“Is this the part where we blame the parents?” says one wise-ass patient, always trying – and needing – to predict and control the process.
Yes, it is stereotypical and it is true. The tricky but essential part of healing – where we pass it back to no longer carry it ourselves or pass it forward to the next generation.
Think about it. Babes are innocent. They did not ask to be born. And other than their genetic blueprint – which we’ve come to know is telling in and of itself – children absorb what they see, what they sense emotionally and what they are told. Unprocessed pain in our families of origin soaks into the psyches of young children like yesterday’s dishwater into a new sponge. In other words, shit rolls downhill. Children don’t have the wherewithal to understand what it is happening nor the power to do anything about it. To them, it is their normal. They can’t say, “Ah. Dad is an alcoholic and Mom is unavailable. I’ll just pack my bags and move down the street to Johnny’s house. His parents seem nice.”
Nope, kids are stuck.
Fortunately, most adapt. Doing whatever it is they need to do to survive an imperfect family. One where more or less, their needs don’t get met 100% of the time, 100% of the way they need and want them to.
Then these kids grow up, becoming some form of adult on the outside while carriers of familial pain on the inside. Their unconscious is now scripted to react to what they experienced – by either repeating or countering their history. However, the pain continues. I am now a carrier in the line and will inevitably pass such on to the fresh offspring of my loins.
Unless, I am brave enough to get off the train. To stop this cycle of generational emotional violence. To call the family tree what it is – dysfunctional. To look backwards and say – your shit, not mine. I am responsible for healing the battle scars lying in me, but I did not cause this pain. You did by not doing your work.
Is that blaming? I prefer to call it accountability. This is mine, that is yours. I will no longer bear your pain. Rather, in giving it back to you, I choose healing which not only frees me from the cloak of shame, but releases my need to cast such chains to the next generation.
How do we pass it back? First, we speak the truth – at least to ourselves, a safe third party and maybe or maybe not to our original family. And then we grieve. The catch-all process of allowing space for all our feelings about what we got and what we didn’t get. What should have been and what went missing. The anger, pain, hurt and shame holed up in my body. The damaging impact of growing up in an imperfect system.
Often, while moving through this process, we might meet compassion. We realize that our parents did the best they could from the stories they were forced to survive. We forgive them for their humanity. For thinking – albeit wrongly – that they could raise a child before coming to terms with their internal well of emotional pain. But true compassion cannot skip grief. All in proper order.
So, forget blame. Let’s focus on accountability. That is how generations evolve psychologically. One honest moment after another.