"The job of the parent of a minor child is to be a parent - not a friend or a buddy. That doesn't mean you can't have a close relationship with children, but until the child becomes an adult the parent needs to be the adult, the one who is in control."On this page are some thoughts about parenting by codependency therapist, Spiritual Teacher Robert Burney.
"As I have shared elsewhere, we are only a generation or two removed from cultural treatment of both women and children as property. It is only within the last 15 years or so, that such things as healthy parenting classes existed to acknowledge the reality that though we may have to get a license to have a dog or drive a car, there are no such requirements for becoming a parent."
"One of the reasons that you have not been able to change your behavior and do things differently is that you are trying to change from the outside in, rather than inside out. That means you are focusing on symptoms rather than cause. When we try to change from outside in, we end up trying to do things "right" - and then shaming and judging ourselves for not being able to do it perfect / "right." It is vitally important to start focusing on cause - our childhood emotional wounding and programming - so that we can change our behavior patterns and mental process. That is what inner child healing is all about - changing our core relationship with self, life, and other people - by focusing on the cause instead of the symptomatic effects."
"It is quite normal that many of us in the baby boom generation - that were raised in a time when keeping secrets and keeping up appearances was still paramount in society - reacted to growing up with parents who controlled us by breaking our spirits, by going to the other extreme and giving our children too much power. That is abusive to a child also. What is healthy is finding the middle ground. The key is, learning how to Love our selves and be emotionally healthy so that we can not only be healthier parents but healthier role models. Giving children healthy messages while acting acting out in an emotionally unhealthy way ourselves will not work to make us healthy parents."
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The Web Site of Spiritual Teacher, codependence counselor, grief therapist, author, Robert Burney and Joy to You & Me Enterprises
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Robert is the author of the Joyously inspirational book
The Dance of Wounded Souls
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|April 2, 2005
As I am getting ready for my trip to Spain to do a retreat on the island of Ibiza, I wanted to get this page posted. I promised it in my Joy2MeU March 2005 Update Newsletter.
"The other page that I added since the last Update was a page with some questions and answers that come from the Discussions that are of my Suite 101 topic. I don't spend a lot of time on that site, and often don't get around to answering questions posted there more than once a month - but there were some rather long answers I had given there that I thought I would like to share with readers of this site. The topics include grief work, "I don't know how to heal," and one from someone who believed their inner child was psychic. There were also several on parenting that prompted me to start developing a page that will contain some of my thoughts on parenting from different sources, including answers that I have sent to people who e-mailed me for some advice. I will probably post that page in the next few weeks." - Joy2MeU March 2005 Update Newsletter
As I said there, this page is a collection of
bits and pieces that I have written elsewhere - and not an attempt to write
a comprehensive article on parenting. I am will add some quotes from,
and links to, some other articles on my site that in some way are related
to the subject of parenting. Hopefully, this random collection of
thoughts will prove helpful. ~ Robert
It is very difficult in early codependency recovery for people who are parents to start focusing on their own childhood issues instead allowing the critical parent voice to turn their new found awareness into an orgy of judging and shaming themselves for the ways they have parented. It is important to start understanding that you were doing the best you knew how - and that you were powerless to do it any differently because of your own wounding and programming.
"We were set up to be codependent. We were trained and programmed in childhood to be dishonest with ourselves and others. We were taught false, dysfunctional concepts of success, romance, love, life. We could not have lived our lives differently because there was no one to teach us how to be healthy. We were doing the best we knew how with the tools, beliefs, and definitions we had - just as our parents were doing the best they knew how." - The Condition of Codependency
Recovery involves bringing to consciousness those beliefs and attitudes in our subconscious that are causing our dysfunctional reactions so that we can reprogram our ego defenses to allow us to live a healthy, fulfilling life instead of just surviving. So that we can own our power to make choices for ourselves about our beliefs and values instead of unconsciously reacting to the old tapes. Recovery is consciousness raising. It is en-light-en-ment - bringing the dysfunctional attitudes and beliefs out of the darkness of our subconscious into the Light of consciousness.
On an emotional level the dance of Recovery is owning and honoring the emotional wounds so that we can release the grief energy - the pain, rage, terror, and shame that is driving us.
That shame is toxic and is not ours - it never was! We did nothing to be ashamed of - we were just little kids. Just as our parents were little kids when they were wounded and shamed, and their parents before them, etc., etc. This is shame about being human that has been passed down from generation to generation.
There is no blame here, there are no bad guys, only wounded souls and broken hearts and scrambled minds.
