Saturday, September 4, 2010

Your Parents Did The Best They Could

When I first heard someone say that my parents did the best they could in raising me, I would automatically, in my mind, say, "No, they didn't!"  I would feel so angry at my parents and at the person who said that statement.  I was usually in a 12-Step meeting when someone said it.  I just knew that they were wrong.  My parents did not do the best that they could.  They abused me physically, emotionally and sexually.  How could that be the best that they could do?

Then people started saying, "Your parents did the best they could with the tools that they had."  Well, wherever they got the tools, they were pretty poor tools.  That calmed my angry a little bit but not much.  It still didn't feel right to me but since I was just beginning to feel, I wasn't sure why it didn't feel right.

Then one day a friend said, "Your parents did the best they could with the tools they had and it wasn't good enough."  Finally someone else was saying what I was thinking.  I could wholeheartedly agree with that statement even after I had worked through a ton of anger.

This week I was reading from the Dennis Wholey book Becoming Your Own Parent, The Solution for Adult Children of Alcoholic and Other Dysfunctional Families.  On page 237-238, Robert Subby, M. A. talks about this very subject.

Robert Subby says, " 'Well, Mom and Dad did the best they could at the time they did it with the skills and tools they had.' "
"That's all well and good, and who's going to argue with that logic, except that it invalidates all the facts about things they didn't do right.  'With that kind of thinking,' I tell them, 'you don't have any right to feel sad or angry because 'they did the best they could.' That way you end up minimizing your own reality and invalidating yourself.  What I want to hear from you is what you feel and that what happened to you back there really happened.  I want to hear you say that you have a right to those feelings and that those mistakes were not your fault.  Don't sit here and pay me good money and defend your mom and dad.  They don't need you to defend them.' 'But I feel guilty,' the adult child says.  And I tell that adult child, 'That's an issue you're going to have to accept.  Some part of you makes you feel guilty for having real feelings, and that's not Mom and Dad anymore---that's you.' "

Thank you Mr. Subby for saying it so well.  He says we have a right to feel angry, sad and hurt.  Those feelings validate the reality that we lived through as children.  He goes on to teach another valuable lesson when he says, " 'Now enough about them [your parents].  Who's been responsible for your life since you were twenty?' Ultimately, for adult children, that's the bigger issue."
"You must come to embrace personal responsibility.  As adults, you have rejected yourself.  You have abandoned yourself.  Given your history, it's understandable why.  That's what you were trained to do.  That's what feels comfortable."

True recovery starts when you realize what you are responsible for in your adult life and you forgive yourself for all of those times that you abused yourself by rejection, abandonment and disconnection from feelings or body.  You did the best you could with the tools you had and it wasn't good enough.  You deserve better.  You can't change the past but you can choose a better future.  Is it time to forgive yourself?
Patricia

32 comments:

Darlene Ouimet said...

EXCELLENT POST PATRICIA! I love it! This is so right, so true and well articulated.
I might come back again tomorrow and read it again and comment more.. I was just on my way to relax with the kids, but HAD to stop in and say WOW! Great post.
Hugs, Darlene

Patricia Singleton said...

Darlene, thank you. Enjoy your time with your kids. I look forward to hearing from you again. My son was over earlier watching a football game with his dad. It is a long holiday weekend here.

Paula said...

Tending to Little Paula is often exhausting. Her being so unwanted and neglected means lots of attention and love now. Surely I am knowing best what the Little One needs. Doesnt make it always easy! Had to learn HOW to give.

carol said...

hi patricia
this is describimg me and my parents, yeah i get the why's n reasons behind how they raised me n my 2 brothers but if i can manage to do it differently then why didnt they. if i didnt like something as a child i try not to do or say it to my child. and that is my choice.
now i choose to accept the respomsiblity for my actions, though some of them are still tied to my childhood they wont have a lastin affect on my child becuase i have chosen to be different. not all my family members understand why i have spoken out and not conformed to the silence.
thank you for sharing this

Patricia Singleton said...

Paula, thank you for your comment. I had to learn how to parent my inner children who had been neglected, abused, unloved, uncared for so many years. Yes, it can be exhausting, especially when I was working with the teenager who was in open rebellion that I was never allowed to do as a child. I probably would have died if I had rebelled against my dad's control. With his alcoholism and rage, I probably would have been beaten to death.

