“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
I’ll tell you what’s coming up a lot these days in conversation…I found myself recently coaching a couple of people specifically on the need to "re-parent" themselves, because the unconscious parenting they had left them feeling lost and victimized in their lives, and they blame it on their childhood parenting. They feel stuck in life with an adopted belief that bad parenting equals personal suffering, and they cycle through phases of depression and anxiety. So my intention quickly became helping them understand the difference between the parenting by the parents, and what they as children did with the experiences and the interpretations and unresolved emotions they carry, creating their suffering.
I think one of the pieces that goes missing in this whole self-awareness or therapy path is that every situation has complimentary sides. One side is the dark and damaging side that comes from unconscious anger, shame, and unresolved sadness that perpetuates for generations and creates harmful behavior between parents and children. But the other side is always there, and that is the potent and even beautiful metamorphosis that can come from these catalyzing events, seeing things clearly in the present, and parenting ourselves into the self-love and strength of who we truly are. It is the invitation to become true to our Soul and free ourselves from the wheel of past and current suffering. What I mean by that is that while abusive or neglectful behavior by the parent is not condoned, there are reasons it happens in the first place, non-personal reasons, and the understanding and healing of this can be incredibly freeing for the person who feels victimized by the abuse or neglect. It requires reaching that place where you better understand the mechanics and dynamics of the events themselves and how they live in the shadows, and learn how to re-parent those lost and stuck children inside of you as you wanted to be parented all those years ago. We must deeply understand that as children we did the best we could to comprehend circumstances with our limited emotional maturity, but now we have a new opportunity. We need to rebalance these parts within us that contain keys to our healing. I bet many of us could say that, if our parents are alive today, they likely still do not have the tools to parent us the way we know is best. But they are also doing the best they know how given the awareness they possess. We can be the example and gateway of loving and honoring parenting. Maybe they’ll learn something from us.
At the risk of sounding controversial, I would say that our rampant depression is caused in that gap between misinterpretations when we were young and being stuck as an adult without the skills to move forward and be the pure magnificent being we are, not enslaved by unconscious parenting. And while really good therapy is so helpful, ultimately we must learn to truly advocate for ourselves at the deepest levels, and heal the wounds, because we are the only ones who can.
You might say, No, my parents actually did that thing, that horrible thing. I did not misinterpret that! I agree. What you misinterpreted was personalizing it, taking it on as your sense of worthiness, your sense of belonging, your lovability, not only then but throughout your life. As children, our survival is so connected to the parents who never had good training either, to be fair. So everyone is kind of doing the best that they can with the limited resources they have. And outside of the stories of the events that occurred, what we did with them inside of ourselves as it relates to our self-worth is what we carry around as a heavy burden, and what must be healed. What I know is that within the healing, within the tracking and feeling the feelings and the forgiving, great understanding and compassion comes for the more nuanced and larger picture of what actually happened back then. It is in this space where we realize that we are currently no longer a victim of that circumstance, and in that moment we are walking toward freedom. This does not mean everything has been healed, it is a process. It does not mean that things will not come up in the future. As this space of greater understanding, and less belief of things being against us, begins to fill our awareness, we realize how often we actually misinterpreted the deeper story of these events. We also understand there is a door that is unlocked, every time, and we can walk through it, every time. When we get to the other side, we may continue to grieve a loss or grieve what we so wanted to experience, but we now know that we can re-parent ourselves in all of the ways we desire. We shift into curiosity, amazement, and profound reverence for the diversity and capacity within us, and the outcome is that we learn to trust, feel happy and whole, and to love ourselves. And when we love ourselves, we can love others in healthier ways.
Wishing you Peace, Melanie