In another post I mentioned that we inherit much from our parents. From our anxieties to our hair color – we get a lot. This also includes, at times, their baggage. A bit of cliche in therapy, but it’s said that those who find their way to therapy are there because of all the people in their life who never went but should have. It rings true though, doesn’t it.
As children we are helpless to listen to our parents, trust our parents and do as our parents say. They are, after all, the ones who brought us into the world and up until 18 they are responsible for keeping us alive and well adjusted. They’re also not perfect and things can go wrong along the way.
Sometimes, as early as when we are children, we see the cracks in the facade of the “perfect parent”. Children and adolescents of dysfunctional parents would be a post (or a book) all it’s own but for now let’s focus on when these kids become adults.
The past doesn’t change when we become adults, but we do. We become independent, maybe we’ve had some of our own experiences that enlighten us about the truly messed up nature of those childhood experiences. Those moments from the past still haunt and it can take years to process and unlearn patterns of thinking, behaving and reasoning that dysfunctional parents instilled. If not processed, the old adage goes, things will go repeated. In movies we always hear the line of all lines in the classic marital fight of “You sound just like your mother/father.” It wouldn’t be so famously used if it wasn’t so unanimous for adults. We repeat what we don’t heal. We become what our environments teach us. Sometimes those lessons are painful, sometimes the books need to be revised.
If those parents are still in your life, boundaries boundaries BOUNDARIES need to be established. This is especially challenging for children of parents who failed to respect boundaries when a child was growing up. If you were never taught, how can you learn now? Boundaries look different for different people and need to be tailored to certain relationship dynamics. That doesn’t diminish the need for boundaries in every adults life.
Grown children of dysfunctional parents have their parents burdens to bear. It’s not fair, but it is a reality for many people. Healing can happen and patterns can be redrawn. No matter what you decide to do to start your healing journey, there is one principal to remember: you are a child no more.