“If you want to understand your parents more, get them to talk about their own childhood; and if you listen with compassion, you will learn where their fears and rigid patterns come from. Those people who did all that stuff to you, were just as frightened and scared as you are.” -Louise Hay
When I was younger, my dad and I had a very strained relationship. Honestly, that’s putting it mildly. At one point in time, I felt deep seated anger and resentment towards him because I thought that he was too demanding and unreasonable and would not let me live my life.
We both had false expectations of each other and when they were unmet, we both ended up disappointed. Essentially, he wanted me to be what he thought I should be and likewise. I wanted him to be someone else.
Unknown to me at the time, my dad had my life all mapped out for me and when I did not subscribe to his vision, it caused him to demand even more of me. Likewise, I wished my dad were more emotionally expressive, affectionate, loving and supportive of what I wanted. And when he didn’t match my belief of what a dad should be, I was saddened.
This difficulty in our relationship lasted for several years and was further compounded by unresolved arguments, hurt feelings, avoidance, and overall pain. It was the pain however and the accompanying weariness of the situation that triggered a deep realisation. It was this realisation that eventually changed my perspective of my father and subsequently our relationship.
“You can’t give away what you don’t have.” – Wayne Dyer. These seven words became my saving grace more than 10 years ago and were the catalyst that brought me and my dad the healing we needed in our relationship. As it turned out, the reason my dad could not give me what I wanted was as a result of him not having it to give.
As children, we generally have extremely high expectations of our parents, seeing them as our superheroes and in many instances our saviours, who we believe were meant to satisfy and fulfill our every need and desire.
And while ideally, we all would have loved parents like the Huxtables, this just wasn’t’ the case for many of us. The truth is for most of us, our parents were either unable or incapable of showing up for us in the way we wished they would.
The reality is, our parents, just like every one of us, while we were kids and even now are at different stages of their development and had to deal with their stuff and learn how to be best versions of themselves, while charged with the responsibility of caring for us. For those of us who are now parents, we know that this is a tall order.
Despite the perceived cruddy work, we may think our parents did with us, the truth is, they did their absolute best to provide and care for us based on the resources available to them at the time.
Once I was able to grasp this fact that my dad gave me his best and was doing his best based on what he knew, this helped me to move from blame to compassion and then acceptance. It helped me to move past my own ideas of how my dad should be and begin completely embracing him for who he was. I began seeing him.
For the first time I saw him as a human who struggled with things just like everyone else and who tried his best to work with what he had at the time. I began to see just how vulnerable he was when it came to expressing his emotions, which was as a direct result of his abusive childhood. I also eventually saw that despite his underdeveloped emotional intelligence, he still loved me and conveyed his love in the only way he knew how, by pushing me to have a life that was better than the one he had.
“If your mother did not know how to love herself, or your father did not know how to love himself, then it would be impossible for them to teach you to love yourself. They were doing the best they could with what they had been taught as children.” Louise Hay
So many of us have unhealed relationships with our parents. Many of us blame them for the dysfunction in our lives and see them as the culprits responsible for our shortcomings and weakness in our adult life. This is usually reflected in our sometimes strained and unhealthy, present-day interactions with them and the people in our inner circle.
While it is undoubtedly true that most of who we are today was heavily influenced by what was modelled for us by our parents, reminding ourselves that they were only teaching and guiding us based on what they were taught, can lead to understanding and compassion.
The good news is however, because we are now conscious adults, we are responsible for who we are and have the power to evoke any needed change to be who we want to be and to create the lives we want.
And a great starting point for our personal healing and transformation is acceptance. Acceptance that our parents did their best with what was available to them at the time and while they may not have perfect, they were the best parents they knew how to be.
This is exactly what I did, over time with my dad which eventually resulted in a mutually enjoyable, progressive, healthy relationship with my him today.
Once I learnt how to accept him, I began to see him as one of my greatest teachers, who taught me some of the most invaluable life lessons. It was because of my dad, I learnt how to honour myself, stand in my power and be firm in what I wanted.
While admittedly the life my dad had mapped out for me was a good life, it was not my heart’s calling and not the life I wanted. I did try to pursue the life he wanted me to live, in an attempt to please him but it only made me miserable and unhappy because I was not being true to myself.
As I continued my personal healing our relationship transformed. I also learnt how to be brave enough give up on a dream that was someone else’s and to pursue my heart’s calling. It was scary at first but eventually the freedom and joy that followed made it even more assuring and affirming I had made the right choice for me.
While my dad was initially upset because of my choice to give up on his dream, it only lasted for a while, until he too began to accept my choice and acknowledged that I knew what was best for me. Today my dad is my number one cheerleader, who roots for me every step of the way.
It is generally said that we don’t get to choose our parents but I subscribe to the notion that before we came into existence, we did in fact choose who we would be born to because we knew they would help us to learn the lessons our soul desired to learn in this lifetime. And as we all know it’s usually through our most enduring challenges that we learn the greatest lessons.
Our parents are some of the most influential teachers in our lifetime, that’s why for many of us, our relationship with them seem so intense. However, despite the painful experiences we get to choose how we use them.
We get to decide if we hold on to what was or wasn’t done and allow it to loom over us like an ominous dark cloud or heal and transmute the experiences into an opportunity for our personal growth and expansion.
More than 10 years ago I chose the latter and today my relationship with my father is enough evidence that we can heal our relationships with our parents and experience healthy, functional connections with them as adults.
I believe when we choose to heal our relationship with our parents, it is also a choice to heal ourselves because we are essentially freeing ourselves of old hurt and pain, which inevitably affects our ability to show up for ourselves and others.
While it does take time for us to process and heal our parental relationship wounds, with time, compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance, it becomes easier to let go and open up to a better experience with our parents.