Actively pursuing your recovery from codependency is the best thing any parent can do to take responsibility and become a healthier parent. Blaming your self for the past is codependency - as is judging your self for blaming your self for the past. This disease is very powerful and insidious and continually turns back in on itself - causing us to judge and shame our self for our own wounds.
It is through having the courage and willingness to revisit the emotional "dark night of the soul" that was our childhood, that we can start to understand on a gut level why we have lived our lives as we have.
It is when we start understanding the cause and
effect relationship between what happened to the child that we were, and
the effect it had on the adult we became, that we can Truly start to forgive
ourselves. It is only when we start understanding on an emotional level,
on a gut level, that we were powerless to do anything any differently than
we did that we can Truly start to Love ourselves.
This leads to the first of the answers that I gave on a Suite 101 Discussion to someone who was very concerned about the ways in which she had wounded her children. (I am using this color for the text of the question)
Codependency from one perspective is about basing our self worth on outer or external sources. So, with children, the key thing is to not see their behavior as being a reflection of your self worth - either positively or negatively. It is also vital to give children unconditional validation for their being - the ongoing message that they are unconditionally Loved for their being - even if their behavior is not what you want. Part of what that means, is to not overly praise them for accomplishments - which gives them the message that what they "do" is more important than who they are. Certainly praise their efforts - but praise their efforts rather they are successful or not. And validate the worth of their being, and your Love for them, even if they don't make the effort. Using praise and love as a form of behavior modification gives children the message that what they "do" is what gives them worth.
A parent certainly needs to take steps to try to control children's behavior - to keep them from eating 20 candy bars for instance, or sticking their hand on a hot burner - because that is part of the parents job. It is important to start helping children to understand that actions have consequences, and that if they violate boundaries and limits there will be consequences - but that you still love them no matter what. It is very important to give children consistent boundaries / limits - that is one way they know they are loved. It is crazy making for a child to experience inconsistent boundaries - like one does in a dysfunctional family. Now, children will test boundaries - in a way, that is part of their job - but they really want and need consistent boundaries. That lets them know you love them and are there to protect them. They may challenge the boundaries, but they truly do not want to be in control because they know deep down they shouldn't be.
The job of the parent of a minor child is to be a parent - not a friend or a buddy. That doesn't mean you can't have a close relationship with children, but until the child becomes an adult the parent needs to be the adult, the one who is in control. It is important to see them as separate, unique individuals - and validate their worth as beings - at the same time you are setting consistent boundaries and limits for them. To give children too much power is just as abusive as overtly abusing them to get them to behave in the ways you want them to.
And know that your children are different beings in their own right, so they are not going to do things the same. It is important to not compare different children - to not give the impression that one is more loved because they are better behaved for instance.
In my book Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls, I talk about my understanding of codependence as the human condition as we have inherited it - and share a Spiritual perspective of life that many people have found helpful in learning to relax and enjoy life more rather than living it as a test they can fail. You might find reading it helpful in giving you a larger perspective on this life journey you are on - and a perspective on your relationship with your children that will help you to start seeing that parenting is not a test you can fail either. The more conscious and healed you become, the better parent you will become - and you will be guided on your journey by a Loving Higher Power, as will your children who are also Spiritual Beings having a human experience just like you are.
A question and answer interchange from Suite 101
You didn't become inept at parenting, you just never really learned how to parent in a healthy way. It is impossible to parent in a healthy way if we don't have a healthy relationship with our self. Our role models for parenting were our parents - who didn't know how to be healthy either. And rather we parent like our parents did, or go to the other extreme by trying to do it completely different than they did, we are being codependent - we are reacting to the extremes of codependency.
Codependency is a conditioned reflex - and also a form of Delayed Stress Syndrome - which causes us to live life in reaction to old tapes and old wounds. (see the Codependency pages of my web site.) As long as we are reacting to life and other people out of childhood wounding and intellectual programming, we are powerless to do anything but react to extremes. This reacting to extremes dynamic is the result of growing up in cultures that taught us to see our self and life from a black and white, right and wrong, perspective. We were taught that right is what we "should" do, and that "wrong" was bad and shameful. We also got the message that life was a test that we could fail - by being imperfect and doing things "wrong." That sets us up to judge and shame our self for being imperfect, wounded, humans.
This causes us to react to situations in ways that are dysfunctional, that do not work, and then judge and shame our self for our reactions. It causes us to believe that we are responsible for other peoples feelings, and to judge and shame ourselves for our own feelings and behavior. It is very nasty, extremely powerful and insidious. The bottom line of what we need to do in codependency recovery is to stop shaming and judging ourselves for being wounded, imperfect human beings, and start seeing our self, life, and other people with more clearly and objectively so that we can change our relationships with self, life, and other people into a healthier, more functional relationships.
