Our parents and care-givers tried the best they could based on their level of awareness and exposure. It is often said that you can not give what you do not have, you can not take people farther than you have gone. As much as our parents and caregivers tried, they were also victims of their upbringing, environment, societal norms and values. They were operating below the veil of consciousness based on the indoctrination, domestication, religious dogmatization, social programming and scripts handed to them by their caregivers. As American Swiss Psychoanalyst Carl Jung once observed “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it would direct your life and you would call it fate.”
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. – Carl Jung
Louise Hay calls the circle of victimhood that we experience as a result of our childhood and upbringing being “Victim of Victims”. In her best selling book and one of the best-selling non-fiction book of all time, You Can Heal Your Life, she writes “We are all victims of victims”:
We are all victims of victims, and they could not possibly have taught us anything they did not know. 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. 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.
“We learn our belief systems as very little children, and then we move through life creating experiences to match our beliefs. Look back in your own life and notice how often you have gone through the same experience.”
They Messed us Up
In his poem, “This Be The Verse” which was part of a collection of poems titled High Windows and published in 1974, English Poet Phillip Larkin noted:
They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern. And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can, And don’t have any kids yourself.”
Although I would not go as far as recommending not having kids because of the fear of messing them up like we were messed up. I do agree that the misery is handed over from generation to generation until someone, hopefully you breaks the chain of poverty, stinking thinking, low self-esteem, Inter generational abuse and unresolved trauma etc. It takes courage to take this path because we rightfully idealize our parent and we are scared of confronting them about the emotional, physical, sexual and psychological abuse, we experienced in childhood. As American poet James Baldwin once quipped ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’
“We spend the first twelve months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next twelve telling them to sit down and shut up.” – comedian Phyllis Diller
Most of our trials and tribulations can be traced back to our childhood. We are mostly not conscious of things we do not really understand such as abuse, trauma, enmeshment, codependency, entanglement, dysfunction, triangulation, gaslighting, and other life altering behaviours which in retrospect can be termed as toxic. As Jung advised – until you make these unconscious behaviours conscious, you would continue to lead a life of quiet desperation (Thoreau), wondering why these things always happen to you. We cannot blame our parents for life as there is an expiry date for doing that.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things..”
Expiry Date for blaming your Parents
As J.K.Rowling Author of the Harry Porter series noted in her 2008 Harvard University commencement speech, there is an expiry date for blaming our parents. She commented:
Looking back at the 21-year-old that I was at graduation, is a slightly uncomfortable experience for the 42-year-old that she has become. Half my lifetime ago, I was striking an uneasy balance between the ambition I had for myself, and what those closest to me expected of me.
I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do, ever, was to write novels. However, my parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that would never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension. I know that the irony strikes with the force of a cartoon anvil, now.
So they hoped that I would take a vocational degree; I wanted to study English Literature. A compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied nobody, and I went up to study Modern Languages. Hardly had my parents’ car rounded the corner at the end of the road than I ditched German and scuttled off down the Classics corridor.
I cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying Classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. Of all the subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom.
I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view.
There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.
Having empathy for our parents and caregivers is key in the process of healing. They could not give what they did not have, they were also victims of their parents victimhood and it runs deep in our family unit. The dysfunction can be brought to light by educating ourselves and doing the hardwork needed to break the intergenerational abuse, unresolved trauma and enmeshment. Clinical Psychologist, and creator of “the holistic psychologist“, Dr. Nicole LePer advocates the process of reparenting as a tool for healing. In her book, How to Do the Work: Recognize Your Patterns, Heal from Your Past, and Create Your Self, she writes:
When we experience our parent-figures engage in supportive behaviors, we learn that it’s safe to express our needs and reach out to other people for help. Most parent-figures never learned how to meet their own needs, let alone another person’s, passing on their own unresolved traumas and conditioned coping strategies. Even well-intentioned parent-figures don’t always give us what serves us. Meeting all of someone’s varied and unique needs all the time is almost impossible.
The reparenting process looks different for everyone. Generally, we want to quiet our inner critic and embrace self-respect and compassion. With the help of the wise inner parent, you can learn how to validate your reality and feelings by witnessing them, rather than instinctually judging or ignoring them. Your wise inner parent cultivates acceptance while honoring the needs of your inner child—to be seen, heard, and valued for the authentic parts of yourself. You become the priority.
Every moment, we make a choice: we can live in the past, or we can look forward and envision a future that is different. Our tendency when we return to a system, regardless of how much work we do on our own, is to revert to old patterns. The temptation is to embrace the familiar subconscious conditioning. We can also decide to participate in the opening of an unfamiliar, uncertain door.
“Letting go of the fear of what others think, the conditioned state of judgment, and all the pain of our wounded inner child is all part of the joyful side of the reparenting process.”
We all got wounded in childhood as a result of the victim raising another victim syndrome. It takes courage to trace our issues to childhood, do the hardwork needed instead of hiding from our true self by putting up a mask all through our short life. We need to face our fears and make the unconscious conscious, stop blaming our parents, if they knew better they would have done better.
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.