A question was put to me recently, as to how we can deal with childhood pain without making our parents ‘bad guys’. If they continue to exhibit dysfunctional or hurtful behaviors, we may have chosen to keep distance in the relationship so it is not so much of an issue. Sometimes, however, parents who may have treated us harshly years ago, have mellowed into caring, supportive grandparents.
If we have some buried hurts and resentments, dealing with them may feel like being disloyal to parents, and perhaps hurting them. Not dealing with those hurts may create problems in our other relationships. Even in adulthood then, the hurt child is still protecting and defending the adults who hurt him or her.
There is a way past this dilemma. You can do healing without confronting parents, or even talking to them about past issues. Sometimes it is important to do so. But if reluctance to do so blocks a healing process, then we can find ways to heal that do not involve confrontation.
Even if we do talk to them, parents cannot take away our childhood pain. The pain we experience as adults is more from the negative messages we gave ourselves as a result of the childhood hurts, than from the hurts themselves. Parents may have made you feel like a bad person, or a stupid person. The present day pain, though, comes from you telling yourself you are bad or stupid.
The peace we must make is between our own inner critic, and our inner child. First we must acknowledge our pain, by listening to the hurts of our inner child without rationalizing them away. Then we must acknowledge and validate our worth. Our parents had a strong influence on how we felt about ourselves as children. Once we become adults, it’s up to us.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit www.gwen.ca