There comes a time in everyone’s development (hopefully, and sadly) when the idealistic and childlike perspective of who our parents are changes, somewhat dramatically. As children, we think our parents are heroes. We think they are invincible. Well we need to don’t we? In order to survive in the jungle we need to believe that our parents are strong and capable of protecting us from the lions and snakes and tigers.
Some of us though, don’t have strong and invincible parents and I think on some level we as children figure that out. Enter anxiety … because of course you will feel anxious if you are no match for a lion or tiger, and you have no one protecting you. That’s one part of the story.
The other part of the story is what an opportunity we have to understand our parents when that bubble of invincibility bursts. A big part of developmental work – whenever – is recognizing our parents as people in their own story. Our parents were children once who lived in families – of whatever circumstance. In all likelihood they also suffered (because life is hard – and there are hardships – and have you every met anyone that NEVER faced any kind of adversity? Me neither.) And our parents had parents that may or may not have been resilient, present, depressed or anxious, harmed, survived a war, poverty … the list goes on. But these are not just words, they are things that may very well have happened … to your own parents. To these people.
Some of us had parents that were resilient, that learned how to cope and respond in ways that lifted themselves and those around them up. There are those among us though, that had parents who were more sensitive, were not so resilient, maybe chose not so healthy ways to cope with whatever adversity was presented to them. And then they became parents. Our parents.
One of the healing moments in my life was when I recognized that my parents’ suffering had nothing to do with me. Yes, I was subjected to their dysfunctional ways of coping, but it really, really wasn’t about me. Both my parents had suffered hugely as children, adopted poor coping skills (if any), and did not have the capacity for insight into their behaviour (because of their suffering). My parents were people who had hard stories. Being able to see that kind of released me from something. It does not condone any harm that came my way, it’s not a call to forgive even … but the understanding that these broken people were my parents, accepting that .. and being really very grateful for having the insight to move past it and create something different for myself – is very, very freeing and healing.
It’s hard work to separate ourselves from our parents’ story, especially if it was a tough one. But recognizing our parents as people in their own right can change the idea of something having been « done to me », and places their behaviour where it belongs, in their story as a consequence of their suffering.
Can you invite that into your life? An acceptance and understanding of this other person’s story? Can you invite gratitude into your life for how you have a different strength for coping, for dealing with adversity? Can you consider a choice to free yourself from a story that wasn’t really yours?
Peace to you.