But, stop it. Just… stop it.
Stop blaming yourself for your shortcomings, whatever they may be. Childhood trauma as a result of having bad parents is real and can stay with us for a very long time. Engaging in therapy can help unpack the feelings of an inadequate childhood in different ways.
Unless you had hippies for parents, you likely had parents who parented in the same way as their parents, your grandparents. That is, in a conservative, Victorian manner more Oliver Twist than Brady Bunch. (Please, sir, can I have some more?)
It can be easy to forget, especially when respectful parenting is trending, that the way our parents behaved was typical of the time. Does it excuse it or make it ok? No. But the important thing to note is that it *probably* wasn’t done to intentionally hurt us. They were just doing what they thought was right, even though now we know they were wrong.
It’s a rite of passage for kids to blame their parents for a whole host of things. The things they made us do, what they made us eat, how they treated us, etcetera. But being the adults we are now, perhaps we can look back and see why things were as they were.
Maybe there was tension in the house because mom and dad couldn’t stand each other but couldn’t separate for whatever reason. Maybe dad yelled so much because he thought it was a gentler way to discipline. After all, his father had disciplined him with the strap. Whatever is at the root of it all, practicing self compassion and letting go of the hurt will allow you to move forward more than hanging on to it ever will.
“Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”
– Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion expert
Despite their best intentions, it’s likely that your parents didn’t cover all the bases. While they focussed on your education, they missed out on noticing how awesome you were on the drums. Instead of going corporate, you could have travelled the world in a rock band.
Shoulda, coulda, woulda. Just as you’re finding there’s no manual to life and no “right” way to live, your parents were also fumbling in the dark raising you… as you might be doing now with your own kids.
When it’s in our best interests to remember things differently, we often alter our memories to suit ourselves. On a grander scale, this idea of false memory-making is so widespread that it has a name: the Mandela Effect.
We sometimes have a self image that needs context, so we dig for memories that explain why we are the way we are. Often, we end up putting our parents in the centre of it, regardless of whether it’s the truth. Therapy is great at redirecting those associations to where they should go, and also at figuring out why your unconscious self feels the need to fabricate those memories in the first place.
It’s possible that your parents were genuinely evil. Some people are not meant to be parents. The effects of child abuse are devastating and it can crush a person’s soul. But survivors are deserving of fulfilling lives, filled with laughter and love, and they can get closer to achieving it with the help of therapy.
It’s unforgivable that we have to unburden ourselves of someone else’s misery. But sometimes that’s the reality, so the most important thing to keep in mind is that it’s not your fault. It never was. Understanding that we don’t need to suffer because we weren’t the ones at fault is a good first step in granting ourselves permission to be ok.
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