This summer I spent about a month at my father’s house with my son. It wasn’t our first time and, as I’d expected, it was tumultuous. A part of me knew it was time to stand up to some of the dysfunction in my family of origin and confront it. I could only hope that this experience was going to bring me some resolutions and it would prove empowering. And it did.
For the first week or so the usual, generations-old, themes of guilt and shame, insecurity and inadequacy were saturating the air until it came to a boil. There were tears and screaming, anger and pain – suppressed emotions and feelings coming up. There were some healing steps made and my father and I managed to meet each other at a point we both agreed.
Still, most of the healing happened inside of me understanding that the power to break out from the dysfunction and move on belonged to me and I needn’t wait for somebody else’s permission.
Below are some realisations I made during the process:
- I need to give myself my own permission.
If I wait for somebody else’s permission, validation, or approval I give my power away to them. Instead, we need to realise that it is our birthright to be ourselves and do whatever we feel is right for us, no matter the conflict with others we may get into. For a long time, I felt like a prisoner to my relationship with my father. The emotional control he had over me was poisoning me – I could never be my full self with him. That was eating me away and no matter how much I hoped and wished that my father would “see” ME, it wasn’t going to happen. For far too long, I’ve submitted my right and my power to my father to feed his own unhealthy patterns. It was a hard pill to swallow but, inevitably, it set me free. I set myself free.
- I don’t need anybody’s approval.
In the same way, if I seek external approval of myself, my decisions and actions, I’m bound to be disappointed, feeling betrayed and powerless. The biggest conflict I had with my family was the way I am parenting my child and how I am choosing to raise him up. Of course, that clashed with the above mentioned generations-old concepts which revolve around using guilt, shame and fear as main parenting techniques. I know what I want for my child and it’s not negotiable but at the same time I desperately wanted the approval and validation of my family that I’m doing good work as a parent. Instead, I was receiving criticism and coldness. I realised I need to cut that cord of codependency with my relatives if I wanted to live according to my values and no longer wait for their approval.
- I have no power to change any person, relationship or situation but I have the power to choose how I view and respond to them.
This is the true power that we have and we always have it. If we remember that, at any given situation, we’re on our way of empowerment. It is difficult when we deal with people who we love (or hate) and feel so emotionally bound to. But then again, we must remember where our power lies and that is in how we choose to see a certain situation. Remember to always bring your focus back to yourself, forgetting about what others may think or see, and look through your own eyes and heart. Bring the power back to yourself and remind yourself it’s always there for you.
I’m being tested on that almost every single day. My most recent realisation was that I often give my power away in terms of my relationship with my son. I understood that since I’ve never received encouragement or support from my family, I feel like I am in fact failing as a mother. I view myself through the eyes of my disapproving, dysfunctional family, believing that I’m not doing a good job at raising my son. Sadly, I’m also projecting that on him, sometimes being ashamed and feeling guilty of the person he is or how he behaves. I understood that, again, I have given my power away, believing an old programming, viewing myself and my son negatively and feeling like there was something wrong with him and me as a mother.
Whenever I feel triggered by my son’s behaviour now, I remind myself to forget external social expectations and conditioning, bring the power back to myself and respond in accordance with my values and integrity.
During my stay in my father’s house this summer I understood a lot about in what way and in what system I was raised. I could see the connection between the four generations that were there – my son, me, my father, and my paternal grandmother. I saw patterns and conditioning from generations ago and at the same time I can envision the future I want for the next generations . Also, I’ve realised the important role my son is playing in my healing from childhood trauma. He’s the mirror that reflects all my wounding back to myself so I can heal. Again, this proves how connected we are and that we heal through relationships.
Do you relate? Do you have a dysfunctional family and, if yes, how do you cope? Share in the comments!4