Most people want to believe their parents are good people and were good parents to them. To keep this belief is to keep your world stable and good. If your parents were normal people they made mistakes that have affected you. Some parents are so injured themselves that they, for the most part, weren’t good parents at all. Some parents are downright destructive and their children are lucky ( or marvelously resilient) to come out of their childhood relatively intact. Some children don’t.
The truth is there are no perfect parents. There really aren’t. People not willing or able to see their parents’ limitations and mistakes lose out in understanding and forgiving themselves for their own limitations, and often feel bad about themselves. They make excuses for their parents, seeing them so much as victims of their own situations and therefore not ultimately responsible for what they did – or didn’t do – to their own children. So the adult child inwardly makes themselves bad to protect the parent from responsibility for their own behavior. For these people the parent must remain good, or at least not as faulted/limited as they were. When in therapy, these adults lose out on what they might learned about who they are and why they are the way they are. They can’t overcome the mistakes or cruelties from their parents; you can’t fix something that didn’t happen. And you can’t find out what did happen if you aren’t willing to be open to what you find when you look.
People who protect their parents and lose out for themselves are often relying on the parents to make them feel OK, instead of taking it on themselves to make themselves feel OK. This is a growing up process that many times people resist. Of course we all want our parents to love us, but if they screwed up and our self esteem is lower than it could / should be, it’s time to take on the work of finding out how to validate and love yourself. That’s therapy.
I get a lot of questions about this topic.
The questions come in the form of : “How do I know if my therapist thinks I’m ever going to get better?” or “Should I tell my therapists things I am ashamed of” or “How do I tell if my therapist is about to tell me to leave?” or “How do I know if my therapist thinks I’m crazy/have a personality disorder/ finds me hard to work with?” or ” My therapist is suggesting I go to another therapist – is it because she doesn’t like me?” or “I think my problems are pathetic and I should just wise up and get over them. Is that what my therapist thinks too? How can I find out?”
Questions in this vein are all about being afraid to talk directly to the therapist about whatever is on your mind. First of all, I want to remind anyone who decides to go to therapy – us therapists are only hired help. But I also understand that when one makes themselves so vulnerable by baring so much to a therapist, while the therapist of course tells very little about themselves, it can be an uncomfortable, often one -down feeling situation. In my opinion it is part of the therapists job to let the client know that they find the client interesting and likable. I can’t open up to a therapist unless I feel accepted and OK. Since it is the young parts of ourselves that are being aired , these young parts don’t have the cover of our adult modes in the world making us all the more vulnerable. Therefor it’s all the more important to know you are liked and accepted; even parts of yourself that you don’t like very much yourself!
My suggestion is to ask tell the therapist whatever you are feeling in this area of being acceptable to the therapist. Then observe how you are responded to. If you get any of the attitude “What’s the matter with you, of course I accept you as my client or I wouldn’t be here working with you.” In other words ” What’s your problem? This must be about your family” you have got a defensive person as your therapist, an uneducated one, or somebody who has very little empathy. None of these traits make a good therapist. You have a right to look elsewhere.
I don’t think much is accomplished in therapy if you can’t talk freely. You should get a warm, positive response, full of reassurance and intelligence when you tell your therapist your feelings. I hope you do.