In other words, the key to changing your relationship with your daughter is to change your relationship with your self and life. In focusing on your relationship with you daughter (or any other person) you are only seeing symptoms - not dealing with the cause. The cause goes back to your childhood wounding and programming.
The vitally important step in this process, the one that makes the rest of recovery possible, is to start learning how to detach from what is going on - both externally and internally - enough to stop shaming and judging your self and start seeing what is happening with more clarity. Here is a quote from an online book I am writing in which I talk about the importance of detachment when it comes to codependence recovery.
"The healing process is full of paradox and irony on multiple levels. One of those paradoxes is that in order to get in touch with our ONENESS with everything, we must first be able to define our self as separate from others. And in order to become an integrated whole being, we must first separate and own all of the different parts of our self within. As long as we don't have clear boundaries between our self and others, we cannot know where we end and someone else starts - we cannot get clear on what is our stuff and what is theirs. As long as we don't have clear boundaries within ourselves, we are set up to be the victim of our own thoughts, feelings, and behavior.One of the reasons that you have not been able to change your behavior and do things differently is that you are trying to change from the outside in, rather than inside out. That means you are focusing on symptoms rather than cause. When we try to change from outside in, we end up trying to do things "right" - and then shaming and judging ourselves for not being able to do it perfect / "right." It is vitally important to start focusing on cause - our childhood emotional wounding and programming - so that we can change our behavior patterns and mental process. That is what inner child healing is all about - changing our core relationship with self, life, and other people - by focusing on the cause instead of the symptomatic effects.
Detachment is a vital technique in starting to see our self and others more clearly.
Most people who have any experience with twelve step programs will associate the term 'detachment' with Al-Anon. In Al-Anon terms detachment means to let go of believing that one has the power to make an alcoholic drink - or not drink. To stop taking an alcoholics behavior personally. It means to let go of feeling responsible for another persons feelings and behavior.
Detaching from feeling responsible for the feelings and behavior of other people is one of the initial stages of any codependency recovery. We learned in childhood that we had the power to make our parents happy or sad, angry or scared. We experienced painful consequences when our behavior was not what the adults around us considered acceptable. Some of us came from families where being a human child was not acceptable behavior. Some of us came from families afflicted with alcoholism or mental illness, in which case the definition of acceptable behavior varied wildly from one day to the next. Some of us came from families where as children we were allowed to have the power and be in control - which is terrifying and abusive to a child. Some of us came from families where no one in the family had permission to be human. None of these environments taught us how to relate to self and life in a healthy way.
We grew up getting the message that we were responsible for other people feelings and behavior. And we were taught to give other people or outside agencies power over how we felt about ourselves. We learned to do life backwards.
"I spent most of my life doing the Serenity prayer backwards, that is, trying to change the external things over which I had no control - other people and life events mostly - and taking no responsibility (except shaming and blaming myself) for my own internal process - over which I can have some degree of control. Having some control is not a bad thing; trying to control something or somebody over which I have no control is what is dysfunctional." - Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
We tried to control other people so we could protect ourselves emotionally. Some of us (classic codependent behavior) tried to control through people pleasing, being a chameleon, wearing a mask, dancing to other people's tunes. Some of us (classic counterdependent behavior - the opposite extreme) protected ourselves by pretending that we didn't need other people. Either way we were living life in reaction to our childhood wounds - we were not making clear, conscious choices. (If we think our choice is to be in an abusive relationship or not to be in a relationship at all, that is not a choice - that is reacting between two extremes that are symptoms of our childhood wounds.)" - Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Author's Foreword
I would encourage you to keep reading my work
- and especially to focus on the inner
child healing approach I share on my web site. There is hope
- there is a way out. The problems you are experiencing are not because
there is something wrong with you, with who you are - it is your relationship
with self and life that got so screwed up in childhood. You do have the
power to change your relationship with self, life, and others by focusing
on the cause and learning how to live the Serenity Prayer in your life,
instead of trying to do life backwards - trying to play the game of life
by rules that do not work.
Discussion: [No Title]
Date: January 8, 2005 7:23 PM
Subject: Re: Re: Her pain-my pain
In response to Re: Her pain-my pain posted by joy2meu:
Thank you so much for responding to my post. I understand what I have to do but I am sad that I have now passed this model of parenting to my children. Is there really any way to stop this disease from passing to the next generation? I feel like it's already too late, not for me to change, but for my girls. Are they now destined to carry this on because of the traumas they have suffered?
Date: January 27, 2005 02:03 PM
Yes, it is sad. And it is important to grieve for the past - but it is also vital to not judge and shame yourself for it. Here is a quote from my book:
We must start recognizing our powerlessness over this disease of Codependence.
