Susan’s daughter, Amanda, is 15. Susan asks Amanda to pick up her clothes, books and papers from the living room and dining room. The teenager hisses, “You do it! You’re the parent. You’re supposed to take care of the house.”
Trying to remain calm and loving, Susan speaks slowly, “Your belongings are your responsibility, Mandy.”
Molly, Susan’s mother, who is visiting, rolls her eyes, clicks her tongue, and whispers to her daughter, “You really have to be more careful not to aggravate her, Susan.” Then she walks away into the guest room.
Susan feels angry, hurt, and scared. She knows as the mother she needs to take charge. But in these struggles with Amanda, no matter what parenting technique she uses, the outcome is the same: she yells at Amanda, sends Amanda to her room, and punishes her. Then Susan retreats to her own bedroom sobbing. On top of everything else, tonight her own mother’s reproach does her in.
Susan insists this battle is about Amanda’s lack of responsibility around the house. But clearly, Amanda’s actions evoke something deeper in Susan.
As a child grows up, a parent’s own childhood hauntingly intrudes into the parent-child relationship. Untended, a parent’s early wounds have a damaging impact on interactions with children and their development.
To give children their best chances in life, parents need to commit to doing their own healing work. Unfinished, unresolved, or unhealed issues from a parent’s childhood, arising in relationship with his or her child, is a sign post to the work the parent needs to undertake. The key: here and now events are gateways to past occurrences.
And when grandparents are included in the mix, the parents’ early wounds get triggered even more easily. After all, their wounding came from their childhood experience. And what often gets overlooked is the grandparents’ early wounding . . . wounding they inevitably passed on to their children, albeit unconsciously.
So while the parents have a chance to heal within for their sake and the sake of their children, the grandparents have an ideal opportunity to heal within for their sake, the sake of their children, and the sake of their grandchildren as well!
Susan’s intense reaction indicates Amanda’s scorn sparks something from Susan’s childhood. And that her mother’s response on top of that brings her to her knees . . . is a huge clue. My job as therapist is to help Susan find the root.
Once Susan grasps that a connection exists between Amanda’s behavior and her own childhood, I can help her find that link. Upon discovering the link, I can help Susan disconnect the hold between present and past. Then, I can help her heal the original wound for her sake and her daughter’s.
In therapy, Susan talked about her widowed mother abandoning her. While drinking and sleeping off binges, Mother would lock herself in her bedroom, leaving Susan all alone for hours. Mother would roll her eyes and distort her face as though she were sickened by the sight of Susan.
Needing Mommy, Susan turned herself inside-out to keep her mother from rejecting her.
This emotional root pervaded Susan’s marriage, too. She turned herself inside-out to stop her husband from leaving. She sacrificed her morals and allowed her husband to abuse her to keep from “losing her mother” a second time, in the guise of her husband.
Now, Susan acts out of fear of losing Amanda. Under the pretext of ameliorating the effects of the divorce, Susan allowed Amanda to run the household, set the emotional tenor, determine how they spend time and money. Susan doesn’t realize that young Susan is still alive within her, trying to avoid “losing Mom” again, this time in her daughter.
In Part Two, we’ll explore with Susan the roots of her intertwined relationships with her daughter and her own mother …and the healing that is possible when parents and grandparents do the inner work with their relationships with power!
© Judith Barr 2010
Judith Barr has been a depth psychotherapist in private practice for over 30 years, helping people to heal their own inner wounding through therapy, and also to make a connection between our own individual inner relationships with power, money, national and world events and more, and the state of our nation and our world. She offers her healing expertise in many formats: working with individuals, couples groups, workshops, consultations, and training and supervision for healing professionals.
Through her book Power Abused, Power Healed, articles for both professionals and the general public, her blog PoliPsych, and her speaking engagements, media appearances and teleconferences, Judith teaches about how we can help heal the abuse of power in all arenas of life – from the inside out — and how we can help to create sustainable safety in our world. To learn more, please visit http://www.PowerAbusedPowerHealed.com or email Judith at [email protected]