Not many accept such notions as this blog delivers, because putting parents on a pedestal is supported by most religions and society. Of course, respect for elderly and gratitude towards parents are good things; parents do their best and they deserve the acknowledgement – childbearing is one of most challenging tasks. But why not see our parents’ BOTH sides: the nurturing loving one and the part that hurt us? There is no such thing as a perfect human being, and that includes your parents. Clarity is to see a complete picture, and complete picture consists of both, positive and negative sides.
One of the biggest obstacles in therapy is the denial of childhood experiences. Most people don’t remember their childhood – dissociation is a common childhood defense mechanism. Here is why:
1) As children, we cannot afford to see our parents in a negative light, after all, our livelihood depends on them. Seeing our parents’ aggression and insecurities for what they are would be overwhelming for a child’s psyche, because that kind of awareness would highlight how not safe their environment is. Being completely dependent on their parent, it is a survival mechanism to deny such lack of safety.
2) Being liked and approved by parents assures their emotional and physical safety. Denial of parental mental, emotional and other forms of abuse is part of such approval.
3) Anger is part of our nature and in its healthy form serves as a boundary protection. Children that get angry at the mistreatment are often punished, thus have no choice but to devise other defense mechanisms, and denial is one of them
4) Societal and religious dogma contribute to the notion that parents are always right and to be respected by imposing shame and guilt to think otherwise, further enhancing the need to deny parental negative side.
By the time we are independent adults, years of the above conditioning form a thick crust of denial around our true nature and we continue living, using defenses we have developed to survive our childhood, believing that the personality we have developed is our true nature.
Personality versus Individuality
Personality is combination of traits and qualities that form person’s distinct character. For example, Joe is extraverted, friendly person that gets along with most people, hard working, responsible and a family man. Cindy is an introverted, quiet girl, she likes her down-time and prefers small groups of friends to large loud gatherings. What has form their personalities? Partially it is nature – temperament and predisposition to hyper versus hypo nervous system regulation; and the other part is our upbringing. Personality is a dynamic orientation to the environment and is greatly influenced by social interactions. For example, Joe might have had parents that did not accept negative emotions, praised him for being friendly and agreeable, and withheld love when he was angry or sad. Cindy might have had aggressive parents, or busy parents to whom she was a nuisance, and it was safer to stay out of their view, remaining quiet and invisible. In other words, personality is an adaptation to our environment.
Individuality is what we are born with, it is our true nature that is not conditioned and altered by societal frames, religious dogma and parental expectations. Individuality is what we really are, personality is what we show we are. There is a Chinese proverb that says that we have three faces: one that we show to society, one that we show to the close friends and family, and one that only we know – happiest person’s three faces are the same.
Now that we are grown adults, and your dependency on parents is no more, it is safe to let go of that denial. Children, too, deserve the same regards and respect as parents, and their childhood experiences, pain and losses must be acknowledged, if healing is to occur! Working with denial, gently acknowledging and validating our childhood pain and losses, helping ourselves to set aside exaggerated loyalty towards our parents and see the truth of our childhood results in emergence of suppressed feelings, consequently bring forth the true self and the VITALITY that comes with it: sense of joy, inspiration, creativity and ability to love and be loved.
Choose yourself over your parents. Give yourself permission to be you. Be true.