As long as we did not know we had a choice we did not have one.
If we never knew how to say "no," then we never really said "yes."
We were powerless to do anything any different than we did it. We were doing the best we knew how with the tools that we had. None of us had the power to write a different script for our lives.
We need to grieve for the past. For the ways in which we abandoned and abused ourselves. For the ways we deprived ourselves. We need to own that sadness. But we also need to stop blaming ourselves for it. It was not our fault!
We did not have the power to do it any differently.
We cannot change the past, so it is vital to stop judging ourselves for it. You could not have done it differently. It is by becoming conscious of your codependency and getting into recovery that you are doing your part to break the cycle of this disease. It is important to remember that the tools, knowledge, and guidance needed to break these cycles and recover from the condition of codependency are relatively very new in civilization. (I am going to share quotes from a few of my articles here in the hopes they might help you with your process of forgiving your self.)
"For all of the so called progress of our modern societies, we still are far behind most aboriginal cultures in terms of respect for individual rights and dignity in some kind of balance with the good of the whole. (I am speaking here of tribal aboriginal societies - not urbanized ones.) Nowhere is this more evident in terms of our relationship to our children.
Modern civilizations - both Eastern and Western - are no more than a generation or two removed from the belief that children were property. This, of course, goes hand in hand with the belief that women were property. The idea that children have rights, individuality, and dignity is relatively new in modern society. The predominant and underlying belief, as it has been manifested in the treatment of children, has been that children are extensions of, and tools to be used by, their parents.
A very telling insight into the basic beliefs underlying Western attitudes towards children is shared by inner child pioneer Alice Miller in her book The Drama of The Gifted Child. She shares how the 19th Century German Philosophers who laid the groundwork for modern psychology, emphasized the importance of stamping out a child's "exuberance." In other words, a child's spirit must be crushed in order to control them.
Children are to be seen and not heard. Spare the rod and spoil the child.
It is only in very recent history, that our society has even recognized child abuse as a crime instead of an inherent right of the parent. The concept of healthy parenting as a skill to be learned is very new in society." - Inner Child Healing - Why do it?
"As I have shared elsewhere, we are only a generation or two removed from cultural treatment of both women and children as property. It is only within the last 15 years or so, that such things as healthy parenting classes existed to acknowledge the reality that though we may have to get a license to have a dog or drive a car, there are no such requirements for becoming a parent." - Men and Women are from the same planet
"So often when I am working with someone, helping them to understand their codependency, they will say, "Why didn't I learn this sooner. I feel so stupid that I have have wasted so many years in denial about how much my childhood experiences were running my life."The disease of codependency causes reaction to extremes. Because of this, many people in the last generation to be raised in a time when children didn't really have any rights, in a time prior to the great changes in society brought about by the Civil Rights Movement and the Feminist Movement, among other things - went to the other extreme when they became parents. It is quite normal that many of us in the baby boom generation - that were raised in a time when keeping secrets and keeping up appearances was still paramount in society - reacted to growing up with parents who controlled us by breaking our spirits, by going to the other extreme and giving our children too much power. That is abusive to a child also. What is healthy is finding the middle ground. The key is, learning how to Love our selves and be emotionally healthy so that we can not only be healthier parents but healthier role models. Giving children healthy messages while acting out in an emotionally unhealthy way ourselves will not work to make us healthy parents. As I say in my book:
What I need to remind them of, is that the information we have now wasn't available when they were growing up. It was in only the late 70s and early 80s that researchers were able to identify the Adult Child Syndrome, that family dynamics researchers were starting to speak of the concept of dysfunctional families. Before Betty Ford had the courage to go public with her recovery from alcoholism in the late 70s, there was very little information widely available about alcoholism. Phil Donahue started bringing controversial topics out of the closet in the 70s, and was followed in the 80s by Oprah Winfrey. These were the first times that such subjects as child abuse and incest were openly discussed in American society. Denial, keeping secrets, had been the traditional norm in both families and society." - The Condition of Codependency
What we traditionally have called normal parenting in this society is abusive because it is emotionally dishonest. Children learn who they are as emotional beings from the role modeling of their parents. "Do as I say not as I do," does not work with children. Emotionally dishonest parents cannot be emotionally healthy role models, and cannot provide healthy parenting.
So, in order to be a healthy parent, it is vital to become a healthier person.
