It’s easy to blame our parents for how we are:
“How can I be successful and happy when my father always told me I wouldn’t amount to much?”
“My mother was never a role model for a happy, healthy woman.”
“No one ever showed me love when I was a child, so how can you expect me to have good relationships now?”
“I was sexually abused by my father so everything’s wrong with my life now.”
“No one ever expressed emotions in our family; they still don’t, so don’t expect me to be demonstrative.”
“My brother was always the favourite, so no wonder I’m insecure.”
Does any of this sound familiar? May be not those exact words, but do you find yourself justifying who and what you are by what your parents did or didn’t do? It’s easy, because it allows us not to make any effort to change, but it’s hard because it means we stay where we are – in our pain and anger.
But stop a minute and think: if you’re blaming your parents for how you are, you have to blame their parents for how they are. It’s not logical to say they’re to blame for how I am and for how they are.
Does it mean that none of you have any independent action? It may be so, that nothing will change, that they are as they are, and that you are as you are, and that if you have children you will visit it all on them.
Does that let them off the hook? Does it mean that you have to forgive them? Not necessarily, but if you want to change things, you need to accept what they did to you and move on. Staying angry with them forever will hurt you at least as much as it hurts them.
How can you move forward? One thing you need to do is recognise that you did and do have choices. Take this example:
“I can’t help that I’m a workaholic because my dad always worked long hours.”
“I can’t help being a workaholic because my dad never worked and I saw what pain that caused my mum.”
Two very different fathers, but two similar sons/daughters. This suggests that, whatever the background, we still can make some choices about how we react to childhood events.
But we can also do more than that. We don’t have to accept the messages – either by copying them wholeheartedly or by reacting against them. Think of the childhood messages you got. Here are some hints to get you started – what did your parents say:
You’ll never …..
You’ll always …..
Men should/can’t …
Women should/can’t ..
When you’ve worked out a few of the messages, take just one. Think about how you can change the message. Here are some examples:
“You’ll never be any good.”
List all the things you are good at. Ask friends and supportive loved ones for ideas if you can’t think of many yourself. Put them on notes and stick them round the house so you can see them, or write them in a book and read it first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
“Women can’t be good at mechanical things.”
Do a web search to find women who are. Enrol in a class.
“You’ll always be fat. It runs in the family.”
Look at the research about how effective exercise and a healthy diet is in maintaining a good shape. Ask your slim friends if any of them have fat parents. Get yourself a personal trainer.
“You’ll never amount to much.”
Take the Bach flower remedy ‘Larch’ for confidence. Find a therapist to help you.
J.K. Rowling has said:
“There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction.”
Joshua Coleman, Phil Cowan, J Carolyn Cowan write in an article entitled The Cost of Blaming Parents:
“One of the biggest dangers of carrying chronic feelings of anger toward a parent lies not simply in what it does to the relationship between us and our parents, but how it might affect our relationships with an intimate partner or our children.”
I’m not saying it’s easy. You have to keep working at it. Take one small part of the messages and focus on that. It may be hard work, but isn’t it a better alternative than locking yourself into a future that’s determined by the past. How long have you been an adult? How long where you a child? How many more years have you got to live? Live them as a strong adult not a hurt child.