There are many things in life for which we are responsible. Fixing our parents is NOT one of them! It is an impossible task, especially for a child. Yet over and over we step up and try. We fail because of the nature of the task. It is actually not possible to fix or heal another person.
A five year old is “mother’s little helper” which is fine, except when the underlying motivation is to cheer up their depressed mother or be sure the dishes are done to avoid their father’s demeaning judgments.
An eleven year old comes home from school and is pinned to their seat, listening to a litany of woes from their self-absorbed parent.
We intuitively sense our parents can’t handle intense feelings. Even when they ask, we hide our sadness and despair.
Children love their parents. They see when we are not happy and they try to help. Some of this is survival based. Our very best chance in life is to have highly functioning, self-regulated parents who are connected with us and support us in development appropriate for our age. They teach us we can trust adults to take care of the adult jobs and we can be a kid. They are on our side. This is so often not the case with parents.
A child naturally has a sweet, innocent love. We thrive on connection. We want the people around us to be happy. Children don’t have the capacity or perspective to see they can’t actually fix an adult. When it doesn’t work, we turn the blame on ourselves.
Belief: It is my job to make mommy or daddy happy. They are not happy –> I’ve failed. I failed because I was not good enough, smart enough, lovable …
Facts: No one can “make” another person happy. Their unhappiness was never your fault. It was never your job to fix them.
Belief: If I’m “good”, my mother won’t hit me or say mean things to me.
Facts: Everyone has needs of their own. That is normal and okay.
No one behaves “perfectly”.
Emotional self-regulation develops through contact with others who are self-regulated. This is difficult when our parents are struggling with it themselves.
A child’s brain and nervous system develops based on their experience.
Many brain functions and higher level executive functioning develop later through our teen and early adult years.
Belief: I am the meaning in my parent’s life. I make their life complete. It is my job to live out their dream.
Facts: Having children can be fulfilling and contribute to a happy life. AND it is not the child’s responsibility to live for their parents. Believing this is our “job” sets up co-dependence, over-functioning and resentment that stains our adult relationships. We don’t get to live our own life!
I’m not worthy. I’m broken. I should have been able to fix it. These core deficiency beliefs are common and arise out of the helplessness we feel as we try and fail to fix our parents. The only possibility that it will change is if we take it on ourselves. We can’t afford to blame our parents so we search for what we did wrong or could have done better.
We turn against ourselves, believing we have failed. We don’t realize it was never our job. It is impossible to succeed due to the nature of the task, not our failure.
We can understand this in our cognitive mind. Do you “know” this all the way through to the unconscious layers of beliefs about life and yourself? Try this inquiry and see what comes up. We worked with this last week in our class on intergenerational trauma and resilience. It is stunning to bring these beliefs up into the light to be healed.