Your daughters were wounded, and do carry subconscious and emotional programming that will cause them to act out codependent patterns in how they relate to themselves, life, and other people. But they will be able to see the effects of the codependency much sooner, and probably get into recovery much younger than you ever had a chance of doing - because the information is available now. And the role modeling you do for them by starting to get healthier will be as if you were planting seeds within their consciousness that will bloom at some time in the future. They will probably be disturbed and resentful of the changes in your behavior at first - because children are normally scared of changes in the status quo, in what they have experienced as normal. Eventually however, as you get healthier, you will be available to them as a healthier resource and support than you could ever be while still in denial of your codependency.
So, yes they will probably carry this on for a while, but there is more hope for them - and all future generations - as more and more of us get involved in codependency recovery.
I hope this has been helpful. I am going to close
my response here with another quote from my book - a quote that speaks
to how important it is to focus on our own individual healing as a way
of changing the human condition.
We are Spiritual Beings and we are here in these bodies, at this time, to do this healing.
So the bad news is that the world is a real mess because we have been doing it all backwards. The good news is that it was all part of the Divine Script and that the healing has begun.
The good news individually is that the dance is changing, the healing and Joy are available to us now. The bad news individually (from an emotional perspective) is that in order to do this healing, it is necessary to do our grief processing, to feel our feelings. It is necessary to go through the black hole.
That is the reason we came into body in this lifetime - to go through that black hole, to do this healing!
The time has come for you to remember that. This is your wake-up call. It is not the first and it probably will not be the last. But it is not an accident or a coincidence that you are reading this today.
It is time to stop the nonsense of believing that our purpose and meaning comes from the money, or the job, or the relationship. We are here to be a part of the Transformational Healing Process that has begun on this planet - we are here to heal our relationship with ourselves, with our wounded souls.
The time has come to stop doing it backwards. It is time to stop shaming and abusing an innocent child, to stop judging and blaming an innocent Adult Child. The time has come to start Loving yourself. . . . . . .
Love is the secret weapon in this war! Learning to Love ourselves, and remembering that the God-Force Loves us, is what will bring peace within.
In closing this section I am going to share a story that I heard at a Twelve Step meeting. It is a story about a parent and a child.
This was one of those times when the parent was busy with something that needed to be done and the child was bored and wanted some attention. The parent needed to concentrate and was desperate to find something to distract the child for a little while so that the parent could get done with what needed to be done and could then give the child some attention. In glancing around, the parent noticed a large fold out map of the world from a magazine. The parent took the map of the world and cut it up into pieces and gave it to the child along with some scotch tape and said, "Here honey, why don't you see how quickly you can put this map of the world together."
The child liked this idea and quickly went to work. The parent was sure that this little ploy had bought some valuable time to get finished with the project at hand. But in only a very few minutes the child called out that the map was all put together. The parent could not believe it and went over to where the child was sitting on the floor and was astounded to see the map all put together.
"How did you do that so fast?!" The parent asked.
The child, looking a little sheepish, said, "Well, I kinda cheated a little. On the other side of the map of the world was the picture of a person. I just put the person together and the world came together all by itself."
That's what this Recovery process is all about. If we just focus on putting ourselves together the world will take care of itself. - Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
to this discussion thread on Suite101
Another note about parenting
Date: November 30, 2004 10:55 AM
Subject: Re: spirituality
In response to spirituality posted by ______:
Yes you are right, the best thing you can do to be the healthiest parent you can be, is to heal yourself and become the healthiest person you can be. As I say in my book, we are Spiritual Beings here in human body going to boarding school for awhile and then we get to go home. You are on a Spiritual Path that is unfolding perfectly for you to learn the lessons you came here to learn, and settle the Karma you came here to settle. So is your son.
Your dream was your intuition / Higher Self helping
you to relax and have some faith in the process so that you can be the
best parent you can be. Cool dream and great interpretation.
In terms of the parent who is in denial, they no doubt are not going to be reading anything on my web site. They are in denial because that is what their ego believes is necessary for survival. The extremes of rationalization and justification which the ego can go to in keeping a codependent from falling into the abyss of shame and pain within, is truly mind boggling at times. "You were always a difficult child" is one of the milder forms of that justification - as is, "You were always too sensitive." I had a client tell me that her mother refused to take any responsibility for the ways she had wounded the child because of their metaphysical beliefs - because the child had "chosen" her for a mother. Blaming the child for their wounds because of metaphysics is a real cop out - and is based upon the types of misinterpretations of metaphysical law I talk about in one of my articles.
"Choosing your parents - this is another one that is governed by Karma. We did not have the choice of any parents in the world to be born to - we had limited choices that were aligned with settling the Karma we needed to settle." - New Age Misinterpretations of Metaphysical TruthIt is very important for us in our codependency recovery to learn how to take responsibility without blaming - which includes taking responsibility for any "mistakes" we made in parenting.
