley, Douglas A. Granger, Jenna Riis. (Jan 21, 2013). "The science of early life toxic stress for pediatric practice and advocacy." National Institute of Health
  4. "Early Childhood Mental Health." Harvard University Center on the Developing Child

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Glenn Stok


Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on October 09, 2020:

Thank you everyone who read and commented on this new article. I appreciate the feedback that you gave me.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 07, 2020:

Great message. Your article is very helpful, and I like that Ralph Waldo Emerson quote. Thanks for pushing us away from destroying ourselves.

Elsa Joseph from Kolkata, India on September 29, 2020:

Beautifully explained.

Abby Slutsky from America on September 19, 2020:

You have some excellent ideas. However, not to generalize, but at least in my family, women have a lot more difficulty not worrying.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 18, 2020:

I think this is an excellent article, Glen. It is very well organized. I agree with everything you said and as an older woman I learned long ago to learn from my mistakes.

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