Patricia Singleton said...

Carol, thank you for sharing part of your story. When I became a parent myself, I couldn't understand how my parents could have done what they did raising me either. I would never sexually abuse my children.

I did pass on many of my fears to my children even though I didn't want to. Why? Because I didn't know how not to.

I also didn't teach my children how to do many of the things that parents teach their children. Why? Because I was never taught how to teach my children how to do things.

Even with some awareness - knowing what I didn't want to pass on to my children - I still managed to pass on the effects of some of the neglect and abuse. I am not speaking for you or anyone else. This is what I did out of not knowing what choices to make or what actions to take different than those my parents taught me.

Many times, I was a child teaching a child. In many ways, I grew up with my children, learning as they taught me what it meant to be a child. I wasn't allowed to be a child as a child.

As to those who don't understand your need to speak out and break the silence, those who are still living with dysfunction, never understand those of us who won't continue to live that way. I hope you will check out the other posts that I have written recently about the dysfunctional family system and how it fights to keep itself together and dysfunctional.

Colleen said...

Excellent post! Really something we survivors need to hear. I know I did. Thanks.

Patricia Singleton said...

Collen, you are welcome. I read Dennis Wholey's book the first time back in the 1990's and a few years later gave away my copy. I found and bought my current copy at a used book store as a resource book. I am very glad that I decided to reread it. It has so much good information that I had forgotten.

Darlene Ouimet said...

Hi Again Patricia,
I think for me also, it was so much easier to forgive myself when I learned that I just did not know any better then to reject myself, abuse myself, not take care of myself or neglect myself. I had not learned how to love myself.. how could I punish myself for that? It was really healing and freeing when I learned that I was not really at fault, and that I could learn to take care of me and value me, and even re-parent me and do the things for me that were neglected by my parents. I love this post, thank you so much!
Love Darlene

Patricia Singleton said...

Darlene, you are so very welcome. Thank you. Learning to forgive myself was the beginning of learning to love myself. It isn't easy and I am worth the effort. So are you.

You have been writing posts about an issue that I haven't worked on yet and that is eating disorders. That is the one area that I still have that is huge. I have some fears there still. I haven't read your posts on it yet. Can't get passed my own inner resistance.

Hold Fast said...

Patricia,

Becoming Your Own Parent sounds like a wonderful resource. I just ordered a copy.

It has been a long, hard road to finally begin to understand I am actually an acceptable, likeable human being and to stop believing all the lies. I now realize that although my FOO hated me, it doesn't mean I have to hate myself.

We are all lovable in our own right and no one can take that away from us.

This is a great post and worth re-reading.

Patricia Singleton said...

Hold Fast, thank you. The book is a great resource. I will do at least one more post from it in the next week or so. I love being able to share from the resources that helped me so much in the beginning of my journey.

Anonymous said...

...i think the old idiom "they did the best they could do..ect ect" is perhaps a very clever subliminal construct designed to lead us to the point of Forgiveness by way of Empathy..it also can be effective in reverse.."I" did the best "I" could do..which covers a multitude of sins.....

Patricia Singleton said...

Anonymous, subliminal or otherwise, I didn't like it when someone told me that. It was easier to look at forgiveness of my abusers after I looked at the things that I needed forgiveness for from my children.

Alene Gone Bad said...

I need to print this post out and paste it on my wall, inside my locker at work, in my car, and numerous other places where I might need a reminder. What a great post which really sums up the importance of being vigilant to forgive yourself, and to remember not to abandon yourself. Thank you Patricia for writing the words that put pieces of the puzzle together where they are missing.

Patricia Singleton said...

Alene, it is always good to hear from you. You are very welcome. Thanks for letting me know the impact that this post has had on your recovery.

Ron Schreiner said...

Hello,

I found your blog per-chance and I just wanted to drop a note saying Bless You for being not only a survivor, but a renewed soul as well. It looks like you've been through a lot, accomplishing many things others in a similar situation(s) do not overcome.

You are an inspiration!!

Ron
http://bylightofthemoon.blogspot.com

Patricia Singleton said...

Ron, I am very glad that you found my blog. Thank you for the blessings and your kind words. I checked out your blog and left a comment. I will return to read more. I, like you, am an old soul. I have many lives as a soldier and a few as a warrior. This time I choose to be a spiritual warrior helping others on their journeys through the sharing of mine.