"(The black and white perspective is the foundation of the blame them or blame me, victim of them or victim of my own shameful defectiveness, extremes that govern the dynamics of the disease of codependency.) . . .Accepting some responsibility and saying "I'm sorry" is just the first step in cleaning up our side of the street. Making amends involves far more than just saying, "I'm sorry."
. . . . When I got into recovery I was launched into an adventure of discovering and exploring the gray area that is life. I learned that it was possible to take responsibility over behaviors and choices that I had made from a place of powerlessness without taking blame for those experiences. I learned that there were choices in between blaming them or blaming me." - Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility part 4: Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility 1
"Making amends is about taking action to change our behaviors - and the attitudes that caused our behaviors. That is true in terms of making amends to others and to making amends to ourselves - because as has been said, we hurt ourselves the most." - The Miracle of The Twelve Step Process: 4 thru 9 "The Clean Up Steps."And taking responsibility in a healthy way, includes taking responsibility for taking care of self.
Unconditional Love does not mean being a doormat for other people - unconditional Love begins with Loving ourselves enough to protect ourselves from the people we Love if that is necessary.
A parent is not required to do penance for the rest of their life for being powerless over how they parented their children. It is not okay for children to keep blaming and being abusive to a parent because of the past. Here is a quote from an e-mail I received from a parent who wrote me in a lot of pain about how she had wounded her daughter - and asked for advice. I told her basically to back off and give her daughter space, while focusing on healing her relationship with herself.
Dear Robert,Here is another example of some feedback I received from a parent whom I worked with to let go of her daughter and give her some space.
I wrote to you a while back about the grief I was feeling that my youngest daughter (age 19 now) had to "parent" me due to my PTSD breakdown over her last years at home. You recommended that ..."Part of what you can do is letting her know that you are aware that you weren't able to be a very good mother to her in many ways because of what you were going through - and that any time she feels like talking to you about it, you are willing to talk. In other words, don't try to push things. Keep working on your healing and recovery, and being available to her..."
I hope I already thanked you for your advice, but anyway, here is the good news. I have done just what you suggested: I let her know that I know I had not been able to be the mother/parent I wanted to be, and that I admire her for what she did even though I wish she had never had to do so. I told her that if she ever wanted to talk about it, I would be willing.
That was only about 8 weeks ago. I went about my business of recovery, called her when I felt I could talk with her relatively comfortably, listened past her "stiffness" as she went on to talk freely (every conversation), and was invited to spend Thanksgiving with her! It was wonderful, heavenly, all I could have hoped for: She asked for my recipes, did many things the way I'd taught her when she was little (and I was well). We shopped together, I admired her new apartment, "approved of" her new boyfriend, and helped her house-clean and do a new craft I had learned.
I wondered what it would be like to ever experience joy--couldn't remember the feeling, to tell you the truth. Okay, who would've thought that taking your daughter out to buy her a plastic tablecloth and potholders would be so lovely? I am blessed; she tells me she loves me all the time now. Oh, I may be on disability, but I am a rich, rich woman. Thank you."
"The other wonderful Goddess stroke that I received came when a woman, who I had worked with briefly while I was working with her daughter, came up to me to tell me the latest news. I worked with her daughter for a period of 4 or 5 months in the later part of 1999. While I was working with her daughter, I convinced her to come in for a few sessions on her own.As long as this mother had her sense of self worth invested in her daughters behavior, she was powerless over trying to control the daughter. The more the mother tried to control, the more the daughter rebelled and acted out in self destructive ways. It is vital in codependency recovery to learn how to stop looking to outer or external sources for our self worth. That includes making our children the source of our feelings of worth.
Her daughter turned 16 while I was working with her. She was acting out and rebelling completely. I never knew what bright, fluorescent color her hair was going to be - or what new body piercing or tattoos she might have - when she came to see me. She was acting out in very dangerous ways: sexually, with alcohol and drugs, with strange people in dangerous situations. Her mother was terrified for her and was reacting with anger and attempts to control. Mother and daughter were stuck in a reactive dynamic that could have been the death of both of them.
The news she had to share with me was how wonderfully her daughter was doing. How she had finished high school and was in college through scholarships and grants that she had arranged for herself. How she had lost weight and gone back to her natural hair color. How when a relationship she was in ended recently, she had responded to her mother's offer to travel to the city she is in to help her through the emotional crisis by saying, "The little girl in me wants you to come, but I think it is better for me to learn how to go through this on my own."
Now, is that cool or what?!?
It sounds like a happy ending - but actually what it is, is a happy new beginning. They were able to make a transition that ended one chapter of both of their lives - a period where they were totally enmeshed and negatively empowering each other - and started a new healthier beginning to the next chapter of each of their separate but interrelated lives.
