I have had a great life - good friends, good jobs. "Always lands on her feet" is what people say about me. Things are good in all the ways that I could dream; I have everything I want in a "here and now" kind of basis. However, I do not think that I am worthy of the life I have made for myself. My friends and family think I am doing great but things just don't sit right with me. My mom has criticized me since the day I was born, and I don't want to do this to my daughter. My mom comes down hard on me because of the way I treat my daughter; that is, I treat her as another person (but still a child) instead of using the old "Do as you're told because I said so". You're probably not going to have an answer to this problem because I'm not good at verbalizing it. It would be really easy if I gave in to my mother, but it bothers me. What can you do when you see your parents as a couple who did their best, but that "they know everything" feeling is long gone? How can I, at 31, still feel I'm missing something after all I've achieved? I know you're going to tell me to talk to my parents - but they're just not the sort of parents that you can talk to. They tell me I watch too much TV and that I need to focus on the real world.
When your parents have let you down (but you still love them and know they did their best), how do you get over it and move on? Hope you can help.
First of all, your feelings are perfectly normal. We have all been taught to love and honor our parents and are told that we should naturally have warm, close feelings with them. Therefore, when we have mixed feelings of love and anger about them, we feel that we must be deficient, odd, and ungrateful. When parents are extremely critical, as you are relating, then it is impossible to grow up feeling good and whole about ourselves.
Unfortunately, there are way too many parents who haven't fully grown up themselves, and take it out on their children. When parents feel they aren't good enough they often project this on to their offspring. This becomes epidemic and parents pass it on to their kids and the kids pass it on to theirs. You should feel proud that you are not passing on their criticizing nature to your children. However, if you are hard on yourself and allow your parents to put you down in front of your children, they will have a much greater chance of becoming infected by the crazy rules of dysfunctional families.
Your question was "What can you do when you see your parents as a couple who did their best, but that 'they know everything' feeling is long gone?" That's a great question. The short answer is that you grieve the loss of childhood (and whatever mistreatment you experienced), and decide for yourself whether you are ok being alone. In other words, you grow up and individuate.
The problem is that it is extremely hard to do and even harder if you have been abused. It brings up the whole idea of dysfunctional families and "family of origin issues". There are two main leaders in this field of thought. The first is Alice Miller in "The Drama of the Gifted Child." She said that any parent who was abusive did not do their best. Parents shouldn't criticize and tell their kids they aren't good enough. Alice would say: "Grieve, get mad, go through it and then let go, but don't let your parents abuse you in the present."
The second pioneer is John Bradshaw in "The Family." He would say: "What your parents did was wrong. Grieve, and then forgive them, because they did their best." He would also agree not to allow present abuse.
I work between these two positions - I do focus on letting go. If there is a change in parents' behavior, then forgiveness makes sense, but if they are presently abusing, nothing has really changed. I wouldn't talk to your parents about the past until you can - to the point where you feel strong and don't need their approval anymore. You can decide then if you want to talk to them about the past. However, it is critical to your mental health not to allow yourself to be abused by anyone in the present.
Working through these issues is hard work, but this form of treatment is very effective, and I would suggest that you search out a therapist who knows about "Family of Origin" work. It would also be helpful if they knew both "EMDR" and "NET". These are therapies that help root out old feelings stored in the body and the more primitive parts of our brain. It makes treatment faster and more effective. Your conscious mind already realizes, in part, that your parents were wrong and that you are a good, competent person, but the old negative feelings are stuck. Good luck on this quest.
Jef Gazley www.asktheinternettherapist.com
This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.
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