Wendi said...

I still do question Were they doing the best they could? or Were they doing all they were willing to do? I really think that the guilt that causes the denial that then shows in the continued attempts at control and manipulation even to the adult children is really a signal that they knew they could have and should have done more...and they don't want anyone to ever find out that they were well aware of what they were doing but that they weren't willing to do anything else...because it was too hard.

To say they did the best they could I almost find damaging. It implies they didn't have a choice. But, just like all adults (survivors or not, us or them) they had a choice. The truth is they did the best they chose to do.

I'm saying this too...because I've been there...I know it was not the best I could do...I was tired of the guilt and I don't want my kids to have to go through this, I love them...the buck stops here.

Just call me .... Elle said...

REALLY Exceptional way of coming to terms with the accountability for self. I rarely see that pop up in a book, that after a certain time (20 years) you have to accept the responsibility for where you are now.

Very very good. :)

Patricia Singleton said...

Wendi, I know that I have my own regrets for some of the things that I did to my children as well. As parents, most of us probably do.

How many abusers even have a conscience? I know that some don't. I believe that my dad drank to hide his own feelings of guilt from himself. Abusers pass their shame onto their victims in order not to feel it themselves. When we stop carrying the shame, we are no longer under the abusers control.

Those who control are attempting to hide from a tremendous amount of fear that they carry inside of themselves. I know my own controlling attempts, when I was a young adult, were all done in my own attempts to feel safe. Control is just an illusion. The more I tried to control, the more out of control I was.

Patricia Singleton said...

Elle, thank you. This book is one of the few places that I have seen it talked about so clearly.

katie said...

excellent post!!! i felt all those exact same things when people would say "they did the best they could." i too found such peace and validation when i first heard that "they did the best they did with the tools they had and it wasn't enough." there is such healing in countering that minimizing voice. and so true, that responsibility we have for ourselves and our happiness and futures. all so true. thanks so much!

wishing you well today and always! :)

Patricia Singleton said...

Katie, thank you so much. It is always good to know that I am not the only one to feel a certain way. Thank you for the well wishes.

Sheila said...

Great post Patricia, I am going to order a copy as well. I am so happy that I found your blog and I look forward to each post!

Patricia Singleton said...

Sheila, the book is a great resource to use when working on your own abuse issues. It is like going to your own Adult Children meeting with other survivors.

Mystic_Mom said...

Patricia - what a great post! You are hitting right where I am today. I've been working through things and making choices for myself and my family...

Your courage inspires me, and your words encourage me...

Bright blessings, Shanyn

Patricia Singleton said...

Shanyn, Thank you. We inspire and encourage each other.

Marj aka Thriver said...

Wow, Patricia! This is one of those times when I'm sitting here thinking I kinda wish I had written this myself. Excellent! I have been through almost the same exact process with the "Your parents did the best they could with the tools they had" stuff.

The book sounds excellent I hadn't heard of it but I'll have to look it up for my survivor library. If you haven't already, would you submit this for THE BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE? Dan Hays is hosting it Friday and the deadline is Wednesday. Thanks. You rock!

Patricia Singleton said...

Marj, the book is a great resource. Thank you. I have already submitted a large number of posts to Dan Hays for the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse. I will submit this post for next month's carnival.

Arti said...

In addition to the influence of academic teachers during our years of formal education, perhaps the ‘teachers’ having the greatest impact on shaping our individual lives and personalities are the ones that we least notice. This less obvious category of teachers can be the various people we meet during our life journey, and any relationships we have with them. To understand better how everything and everyone around us teaches us about life, do read the blog at http://oneworldacademy.wordpress.com/

Patricia Singleton said...

Arti, thank you for the link. I read the article on Teachers and agree that my elementary, junior high and high school teachers all affected my development into an adult. I loved most of my teachers and was blessed to have some exceptional ones though out my life, even as an adult.

I often say in my blog articles that my parents were my biggest teachers in this lifetime. Many of the lessons involved with my parents were about who I didn't want to be. At this later stage of my life (I am 57 years old.) I am discovering that my thoughts and actions are still being influenced by all of those early teachers, especially my parents. All of my relationships have been influenced by my relationship with my parents, especially my relationship with self.