The mother needed to let go of the outcome of her daughter's path, at the same time the daughter needed to let go of punishing her mother for the past so that she could stop reacting and start taking responsibility for her own life choices." - October 2000 Update
"Codependence is characterized by dependence on outer or external sources for self-worth and self-definition. This outer or external dependence, combined with unhealed childhood emotional wounds which get reactivated whenever an emotional "button" is pushed, cause the Codependent to live life in reaction to, give power over self-esteem to, outside sources." - Codependence DefinedAs long as a parent believes that their children are a measure of their worth, then their ego will try to control the children in such a way as to reflect positively on the parent. That is ego driven codependency and is part of the reason that so many of us experienced our parents love as being shaming and abusive growing up.
"I had never experienced feeling loved consistently in my closest relationships. Because my parents did not know how to Love themselves, their behavior towards me had caused me to experience love as critical, shaming, manipulative, controlling, and abusive. Because that was my experience of love as a child - that was the only type of relationship I was comfortable with as an adult. It was also, and most importantly, the relationship that I had with myself." - The True Nature of Love - what Love is notIt is vital for a parent in codependency recovery to gain enough humility to stop buying into the illusion that their children's behavior is a indicator of their own worth - either positively or negatively.
"Humility means to stop judging and shaming ourselves for being imperfect humans. Humility means to own the inherent dignity and worth we have because we are children of God / extensions of the Goddess. Humility means being open to being teachable, being willing to surrender any ego definitions or dysfunctional beliefs that are blocking us from being able to open up to the possibility that we are Lovable and worthy.You are a Magnificent Spiritual Being having a human experience. So are your children.
In childhood I got the message that I was supposed to be perfect, to do life "right," in order to get to happily ever after. It is impossible to do life perfectly. Life for humans involves change. It is how we respond to change that determines the quality of our relationship with life." - Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Chapter 6: ego strength and self worth
Who we are, are transcendent Spiritual Beings who are part of the ONENESS that is the God-Force. We always have been and always will be. We are perfect in our Spiritual Essence. We are perfectly where we are supposed to be on our Spiritual Path. And from a human perspective we will never be able to do "human" perfectly - which is perfect.
We have been trying to do "human" perfectly according to a false belief system in order to "get Spiritual." It does not work. It's dysfunctional and backwards. It is not bad or wrong or shameful - it is the best we have known how to do life until now.
All any human being in the history of the planet has ever done is the best that she/he knew how to do to survive in the moment.
You did the best you knew how to be parent with the knowledge and tools
you had. You were powerless to do it any differently. By being
in recovery you are gaining the power to do it differently. As you
learn to forgive and Love your self, you will become a healthier parent
to your children. We cannot change the past - we do have the power
to become positive co-creators in our lives and our children's lives by
focusing on recovery and healing.
Reminds me of Robert Bly's book Iron John. (link to Amazon.com info about book) He talks about how, ever since the industrial revolution pulled fathers out of the home a great deal of the time, boys have been primarily learning how to be men from women.
I believe that the concept of the nuclear family as an isolated entity is inherently dysfunctional and traumatic. I am going to include here a passage I wrote some time ago, and never found anyplace to use in my writing.
"Of course, we have almost completely lost the real sense and idea of community - of a group of people who are interconnected and interrelated for their collective welfare and mutual benefit. In Western Civilization, and especially in the United States, the individual is glorified to the detriment of the whole (this is the opposite extreme of imbalance for much of Eastern Civilization which glorifies the whole to the detriment of the individual.) So separation is the rule rather than connection.
Some can have millions while others are starving and homeless - and this is looked upon as normal and natural. Society teaches us to believe that we are separate - that another persons suffering is that persons own fault. That the individual is separate from, and in competition with, others.
This applies on multiple levels. It is also true in the dysfunctional myth of the individual nuclear family. The concept of the nuclear family with it's sense of possession (my children) and comparison with other families carries with it inherent emotional trauma in my view. I believe that the healthiest parenting came in societies where the whole tribe or clan had a sense of community and connection. Where everyone knew they were individuals but also knew they were important parts of the whole. Where people lived so close together that there were no family secrets and social mores dictated that physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse were not acceptable.
Now, I am not saying that aboriginal societies were completely healthy or balanced cultures. But they did have a healthier balance than modern societies because they had to in order to survive. The had more respect for nature and natural cycles because it was necessary to live. They had a sense of community because without it they would perish.
And, of course, as population grew and urban based civilizations propagated things had to change. It is just very sad that those changes took on such a twisted perspective that is so opposed to Love and connection between humans."
