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?