So, I wrote this to honor my mother's Spirit -
the Magnificent Spiritual Being that she Truly is. I talk in the
latest chapter of my current online book project, about how important it
is to draw a boundary between being and behavior, between ego strength
and self worth. My mother is a good person, a kind person, a Spiritual
Being having a human experience. She is also a raging codependent
whose behavior has had a devastating affect on my journey through this
lifetime. She wounded me grievously because she was wounded. Robert
- July 5, 2002
"A parent does not cause a child to become alcoholic or drug addicted. The emotional wounds provide reasons to drink and use, are the fuel that drives an alcoholic/addict's behavior, but are not the cause of the disease.
We were all raised in dysfunctional families - because society / civilization is emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional. We were all wounded in our childhood, because our parents were wounded in their childhood - and when we became parents we wounded our children." - To Parents of Alcoholics / Addicts
"Tough love is a misnomer. Love that does not include boundaries is not Truly Love - it is enmeshment, it is emotional vampirism. If I do not Love myself enough to have boundaries to protect myself from the behavior of others than I am not capable of relating to other people in a healthy Loving manner. Rescuing another from their own self destructive behavior is not Loving - and it is codependently dishonest." - Enabling & Rescuing vs Tough Love
"One of the most pervasive, traumatic, and damaging dynamics that occurs in families in this dysfunctional, emotionally dishonest society is emotional incest. It is rampant in our society but there is still very little written or discussed about it.
Emotional incest occurs when a child feels responsible for a parents emotional well-being." - Emotional Incest - emotionally devastating child abuse
"I witnessed a scene a few years back that was graphic proof that the best thing any of us can for our loved ones is to focus on our own healing. At a CoDA meeting one day a little four-year old boy, who had been going to twelve-step meetings with his mother for two years, was sitting on a man's lap only six feet away from where his mother was sharing and crying. He didn't even bother to look up when his mother started crying. The man, who was more concerned than the little boy, said to him, "Your mommy's crying because she feels sad." The little boy looked up, glanced over at his mother and said, "Yea, she's getting better," and went back to playing. He knew that it was okay for mom to cry and that it was not his job to fix her. That little boy, at four years old, already had healthier boundaries than most adults - because his mother was in recovery working on getting healthier herself.
There are several facets of that scene that are remarkable because of their rarity in our society. One was that the adult had a safe place to share and express her feelings. The second was much rarer, a child with some semblance of healthy boundaries between self and parent." - Suite 101 series Inner Child/Codependency Recovery - Inner Child Healing - Part 6 - Emotional Incest
"The belief that it is unmanly to cry or express fear is part of the prototype for what a man is supposed to be in our society. Most men are programmed to keep their emotions (except for anger) bottled up in a concrete bunker inside of themselves because that is what they learned from society and from their role models. Some men, of course, go to the other extreme and because they don't want to be like their fathers are out of balance in not being able to own their anger - these men usually marry women who are like their fathers." - Wounded Parents - the tragic legacy of dysfunctional families
"How can a society cherish mothers when we don't cherish women? How can a woman who is not taught to cherish herself teach her children to cherish themselves?" - Mothers - wounded women become damaged mothers
"My earliest memory of my father involves a trivial incident that happened when I was 3 or 4 and playing with some cousins. The incident was trivial but what I am feeling in the memory is not trivial at all. In that first memory of my father, when I was just a little boy, what I feel is absolute terror. As I sit here writing this, tears come to my eyes because it is very sad that little boy was so terrified of his father." - Emotionally Crippled Fathers - a sad tragedy of the masculine
"Our parents were emotionally abused in childhood because their parents were emotionally abused in childhood. Our parents were our role models who taught us how to relate to ourselves and our own emotions. We learned to relate to ourselves as emotional beings from the role modeling of the adults we came in contact with and the messages we got from the way they treated us - as well as the messages we got from cultural sources ranging from fairy tales to religion. . . . .
. . . . What we traditionally have called normal parenting in this society is abusive because it is emotionally dishonest. Children learn who they are as emotional beings from the role modeling of their parents. "Do as I say not as I do," does not work with children. Emotionally dishonest parents cannot be emotionally healthy role models, and cannot provide healthy parenting." - Emotional abuse is Heart and Soul Mutilation
"It is only in very recent history, that our society has even recognized child abuse as a crime instead of an inherent right of the parent. The concept of healthy parenting as a skill to be learned is very new in society.
Any society that does not respect and honor individual human dignity, is going to be a society that does not meet the essential needs of it's members. Patriarchal societies, that demean and degrade women and children, are dysfunctional in their essence." - Inner child healing - Why do it?
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